July 2016 - Liberty of the Seas to Caribbean - Western
Liberty of the Seas July 31, 2016 sailing. First, some background: I’ve sailed on two Princess and one Carnival in the past year so my comparison base is fairly recent. It has been 8 years since I’ve sailed on RCI, but I have sailed 5 cruises with them. This cruise simply blew the other out of the water, so to speak. I’m not a picky cruiser. I guess you could say my standards are low? I go on a cruise expecting to relax, eat decent food, be entertained and to have a great time. If that happens, the cruise is a success. General: We sailed with a group of 12. My wife and 3 adult sons, each with a significant other (my sons, not my wife-unless you count me as her significant other). My brother, his wife and two younger daughters also joined us. I had set up port transportation with Great VIP Limo in Houston. They gave a us a great rate and Francisco, one of the two drivers, was outstanding. They picked us up at 10:30 the next morning. The plan was to stop at a store to buy some wine and bottled water to take on board. We found out that in Texas, on Sunday, you can’t buy liquor until noon! Off to Galveston we went and we stopped at a store there. We got to the port at about 12:30. The porters said they could not take the water, but we could carry it on without any problem. Good thing we bought several 12 packs and not one huge 40 pack! The wine “inspection” desk was staffed by two RCI crew who were very quick and easy. We got in the Platinum express check in line and were through and on our way to the ship by about 1:15. The ship was stunning! It was spotless, elegant and the details were amazing. The Royal Promenade is a sight to behold for the first time. Then to watch it transform for different times and events is over the top! I remember what I liked so much about RCI. As it was after 1:00, we went right to our cabin to put stuff away. Then it was on to Windjammer for a bite. It was crowded, but we were able to find a table. The food selection was good and everyone found something to eat. We had one vegetarian in our group and she had no issues. I had purchased the all inclusive digital photo package via an email offer before we sailed. It was $99. I saw signs on the ship selling the same package for $149. I checked with the photo staff and they confirmed I get every photo associated with my room on a USB stick at the end. What a great deal!! I had also purchased the one-device basic unlimited internet beforehand for $9 per day. It was decent but not super fast. Perfect for updating FB or checking email to make sure our shore excursions were on track. After all, we were on vacation and I was NOT going to be doing any other surfing, other than to check in for our Southwest flights for the trip back. We brought walkie-talkies but did not use them once. We had my-time dining with a standing 6:45 reservation. Everyone did their own thing during the day, met for dinner and then they were off on their own again. It worked really well. Each cabin had a voucher for dinner in Chops/Giovannis/Sabor. Each couple chose their day and time and had a solo dinner for two. Chops and Sabor were the chosen ones with great reviews from those who went to either one. We ended up with the same table for 12 every night in the Rembrandt dining room. The maître D went out of his way to accommodate us. Rogelio, our waiter and Gerard, his assistant were outstanding. It was just like I remembered with traditional seating. They knew everyone’s name, drink order and any special dietary needs. They also briefed us on the next day’s events and brought us extra food they thought we would enjoy. Rogelio made origami creations for the two young girls every night. One night he brought over another waiter to do magic for the girls! We took good care of them at the end!
Activities: The water slides were great! The tidal wave was faster and more fun than it looked. The lines were not long at all and the stair area was not hot while waiting to go up to the top. My sons tried the FlowRider and really enjoyed it. Take the time to sign all the waivers on-line before you sail, you’ll save a ton of time on board. The girls did a cupcake decorating class and had a blast. The 70s disco party in the Royal Promenade was awesome. The boys did karaoke and one participated the in sexiest man contest taking 3rd place. Some ice skated, some took dance classes, some hit the gym and some relaxed. Everyone had a great time. We got an invitation to the Crown & Anchor Top Tier event but we didn’t go because we had other things going. We did list several celebrations on our reservation, but none were recognized. I did see notes on our table reservations, but the staff didn’t do anything. Not a big deal, but it would have been nice. We also did not get an invite to the CC meet and greet. Before we sailed, I got an email saying they would notify me, but it never happened. Ports: As you may have heard, on our first sea day out of Galveston, during the regular noon update, the captain told us about a tropical storm that was brewing and heading toward Belize. The storm was predicted to become a hurricane and hit Belize about the same time we were scheduled to be there. He made the decision to stop in Cozumel the following day, then a sea day and a stop in Nassau followed by two sea days back to Galveston. While we were bummed we were missing Belize and Roatan, two ports that led us to the sailing, it was better to be safe. The sea was a bit bumpy leaving Cozumel but smooth as glass the rest of the time. As it turned out, it was a wise decision to re-route as Hurricane Earl hit Belize with full force on the day were supposed to be there. Cozumel: We went to the Chakanaab park in Cozumel. Shoreexcursioneer.com had an exclusive package that included admission, food and snorkeling. We went downtown for some quick shopping and then to Chakanaab for the rest of the day. The package included a buffet lunch of make-your-own tacos, vegetables and fruit with a choice of beer or non-alcoholic drinks. The water was a bit choppy but we could see some fish. The hammocks and lounge chairs, and bar service, was great. NOTE. Make sure you clearly understand the cab fare BEFORE you take the ride. What I understood to be a total fare, they understood to be a per-person fare….. We worked it out, but they got more than they should have. I’ve been to Mexico many times and this is the first time I’ve had that problem. Nassau: We walked up to Fort Fincastle for a view of the town and some history. Then it was off to Junkanoo beach for… nothing! We rented some chairs, umbrella, kayak and a paddle board. We relaxed and did whatever, had some beverages and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! We did some shopping on the way back to the ship. Entertainment: There was live music all over the ship. The only nit-pick is that in the night club (Olive or Twist) they played new age stuff that even my 20 something boys were not fond of. It would have been nice if they had a 70s night, 80s night, etc so a wider audience could enjoy late night music. In the Air was an awesome show. The ice show was amazing, even more so if consider the small rink, ship moving and ice that needed resurfacing (mini-Zamboni?) The battle of the sexes, love and marriage show and the Quest were funny and everyone was roaring. The comedians were great. Saturday Night Fever was outstanding! Add to that live music and it was even more impressive! Was I entertained? You bet! Details: As I was standing on the Royal Promenade waiting for the 70s show to start, I was looking at the technology on the Promenade. It was like Disneyland with lights, speakers and other hidden features everywhere! When the show started the Promenade transformed like crazy. I imagine the promenade-view staterooms got a “free” show. It only lasted for about an hour though. On our previous cruises on the other lines, prizes for activities were cheap generic trophies or a free drink at the bar. RCI had bronze, silver or gold colored “medals” in the shape of the logo. Other prizes included other logo stuff. Even the “keep the glass” drinks were much nicer than on the other lines. There were little impressive details all over the ship. While a RCI cruise may cost a bit more, I think the value and the details more than make up for it. Were there things they could have improved? Sure, there’s always room for improvement, but overall, this was the best cruise I have ever taken. I don’t get hung up on the little nits here and there. We’re planning to come back to finish the trip we started! Debarkation: We had #30 tags so we got to wait until 10:15 to get off. We were in no hurry! We had breakfast at Café Promenade and enjoyed the last few minutes. Our C&A status allowed us to bypass the long line to leave the ship (we found it by accident). We got our bags and headed out. I noticed people arriving already and the porters had cases of water on their carts?? Oh well….. We had later flights so we went to the Johnson Space Center for a few hours and then to Hobby for the flight home. Great VIP Limo took great care of us at a very reasonable price!