Liberty of the Seas

We travelled from Manchester, UK to Barcelona on 12th May and stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Express Barcelona City-22@. Good basic hotel with free continental breakfast. Wi-Fi €12 for 24 hours.

Closest Metro station is Llacuna with a regular service to the city centre. A ‘T10’ metro ticket providing 10 single journeys that can be shared between you and only costs €9.25. We headed into the centre for dinner at the Hard Rock Café which is our tradition when in Barcelona. We had to wait 45 minutes for a pager as it was so busy being the Grand Prix weekend.

Sunday, 13th May – Barcelona, Spain

Caught a taxi from the hotel to the port ‘Moll D’Adossat’ at around 10:30, cost approximately €20 as the Barcelona taxis have a fixed charge, cost per KM and then extras for baggage etc. Arrived at Terminal C as Terminal B (which we have always used previously) was occupied by Mariner of the Seas and the first RCI ship we sailed on in 2004 and this is the first time we’ve seen her since! We dropped our bags outside and stood in line, which moved quickly into the terminal for the security scan, before which, staff checked our documents, and then we proceeded to the check-in areas. We passed a few shops, including a duty-free liquor store before check-in.

We used the Platinum, Emerald, Diamond, Diamond Plus, Pinnacle & Suite Guests check-in line and it was completed in minutes after completing a health questionnaire to make sure we weren’t suffering from any illnesses. One issue here is that although I had completed the SetSail Pass to indicate that I did not want RCI to convert the onboard charges into the currency of my credit card (using in my opinion, an exchange rate that favours them and not me). I found out later that they set my account up so that they did convert my charges. So watch out folks and ensure the check-in agent sets up your account as you request, because once on board they say it is too late to change it.

Passed by a stand selling the soda packages and up the escalators (deftly avoiding the ‘Welcome Aboard’ photo opportunity) and proceeded along the covered walkway onto the ship on deck 4. Estimate the whole process took less than 20 minutes! Before actually entering the ship, our dining arrangements were checked and we were asked to confirm our MTD reservations. We were recognised from our TA by the lady checking the bookings.

We made our way to the Windjammer for some lunch and found a table very easily, but then again it was only around 11:30! Staterooms were available as usual at 1 pm. After lunch, I ordered a 5 bottle Platinum ‘Wine & Dine’ package. Total cost $178.35. ($145 + $11.60 Spanish VAT + $21.75 15% gratuity). After lunch, we relaxed in the Diamond Lounge on deck 14 whilst waiting for the staterooms to be available.

At 1 pm we went to our stateroom on deck 8, number 8338, a centre hump, starboard side category E2 cabin. 8338 is a standard E2 cabin, with plenty of storage, and was very clean. Our C&A booklets were already there, no request to sign for them this sailing. A new plastic sign advising that ice is on request from your stateroom attendant. Also, a letter from the Diamond Concierge had been delivered advising of the concierge services for Diamond members together with the cocktail hours. 2 robes were already hanging in the closet and very shortly Richard, our stateroom attendant called to introduce himself and deliver our pre-booked shore excursion tickets for Pisa/Florence. A bar of soap was provided in the bathroom standard shower gel/shampoo. The next day we did receive more toiletries, comprising of 2 Gilchrist & Soames body lotions, Inspired by Nature shampoo and lotion. This was new.

My pre-ordered drinks and strawberries for sail away had already been delivered. We went to meet people from our Cruise Critic roll call and had a drink in the Olive or Twist lounge in the Viking Crown on deck 14. Jack Daniels & Coke ($5.75 + 15% gratuity + 8% Spanish VAT), Bombay Sapphire & tonic ($6.00 + 15% gratuity + 8% Spanish VAT), total for the 2 $14.45. Then as all venues closed at 4:15 pm in preparation for muster drill, we made our way down to our muster station B19 on deck 4, starboard. No lifejackets required, just your SeaPass card in hand for scanning by the staff. It still amazes me, especially in light of the recent Costa tragedy, that people treat muster drill with such indifference. Needless to say at 4:45 pm, people were still wandering up to join the drill, smiling without a care in the world, carrying drinks, nor any thought of their fellow passengers, some of whom had been there for more than 20 minutes and not necessarily able to stand for such a length of time. RCI need to penalise passengers for being late in my humble opinion.

We visited the Diamond Lounge for pre-dinner cocktails, held each night from 5 pm – 8:30 pm on deck 14, so nice sea views, especially as sunset wasn’t until around 9 pm. Fairly quiet most nights but we were well looked after by the staff and Nicola who always made time to chat. Plenty of hot and cold hors-d’oeuvres were provided.

We had pre-booked 8:30 pm for My Time Dining. This was on deck 5 in the Botticelli dining room. Got a table for 2 as requested which was on the balcony area of the dining room overlooking decks 3 & 4. Food was good, and the waiter and assistant waiter excellent. After dinner, we went to visit a bartender who we met on the TA last October and who was now working in the Schooner Bar. Great to see her, shame about the entertainment. Not to our tastes unfortunately and I found him quite sexist towards the ladies in the audience.

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Jelena

Then onto Vintages, which used to be our favourite venue on Freedom class ships, but sadly no more. The service on our past 2 sailings has been appalling and yet again we were left sat there for over 10 minutes, with staff even passing by, ignoring us. Therefore, I made a formal complaint at Guest Relations immediately and we spent our money in the Olive or Twist. More on that later.

Monday, 14th May – Cannes, France

Arrived in Cannes early morning and watched the pontoons being put in place for the tender operation. We ate a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer (well as leisurely as it can be in that venue!), no complaints, but did notice less beverage service at the tables. We took our time and didn’t leave the ship until around 10:15 am and only had a very short wait for our tender ashore.

We walked up to the old town where we enjoyed great views over the ‘new’ town. We could see that preparations for the 65th Cannes Film Festival were in full flow. We wandered back down into town and made our way towards the Promenade de la Croisette passing the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès on our way towards the world famous Carlton Hotel. We travelled back towards to the port down the main shopping street, Rue d’Antibes and stopped for a drink at McDonald’s to make use of the free Wi-Fi, as was everyone else in Cannes I think! We caught a tender back to the ship, which was eventful, as a breeze had picked up causing the pontoons to move up and down, making it tricky for the tender to dock and for people to get off. We were allowed off about 6 at a time. Needless to say, we were on our balcony on deck 8 before everyone was off our tender!

Had lunch at Johnny Rockets on deck 12 when it eventually opened at 2 pm. Good as usual, and we used our 2 for 1 milkshake coupons, even managing dessert! No dancing outside, but inside using tracks from Saturday Night Fever. The Apple Pie is the best! On return to our cabin, we found a bottle of Chardonnay on ice together with chocolate covered strawberries accompanied by a note of apology from the bar team as a result of our experience in Vintages the previous evening. We also checked out the yachts of the rich and famous anchored in the harbour for the film festival, one of which looked like it would be more at home in a James Bond movie. This is the ‘A’ which cost a reputedly $300 million and owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko and designed by Philippe Starck.

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Later complimentary petit fours were delivered to the cabin, I presume for Diamond members and up (no reason provided) on formal night. Dined at in Botticelli again at 8:30 pm, Excellent, ate too much as usual. We ordered room service breakfast for the next day using the TV as we had to meet in the Platinum Theatre at 8:15 am for our day-long excursion to Pisa and Florence. Selected the 7:00 – 7:30 am slot.

Tuesday, 15th May – Livorno, Italy

Our breakfast arrived with no forewarning at 6:45 am (room service normally telephone to say it’s on its way and that’s my alarm call!). We were in port again with Mariner of the Seas today and so there weren’t too many passengers in port. After collecting our stickers in the Platinum Theatre, we were in group 13 and we left the ship to board our bus which left around 8:30 am.

Pisa. We visited Pisa first and once the bus had parked out of town as all buses must do, we walked into Pisa and were shown our meeting point and used our voucher provided on the bus for a free bottle of water. We wandered around the Field of Miracles taking numerous photos and then back to the meeting point where we had free use of the bathrooms and then back to the bus on foot for our drive to Florence where we arrived at around midday. Again we had to park out of town and walk into Piazza Santa Croce where we were shown our designated meeting point for later in the afternoon.

So we enjoyed lunch and the sites of Florence, which is amazing including the famous statue of David, Ponte Vecchio and Duomo amongst others. Once we all met up again we walked back to the bus for our return trip to the ship where we arrived at around 5:45 pm. Back on board we relaxed and made ready for dinner at Chops, which although good, it appeared the service was a little rushed, but that’s our opinion. There were a lot of large tables and it was good to see that people wearing shorts were not allowed in the venue. But when did Smart Casual comprise of a pair of Dockers and a nylon Adidas sports shirt? However, the Red Velvet Cake was still good followed by coffee and a good brandy!

Wednesday, 16th May – Civitavecchia, Italy

Docked in port today together with Mariner of the Seas, Sea Cloud II, Pullmantur Sovereign, Aida Bella and the huge Norwegian Epic, so around 15,000 passengers, most of who would be heading off early for a long day in Rome. So, we took breakfast in the Rembrandt dining room on deck 3. Got a table for 2 and the service was excellent, really enjoyed it. Caught a free shuttle bus to the port entrance and went for a walk around town mainly looking for free Wi-Fi and found the best at Subway, McDonald’s do offer it, but only to people who have an Italian SIM in their cell phone.

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Then back to the ship and went to the Windjammer for lunch which was fairly quiet as most people must have been in Rome! Just relaxed for the rest of the day and by the time we set sail we reckoned it could be a little rough as the wind had picked up and the sea was churning in the harbour. As it happened, it was a very smooth departure from Civitavecchia and we then looked forward to our final day of the cruise, which would be at sea, but tonight was the White Pool Party and it was too windy to enjoy it out on deck, unfortunately. Norwegian Epic followed us out and allowed us to get some good shots of her. Not the prettiest ship but that’s just my opinion!

The captain also made an announcement at around 7 pm that whales were off the starboard side. I couldn’t see any but when we went to the Diamond Lounge one was right at the side of the ship!

Thursday, 17th May – At Sea

Again we took breakfast in the MDR and although it was a sea day, the service was still good despite it being a little busier. We spent a couple of hours on the secluded St Tropez deck, deck 13, and then wandered around the shops and used our 3 free ‘Spin to Win’ tokens in the casino and won 2 keychains! Enjoyed lunch in the Windjammer, before the ice show ‘Encore’ at 2 pm which was excellent. Later we packed our bags and went for cocktails a little earlier than usual as we also had reservations for the production show ‘In the Air’ at 7:30 pm which was fantastic.

Following the show, we had dinner booked in Portofino at 8:30 pm. This used to be a favourite, but the Caesar Salad had to go back as it was obviously not fresh. Dinner we would only rate it as OK, unfortunately. After dinner we had a drink in the Schooner Bar, said goodbye to our favourite bartender, Jelena and met a couple of our fellow Cruise Critics and had a final drink in Olive or Twist.

Friday, 18th May – Barcelona, Spain

We docked in Barcelona in the early morning and although as Diamond Members we had been given one of the first coloured tags for early disembarkation, we stayed onboard and had breakfast in the Windjammer as we were taking our own luggage off. We could have waited in the Mozart dining room reserved for Diamond members, but we stayed in the cabin until about 8:30 am. We left the ship around 8:45 am, no real lines for exiting the ship, strolled through the terminal and out to get a taxi to the airport.

Highlights

  • Liberty the Seas is a great ship and in good condition.
  • Unobtrusive stateroom attendant, but thorough and the cabin was spotless.
  • Good food in the MDR.
  • A large variety of food available in the Windjammer.
  • Strong alcoholic drinks (still into Lava Flows!)
  • Attentive staff
  • Great service in most venues
  • Very easy to check in and board and also when disembarking.
  • Great snacks at the Café Promenade (Brownies to die for!).
  • ‘Encore’ Ice Spectacular
  • ‘In the Air’ production show

Lowlights

  • Service in Vintages, poor and hasn’t improved.
  • Poor quality of the free coffee, especially in Café Promenade
  • Speciality coffees of poor quality for the price paid and it would seem RCI are scared of serving a ‘hot’ coffee anymore, all are lukewarm at best.
  • Check-in staff not setting up the SeaPass account properly
  • Wi-Fi service, worse than before
  • No offer of Wash n Fold service
  • Inconsiderate people delaying muster drill (not an RCI issue, but one they need to manage better)
  • Staff asking that you complete a comment card stating service was ‘excellent’
  • No confirmation of pre-booked speciality restaurants
  • Mistakes in the Cruise Compass. E.g. in the Day 4 compass the front page had details of how to do self-carry off the next day. We were at sea the next day!
  • Telephone contact numbers incorrect.
  • Disappointing service and quality in Portofino.

 

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Peter Horton

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