Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Liberty
Sailing Date: August 4th, 2007
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Liberty Cruise Review
Best value for the money, great kids club, excellent food and beautiful ship.
This was an eight day cruise with stops in Costa Maya Mexico, Limon Costa Rica and Colon Panama (Panama Canal). We traveled as a family of five with three kids: 11, 9 & 8.
This was our fourth cruise within the last four years and we had previously cruised on Celebrity, Disney and Royal Caribbean. I must say that we initially hesitated about Carnival. Actually, one travel agent told me straight up to just ‘forget’ Carnival, that we would not like it. However, after reading many reviews we decided to give it a chance and I must say, overall this was an excellent cruise. Especially when you consider it cost about half of what Disney would have cost.
Getting on Board:
We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and got a taxi for under $20. The port is very close and there are lots of taxis. I strongly suggest taking a taxi since it is the fastest and cheapest way to go. If you are a large family and have to take separate taxis, make sure that each person in your cab has proper ID to get into the Port Terminal. They check ID and it has happened to us were one person had all the passports in one taxi and the other taxis were not allowed in because they had no ID. Also, be aware that there are people who go into the airport to try to sell you a ride to the ship usually for much more than a taxi. Don’t waste your money.
Once we arrived at the cruise terminal we had to wait in line for over 35 minutes at the Carnival check-in boarding area. We had our Fun Passes all completed and printed out but it basically made no difference; total waste of time. When we asked why things were so slow the attendant said it had to do with ‘so many international travelers’. I found this hard to believe. It was the worst check-in of any cruise by far and the worst part of the entire trip. Carnival should really get their act together here. We never waited more than 5 minutes on any other cruise.
Finally on Board:
Once we got on the Liberty, we immediately fell in love with her. She is one the most beautiful ships we had been on and definitely the largest. She is big!
All the décor is styled in a Venetian theme and the colors are vibrant and cheerful. Carnival really built a very beautiful and well organized ship here.
Our rooms were at the very front cabins on deck 7 (Empress) on the Port side (left). We had two balcony rooms that had an interconnecting door. We had to have two rooms because the maximum number of people in each room is 4 on Carnival.
Our rooms were wonderful. We had one room with two twins and a sofa and another with a queen and a sofa. The sofa acts as another twin bed. Having connecting rooms was really nice. Not only can you keep tabs on the kids but, you have two bathrooms and two TV’s. Also, you can call the Pursers desk to have them remove the separator between the balconies for one large balcony. The beds were also very nice and firm and very comfortable. The entire cabin was very clean and modern and had a mini-bar/refrigerator, blow dryer, phone, table etc. The bathrooms were very modern and clean and quite large.
Our cabin attendant was fantastic! He took care of a broken hairdryer within hours and constantly brought ice and always asked if there was anything we needed; very friendly and helpful. Overall, the room and our service were outstanding.
Food and Restaurants:
I was pleasantly surprised with the food on Liberty. Not only was there a lot to choose from, but the quality was very good. There is a buffet called Emile’s that has a forward and aft serving line. We usually only ate lunch there and there was plenty to choose from. Try the Mongolian grill forward and the carving station aft. Also, in the back you can go upstairs and try the fish and chips. There you can also get ahi tuna and a very nice bouillabaisse. In between the aft and forward sections there is also a very good Chinese station and a deli.
Liberty has two main dining rooms: Silver and Golden. We were seated in Silver and it was very nice and lavishly decorated. We had breakfast and dinner there almost every night. The food was very good. There was plenty to choose from for dinners and breakfast. This cruise had two formal nights. At all dinners (not just formal night) in the dining rooms men must wear long pants, so remember to bring some. At first I was a little surprised about this dress code but after the first night I thought it was an excellent idea. The wine list is also very good. We also brought our own wines which incurred a small corkage fee. The waiters were fantastic; very friendly and extremely polite and efficient.
Also try the sushi bar from 5:30-8:30 on the promenade deck (5). That’s if you like sushi.
We went to the upscale restaurant on our second night. It is called Harry’s Supper Club and there is an additional $30 fee. The food here was exquisite. Allow 2 hours for dinner and reserve it early.
Overall the food on Liberty far exceeded my expectations. No, it’s not a 5 star restaurant but it was definitely on par with any other cruise line we had been on before. Maybe only Celebrity was a little bit better.
The main pool deck is the Lido deck on 9. This is the main hangout on the ship, especially during sea days, and is where the live music and giant outdoor TV screen are located. We sat here the first day at sea but there isn’t much shade and it does get loud with people and music. Of course, people reserve their seats (as on all cruises), however, there are plenty of other areas on the ship where you can relax in quiet and have shade (I like some shade). The best part of the Lido deck may be at night when they show concerts and movies on the giant screen. We sat out several nights and watched Casino Royal, Bee Gees, U2 and the movie The Prestige. However, there were other nights that we thought the selection of movies or music was not very exciting. They had one night with a Humphrey Bogart movie followed by a Pavarotti concert. Then, they repeated Casino Royal and the Bee Gees concert. Overall, I thought the movies and concerts should have been more ‘Fun Ship’ oriented and there should have been more of them. On Disney they had movies all day and night and never a repeat. But, we did enjoy the large screen and sitting outdoors to watch. It was great.
The giant waterslide is located in the Lido deck area also but you must go to deck 12 to get on. It was fun and the lines were usually short.
There are three pools on Liberty: two in the Lido (deck 9 & 10) area and one aft. The pools are not that big and certainly not big enough for a ship the size of Liberty. Frankly, I think they should remove the two hot tubs behind the main Lido deck pool and enlarge it using that space. The hot tubs could easily be moved elsewhere and that would really help.
The promenade deck (5) is the main inside hub of the ship. Here you will find many bars, shops and the casino. Since we had kids and my wife got a cold we weren’t able to enjoy much of the night life. I visited the casino on several nights. They had lots of slots (which I don’t play) and also plenty of table games. I never waited anywhere for a seat. They also have a Texas Hold 'em table but it is an electronic one which only takes your on-board charge card. They also have two slots and black-jack tournaments during the sailing days.
All of the decks are also serviced by a large number of elevators. Three sets altogether and while they do get busy, they do handle the load adequately.
All of our three girls loved Camp Carnival. Both Carnival and Disney know how to keep the kids happy. There were tons of activities and our girls actually begged to go there the ‘entire cruise’! That has never happened before. The counselors were very good and the entire schedule and communication was good. We only had one problem trying to sign-out my youngest one day. My wife had signed her in and not added me as a sign-out person. You must write in each day who can sign your kids out. They will not make any exceptions. My other two girls could sign themselves out.
While we did not opt for this, you can also buy or rent these phones on Liberty which you can hand out among your kids or whoever and use them as communication devices. We saw a lot of families with these. Our girls all met lots of other kids and made friends. We hardly saw them. On the last day at sea, the kids all put on a talent show and our two cabins where rehearsal central. Overall, Camp Carnival was fantastic.
Internet & Phone on Board:
You can now use your cell phone on board. I had to make only one call but it was a lot cheaper ($2.45/minute) than the $7/minute regular in-cabin phone. The only thing I noticed is that my phone did not work in any ports-of-call.
There is also wireless internet available throughout the ship and an internet café on deck 4. I used the wireless for my laptop since I am forced to keep in touch with work even on vacations. The speed was good and I opted for a 100 minute plan for $55.00. However, I had a problem. You must make sure you log-out of Carnival’s Internet service after you are done using the Web. Merely turning your PC off or disabling your wireless will not log you off and you will use up all your minutes. However, on my laptop even though I logged out it still stayed connected and we never found out why. I went to the Internet Café manager and he suggested some things and, of course, credited me with my unused time. He was very helpful.
The theatre on Liberty is called the Venetian palace. It is quite large and very nicely decorated. We only saw one show there (Sammy Davis & Frank Sinatra act) and it was ok. The show was actually good but, again, we thought this was geared more for the older generation. When we saw that the following night would be a Glen Miller tribute we skipped the remaining shows altogether and instead opted for the outdoor screen. While the acts were nice and professional, we just thought they were more for retirees and not a Carnival Fun Ship. But, again, we didn’t see all of them to be fair.
Ports of Call and Excursions:
All the ports of call on this cruise were non-tendered (i.e. The ship was docked).
1. Costa Maya, Mexico:
This was our first stop and we did not plan an excursion. We were told that this was going to be the best beach stop of the cruise. However, we did not visit the beach but instead just walked into the little town by the pier. This was your typical Caribbean tourist trap. What was nice though, it had a giant pool in the middle of town and we just sat and swam. Luckily no one bothered us like they do in Jamaica. Mexico is pretty good that way. We did hear from some people that the beach was nice though but the wave runner rentals almost ran over swimmers. If you do hit the beach here I heard the best way is to just go into the town and hire a $3 taxi. Overall, Costa Maya was so so.
2. Limon, Costa Rica:
Limon looked like a poor city and it was also dirty. We took the Canal and Banana plantation tour and it was very good. Our tour guide was excellent and so friendly and cheerful. On the Canal tour, we saw every animal they advertised (Sloth, Croc, Birds, Monkeys etc.). The girls loved it. We also heard some people booking their own tours here with private guides at half the price. You may want to check into this. Finally, this is not a beach town from what I could tell.
3. Colon, Panama:
This was our final stop. Colon is also not that clean. It seemed that in Costa Rica and Panama the nicer side is the Pacific. Anyway, we took the Two Oceans by Railroad Tour and, while it is pricey, we enjoyed it a lot. You basically get on a bus at the pier and then take a 10 minute ride to the Panama Railroad Terminal. There, you get on a vintage looking train that takes about an hour ride to the West Coast just outside of Panama city. Along the way you see Lake Gaton and ships entering the Canal. It’s very nice and comfortable and our guide was again excellent. At the end of the train ride you again board a bus that takes you to the Mira Flores Locks where you go into this large building that overlooks the locks and you can actually see the ships go in and out. There is also a audio-visual show you can watch in the theater. Then you get back on the bus and visit some little islands off of Panama City which was nice. Then it’s back on the train to the ship. Overall this was a nice tour but the crowds at the Locks were a bit thick.
Getting off the ship was very efficient and well done by Carnival. Instead of Color codes, they used these zones that actually gave you an idea of when you would be getting off the ship. They also had a self-disembarkation from 7AM-8AM where you can take your own luggage (regardless of size) off the ship. So, if you have an early flight, that’s a great option. While we did have a 10:40 flight back, we still just did regular disembarkation and asked them to give us an early zone which they gave us no problem due to our early flight. We got off the ship around 8:30 and were at our airport gate by 9:30; plenty of time to spare. I wish getting on the ship was as easy as getting off.
I again suggest you take a taxi back to the airport (if you are flying, of course). Again, if you are a larger family, the taxi guy at the pier will try to steer you to one of the vans. Insist on a regular tax since the vans are more expensive.
Overall this was an excellent cruise. The ship is beautiful and the crew was first-rate. I think that both ship and crew are on-par even with Disney which we always thought would be the best. I would definitely recommend Carnival Liberty. Overall a great vacation and well worth the money.