|# of Nights:|
We arrived at Fumicino International Airport in Rome, Italy at 7:45 AM. We proceeded through the Immigration booths and on to the baggage area. We were immediately greeted by Carnival representatives who were waiting at the bottom of the escalators on the way to the baggage area. They instructed us to pick up our luggage and meet them in an area not far from the baggage carousel. There was no way that Carnival was going to let their passengers get lost. There were so many Carnival representatives there. We had pre-paid the transfers from the airport to Civitavecchia, Italy so when we finished picking up our luggage we were able to transfer them to the Carnival baggage handlers who took our luggage to the ship. We went by separate motor coach to the pier. The entire process was very easy and seamless. There was a little confusion, it may have been a slight language problem, with the transportation folks not understanding that we already had our transfer vouchers and did not have to stand in a line with people who did not have pre-arranged transportation. That was quickly straightened out when I presented our voucher to another person in authority. We were on board by 9:00 AM, which means that the entire process from the plane, through Immigration, the baggage area, transfer processing to the bus took approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. That was not bad at all.
Some passengers opted to take pre-cruise tours of Rome. Carnival offered two, Holy Rome and Rome at a Glance. If you?ve never been to Rome and you arrive early before the cruise, this is the only opportunity you have to see Rome unless you spend a day or two before or after the cruise. There is also an opportunity to do the same tours as a post cruise tour if you have a late flight after the cruise.
Rome is such a beautiful city. It would be a shame to get all the way to Italy and not see Rome. If you can?t stay a few days in Rome, try to arrive early or book a late flight so you can take one of these tours.
The ride to port city of Civitavecchia for the Carnival Liberty took approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
As the bus winds down to its destination there are several opportunities to see the impressive and massive Carnival Liberty with its white hull and familiar red white and blue Carnival funnel.
Even though the Carnival Liberty departs from an Italian port, it is very much an American ship. Most of the passengers on the ship are American. Most if not all of the crew speaks English and the announcements over the public address system are in English and Spanish, with the exception of occasional alternate languages for some the foreign guests. I even spotted two friends from separate parties that I did not know were taking this trip.
Embarkation was a breeze. Carnival had many counter processors on hand to handle incoming passengers. There was no waiting when I entered the terminal. Since I had completed my Fun Pass on the web, mostly everything was done. I only had to present the credit card that would be used for my Sign and Sail Card.
There was a brief line to board the ship because the ship's security had the responsibility of taking the security photos for the Sign and Sail identification/key card. There were only two stations available for that task. We were on board by 11:15 AM. We were given the deck plans of the ship and directed to the Emile?s Restaurant on Lido Deck for Lunch. We claimed a table in the huge air conditioned dining area of Emile?s and took turns washing our hands which is a habit that cannot be overemphasized on any ship. While walking about the ship I noticed that the design of the Carnival Liberty was a little more subdued than it?s sister ships. There is still some element of glitz but there are more shades of beige and wood rather than the flashy shining metallic neon settings that Carnival veterans are so familiar with.
She?s still a beautiful ship however. Because we boarded the ship so early, we were not able to enter the stateroom until 12:30 PM.
Our stateroom was on the Riviera Deck or first deck of the ship. We had an oceanview cabin (porthole) that allowed us to see when the sun rose and set and let us peek out at certain ports. Carnival staterooms tend to be very roomy. There were three closets, two for hanging garments and one with shelves. There was more thank adequate space for hanging clothing. There was a desk-like dresser and vanity table. The dresser drawers are a little on the thin side but just barely adequate. There was a small refrigerator in the cabin that could have been opened by the steward if requested. A small in-cabin safe was available free of charge. The safe was locked by the use of a credit card. There was no charge to the account for the use of the safe. We opted not to use it. There is a Venetian tone to the art in the cabin as well as most of the other parts of the ship. The bathroom was roomy and had lots of counter space and shelf space for toiletries. The shower seemed slightly more spacious than on other ships. The shower curtain did not stick to my body as has happened in the past. The use of duct tape to prevent floods was not really necessary. We did flood the bathroom floor a couple of times, but there was a small drain outside of the shower where one could push the water to avoid embarrassment.
Our stateroom steward, Nelson and his assistants Suchada and Ida, were very friendly and accommodating. It did take a while for them to figure out our schedule so that they could fix the beds and bring in fresh towels on a daily basis. The two assistants got to know our names and said our names when they greeted us. They were extremely cheerful in the mooring and in the evening. It was always good to see them in the hall.
I must say the Carnival has one of the friendliest crews around. Even though most of the crew members are not directly responsible for you, they always offer a fond hello and a big smile to all of the passengers as they go about doing their daily chores. That often helps to make the cruise.
The waiters and waitress on the Lido Deck at Emile?s were also very helpful and friendly. They kept the tables cleaned so that there would always be tables available for passengers who opted to dine informally.
Our wait staff was great. Branimir and Iuliana took great care of us and got to know the extra things we liked and made sure it was on the table waiting for us. Iuliana, who is slightly built, carried a tray that was stacked with plates of food and plate covers. Every time she set the tray down at the waiter?s station she would smile as if she were amazed that she was able to accomplish such a feat. They kept us very entertained during meals with their singing and dancing. They even got me to get up and dance.
The maitre d? and assistant maitre d?, Miguel and Mehmet, respectively, treated guests as if they were royalty. I met Mehmet on another cruise ship and we remembered each other. He sent over some special treats on the second night of dinner.
Carnival made sure to place its most experienced staff on the ship. I saw quite a few crew members from other Carnival ships that I have sailed on.
We had main seating in the Golden Olympian Dining Room (5:45 PM and sometimes 6:00 PM), a little early for my taste but I made do. As a vegetarian it is difficult to judge the quality of the food by my personal taste. Most of the vegetarian entrees were very delicious and well prepared. I only wish there was more variety in texture. Most of the vegetarian food was very soft. It would have been nice to have something crispy. There were many cold cream soups, almost every night. One night I had a hot vegetable pureed soup that was most welcomed and very delicious because it was different. My traveling companion said his meals were very good to excellent. He had things like lamb, scallops, quail, chicken, mussels, and salmon. He seemed to like them all. The waiters tried to keep me very happy. If they sensed that I was dissatisfied with something, which was rarely, they would say ?We can take this away and get you something else.? They seemed genuinely concerned as to whether or not you enjoyed your meal. The starters, salads, desserts and cappuccino were all very well prepared.
The pizzeria on Lido Deck was a big hit and never very crowded as I remember it being on other ships. I never had to wait for service. It may have been coincidental.
Carnival seemed to have added another station so the lines on the Lido deck are not as long. In the morning there are about four omelet stations working on one section of the Lido Deck and I?m not sure but there may have been four others in another section. The lines never seemed too long at the Restaurant Cezanne on the Lido Deck.
We had breakfast most of the time in the Silver Olympian Dining Room. The table service was very good and there was never any waiting even though the dining room offered open seating.
There are several dining options on the Carnival Liberty besides the main dining rooms and Emile?s. There is also a Grill that offers hot dogs and burgers with all the fixings, a deli, a sushi bar on the Promenade Deck, and high tea served at 4:00 PM during sea days. It?s real easy to overlook the Fish and Chips on the Panorama Deck, one deck above Lido. There is also Harry?s the alternative restaurant one pays $30 per person for a gastronomic treat.
All in all, the food was good to excellent.
SHIP CONDITION AND AMENITIES
I boarded the Carnival Liberty when it as virtually a new ship. I was not the first passenger in by cabin, but the fourth, therefore everything was spotless. The woodwork in the cabins is beautiful. There are no rusty areas in any crevice of the ship yet. The crew constantly is cleaning and polishing all of the public areas.
The most pronounced theme on the Carnival Liberty is Venice. There are Venetian masks all over the place. In the Venetian Lounge there are Venetian masks on the ceiling and the cocktail tables are made from the shape and colors of Venetian masks. The stage of the Venetian Lounge has harlequins that are also thematic of Venice. The ship is very colorful, but tastefully done.
The driving force behind all of the ship?s activities is John Heald, the cruise director. He has got to be the best cruise director I have ever encountered. He was involved in everything and even had on onboard television program where he played tricks on people and passengers could play practical jokes on their shipmate friends, all in good fun. Of course this particular voyage was bitter sweet because of the devastating hurricane that hit New Orleans and other cities along the Gulf. John tastefully acknowledged the tragedy and put people at ease by letting us know that Carnival was finding some way for the passengers to help. There was such a feeling of helplessness aboard the ship. He certainly helped us to get through it. His cohorts were Butch, Noonan and Heidi who were hilarious.
John also had some of the familiar game shows that are performed on Carnival ships but he had some new ones too. He had quite a repertoire of activities for a 12 day voyage.
The Venetian Lounge is the main performance venue for the big shows. The first major show was with dancers and singers and was quite spectacular. The next show ?Rockin? on Broadway? was too much rockin? for me. The pace stayed at that quick rocking and loud level throughout. The highlight of the Rockin? on Broadway show was an excerpt from ?Dream Girls? and ?Evita.? That?s just my personal preference. Other people seemed to enjoy it.
Another fine entertainer was Marcus Anthony, a very fine singer with a phenomenal voice. Another of my favorite evenings was the guest talent show that is always entertaining. The shows also featured a ventriloquist, a comedian and a hypnotist. They were also very entertaining.
This was a 12 days cruise. The ports included Naples, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia, Venice and Messina, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Cannes, France; and Livorno, Italy. The thing that I noticed most was that the Euro is very expensive right now. I?ll leave that at that.
In Naples we took an excursion to Pompeii, the city that was destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius, which was always in full view as we rode the motor coach to Pompeii. Pompeii is a very impressive ancient city. For those of you who wait the minute to book tours, you may miss out on Pompeii because there are not any tour vendors near the port of Naples offering less expensive tours like they do in the Caribbean. There was also a tour to Herculeneum or Ercolano another city destroyed by Vesuvius.
The ship spends a day at sea while heading for Dubronik, Croatia. Dubrovnik seems to be recovering from the civil war that occurred about 10 years ago. They have repaired all of the tourist area and there are no visible scars. The walled city of Old Dubrovnik is a breathtaking sight as the motor coach approaches the terracotta roofs from the hillside. Visiting the walled city reminded one of being in a medieval town surrounded by a great wall enclosing a number of churches and great halls. The Dominicans, Franciscans and Jesuits all have churches within the small area.
We arrived in Venice at approximately 2:00 PM. the next day. The ship sails right next to Venice. One can see Piazza San Marco very close to the ship. It?s a great idea to head toward a balcony or deck of the ship so that you can see this magnificent city from a very high perspective. The better view is on the starboard side. There is a little secret area on the Lido Deck, Deck 9, if you go all the way to the bow of the ship, on the port side, there is a door that leads to the very front of the ship that will give you an unobstructed view of Venice. The ship stays in Venice overnight which gives you plenty of time to sightsee and sample the different restaurants. You can take a gondola ride through the smaller streets off the grand canal, feed pigeons and be surrounded by them as you picture is taken in the Piazza San Marco, visit the art Accademia, grab a gelato, shop, explore hidden corners, feel safe because there are no cars on the narrow streets, visit the churches that contain works of art or are architectural works of art in themselves. My suggestion is to get a good map and learn to use the Vaporettos which are the water buses that get people from place to place in Venice.
Venice is also known for Venetian Glass or Murano Glass. The ship?s shopping specialist can arrange free transportation to Murano so that you can see how Murano Glass is made and maybe even purchase some and have it shipped to the states. Burano is famous for its lace. We did not go there this time because we did it as a land vacation in 2000. Venice is the city of dreams. You will not believe it if you?ve never been there.
The next day is a fun day at sea.
Messina, Sicily was the next port of call. The ship stops right in the downtown area. We could see the see cars and trucks on the little highway right next to the ship. There are several ship tours but we got a map from the information booth and went to see some of the monuments and churches that we could see on the hillside from the ship. A must see is a clock tower at the Duomo in Messina. There is a spectacular show of the clock at 12:00 noon. The clock has four levels of huge moving parts on one side, a roaring lion at the top, a crowing rooster underneath, a series of men, possibly the apostles, worshiping a Christ-like figure. The climax is the playing of Schubert?s Ave Maria. A mechanical calendar and zodiac clock on another side. The demonstration is outdoors and free to the public. We did Messina on our own. Next was our last fun day at sea. The strenuous part of the cruise was about to start, no more days to sleep late and a great desire not to miss anything.
Our next stop was Barcelona, Spain. We took there tour to Montserrat, Spain where there is a Benedictine Monastery high in the Mountains. At first glance from below it appears to be one building cut out of the side of the mountain, but when you finally arrive to the top it?s a very developed little city with hotels, retreat houses, shops, and a grand Cathedral that houses the Black Madonna or the Virgin of Montserrat. The views from this mountain retreat are astounding.
We got back to Barcelona in time to do some souvenir shopping on Las Rambles and then went to designated meeting place to board the bus back to the pier. The line for the buses back to the pier is rather long but it moves relatively quickly.
Some passengers did a formal tour of Barcelona and got to see the famous Gaudi Cathedral and the Olympic Stadium.
Now my favorite part of the cruise is an adventure I would not recommend to the faint of heart. The next two countries we did on our own. It?s a major risk to take major trips on your own because if the train you?ve taken is late or breaks down, you?ll miss the ship. Now that I?ve mentioned that disclaimer, let?s talk about what we did.
Our next stop was Cannes, France. From pier we walked to the railroad station and took the train to Monaco and Mote Carlo. When we arrived, about an hour and thirty minutes later, we proceeded to have our passports stamped at the information booth at the Monaco railroad so that we could have bragging rights. From the railroad we took the No. 1 bus to the palace area. There, we took a little sightseeing train around Monaco and Monte Carlo. After seeing the sights and taking pictures of the tremendous yachts in the harbor, we did some souvenir shopping. We then left early enough to catch the train back to Cannes. Thank goodness there was no delay. We got back in time to explore Cannes a little bit. Cannes is quite a cosmopolitan city and not a little sleeping village.
When taking trains in Europe you have to remember to validate your ticket at the station at one of the validating machines before you board the train. If you don?t validate your ticket or time stamp it, you are subject to pay about 5 euros as a penalty. Five euros is about $6.50 more on the fare you?ve already paid.
The railroad in Europe is very reasonable, much more reasonable than the ships package where you do Monaco and Monte Carlo on you own.
Our final port was Livorno which is the port for Florence. The ride was about an hour and a half. One has to take the courtesy bus to the centre of Livorno. From there one takes the No. 1 bus to the stacione. There is a local train for Florence. Again, we took the risk of getting to Florence on our own by train. The fare was only 12 euros per person round trip.
In Florence you can check out the outdoor market where leather goods are sold along with silk objects. Leather jackets, pants, belts, wallets, pocketbooks, wallets, and brief cases are all available at reasonable prices. Then if you have time you can visit the Accademia Art Museum and the Duomo. The Duomo is a massive cathedral that has a terracotta roof that can be seen from all over Florence. It also has very beautiful fa?ade of colorful marble. Think of all of that marble on the largest cathedral you have ever seen.
After that wonderful visit it was back to Livorno. When we got back to the stacione we discovered that a number of passengers decided to do take the railroad rather than the ships tour. Therefore the No. 1 bus was very crowded going back to the meeting point for the courtesy bus. As a matter of fact, there was not enough room for us on the first bust that came. I managed to get on the second city bus. We made it back to the ship with plenty of time to spare.
This was that last evening. It was time to give out extra tips to the outstanding staff members. I put the tips in an envelop because I was so ashamed of what I was giving the crew for the outstanding service they had performed. We said goodbye and hugged the wait staff and they told us how happy we made them by sitting at their table. That was very strange because they made us more than happy.
All good things come to an end. We were given colored numbered tags to place on our luggage. The color and the number determined what your post cruise plans were or what time you had to be at the airport. We packed our luggage, tagged them and set them out for the crew. The next day was disembarkation. We had to rise very early in the morning. We had breakfast, and were call of the ship by 8:45. Carnival had plenty of buses waiting. So we made our way to the airport without a problem. I liked the disembarkation system very much even though I hate to get up early.
Carnival gave us a trip of a lifetime that as affordable and very exciting. I would recommend this cruise to anyone. It would be nice if it were offered all year so that one could take advantage of the lower airfares during other periods.
The disabled may have some difficulty in parts of Europe because not everything is accessible, but they?re getting better. Venice is extremely difficult with all the bridges and steps, but it?s not impossible.
I?m looking forward to other European cruises by Carnival or other exotic destinations.