Larison Family Liberty of the Seas 7 night Western Caribbean Cruise
by Tim Larison, CLIA Certified Master Cruise Counselor (MCC)
with contributions from Travel Agent Anne Larison, Andrew and Josh Larison
The cruisin’ Larison family was off again on another adventure in May 2016 – this time to celebrate the college graduation of our sons Josh and Andrew and my 60th birthday. In this report we’ll give our impressions on what turned out to be a wonderful cruise.
“It’s going to be a brand new Liberty of the Seas,” said captain Rune Johnsen in this video describing the renovations made to the Liberty of the Seas earlier this year:
We were excited to try out the new features on the Liberty – some of which were not on any other Royal Caribbean ship. Anne and I had previously sailed on the Liberty of the Seas when the ship first came out in 2007. While not the biggest of the Royal Caribbean ships (that honor goes to the Oasis class ships – we sailed on the Allure of the Seas in 2015) we found the Liberty of the Seas was plenty big enough for our 7 day Western Caribbean voyage (including 3 “at sea” days)
As mentioned in the above video, with the renovation the Liberty of the Seas added two new speciality restaurants – Sabor (modern Mexican) and Giovanni’s Table (Italian). We tried out each of these restaurants at lunch on two separate “at sea” days. I thought both restaurants were well worth the extra cover charge ($20 per person at lunch as of May 2016).
At Sabor the highlight for me was the guacamole – made fresh right at our table! After a generous portion of chips and guac I still had room for my shrimp entree, cheese quesadillas, beef tacos, and more. To conclude a satisfying meal our waiter brought a tray featuring churros and other tasty desserts. We did not go away hungry at Sabor!
The wait staff at Sabor was very attentive. Meeting our every request and always available for refills and any other request. There were only a few other lunch patrons when we dined so the restaurant atmosphere was peaceful. Since the restaurant is located in a fairly small space, the atmosphere may be different for a crowded dinner.
The food was delicious.
The food was excellent all around; the table side guacamole and the dessert platter were the highlights for me. The wait staff listened to our feedback as to what dish we enjoyed, and brought us even more of it!
The food at Sabor was a great alternative to the other restaurants on the ship, since both the buffet and main dining didn’t have many Mexican food options. I loved the pork carnitas burritos that I had, but the best part of the lunch were the great desserts. The restaurant was also not very crowded for lunch which made for a peaceful meal.
At Giovanni’s Table we had a great view of the ocean from our table. I had dined at Giovanni’s Table on the Oasis of the Seas in Central Park on that ship – I liked this deck 11 location on the Liberty of the Seas better.
Man vs meatball! I quickly devoured this treat, along with a tasty side of pasta. The mega-meatballs are only served at lunch at Giovanni’s. The dinner menu is entirely different if you choose to eat your evening meal here in addition to a lunch.
The desserts at Giovanni’s Table were also delicious. I thought this serving of tiramisu was the best I’ve had anywhere.
Once again this specialty restaurant was not crowded and we enjoyed the beautiful atmosphere as we ate our Italian feast. The wait staff was very helpful in answering our questions about the menu. We had more than enough food and even shared the pasta dishes family style. I would definitely recommend both specialty restaurants.
Our meal at Giovanni’s Table was fantastic, but I’m always partial to any restaurant that makes their pasta fresh every day. After we all ordered similar pastas and entrees, our waiter brought us a few extra sampler pastas to give some variety. The tiramisu was the dessert of the vacation for me.
The portions at Giovanni’s table were pretty huge compared to Sabor, and the food was delicious. The tiramisu was unique since it was served in a glass almost like a milkshake, it was my favorite part of the meal.
For dinner we had the 5:30 pm seating in the Botticelli dining room. We ate here most evenings and found the food and the service to be very good. For breakfasts and most lunches we ate at the Windjammer buffet. I liked the cooked to order egg station at the Windjammer and the good variety of food choices at both breakfast and lunch. We also had a late night snack at the buffet most nights (shortly before the Windjammer closed at 9 pm) – I liked the hand dipped ice cream station here in the evenings. A double patty hamburger and onion rings at Johnny Rockets, with a yummy chocolate shake, was another very satisfying dining experience I had on the Liberty of the Seas.
I enjoyed all our meals in the dining room and at the Windjammer buffet. I did notice that the wait staff was willing to fill special requests. The first night a delicious shrimp cocktail was available and I noticed a family near us ordered shrimp cocktail every night, whether it was on the menu or not. There is a café on the Promenade that has sweet treats and sandwiches available most of the day and night. Even thought I ate well at all our regular meals I did have a few treats from the café on occasion.
Our main dining at 5:30 every night was consistently excellent. Our waiters gave helpful suggestions every night (and also a dirty look if your choice was questionable). They made it a fun experience for the little time we spent with them every day. The buffet food was not as consistent as the dining room, but I still enjoyed it. Sorrentos and the Café Promenade were great options if you needed a snack throughout the day.
The main dining room food was good most nights, and the menu had a good variety of choices. One thing that I noticed was the dinner menu every night had almost exactly the same dishes as when we were on the Allure of the seas. This wasn’t a huge deal since the food was good and there were a lot of options. The buffet food was mostly good, but many of the food options were served every day so there wasn’t too much variety between days. The sushi station was always very popular and I thought it was worth the wait to get it. The two quick food stops on the Promenade were decent, but the food in the buffet was much better.
Royal Caribbean features condensed versions of Broadway shows on many of their ships, and the Liberty of the Seas was no different. The best show we saw in the main theater was Saturday Night Fever. The singing and dancing by the show’s performers were true to this 70’s movie classic.
My favorite show of the week, however, was “Encore, An Ice Spectacular!” I have found the figure skating shows on the Royal Caribbean ships with ice rinks always to be very good. Encore was no exception as the skaters were highly skilled in performing acrobatics on the small ice rink. The “special guest stars” for this show were a Russian couple who performed some amazing juggling tricks on ice.
On other nights the main theatre featured comedians on three nights, and a music act on another night.
As a fan of Disco and 70’s music, I really enjoyed the Saturday Night Fever show. The performers were talented and if you are a fan of the John Travolta movie, the story stayed true to the movie. The ice show was good and I am always amazed that these talented performers do amazing skating tricks (jumping and swinging) on a small ice rink on a moving ship!
The ice show was the best I have seen on Royal Caribbean and they had a good mix of comedians for the nightly shows. There seemed to be a good variety to the evening shows as well.
The headline show Saturday Night Fever was great, I liked it better than Chicago which was shown on our last Royal Caribbean cruise. The acting and singing was great, and the music was done live, which really impressed me. The ice show wasn’t my favorite, it didn’t have much energy until a juggling act with glowing rings, but it got much better after that.
The Liberty of the Seas had a full schedule of activities each day. One we enjoyed was playing mini golf on the top deck. This mini golf course was more elaborate than ones I have seen on other cruise ships, with lots of hazards to navigate around.
The Liberty of the Seas had a bunch of features for fun in the water. Pictured above is a water park for the kids. Young and old alike can enjoy the ship’s new water slides. A pool on the upper deck was a popular place to be on the “at sea” days.
The water slides are great. There are two different slides and there is a timer at the end, so you can race with a friend. Since the smaller children have their own water park with a slide there are not a lot of little children on the bigger slides. Don’t forget the FlowRider, which is a lot of fun for the adventurous.
The water slides were much better than I was expecting. They travel a solid distance and the speeds of the slides were a pleasant surprise. The sports deck was upgraded and had a full size basketball court as well as three rock climbing walls. I thought the rock climbing option on this ship was better than the Allure of the Seas.
The water slides were fun, and most times the wait wasn’t too long so we could go down multiple times.
With all the good food offered on the ship, guests can work off those extra calories on a track that circles the ship on one of the upper decks. We liked taking early morning walks here.
An interior shopping mall (the “grand promenade”) was a fun place to browse (as well as get snacks) on the at sea days. A large casino onboard was open on the sea days as well. We enjoyed playing several games of trivia onboard, especially the 10 am general trivia to get our day started on the days at sea.
One At Sea Day Andrew and I went to a fun passenger event – 60 Seconds or Less Gameshow (think Minute to Win It). There is so much to do around the ship from cards and board games in the Game Room, to exercise in the fitness center and relaxing in the spa. There are classes like scrapbooking, napkin artistry, master mixology and movies on the big outdoor screen above the pool. There is a lot of music and dancing you can find in the many bars on board.
There is something going on at all hours of the day onboard. There are fitness classes, trivia, art shows, sports competitions, belly flop challenges, slot tournaments and so much more.
The ship had a wealth of activities to choose from. There were multiple trivia sessions every day with a lot of different topics, some were hosted better than others. Movies were shown every day, mostly on the big screen on the top deck over the pool. The movie options were good, with a lot of recent movies, but I wished they had shown more movies inside in the main theater. The casino was a fun spot to hang out, with a lot of options to bet both small and large amounts of money.
The internet access I experienced on the Liberty of the Seas was the best I’ve seen yet on a cruise ship. For a reasonable $13/day charge (as of May 2016) I received unlimited internet access on one device. The price was higher for multiple devices. However you could log off one device and log onto another and stick to the “one device” plan (I alternated between my iphone and laptop for internet use). The internet speed was fast, too. I was able to play a radio station back home through internet streaming. Not quite as fast as what I have back home but faster than what I’ve experienced on other cruises.
We really liked the location of our staterooms on the ship – interior rooms on deck 10 (1361, 1363) close to the aft staircase. This location gave us easy access to the Windjammer buffet one deck above and the open air upper decks.
One feature we had seen on the Oasis class ships, touch screens to direct you around the ship, has now been added to the Liberty of the Seas. We were to consult these touch screens often for directions, restaurant menus, and listings of the current activities taking place onboard.
I always sleep well on the ship because the inside staterooms are dark and quiet (I sleep well when I have a balcony room as well!) The staterooms are small and when the two single beds are pushed together to make one bed there is no room to walk around the bed. We literally have to sit on the bed and swivel our legs around to get to the space on the side of the bed. There is more walking room when the beds are separated and against the wall.
Our room was in a great location, just one deck under the buffet. Besides that perk, the room was fairly standard. Our room attendant did a great job attending to the few requests that we had.
Our stateroom wasn’t huge since it was an inside stateroom, but it was enough room for my brother and I to spread out comfortably. Our stateroom attendant was very friendly and did a great job cleaning the room when we were out. The TV didn’t have many channels, but there was a lot to do on the ship, so I wasn’t watching the TV much except late at night.
Our cruise featured three “at sea” days with port stops at Roatan (Honduras), Costa Maya, and Cozumel. Roatan and Costa Maya were new ports for us. It was also our first time cruising out of Galveston. We had been to Cozumel many times before so we did something new there. We chose to book independent excursions at each port:
Here we booked the Tree Top Canopy Adventure with Beach Stop through Shore Trips. This is the third time I have been ziplining and this was the longest yet, with over 2 miles of lines. I thought the staff was very good with helpful tips at each platform. The beach time was longer than I expected – almost 3 hours on a beautiful Honduras beach.
Ziplining was a blast. It was a bit different than the last time because you wore thick gloves that you used to either guide your direction or pull down on the cable to slow down. The water was beautiful and we enjoyed standing in the warm ocean drinking our beer after our morning of fast fun.
The zip lining was so much fun! The length of the lines and the overall speed were greater than zip lines we have done in the past. The beach afterwards was relaxing and the water was crystal clear.
The zipline was pretty extreme, with many different lines and platforms. The instructors did a good job of telling everyone the correct way of going down the line and helping at the different platforms. The beach afterwards was a little crowded but it was a very nice beach, and very relaxing after the excitement of the zipline.
My favorite excursion of our cruise was the NativeChoice Chacchoben Extreme Tour featuring a visit to the Chacchoben Mayan ruins + plus kayaking & swimming at the Seven Color Lagoon. This tour was an excellent combination of history at the ruins and fun at the lagoon. Our NativeChoice guide was excellent, giving us a detailed history of the area as we made an hour long drive to the ruins. These were the best Mayan ruins I have seen other than on my visit to Mexico City last summer.
After driving through dirt roads in a remote part of Mexico we were surprised to see a beautiful lagoon inside Sian Kan Biosphere Reserve. Here we met the owner of a small resort who hosted us for lunch, before we headed out to the lagoon for water sports.
The ruins were fascinating and of course crowded as there were other cruise ships in port. I was surprised when our afternoon lunch and lagoon time was a very small group. There were only about 30 of us enjoying a delicious Mexican lunch. There were a limited number of kayaks, but we were happy to wait our turn as we enjoyed the warm lagoon water with our margaritas and beers.
The history of the ruins was fascinating; they even had a portion of the original paint preserved in one location. Our tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable, one of the better guides we’ve had. Afterwards, the private lagoon was a blast. Kayaking in the warmer, less choppy water was one of my favorite moments of the trip.
Costa Maya was a really interesting port as there was not much in the immediate area of the ship. It was almost an hour drive to get to the Mayan ruins, but it was worth the drive once we got there. We got to see several ancient structures, and our tour guide did a great job of explaining the Mayan culture to us. The lagoon afterwards was very peaceful, there was hardly anyone at the resort which made it very relaxing.
On past visits to Cozumel we had visited the Paradise Beach with ala carte menu items and water toys for the kids. This time we decided to try something different – an all inclusive day at the Nachi Cocom beach club and water sports center
While we are still fans of Paradise Beach, we liked Nachi Cocom for this trip. Nachi limits the number of guests to 100 each day. We found Nachi Cocom less crowded than our past visits to Paradise Beach. We liked the all inclusive food and drink. Our waiter was excellent in checking on us repeatedly. For food each person received a 4 course lunch, and we had our fill of margaritas, daiquiris, beer, and soft drinks throughout the day.
This resort is family oriented but we found fewer younger children because of the occupancy limit and lack of water toys. There is a beautiful pool in addition to the beach and ocean. The dining area was large enough to accommodate many people and we didn’t have to wait for a table when we were ready to order our lunch. There were vendors who offered many water sport excursions from glass bottom boat snorkeling to banana boat and jet skis. These extras are at an additional fee payable directly to the vendor.
The occupancy limit of 100 made the beach an exclusive spot that was relaxing and personable. There were plenty of water activities to enjoy and the food was excellent overall. Having all drinks included was a huge perk as well.
This was our most relaxing destination, since we didn’t have to do as much walking as the previous two days. The beach was very nice and not very crowded, and the included drinks were great. The amount of food we were able to get was huge, and I loved everything I ordered. We did try to snorkel in the water but didn’t see much in the immediate beach area. Overall I would definitely recommend this resort.
This was a perfect cruise for the Larison family – a wonderful ship and three interesting ports to visit. Galveston is a port that can be driven to by those in mid America (we met many Texans and Oklahomans on our cruise), and it is a shorter flight away for Coloradoans like us compared to cruises out of Florida. While construction at the Galveston port delayed us on embarkation, once the construction is finished this port will be a good one to sail from. The fact that Royal Caribbean has put one of its most up to date ships here in the Liberty of the Seas speaks well of the port’s future. We will definitely cruise out of Galveston again.
We flew into Houston and had a rental car which allowed us to spend time in the Galveston and Houston areas before and after the cruise. This cruise, like the many others we have taken with our boys, was an amazing way to be together as a family before our boys start their new careers. It was all that we had hoped for as a family vacation.
This vacation was great chance to enjoy some quality family time together. The cruise really has everything for people of all ages, and it’s a great option for a family vacation.
This vacation was a great break after a stressful last semester at school. The ship had plenty to keep me occupied, and the excursions we did at each port were some of the best from any cruise that I’ve been on.
We can arrange your vacation on the Liberty of the Seas or a cruise just right for your family, too! Contact us for more information or for a no obligation price quote.