April 2014 - Liberty of the Seas to Caribbean - Western
Overall, we feel like we received good value for our money with Liberty of the Seas. As background, this was the first cruise for our family. We are 40 yrs old and brought our 4 year and 1 week old son. The ship had lots of activities for my wife and me (shows, outdoor movies, flowrider, rock wall) and our son (mini-golf, plenty of pools and hot tubs), which was one of the main reasons we selected this cruise.
Embarkation - Parked at a nearby private parking lot and got shuttled to the cruise terminal (saved $35 and seemed easier than dragging suit cases through their lot - I recommend it). Arrived at the terminal at noon and we were on the ship in 50 minutes. The process seemed well staffed and efficient, considering there were 3,500 passengers. We stayed in a balcony stateroom mid-ship on deck 9 (port side). I recommend the balcony, as it provided a place to hang out when our son napped and also was useful for drying swim suits and eating breakfast (room service 2 mornings). Seas were pretty calm during most of our trip, so no need for bonine, although we could feel movement, particularly in the front and back of the ship.
Ship Condition - A gorgeous ship, it is modern and very well kept inside, although the pool decks could have been kept a little cleaner, as empty drink cups, ice cream spills, etc seemed to linger a little.
Crew - First, our stateroom attendant (Eliot from Nicaragua) was superb and got our routine after day 1. He kept our ice bucket filled without asking, was very personable with our son, and surprised him with cool towel animals 4 of the 5 nights, which was fun for him to come back to each evening. Most other crew members were pleasant and made an effort to say hello and ask if we were enjoying everything. One member of the sports deck crew (white male with surfer haircut) was the only significant exception. I asked him at 9:30am when the flowrider would be opening, and he responded "what, no hello? check the wall for the schedule man". Alrighty then...I also encountered him again the following day at the rock wall, and he seemed very dismissive to everyone and was just trying to heard us through like cattle - not good. Other than him, great staff.
Activities - Cruise director and staff were very good. They were humerous and seemed to enjoy what they were doing. As mentioned earlier, there is plenty to do onboard, as we are not the kind of family that would be happy just sitting by the pool tanning for 5 days. There were several Dreamworks character meet/greets and parades over the 5 days, which was fun for the kids on board (plenty of kids as it was during Easter school break). We saw the ice skating show and Up in the Air and enjoyed both. The ice skating starts off a little slow but picks up near the end. The "hula-hooper" during the ice skating intermission was also very talented. Both shows were family friendly and occurred early enough in the eve for our son to enjoy them and still get to bed at a decent time. We spent most of our days in the hot tubs near the main pool, as the water was warm (pools were a little chilly) and our son wanted to swim, swim, swim.
Food - We did dinner in the MDR the first 2 days and windjammer/jade the other 3. The dining room service was VERY slow, especially considering we have a 4 year old. It took 20 minutes to get drinks and order during night 2 dinner. They say allow 2 to 3 hours and they mean it...way too much sitting around for our family to enjoy the MDR, plus you miss the night's shows/activities if you wait that long. Food quality was also not worth the wait, although the escargot app on night 1 was quite good. At windjammer, decent items could be found, but there was plenty of items that were not tasty and typical cafeteria food. We expected this based on other reviews. I'm definitely no food snob, but the hamburgers were terrible (frozen tasteless patties). Sushi at Jade during dinner was decent (not great, but edible) and there was often a line at peak hours. I recommend the carving stations to get fresh tasting meat with ok flavor. Shrimp and chicken kabob skewers on last night were pretty decent and a step above some of the other night's food. Deserts (cakes and tarts) were quite good and stood above the other food in quality. Cookies hard as rocks though.
Ports - Labadee first - We went to Columbus Cove at Labadee and found a shady spot under a tree with a nice sandy beach near the kids aquapark. Seemed like a good spot, as some others at Adrenaline Beach complained of too many rocks. We paid the $18 each to do an hour at the aquapark (water trampolines, slides, etc) - a little pricey, but our son wanted to do it - they provide life jackets for young swimmers and adults alike. The taste of the BBQ lunch (chicken, ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers) that RCCL provides in Labadee was definitely lacking in taste. Though we didn't ride the roller coaster or water slide, both looked a little "carnival-ish" and I didn't feel like we were missing anything by not doing those. Zip line may have been fun, but $100 for 45 seconds didn't seem worth it. We did not do an excursion at Falmouth, as most had a minimum age limit of 5 or 6 years old. We just shopped for souvenirs a little at Falmouth and checked out Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville (has a pool for some who wanted to get of the ship but not do an excursion). There is really not much to do in Falmouth if you don't book an excursion, and with young children, your options are a bit limited.
Disembarkation - After reading many reviews, we decided to self carry our luggage off the ship rather than wait for our bags to arrive in the terminal. Self carry had a 7:30 or 10am time slot. We did the 7:30 and were in our car by 8:40. They make you go to deck 3 and then go down 2 flights of stairs with your luggage. We read previous reviews stating to go directly to deck 1, but it wasn't an option here, as they had it blocked off. No big deal though, as it only took an hour or so to get off. Spoke with a customs officer who stated its quicker to leave early like we did rather than late, as disembarkation generally gets longer later in the morning due to higher volumes.
Summary - The variety of activities, kid friendly staff/ship outweigh the average/subpar food and we would choose Liberty again. I would look for better or different Ports of Call though next time.