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Carnival Liberty Review by Beth

Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Line

Ship: Carnival Liberty
Sailing Date: January 2007

Review of Liberty 8-night cruise - Round-Trip Fort Lauderdale to Eastern Caribbean

 

Note by Suzy Cruisy:  This review is written by my client and friend Beth and not by Suzy

 

Background:

 

A little background about me: My husband and I are in our early 30’s and we’ve been cruising since 2001, almost exclusively on Princess, which we like a lot.  I’ve been on cruises in Alaska, the Mexican Riviera, Tahiti, Hawaii, and the British Isles, along with several Pacific coastal cruises, but never to the Caribbean…until this cruise on the Carnival Liberty.  It was our first Carnival cruise as well.  We went with some cruising friends of ours who are also long-time Princess cruisers, but had sailed several times on Carnival before, along with their son, daughter-in-law and 5-month-old granddaughter, and two of their long-time cruising friends. One other thing I should mention: I was 11 weeks pregnant on this cruise, so my energy level was a little less than your average 30-something cruisers.

 

 

Itinerary:

 

Our sailing was an 8-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary:

Day 1: Embarkation in Ft. Lauderdale

Day 2: At Sea

Day 3: Mostly at sea, but in San Juan 5PM-12AM

Day 4: St. Thomas 7AM-6PM

Day 5: Antigua 7AM-6PM

Day 6: Tortola 7AM-6PM

Day 7: At Sea

Day 8: At Sea

Day 9: Disembarkation in Ft. Lauderdale

 

I enjoy a mix of sea days and port days, and this one offered what I thought was a good balance, but if you like a port-intensive cruise, this one is definitely not for you because there were a lot of sea days bunched together.  A big plus for this itinerary was that we didn’t have to tender into any of the ports!

 

My husband and I were both history majors in college, so we really wanted to visit the forts in San Juan, but because we were only there in the evening, the forts weren’t open.  So instead, we did a walking tour through a company called Legends of Puerto Rico.  Our guide, Debbie, was incredibly knowledgeable and explained the history and architecture of everything we were seeing.  She also planned the route so there weren’t too many long stretches of walking just uphill or without resting.  Everyone in our group really enjoyed this tour.

 

In St. Thomas, we did a tour with a large group that was on our cruise, where we first went to the shopping district for a few hours, then drove us around to see the sights of the island, including up to a viewpoint above the city where they make very strong banana daiquiris (or so I was told by the non-pregnant members of our group).  We had the option to be dropped off at Magen’s Beach or to just go back to the ship.  Because it was raining and I was a little queasy (morning sickness plus windy roads equals bad), we just went back to the ship.  This was an OK tour, but my husband and I aren’t big shoppers, so we could have done without the shopping time.

 

Antigua brought us another historical tour, plus some sight-seeing, through a company called Lawrence of Antigua.  Our driver took us up to the remains of the old British fort, describing the scenery along the way and telling us a bit about Antigua’s culture.  After the fort, we visited Nelson’s Dockyard, which was an incredibly interesting place for those of us who like history.  My only regret about the tour was that we didn’t have more time to explore there.  Then we visited Devil’s Bridge, a really cool natural rock formation, and had some rum punch (again I heard from the others that it strong).  Then we had the option of being dropped off at a beach for a couple of hours, but again it was pouring down rain, so we chose not to.  Overall I really enjoyed this tour as well.

 

Tortola was by far my favorite of the ports we visited.  I thought the scenery was the most picturesque and the people were the most friendly.  We did a tour there with Patouche Charters that took us to the baths on Virgin Gorda (about a 30-minute catamaran ride from Tortola).  The boat anchored near the shore and we snorkeled in.  Now, although I’m a strong swimmer, I’m not a big fan of snorkeling, but I’m really glad I went because we saw a sea turtle and lots of lovely fish, and the baths themselves were really neat.  They’re a natural rock formation made up of big boulder-like rocks that form sort-of caves, and there’s a trail you take to walk through them.  When I say “walk” through them, what I really mean is “climb over and between rocks and try not to scrape yourself up.”  The weather was perfect, the water was warm and clear, and it was a really fun excursion, and the folks running it were really nice and took good care of us, even the non-swimmer in our group (the group leader gave him a float ring and drug him ashore herself).

 

 

Ft. Lauderdale

 

The Ft. Lauderdale airport was really easy to navigate and is incredibly close to the pier—in fact, we could see all the ships in port as we flew in right over them.  But, there isn’t a lot to do at the airport if you’re stuck there waiting for a flight (we were there for a very long time on our way home), and it gets incredibly crowded on Saturdays and Sundays.  So if you have a late flight, plan an activity to fill the time, like renting a car or something.

 

We took a cab from the airport to the pier, which cost about $20.  I think this is by far the fastest, easiest way to go, and just about the same cost as using a shuttle company, which we did on the way back to the airport (that was $16 for two people).

 

 

Embarkation

We arrived at the pier at about 10:30 AM, gave our luggage to a Stevedore who all but demanded a tip, and went to check in.  We stood in line outside for about 10 minutes before we got to the security screening, which was right inside the entrance door to the building.  Then we stood in line for about 5-10 minutes more before seeing a Carnival agent, who gave us our Sign and Sail cards and sent us over to the photographer for our embarkation photo.  Then we were ushered into a room where a woman we came to call the Line Gestapo told us precisely where to sit and repeated to the room over and over again to have our photo ID’s ready and our Sign and Sail cards in hand.  We sat there for about 20 minutes, then they took us into a big room like a warehouse, where we lined up and then went directly onto the ship.  The process was very painless and we were onboard by about 11:30.  I would imagine if you arrived a bit later and the room to sit in was full, it wouldn’t have been as great a process.  One thing to note: we weren’t allowed to go to our cabins until 1:30 PM, because our cabins weren’t ready yet.  So, check as much of your luggage as you can.  That way, you don’t have to drag it around the ship while you’re waiting for your cabin to be ready.

 

 

The Ship Itself

 

The Liberty definitely qualifies as a “big ship,” with 3000 passengers.  Having come from Princess ships, I would describe the décor as very busy, with several design elements in each room all competing against each other.  The lights in the atrium’s chandeliers change colors; the dining rooms are heavily gilded, and the carpeting is very vibrant.  Other cruisers commented about how much they liked the décor, though, so maybe it’s just that my taste runs much more to the subdued.

 

The main deck with the most bars, the casino and the theater, the Promenade Deck, was the primary thoroughfare through the ship.  Unfortunately, the casino opened right onto this main walkway, and the casino was one of the smoking areas, so you have to walk through the smokiness to get from the front to the back of the ship.  The other smoke-related design flaw was that the internet room could only be accessed by going through the cigar bar.

 

Other than these issues, I felt the ship wasn’t that different from the Princess Grand-class ships, with a large theater in the front of the ship, a show lounge in the back, and the dining rooms on the atrium and at the aft below the show lounge.  It didn’t take me too long to figure out my way around.  One fun thing that Carnival has that Princess doesn’t is a water slide, which people seemed to really enjoy (being pregnant, I didn’t go on it, but it looked fun).

 

 

Cabin

 

We had a category 8A guarantee and were assigned cabin 6225, which was pretty far forward on the starboard side.  The cabin had a bathroom with shower (no tub), closets along the main entryway (not like the walk-in-type area you find on Princess Grand-class ships, more like on the Sun-class ships), a full-length sofa opposite a long desk with mirrors (the hair dryer is in this area), a double bed, and of course the balcony, which was not huge but big enough to hold two non-lounge chairs and a table.  The bathroom had a shower, sink and toilet and lots of shelves for storage.  I think because we were on a lower deck, we didn’t feel too much motion despite being so far forward.

 

 

Dining Room and Dress Code

 

The Liberty has two main dining rooms, the Golden Olympian and the Silver Olympian.  There is only traditional fixed-seating dining in the dining rooms.  Our seating was at 8:15 in the Silver Olympian Dining Room, and we ate all of our dinners there.

 

Our wait staff were excellent, I can’t say enough nice things about them.  They especially did a good job helping take care of the needs of the 5-month-old and her parents, without ignoring the rest of us at the table either.  As a first-time Carnival cruiser, I have to say I wasn’t a fan of the waiters singing and dancing at dinner time.  Other people seemed to really get into it, though, waiving their napkins and dancing along with them.

 

Food in the dining room was mostly good with a few great items.  The only thing I had that I thought was terrible was the crab and lobster cake appetizer, which was more like a fried tuna salad blob than a crab cake.  Because I was pregnant and strange things either sounded good or terrible, I didn’t eat a lot of the more popular dishes on the menu, like prime rib or beef Wellington, and ended up ordering several of the vegetarian menu options, which were all outstanding.  Probably my favorite was the enchiladas, not that spicy (which was good with my pregnant stomach) but still very flavorful.  A tip to those who haven’t been on Carnival before: every night, order the warm chocolate melting cake from the always-available dessert menu. It was insanely good!

 

The dress code in the dining room was that you couldn’t wear shorts to dinner—the Maitre’D announced that on the first night before the wait staff did their dancing.  Beyond that, it seemed like anything went, including jeans on formal night.  We saw lots of people in suits or cocktail dresses, but very few in tuxes or evening gowns.

 

 

Other Food Options

 

We ate most of our breakfasts in the buffet.  The food served at breakfast was exactly the same every morning and was your typical American breakfast food (eggs, bacon, sausage, skillet potatoes, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, toast, fruit).  Everything was good, and I particularly enjoyed the oatmeal.  There was a made-to-order omelet station, but I don’t like omelets, so I never ate there.  Lunch in the buffets changed every day.  I really liked the quesadillas they served one day, those were excellent.

 

In addition to the main buffet stations, the buffet area also had a made-to-order stir-fry station, a deli station, an “Oriental” food station, and a fish’n’chips station.  The stir-fry was excellent, like going to a Mongolian grill but with a little less selection.  The fish’n’chips were just so-so, I wished they were using cod instead of whatever white fish they’d chosen.  I never tried the deli, but our friends said it was pretty good.  Nobody I talked to ate at the “Oriental” station.  There was also soft-serve ice cream available 24/7, in chocolate or vanilla, with a few sauces available to put on top.

 

Near the buffet, there was a pizza stand and a grill that served hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.  The grill made good burgers and hot dogs, but the real stand-out was the pizza stand.  They made all kinds of pizzas, some of them quite gourmet, and all of them delicious.

 

I didn’t try the sushi from the sushi bar on the Promenade deck, but my husband did.  He’s a big sushi fan and we live in the Pacific Northwest, where good sushi is practically a way of life.  He said it was OK, but didn’t have a lot of flavor.  The sushi is free, so if you’re not a sushi gourmand like my husband is, it’s worth a try.

 

Also on Promenade deck was a coffee stand with coffee and desserts available for a fee.  My husband reported that the coffee there was pretty good.  The coffee stand is also where you buy birthday cakes to be served in the dining room if you want one.  Our group celebrated two birthdays onboard, so we had two of their cakes and they were both moist and delicious.  If you prefer not to pay for a birthday dessert, they’ll bring you whatever dessert you order from the menu with a candle on it.

 

 

Entertainment

 

We only attended one of the stage shows and none of the other shows (pregnancy makes you tired!), but I thought the one we went to was good.  It was an “around the world” themed show, with a very patriotic American finale.  The dancing was good and the two lead singers were very good.

 

I attended the art auction, the first one I’ve been to done by Park West (the company that runs Carnival’s art program).  Normally I enjoy the art auctions, I take my knitting and watch people spend money.  But this one I found to be way too long (it lasted almost 3 hours) and uninformative.  And being pregnant, I couldn’t even enjoy the free champagne!

 

The Liberty also has a giant TV screen above the main pool area.  They showed the Superbowl there, since it happened during our cruise, and on normal days they showed concerts and movies.  I didn’t spend a lot of time lounging by that pool because it was so crowded and I get sunburnt easily, but when I walked through that area, I didn’t find the noise to be particularly loud or annoying.  I also couldn’t hear it at all when I was on other open deck areas.

 

The casino was very popular and one of our friends won $1600 on the slots, which was much more exciting than my winning $35 on the nickel slots!  The table games were fairly crowded and didn’t offer a big variety in terms of table minimums, but you could almost always find a slot machine, and they had machines from 1 cent all the way up to several dollars.  There was a poker table, but we never played poker, so I don’t know the details on that.  The first day of the cruise, there was a video running in our cabin that explained all the table games and the odds and minimum bets and how to play each game.

 

 

Beth did not write a conclusion, but in an email she said she liked it, but likes Princess Cruises better.

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