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I've had the opportunity to travel to many parts of the world, but going on a cruise is one of my favorite ways to travel. My wife and I had been on a cruise together solo, but we hadn't yet taken a family cruise. In December of 2016, we decided to book our first family cruise vacation and take our two children with us.
We booked a 4-night Carnival cruise aboard the Carnival Liberty ship. This cruise left out of Port Canaveral, FL and sailed to Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas before returning back to Port Canaveral. We liked that it was a relatively short cruise since it was our youngest son's (7) first time on a cruise ship.
This post is a thorough and honest review of our experience as a family on this vacation, and while I still firmly believe cruising is one of the best, most economical family travel options, this particular cruise left something to be desired.
Carnival Liberty Cruise Review Contents
This is a pretty thorough review, so we've created a topic menu if you want to skip to a specific section of the review. Here's what this review of our Carnival Liberty Cruise out of Port Canaveral, FL will cover.
Carnival Liberty Cruise Itinerary & Map
First, just a little bit more information about where this particular cruise visited. As mentioned, we started out in Port Canaveral, just a 40 minute drive or so from Orlando. We love cruising out of this port. It's so easy to get in and out of for us and definitely beats the 4-hour drive for us to Miami.
The Carnival Liberty itinerary had the ship visiting two ports of call in the Bahamas and then one day at sea before returning to port. Here's the itinerary and map:
- Sunday - Leave Port Canaveral
- Monday - Freeport, Bahamas
- Tuesday - Nassau, Bahamas
- Wednesday - Day at Sea
- Thursday - Return to Port
Carnival Liberty Review - The Ship
The ship you're on is a very important part of the overall experience you'll have on your family vacation. When we originally booked the trip, the ship assigned to the sailing was actually the Carnival Valor. We received an email before we departed that the ship had been changed to the Liberty. Here's the email we received:
November 11, 2016
Dear Carnival Valor Guest,
We know you must be looking forward to your vacation, so we'd like to inform you of an important change to your cruise.
Carnival Valor will be changing her homeport to Galveston, Texas next month. This change is being made since Carnival Valor is better suited to operate at the higher speeds required for the four and five-day Mexico itineraries from Galveston.
Not to worry, Carnival Liberty will be sailing year round from Port Canaveral beginning December 15, 2016 and will take over scheduled itineraries given that she is well equipped to handle our short duration cruises from Central Florida. Prior to repositioning to Port Canaveral, Carnival Liberty will have just completed a dry dock and will be refreshed for our guests.
Built only one year apart, Carnival Liberty is a sister ship to Carnival Valor and has similar accommodations, public venues and Fun Ship 2.0 features including Guy's Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina, the RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar.
As a result of this repositioning, your reservation will be moved to a comparable stateroom aboard the beautiful Carnival Liberty. Your departure date and scheduled itinerary will remain the same.
Sit back and relax...we'll be doing all the work. Affected sailings are now temporarily closed in the system as our team prepares to make the necessary changes. This means that you, nor our contact center, will be able to make modifications to your reservation until it has been moved over to Carnival Liberty.
We will do everything possible to match your current accommodations. Fly2Fun flights, transfers and other vacation components such as dining, pre-paid gratuities, shore excursions, Fun Shop items and Spa reservations will be maintained on your booking.
We anticipate our work will be completed by the end of November. A confirmation with your stateroom assignment will be sent to you as soon as we have finished.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your understanding.
We're looking forward to welcoming you aboard the beautiful Carnival Liberty for a FUN and memorable cruise!
Sr. Director, Guest Services - Contact Centers
I had traveled on two other Carnival cruises in the past (2005 and 2007), but wasn't all that familiar with the ships. Given the Valor and Liberty were in the same class, I didn't expect many differences. Here's a quick comparison (data via Wikipedia):
The stat that stands out in the ship-to-ship comparison is the renovation date difference. The Valor had undergone a refurbishment in May of 2016, while the Liberty's last overhaul was back in 2011.
After spending a few days on the ship, this became somewhat apparent to me. The ship was dirty in many places. While out on the deck during the departure, I'm pretty sure I saw a spot on the side of the ship where someone on the previous sailing had a bit of an accident and vomited over the side. Pretty gross and not the best first impression once again.
Year Built: 2004
Renovated: May, 2016
Year Built: 2005
The ship was in need of a paint job, showing some of its age in places. It could also use a thorough cleaning. One of the most obvious areas were the windows along deck 9 - Lido. All of the windows on the deck were extremely dirty - so much so that taking any photos through the window was impossible.
Overall, I wouldn't say the ship was in "disrepair", but it definitely could have been in better condition and been more clean.
Christmas Cruise Decorations & Activities
One of my family and my favorite aspects of the ship was that we were cruising during the holidays and that meant holiday-themed decorations and activities.
The holiday (Christmas) decorations weren't extensive, but they were noticeable - mostly in the main lobby and atrium on decks 3, 4 and 5. The decorations really added a nice touch to the ship.
In addition to a few seasonal decorations, the ship also had a number of special activities including a Dr. Seuss breakfast, holiday crafts and a "snow fall" event in the main atrium where snow (bubbles) fell from above. We all really appreciated this part of the cruise and can't wait to go on another this time of year.
Carnival Liberty - Bahamas Itinerary & Ports
The ports and itinerary were one of my least favorite part of the cruise. Granted, I know that the Bahamas were hit by Hurricane Matthew not that long ago. I'm definitely trying to take that into consideration.
Click any tab below to learn more about that day's port or itinerary.
The condition of the ports wasn't really my issue. Especially in Freeport, there's very little to do in the way of activities. Yes, you can do shore excursions that offer some entertainment value. There's also a small market where the cruises dock, but like many other ports, the items sold are of questionable quality and the high-pressure sales tactics of the merchants are enough to justify most families just staying on the ship.
Carnival Liberty's Cruise Ship Staff Review
The staff and crew of the Carnival Liberty was the best part of the cruise, in my opinion. It's easy to forget how hard the staff of a cruise ship work while you're on vacation. They're on the ship for up to 6 months at a time, away from their families and sometimes working 16+ hour days.
The entire staff of the Liberty treated us like we were "part of the Carnival family". Our cabin steward knew our first names and did a great job of picking up after two boys (no small task). Our main dining room server (pictured above) was the best crew member we encountered on the sailing. She really took to our youngest son, and he to her. She even signed his cast! She was great the entire time and we'd go again just to see her.
Carnival Liberty's Food Review
While the service was very good, the food on the Carnival Liberty wasn't nearly as impressive. Cruise brands have somewhat of a reputation in the market, and that reputation held true on our cruise. Carnival isn't known for its food. It's generally more of a party boat with less emphasis on culinary quality and that was definitely the case with our experience on the Carnival Liberty.
Click any tab below to learn more about a particular dining experience.
The Lido Restaurant buffet available on the Carnival Liberty during our sailing was pretty good. Not great, but good.
My primary complaint actually relates to our ship's departure. We were told the ship arrived late from its previous sailing, so we boarded late. Well, they started the first buffet at the original scheduled time, which meant that we had (a lot) less time to eat because we weren't on board until around 4pm. It was a relatively minor inconvenience, but one that made for a bad first impression.
Carnival Liberty Bahamas Cruise - December, 2016
- Love sailing from Port Canaveral
- Lots of stuff for kids to do on board
- Relatively inexpensive and a good value
- Ship needs some attention to detail
- Not impressed with the Bahamas ports of call
- Rocky day at sea made us ill
- Mediocre food quality below other cruise lines
- Pool water was very cold and unheated