What you need to know about Liberty of the Seas 7-Night Western Caribbean Cruise!
Mr. Smith and I have recently returned from our postponed Caribbean Cruise!
We traveled on Liberty of the Seas out of Galveston and I wanted to share our experiences in Belize, Roatan, the Yucatan and Bacalar, and the Liberty of the Seas.
To quote Cynthia Drake, “Liberty of the Seas is a large ship that can feel crowded but is ideal for families and offers peace and quiet if you know where to find it.” This is absolutely true, but we endeavored to locate the more peaceful venues. The population of the ship is fairly evenly divided between older empty nesters and young families.
Cruiseship pools are not our thing, so we were only in the pool areas for sailing away and when we wanted to take a beach towel on our excursions. The arcade held no interest, and neither did the ice rink. The waterslides, FlowRider, mini-golf, and rock climbing were for the younger crowd.
There IS an adult-only pool area, as well as a casino. Mr. Smith spent some time at the Wonder Woman slot machines. He may have won some money for his efforts.
Our stateroom was an ocean view balcony that offered a spectacular view of the water. There were two small deck chairs and a table. The queen-sized bed was comfortable, and the room was spacious by cruise ship standards, with a fair amount of storage, a vanity/desk, a sleeper sofa, and a table. The bathroom was typical cruise ship sized, with a small shower, and absolutely functional. Our stateroom attendant Reynoldo was invaluable.
The first few days on the ship, we ate breakfast in the Windjammer Cafe (the large buffet). To be honest, I was not thrilled with the offerings, nor the inability to actually find a table as it was open seating. We also discovered there was a multitude of impolite passengers that dined there. Maybe it was that they hadn’t yet been caffeinated… Perhaps they were “hangry”. I’m not sure. Once we discovered we could break our fast in the Rembrandt Dining Room on Deck 3 seated with windows offering waterfront views, we were delighted!
Lunch - most days we were actually on shore and it wasn’t an issue. Embarkation Day was mayhem in the Windjammer Cafe, and the cuisine offered for lunch did not impress me, but I know they were trying to feed all the new passengers in a short period of time. We did indulge in Sorrento’s Pizza on the Promenade one day at sea, where cheese, pepperoni, veggie, and BBQ chicken pizza was available by the slice or whole pizza that day, along with a variety of salads and sides -- such as an olive tapenade and a marinated eggplant salad. There was some frustration on the crew’s part on getting out the pizzas and witnessed a heated argument. I can tell you, that the BBQ chicken pizza was worth the wait, and the marinated eggplant was wonderful!
We purchased the three-specialty dining package, and upon embarkation, finalized our reservations.
We were automatically assigned our first specialty dining experience for our first night onboard, which was Sabor, and we reserved specialty dining later in the evenings for our at-sea evenings.
For most of our dinners, we were assigned a table in the fifth deck main dining room, The Botticelli Dining Room. Our table mates were a party of three young men celebrating their college graduation. There wasn't any hesitation on their part talking to a more mature couple, likely their parent’s ages, and they were great company. The wait staff for our table was nothing short of amazing. They quickly figured out what our preferences were. Every meal consisted of a starter (soups, salads, etc), the main dish with a side, and a dessert. The variety of dishes available was always intriguing. There were some nightly standard dishes, but there were also new options offered. The bread basket was plentiful.
Sabor is a smaller venue with vibrant decor in red, pink, and orange. This Mexican restaurant was delicious, and we left entirely stuffed. Our waiter essentially brought us a little bit of almost everything on the dinner menu. We ordered the guacamole, which is supposed to be a Sabor favorite. It was okay, but not extraordinary. Keep in mind, by Oklahoma or Texas standards, my palate is more accustomed to the TexMex style of cooking. It was definitely fresh-made and satisfying. We ate it all, don’t get me wrong! The chips were as good as any restaurant in our area, and again, fresh. There were no “grease bombs” as Mr. Smith says. The ceviche we ordered included shrimp, red snapper, and octopus. It was tomato-based. To be totally transparent, my favorite ceviche is lime juice and cilantro prepared (preferably with coconut cream), so this was an entirely different experience. The chicken-stuffed jalapenos were amazing. The queso fundito (a fondue) with poblanos and chorizo was not what we expected. Great flavor, but was more solid than liquid in consistency, which made it difficult to scoop with a chip. For our main dish, again, we were given small servings of several tasty dishes: Jalapeno garlic tiger shrimp, El Juarez poblano quesadilla (perfectly balanced spice and creamy cheese), chicken and corn empanadas, and a side of yucca fries. For dessert, while we were entirely full at this point, we couldn’t ignore the churros with vanilla dipping sauce, sweet coconut flan, and banana and chocolate chimichanga - and they did not disappoint! The margaritas and sangria were the perfect complements to the meal.
On our final evening aboard the Liberty of the Seas, we dined at the Italian venue Giovanni's Table. This was the meal to which I most looking forward. I LOVE Italian food. On other cruises, the Italian eateries have been five-star. Celebrity’s Tuscan Grille, Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady’s Extra Virgin… All top-notch. We were incredibly disappointed in Giovanni’s Table. Admittedly, I am still fairly new to cruising having only discovered this amazing way to travel in 2019, and then the world shut down… We are still contemplating whether this was an isolated incident (perhaps a result of the crew being out due to illness), or par for the course. Our waiter apologized numerous times for the delays over the course of the meal, and there were only 4 tables occupied. Oddly, two of those tables were facing an indoor wall and not the windows looking out onto the water. Cocktails - I ordered a lavender martini (a repeat from our previous evening at Chops), and Mr. Smith ordered a Bombay Sapphire martini with a lemon twist. I received a dirty martini with an olive (bleh! I really do not like gin-forward cocktails), and Mr. Smith received a vodka martini. For our Antipasti, we ordered the cheese and meat plank, along with Grigliata di Polpo (grilled octopus, white beans, pancetta, fresh oregano, and olive oil). The octopus was my favorite dish of the meal. For our main course, we each had a glass of wine, and both ordered tagliatelle alla carbonara (we were channeling Stanley Tucci for sure). I ordered melanzane alla parmesana (eggplant parmesan) and Mr. Smith ordered gamberetti alla ligure (grilled prawns). These dishes were subpar and not served warm. We opted to forgo dessert (unheard of for me when tiramisu is on the menu if that gives any indication of our desire to leave).
Last, but not least… Ending on a high note with our favorite specialty dining location named Chops Grille Steakhouse! The white tablecloth ambiance and waiter service emphasized the upscale feel of the restaurant. There were a few occupied tables, but it was nowhere near capacity. Our waiter was very attentive. The patrons had all dressed appropriately, which was a nice surprise and not the norm most nights in other venues. We were seated next to the window, and it appeared most of the tables were situated so this was the case for the majority. This evening our cocktails were superb - Mr. Smith’s martini was perfect, and I ordered a lavender martini at the recommendation of our waiter - and it is now a favorite! Our appetizer? Jumbo lump crab cakes with chipotle aioli sauce. I also enjoyed an incredible bowl of lobster bisque. Mr. Smith, a Caesar salad. Our main course: Bone-in ribeye for Mr. Smith, and a rack of lamb for me (I’m fairly predictable - if there is lamb on the menu, I’m ordering it!). Our sides were creamed spinach and scalloped parmesan potatoes. The steak and lamb were cooked to perfection, and the suggested wines paired well. Dessert - New York cheesecake and Key lime pie. Pure heaven!
We visited several cocktail bars while on board. Plaza Bar is located at the front of the Windjammer Cafe and was great for cocktails on embarkation day as well as mimosas with breakfast. I mentioned Bolero’s, but we also frequented R Bar, where I discovered the espresso martini. Another favorite was Olive or Twist, a martini-style bar that featured an expansive bank of windows overlooking the pool area. (They also held a silent disco one night, and we never returned.) Hoof & Claw was an English pub on the Promenade. Every day there was a “cocktail of the day” throughout the ship. My favorite? The mai tai! Mr. Smith’s chief complaint with all the bars is he never got the same martini twice, even though he orders it the same way EVERY SINGLE TIME (he spells it out, for sure).
A few of our cruise highlights
On our first day at sea, we decided to investigate the Taste of the Caribbean rum cocktail class at the Caribbean-inspired bar Bolero’s. We learned how to make rum drinks, from 6 Caribbean destinations, each vastly different from the other. The bartenders were personable and made the class fun. And, we returned almost daily just to hang out.
The Bacalar Lagoon was once a haven for Caribbean pirates but has become one of the Yucatan's most beautiful places to visit. We experienced a 7-colored lagoon and the Cocalitos and Black cenotes as well as the Pirate Channel, where precious wood was once smuggled. Unfortunately, the sun wasn't shining… I can only imagine how scenic the lagoon could be on a beautiful day!
Our worries melted away under the Roatan sun while enjoying hours of relaxation in the tropical paradise of Mayan Princess Beach Resort, where our all-inclusive package included an open bar and lobster lunch. And a bottle of champagne! We are already talking of returning and spending more time in the West Bay area as it was simply paradise.
The Lamanai and River Adventure from Belize City - Lamanai is one of the Mayan ruins that survived even long after the arrival of the Europeans in Belize. On our adventure, we saw monkeys and a coatimundi or two. And, because Lamanai is only accessible by river, there were relatively few people. We were able to climb 2 of the 3 ruins. The area was tranquil, and the riverboat ride was incredibly exhilarating!
The highlight of the trip for Mr. Smith was supposed to be learning the secrets of Cuban cigar making at an authentic workshop, followed by time on one of Cozumel’s largest beaches. Unfortunately, this particular tour was canceled after we boarded the ship. We were able to reschedule our shore excursion while in port at Cozumel. We took the ferry to Playa del Carmen, and then a coach to the Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins. This was an entirely different experience from the Lamanai Pyramids. There are quite a few well-preserved ruins that did not allow climbing. SOOO many more visitors. Not to mention there are probably as many hawkers (if not more) as tourists. I am thankful we participated in excursions to both ruins because they were vastly different.
Royal Caribbean was expected to send Liberty of the Seas in for an extended dry dock for “amplification”, but the pandemic put those plans on hold. I can understand the need for updates and modernization as the rooms in particular were dated and worn. Several crew members mentioned that the Amp Up is still in her future, which is a good thing as the decor is worn and outdated.
While the ship needs some updating, we had an incredible time aboard Liberty of the Seas. Between the variety of dining options, activities in which to participate while at sea and the diverse shore excursions available while in port, the voyage was eye-opening and exhilarating. There is truly something for everyone.
I recommend booking a stateroom with a balcony, and depending on your traveling party, perhaps connecting staterooms or even a suite for more space.
We will be sailing aboard another Royal Caribbean ship later this year, so keep a lookout for my upcoming review.
The convenience of sailing out of Galveston made it an easy option to avoid any flight delays. Galveston has some delightful seafood establishments, so it’s a win-win!
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