Launched in 2005 and refurbished in 2011, Carnival Liberty makes the most of its $500 million overhaul with crowd-pleasing options at ever turn.
Service is excellent onboard. At every dining venue the staff is attentive and courteous, doing everything they can to make your time on Liberty worth every penny and every second. That courtesy flows through to every bartender, housekeeper and deck attendant you run into.
In fact, it's as if the whole ship was designed around courtesy. The cabins are roomy and balconies a lovely addition (even if they can feel a little cramped); there are plenty of places on deck to lounge and laze and sun yourself; the entertainment options seem limitless. And the food is far better than expected, especially Pizza Pirate and Diamonds Steakhouse; the continued popularity of Guy's Burger Bar (that's Guy Fieri's burger project with Carnival) proves the ship's culinary offerings are in line with what passengers want.
The same can be said for most of the ship. Passengers look happy and never bored. Dive-In Movies (nightly on deck movies) are well attended. The comedy club is packed. Karaoke has a signup sheet two pages long. The casino is hopping every night. The dance parties and big Broadway-style productions are full to capacity. Even the teens and tweens onboard look happy to be there. The fact that they have their own lounges and hangouts goes a long way to say why.
All of this goes to show that Carnival is listening to and responding correctly to their passengers' desires for options in dining, activities and overall experience. No ship or sailing is without fault, but as far as value goes, there's not much Carnival is getting wrong on this one.
Daytime: During the day the dress code is very casual.
Evening: Evening dress codes on Liberty come in two levels: Cruise Casual and Cruise Elegant. On each sailing there's one Cruise Elegant night on which most passengers get quite dressed up for the occasion, with many female passengers wearing floor-length gowns and most gentlemen donning suits (approximately a third wore tuxedos). The rest of the time, the evening dress code is Cruise Casual, which is to say resortwear.
Not permitted: At night, and at all but the most casual Lido Deck eateries, the following are not permitted: cutoff jeans, men's sleeveless shirts, gym and basketball shorts, baseball hats, bathing suits and flip-flops.
For more information, visit Cruise Line Dress Codes: Carnival Cruise Line.
From the Venetian Palace Main Lounge to the outdoor movie screen to the comedy club to the karaoke bar, there's always something going on aboard Liberty. The big productions in the Venetian go on twice per night, but smaller games and gatherings keep the theatre occupied at other times. Movies show every night on the Lido Deck, and comics take the stage nightly at the ship's comedy club. There's plenty of music too, from DJs playing all day to music trivia to dance parties, and then nighttime sees the opening of the Piano Bar and more live musicians setting up around the ship.
But the ship is entertainment unto itself. From the pools to the people watching, you won't get bored.
The Venetian theatre is something of a wonder. Brightly and flamboyantly decorated with stained glass, jesters' motley and vivid patterns, it's a riot to the eyes, and once the big productions get started, the added light and sound make it all the more riotous. In short, it's a fun venue.
During the day and on some evenings, the theatre hosts bingo, Seuss-A-Palooza activities and game show-style gatherings (think Newlywed Game); but the real stars here are the performers and stagehands that put on the big shows. When big production shows take the stage there are two shows nightly. Shows include Just Rock, a tribute to classic rock songs from the ’50s through the ’80s; Wonderful World, a revue of international song and dance (which allows the international cast to show off bits of their heritage); and the Welcome Aboard Show, a pull-out-all-the-stops production designed to wow the audience (it does).
The cruise director and the Fun Squad have activities planned all day, from morning shows that interject humor with news and trivia about the ship and the day's destination to games of bingo, trivia, karaoke, dance classes (dancers were teaching the Thriller dance on our sailing), and the family-friendly Dr. Seuss parades, readings and photo ops. Additionally there are ice-carving demos, cocktail competitions pitting BlueIguana Tequila Bar against RedFrog Rum Bar, art lectures and auctions (often with free Champagne) and even paper airplane challenges (it's tougher than you think and it draws more than just the class clowns from Camp Ocean). Trivia is held in a few venues around the ship and is themed to different interests: movie quotes, name the song, general trivia, television, nostalgia, sports, you name it.
And there are the usual wacky cruise contests and games, as well. The Very Hairy Chest Contest was followed by the Give Me Lip Contest (a lip sync battle) and that was just the start of things.
Most of the daily activities are related purely to entertainment or to enticing passengers to buy art, bingo cards, clothing, jewelry or duty-free items rather than relating to the Bahamian experience. On our cruise, we saw no opportunities to learn about the culture, history, food or art of the cities or islands we called on other than what was offered through shore excursions.
Every night the Dive-In Movies opened. This punny take on outdoor movies takes place around the Coney Island pool on the Lido Deck where a massive movie screen -- it's around 270 square feet -- and premium sound system are used to create an outdoor movie theatre. They showed second-run films on our sailing ranging from "Doctor Strange" and "Central Intelligence" to "Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Trolls" and "The Secret Life of Pets" -- nothing beyond a PG-13 rating. Popcorn and towels (to use as blankets) were available and many of the lounge chairs on the Lido Deck and terraced spaces above were filled with movie watchers.
Night also brings more live performances. Musicians and DJs played in the Atrium, and the cruise director combined music trivia with a dance party. A cover band played at the Casino stage by the Promenade Bar, acoustic musicians bounced between venues, the Piano Bar got busy with nightly shows and at The Stage it was time for karaoke. Comedians take the stage nightly at Punchlines, a comedy club inside Victoria Lounge. Comedy shows come in two brands -- PG and Explicit -- and the club was packed for every show (get there early to get a seat and get your drink order in).
In the casino, there are nightly games and tournaments; one evening it might be Texas Hold'em, another blackjack. The casino, a mix of slots, electronic gaming machines and table games, gets busy as soon as it opens and it stays that way. Some nights the tables are more crowded than others, or you'll find most of the slot machines are occupied, or both. You can't tell until you get there, but most nights we saw plenty of people gambling and cashing in chips.
Singles meet-ups at Alchemy, LGBT gatherings, Serenity Nights (a grown-up meet and greet in Serenity), Veterans group meetings, and late-night DJ parties are also on the schedule each sailing.
You'll find a bar onboard Liberty that suits your taste buds. With 11 drink venues to choose from, there's no shortage of cocktails, mocktails, beer or wine to be had. On the Lido Deck, the "competition" between the BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar keeps things lively, while at Alchemy Bar the bartenders take their cocktails very seriously. Or you can take it easy in the Piano bar, sing your heart out with some karaoke or dance the night away in more than a few lounges across the ship.
Flowers Lobby & Bar (Deck 3, midship): The ship's lobby bar serves up a mix of wine and spirits, with a nice selection of flavoured martinis, Champagne and daiquiris as well as soft drinks. Most evenings there's music here, ranging from acoustic guitar performances to a surprising duo playing contemporary hits on violins. All around are comfortable tables, clusters of chairs and couches for your lounging pleasure.
SkyBox Sports Bar (Deck 5, midship): SkyBox is Liberty's designated sports bar, where several televisions run sports on a continual loop, and the beer flows like, well, beer. They stock a good selection of domestic and import brews as well as a handful of craft beers including Carnival Cruise Line's own ThirstyFrog Red. Cocktails also grace the menu, so if you want a drink on the rocks or a speciality cocktail, you can have it. And when you get hungry, they've got bar-appropriate snacks: hot soft pretzels and peanuts in the shell.
Promenade Bar (Deck 5, midship): This wraparound bar in the casino puts you steps away from all the gaming you could ask for and gives you a front-row seat to one of the small stages where a pretty good cover band performs nightly. When it's crowded, it's crowded with folks angling to order a drink or trying to get to the next gaming machine. This one is best early in the evening or just before closing. It's also the only bar on the ship where smoking is permitted.
Alchemy Bar (Deck 5, midship): Alchemy Bar feels like you've stepped away from the ship and into a hip speakeasy for a drink. The bartenders wear lab coats and take their cocktail making seriously. The drinks themselves are also serious and allow a show of technique and flavour mixing that's a surprise to find on a cruise ship. Pull up a seat at the bar or at one of the high, curved bar tables flanking Alchemy and watch the bartenders do their magic.
Hot & Cool Nightclub (Deck 5, midship): A light-up dance floor, a DJ who knows how to get people moving and bartenders slinging drinks as fast as you can order them. That's what to expect in Hot & Cool. As with a couple of other bars on the ship, this one has the ability to transport you to another place with the pumping music and edgy (for the ship) decor, especially when the hour grows late and the dance floor is crowded.
Piano Man Bar Bar (Deck 5, aft): The ship's loungy piano bar is surprisingly fun, despite being ever-so-slightly corny. A piano occupies the central space and a round bar -- that looks like a curved set of piano keys -- surrounds it. In the evenings it gets crowded with groups around the piano and at tables (which also look like pianos) around the room. The pianist's got a good voice and plays well, and interjects stories between the songs, making for a throwback vibe you don't often find.
The Stage Bar (Deck 5, aft): Two words: karaoke and cocktails. Those are the essentials when it comes to The Stage Bar. It's a place to drink up, let your hair down and unchain your inner rock star. The drinks are good, the karaoke selection is better but best of all is the atmosphere. Everyone here is out for a good time and it shows in their enthusiasm on and off the stage.
BlueIguana Bar (Deck 9, midship): This Lido Deck bar is all about tequila, except for the beer. The BlueIguana Bar keeps 10 tequilas and eight beers hailing from Mexico on hand to quench your thirst. Drinks include a michelada (a beer cocktail, yes, a beer cocktail), frozen margaritas, as well as regular margaritas, pitchers of margaritas and spiked lemonade. Don't be afraid to try something new, like a margarita with chipotle simple syrup.
RedFrog Rum Bar (Deck 9, midship): Rum rules at RedFrog, on the Lido Deck. Ten rums on their menu go into an array of tropical drinks and mojitos in cocktail and frozen form, as well as a few pitchers of spiked drinks. There's also a small selection of bottled and draft beer, including brews from the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
Versailles Bar (Deck 9, aft): One of the quieter bars on the ship, Versailles sits almost forgotten in the aft near the pool and Pizza Pirate, which makes it the perfect place for a quick drink, a bite and a dip to cool off, or, as many passengers call it: the perfect combination.
Diamonds Steakhouse Bar (Deck 10, midship): The bar in Diamonds Steakhouse may be the most underutilized bar on the Liberty. Here you'll find elusive drinks like the Negroni and top-shelf liquors. It's quiet and swank in here, and the bartenders are friendly.
There are two main pools and three hot tub areas on Carnival Liberty. The Coney Island Pool, the largest, is located midship on Deck 9, while a smaller pool, Versailles, is located in the aft; hot tubs are located next to the Coney Island and Versailles pools, as well as in the Serenity adults-only retreat. Around each pool there is ample seating, most of it in the sun (the aft pool has some shaded areas, but the others are totally exposed). At Coney Island, the pool sits in the middle of a walkway, but there are seats adjacent, as well as at the RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar; additional seating, and the hot tubs, are arranged on tiers leading up to Deck 10 and on Deck 10 itself. The water slide starts on Deck 11 and terminates on Deck 10 near the hot tubs. At the back of the ship, the Versailles Pool is lined on two sides with rows of lounge chairs and twin hot tubs flank its back. Above, a seating area on an open deck looks down on the pool. The Versailles Pool can be covered, but the roof is retracted in all but the worst weather.
The Coney Island Pool and hot tubs were consistently crowded with adults and kids, but the Versailles Pool and hot tubs were not, and more couples were arranged around the aft pool, swimming and using the hot tubs there. That said, the hot tubs are a hot commodity and are almost always crowded.
Outdoor recreation areas on Carnival Liberty are limited to the pools and water slide, and the sports deck. The water slide, a curling run of 214 feet, is open during regular pool hours and is quite popular with kids; on our sailing we saw a handful of adults using it, but the line -- and there was a line -- was almost exclusively kids and teens. There's no zipline or climbing wall, but no one seemed to miss them while we were onboard. There is a sports deck where basketball and volleyball courts sit nestled between two forecastles and are covered with a net to keep all the balls in play. Nearby are shuffleboard courts, a table tennis setup, a huge chess set and mini-golf. Balls, clubs and other game accoutrement are available on the Lido Deck (Deck 9).
Decks 9, 10, 11, 12 and 14 all have room for sunning yourself and enjoying the weather, but each deck and each space within each deck, has its own quirks.
On Deck 9, the Lido Deck, there's an area of lounge chairs and a dance floor available midship around the pool and BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar, as well as room for sunning and socializing around the pool and hot tubs in the aft. The midships area tends to get crowded, as areas around a pool and two bars will do, plus this spot is on the way to and from the buffet and staterooms. In the aft area, around the Versailles Pool and Bar, things are more laid back. Some of the loungers around the pool are shaded, so take that into account when considering your spot for napping, sunning or socializing.
Deck 10 midship is where you'll find the abundance of lounge chairs. Here, and on tiers rising up from Deck 9, there are hundreds of chairs and at certain times of the day, it seems they're all filled up. This is the main area where you have to concern yourself with chair hogging or parties sitting in odd configurations (i.e., leaving a single seat open between them and the next group). Again, around the aft pool you'll find more lounge chairs and less people, making it a prime spot for hanging out in the sun.
On Deck 11 there are limited seating areas primarily because you are getting higher on the ship and there's less space available. What space there is is taken up with the sports deck and jogging track, but there are areas where you can get comfortable and lounge a while.
Decks 12 and 14 are where the Serenity adults-only retreat is located. This area is filled with comfortable seats, double hammocks, semi-private cabana loungers, couches and lounge chairs. There is also a pair of hot tubs at the front of the ship, but on our sailing they were not in operation. We had no issues with kids or teens in the area other than near the elevators where they were coming and going from Camp Ocean; it truly was an adults-only retreat. While retreat might seem like hyperbole, it's not, especially when you consider the DJs, music, crowd noise and activity around the central pool and the less busy (but still busy) area aft; here it was quiet, easy and peaceful.
There are also chairs and lounge areas all along the outside of the ship on Decks 9, 10 and 11; most are one-row deep but some are two rows or one row of lounge chairs and a row of couches and chairs. Generally we had no difficulty finding a place for two of us to sit.
You can get a towel from the towel hut on Deck 9 near the pool. Simply sign up and show your Sail & Sign card and remember to bring your towel back and sign out when you're done or else you just bought a souvenir towel by accident.
Smokers will find designated areas for smoking on Deck 3 (not a sun area, but an outside area nonetheless) and Deck 10, both on the starboard side. This can be a drawback for nonsmokers, but there were enough seats available as to not be an issue on our sailing.
When you board the ship, you'll enter on Deck 3 midship, where most of the ship's services are located. Here you'll find the Guest Services and Shore Excursions desks in addition to the Flowers Lobby & Bar, the Art Gallery and Persian Card Room, and access to the elevator banks and the Venetian Palace Main Lounge.
One deck up is home to the Pixels Gallery/Studio (where all the shots they take of passengers are on display and available for purchase), the Antiquarian Library (where there are books, games and tables to read, work or play at), Circle "C" tween club, the Internet Cafe and a conference room. Above that, on Deck 5, are the Fun Shops: Cherry on Top, a sweets shop; the duty-free shop; and tables with limited engagement sales and specials ranging from art to jewelry to clothing to duty-free spirits.
There are six launderettes and ironing rooms available onboard. They are located on Deck 1 across from stateroom 1359, Deck 2 across from stateroom 2357, Deck 6 across from stateroom 6387, Deck 7 across from stateroom 7339, Deck 8 across from stateroom 8351 and Deck 9 across from stateroom 9270. All laundry machines are coin-operated, and washing powder and other laundry supplies are available for purchase in the launderettes.
Internet service is available through Wi-Fi or the ship's Internet Cafe (Deck 4 midship) where you'll pay a fee according to your desired access plan: Social ($5), Value ($16) and Premium ($25), each of which offers various levels of speed and access for 24 hours. Otherwise you'll need to connect via one of the ship's satellite internet plans. You can purchase for the whole cruise at a slight discount. Many passengers find the Value Plan, which provides access to most sites and apps, including social media, email and the like, to be sufficient, though heavy users will want to spring for the Premium Plan. Be aware that it is a satellite service and there are areas where speeds are much faster than others.
Spa Carnival is located forward on Deck 11, the Spa Deck. Some elements of the spa are complimentary -- like the sauna and steam room, as well as showers -- while treatments come at a price. Treatments range from massages to facials to acupuncture; prices are slightly higher than a landside spa, with massages in the $75 to $190 range for 60-minute services. Discount packages combining services are available throughout the cruise, but you can also save by receiving multiple treatments if you book them in advance.
The salon is located inside Spa Carnival and features both a salon and traditional barbershop. Salon treatments include manicures and pedicures, conditioning treatments and blow outs -- even teeth whitening. In the barbershop, the menu includes a hot shave and facial. Prices in the salon run from $35 to in excess of $100 depending on the treatment; blow outs and styling are on the lower end, color treatments on the higher end. There's even a menu of medi-spa services -- botox, dermal fillers -- available.
The spa is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Beyond the spa is the fitness centre, as far forward on Deck 11 as you can go. It feels a little strange on the first visit, walking through the spa and locker room to get to the fitness centre, but since there's no other access to the gym, it's your only choice.
The fitness centre is surprisingly large and surprisingly well outfitted. Nearly two-dozen cardio machines -- stationary bikes, treadmills, elliptical machines -- and an equal number of weight machines are only part of what's on offer here, the rest is a small free-weight area (with dumbbells and a trio of adjustable benches) and a tiny room where yoga and spin classes are held during the cruise.
From any of the cardio machines you'll have a great view as most of the walls are actually windows looking out onto the ocean.
There are trainers on hand and a few classes offered, but aside from one early morning spin class, we never saw the class room used for anything other than stretching. We never saw anyone working out with a trainer either, though the trainers were on hand to give advice or a tutorial on the equipment.
It's clean and mostly quiet in the fitness centre, with sporadic music (upbeat workout tunes when it was playing) and plenty of towels, cleaning products (for your machine) and water available.
The fitness centre is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to all passengers ages 18 and up.
Outside, on Decks 12 and 14 midship, there is a jogging track, basketball and volleyball court, table tennis set and giant chess set. Sports courts open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and again from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Nine laps around the wide, padded (for long-distance runs) jogging track make a mile.
Aboard Carnival Liberty, passengers have abundant options for dining and snacking. From 24-hour room service to dinner in the two main dining rooms to a quick burger, taco or pizza, finding food is never an issue.
The main dining rooms offer traditional cruise dinners, with seatings at 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., or the option of a flexible dining schedule with "Your Time Dining." Through your Time Dining, passengers can visit the Gold Olympian Dining Room any time between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m.; most times, passengers are seated right away, though there are times when it's necessary to wait a bit for a table (private or with a group).
Dining assignments are selected prior to the cruise, so we recommend requesting your assignment -- Early, Late or Your Time Dining -- as soon as possible to ensure you have the best chance of receiving your desired dining time. Your Sail & Sign card has your dining assignment -- dining room, table number and dining time -- on it for easy reference.
You'll find plenty of options for food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but in the hours between lunch and dinner (from about 3:30 to 6 p.m.), you'll have fewer options available; Guy's Burger Joint and the Pizza Pirate are pretty much it.
Speaking of Pizza Pirate, the pizzeria, located in the aft pool area, is a can't-miss; the pizzas are small, incredibly tasty and they come out of the oven incredibly fast.
Another venue not to be missed is BlueIguana Cantina, particularly at breakfast when it serves very good -- and overlooked by many passengers -- breakfast burritos and huevos rancheros.
The food aboard Liberty is plentiful and, almost always, good. We did see several other passengers doing what we always did at the buffet: do a walkthrough to see what's out. We also saw several passengers opting to join us at Guy's, Mongolian Wok or the pizzeria to find a better option when we didn't like what was on offer. Many passengers opted for the deli or the pizza just to skip the longer buffet lines, as well. On the buffet and menus in dining rooms, gluten-free and vegetarian options were clearly marked and were surprisingly plentiful.
There were times -- after dinner but before bed -- when it seemed more difficult to find food, but then we discovered the pizzeria where if there's not a fresh pie waiting for you, it will be out of the oven soon.
Room service on the Liberty is available 24 hours and though the menu is limited -- sandwiches, salads and continental breakfast -- it's prompt and tasty.
Silver Olympian Dining Room (Deck 3 and 4 aft): One of two main dining rooms onboard, Silver Olympian is two levels and features banks of windows looking out onto the sea. This, along with pops of silver and blue, as well as tasteful table settings, gives it a casual, but elegant, feel. (Many passengers consider the Silver Olympian the more desirable dining room because of its aft location and the views provided by the large windows.)
Seating times for dinner are 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Your Time Dining is not available for dinner in Silver Olympian.
Each dinner menu features eight to 10 appetizers (hot and cold soup, salad, shrimp cocktail), a half-dozen main dishes and four grill choices (fish, chicken, steak, pork chop, typically), and six sides, all of which change nightly. The cuisine is American fare with an international twist as French, Asian and Italian influences are evident in some dishes. There are always low-fat and vegetarian options available. Special dietary requests can be accommodated by speaking with the maitre' d or making arrangements before you sail. Along with the expected dishes on the menu -- fish and seafood, steak, chicken, pasta -- the menu features at least one "didja (as in did you ever…)" menu item to encourage diners to try something new: think escargots, oysters Rockefeller, frog legs.
There's also a "Ports of Call" menu featuring a cocktail, appetizer and main course reflective of the day's port. As we departed Cape Canaveral, the menu reflected the best of Florida flavours, with a citrus salad appetizer and a grilled swordfish steak with pepper sauce, fresh pineapple and coconut rice; both dishes encompassed the ingredients and flavours of the region.
On the After Dinner menu you'll find an international cheese plate, fruit plate, ice creams and sherbets, a warm chocolate melting cake and another option or two. There is a selection of after-dinner drinks for adults -- cognacs and brandies as well as dessert wines and ports -- as well as drip coffee and speciality coffee drinks (all for an extra fee). Wine lovers will find a good bit of variety on the wine list and it's easy to find a bottle or glass that pairs well with dinner; for wine novices, the menu is focused enough to streamline the selection process; as with any good restaurant, your server can help you select the right glass or bottle for the evening.
Breakfast is served from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and is open seating. The menu is what you'd expect -- eggs and toast, bagels, French toast, fruit and yoghurt, cereal -- and is well executed. The SeaDay Brunch (8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.) is only available on sea days and includes typical brunch fare including French toast, eggs, mac and cheese and a bloody mary bar.
Golden Olympian Dining Room (Deck 3 and 4, midship): The decor of the Golden Olympian Dining Room is reminiscent of Silver Olympian, only here the accents are gold and burgundy, giving the room a rich, sumptuous feel. Combined with the low light of the dining room, it creates a more intimate atmosphere that's upscale, but distinct from it's sister venue.
On the menu you'll find the same selection of rotating appetizers and mains, a consistent (and delicious) dessert menu and the adventurous "didja" offerings as are offered in the Silver Olympian-- along with the same excellent service.
In addition to the two fixed dining times, Golden Olympian is the dining room for Your Time Dining, available from 5:45 to 9:30 p.m. Breakfast is not served in the Golden Olympian Dining Room.
The food in the main dining rooms is good, but better on some nights than others. If you find you're unhappy with your selection, just tell your server and they're happy to bring you something else.
Emile's Lido Buffet (Deck 9 aft): Emile's Lido Buffet, appropriately, serves as the ship's buffet option and has hot and cold offerings for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The buffet is laid out cafeteria style with a few items -- desserts, sometimes salad toppings, sandwiches -- on a separate kiosk. Adjacent to the buffets are small deli counters where you can get a sandwich. Don't miss the Mongolian Wok at lunch, it's flavorful and cooked to order.
Open for continental breakfast only from 6:30, full breakfast is available 7 to 10:30 a.m., and for "late risers" breakfast (a robust, but limited menu) from 10:30 a.m. to noon, it serves everything you'd expect to find on a breakfast buffet. We suggest diners in the mood for eggs visit the omelette station rather than eat a scoop of scrambled eggs from the buffet. If you choose the traditional buffet you'll find a selection of European-style options -- meats and cheeses -- along with hot and cold cereal, pastries and breads, eggs, bacon and sausage.
At lunch, which is open from noon to 3:30 p.m., the buffet includes a salad bar, carving stations (for beef and pork roast), pasta dishes and the usual lunch buffet fare. Around the corner from either buffet line is a deli window where you can order hotdogs as well as hot or cold sandwiches.
For dinner, from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., the buffet offers similar choices to lunch -- salad bar, carving stations, pasta -- but with heartier fare and a few more hot options.
If you have a sweet tooth and the buffet is closed, don't worry, right around the corner is Swirl, a 24-hour soft serve ice cream station. It's simple -- ice cream and cones only, no toppings -- but it will help when you have a hankering for a sweet treat.
While the buffet provides great variety in meal options, we found ourselves drawn to the speciality options for breakfast and lunch -- omelette bars, Mongolian Wok, Pirate Pizza, Guy's Burgers and BlueIguana -- where the food was high quality and fun.
Mongolian Wok (Deck 9 aft): One of several speciality elements to Emile's Lido Buffet, Mongolian Wok is popular and has a long line to prove it. This build-your-own stir-fry eatery presents diners with a salad bar-style selection of Asian vegetables and noodles, which are tossed into a wok along with your choice of chicken, beef or calamari. As it cooks, it's topped with black bean sauce (mild), Thai barbecue (a little warm) or a spicy Sichuan sauce.
Ol' Fashioned BBQ (Deck 9 aft): Upstairs from the buffet, Ol' Fashioned BBQ serves a nice array of Southern-inspired dishes from pulled pork sandwiches and platters to fried chicken to sides like mac and cheese, greens and cornbread. They serve a variety of barbecue sauce styles, from a tangy North Carolina style to a thick and sweet Memphis style.
BlueIguana Cantina (Deck 9 midship): Located midship by the pool, BlueIguana Cantina serves tacos and burritos made with fresh tortillas and burrito shells (thanks to a fascinating machine that turns dough into a tortilla in less than a minute). Open for breakfast (7 to 10:30 a.m.) and lunch (noon to 2:30 p.m.), it's often overlooked for the buffet or Guy's Burgers, but diners in the know eat here often. At breakfast the venue serves huevos rancheros and similar small dishes as well as big breakfast burritos that you build yourself, or rather you direct the servers to add what you want to your burrito (don't skip the hash browns, they make the burrito). For lunch, tacos come in three varieties -- chicken, pork and fish -- and burritos come in shrimp, chicken or beef. There's a large topping bar beside the cooking stations where you'll find salsa, pico de gallo, hot sauces, guacamole, diced onions and sour cream.
Guy's Burger Joint (Deck 9 midship): Undoubtedly the most popular dining option on the ship, Guy's Burger Joint leans on Food Network personality Guy Fieri's reputation and personality to dish up some excellent hamburgers and cheeseburgers. (Veggie burgers, while not listed on the menu, are available upon request.) Located beside the pool on the opposite side from BlueIguana Cantina, Guy's serves a selection of five different burgers or you can build your own from the topping bar nearby. Toppings include bacon, lettuce, tomato and a range of sauces from Guy's signature "donkey" sauce to mustard and ketchup. Every burger comes with a heaping handful of fries.
Pizza Pirate (Deck 9 aft): Open all day and night, Pizza Pirate is secretly one of the best things to eat onboard. Small pies, about 12 inches, are hand tossed and made with fresh mozzarella, and the thin crust allows them to cook fast, so they're always hot. Chose from quattro formaggi, funghi, margherita, pepperoni or prosciutto. They also have a made-to-order Caesar salad. Sometimes there's a bit of a wait, but it's never long and it's always worth it. (Gluten-free pies are available upon request.)
Room Service: Room service is always available and always prompt, making it a key option for late-night hunger. The menu features free and paid options (ranging from $1.50 to $6), but whether you order from the free or paid menu, it's good form to give your delivery person a cash tip. Free options include salads and a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, as well as desserts (cookies, cake, fruit salad, cheesecake). There's also a continental breakfast option, provided you put the door hanger menu out before 5 a.m. or make arrangements the night before. Beverage options include juice, coffee, tea and milk (including chocolate milk) for free, and soft drinks and limited alcoholic beverages at regular bar prices.
The Chef's Table (Deck 5, aft); $75 to $95: Easily the most exclusive dining option on Liberty, The Chef's Table is open to only 14 diners. (Book at the ship's information desk; first come, first served.) It takes place once per cruise and includes a private cocktail reception, galley tour led by the chef and a multicourse dinner in the galley, library or other nontraditional dining venue.
Jardin Cafe (Deck 5, aft); a la carte pricing: The ship's coffee shop, Jardin Cafe serves up what you expect in a coffee shop: caffeine-laced drinks and tasty baked goods. On the menu you'll find espresso, lattes, cappuccinos and other hot and cold coffee drinks as well as a bakery case full of cookies, cakes, torts and treats. Expect to pay between $2 and $5, depending on what you order.
Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast (Golden Olympian Dining Room); $6 per person: At the Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast you'll find a straightforward, though whimsically named and decorated, menu of eggs, French toast, cereal, pancakes and waffles.
The Seafood Shack (Deck 9, aft); a la carte pricing: Located at the back of the ship and open for lunch and dinner, The Seafood Shack serves fresh seafood in a variety of preparations. Fried buffalo shrimp, fried clams, crabcake sliders, a lobster roll or lobster BLT, a fried seafood platter, even steamed lobster and snow crab legs are all up for grabs here. You'll pay market price for high-end items like lobster and snow crab legs, but everything else is $5 to $12 and worth it.
Sushi at Sea (Deck 9, aft); a la carte pricing: This sushi counter was added to Emile's Lido Buffet in 2017. On offer are four sushi or sashimi options for $1.50 a piece, as well as rolls for either $5 (California or spicy tuna) or $7.50 (bang bang bonsai or tempura) apiece. Diners place their order at the counter, are given a pager and then paged when their order is ready.
Diamonds Steakhouse (Deck 10, aft); $38: The best meal experience we had on the Liberty, Diamonds Steakhouse is a bargain at $38. This steakhouse menu is gourmet, but accessible, and cuts like filet mignon, a bone-in rib eye and New York strip are offed up alongside a fresh catch, lobster tail and lamb chops. Add to this a great selection of appetizers -- beef carpaccio, escargots, an outstanding shrimp cocktail -- and some tremendous desserts and you've got a meal to remember. The wine list and cocktail menu are equally impressive, with bottles, glasses and cocktails to suit any taste.
Room Service: Always available and always fast, room service offers up a short but essential menu of free and paid dishes. Extra fee items range from sandwiches and salads to wings, quesadillas, a Philly cheesesteak, pizza and fries; there's also a small selection of soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. Paid menu items range from $1.50 to $6. Remember to tip your delivery person a couple of bucks when your food arrives.
Carnival Liberty's cabins are roomy, with non-suite rooms measuring 185 to 220 square feet and balconies ranging from 35 to 85 square feet and comfortably furnished. Unusual among mainstream cruise lines, Carnival uses beds that convert from twins into a king bed. (Most other lines use narrow twins that convert into a queen when pushed together.)
Cabins are tastefully decorated, though are a bit dated in their colour palate. Everything is soft peach with yellow highlights throughout and a few touches of wood, giving rooms a feeling of being forgotten about. That said, the beds are comfortable and the linens soft, and each room is generous and thoughtful in its use of space. For example: under bed storage for luggage, drawers below the couch (if it's not a sofa bed) and ample room in the closets for clothes storage.
Each cabin is Wi-Fi enabled and the television -- a large flat screen -- gives passengers the ability to watch movies on demand (for a fee), as well as navigate ship information, watch ship-mounted camera feeds (in the theatre, on deck and viewing the horizon) and make restaurant reservations. Room amenities also include a phone with voice mail and a safe (which Carnival recommends you lock with a credit card, meaning that credit card can't be locked up; it's a conundrum).
Bathrooms in all categories except suites feature showers only, which have curtains that, no matter what you do, won't stay still and splash water everywhere. The sinks are single sinks with a large mirror and plenty of storage shelves to either side to hold toiletries. There's a soap and shampoo dispenser in the shower, and a few other free items -- dental floss, a mending kit, shower cap and the like -- are in the bathroom. Don't worry about your towel usage, there are plenty on hand and you get even more every day courtesy of your room steward's towel animal origami. The towels were surprisingly soft and didn't show signs of wear.
Families should look for the family-friendly options onboard, including rooms with foldout beds, extra space for cribs and adjoining rooms.
Inside: Interior cabins clock in at 185 square feet.
Oceanview: Ocean-view cabins, those with a window or porthole, are relatively roomy, at 220 square feet.
Balcony: Balcony cabins on Carnival Liberty come in three categories -- all have 185 square feet of inside space, but standards have 35-square-foot balconies while extended have 60-square-foot verandas and wraparounds have 75-square-foot wraparound balconies. Standard balconies are shallow and feel even more when you add the two chairs and small side table each comes with. Nonetheless, they're a great amenity. Rooms with a balcony also have floor-to-ceiling windows.
Suite: Suites are generously sized; some are more than twice as large as standard inside rooms. Additionally, suites come with upgraded amenities -- in some cases an extra television, in all cases a whirlpool tub and double sinks; some even have a second bathroom. All suites have larger balconies than the standard rooms.
Carnival Liberty has four types of suites:
Junior Suite: The 340-square-foot Junior Suite sleeps three thanks to a sofa bed in addition to the two twins that convert to a king bed. In the bathroom you'll find a shower/whirlpool tub and double sinks. There's also a dressing area and private balcony.
Ocean Suite: There are 42 Ocean Suites onboard Carnival Liberty. This spacious 275-square-foot suite sleeps three and has wide doors and an accessible shower as well as a whirlpool tub, shower and double sinks. A large, walk-in dressing area and 65-square-foot private balcony round out the amenities in the room.
Grand Suite: The 345-square-foot Grand Suites sleep two and feature a sofa, armchair and coffee table, as well as a full bath outfitted with a shower, whirlpool tub, bidet and double sinks. The 85-square-foot balcony is large and private, and the walk-in dressing area has more than enough room to change comfortably. Balconies on the Grand Suite include lounge chairs in addition to regular chairs.
Captain's Suite: This 750-square-foot suite sleeps five, features two rooms with two full baths (the master bath has a whirlpool tub), two flat-screen TVs, a sizable dressing area and a large balcony with lounge and regular chairs. Truly the most luxurious of accommodations on the Liberty, these are fabulous rooms.