Occupation:High School Principal
Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Liberty
Sailing Date: July 6 th, 2006
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Liberty Cruise Review
This was the 3rd cruise for my wife and I and the first in about 20 years. I am a high school principal and she is a township supervisor/secretary/treasurer from Pennsylvania so we are just ordinary folks that save up for trips and hope to get our money’s worth. We expect things to be very nice but also understand that no trip is going to please everyone. So hopefully that gives you a little perspective on us and will help you understand where we are coming from with this review.
Recently I became an independent travel agent with GTI (Global Travel International) out of Maitland, FL and decided to book some family trips before to see if I made a good choice. Actually I was very pleased with the assistance I got from GTI and of course, I made commissions by booking this trip, tax write off also but that is another story.
We decided to book everything including airfare with Carnival. Going to Europe we did not want to take the chance of flight delays and miss the ship. So Carnival had us flying Air Canada from Pittsburgh to Toronto to Rome. This was OK but I was unable to do any of my boarding passes online and when we got to Toronto we had to do some extra paperwork because our names were messed up in the computer. There were a number of couples that had the same flight documentation and had the same problems. It was minor but still a little inconvenience. The Toronto airport is under construction that made things a little hectic but that is not Carnival’s fault. The flight was very good and we enjoyed the airlines, decent food and they treated us well. We left on Tuesday, July 5 to arrive in Rome the next day for our Embarkation.
Wednesday, July 5 – Thursday, July 6 – Flight Arrival/Embarkation
I was very pleased with the amount of Carnival Representatives at the airport in Rome. Once we got to the luggage claim area we gathered our suitcases and were instructed to pile them in a certain area along with the other Carnival passengers and wait. Eventually various Carnival Reps took groups at a time to the busses to head toward the ship. We had previously signed up for the Rome at a Glance tour and were instructed to go to a specific area. We had faxed in the Pre-Tour information but it did not really seem to matter because they never looked at that paperwork (possibly it was just to give them a count). The tour itself was as advertised and we did get to see what was advertised but the majority of the sites were just seen from the bus (the Coliseum, Circus Maximus, etc). Since it was not crowded in Rome that day they did take us past St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican, which was not actually included on this tour. First Mistake: I should have booked a 2-day pre or post package to spend some time in Rome. I had hoped to take a full tour but my flight times did not allow it and when I finally got my flight times all the pre/post packages that Carnival offered were booked (there is a limit). I would recommend the extra days and expense to make your trip complete. Upon conclusion of the tour we were taken to the Liberty. With Fun Passes in hand we were promptly signed in/registered given our ID Cards and boarded. Very smooth and painless. Our luggage was not yet at our cabin so we toured the ship. It was big and we felt very impressive. We went to the Discover Europe Talk and was introduced to our Cruise Director John. Very personable, funny and quite a salesman. He did provide a lot of information but it is evident and was so throughout the cruise that they are out to make money (but it is a business). We did take his advice and when we got back to our cabin (our luggage was there) we ordered the Capri/Sorrento/Pompeii tour using the interactive TV system. This was quick and simple and really efficient. We received our tickets later that evening. We then had to go through the mandatory life-preserver drill. At that point, somewhat exhausted, we showered and went to supper (dress code was waived for the first evening due to the fact that we were delayed in our departure due to a flight problem, it was a Carnival arranged flight so we did wait for the people). On cruises long ago pop/soda was free but no longer. At dinner, anything other than water and coffee went to the bar bill. You can buy a Fountain Fun Card for $5.50 a day which is a good deal if you plan on having more than 3 drinks a day since a pop is $2.00 a shot (this includes the automatic 15% gratuity that Carnival applies to all drinks). This upset me at first but really wasn’t a big deal once I did some calculations and figured I would be tipping the waiters/waitresses every time anyhow. Since the service and hospitality of the entire crew throughout the time we were on the ship was excellent I did not mind tipping these people. Food was fine although other people we met throughout the cruise felt it was not up to the standard of some of the other more expensive cruise lines (which might be because of the price). My wife and I thought the food & service throughout the 12 days was very good – maybe we aren’t picky enough. Time for bed and the pillows & bed were wonderful (great sleeping throughout the cruise)! No alarm clocks so bring your own to back up your wakeup calls and just for convenience.
Friday, July 6 – Naples Tour: Capri/Sorrento/Pompeii
Got our wakeup call, showered and hit the Breakfast Buffet on the Lido Deck (same deck we stayed on – very convenient and would do that again). Food was fine, I am always happy with omelets made to order. Started the tour by going to the Venetian Palace Showroom, which is where you grouped up for your tour – pretty efficient I thought. It was an expensive tour but well run. The boat ride to Capri was very nice (weather was great) and the tour was good. Left there and went to Sorrento and had a wonderful lunch which was included with the tour price (then the rains came). The weather pretty much limited us in Sorrento but nobody’s fault. We boarded the bus and by the time we got to Pompeii the rains had stopped. We went to the cameo factory and then to the ruins. Very interesting. We did find our quickly that toilettes (water closets, bathrooms) can be difficult to find and you need to have some spare Euro’s because it will cost anywhere from 2 to 3 to use the facilities. This was pretty common throughout the cruise so be prepared. We came back after a long day, prepared for dinner and attended the show for the evening. It was good. Most of the entertainment was OK, not outstanding but not bad, depends on your taste so I will not spend a lot of time on my thoughts. Spent some time at the Piano Man Bar for some relaxing, late night fun.
Saturday, July 7 – Day at Sea
Slept until 10:00 and hit the buffet for breakfast. Went to the travel talk and then to spend sometime on the deck. It was crowded but relaxing. Signed up and used the Internet Café for awhile, costs are not too bad and I did not have trouble connecting, it is a little slower than what I am used to but it should be expected. Stopped at the pursers and picked up stamps to mail some postcards ($1.00 a card) and quarters to do some laundry. We walked the decks checking out the backgrounds for pictures and decided which ones we wanted to use. It was the first formal night so we got ready and had time to get the pictures taken before dinner. That worked out well. We attended the Pre-Dinner Cocktail Party – the complimentary drinks and snacks were fine, just did not want to spoil my appetite. Dinner was good (lobster/prime rib, etc.) and a tux was not necessary. There were some but 10% might be it (actually some of the dress I saw I would not consider formal). Big Band Show and then to bed.
Sunday, July 8 – Dubrovnik, Croatia No Tour
Took the transfer to Dubrovnik, 10 Euro Roundtrip (easy way to do it), no tour booked. We were told we would need Kuna, which is the currency of Croatia but everywhere we went they took Euros. Very interesting place, it was hot so we spent 4-5 hours touring on our own, walked the wall, not a bad thing to do but was hot. Definitely a port worth seeing. Most people toured on their own and did not seem to have any trouble, some found a beach, others took taxi tours so there are things to do, just need to decide what you want to do. Good thing to research. Shuttled back to the ship, hit the Aft deck for cheeseburgers/hot dogs & ice cream then used the pool & hot tub. Relaxed and took an afternoon nap on deck. That night we had a real good meal and show. Dinner was not crowded because it seemed like everyone was up on the Lido Deck watching the World Cup finals on the big screen.
Monday, July 9 – Tuesday, July 10 – Venice No Tour
Dining Room Breakfast, it was OK – we were served but will use the buffet the rest of the cruise. Washed some clothes and relaxed as we waited to pull into Venice. Everyone seems to be on deck to watch the entry and it is neat to see. Once we got into port the entire boat must have gone to eat and the buffet lines were pretty long. It was explained to us how to be transported into Venice. You need to take the Vaporetto (water taxi). It was a 10-15 minute walk to the Roma Pl station in which you can buy a 24 hour pass which is nice because then you can use it the next day also, it is not just a 1 day pass. There is a $5 bus from the ship if you do not feel you can make the walk. The confusing thing is that there is a station to pick up a Vaporetto close to the ship but you cannot get 24 hour passes plus we had trouble figuring out how to return there if it is even possible. Even though it was hot the walk and the 24 hour pass was the route to go. I had booked an evening Gondola ride through www.viator.com since it was half the price of the Carnival tour and I went to confirm it. Not knowing Venice it was a little further than I first thought and in reality once we got there it was not necessary to confirm so I wasted some of my afternoon doing that. We then decided to explore the other side of Venice (instead of the most popular spot – St. Marco Square). We were previously warned not to buy from the street vendors – it is legal for them to sell things but illegal to buy them. The maps are not very good, after running around Monday, it was easy to navigate on Tuesday. Sightseeing was good and then we stopped and ate at an outside café before we went on our Gondola ride. Even though there were 6 in a gondola and a convoy of gondolas with one singer, it was great. We enjoyed this and would do it again. You can just go without prearranging a ride and probably get one but costs vary so it depends on what type of risk taker you are. Returned to St. Marco Square, got some ice cream and went to the top of the tower, nice view. Other main sites St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doges Palace were closed. Went back to the ship, a little confusing as to which Vaporetto to get on since they are similar to bus lines or undergrounds and you need to check the map routes. It seemed that #82 had less stops so it may be the way to go. Hit the Lido Deck for wings, etc and a late night snack.
Took the Vaporetto back to Venice and went to St. Marco Square. The line for St. Marks Basilica was long so we skipped it and went to the Doge’s Palace. It was excellent. They offer a ticket to all 11 museums but unless you plan on hitting 4 or 5 of them it isn’t worth it. The remainder of the day we just did some sightseeing and shopping. The further you get from St. Marco Square the better the prices are for most things. We bought some masks and other souvenirs. Went back to the ship, had lunch and relaxed in the pool & on the deck. The Broadway Show was really good and we ended up at the Piano Bar again. If I did it again, I would hit St. Marks Basilica on Monday, take a gondola ride Monday evening and do Doges Palce & sightsee most of the day Tuesday. Live and learn!
Wednesday, July 12 – Day at Sea
These are good – slept in, bought opals for my wife, shore excursion talk, went to an Art Auction (just wanted to experience one), did some line dancing and relaxed poolside. Did some laundry, relaxed some more, ate dinner and went to the show. Comedian left a lot to be desired. Got a good night’s rest and was ready to go.
Thursday, July 13 – Messina Tour: Taormina/Mt. Etna
Another long tour – Taormina and Mt. Etna. There is a lot of bussing on this tour and actually was not one of my favorite days. The Greek Theater was OK to see as was Taormina but not exactly real exciting to my taste. The lunch was very good again on the way to Mt. Etna and once we got to the volcano we were running late and so we did not have a lot of time to explore. Not that there was that much to see unless you had the time to go to the top of Mt. Etna. We were halfway up only. Not terrible but I would either go on a tour that went the whole way up to the top or find an alternative I think. Normal routine – showered, dinner and show.
Friday, July 14 – Day at Sea
My wife and I got up early to watch the sunrise. We liked that and it was definitely not crowded on deck at that time of the morning. Total day of relaxation and another formal night. There are plenty of things to do these days and evenings – Spa, Golf Lessons, Casino, Contests, Dancing (all types), Bars, etc. We just prefer some days of doing nothing.
Saturday, July 15 – Barcelona Tour: Monserrat by Rail
Normal routine for a tour day. Breakfast on the Lido Deck, prepare for the tour. We decided to do the Monserrat by Rail tour and then Barcelona on our own. There were other options but the only thing we missed was the Sagrada Church and it is supposedly very nice. We did enjoy Monserrat, the home of Franciscan Monks and the Black Madonna. You need to check out the tour explanations and decide what is best for you. When we came back we walked La Rambla which is interesting with the living statues and the vendors. Walk far enough and you can go to the Hard Rock Café, if you are interested. Back to the ship and our nightly routine. Shower, dinner and show.
Sunday, July 16 – Cannes Tour: Monaco/Monte Carlo
Took the tenders into Cannes – just a boat that comes out to the ship to transport you in to Cannes. No big deal. Basically another day of sightseeing. Interesting places – a lot of history & money in both places and of course another great lunch. The tour lunches were wonderful. Went to the casino in Monte Carlo, lost a few Euros but we are not big gamblers. Next time I might just hit a beach. Dinner and skipped the show (Magician). It started to sink in that the trip was almost over.
Monday, July 17 – Livorno Tour: Pisa/Florence
Another tour with a lot of bus time but two places you want to see. Pisa was fun to see with the Leaning Tower and the Cathedrals. We should have gotten our entrance tickets from the tour guide, skipped her historical lesson (which was much too long), and gone on our own. We would have accomplished more that way. The prices for souvenirs in Pisa are probably the best and we did not have enough time to really look at them. We bought things but were rushed. When we got back to the bus to go to Florence a couple of passengers were not there. We waited and then started to pull out and saw them coming. We waited some more and finally took off. We encountered an accident on the way to Florence (might have missed it if everyone had been on time) and were stuck for almost an hour. Of course, this threw off everything. Lunch was later but very good but we had a limited time to explore Florence. What we saw was excellent. Back to the ship, last night of dinner, packed for debarkation, set out our luggage and went to the Piano Bar to say goodbye to friends we had made on the cruise. Debarkation instructions were explained thoroughly and the end was near.
Tuesday, July 18 – Debarkation
Breakfast buffet and waited to be called for debarkation. Our luggage was in a holding area, we found it, loaded it on the bus and headed to the airport. Our flight was delayed and we were a little concerned about our connecting flight in Canada. It worked our for us but not for some others who were headed to California. My daughter picked us up in Pittsburgh and we made it home safe and sound.
Summary – Overall Thought:
I have heard some people feel Carnival is too relaxed and not fancy enough but for my wife and I it was fine. I mentioned anything that I felt was annoying but I would not hesitate to use them again. I hope to go to Alaska in 2 years and I will consider Carnival as one of my choices. The flight arrangements were the worse part of the trip.
The security procedures were excellent. Getting on and off the boat your identity was constantly checked in an unobtrusive manner and you were treated well.
I did realize to buy a big bottle of water eventually, about $4.00 and then continually refill it from the buffet to take on the tours. This saved a few bucks and was very convenient; although when you spend this much on a trip buying a few bottles of water isn’t a big concern.
Plan on spending an extra $100/$150 a day per person. This includes tours, gratuities, drinks, etc. If you are a gambler you may spend more. We are pretty frugal and thrifty and spent this easily.
The cruise was great but I could have easily spent 2-3 days at each place we visited which is normally the case when you opt to go on a cruise. It was a great way to get a real taste of Europe and I recommend it to anyone. Just do some research and determine what you want to accomplish and you should be very pleased with the outcome. Like I said I joined GTI and made commissions by booking my own trip – if interested in booking a trip or viewing trip options visit my site at topsail.globaltravel.com or if you are interested in finding out more about becoming an independent travel agent email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can maybe start you on a new adventure of your own!