Our cruise was on Carnival Liberty out of Miami, FL on the April 5th – 12th sailing and it was to the Western Caribbean with an itinerary of Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras; and Georgetown, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. The last time we did a Western Caribbean cruise, we sailed on Carnival Miracle out of Tampa, FL, which was in March, 2006. The only difference in the itinerary is that Roatan would be new for us because we went to Costa Maya, Mexico on the Miracle cruise. At the time of our cruise, we had no idea that it would be one of Liberty’s last sailings from Miami before being moved to Port Canaveral, FL.
I’ve been on the fence debating whether I should do another review or not and with some friendly encouragement from a couple of others, I decided to go ahead and share our latest cruising experience on Carnival Liberty. I finally took a crack at a review (my first) a couple of months after our cruise on Carnival Valor out of San Juan, Puerto Rico to the Southern Caribbean last year. I will admit, I had been a lurker, but would at least answer questions (mainly on the Port of Call section) that I felt I could answer, but had never written a review. I knew it would be very time consuming and just didn’t know if I wanted to commit to it. I’ve read and enjoyed many reviews and got a lot of great tips and ideas from reading them and I appreciate all of the time and effort that goes into them. I will also admit that there are so many great reviews that I was a little intimidated. I finally decided to go ahead and do that review (Valor – Southern Caribbean out of San Juan) because it was a port heavy itinerary and there is so much to see and do on each of the islands. I’ve never seen any two reviews of that itinerary that are the same and I read many that I really enjoyed. I thought by doing one myself that it could help others in planning for or considering an upcoming cruise on Carnival Valor, just as the Victory and Valor reviews I read before our cruise helped me. There are several ports of call that were new to us and I knew they would be new to others as well. Several years prior to our Valor cruise, I feel in love with the scenery after reading one review from a Carnival Victory sailing from February 2011 (Dirkgun’s “My 2011 Superbowl Victory review), and I was sold on the itinerary and knew that would be our next cruise. Well, that cruise has been planned, booked, sailed, returned, and review finally done.
That brings us to this year. We normally have a family vacation to South Carolina or a beach vacation, usually North Carolina’s Outer Banks, with friends. Last year my family had other plans and our friends were going on a cruise…with a competitor! I just can’t believe they abandoned Carnival like that!!! In January we were waiting to hear from my family about whether the annual beach trip was back on again this year or not. Not. They are thinking of doing something else. OK??? We already knew our friends that we go to the Outer Banks with (yes, the ones who cruised with a competitor) will be going to Hawaii this year. Definitely jealous here, but they are great friends and I really do hope they have a wonderful time. I plan to get to Hawaii one of these days. That left our vacation plans open for this year. We were thinking about going to the Outer Banks this summer, but I don’t have to tell anyone about the long, crazy, freezing, repeatedly dumped on by snow…winter from “you know where”…that we had on most of the Eastern half of the USA. My DH and I are both from Western Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh area to be specific (yes, we’re “Yinzers” and proud of it) and this winter reminded me of a winter typical of Western PA. But we’re in Virginia now, supposedly the south, but it sure didn’t feel like it. Before I get “flamed”, I know those of you in areas farther north and in the upper mid-west had it worse, much worse, and I sure hope you are all thawing out by now in the warmth of spring. Back to planning our vacation. Our area will usually start showing some signs of spring in late February but not this year. Winter was never ending and enough was enough….I could not wait until summer. We needed sun, warmth, beach…but I could not wait until summer. DH let the “C” word slip from his mouth. “Hon, did you just say…..cruise”? Could a cruise be possible??? We splurged last year for our Valor cruise (with no regrets of course) and let’s just say that the current economic situation has not worked in our favor, so we’re definitely on a budget this year. But a cruise? That would get us somewhere with guaranteed warmth in early May. It was late February so we decided to check our options. We’ve noticed cabin prices drop about a month before cruises in the past, at least this has been the experience from our 2010 Glory cruise and last year’s Valor cruise). DH’s theory is this: travel agencies buy up blocks of cruise ship cabins but then release back to the cruise line what they aren’t able to book themselves, which happens to be his same theory on concert tickets sales. We started checking into prices, but a balcony was a must. Once you’ve had a balcony, you never go back. OK, I was willing to settle for ocean view but DH wanted balcony. We also wanted to cruise March – May, so we looked to see what was available and what the cost would be. The cruises with the best prices were in April. We went on a Western Caribbean cruise on Carnival Miracle in March of 2006 and had beautiful, sunny, hot weather the whole time, so April will work. There were about 10 cruises we were looking at, including Carnival Valor out of San Juan again, but the airfare prices ruled that out AND DH also wanted to do a Western Caribbean since it’s been a while and we did the Southern last year and the Eastern Caribbean on Carnival Glory in 2010. We were also looking at the Carnival Dream repositioning cruise and seriously considered that one but it was nine days, throw in airfare and the fact that it left from Port Canaveral and ended up in New Orleans. New Orleans!!! We’ve been to New Orleans and LOVE New Orleans. I was ready to jump for that one but if we did that, we’d be adding on a few more days plus the cost of a hotel room. Not an option this year. Getting off the ship in New Orleans and heading straight to the airport would be too depressing. We will eventually get back to New Orleans, just not this trip. We also considered Carnival Pride out of Baltimore since we could drive but considering the time of year and the fact we needed a quick escape to warm weather, we ruled that one out since it would be quite chilly sailing out of the Chesapeake Bay and back in April or May. It also only had three ports of call and I prefer at least four since we need to consider the possibility that at least one or more port(s) could be missed due to weather conditions. That left a couple of Liberty, Glory and one Conquest cruise out of Miami. We ruled Legend out of Tampa early on since airfare to Tampa was more than the airfare to San Juan, PR, and it was even more than the price of the cabin!!! We’d love to go on Legend, it’s a Spirit class ship like Miracle and I’ve always loved the layout of Miracle. By comparing airfare and also looking for one way flights (no flying down the day before the cruise this time…that budget issue), the decision was finally made...Carnival Liberty out of Miami on the April 5, 2014 sailing. Once we got that figured out, we booked the cruise and the airfare right after.
When I got on Carnival’s website for the VIPF Club to “Manage My Cruise”, Carnival already had it in there and I noticed the number of days left till cruising…39. We’ve booked cruises three months out in the past, but never with just over a month until sail date. We had a lot of planning to do and thank you to everyone on Cruise Critic, whether its reviews or information provided in the “Ports of Call” section, because we had a lot of planning to do and Cruise Critic, to me, is the best resource when planning a cruise. We finally decided what we’d like to do in each port, made those arrangements and reservations then the rest was getting ready, but we didn’t want to start packing too soon. Finally with all planning finalized and excursions booked, it was time to start packing. In the meantime, we had to shovel snow several more times. Each time we just kept thinking that soon, very soon, we’d be in warmer weather on a cruise. We even had snow flurries the Sunday before we left. At this point, I was really starting to worry about our decision to fly down the day of the cruise. Again, being on a budget, we didn’t want to have to pay for an extra night in a hotel and I let DH make that decision. All kinds of things can happen with flights and weather…even though we booked a direct flight from Washington Dulles International to Miami International. He insisted it would be fine so I told him if we didn’t get down there on time, he’d be paying….for a long time!!! Fortunately the week before we went we finally started getting hints of spring...warmer weather, snow piles where we shoveled disappearing more and more each day, and FINALLY…the sound of peeper frogs. I just love that sound, but this is about cruising and not peeper frogs.
Packing was an issue since we hadn’t pulled our summer clothes out, but we got cracking on that. I’m also one of those who is always on the verge of having an “overweight” check-in bag and I wanted to avoid the extra fees (or fines) that come with that. I ended up packing most of the clothes and necessities I’d be needing in my carry-on to avoid overweight luggage and as a “just in case” my check-in didn’t make it to Miami with us. I had my snorkeling gear and a few other things that I didn’t consider necessities in the check-in bag, so it was well within the weight limit. I also use my camera bag as my personal item. Since the airlines are charging $25.00 for each check-in bag and cracking down on the size of carry-on bags, we decided to leave the formal clothes at home and skip the formal dinners on this cruise. We had everything packed and ready to go the night before and made sure we went to bed earlier (tried for 10:00PM, but it ended up being 11:30PM) because the next morning we’d be getting up early, as in “crazy dark thirty” (4:30AM) since our flight to Miami was at 9AM. So here begins my review.
CARNIVAL LIBERTY - September 20 - 27, 2015 (Southern Caribbean: San Juan, St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, San Juan); LIBERTY 2015 REVIEW: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2275573
CARNIVAL LIBERTY - April 5 - 12, 2014 (Western Caribbean: Miami, Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, Grand Cayman...missed port, Miami); LIBERTY 2014 REVIEW: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2039919
CARNIVAL VALOR - May 5 - 12, 2013 (Southern Caribbean: San Juan, St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, San Juan); VALOR 2013 REVIEW: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1917645
CARNIVAL GLORY - May 9 - 16, 2010 (Eastern Caribbean: Miami, HMC Bahamas, St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk, Miami)
CARNIVAL MIRACLE - March 12 - 19, 2006 (Western Caribbean: Tampa, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Costa Maya, Tampa)
Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas - January 16 - 23, 2000 (Mexican Riviera: Los Angeles, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Los Angeles)
CARNIVAL FESTIVALE - June 14 - 21, 1992 (Southern Caribbean: San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Dominica, Barbados, Martinique, San Juan)