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Trip Report - Liberty of the Seas 7/23 - 7/30


sandjb
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I thought I'd share my observations on our recently-completed cruise as first-time RCI customers. 

We sailed out of Galveston on board Liberty of the Seas on Sunday, July 23rd. Embarkation was painless. I dropped my family (wife and three kids) off at the terminal at about 10:15, parked right across the street at Cruise Park, then made my way back. At this point, there were quite a few people at the dock already (plus some stragglers still making their way off the ship and being picked up), but not enough people that the security and check-in lines were backed up yet. We walked right through. We didn't have to wait on anything until we got upstairs at about 10:45. Since this was our first RC cruise, our status was peasant-level, so once the boarding started at 11:00 we had several groups ahead of us before our group was called at 11:30. Then we were on the ship. We knew there would be a little bit of waiting so we were prepared with games, so this wasn't a problem. We decided if we did it again, we'd do the same thing again and get to the port early and wait in the upstairs waiting area in chairs as opposed to arriving later and waiting in longer lines.

Our first order of business on the ship was to sign our kids up for the teen activities. We have one 11-year-old who was hoping to spend the week with his older brothers as opposed to alone in the younger group. We met with a counselor who said this wouldn't be a problem since our son was within six months of his 12th birthday and was big enough to pass as a 12-year-old. He got them all registered, and we were off to Windjammer for lunch. 

This was our first mistake of the cruise. Everyone else had the same idea apparently. The place was a zoo, and there wasn't an empty seat to be found anywhere. We were forced to take our plates out to the tables by the splash zone. A bit later we swung by Sorrento's in the Royal Promenade and were surprised to find it and the Cafe Promenade comparatively deserted. Next cruise, we'll definitely just plan on lunch in the Promenade and skip the zoo upstairs.  We did most breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer for the rest of the week and never had another issue finding room to sit down. We loved breakfasts in the Windjammer. We tried the MDR once for breakfast, but it took so long and the food was close to what you could get in the buffet, so we stuck with the buffet. Same with lunch.

Our second mistake of the cruise was to take the tour of the spa in the hopes of winning the drawing for spa credits. We weren't planning on using the spa, but we figured if we could get something free, why not try? So they gave us the tour, we got our entry for the drawing, and we were back after the muster drill (must be present to win!). It was then that they informed us that the prizes they were giving away were only good for port days. So much for that. We already had plans those days. So we left. 

We took all our dinners in the MDR, with my parents, so a party of seven. We showed up our first night and were escorted to a beautiful table by the window. With places set for six. Our waiter was puzzled that we were assigned to that table and claimed not to have known we were a party of seven. It was all rather odd since we had linked our reservations and all of our cards indicated that table. I'm not sure where the count on RC's end got fouled up. They kept us at that table, so dinners were very cozy. If our kids had been any bigger, I don't think it would have worked out. 

Our kids loved dinners in the dining room. They're all picky eaters but managed to find things they liked. Two of them had a standing shrimp cocktail order for each day. One quickly became enamored with the Royal Chocolate Cake with a side of chocolate ice cream. For me, the food wasn't anything over-the-top spectacular, but it wasn't bad either. I got to try a lot of things that I don't have often (shrimp, lobster, duck, lamb, etc.) and they were all good enough that they were enjoyable. On lobster night, we ended up with more lobster tails at our table than we knew what to do with. Our head waitress was very good about bringing out entrees or other things for us to try without anyone even ordering them, just because she thought someone might have been interested in it. 

Activities on the ship kept us plenty busy. Our kids had their hands full with teen activities, slides, flowrider, rock climbing, etc., and we kept busy with trivia, napkin and towel folding, people-watching, etc. The belly flop competition was a big hit. One complaint our kids did have about the teen activities was the lack of adult oversight in some situations. For the most part, they were allowed to do their own things and govern themselves, which in some ways is good. But other times, like when they're supposed to be playing a game with actual rules, our boys got frustrated when the other kids didn't follow the rules of the game (or didn't know how to play) and so they just winged it. There wasn't much direction in those cases.

If you're on Liberty, I recommend going to any event/activity emceed by Fritz from Philly. He's very entertaining and was a favorite of the whole family. If our 11-year-old learned anything on this cruise, it was how to make a bikini out of linen napkins.

A couple of ship-related complaints. The ship seemed crowded. Granted, it was sailing at capacity during a busy time of year. But thinking back to our first cruise (aboard Star Princess to Alaska at the same time of year), my wife and I couldn't recall feeling "crowded" at any point during that week. We definitely noticed it this week. Our second complaint was related - the elevators were terribly slow. Sixteen elevators and it seemed we always waited an eternity for one. The plus side is we got a lot more exercise than we had anticipated. But being on Deck 2, when it came time for breakfast or lunch, or pool time, not all of us felt like hiking it up to Deck 11. It seemed like we wasted a lot of time waiting for an elevator.

Aside from that, the ship was great. We saw shows in the Platinum Theater and Studio B and enjoyed both venues. We actually got front-row seats for the ice skating show, which was kinda weird when you could reach out and literally touch the performers if you wanted to (I practiced restraint). The rest of the ship was immaculate. The crew does a great job of keeping everything neat and tidy, and working around you as best as they can.

We had connecting rooms with ice delivered each day to both rooms as requested, and towel animals each night (except the first one, I think). The boys loved getting to our rooms after dinner to see what animal was hanging out on their bed that night.

Disembarkation/embarkation for port days was easy. I was expecting lines but we never really ran into any worth mentioning. We'd leave the ship as soon as we got the all-clear and there was never a big rush of people. 

In Roatan, we went to Little French Key and hung out at the beach. I'd recommend this spot if you're looking for a low-key yet beautiful place to relax. We brought our own goggles and swam around looking at the fish, and even spotted an octopus. My kids have never done any snorkeling or deep ocean swimming or anything like that so we were content to just stay close to shore and see what we could see there. The water was crystal clear - as clear as the swimming pool back home. 

In Costa Maya, we elected to do the Mayan Experience tour with Native Choice tours. I highly recommend this tour if you have the chance. They take you in modern vans to the Chacchoben Mayan ruins, with an experienced guide explaining the ruins and surrounding area, plants, and history. Then you're taken to a Mayan town where you're fed a traditional meal, after you help make your own corn tortilla over a fire. This was a great way for us to show our kids how some of the rest of the world lives. It's not a tourist town and there are no gift shops in this village. You get a very real sense of what this part of Mexico is all about. 

In Cozumel, my wife got to fulfill her lifelong dream of swimming with the dolphins. We were fortunate to book an early time (Dolphin Discovery, Chankanaab), because by the time we were done and eating lunch, a thunderstorm had rolled through and the later swimming times were postponed or cancelled. We felt very lucky. If you're planning to do the dolphin swim and want to buy pictures, be ready to haggle or pay through the nose. I'm not super-big on haggling but I didn't want to pay full-price either. So I low-balled them with a number, they went to "talk to their manager," and came back with a number I could live with.

On disembarkation day (sniff sob sniff), we went up to Windjammer for breakfast then headed back to our rooms to wait for our time to leave. We decided to do the self-carry disembarkation, since the group we were assigned to was supposed to be one of the last off the ship and we wanted to get on the road earlier than that. We left at about 8:40, were off the ship in seconds, but then got tied up in the customs line. I don't know if this was typical or not, but the line was VERY slow. We didn't get through customs until about 10:00. I jaunted over to the Cruise Park lot, got our van, and we were on the road back home. 

All in all, we had a great time. Our boys loved cruising.  We love not having to pack up to get to the next city. I'm sure we'll be cruising again. But I don't think we were so blown away by our experience this week that we're now RC devotees. I think our next trip or two will still be determined more by itinerary and scheduling than cruise line. But RC certainly didn't do anything to scare us away if the stars align for them next time, either.

In closing, thanks for all the tips offered here on this forum. I got a lot of useful information here and it all helped make the week go smoothly. Happy sailing!

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Great review @sandjb! Interesting that you found Liberty crowded. I'll be curious to see how Freedom feels when I sail her in a similar peak time next March/April, given they're sister ships and same layout.

That's really odd that they kept you at the table for six instead of moving you to a table for eight or more, maybe with some other shipmates for company. I hope the view from the window offset the "cozy" aspects of it. Maybe they thought some in your party wouldn't be dining there every night and there would typically be room?

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 Great report Sandy ... I remember the ship being a bit crowded the 2nd week in May too.  Our group of six really had a great time, visited with many nice folks (never ran into so many engineers on a vacation), some who'd cruised on that ship many times.

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Agree about the crowded feeling. Been on several ships and that was the only RCI ship that felt this way. Even the Allure did not give me that sardine feeling. 

The elevators were a nightmare, one centrum unit was inoperable all cruise long. You wouldn't think one elevator could make such a difference. Evidently from other replies, that one elevator would not have relieved the crowds at the elevators. 

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15 hours ago, JLMoran said:

That's really odd that they kept you at the table for six instead of moving you to a table for eight or more, maybe with some other shipmates for company. ... Maybe they thought some in your party wouldn't be dining there every night and there would typically be room?

I don't know if there was really any place else for them to put us. We were seated at the 5:30 set dining time and the dining room was just about at capacity, as far as we could tell. As far as them thinking that some of us might be dining elsewhere some nights, they never asked. 

2 hours ago, L454S said:

The elevators were a nightmare, one centrum unit was inoperable all cruise long. You wouldn't think one elevator could make such a difference. Evidently from other replies, that one elevator would not have relieved the crowds at the elevators. 

There was one point where one of the elevators was out of service for a few hours. Otherwise, they all seemed to be operating normally. So I'd say no, that extra elevator probably wouldn't have helped much.

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I was on Freedom this past February and I echo some of your complaints.  There was definitely a feeling of crowded at times, especially in the Windjammer, at the pool and in some of the bars in the evenings.  I really wish they would seat you in the Windjammer, instead of making you circle around and pounce on a table the second someone gets up from it.  I would much rather wait 5 or 10 mins for someone to seat me than to try to find a table on my own when the place is full.   And the elevators, well,  after about day one I just gave up on them a lot of the time and used the stairs.  In my mind, this cancelled out the 3 large meals and dozen or so drinks I consumed during the day  :1_grinning:

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1 minute ago, Jason.H. said:

Just for future information, when carrying off your own luggage you can get off the ship as early as it clears. Ive gotten off at 645am before.

We realized that as we were getting off the ship. However, on the instruction sheet they delivered to our room the day before, it listed specific times to carry off, based on what deck you were on I believe (I didn't save this piece of paper). So we did what we thought we were supposed to do and waited for our deck's slot.

My parents were also carrying their luggage and since they were on a different deck, they left earlier. As they were getting off the ship, my mom texted me saying nobody was checking anything and we could probably leave when we wanted to. That's when we left. Sure enough, nobody checked anything and we were off the ship in seconds. It would have been nice to get off earlier and miss some of the backlog at customs. Good to know for next time. :)

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We were on the Liberty in early June and carried off our own luggage, so we tried to leave as soon as we were up and showered, but we ran into a snag when we got off the elevator on the 4 level, they hadn't opened the gang way doors yet. Being that the ship is based in Texas I don't think they were prepared for the number of people that were driving home and therefore carrying their own luggage off.

They quickly opened the doors and started scanning people off he boat, we were loaded and in our car and on the road by 9, so I was happy.

I don't remember the ship feeling crowded and I know we were at capacity also, but I tend shy away from the large crowd areas.

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55 minutes ago, sandjb said:

We realized that as we were getting off the ship. However, on the instruction sheet they delivered to our room the day before, it listed specific times to carry off, based on what deck you were on I believe (I didn't save this piece of paper). So we did what we thought we were supposed to do and waited for our deck's slot.

My parents were also carrying their luggage and since they were on a different deck, they left earlier. As they were getting off the ship, my mom texted me saying nobody was checking anything and we could probably leave when we wanted to. That's when we left. Sure enough, nobody checked anything and we were off the ship in seconds. It would have been nice to get off earlier and miss some of the backlog at customs. Good to know for next time. :)

Those assigned times you're referring to are for those who put their luggage out they night before and need to collect it in the terminal. There should have been mention of self-assist passengers, which should have listed a time at around 7 am. I'm sorry Royal didn't make this more clear as they should have. 

Regarding crowds, I don't remember it feeling crowded at all, but that could be sailing specific. We were on the sailing AFTER New Year's, do it may have been less crowded. I would expect summer sailings to be among the busiest as you have more third and fourth berth passengers. 

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57 minutes ago, DocLC said:

Those assigned times you're referring to are for those who put their luggage out they night before and need to collect it in the terminal. There should have been mention of self-assist passengers, which should have listed a time at around 7 am. I'm sorry Royal didn't make this more clear as they should have. 

There were actually two sets of assigned times, one for self-assist passengers and one for passengers leaving their luggage out. We got luggage tags the night before and our assigned group was something like 32, one of the last groups, which according to the sheet meant we weren't scheduled to disembark until something like 10:30. We didn't want to wait that long since we had places to be and people to see, so we decided to self-assist. In the self-assist section of the paper, it said that the self-assist disembarkation would take place between 7:30-8:50 (or thereabouts, I wish I had saved the paper to share here to illustrate the point), and you should disembark based on your deck. Our deck was the last listed and it said we could get off at 8:40, I believe. This was for self-assist, not tagged luggage. But from what we observed, nobody really paid any attention to those assigned times for self-assist. It was just a free-for-all with no oversight. Which is fine with me, it just would have been nice to know at 7:30 that we could have left and nobody would have cared.

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@sandjb is entirely possible, based on what you've said, that they're doing something differently on Liberty because of the larger number of people who are taking advantage of self-assist in Galveston. We did it last year on the Liberty and I was surprised by the number of people who were doing it. Thus, they may need to break it up. Glad it worked out in the end. 

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Doc, that was the way it was for me, we did self-assist in June and the sheet gave us a time range and then a time based on what floor we were on.

I think it would really help RCI if people accurately filled in the cruise documentation with when they wanted to get off the ship, you know the section where you put in your return flight information. I know I didn't accurately  fill  it out on this June cruise, at the time I filled it out I wasn't planning on doing self-assist.

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5 minutes ago, tiny260 said:

Doc, that was the way it was for me, we did self-assist in June and the sheet gave us a time range and then a time based on what floor we were on.

I think it would really help RCI if people accurately filled in the cruise documentation with when they wanted to get off the ship, you know the section where you put in your return flight information. I know I didn't accurately  fill  it out on this June cruise, at the time I filled it out I wasn't planning on doing self-assist.

I've also neglected to provide this information because I assumed they had because I provided it during online check-in. However, I was told on the ship that you still need to fill out the form, which I thought was for those who didn't complete the information online.

The more you cruise, the more you learn.

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Thank you for the well balanced review.

One thing to keep in mind is that a ship has a rhythm.  People tend to do things at the same place at the same time.

Sometimes, that's fun!  Like at the Belly Flop competition.  Sometimes it's not, like Windjammer upon boarding.

As you start to understand the rhythm, and understand what you like about cruising and what you don't like, you get used to how to have the best cruise you can have FOR YOU!

Thanks again!

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