June 2014 - Carnival Liberty to Caribbean - Southern
We just returned from an 8 night Southern Caribbean cruise on Carnival’s Liberty out of Port Canaveral. It was our second cruise and the longest and it was great!
Instead of carrying all of our luggage on like we did last time, we checked most of our baggage and they made it safely to our room that evening. It made for a much more pleasant boarding. However, on disembarking my wife’s suitcase was misplaced and it took us about 30 minutes before someone was able to locate it.
The ship was considerably larger and more elegantly decorated than our first (Carnival Sensation…which we enjoyed, as well). We spent a lot of time in the Lido Pool (aft) which was adult only and on deck 10 above it which had both sun and shade all across mid-ship. It was more peaceful than the Coney Island Pool where all the people were who were looking to party! The Serenity Deck was very nice with pit groups, large loungers, hammocks, and Jacuzzis. But it was often too windy to be comfortable and a lot of the noise from the main pool still came through. The bar in the atrium was nice and they often had a singer with an acoustic guitar there when they were not having trivia contests.
We had a balcony room on deck 8 about mid-ship. The location was perfect and the view definitely made it worth the extra expense. And concerning the expense, it was probably less altogether than you’d spend on a week on the beach in Florida! Considering the fact that it was a ship instead of a hotel room, the size was pretty good. The bed was comfortable. As always, the bathroom was a little tight but it was OK.
The room steward (Manny) was great and always greeted us when we saw him. He made it seem like magic the way he always got our room ready each morning and evening and we rarely saw him! The towel animals were cute (the monkey, in particular) and the chocolates with the turn-down service and the next day’s activities were always there in the evening. I had a Trip Advisor Excellence in Service pin which I presented him and he definitely earned it (along with a little something extra)!
We initially had late dining and the maitre d'(Vasili) was very accommodating. He changed us to a private table for 4 and later (when one of our party was having digestive problems from eating too late) he arranged for us to eat at an earlier time. We were in the Silver Olympian dining room and it was beautifully decorated! The service was always excellent and the food was usually very good. Two dishes I would avoid are the Flat Iron Steak and the Lobster Bisque. As always, their signature dessert (Chocolate Melting Cake) was to die for! And I don’t know how they do it for three thousand people, but the lobster was perfect! Occasionally, the service staff would do a little show us for towards the end of dinner and it was always entertaining. The brunch on sea days was always very good as well.
We tried most of the other restaurants. The burgers at Guys Burger Joint were great! The burritos at Blue Iguana Cantina were OK but not as good as Moes. The thin crust pizzas at the Lido Pool were good. The Mongolian Wok was very slow (which, I guess, is the nature of this type of eatery) but good. And I like spicy food so I ordered the Szechuan sauce. But it was so hot (spicy) that I literally could not eat it! So be warned! The Lido deck buffet was OK and pretty much what you would expect. The Omelet station was good.
The drinks were good if a little pricey. I did the “Bubbles” adder since I drink a lot of soft drinks. But we didn’t do the “Cheers” adder that allows you up to 15 drinks a day because everyone in your stateroom has to do it as well and my wife doesn’t drink often. The Ultimate Margarita was exceptional and I did splurge and do the drink made out of a whole pineapple! The Blue Iguana Tequila Bar is really a misnomer. They have 7 or 8 tequilas and none of the really good ones.
The main shows in the Venetian palace were all quite good. They live band was excellent and I would encourage Carnival to NOT discontinue them as I hear they are about to do. The dancers and singers were very professional and entertaining and the production, sets, and chorography were all top notch (with only a few exceptions). There was one black performer they brought in for one night (whose name escapes me) who really brought the house down with his rendition of Nessun Dorma! We went to one comedy show and it was funny but seemed to work too hard at being vulgar.
The ports (Curacao, Aruba, Grand Turk) were all great! Curacao was a colorful little town. If you make port late (as we did), I suggest going directly to the Punda side of Willemstad since most shops close around 5:30 pm. Just across the Queen Emma pontoon bridge is a little sidewalk café that runs along the harbor called the Iguana Café which is a great place to have a drink and enjoy the view. The Rif Fort right at the port has some nice shops, bars, and restaurants as well.
In Aruba we did a day pass at the Occidental Grand and we enjoyed it! You can get the passes directly from the hotel or (like we did) through online sites like ShoreExcursioneer.com. Grab a short $14 taxi ride to the resort and they give you your bracelets at the front desk giving you complete access to their resort including unlimited food and drink! The staff was very friendly and helpful. The pool and the beach were wonderful! The food was good but…the drinks were not. They only had a limited selection of cheap liquors and things like daiquiris and pina coladas were premixed and they just poured some rum on top. Not very good. You’ll probably get asked about their timeshare at some point but that’s OK. However, we still felt it was worth it and enjoyed our time there. If you eat outside, be careful the birds or the iguanas don’t steal your food…they’re pretty bold!
Grand Turk was our favorite port! You walk right off the ship and onto a beach at the cruiseport! Just grab yourself one of the hundreds of lounge chairs waiting for you under one of the palm trees and enjoy! It’s what most people imagine when you think of a small tropical island…beautiful white beaches lined with palm and coconut trees and the water is the clearest I’ve ever seen! You can stand in the water chest high and still see clearly to the bottom! You don’t need snorkeling gear to see the multitude of fish swimming past you! But bring water shoes because there’s a lot of coral in the water. When you get off the ship, you can either go straight and check out the shops, turn left and go towards Margarittaville and their pool and beach area (expect locals to come by with offers for tours and timeshares), or turn right if you want a little more peace and quiet. There you will find a garden-like area under the palm trees with lounge chairs, a monument to astronaut John Glenn (whose capsule splashed down near there), a masseuse, and a quiet little bar. Just past the pier is a statue of a humpback whale (they migrate through there from January to April). If you walk past the pier and the whale statue about a mile or so to the point, you can often find large conch shells.
All in all, a great cruise and we hated to come back!
If you plan a long drive to Port Canaveral, Country Inn and Suites has a great Park and Stay package that allows you to leave your car there without paying a daily fee and use their shuttle to and from the ship (which we have taken advantage of on both of our cruises). While you’re there, the pier at Cocoa Beach is a great place to go for dinner or to watch the sunset while having a drink and listening to some live music.
P.S. One sour note. The way they did safety briefing this time was to require everyone to go to their muster station which was outside the ship where they would actually go to abandon ship. They then lined us up packed as tight as sardines and had us stand there until everyone on the ship was accounted for before showing us how to put on a life vest. It was extremely hot and uncomfortable and claustrophobic and completely unnecessary. There HAS to be a better way to do this! There’s no way older people and people with disabilities could endure this!