Cruise Report: Carnival Liberty
Just returned from a six-night Western Caribbean cruise (Freeport, Bahamas; Grand Cayman; Costa Maya, Mexico) aboard the Carnival Liberty out of Fort Lauderdale with 10 family members, ranging in age from 19 to 83. Here are a few pros, cons and lessons learned.
* The Liberty is one of Carnival's newest (2005) and largest (nearly 3,000-passenger capacity) ships, so there is plenty to do. If you like to party and listen to music, there are many venues, with live bands in just about every bar in the evenings. The ship attracts a youngish crowd (our group included five between the ages of 19 and 22), and the energy level is really high. We had a blast during deck party night, dancing crazy dances and acting silly.
* There is a lovely high tea that offers a classical trio on one day, a jazz trio on another: a needed respite from the nonstop "fun ship" activities. We also went for the balcony cabins, which are a wonderful place to get away from the noise and crowds.
* Food was not gourmet, but was fine. We stayed away from the buffet. Never did get a chance to try Harry's, which costs an extra $30 a head, but heard food there is excellent. Wine list was good. Staff is super friendly.
* Casino is large (the five of our crowd who gambled all won, except my mom, who lost $5 a night to the penny slot machine). Comedian Percy Crew was really good.
* We only did one shore excursion -- snuba, a kind of scuba-snorkel hybrid, in Grand Cayman. Kids and husband loved it: I realized that I am not for snuba (felt as if I couldn't breathe), although I did enjoy petting the dog-like stingrays.
* If noise, lights and crowds get to you, the Liberty won't work. If you're a snob, it won't work. Most people dressed very well at dinner, but there were more than a couple who showed up in T-shirts.
* We couldn't dock at Costa Maya, Mexico, because of high winds. Found out later that this is fairly common. One crew member said they call it "Costa Maybe." Three days at sea is one day too many.
* Carnival makes its money by selling stuff on the ship, and I found the constant "buy, buy, buy" messages annoying, but people all around me were buying big-ticket items, including $2,500 watches and expensive pieces of signed art.
* Embarkation is a breeze. We got there at 11:30 and had no trouble getting on. Take a cab from the airport in Fort Lauderdale rather than the official Carnival transport -- it's cheap and takes just 10 minutes. There was a line, but it moved fast.
* Debarkation is also easy. We opted for the grab your own luggage option, which allowed us to leave the ship early. We were at the airport by 7:30 a.m.
* Our balcony cabin in the front of the Panorama deck was quiet and spacious, but when the ship started rocking, we felt it. If you tend to get seasick, get a cabin that's lower and more toward the middle of the ship. Also, crew members told me that the Western Caribbean itinerary is the rockiest.
* Don't bother going to the talks at the beginning and end of the trip re: shore excursions and debarkation procedures. You can figure it out on your own. Sign up for unusual shore excursions, such as snuba, early. They do sell out.
* If you're going for fast food, the goat cheese and mushroom pizzas (available 24 hours a day) are great, and the fish-and-chips counter on the 10th deck is good. Also, I ate lots of smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels -- yummy. We went to the dining room or ordered room service for breakfast -- much better than standing in line at the buffet.
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