December 2015 - Liberty of the Seas to Caribbean - Western
Liberty of the Seas is the second of three (Freedom Class) ships. Her sisters are “Freedom and Independence” of the Seas. Liberty’s maiden voyage was 5/19/2007. She is going in to Freeport, Bahama, for a major Refit, Renewal and Refurbish in the second week of January 2016 where she will be in dry-dock for 4 weeks. The Jewel of the Seas will proceed her in dry-dock. The Catacombs Nightclub will disappear and be turned into luxury suites. They are going to add Water Slides and two new Restaurants among the refit.
Saying that the old girl was starting to look worn around the edges on this trip if you looked at the carpet and upholstery closely. The teak furniture in the Solarium, which I heard will be removed was starting to become worn out especially on the lounge chairs. If you looked around a lot of the lights did not work for one reason or the other. Especially those that are there for atmosphere. But saying that they keep her as clean as possible, painted and in good repair. The Sports Deck was going through some major renovation and maintenance and thus was closed 50% of the time we were on the cruise which is no big thing to me. I would have liked to play some miniature golf but the Rock Climbing and FlowRider were not of interest.
My largest surprise was that I printed out a list of their drinks and prices (for 2015), off of their website. Yet when we bought our first drinks we found out they had went up $3.25 a piece on all of the drinks. All mixed drinks (hard liquors) start at $9.75 per drink and up, unless it is the drink of the day which may be as low as $8.50. The Sky Lounge which they called Olive & Twist on this ship ran some two for $14.00 specials which was the best deal on the ship. They did not change the “Drink of the Day” every day either so several times it was the same drink back to back days.
This is an obvious effort to entice you to purchase the drink packages, which for us are still not worth it. We do not drink sodas, nor are we particular about water. We usually drink a couple of those exotic drinks a day each. We carry water bottles or thermal cups in our luggage and fill them with water, tea, lemonade or fruit flavored waters at the Windjammer and other places on the ship. The highest exotic drink the bars have is $15.00. Considering you buy the “Ultimate Drink Package” at $69.95 per day, per person. The drink packages are keyed to the person it is purchased for by sea pass card and is only good for that person. Though all people within your Stateroom do not have to purchase the Drink Packages the minimum you can purchase any drink package for is four (4) consecutive days on a 7 day cruise ($279.80 for four days, per person). You cannot buy multiple drinks at a time and you are not supposed to share drinks though I know it is done. Even if we were to purchase it and even if we could drink that much we would have to buy 5 (most expensive) exotic drinks a day per person to make it pay for itself. That is a lot of booze and calories and we just do not drink that much. And on days in Port it would really be hard to break even.
The shows were excellent. We saw the Broadway show “Saturday Night Fever” for its last performance after a six month run. They spend so much money on the sets (which are awesome) they have to run them for six months, just to afford them. We saw the ventriloquist, Ronn Lucas, and his partner “Buffalo Billy”. He is best known for using an audience member as a dummy and it is hilarious. He has been around since the 1980’s and the Smothers Brothers show and entertains for all the Presidents. We saw two comedians both excellent Dennis Blair (Musical Impersonations and Adult Humor) and Carl Banks (Seinfeld). Both with great Las Vegas Style shows. We saw the entertainer and singer Clint Holmes of “Playground In My Mind” (1972) fame. He also stars in Las Vegas along with his wife and has been on the Joan Rivers show. He is an author and has a Broadway show that is getting ready to open. As always the musicians on the ship are top notch and we heard Big Band Music, Jazz Music and Pop Music that was as good as the originals.
The one thing I have figured out is that the bigger (passenger wise) the ship the worse the “Main Dining Experience” is. This is the largest ship I have ever been on but I have been on progressively bigger ships from “Song of America” (1983) on up with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Once you get over the “Sovereign Class” Ships in size the Main Dining starts suffering in all aspects. Wait time, Quality of Food, Temperature of Food, and even service, etc. Not saying the food is not okay. It is just not stellar. It is five star on presentation with three star taste. If the dish you order is supposed to be served cold, it will most likely be five star taste and you are going to love it. If you expect it “steaming hot” you are going to be disappointed in temperature and taste.
Having said that we did “My Time Dining” in the Botticelli (Top level of three) in Main Dining Room. We never had a problem being seated and of all we ate, only the fish dishes were unacceptable and disappointing. Lobster night which changed on this trip from Friday to Thursday night (No apparent reason why) was still good. But again not “Steaming hot”. Jesus, our waiter, was awesome and he did everything in his power to make the Dining experience extraordinary for us. It is just that he does not have a lot of control of the temperature or taste of the food. The Breads and Desserts were four star however my Baked Alaska was melted. Temperature control is a problem.
The Windjammer was the best on this ship of any RCCL ship I have been on yet. At night the food was very good and well presented with some awesome deserts. I did miss the “Three Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cookies” from the Navigator of the Seas but they had some “Coconut Ranger Cookies” that were equally impressive. BOO goes out to whomever decided to take the soft serve ice cream machines out of the Windjammer. I guess they are trying to push business to their Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Franchise. Having said that a WOW goes out because they had Soft Serve Frozen Yogurt (Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla) on the Pool Deck during the day but by Dinner time they shut that service down and were cleaning up.
Roatan, Honduras was not a great place unless you take a tour. I had a broken toe, a separate story, so snorkeling or scuba diving, which is supposed to be beyond compare in the Caribbean was out of the question. But if you do not take a tour you get the typical Royal Caribbean licensed shops and that is about it. Prices on souvenirs are higher than what you can find in Cozumel so unless you just have to have the name, Rotan and Honduras pass them up.
Belize City, Belize is not worth it. I first went to this sinkhole in 1997 and it has not changed. I think RCCL ought to just give up. When our Cruise Director Ann asked the audience that night at the show, how they liked Belize the only response with any enthusiasm at all was from the Tubing and Snorkeling tours. The rest of the tours were disappointing and even uncomfortable for those that did them. And Belize City itself has always been a disappointment. It is not worth the Tender time in my opinion. Just to put it frankly Belize is a waste of time.
Cozumel, Mexico is a gem. What you cannot do there needs to be forgotten about. I love Cozumel. For some scheduling thing they started off loading at 6:00 AM which is ridiculous. The Windjammer was not open until 7:00 for Breakfast and most of the shops in Cozumel were closed. We had to be back by 3:30PM. Now this was not the published or advertised time (8:00 am to 5:30pm) on anything but it was announced by Ann, the Cruise Director, the night before. This made me change my plans but we still had a great time. I wished Royal Caribbean would do just a Grand Cayman (for seven mile beach), Roatan, Honduras, and Cozumel cruise. Or maybe even an overnight Cozumel Cruise and just one of the other destinations. Cozumel rolls the sidewalks up at 8:00pm but at least stay that long. That would hit the best of the Western Caribbean in one fail swoop.
Wows! Go out to Jadene Conroy (Guest Services on board), Jesus (our Main Dining Waiter), Leticia Sanchez at Cupcakes. These people do Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines a great service working for them as they have the right stuff.
Ann our Cruise Director and Michel Adarme were both competent in their jobs if not outstanding.
Rong Liu (China) in the Logo Shop was disappointing and should not be working in a store. He is not the right material for the job. He does not have the RCCL courtesy for it.
All in all it was a fantastic Cruise. The best it could possibly be. We ate at “Johnny Rockets” and being from Texas I was not impressed. Whataburger has nothing to worry about. Plus $5.00 for a Malt is a little much. $6.95 per person for all you can eat hamburgers and sides is not bad but again the burger is not all that and a bag of chips if you are from Texas.
For some reason the Public Address system did not work in our room (no matter where you put the volume knob). So we never got to hear one of the Captains announcements. I am glad we did not have an “abandon ship” announcement. It will be nice to see how new the ship will look on February 14 of 2016. I bet she will be very pretty.
My companion and I were both surprised that in this day of digital photography the Kiosk and software in the photo shop were so antiquated and thus as in years past the waste of photo paper is jaw dropping in an effort to sell the overpriced pictures at $22.50 each or $179.99 for 10. The Navigator of the Seas had a far better system and it was not a good one. More and better Kiosk with good software and the availability to see your picture full screen with no watermarks would alleviate the need for all of that waste in photo paper and save millions in operating cost. The cost of the extra computer displays would be paid for quickly in lack of waste of photo paper and time.
I feel like the most wasted area on the ship is Studio B and the whole Ice Rink venue. That needs to be a nightclub or something that is utilized way more than what it is. The Ice Rink thing is novel but is old and is a waste for the majority of the cruise. Bad planning.
Having events (Like Zoomba) that block the main course of traffic on Deck 5 is not the smartest thing in the world either. For handicapped people it is the only way without going outside, to go from the bow of the ship to the stern, unless they want to go through the smoke filled Casino. That is poor planning and could better be done in Studio B area.
Finally, a comment on Arrival and Departure. Arrival went surprisingly smooth, in good weather and I compliment RCCL on that. However we arrived back at Galveston Cruise Terminal in the middle of a bad rain storm. We did not get in our car with luggage until 12:20PM.
The “Port of Galveston” has always been sitting on the fence, between total chaos and organized, on its best days. Add to that mix a severe rainstorm and the crush of 8,320 passengers (Carnival Magic plus Liberty of the Seas, together max. occupancy) trying to depart and another 8,320 passengers trying to arrive, at the same time, and you have pretty much total gridlock. Bad traffic patterns, only one entrance to both Cruise Terminals, no controlled traffic lights(therefore having to rely on Police Traffic Control), unorganized and poorly marked parking facilities and no clearly marked passenger stops are just a few issues that have been there since they started doing Cruise ships in the 1990’s and no one ever addresses them. Why the State of Texas and the “Port of Galveston” will or cannot do something about this is beyond me. -------THE END------