Overall Rating: Excellent
|Destination:||Caribbean - Eastern|
|# of Nights:||7 Nights|
|Cabin Type:||Ocean View|
I sailed with 3 friends on the Carnival Liberty 7 Day cruise to Half Moon Cay, San Juan, St Thomas, and Grand Turk. Departed from Miami 3/5/11. There were 4 of us in an exterior picture window cabin on deck 2, aft. The room was decent, having 2 beds, a convertible sofa, and an upper. In comparing itineraries for the different ships to sail, I noticed all 7 day Carnival cruises now call at 4 ports, unlike the 3 in the past. I've always preferred Sea Days, so I was a bit bummed to lose that extra day at sea, but it is what it is. The cruise line must make extra money by calling at that extra port versus the sea day. Hopefully in the future there will be some cruises that do have 3 port days and 3 sea days again!
Day 1 - Embarkation:
We got off to a late start the first day, by the time we arrived at the Port it was about 2:30pm. Hadn't sailed out of Miami in a couple years so I was not sure what to expect with the recent renovations the Port had been undergoing. Surprisingly, there was absolutely no traffic on Biscayne and in getting to the actual terminal directly in front of the ship. We drove from the Port entrance (where the Bayside sign in), directly to the ship terminal in 5 minutes - In absolute pleasure considering years back it was such a mess driving through the port and even in getting to the port. To my surprise, there was not a single security checkpoint as we approached the terminal, as there had always been in the past. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing from a security standpoint? Didnt have to show any form of id, or our boarding passes, until we were at the scanning line within the terminal. Dropped off the luggage in front (all was carry-on), parked car across the street, and was back in the terminal in no time. No lines to check in, which was a pleasure. We were on the ship very quickly. Overall embarkation process was very impressive, Carnival really has improved the process. And kudos to the Port of Miami for streamlining the traffic and parking process. It seemed as if there was nobody there!
Half Moon Cay:
I had previously sailed on a Royal Caribbean ship which called at Half Moon Cay, so I was very curious to see if Carnival was also calling at the exact same island - Sure enough, we did. It's interesting because both cruise lines identify Half Moon Cay as their "private island" lol. I guess it's the private island for which ever line is scheduled for that day?? There must be a contract for this. Nevertheless, it was a great day at Half Moon Cay. However, the tender process to get off the ship was a MESS. In all my cruises I had never seen anything like it before. We walked down to deck 0 to hop off the ship, however to my surprise, we were instructed that we had to walk back up the staircase to deck 3 where the line was formed. However, upon arriving at deck 3, the line continued into the main show lounge which upon entering we noticed the ENTIRE lounge was filled with other passengers also waiting for a tender. The staff were handing out stickers with numbers as you entered the lounge, with each number identifying the order of your tender. In asking around, some passengers had been sitting there for over 1 hour with their tender number still being another 30-60 min away. We arrived at what must have been the peak morning time that most passengers were trying to disembark the ship so it's understandable for there to be a line, however there clearly was an opportunity for more (or larger) tenders, especially at the peak time (I believe it was about 11am). Luckily, I noticed there were Platinum stickers available, and as a Platinum Carnival member, we were able to hop onto the next available tender without waiting in the lounge or within any significant line. This was absolutely without a doubt the best Platinum benefit for the week.
The island was great - Four years ago when I had been on the island with Royal Carib, the water was so unappealing as there was mounds of seaweed all over, and even at the bottom of the seafloor when you entered the water. It was downright disgusting. However, all this was gone, and the beach was absolutely beautiful. It had been cleaned up magnificently. The water was crystal clear, Carnival bar staff all over the place serving drinks and the infamous buckets. Lounge chairs were free and abundant if you walked down far enough. We spent the entire day there, from 12-5pm. There's a large 2-3 story wooden pirate ship now built on the sand, towards the middle of the stretch of beach. Very cool. You walk up the steps or ramp and are within a large bar - All made of wood with the pirate theme. This is where the ship's social host coordinated some hillarious dancing and drinking contests and the DJ from the ship manned the improvised DJ booth on the bar stage. The food served in the pavillions were pretty much the main BBQ foods - Hamburgers, hot dogs, a delicious jerked chicken, fruits, deserts, etc. Good lunch but was anxious to get back to the beach and pirate bar! In getting back to the ship at the end of the day, the lines were long again for a tender (and no express line for Platinum this time), however we already got in our beach day so we weren't in as much of a rush.
Having been there many times, didn't have much desire to wake up early to get off the ship and rush back to the 3pm back-onboard deadline. Strolled off after lunch, and made the obligatory trip to Senor Frogs - A quick walk down the street from the pier. Right next to the Sheraton. Back onboard by 3pm. Enjoying watching the ship sail out of the harbor and past El Morro, the infamous fort "guarding" the harbor. Lots of history there, and if you ever get the chance to watch the ship sail into the port, you'll love the sight of the fort as the ship approaches. My gripe about Puerto Rico is why the ship has to leave so early? My favorite stop at Puerto Rico was 3 years ago when the ship was docked all day and night until midnight - That was fun, got to experience a bit of the nightlife, not just the typical daytime shopping scene. For some reason it's very tough to find any ships that stay into the evening hours now. Perhaps it costs more during the night hours versus day?
First time here, and I loved it. One of my fav ports. I had heard alot about the new cruise ship passenger facility, and it did not disappoint. Immediately at the end of the pier, you're within the upscale port shopping store, and then immediately outside that....Margaritaville! This was really cool. It's a HUGE pool complex with different sections separated by the wooden walkway bridges, a FlowRider positioned towards the back of the pool area backed up against the beach, and of course tons of shaded palm tree and lounging areas with plenty of chairs. Tiki huts, bars, food (the wings very spicy), $1 Jello Shots, and of course a DJ and area beside the pool for the ship's social host to coordinate games and contests. The ship's social host poured free shots from bottles into everyone who lined up in the chair during a specific period of time, which was fun, and something I had never seen a Carnival social host do. Kudos for that! The pool has a swim up bar with barstools in the water - Great setup! The beach located behind the pool was incredible - And a picture-perfect scene with the ships docked directly in front of you. The ships appear so close that beyond the buoy markers, you could swim out and slap the side of the first ship! The beach was longggg, free lounge chairs plentiful, and plenty of shaded areas. It was our ship and a Regent Seven Seas ship, which was much smaller. In the social host taking a poll among the crowd while at Margaritaville, it seemed that the only cruisers at the pool deck were from the Carnival ship. This cruise ship passenger facility at Grand Turk was so enjoyable - At no point were there any hassles or hagglers that you would find at many Caribbean destinations which sometimes can be unpleasant. The Margaritaville at Grand Turk did a great job at showing everyone an awesome time. If you have never been to Grand Turk, you MUST go!
Took the 30 minute cab ride to Magen's Bay beach, ranked one of the world's most beautiful islands by the Travel Channel. Crystal clear water, pure white soft sand, this beach is great. It's a more quiet (though it can get busy) beach, and there was a manned lifeguard stand which I dont think that was there 1 year ago when we last visited. Though the cab ride takes a while, it's well worth it as you drive through, up, and down the mountains and get amazing photo ops of the harbor with the ships docked. Looking out to the harbor and all around from so high up in the mountains really gives you an appreciation for the Caribbean and a nice perspective on everything else. Certainly worth the $7 per person fee each way. There's also a $6 charge per person to get onto the beach, but again, it's a vacation - and well worth it. There's a fully stocked and original beach bar located right on the beach - very authentic and fun place to be. Located under the same structure there's a local fast food type restaurant (the burgers are really good!) and gift shop, though the prices in the ship were a bit pricey. As one of the island's main tourist attractions, the beach has a taxi area where you can always catch a ride back to the ship (or elsewhere on the island) at any time. Spent the entire day at the beach, and took a cab back to the ship at the last possible time. Gotta visit Magen's Bay!
First Day at Sea:
If there was a cruise to nowhere out of South FL, I would take it in a heartbeat. I LOVE sea days. On this day I went to the gym (first and last time for the week, ha!), used the free weights for about 45 min (not too packed, weights easily accessible), then ran the track around the smokestack trying to burn off 0.00456% of the previous day's food and drinks. May not have burnt off too much, but it certainly felt good to exercise! Spent the entire day outside on deck 10 overlooking the main pool area, and also at the main pool deck's hottubs.
Carnival did a nice job with the Liberty! The lido deck underwent a slight change on this ship, which I thought was smart. Instead of the main 2 hottubs being located directly next to (and up a few dangerous, wet, slippery steps from the main pool), they're now separated from the main pool and located within the first raised steps of the pool deck, closer to the waterslide. This provides more wading room directly around the side and front of the main pool, and more deck space for the competitions and other deck events. It was AMAZING to see what I think is one of Carnival's newer policies (and certainly a large money-maker)....How many times have you been chased out of the hottub with a drink by security or the deck attendants?? Well guess what, that is no more! The bar servers now sell you drinks directly in the hottub! SWEET! As you could imagine this was a big hit with the spring breakers onboard. The spring break hottubbers were definitely keeping the bar staff busy. No more security guard walking over every 2.5 minutes to ask someone to put down their drink or leave. Of all the time I spent in the hottubs, I never saw an issue with the drinks in the hottub. Way to go Carnival! I was surprised and slightly disappointed to see that the ship did not have the "Serenity" deck at the top front of the ship. My previous cruise aboard the Freedom had this, and those hammocks and hottubs facing the bow were amazing. I thought Carnival was rolling this out on all ships - Especially the new ones. Oh well, not a biggie. Instead, we primarily used the hottubs on the main pool deck. I did notice the hottubs Aft under the convertible rooftop were labeled as the "Serenity" area and no children were allowed in those. Surrounding the smokestack is the miniature golf, volleyball, and golf. Those were big hits for passengers of all ages. You can rent the items at the main pool deck where you get the pool towels.
Dining Room and Food:
The first night our dining room service took F-O-R-E-V-E-R but luckily was just a fluke. The service for the rest of the week was good and no complaints. The food selections were also good, lobster 1 night, BBQ ribs 2 nights, and then the typical other menu items. Every night I started my meal off right with the infamous 3 shrimp cocktails and 1 caesar salad. The filet mignon was amazing, extremely tender and juicy. The NY style Deli on Deck 9 was excellent as always - Their corned beef and pastrami sandwiches are to die for. On the other side the burrito bar looked delicious, but the times were not as open as the rest of the options so I didn't get the chance to taste test it. Oh well, I have Chipotle back home, no big deal. The burgers and chicken fingers are such a big hit, and there were always people lined up for those all day and into every evening. The honey mustard sauce was excellent. By the way, did I mention I gained 5 lbs by the end of the week? Oh well, it was worth it.
Didn't spend much time in the main show lounge, but couldn't help but notice that Zuniga the juggler/magician was performing his act during the week. I can't even count how many ships I've been on that he is also on....Is he following me from ship to ship??? He does put on a good show for those who have not seen it before! Recommended! The lido deck music was good, though I wish they would have the reggae band playing continuously all day without taking random 1-2 hour breaks throughout the day (sea days). But the recorded music they played in between was good - A mix of all types of pop hits. Nightlife centered around the casino and comedy club. This was the first cruise I had sailed with the new comedy club, and it was a huge hit. The show lounge at the end of the Promenade deck was packed for nearly every showing (multiple every night), and this provided an extra activity to do each night once the main show lounge emptied out. The only thing that this did impact, was the liveliness of the main dance club, which got a late crowd and didn't get busy until after 1 AM almost each night. When it did get busy, it closed between 3-4 AM each night. There were 2 nights that the dance club was packed, but for some reason the DJ decided to close it down anyways. It seems the DJ has the ultimate decision as to how late the club will stay open. After the club closes, most end up at the 24 hr pizza bar upstairs. The mini stage in front of the casino bar, where the band plays, was popular, and also played a lot of Michael Jackson music which was a big hit. The main piano bar musician was not much of a crowd pleaser, as this room did not fill up too much. I think he just wasn't as lively and enthusiastic as others I've seen who could attract an entirely full room of passengers. All in all, entertainment was great, and contributed to an excellent cruise with many great memories.
Debarkation & Summary:
As much as I want to remain on the ship by the week's end and prolong my return to reality, I prefer to take advantage of Carnival's Express Priority debarkation process so I can get into my car, drive home, and dive into bed and get back to sleep. Woke up at 7am (eeeeeek!), left luggage in cabin, and visited the lido deck grille 1 last time to indulge in the final breakfast. It was packed with seemingly everyone else who also wanted that last breakfast. We were off the ship by 8:30am, and was home (no traffic early Saturday morning) by 9:30am. All in all, this was yet another excellent Carnival cruise, and a great vacation from the everyday world. So, with this cruise now in the past, I can't help but think about preparing for the next!