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  • 5 weeks later...

Here are some photos from Liberty of the Seas maiden voyage from Galveston on Nov 13, 2015.

Check-in was very quick with no crowd when we arrived around 10 am.
Checkin.jpeg

Inside the new temporary tent, used as a waiting area for Crown and Anchor members. Boarding began at 11 am on this day.
Tent_Waiting_Area.jpeg

View of the construction of the terminal expansion from the passenger loading bridge.
Construction.jpeg

Terminal expansion construction as viewed from the ship, with the 10,000 square foot temporary tent in the background.
Construction_And_Tent.jpeg

Royal Promenade with a large Texas flag.
Promenade_Flag.jpeg

Edited by Steve
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We took the maiden voyage for Liberty of the Seas from Galveston on Nov 13th, a special 9-night cruise.  It was a great ship and here are a few observations from the largest cruise ship ever to sail from Texas:

 

Embarkation

  • We arrived by car at 9:30 am and dropped our luggage at the pier.  When we returned to check in at 9:45, we walked right in to the terminal, breezed through security, and had a very short wait to check in.
  • We waited in the new temporary tent, a 10,000 square foot air conditioned waiting area with nice restrooms.  This tent is temporary while they finish construction on the new terminal expansion (see photos in the post above).
  • Boarding commenced at 11:00 am starting with Pinnacle Crown and Anchor members, then working their way down to Diamond Plus, Diamond, etc.
  • Walking up the passenger loading bridge to the ship, we had a great view of the terminal construction (see photos in the above post)

Ship Impressions

  • Liberty is a beautiful, very large ship.  She is in excellent condition, even with a full dry dock refurbishment coming in January.  It will be interesting to see her after the refurbishment.
  • As with most ships, we observed a lot of routine maintenance, painting, and cleaning during our voyage.  RCI really takes care of their ship assets.
  • We also observed that a contract crew had begun installing the stack scrubber during our cruise.  The work did not seem to be interfering with any ship activities as it was being done forward of the rock climbing wall and above the Adventure Ocean area.  The new scrubber will remove sulfur dioxide particulate from the exhaust to improve the environment.

Promenade Stateroom

  • We had booked an interior Promenade Stateroom because we got a great price, and we liked that there would be a window overlooking the Promenade to make the cabin feel more open.
  • We had been in much larger Junior Suites on our most recent three cruises.  Although we knew the interior stateroom would be small, my wife was shocked at the lack of space.  Moral of the story: once you taste a larger stateroom, you can't go down in size!  By the end of the cruise we were accustomed to the smaller cabin and I was happy we had saved the money.
  • Our main complaint on the stateroom was the lack of storage space compared to the Junior Suite.  Maybe they will address this during the refurbishment.
  • We heard almost no noise from the Promenade during our cruise.  During the Dreamworks parade we could hear the music a little bit.  We opted to watch the other events from the Promenade itself instead of from the cabin.  This gave my wife a better view of the "macho men" during the Village People songs on 70's night.

Dining

  • When traveling as a couple, without other friends and family, my wife and I have gravitated away from the Main Dining Room.  It gives us more flexibility to "go with the flow" depending on the events of the day.
  • We did My Time Dining but only two evenings.  The service was good and the food was good as well.
  • We ate at Chops for my birthday and really enjoyed it.  We also tried Portofino since we had never done that one before and may never get the opportunity again.  On this cruise we actually liked the food in Portofino a little better.  I think Chops could have done a better job of searing the steak to give it a nice crust, but maybe we have been watching too many cooking shows.  
  • RCI says to allow at least 2 hours for specialty restaurant dining.  Our waiters seemed to be overloaded with too many tables and no assistant waiter.  Our service was slow because of the staffing level in the restaurant and kitchen, not because our waiter lacked any skill or motivation.
  • We also tried Johnny Rockets twice for lunch.  This is a fun alternative for lunch or a snack.  Love their burgers and fries!
  • You really can't go wrong in the Windjammer.  This buffet has so many amazing choices that we ended up here for most dinners on Liberty.  I am amazed at the consistently high quality of food in the Windjammer across all the ships we have been on.
  • We brought two bottles of wine on board.  We brought them to the specialty restaurants where the waiter took care of opening and pouring it for us.  No problem.

Entertainment

  • As usual, the Liberty of the Seas Orchestra was fantastic!  They opened the Welcome Aboard Show with Maynard Ferguson's Gonna Fly Now. This included several trumpet solos by the music director, and that blew me away!  Each of the musicians in the orchestra took several turns at solos throughout the cruise and they were all great.
  • There was also a "Cirque-Style" show with singing, dancing, and flying artists that was amazing.  We really enjoyed this.
  • The musical Saturday Night Fever was good, but not great, in my opinion.  Dining and entertainment are all very subjective and depends on your own likes, dislikes, and opinions.
  • There were also several amazing guitarists on board.  They did some solo shows in various venues that drew a large following of fans.

Shore Excursions

  • Falmouth: We did the Falmouth Food Tour, which we arranged separate from RCI based on a recommendation elsewhere on these message boards.  This was well worth the time and a safe and fun way to see Falmouth on foot without feeling "out of place" in a developing country. Our two knowledgeable guides provided a history lesson along with the local cuisine, and they seemed to know everybody in town.
  • Grand Cayman: we like walking around George Town, so we stopped at a coffee shop to catch up on the internet and pay my American Express bill.  Then we went to a favorite restaurant, Guy Harvey's Restaurant, and ended the afternoon with some shopping.
  • Routan: we were going to stay on the ship here, but we ended up missing this port because of a medical emergency that had us returning to Grand Cayman to save someone's life.  We had a nice day at sea instead.
  • Costa Maya: we did a Mayan Ruins tour through RCI.  There isn't much to do in Costa Maya except shopping in the port area or arrange an excursion or beach visit.  The Ruins tour was pretty good with air conditioned busses and an excellent guide.  It's an hour ride to the closest Ruins, and another tour was two hours.  I'm glad we went to the nearest one because the bus ride was boring with not much to see.
  • Cozumel: I guess this was our food tour cruise, and we did the Cozumel Food Tour which we also arranged separate from RCI based on a friend's recommendation.  They have a couple options for tours or cooking classes.  Highly recommended!  We visited several family-owned restaurants, a bakery, the market, and the chocolate factory.  Food, drinks, and dedicated taxi transportation were included.

Other

  • We took Matt's advice and booked a NextCruise onboard (balcony on Liberty in 2017)!  We had to pay only a $100 deposit, but received $100 onboard credit for our current cruise plus $300 onboard credit for the NextCruise.  I was happy to take the extra $400 just for booking onboard!  Will definitely do that every time from now on!
  • Several big NFL Football games were shown on the big screen by the pool.  Thursday night, all day Sunday, and Monday Night Football were all on the big screen which made a fun way to watch the games.

Disembarkation

  • We did the self-assist disembarkation and rolled our own luggage off.  We met at the appointed location and they started disembarkation at 7:30 am.  It was an easy walk to the terminal where we walked right to an open Customs and Immigration officer.  By 7:40 am we were outside and headed home.
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Have to point out on this foggy day on the Texas coast (it's that time of year). Liberty of the Seas and Carnival Magic arrived on time this morning, did their turnaround, and have now sailed and are in the Gulf of Mexico headed to the Caribbean.

 

Meanwhile, it's after 5 pm local time and Caribbean Princess was due in Port of Houston early this morning. Due to the fog she has been, and remains, anchored offshore waiting for the chance to make the 30 mile run up to Houston.

 

Wondering whether to sail from Houston or Galveston? I've seen this repeated many times and the Galveston ships come and go on time while the Houston ships see delay after delay.

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This is a really useful thread, and original post, thank you! We're from the UK and normally sail out of Fort Lauderdale when doing Caribbean itineraries, so our Jan 3rd cruise on Liberty will be our first from Galveston. We were worried about customs lines when getting off (had this problem before in LA) so definitely planning to self disembark - can anyone advise the latest we should aim to get off, to guarantee not getting stuck too hideously? Thank you.

 

On a separate note, we have two nights beforehand in Galveston and we're thinking of hiring a car from IAH. It's almost cheaper than a shuttle, even if we leave it at the hotel while on the cruise - and gives us more flexibility beforehand and on the last day! Has anyone done this? We're staying at the Galvez, so a bit further from the port as well, so could be useful there too in terms of getting about.

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I'm also on the January 3rd sailing and have rented a car for the same reason. It's roughly the same price as paying for transfers. In addition, it gives you the flexibility that you mentioned.

Definitely seems to be the way to go - though I wouldn't have thought of it I don't think unless I'd seen someone else suggest it on another forum!

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Definitely seems to be the way to go - though I wouldn't have thought of it I don't think unless I'd seen someone else suggest it on another forum!

I agree. It seems odd to pay for a car that's going to be parked for a week. But private transfers would have cost us about $240 round trip and we also needed a car for our two days precruise. Thus, it's a little bit more, but worth it for ft he flexibility.

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This is a really useful thread, and original post, thank you! We're from the UK and normally sail out of Fort Lauderdale when doing Caribbean itineraries, so our Jan 3rd cruise on Liberty will be our first from Galveston. We were worried about customs lines when getting off (had this problem before in LA) so definitely planning to self disembark - can anyone advise the latest we should aim to get off, to guarantee not getting stuck too hideously? Thank you.

 

On a separate note, we have two nights beforehand in Galveston and we're thinking of hiring a car from IAH. It's almost cheaper than a shuttle, even if we leave it at the hotel while on the cruise - and gives us more flexibility beforehand and on the last day! Has anyone done this? We're staying at the Galvez, so a bit further from the port as well, so could be useful there too in terms of getting about.

Welcome to the message boards, and an early welcome to Galveston! When we did the self-assist disembarkation on Liberty in Galveston, they asked you to go to Guest Services on the day before disembarkation day. We told them we wanted to do self-assist and they gave us a choice of a 7:30 am departure or 8:00 am departure. We said 7:30 and they gave us each a card with that time on it. they now just provide self-assist as an option in the departure handout sheet on the last night of the cruise.  No need to sign up, you just go to the specific meeting place noted in the handout.  We went to the departure area at 7:00 or 7:30 am and we were among the first to depart. Obviously the earlier you arrive at the gathering point the better.

 

I think you will enjoy the Galvez. It is a wonderful historic hotel. I have not seen the guest rooms, but five U.S. Presidents have stayed there along with many celebrities who performed in Galveston before Las Vegas became the gambling/entertainment capital and took that title from Galveston. Be sure to check out the mini-museum in the basement. They also have a wonderful spa and amazing views of the Gulf.

 

The Galvez has a courtesy shuttle bus that will take you to their other properties (the historic Tremont House Hotel for example) and to the Strand with its shopping and restaurants.

Edited by Steve
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Thanks Steve, all very useful info :-) I know last time we disembarked from a US cruise ship that had been out of the US and back again we had to wait ages to go through customs, so we're trying to avoid that as well. So we're really trying to decide between a) hire car, get off very early and make the most of our last day or b) book shuttle, get off as late as possible (as we don't need to be at IAH until 1pm) and avoid the lines that way!

 

Can anyone give me any info/opinion on Island Breezes shuttles? Someone on another forum recommended them and they are definitely coming in cheaper than everyone else.

 

Thanks for the info on the Galvez, we really were undecided about whether we should be nearer to The Strand, but knowing there is a shuttle helps also!

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07/2001 - RCCL Sovereign

02/2004 - RCCL Rhapsody

02/2006 - RCCL Splendour

04/2006 - RCCL Majesty

05/2006 - RCCL Majesty

05/2007 - RCCL Majesty

07/2007 - RCCL Rhapsody

12/2007 - RCCL Majesty

01/2008 - RCCL Serenade

04/2008 - RCCL Voyager

07/2008 - RCCL Sovereign

09/2008 - RCCL Radiance

12/2008 - RCCL Monarch

03/2009 - RCCL Voyager

05/2009 - RCCL Majesty

05/2009 - RCCL Enchantment

01/2010 - RCCL Freedom

02/2011 - RCCL Navigator

01/2012 - RCCL Mariner

04/2012 - RCCL Freedom

12/2012 - RCCL Mariner

01/2013 - RCCL Freedom

05/2013 - RCCL Jewell

07/2013 - RCCL Majesty

09/2013 - RCCL Freedom

10/2014 - RCCL Freedom

02/2015 - RCCL Navigator

05/2015 - RCCL Freedom

09/2015 - RCCL Independence

11/2015 - RCCL Liberty

 

Wow!  I'm in awe!

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Can anyone give me any info/opinion on Island Breezes shuttles? Someone on another forum recommended them and they are definitely coming in cheaper than everyone else.

Sorry, but I have not used any of the shuttles. We know the family that owns and operates Galveston Limousine from our church, but have not used any of the Galveston shuttles.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks loads for the addition of the dining recommendations and for letting me know they were there! Have printed these out for review and saved them to my iPhone with links ;-) On a separate note, for anyone who is asking about transfers, we actually ended up hiring a car from IAH, as we have two nights before the cruise and most of a day after. It was only a little more expensive than the transfers - unless we went for pre-set times which wouldn't have worked for us anyway, so it seemed like the best option, to give us maximum flexibility. We're staying at the Galvez, so have parking booked there, and their shuttle will take us to the cruise port and back. So, given we have a car,and will be out and about in the Strand area mostly on the two evenings I imagine, what should we plan to do with our one full day in Galveston, so we see the most of it?! All suggestions welcome - we're more outdoors and photography people than museum people, but other than that, open to any ideas. Thank you :-)

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... So, given we have a car,and will be out and about in the Strand area mostly on the two evenings I imagine, what should we plan to do with our one full day in Galveston, so we see the most of it?! All suggestions welcome - we're more outdoors and photography people than museum people, but other than that, open to any ideas. Thank you :-)

Depending on what you like to do outdoors, we can provide some suggestions. If any of these sound interesting we can provide some website links and other info. So the question is, what do you like to do outdoors and which of these might sound interesting?

 

1. Galveston Bay is an important bird estuary and many people come here to bird watch and to photograph birds and the coastal landscape.

2. There is a free vehicle ferry from Galveston Island to Bolivar peninsula. Take your car, enjoy seeing dolphins and the ship traffic on the Houston Ship Channel. Drive the Bolivar Peninsula, a much less populated area with nice coastal scenery.

3. Take an air boat ride and explore the backwaters of Galveston Bay, look for alligators and other wildlife.

4. Take a kayak tour.

5. Take a Harbor Boat Tour and see the sunken ship, dolphins, and the working Port of Galveston.

6. Galveston contains one of the largest and historically significant collections of 19th-century buildings in the United States. Explore the many examples of Victorian Architecture and photograph the Strand area, residential areas, Bishop's Palace, the Bryan Museum.

7. Galveston Island State Park offers hiking trails for seeing birds, wildlife, and nice scenery. They also have an evening "Heavenly Night Walk", a guided walk to learn about the stars from the park ranger (January 1)

8. Deep Sea fishing charter boats

9. Segway tour of Galveston

10. Find the tree sculptures of trees that were destroyed during Hurricane Ike and the remains were carved into beautiful figures

11. Take a ride on a helicopter and see the island from the air

12. Take a flight on a World War II vintage airplane and see Galveston from the air

13. The Railroad museum is obviously a museum, but may be good for photos of vintage rail cars

14. See the fully restored 1877 Tall Ship Elissa (very photogenic)

15. Arrange horseback riding on the beach

16. Walk the Seawall or East Beach and photograph the seawall, the Hotel Galvez, and other beach scenery

17. There are several tour operators, such as a duck boat tour, bus tours, etc.

18. Walk through some of the old cemeteries

19. 5K/10K Run/Walk takes place the morning of January 2 at Galveston Island State Park

20. Rent bicycles and ride along the beach and seawall

21. Spend the afternoon at the Historic Pleasure Pier, a nice amusement park built on a pier over the Gulf of Mexico (great if you have kids or just like to ride amusement rides)

 

Note: the weather here in January can be beautiful, but it can also be cool and possibly rainy. You probably should have an indoor backup plan in case the weather does not cooperate.

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  • 6 months later...

VALET PARKING -- The Port of Galveston now offers valet parking to passengers who are sailing on a 7 day cruise. Valet drop off begins at 9:00AM. Cost is $20.00 a day plus tax. All major credit cards accepted. NO CASH. On line Pre-Pay for valet parking is available.

http://www.portofgalveston.com/91/Cruise-Parking

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  • 2 months later...

Hi -  great info - thank you !!  I just started a thread to see if a 10:15 am flight time out of Hobby was doable after debarking -  looks like it is -  which makes me very happy :)

10:15 seems tight but if you do self-service disembarkation you can be off the ship and in a taxi by 8:00, up to Hobby by 9:00, so yes it should work. Good luck!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Steve thanks for this thread and also for telling me on your Liberty scope today not to go to Bubba Gump. I am waiting to hear back from the others that signed up for the pre cruise dinner about my wanting to change it to the Ocean Grille and Beach Bar. :)

For those that missed the periscope yesterday, my objection to Bubba Gump is the same as my objection to the Landry's Restaurant chain to which it belongs. Those restaurants often have a nice ambiance or theme that draws you in. However, the food and service can be severely lacking.

 

My preference is for highly rated local restaurants where they source fresh, local, seafood and ingredients and provide good service. I have a list of my favorites in the original post in this thread.

 

I'm appreciative of the Landry's corporation for investing in Galveston and reviving the Historic Pleasure Pier area, but I've seen the Sysco institutional food truck make deliveries at Bubba Gump. Even the prestigious Landry's Seafood restaurant on the seawall serves seafood that is shipped in from other states and countries. The good local restaurants source seafood from local fishermen. That makes a big difference to me.

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Hi -  great info - thank you !!  I just started a thread to see if a 10:15 am flight time out of Hobby was doable after debarking -  looks like it is -  which makes me very happy :)

Provided there are no traffic delays on the freeway. Provided your cruise is not delayed for any reason. I would say no to this flight time.

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For those that missed the periscope yesterday, my objection to Bubba Gump is the same as my objection to the Landry's Restaurant chain to which it belongs. Those restaurants often have a nice ambiance or theme that draws you in. However, the food and service can be severely lacking.

My preference is for highly rated local restaurants where they source fresh, local, seafood and ingredients and provide good service. I have a list of my favorites in the original post in this thread.

I'm appreciative of the Landry's corporation for investing in Galveston and reviving the Historic Pleasure Pier area, but I've seen the Sysco institutional food truck make deliveries at Bubba Gump. Even the prestigious Landry's Seafood restaurant on the seawall serves seafood that is shipped in from other states and countries. The good local restaurants source seafood from local fishermen. That makes a big difference to me.

I can certainly understand the opposition and glad I took your suggestion. Everyone likes my new choice of Ocean Grille and Beach Bar. I will definitely scope from there that Saturday evening! :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Provided there are no traffic delays on the freeway. Provided your cruise is not delayed for any reason. I would say no to this flight time.

 

we just got back home yesterday and the flight time was no problem at all -  so glad we did it -  we did self assist off the boat, we were in line at the designated area at 6:30 am and actually the very first in line - we were off the ship at just after 7:30 am and in our awaiting car at 7:43 am -  we arrived at the airport at 8:27 am and had plenty of time :)  love it when a plan comes together

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we just got back home yesterday and the flight time was no problem at all - so glad we did it - we did self assist off the boat, we were in line at the designated area at 6:30 am and actually the very first in line - we were off the ship at just after 7:30 am and in our awaiting car at 7:43 am - we arrived at the airport at 8:27 am and had plenty of time :) love it when a plan comes together

Nice A-Team reference.

 

We did self-assist in January, but watered wire a bit too get through Customs. I think you best us getting to the car by a good hour.

 

Glad to hear it worked out for you.

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OK, so we are arriving at the Galvez on Christmas Day for a 12/26/16 Liberty of the Seas sailing... Their restaurant will be closed on Christmas Day, so we are planning to dine at The Grotto. We may not have a lot of time after driving all day and we may be exhausted... But are there any "don't miss" suggestions for late on Christmas Day?

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OK, so we are arriving at the Galvez on Christmas Day for a 12/26/16 Liberty of the Seas sailing... Their restaurant will be closed on Christmas Day, so we are planning to dine at The Grotto. We may not have a lot of time after driving all day and we may be exhausted... But are there any "don't miss" suggestions for late on Christmas Day?

Since its Christmas Day there won't be much open. If the weather is nice, go for a stroll along the seawall. You might enjoy the history display in the basement of the Galvez. It only takes a few minutes but is interesting and tells about some of the famous people who have stayed there and the ties to the entertainment, organized crime, and political figures of the last century.

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Since its Christmas Day there won't be much open. If the weather is nice, go for a stroll along the seawall. You might enjoy the history display in the basement of the Galvez. It only takes a few minutes but is interesting and tells about some of the famous people who have stayed there and the ties to the entertainment, organized crime, and political figures of the last century.

Sounds about right. That may be all the time we'll have. Good thoughts.

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I was checking hotel rates for a future cruise on the Liberty and keep running into road blocks.  I was interested in staying in the Harbor House, Tremont House, Hotel Galvez, or San Luis Resort for a night pre-cruise.  I prefer to stay in a nicer hotel and I am willing to pay for it, but the only way I can get the websites to give me a rate quote is to stay 2 nights. I cant find a 2 night policy listed on the website anywhere.  I don't want to pay $900 when I really only want 1 night for $300-400.

 

Steve, do you have any further knowledge of hotel policies or another suggestion similar to these hotels?  Thanks

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I was checking hotel rates for a future cruise on the Liberty and keep running into road blocks. I was interested in staying in the Harbor House, Tremont House, Hotel Galvez, or San Luis Resort for a night pre-cruise. I prefer to stay in a nicer hotel and I am willing to pay for it, but the only way I can get the websites to give me a rate quote is to stay 2 nights. I cant find a 2 night policy listed on the website anywhere. I don't want to pay $900 when I really only want 1 night for $300-400.

 

Steve, do you have any further knowledge of hotel policies or another suggestion similar to these hotels? Thanks

It may be a special event weekend, such as the Lone Star Biker Rally, Mardi Gras, or a holiday weekend. That would trigger a minimum number of nights. Galveston.com has a calendar of events that would give you a clue on special events.

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