Good cruise for families on a budget.
Sail Date: April 09, 2017
Reviewed: 10 days ago
Traveled As: Family (young children)
Room Type: Inside
We set sail on the Carnival Liberty while our four elementary school aged kids were out on Spring Break. We planned the trip in advance and took advantage of the Early Saver rate, so three of us per inside cabin amounted to just under $500 per person (including taxes and port fees, but without gratuities) for our 4 night cruise to the Bahamas. Given it was still “Spring Break season”, this was a very reasonable rate. This was the kids’ second cruise, but first on Carnival, so much of their comparison is against the Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas from September 2016.
We sailed out of Port Canaveral for the first time and found it to be a great port with plenty of parking and helpful staff. We arrived in the terminal right at our selected 1130 timeslot. Unfortunately, after checking in, there was still about an hour wait until they started boarding anyone. When the finally did, the assigned zones made the process move very quickly. We will choose a later timeslot next time.
On board, we were pleased to find that the ‘Funship 2.0 food’ like Guy’s Burger Joint and Blue Iguana Cantina were open along with the Lido buffet and 24 hour Pizza Pirate. With such variety, the initial rush of embarkation was tolerable as there wasn’t overcrowding in any one particular area. We tasted the burgers and had tacos within 30 minutes of boarding while waiting for our staterooms to be readied. True to multiple reviews, Guy’s Burgers are pretty amazing. The little ones- especially my 6 year old son- found cheeseburgers for lunch (and sometimes dinner) to be one of the best parts of the trip. Though my 6 year old daughter can eat Moe’s daily given the opportunity, she wasn’t very fond of Blue Iguana’s limited selection and only ate there once the entire trip. Later in the cruise, I tried Sushi at Sea and had a delicious roll freshly prepared for under $10. It is well worth it and great quality if you love sushi.
When the rooms were ready, we found our interior cabins spacious enough for three people each. The cabins, like the rest of the ship, are kept impeccably clean. We found our cabins comparable in size and quality to those which we had on Enchantment of the Seas. They were very convenient to access the pools or Lido buffet- both up only one floor- within 3 minutes. Unfortunately, my cabin (#8411) was aft and had an intermittent, but intense, vibration that we initially thought was the motor but later occurred while stationary in port. The door on the safe in my room rattled, but a towel between the safe and cabinet door took care of that. Our other cabin (#8403) offered similar nuisances with the aforementioned vibration and additional noises from preparation in the kitchen above starting around 5 AM. Our 10 year old son preferred the Enchantment cruise overall, primarily due to these annoyances, after he tried to sleep in both of our cabins.
The cabin steward was friendly when we saw him, which was rare, but did leave cool towel animals. I was also disappointed that the room wasn’t serviced while we had dinner at our assigned time. I figured they would use that 2 hours to prepare the cabin for bedtime, but instead they didn’t seem to make it in time as they were down the hall cleaning when we returned. I then felt obligated to leave again, even when I wanted to relax in the cabin for a minute. By the third night I hung up my “Snoozin’” door tag and made the beds myself.
Carnival Hub App.
We connected to the Carnival Hub app for free with airplane mode still on. This is a nice technology, but we were under the impression that we could use it to e-chat with each other during the cruise. Chat is a $5 option that we declined since we were in nearly adjacent cabins and didn’t plan on carrying phones with us for the entire trip. Nonetheless, we were able to use it for free to find out what activities were occurring and times each venue would be open.
The itinerary was subpar. I was told that Freeport is the armpit of the Bahamas. This may be an understatement. We checked out shops at the port. Most merchants were not willing to negotiate, so we ended up waiting until Nassau and getting the same products for less money. The industrialized atmosphere, smell included, made us appreciate the cleanliness and accommodations of Carnival Liberty, so we quickly returned and spent the day in the pool. We then set sail for Nassau. I like it, but we’ve been here before. We left the little ones in Camp Ocean and ventured out to restock our John Watling’s rum and pick up some items from the straw market. The straw market is usually a pain in the rear with pushiness, but this time it was very relaxed and we were able to negotiate mutually acceptable prices on everything we were looking for and then some. Within an hour, we had completed our shopping and were back on board to get the kids from Camp Ocean and have some family time. The day at sea was filled with the Dr. Suess breakfast, parade, and storytime- which will all be very memorable.
Those memories weren’t captured masterfully on film, though. Much to our disappointment, Carnival Liberty didn’t offer an affordable photo package- or any photo package for that matter. Individual photos range from over $10 to over $20. We went through them and found flaws in every one: Ketchup on the face, someone isn’t smiling, someone else looked away. I don’t know if Carnival has heard of digital media, but I’m fairly certain I can get a few perfect still moments from the hours of video I recorded. I plan on saving hundreds of dollars by doing so. Thanks, Snapfish!
We all enjoyed the Dive-In Movies offered in the afternoon and evening times on Liberty. We opted for lounge chairs, but others chose hot tubs or even the pool to relax and watch. Popcorn and blankets were provided, too. Nothing compares to lounging outside with a nice sea breeze- especially when you couple it with popcorn and a movie. We even stayed up late a couple nights and had a late night pizza party after the movie, though some grabbed pizza and ate it while watching the movie. Whatever your preference, it’s possible.
Camp Ocean kids program.
One of our 6 year olds found both children’s groups (Carnival’s Camp Ocean vs. RCCL’s Adventure Ocean) to be equivalent despite spending a lot more time in- and winning prizes in- Camp Ocean on Liberty. Our other 6 year old preferred Adventure Ocean on Enchantment of the Seas and often opted out of Liberty’s Camp Ocean to swim or slide down the Twister slide with her siblings. Our 9 and 10 year olds, having independent sign in and out privileges, both chose to spend little time in Camp Ocean despite making friends on board relatively quickly. The Camp Ocean staff was friendly and kind to all of the kids. While I found the electronic sign in and sign out with photo ID to be a responsible safety measure, it seemed to detract from the personalization we had on Enchantment- where Camp staff quickly memorized every kid’s name and greeted them everywhere on the ship. The process also resulted in lines while parents waited to scan a card before dropping off or picking up children. It’s not necessarily a big deal- except when Camp Ocean is only open for an hour and you spend 20 minutes waiting in line to drop them off. While Camp Ocean is at the opposite end of Liberty from food, the 21 and up tranquil Serenity retreat is just outside of it. It’s somewhat ironic, but convenient when parents need some quiet time by the sea after dropping their kids off for a few minutes.
We did get to drop the kids off at Camp Ocean after dinner (8 pm) until they closed (10pm). During one of these times, we snuck over to Alchemy Bar to try prescription cocktails. At Alchemy, skilled mixologists artfully combine fresh ingredients resulting in unique concoctions. We shared two and they were both worth the $13 or so each. While we are talking booze, we did the Liberty cruise without the Cheers Beverage Package. After trying the Alchemy drinks, trying a margarita from Blue Iguana Tequila Bar, sharing a pitcher from Red Frog’s Rum Bar over lunch one day, and trying several specialty drinks that included souvenir glasses, we spent less than $150 combined while sampling a little of everything on board.
Another night after dinner, we checked out the Punchliner Comedy Club. With Camp Ocean closing at 10pm, we only were able to see the PG rated routines, but they were hilarious! We also saw the Just Rock performance in the Venetian Palace on Liberty. It was a very good show that we all (kids included) enjoyed.
I feel like we haven’t discussed food enough. This was a cruise after all. Dinner in the Silver Olympian dining room was good. I latched onto a kale Caesar salad as my recurring appetizer. It was good, but I’d call the portion a sampler. I munched on a variety of breads while anxiously awaiting the main course. On night 3, along with my kale salad, I also ordered the Escargot. To be honest, it wasn’t quite as good as Royal Caribbean’s Bourguignonne, but certainly not bad either. For main courses, I tried the swordfish, prime rib, and something else that I can’t remember- which kind of speaks for itself. They presented modest portions of flavorful food presented tastefully, but nothing was extravagant. The last night, we skipped the main dining room and had food from other eateries on Liberty. Service, too, was just par. We had a couple of waiters assisting us, but not necessarily in concert with one another. The language barriers made ordering a challenge sometimes, but we ultimately ended up with what we wanted. Just like on Enchantment of the Seas, our 6-year old got multiple orders of shrimp cocktail every night as desired. We had to limit her to four plates per night, though!
Dr. Seuss Breakfast
The Dr. Seuss breakfast is well worth $5 per person. Order as much as you want of Seuss themed cuisine served in the Gold Olympian dining room at your preferred time. The kids also get to meet and take photos- or videos if you’re into saving money- with some large feline wearing a hat, a couple of things who shall remain unnumbered, and Sam (he is). Other days, breakfast was a selection of Huevos Rancheros from Blue Iguana or whatever you want from the ubiquitous Lido Buffet.
Later in the afternoon, we participated in the Seuss-A-Palooza Parade which led us to Story Time, which is a play acted out as a classic children’s tale is read on stage. Both were a lot of fun for all 4 of our “Things”. Explanation: We brought along “Thing #” shirts for all of us. Many asked us where we got them and, to our knowledge, they are not available on Liberty. If you want to be similarly festive, we found them on Amazon before we left.
We had a blast. It was a cruise. You have to enjoy a cruise (unless you were on the Titanic). However, I don’t think we’re very anxious to return to Liberty. It actually surprised me when the kids said they would rather return to Enchantment, but that was their unbiased opinion separately from two 6 year olds, a 9 year old, and a 10 year old. If it’s your first cruise or you are looking for a lot of fun for a little money and don’t mind some offsetting things, this one’s for you. Otherwise, spend a little more on a five star voyage.
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|Cabin / Stateroom||When the rooms were ready, we found our interior cabins spacious enough for three people each. The cabins, like the rest of the ship, are kept impeccably clean. We found our cabins comparable in size and quality to those which we had on Enchantment of the Seas. They were very convenient to access the pools or Lido buffet- both up only one floor- within 3 minutes. Unfortunately, my cabin (#8411) was aft and had an intermittent, but intense, vibration that we initially thought was the motor but later occurred while stationary in port. The door on the safe in my room rattled, but a towel between the safe and cabinet door took care of that. Our other cabin (#8403) offered similar nuisances with the aforementioned vibration and additional noises from preparation in the kitchen above starting around 5 AM.|
|Embarkation and Disembarkation||Didn't start boarding until an hour after our selected time, but then it went quickly. Disembarkation took hours.|
|Ship Quality||The Liberty is impeccably clean everywhere.|
|Destinations and Excursions||Horrible itinerary. First and last time in Freeport for us.|
|Onboard Activities||A lot of great activities, but not timed well with the Camp Ocean schedule for those with kids. We missed a lot.|
|Children's Programs||Friendly staff, but odd opening and closing times that had us running back and forth to make activities.|
|Entertainment||Good shows, but nothing knocks your socks off.|
|Service and Staff||Good service in dining areas, but cabin service was poorly timed.|
|Food and Dining||Guy's Burger Joint was a family favorite. Sushi at Sea was awesome, too. Main dining room and Lido Buffet was good, but nothing special.|
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|Port Canaveral, Florida||Don't pick the earlier time slots. They may not be ready and run out of seats for everyone.|
|Freeport, Grand Bahama Island||Stay on the ship. Wear a respirator if you have one.|
|Nassau, Bahamas||Negotiate at the Straw Market to get some deals.|
We had a blast, but aren't very anxious to return to Liberty. If it’s your first cruise or you are looking for a lot of fun for a little money and don’t mind some offsetting things, this one’s for you. Otherwise, spend a little more on a five star voyage.