Carnival Liberty - A Free Cruise is Always Great
Carnival Liberty Cruise Review to Caribbean - Eastern
Sail Date: May 24, 2014
Cabin Type: Oceanview
Traveled As: Couple
Reviewed: 2 years ago
Using Carnival Credit Card Reward points, we booked this cruise for free. This was our second free cruise with Carnival using Reward Points. Although this was our fourteenth cruise with Carnival - 47 cruises total, we had not previously sailed on the Carnival Liberty. We chose this ship for its itinerary. It had also, repositioned this year, to our local Port Canaveral. On our seven-night cruise, we visited the ports of Nassau, the Bahamas, St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Grand Turk and Port Canaveral, FL. Since we have visited all these ports many times, we did not take any organized shore excursions through Carnival or with any private company. The close to 3,000 passengers on this Conquest Class ship were mostly Americans of various ages - many family groups, singles, young married couples plus some seniors like us. The ship underwent extensive renovations in 2011.
A local shuttle van service picked us up from home on Saturday, May 24 at 10:15 for the short ride to the port. When we arrived at the terminal, Carnival informed us that boarding would be delayed because of a higher than normal outbreak of gastroenteritis on the previous sailing. (No one that I knew personally got sick on our sailing, by the way.) The check-in process went very smoothly. While we waited for the ship to be completely sanitized, Carnival provided snacks and drinks for us. Eventually, however, the terminal ran short on chairs and staffers had to scurry around to locate additional ones. Since we are on Platinum Level with Carnival, we were among the first to board when the ship was finally cleared just before 1 PM. We proceeded directly to Emile’s for a quick light lunch at the big buffet on the Lido, Deck 9. There were no lines since we were the first to board. After lunch, we sat by the pool until staterooms were ready for occupancy at 1:30 PM.
Our Ocean View cabin #1424 was toward the aft of the ship. It was bright, large by industry standards and quiet. Our king bed with its peach headboard was very comfortable. Small end tables with peach lamps on either side provided storage for sundries and additional lighting. A shelf inside would have been nice. The peach leather sofa with underneath storage turned into a bed, if needed. The oval coffee table was quite useful. There was plenty of storage in drawers and closets for all our belongings. The blond wood furniture and window provided an airy feeling to the cabin. Be aware that you need to use a card with a magnetic strip to access your room safe. That means that you cannot secure that card in your safe. Consider bringing an old room key card or some other card with a magnetic strip. In addition, if you wish ice, you need to tell your steward. Ice buckets are only supplied at your request. The cabin’s A/C unit worked well throughout the cruise. The flat screen TV was interactive. You can check your statements, book shore excursions, view meal menus, etc… right from your cabin. Clean wall-to-wall carpeting, gold drapes and two wall art pictures completed the décor.
The compact bathroom was fine for our needs. It contained a fairly large curtained shower stall with a retractable clothesline and shampoo and shower gel dispensers. Our ample supply of white towels and two large beach towels were regularly replaced as needed. Carnival provided two white robes for our use during the cruise. I missed the small bottles of conditioner, hand lotion and a sewing kit that are usually standard in staterooms. There were some Breathe Right Strips that we did not use and a box of trial size toothpaste. Glass shelves provide storage.
The passenger corridors were all bright with spaced monochrome wallpaper panels to break up the monotony of the long halls. I wished that they were as colorful as the panels on the Carnival Breeze. The busy public areas have a European feel to them with lots of black ironworks throughout the ship. The 22 lounges & bars, the atrium, pool areas and Venetian Palace (Main Theater) were quite attractive, clean and comfortable. Check out the unique and whimsical décor of the Piano Man Bar, Deck 5, aft. My husband enjoyed stopping in at the Sports Bar nightly for the latest scores. Another fun bar is the Alchemy Bar with its unique light-up menus, pharmaceutically dressed mixologists and unique drinks. You can even create your own drink. A large group of us met together here late one afternoon. The Promenade is an active place especially in the evening. The new Taste Bar, Promenade Deck 5, aft replaced the Sushi Bar. We tried some meatballs one night. They were spicy. Each night a dish from a specialty restaurant is featured. The teen disco was popular in the evenings. The small library is lovely but has few books. There was rarely anyone there to open the locked shelves. The Coney Island main pool area was too crowded and noisy for us. The music was excessively loud. Chalk it up to my age. Families and the younger generation flocked to it. We mostly relaxed by the Versailles Aft Pool and hot tubs.
Everyone on the energetic staff that we encountered during the cruise was friendly, helpful and polite. Cruise Director Brittany did a good job but made too many announcements. Our steward, Mylene, was so sweet that we wanted to take her home with us. She efficiently cleaned our cabin when we vacated it and kept it spotless. She fulfilled each of our additional requests daily. Her towel animals brought a smile to our faces nightly. She always addressed us by name. Our servers in the beautiful Gold Olympian Main Dining Room, (MDR) Deck 3 Forward were equally friendly and attentive. Ringgo, Head Team Waiter, Glend, Assistant Waiter and “Chris” Assistant Waitress were polite, addressed us by name and welcomed us warmly to dinner each night. We were entertained by their soft singing. They kept us informed about what was especially good from the kitchen each night. Our beverage glasses were always refilled without prompting. Lorena de los Santos was also quite helpful with our wine choices. We usually arrived for dinner around 5:45 so we could be sure to secure our favorite table #133 by the last window. Even though we were on “Your Time Dining,” we always had the same servers. Assignments for “Your Time Dining” tables are on a First Come, First Serve basis.
Our party of four was usually pleased with our dinner choices and the quality of the food served on the new American Table and Feast Menus. We all especially enjoyed the tender Prime Rib, which were large portions, cooked to our requests. Other very enjoyable dinner selections were Escargot, Fried Calamari, Maine Lobster Tail, Lamb Shank, Stuffed Shrimp, Shrimp Cocktail and Salmon (last two were always on the menu.) We always quickly consumed the baskets of warm breads and delicious rolls. Usually, we just ordered Butter Pecan Ice Cream for dessert since we were full after our large multi-course meals. Some of the pies we ordered - apple and cherry in particular, were delicious. The Warm Chocolate Melting Lava Cake was a menu staple. I missed not having Baked Alaska or Cherries Jubilee on the menu. In addition, Carnival did not have any cold soups that other cruise lines offer. Be adventuresome and try some different regional specialties such as Frog‘s Legs and Alligator Fritters.
The food at Emile’s buffet for breakfast and lunch was fine if not inspired. I really prefer dining in the Silver Olympian Main Dining room for better quality when that option is available. There is more variety, however, at the buffet. At very busy times, at the buffet, dirty dishes were sporadically neglected specifically on tables at distant locations from the bussing stations. The staff was very helpful though and did their best to keep the areas clean and well stocked. Sometimes, the staff circulated with a beverages and cookies cart. “Seaday Brunch” is a great opportunity to dine in the MDR. The menu includes Wacky French toast, Stack of Pancakes, Steak ‘n Eggs, Mac ‘n Cheese, Pasta, Salmon & Chicken Diavola. The desserts are sinful. At our table, we ordered Banana Cream Pie and the Caramelized Cheesecake. Brownies & ice cream are also available. We all used our free drink coupon here. I really enjoyed the creamy thick frozen yogurt available at several machines near the two main pools. There were no cones until our arrival in San Juan and occasionally one of the machines was not working properly. Still, they were delicious especially during the hot afternoon hours. Guy’s (Fieri) Burger Joint was quite popular and the burgers were delicious and fresh off the grill. You can choose from five choices or build your own at the topping bar. Try the Pig Patty made out of crispy bacon, melted cheese with lettuce, tomato, onion and a pickle for something a little different. If you enjoy burritos, check out that station poolside. Other food choices are the Deli, aft, Mongolian Wok, aft, Blue Iguana Cantina, FWD, all on Deck 9 plus the less used Fish & Chips, Deck 10 aft directly above and accessible from Emile’s Buffet.
There were plenty of activities to do throughout the day and into the wee hours of the night. During the day, passengers kept busy on outside decks with Live Music, Pool Games & Contests, A Seaside Theater, Golf Putting and Volleyball. For those more interested in staying in the A/C areas, there were daily Shopping Sales, Trivia Contests, Charades, Texas Hold ‘Em Tournaments, Art Actions, Karaoke, etc… One day there was “Groove (dance) For St Jude” to benefit the children’s hospital. A variety of classes was offered in Towel Folding, Health/Medicine, Arts & Crafts, Walking, Art History, History, Jewelry and Dancing - nothing too heavy. I wished that there had been an iPad class offered. Mostly, on sea days we relaxed on lounges by the salt water Versailles Aft Pool & Hot Tubs enjoying the relatively quieter atmosphere. The towel exchange station unfortunately was a distance from it. I appreciated that there was a dome ceiling over that pool. They closed it briefly one time when it started spritzing outside. It was hard to find a very quiet spot to read anywhere on the ship. One activity that I really enjoyed was the ice carving demonstration. I guessed quickly that it would be of an Indian Chief. Another enjoyable activity was the cooking demonstration. Bingo did not seem too popular, which surprised me. Perhaps it was too expensive.
One of the reasons that I enjoy cruising besides the fine food and visiting different ports is the entertainment. The most outstanding show in the three-deck Venetian Palace Main Show Lounge (Theater) on the Liberty was “Wonderful World” with it’s pyrotechnics, laser displays, multiple set changes and scenery, beautiful costumes and the fabulous talent of the Carnival Dancers & Singers and Liberty Orchestra. Be sure not to miss the extravaganza that highlights the culture of various countries though song and dance. Another enjoyable Venetian Palace Lounge Stage Show was “Just Rock” with the Carnival Singers and Dancers plus the Liberty Orchestra. Christopher Alan Graves starred one night in his own show, Singin’ with the Big Band, “A Tribute to Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis Jr.” with the Carnival Liberty Dancers and the Liberty Big Band. We had seen this professional singer previously on another ship in a different (solo) performance. The following night we had a chat with him when he attended an evening performance sitting in the audience right behind us. He was very friendly and showed his appreciation for the performance throughout that show. Since we have seen “The Welcome Aboard Show” so many times over the last five years on various Carnival Ships, we did not attend this performance on the first night nor did many other passengers. I hope that Carnival changes this show soon, although it is cute. Courtney did a fine performance in her “A Night of Music with Courtney & The Liberty Band” but I felt that this was just a filler. Courtney had great stage presence throughout her show. The other two night’s offering in the theater did not interest me at all. They were fellow passenger shows called “Love & Marriage” and “Legends.” Perhaps you would enjoy them, as they were very entertaining, I was told. Most other cruise lines offer such entertainment after a professional performance rather than as the main offering for the evening. This was a major disappointment for me. I also was disappointed that there was no special observance on Memorial Day.
I did enjoy all the Comedy Punchliner Shows in the lovely Victory Lounge, Deck 5, aft. Wes on the entertainment staff was very friendly and helpful before performances. I was surprised to hear that he did not have any aspirations of becoming a comedian himself. The several comedians were all so funny and interacted with the audience during acts. Be sure to sit up front if you want to be part of the Family Friendly and Adult only Shows. I wished that they had these acts nightly. On nights when there were no comedy acts, there were parties - “Mardi Gras Celebration” with bead throwing and dancing, “Blue Iguana’s Latin Fiesta” with prizes & give-a-ways fiesta style, “Red Frog’s Caribbean Beach Party” with Caribbean mood music, dancing, prizes, give-a-ways and “Meet the Captain’s Celebration” with the Senior Officers plus live music, drink specials and photo opportunities. Lounges had live entertainment throughout the evening and the professional photographers were kept busy taking portraits. I did attend the wonderful Past Guest Cocktail Party with complementary served hors d’oeuvres and drinks. The event included live entertainment on stage.
We loved the itinerary on this sailing. Since we had been to all the ports previously, we just did our own thing in ports. In Nassau, we walked to Junkanoo Beach just outside of town. In St. Thomas, we shopped in the Dockside Haversight Market. In San Juan, we visited Casa Bacardi Distillery on our own taking the ferry and a taxi van to get there. The tour was complementary and included two drinks. The gift shop was very popular with visitors. We also rode the complementary trolley around town. In Grand Turk, we relaxed on beachside lounges provided by Carnival, shaded by swaying palm trees and swam in the refreshing water in view of our ship just offshore - paradise! There is also a huge, very lovely pool, a Margaritaville Restaurant with a D.J. and a wonderful shopping village. I always buy something here and this time was no exception. Carnival now has a nice Shore Excursion Best Dollar Guarantee on pre-booked excursions. If you find a lower price elsewhere (privately,) Carnival will give you 110% of the difference as onboard credit.
During the cruise, a crewmember needed medical attention, so the ship diverted to Grand Turk to drop him off. The captain kept us apprised of the reason for the change in course and did so throughout the delay. He made every attempt to make up the time and extended out time on shore in our next port, St. Thomas to compensate for our later arrival.
Bottom line is that I felt that Carnival is cutting back in many areas, I guess to keep prices low. Non-the-less, I really enjoyed this less glitzy Carnival ship and the fun cruise. Carnival still gives the best value for your money. There were some other minor things that bothered me; some that I liked. Passengers who enjoy the more casual atmosphere on Carnival ships will enjoy the less formal attire required on formal nights. I saw many shorts worn in the MDR especially on the second formal night that occurred the night we left Grand Turk. I appreciate that Carnival guests can bring onboard two bottles of wine per cabin and a reasonable amount of soda and water. Even with this liberal policy, I saw plenty of guests ordering drinks - many purchased the Bottomless Bubbles Soda Program and the Cheers (spirited) Beverage Program. I also enjoyed the outdoor SeaSide Theater that shows movies, sporting events, concerts and ship programming. The screen was bright even in strong sunlight. The Taste Bar was a nice addition but it never opened at 5:30 as listed. Although smoking is restricted to certain areas, the smell of smoke bothered me on this cruise. The comfortable Venetian Palace Lounge is beautiful with its large central Murano Glass chandelier but the floor is not pitched which affects the enjoyment of performances. I can hardly wait to go on my next Carnival cruise even if it will not be free. I have not been on the new Carnival Sunshine so I am keeping my sights on that ship.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
The lounge chairs by the beach & pool dockside in Grand Turk are complementary. Sit near Margarettaville to hear the music.