Trip Date 12/17/2017
Posted On 05/02/2018 17:39:52
Destinations | Cruise | Review | Royal Caribbean | Liberty of the Seas | Western Caribbean
It's hard to believe that, until this year, Scott and I had never sailed aboard any ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet. With the end of our seven night cruise aboard Liberty of the Seas, we can now say that we have sailed for a total of 43 days aboard four Royal Caribbean ships (5 cruises) - all in one year . . . and, for the most part, we really like both the cruise line and their cruise ships.
Liberty of the Seas EmbarkationNot knowing the revised embarkation schedule (due to our late arriving cruise ship) until 9:00 AM on the morning of our departure prohibited us from leaving our Austin, Texas area home later than we had originally planned as we felt that we needed to be in the Galveston area by the final hour of our original boarding window - plus we had to build-in time for travel delays, etc. We arrived at the Port of Galveston about an hour before we were advised that check-in would begin, yet we had no trouble dropping off our luggage. After parking our car, we found our way to the proper terminal, and with our Crown & Anchor Platinum status, we quickly proceeded with our carry-on baggage (including our two bottles of wine) through both security and cruise check-in.
The "speed" ended immediately after we received our SeaPass Cards, and the remainder of the day was filled with wait after wait ... and more waiting. We sat in a waiting area in the terminal for about 1 1/2 hours until Platinum members (the second lowest status level with priority check-in) were called to board the ship ... and we didn't even have to turn down the dreaded embarkation photo as they were not being taken! We then waited for a short while in the ninth floor centrum lobby and library until being told it would be two additional hours (i.e. after 6:00 PM) before we would have access to drop off our carry-on luggage in our cabin. Our next two hour wait was in the Windjammer for a very long lunch (at least we enjoyed the conversation with our travel companions) while waiting for an announcement that cabins were ready. Our final wait of the day was for our checked luggage which was finally delivered sometime between our 8:00 PM "open seating" dinner and the 9:30 PM mandatory muster drill.
Liberty of the Seas - The Ship
While Liberty of the Seas is not the largest ship on which we have had the pleasure of sailing, it may just be one of our favorites ... so far, at least! With regular departures from Galveston, the ship decor had a little Texas flair ... plus country music available in various venues throughout the cruise. Additionally, the serving staff sang both Deep in the Heart of Texas and America, the Beautiful as our final night in the main dining rooms was nearing the end.
Similar to other ships on which we have cruised within the Royal Caribbean fleet, Liberty of the Seas had only forward and aft elevators/staircases (no middle). We never stepped foot in an elevator as we continued our trend of taking the stairs each and every day due to a combination of the fact that the elevator lobbies were usually very crowded - plus we needed the exercise. The interactive display screens located near most of the elevators/stairs throughout the ship came in useful a few times when we were not sure where a venue was located or how to most efficiently walk somewhere. We explored as many of the public areas as we could during our seven day vacation, and overall we were quite impressed:
- The Royal Promenade (deck 5) was beautifully decorated for the holiday seasons - both Christmas and Hanukkah.
Royal Promenade All Decked Out for Christmas
- We never had trouble finding seating for the shows that we attended in the Platinum Theatre (decks 3, 4 and 5).
- Each time we walked through Casino Royale (deck 4), we were overwhelmed with cigarette smoke which made me really appreciate the cruise lines that prohibit smoking in the casinos on formal nights.
- We never had trouble finding available lounge chairs on one of the decks (11 or 12) surrounding the pool.
- We really enjoyed our daily visits to the large hot tubs located in the "adults only" (age 16+, and actually enforced) Solarium (deck 12) which overlooked the ocean; the water temperature was actually hot - not mildly warm as we experienced on a competitor cruise line earlier this year.
- For the first time ever, I found a ship where the entire Running Track (deck 12), did not force exercisers to walk/run past a bar or other outdoor venue where smoking was permitted.
- The line for the Tidal Wave (which required two persons in each of the "rafts") moved fairly quickly; the long lines and slow moving water made the Perfect Storm Water Slides (Cyclone and Typhoon) less appealing to the two
of us (all on the Sports Deck, 13).
Perfect Storm (top), Flowrider (bottom left) and Tidal Wave
- In an effort to postpone packing as our cruise was nearing its end, we ventured up to play a round (or two) of golf at Liberty Dunes (deck 13). We enjoyed walking the entire course (!), and with the course being a bit of a challenge, it provided
an hour or so of entertainment for the two of us.
Liberty Dunes Golf Course
- Although we did not join in on the fun, we did enjoy watching fellow cruisers try their luck at both the Rock Climbing Wall and Flowrider (deck 13).
Liberty of the Seas Interior Cabin Stateroom ExperienceStaterooms on Liberty of the Seas were located on decks 2, 3 and 6-10. As this cruise was an unplanned, last minute addition to our 2017 travel calendar, we reserved the least expensive "guarantee" inside cabin (9391; category L) available when we committed to this cruise. (The ninth floor, aft location of our room helped to ensure that we got our daily evening exercise as we had five decks to climb following our main dining room dinners each evening!)
Our cabin had two twin beds which were converted into a very comfortable queen size bed, small night stands on each side of the bed, a sofa and sofa table, a desk with drawers and a lighted mirror with mirrored side cabinets, a television, small refrigerator (necessary for the two bottles of wine that we carried on), full length dressing mirror, two coat hooks and a closet with shelves, a safe and closet rod (with very few hangers). As is typical, the bathroom was efficient with a toilet, sink with large mirror and corner mirrored cabinet, shelves and bars for towels, hooks and a shower with sliding doors. The television featured "interactive TV" which included the ability to make both dining and shore excursion reservations (although the feature didn't work until after we made our only shore excursion reservation), order room service, access our on-board account to review the balance and individual charges by passenger, as well as view sales messages from various venues on the ship.
Our stateroom attendant, Jhosephine Guieb, knocked on our door and introduced herself late on the first evening of our cruise. She was very friendly, usually called us by name and always ensured that everything was perfectly placed before leaving the cabin (clothes folded and nicely stacked, cases for reading glasses perfectly aligned, etc.). After the second evening when she left a towel made into a small mouse or groundhog (which hung around all week hiding in various places in our stateroom), we anxiously awaited her night time towel art which included an elephant, bear, frog and monkey.
Liberty of the Seas Dining ExperienceOur seven night cruise had two formal and five casual nights, and we were very satisfied with the food quality, selection and taste of all main dining room meals. Scott and I joined some friends who booked this cruise months before we did, so we requested that our reservations be linked so that we could dine together. We had both chosen late dining (8:00 PM) and were assigned table 469 in the Michelangelo Dining Room (deck 4), a table for four, and were delighted with the service that we received from our Waiter and Assistant Waiter, Agnelo and Moidul, respectively:
- Both Moidul and Agnelo always shared their personal recommendations for dinner, and remembered preferences such as iced tea with dinner for Dwayne and hot green tea with dessert for Terry, our friends and table mates.
- Either the acoustics or the size and location of our table (a smaller table in the far back of the room) made it very easy to hear the table conversation which we sometimes find difficult in large dining rooms.
- We felt privileged to have Agnelo as our waiter, as he played a lead role in the serving staff's performance of Macarena as well as the lead dancer in Gangnam Style during our dinner on day 5.
Macarena led by our Waiter Agnelo
- Everyone at our table ordered lobster during our dinner on day 6, a special treat since so many other cruise lines have eliminated it entirely from the complimentary menus.
- I was slightly taken aback when the maitre d' approached our table, looked at a list that he was carrying and asked for me by name. His goal was to ensure that I was pleased with the service, as he had apparently been made aware of comments that I shared following the cruises on which we sailed earlier in the year. The good news from this encounter was that Royal Caribbean must take passenger comments very seriously, however, in addition to making me feel uncomfortable, the bad news was that I'm now worried that a server may have been blamed for poor service when my feedback was solely concerning table assignments. (Many of the larger tables on our March Voyager of the Seas sailing had only four persons assigned, ours included. Upon inquiring, we were informed that all four people at our table would be moved to join a larger table. After we made a second request, Scott and I did finally get moved, however we never saw the other couple again. I can surmise that attempting to balance the workload may have been the rationale for the original table assignments, however that certainly impacts the satisfaction of passengers requesting large tables.)
For breakfast and lunch, Scott and I chose to dine in the Windjammer Cafe (deck 11) on most days, due mainly to the more flexible dining hours. As with the main dining room, we enjoyed the food quality, selection and taste at the buffet:
- Although visually appealing, the layout of the Windjammer makes for a very crowded and difficult to maneuver buffet area.
- We really enjoyed the variety and volume of the background music in the Windjammer; while the music was easy to hear with understandable lyrics, it was not so loud as to prevent having a conversation with table mates.
- In addition to water, milk and coffee, complimentary beverages included tea, lemonade, and flavored waters all served by the dining staff either table side or available for pick-up (I really like serving my own drinks in order to choose my preferred amount of ice, but either type of drink service works).
- Near the end of the cruise, a beautifully designed Gingerbread Village was on display at the entrance to the Windjammer.
The Amazing Gingerbread Village
- Scott and I decided to try out breakfast in the main dining room (Rembrandt Dining Room, deck 3) near the end of the cruise and we were less than impressed with the service at the table of 10 passengers at which we were assigned - once our orders were taken and food was delivered, we were forgotten ... it was very difficult to even get our water glasses refilled!
In addition to the buffet and main dining room, Liberty of the Seas offered additional dining options, both casual and elegant:
- Cafe Promenade, Sorrento's Pizza and Cupcake Cupboard (a la carte cupcakes) were all located in the Royal Promenade (deck 5). We dined at Sorrento's on two different occasions - both mid day. The establishment was not busy and the pizza tasted ok however was not very hot when served. Cafe Promenade, a 24 hour venue, offered a very limited selection of pastries, sandwiches, snacks and beverages. While we never ate there, I did drop by a couple of times for a cup of hot chocolate.
- Sabor (Mexican), Chef's Table (dinner only gourmet), Chops Grill (steakhouse) and Giovanni's Table (Italian), the four "specialty dining" options each had prix fixe lunch and dinner menus.
- Additionally, 24 hour room service dining ($7.95 delivery fee) was available. (It was surprising to see the increased delivery fee as compared to the $3.95 fee for delivery which was charged only between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM while aboard other Royal Caribbean ships earlier this year.)
- At a cost of $8.20 for an all you can eat (excluding shakes, malts, floats and beer) casual meal, Johnny Rockets offered a selection of burgers, hot dogs and other sandwiches including "melts" served with sides (fries and rings) and desserts (sundaes and apple pie). Our first visit to the soda fountain was for lunch when we each enjoyed a smokehouse burger, bacon cheese fries and a chocolate sundae. Our second visit was to take advantage of one of our platinum benefits - a Johnny Rockets BOGO shake or malt. Our total tab of $5.31 (including service fee) was not too bad for two malts, and our server, Hazel, was the best!
Liberty of the Seas Activities and EventsAs is customary, we received a Cruise Compass each evening detailing the activities, events and entertainment planned for the following day. (Hopefully Royal Caribbean will soon have a phone app available for Liberty of the Seas passengers to have easy access to a list of scheduled events as well.) Cruise Director Drew Devine and his team hosted a variety of activities and events for people of all ages ... or, there were plenty of places around the ship to just plain relax - it was all about personal choice:
- The Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle held on the first sea day at Olive or Twist (deck 14) lacked the officer participation and enthusiasm that I have grown to expect on other cruise lines. The welcome gift given to each Cruise Critic member during previous Royal Caribbean cruises was eliminated, however the two event leaders did a great job with raffling off various prizes for those in attendance.
- There were a variety of themed events during the seven day cruise including crafts (ornaments and holiday tag making), Christmas trivia, Christmas movies on the big screen, Hanukkah celebration services and even a guest appearance by Santa, himself.
- While there was no DreamWorks Parade similar to those on other Royal Caribbean ships, there were appearances of several DreamWorks characters including Shrek, King Julien, Po, Alex and Puss in Boots.
- Although neither of us participated, we were entertained by three of the poolside guest competitions (World's Sexiest Man, Women's Cannonball and Men's International Belly Flop) on days 2, 4 and 6 (deck 11).
- With a laugh (or more) a minute, we enjoyed two of the three late night game shows that we attended on days 3 and 4 (Love and Marriage and Battle of the Sexes). We missed The Quest Adult Game Show on day 5 during this cruise, however I feel fairly confident that the show was similar to others we've seen.
- Unlike our most recent cruise when the party band seemed to take every opportunity to avoid performing, Rhythm Explosion played nearly all of their scheduled sets (the Falmouth sail away was cancelled due to heavy winds). As two people who really enjoy listening to music while poolside, we wish there was more than two 45 minute sets each day.
- We were dissapointed that we did not discover the "piano bar" entertainment provided by Phil Anderson sooner. The limited amount of time that we spent in the Schooner Bar (deck 4) listening to Phil was definitely enjoyable.
Liberty of the Seas ShowtimeOne of the many reasons that Scott and I like to cruise is for our enjoyment of the production and other evening shows performed in the main cruise ship theaters (Platinum Theatre on decks 3, 4 and 5 on Liberty of the Seas). We have gotten used to the performances occurring at the same times each evening, however on Liberty of the Seas the showtimes varied nightly:
- We missed the 10:30 PM Welcome Aboard Showtime which featured the Comedy of Kivi Rogers and Aerial Artistry of Duo Luar due to the timing on day 1. With the delayed arrival into and departure out of Galveston and the 9:30 PM muster drill which we had to rush to after dinner, we hadn't yet received our luggage and opted to return to our cabin to get settled in for the week.
- While we did attend the 10:30 PM performance of In the Air, a production show described as a "musical cirque odyssey exploring fire, water, earth and air" on day 2, we passed on the 11:30 PM late night adult comedy show which featured Kivi Rogers.
- Based on all of the rave reviews, we were very disappointed that we missed the one and only day 3 show headlined by Scott Record, a singer, comedian and impressionist. It is unfortunate that Royal Caribbean would schedule a show at 9:00 PM knowing that it would be impossible for guests with late dining to attend.
- We saw the first of four performances of Encore! An Ice Spectacular (days 4 and 6 at 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM), and were glad we did. Liberty of the Seas was the second Royal Caribbean ship which we sailed on this year with an ice rink, and all
of the ice shows have been outstanding.
Encore! an Ice Spectacular
- We enjoyed the first performance which featured the vocals and acrobatics of Donovan and Rebecca on day 5 (7:00 PM and 9:00 PM), a Texas based couple who have set a number of records currently listed in the "Guinness Book of World Records".
- We missed seeing a show on day 6 as, in addition to the repeat performance of the ice show, the only other show featured comedian Don Barnhart at 11:30 PM, and that was just too late for us!
- Finally, on the last evening, the "Production Broadway Musical" that I had been looking forward to since we booked this cruise was on the schedule, and it did not disappoint. We both enjoyed returning to the 70's during the 82 minute rendition of Saturday Night Fever.
Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society Platinum BenefitsAlthough we are members of the loyalty program Crown & Anchor Society, our benefits are still pretty limited since we are still relatively new to the program. We again took advantage of three of the gold level benefits - priority check-in, private departure lounge and onboard offers including a buy one / get one free milkshake from Johnny Rockets and free casino spins for each of us (Scott even won a key chain). As this was our first cruise after having sailed 30 days, our signature lapel pins were delivered to our room during one of the first few days of the cruise, and we were eligible for the platinum benefits for the first time. The only "new" benefit that we took advantage of was attending the "exclusive top tier event" (7:15 PM - 8:00 PM on the second formal night in the Star Lounge, deck 5) where travelers with the most days as well as those reaching the top status levels were recognized. (The band played dance music and limited amounts of complimentary appetizers and adult beverages were also available for all in attendance.)
Royal Caribbean Next CruiseWe have been taking advantage of future cruise deposits on most of our recent cruises, however chose not to do so on this cruise for a couple of reasons:
- In my opinion, the benefit of booking a future cruise is the flexibility that it provides - while paying a deposit that the cruise line retains for sometimes as many as four years, I've either selected my future cruise at a later date or at least had the ability to make no cost changes to my reservation as needed.
- Royal Caribbean's relatively new policy of non-refundable deposits (which was explained differently depending on which Next Cruise team member was sharing the policy) made booking a future cruise much less appealing (unless I already had my eyes on a specific future cruise).
I currently have two cruises booked on Royal Caribbean (plus have a flexible deposit on a third cruise which I definitely plan to change at some point). I have high hopes that I will sail with the company even more in the future as I really like their ships, many of their unique itineraries and their on board experience ... but, policies like this make it more difficult for Royal Caribbean to be my first choice cruise line.
Royal Caribbean Cruise ShipsWhat ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet is your favorite, and why do you rank it as your number 1?
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Port of Galveston Cruise Terminal 2, Galveston, TX, United States
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