Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Liberty
Sailing Date: November 24th, 2007
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Liberty Cruise Review
Real smooth and quite organized. When you drive up they guide you into one of six drop off points. You unload your luggage and they stack it in the metal carriers which are fork lifted onto the ship. I tipped the baggage handler at the cage $10.00 and he was very happy, wad in hand. I then drove my car to the multi-story parking building. There is a sign at the entrance that says “Parking Lot FULL”. Just ignore that and proceed in, getting your ticket and drive around until you find a parking space. I was directed to an open space by one of the attendants in a golf cart. With passports in hand we waited in one of two lines for ½ hour to check into the terminal. There were quite a few people already in line and it looked like it would take long but the line actually moved quickly. The initial two lines are for passport and ticket checks. Once that was done we queued into another much faster line for security/x-ray of carryon. Finally you walk into a much larger hall where the familiar long check in line is. It zig zags several times and we were in that line at least another ½ hour. I had completed all the online check in but it still did not matter because of the sign and sail card and credit card agreements. Once this was complete we went right to the boarding line for the sign and sail card picture process. We were up on the gangway and walking into the ship about 2:30 pm.
You enter the ship on the Lobby Deck (3). Immediately welcomed, you proceed along into the lobby and bar. At first it is quite confusing and we looked for elevators to our cabins on the Riviera Deck (1). Speaking of elevators, there are 12 of them forward and 8 aft. I believe eight of them are the main elevators, 4 on each side and another 4 are the glass elevators which face the entire atrium from deck 3 to Deck 9 (Lido). We primarily used the main elevators and it is quite confusing at first what orientation you are in when you exit the elevators. Just remember that as you exit an elevator, the staircase represents the bow or aft of the ship, so you don’t step out looking at the bow or aft, a turn towards the staircase will be towards the bow on the bow elevators and towards aft on the aft elevators. It takes a few days to get used to this. This ship is HUGE, actually, huge really doesn’t do it justice. I can see where it could take more than a week to find everything. Our cabins were ocean view rooms with the interconnecting door. Many people hang out on Lido deck (9) where the pools are. There is one aft and one forward with many Jacuzzis and the huge water slide. From this deck you can go up stairs to deck 10 and 11, all exposed to the sun. There are two dinning rooms called Silver Olympian and Golden Olympian. We were assigned to Silver and had a great table overlooking the fantail aft. I personally like to be on the forward observation deck and I really had a hard time finding it and getting to it. If you go to Deck 10 there is one access door on the port side. I think the observation deck on the Celebration was much more accessible. One hidden and secluded area on this ship is the promenade on Deck 3 (Lobby). Few people ever go there, I think because it’s not readily evident there is access out of the lobby onto the promenade. If you want to get away from the crowds and have a close bar, this is where to go. This is where the muster stations are and few people ever return there after the safety drill. All of the shopping areas are on Deck 4 and Deck 5, towards the lobby area. The casino and several other bars are there as well. The Venetian theater (Deck 3 forward) is real nice and easily seats 500+. All and all, it takes a while to get used to how large this ship really is. Looking back, I think I really prefer the simplicity of the Celebration.
PORTS OF CALL
For our cruise, Cozumel was substituted for Costa Maya. The remaining two ports were Limon Costa Rica and Colon Panama. We decided to be on our own for Cozumel and booked excursions for Limon and Colon. Cozumel is real touristy, lots and lots of tourist traps in port, really kind of overdone and quite expensive. Really not many good bargains in the Cozumel port area. The ship will either be at the International Pier or the Langostura Pier. Liberty was at the Langostura pier and by coincidence Freedom was at the International Pier. I made car rental reservations at both piers so we would not need to take a taxi. The plan for Cozumel was always to rent a car and drive around on our own and this is exactly what we did! The ship docked at 0800 Monday and we disembarked for our all day family tour of Cozumel. We walked about 3 blocks to “Less Pay” car rental and John Devries set us up with a sedan for about 55.00 USD including insurance and fuel refill. Cozumel is very easy to get around in, basically almost no way to get lost on this island. Our first stop was the San Gervasio Mayan ruins on the road that transects the midsection of the island (carreterra transversal). Cost for our own admittance was 5.75 USD per person. The ruins are pretty interesting but not large (like the Pyramids of Giza). The Mayan ruins walkabout was a 2 hour event. At the largest ruin, way at the back end of the tour path is a kid who apparently was just guarding the area. We asked him to take a picture of us and after that was done I tipped him 5.00 USD. That’s when he volunteered to show us a hidden area through a small path. In that clearing, we saw a huge Mayan hacienda, all with well, main house and kitchen area, it looks as if they were still clearing that area up and it wasn’t meant to be displayed yet. We left the Mayan ruins and continued on the midsection road to the back end of the island. The road ends at the ocean (facing east) and there is a small bar/shopping area. We stopped there for drinks and we bought some souvenirs there. From there we drove on the east end of the island, going south and passed several restaurant/beach areas. We stopped on the 4th one where there were not as many people and had lunch there (Playa Bonita). The children and I swam in the ocean for about 1.5 hours. We had drinks, guacamole salad and chips and salsa, all for 16.50 USD. This beach area is the same one you see in the Corona Beer commercial, it is really hidden, out of the way and after we left this place and continued south to the tip of the island and then west, then north on the western side of the Island, where the large commercial hotel chains are. It was pretty clear; after we passed the commercial hotels that we would have spent a lot more money to swim at those beaches. We drove back to the pier and dropped the family there for shopping and then returned the rental car. I stopped at Senor Frogs to see what it was all about…pretty easy to see how people could get real drunk there. There are some people who get so smashed on Cozumel that they don’t make it back on the ship. We had one couple (husband & wife) who were unable to return. We boarded the ship after walking through the “duty free” shopping area. Really no bargains to speak of on Cozumel.
The ship slow boats from Cozumel towards Limon Costa Rica and you arrive in Limon Wednesday, 0700 (there is a 1 hour time change). Limon port is a very poor, very dirty looking area but the best shopping deals on this cruise were found there. Our excursion for this port was the Adventure Canals and Banana plantation at 1130 am. So we disembarked at 0945 and walked in the port area, followed the crowds outside the port area and there is an open market there with hundreds of tables with people selling souvenirs, many of them at good prices. Unfortunately, just as we got shopping frenzy the sky opened up and rained unlike anything I’ve seen in many years and it rained pretty much to the time we boarded the bus for our tour. I would suggest people bring some umbrellas for this port, or at least a light rain jacket. We were soaked long before we ever contemplated going back to the ship and there were only a few tents out in the port area to hide under. We could not board our tour bus for shelter because it was not there yet. Eventually our bus arrived and we waited in there. The Adventure canals tour is really nice, well worth it, and quite organized once you get started. The first stop is at a small pier area where there are several river boats. You board the boat number that is the same as your bus number. The tour on the adventure canals is about 2 hours. We saw various bird species, crocodiles, sloths, and monkeys. I recommend people bring binoculars. The tour guide and specifically the boat captain look for wildlife and stop close to it. They spend 5-10 minutes trying to get all guests to spot the animal and so it takes some time for everyone to “see it”. The tour guide will give instructions using reference points. It was a lot of fun and our guide was awesome. After the canal tour you arrive to a pick up point (which your buses traveled towards while you were on the canals) and this is where a very nice fruit lunch is served. I have not had pineapple that fresh, ever in my life. The lunch stop is about 45 minutes and then you board the bus again for the banana processing plant tour. During the ride to the plant the tour guide points out quite a bit about the local area, mostly all farm areas and it’s easy to see people live in enclaves around processing plants. This is where Chiquita banana comes from. The banana plant tour was very interesting and our guide was very good, really cared about what he was doing. We arrived back at Limon port at 4pm and unfortunately no more time for shopping. The little shopping earlier in the day was all that we were able to do there. Costa Rica is a very pretty country and there is much more to see.
The ship leaves Limon and slow boats it towards Colon Panama. For the first time, the seas were a little choppy (white caps) but nothing troublesome. I did not know it before but our Costa Rica tour guide told us it is a 3 hour trip by car from Limon, Costa Rica to Colon, Panama. Why it took the ship all night to get to Panama or why we could not have stayed in Limon until later in the evening, say 9 pm is beyond me. The ship arrives at Colon, Panama around 0545 am and we disembark at 0700 for our tour. Since there are so many people going on the Panama Canal excursions (400 people on the canal tour alone) they have everyone meet up in the Venetian theatre (deck 3 forward). From the Venetian, they release people by rows and after you disembark you are quickly met by tour guides who collect your ticket and guide you towards the right buses. There is no opportunity to shop at this time. Our tour guide Armando was awesome. The bus ride is approx 2 hours to the outskirts of Panama City where we board a fairly large ferry boat that takes us towards the canal. Just to be clear, there are so many people on this tour that there are actually two major groups going through the canals. Our group was the one which traveled from the pacific side and went trough the Miraflores Locks and Pedro Miguel locks. I think the other tour group started their ferry ride on Gatun Lake (going towards the Pacific). Both ferries pass each other on the Pedro Miguel Locks. Our ferry stops where the other group was dropped off and we take these buses back to Limon, for was supposed to be another 1 hour bus ride but turned out to be 2 hours because of traffic. The ferry ride through the Canal Zone was like going back in time. The engineering is clearly 1900s, I mean you can see the riveting on the gates, imagine all steel construction in the 1900s was the same. There’s quite a bit of history on the hydrology involved to make the locks work properly and our tour guide covered this well. We arrive in Colon around 5 pm and the ship leaves soon after the last passengers arrive. We did stop at the duty free area inside the port for liquor and wine and t-shirts. This was a hurried shopping stop as well.
The ship leaves Colon, Panama and I could not help but wonder, as we pulled away with some daylight, why we could not have stayed any longer to explore the duty free zone outside the port and maybe even enjoy the evening in port. There really was a lot to see in Colon and we missed out on all of it. The seas were 10-15 feet leaving Colon and dining that evening was touch and go, many people did not come to dinner. Our grandson felt a little sick but the rest of us were fine. They did have to postpone the main show to the next day because of the swells. So for the next two days we were at sea, and it felt like come hell or high water, this captain and Carnival were going to get us back to Ft Lauderdale. Most of the time we were cruising at 25 knots, sometimes 26 or 27. Honestly I felt from Panama on we were basically cargo and they could not wait to get back to Ft Lauderdale so they could load another 3200 guests. Those two full days at sea were pointless and it is really beyond me why Carnival would not schedule at least 1 port on the way back. We arrived in Ft Lauderdale early Saturday and you could tell because the speed was cut in half Friday night, we could see the Florida coast and I actually think we might have been parked out in the water during the night. I’ll say this; it was very disappointing to be rushed back. If anything, we should have rushed to Cozumel, and rushed to Limon so we could stay longer in Limon and Colon and include at least one stop on the way back. I will be very careful with any itineraries on cruises from now on.
We had a very nice table in the Silver Olympian dinning room (Deck 3 aft). The other dining room was Golden (Deck 3 forward). The quality of the food in the dining room was excellent. By the way, you can eat in the dinning rooms 3 times a day. Breakfast and lunch is open seating whereas dinner is at your reserved table. There is Mongolian BBQ everyday and the chefs are quite good. Of course there is always a variety at Emile’s (Lido deck 9), basically open buffet style. I was amazed many people ate there when dinning was possible in the formal dinning room 3 meals a day. The sushi was “ok”. I’ve had much better…we had that one night, for dinner (2nd formal night)…just did not feel like dressing up a second time. Our waiter in the dinning room (Annan) was from Thailand and he really did a great job entertaining us and making sure we were looked after. They do the same dinner show/dancing and singing they always do.
There was a main show every night except the rough night out of Panama. We attended two of them. The Liberty Dancers are great and the children were able to see 2 Broadway quality shows, which was important for them although it was hard to pull them away from their friends on board. There were some comedy acts but really too late for us to stay up, especially considering the early wake ups for ports of call. The LIDO deck (9) is the main pool area and this is where the main TV screen is. They have music there and of course movies at night free of charge. Yes, it is loud there and hard to carry on a conversation. Our kids must have spent at least 200.00 USD in arcade games (I think it’s a crime for these games not to be free for kids). Our grandson was involved with Camp Carnival and he really enjoyed all their activities. There was gambling on Deck 5 but we really don’t gamble that much and in any case we could not stand the cigarette smoke smells in there.
GENERAL ITEMS OF INTEREST/IMPORTANCE
This ship as wonderful as it is has one basic safety issue I believe are important to point out here. There is quite a bit of marble on the floors, especially on the pool deck (9) and we saw a few people slip/fall pretty hard. Elderly people might have broken bones. They do put signs out but there are quite a few kids walking in and around the bar areas with wet bathing suits, water dripping. People with walking problems really should take care walking around deck 9 pool bar areas, maybe even into Emile’s restaurant with the marble on those floors.
We chose the self assist and were off the ship at 0830 am, in our car by 0900 am and on the road back to Atlanta area for our 8-9 hour drive back. For those wanting help with luggage they now assign you zones (1-35). They assigned us zone 21 so it was clear our luggage and our debarkation would be later in the morning and we really did not want to get home much later than 5 pm. Customs was a breeze, a CBP officer just asked me if I had liquor or tobacco and let us go on our merry way.
OVERALL CRUISE IMPRESSION
This was a great cruise overall and we had a good time for under 5000.00 USD when all the charges, fees, tipping, shopping, passage fare, parking, fuel, hotel and excursions were calculated. The Liberty is a very nice ship, lots to do on her but I’m not so sure large is better after this trip. I feel like the Celebration was more cozy and our ocean view cabin was a little wider. I think the crew on the Celebration was more easygoing. I will carefully scrutinize itineraries from now on and think though the logistical consequences of each port of call. Also, 8 days is a long cruise when you are sitting on a ship for 2 full days at sea on the return. I am also considering trying out a different cruise line for our next trip to Alaska.