Fodor’s Expert Review

Ship Overview

Carnival Cruise Lines
Cruise StyleMainstream
Ship SizeLarge

Insider Take

Overview

Conquest-class; Some Funship 2.0 upgrades; Guy Fieri Burgers, EA SportsBar, RedFrog Pub and RumRunners Tequila Bar.Read More

Decor

Legendary Joe Farcus is Carnival’s designer, and Liberty continues his pattern of creating distinctive individual themes for each ship. In Liberty’s case, the theme is Artisans, covering all variations of the artistic designs and handcrafted workmanship of times gone by. Though no one would call Liberty’s decor reserved, it’s a more muted version of previous Farcus designs. About the only neon glitz one will find on this ship is in the signs identifying the lounges and bars.

Beginning in the Grand Villa Garden at the bottom of the Atrium, ornate artisan ironwork is used throughout the ship’s passageways, decorating walls, railings, pillars and wall frames. This gives these areas a clearly European flare, and does a nice job of tying varying design elements together.

Public Rooms

There’s a noticeable “wow factor” for persons boarding the ship on the lowest level of the atrium; their first view is of the Grand Villa Garden, which feels very much like a European courtyard. The hardwood laminate flooring gives the area an unexpected richness for a Carnival ship. The glass elevators running up and down on one side of the atrium add a modern touch, and a ride in them at some time during your cruise is a must for the views.

The center of the ship’s life is Deck 4, surrounding the Atrium; and Deck 5, the Promenade Deck. Promenade Deck is the only deck that runs from bow to stern inside the ship, other than the passenger cabin decks – 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8.

Deck 5/Promenade Deck could be considered the entertainment center of the ship. From Gloves Sports Bar, just off of the atrium, traveling aft through Promenade deck brings you to the enormous Casino, the Casino Bar, Club 02 (the teens-only disco), Without Batteries (the ship’s video arcade), the Jardin Café (for purchasing specialty coffees and incredible desserts), Origami Sushi Bar (where sushi is available free in the evenings), the Wine Bar, the Piano Man Bar (where sing-alongs create a packed house most nights), the Stage Lounge (for Karaoke), and the ship’s large alternate showroom, the traditionally decorated Victoria Lounge.

The ship’s shops, selling logo wear, jewelry and sundries, are on Promenade Deck as well, around the Atrium.

Forward on Promenade Deck is the most visually stunning room on the ship, the Venetian Palace showroom. With a Venetian theme established by an enormous central chandelier (created from Italy’s famed Murano glass), Venetian masks decorating the ceiling, and two-deck-high Jesters book ending the stage, the decor of the main showroom sets the stage for the quality entertainment to follow.

The Venetian Palace is three decks high (lowest level on Deck 3), and it does have many support beams that can cut off the view of the stage; also, the main floor is not pitched enough, so at times the views can be obscured by those sitting in front of you. Aside from production shows and headline acts, this room is used for most of the ship’s evening passenger participation games, as well as daily/nightly bingo games.

On Deck 4 is the Antiquarian Library, nicely decorated but small, with a limited selection of books. And unfortunately the locked bookcases are only opened and accessible from one to two hours per day. I don’t know why Carnival doesn’t just leave the library open so guests can access books any time they like.

The Cabinet Lounge is also on Deck 4, just forward of the aft Golden Olympic Dining Room. Cabinet Lounge is the ship’s cigar bar, which features live jazz in the evenings. Since it is adjacent to a dining room, I am surprised to see this lounge used as a cigar bar. I often heard passengers complaining about the strong odors in this lounge as they passed through en route to the dining room. This is particularly problematic because the access points to this aft dining room are limited.

The only public room really over-the-top in decor is the Hot and Cold Disco. With huge inverted hands (appearing to hold up the ceiling) and smaller versions as bar stools, I never figured out what this was all about. But it’s most certainly a bold environment.

Restaurants

There are two main dining rooms on the Liberty, and they use traditional assigned seating, but with four dining times available, rather than the usual two.

The Golden Olympian Dining Room is mid-ship on Decks 3 and 4, with entries from two doorways on each of the two levels, one forward and one aft. This dining room serves the 6:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. dining times.

The “Golden” is the smaller of the two dining rooms. Seating areas are cramped and passageways between tables narrow. Even bussing stations for the service staff seemed too far apart and too cramped, which made their jobs more difficult.

The Silver Olympian Dining Room, at the stern on Decks 3 and 4, serves the 5:45 p.m. and 8 p.m. dining times, and is also used for open-seating breakfast and lunch. This room is larger and much airier. The dining room is surrounded by windows on three sides, which enhances its design, and contributes to making it preferable to the Golden Dining Room.

A more upscale dining experience is available at the ship’s alternate restaurant ($30 per person surcharge), Harry’s Supper Club. Named after famed jeweler Harry Winston, Harry’s also offers a musical duo and a dance floor to entertain diners. The decor and furnishings in Harry’s are of higher quality than the other dining areas. And the Versace plates and fine silver flatware contribute to a more upscale tone. The core of the menu includes varying cuts of steak, though lobster and fish are also offered.

For more of a fast food experience, there’s the buffet at Emile’s on Lido Deck. It’s open for breakfast and lunch, as well as for casual dinner between 6-9 p.m. Expect a wide variety of choices within this very large area. In the back (aft section) are two buffet lines serving a traditional buffet lunch, with items changing daily, and a carving station for different types of meats. Breakfasts in this section are pretty traditional buffet service.

Forward of that are two buffet lines called “Taste of Nations,” with lunches offering a menu that varies by national cuisine each day. There are also two buffet lines serving stir-fry dishes. Passengers choose raw ingredients – meats, fish, seafood, vegetables etc.- as they proceed through the line until they reach the cooking station, where the chefs cook the chosen ingredients.

By the farthest-aft swimming pool, just outside Emile’s, there’s a starboard side grille serving up hamburgers, hot dogs, and (though not advertised) steak sandwiches. There are also heated chafing dishes for hot condiments – fried onions, sauteed mushrooms, even chili. On the port side in this location is the 24-hour pizzeria, which also serves Caesar salad. I used to think Carnival had the best pizza on the high seas, but I wasn’t that pleased after tasting what must be a new recipe for the pizzas. They seem to be using a much chewier dough now.

There are two more grilling stations near the central swimming pools for the fast-food hamburger/hot dog experience.

Inside Emile’s, on each side as you move between the Grand Buffet and Taste of Nations, are small service windows. On the starboard side the menu offers Asian cuisine – a combination of Chinese food and Asian fair. Opposite, on the port side, the same window offers deli sandwiches, both cold and hot, served on a choice of breads. I enjoyed most of my lunches from these two serving windows.

Another choice that people often miss is located one deck above Emile’s. Here they serve fish and chips and a variety of seafood during lunch.

For breakfasts, all the inside lines serve similar food, though there are a number of made-to-order egg and omelette stations – enough that we never saw extended lines at any.

During the morning, one of the grill areas near the central pool also offered breakfast items and made-to-order eggs and omelettes. Breakfast at this station was available quite a bit later, after the other buffet lines were closed.

Service

Service on the Liberty was generally friendly and efficient, though unpolished. Even in Harry’s Supper Club with its surcharge, the wait staff, though dressed more formally, seemed to lack the training you’d expect in such a venue.

Other than the maitre d’ in the dining rooms and a dining room hostess, we didn’t see any headwaiters. At times this shortage was somewhat problematic. Several times when service dragged somewhat, the presence of a headwaiter would have certainly helped the situation. It’s unrealistic to believe two people can oversee the smooth operation of dining rooms that serve 600 to 800 guests for each seating.

That said, we were not displeased with our level of dining room service. There were just a couple of occasions where the assistance of a headwaiter would have smoothed the process.

Tipping

Carnival automatically charges $10 per passenger per day to your onboard “Sail & Sign” account to cover all service staff, except for the dining room maitre d’, whom you may tip at your discretion. Guest can adjust this amount with a visit to the Purser’s Desk. A gratuity of 15 percent is automatically added to all drink purchases, and to the cost of the soda cards.

Entertainment

Carnival excels in entertainment, with lavish production shows (three during an eight- day cruise), glitzy costumes, and costly lighting effects. Headline acts featuring comedians, magicians, ventriloquists, jugglers or song stylists will vary with their schedules. There are generally two late-night “Adult Comedy” shows as well, beginning at midnight.

Aside from the daily show room entertainment, watch your daily schedule onboard (The Carnival Capers) for all variety of entertainment – including the poolside games, trivia contests, passenger participation games, Karaoke, bingo, art auctions, sports challenges, etc. (You can even get a temporary henna tattoo by the pool, if you consider that entertaining.)

Carnival also does a great job of making it fun for everyone at the deck parties, held a couple of times per cruise, which always include a band, the cruise staff, dancing, and of course food.

Cabins

Carnival offers the largest standard cabins in the industry, and this holds true on the Liberty. The interior decoration of the cabins aren’t like staying at the Ritz, but the relaxing color tones and blonde wood finishing on desks and closet doors are certainly of acceptable and decent quality. Combined with a comfortable leather sofa (with a storage drawer underneath), this all makes for very adequate accommodations.

Aside from extra space, the thing that makes Liberty’s cabins exceptional is the new beds – twins that can be pushed together to form a king-sized bed. And what comfortable beds they are! Combine the comfort of the beds, with the high-quality bedding and luxurious duvets, and sleep becomes a dream. The beds frames are high enough that our luggage slid easily underneath for storage, with little effort.

The in-cabin television carried all the major U.S. networks, as well movie channels, CNN, Discovery Channel, and several offering children’s programming. Pay-per-view movies are also available. You can also access a menu of guest services on your TV, including checking your account, reviewing dining room menus in advance, and ordering shore excursions.

The cabins have more than adequate storage space; a hair dryer inside the desk drawer; a mini bar; and a personal safe inside a cupboard. The bathrooms, though stark, are large with a good-sized shower and nice quality towels. Anchored to the wall inside the shower are shampoo and body wash dispensers. On the counter is a complimentary basket of sampler-size toiletry items. Several glass shelves on either side of the sink will store all your personal items.

The standard balcony cabins have a very narrow balcony, with two chairs (one of which reclines) and a small cocktail table.

The only drawback to these cabins is the use of a standard swinging door, rather than sliding doors, to access the balcony. The opening door takes up space on the already-small balcony, and the sound of balcony doors slamming shut can form its own symphony at times.

The Category 11 mini-suites and Category 12 suites on the Liberty offer considerably more space (though still in a single room), plus a bathtub in the bathrooms rather than the standard shower. Their furnishings are slightly more upscale than standard cabins.

Fitness/Spa

The gym, at 15,000 sq. ft., is full of treadmills, stationary bikes, Stairmasters, rowing and hydraulic weight machines, and of course free weights. The strategically placed equipment allows you to enjoy the panoramic views offered by the floor-to-ceiling windows. For runners, a lap on the jogging deck, which surrounds the smokestack, is equivalent to 1/11 of a mile.

Attire

On six- to eight-day cruises there will be two nights when formal attire is suggested. All other nights are designated casual. Though there were tuxedos in evidence, suits and sports jackets seemed more the norm.

What we found somewhat disconcerting was that even on designated formal nights, passengers in pretty much any form of dress were allowed in the dining rooms. Admittedly, this was the exception, not the norm. But I don’t understand why a maitre d’ wouldn’t stop people from entering the dining room in torn jeans and baseball caps on formal nights, and suggest they go the casual alternative on Lido Deck for dinner.

Best For People Who Want

A large ship experience with vibrant nightlife and an energetic atmosphere; poolside games during the day and lavish production shows in the evenings; some of the largest cabins in the industry; large and well equipped gym and spa facilities; extensive children’s facilities and Club 02 for teens.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

A reserved, elegant, and uncrowded cruise experience in intimate surroundings, and white-glove service levels.

Onboard Experience

The public areas of Liberty are rarely quiet, but the atmosphere is conducive to fun. The pool area is the hub of activity, dominated by a 270 sq ft. LCD TV, dubbed the SeaSide Theatre, above on Deck 10; it’s used for entertainment, from poolside Trivia in the mornings to concerts and movies in the evening, and for major sporting events.

For those interested in a quieter daytime option, there’s an aft pool with a retractable dome deployed during inclement weather.

Onboard musical options can satisfy all tastes, from the concerts on the Big Screen to the Piano Man Piano Bar, Karaoke, Disco with DJs, and Live Dance Music in Victoria‘s Lounge; there’s also easy listening or classical music on the ground floor of the nine-deck-high atrium, in the Grand Villa Garden.

The ship has an Internet Cafe (hidden in a corner of the aft Cabinet Bar on Deck 4) where you can send e-mail and access the Internet. The Liberty has WiFi service available from bow to stern, including individual passenger cabins. You can log in using your own laptops, or rent from the ship for $20 per day, plus the cost of the time you spend online.

With 22 bars and lounges, there’s no difficulty getting your favorite beverages, but we didn’t find the bar service overbearing or overly aggressive. Soda cards (for unlimited soft drinks) are available for children and adults.

And everyone enjoys the self-serve soft ice cream and frozen yogurt available near the two main pool areas.

A hit among kids and adults alike is the enormous water slide on Deck 11. It offers a fun ride through “the chutes” when you start that high above the sea.

Smoking areas are quite limited on the Liberty. Smoking is not allowed in the showrooms, the dining rooms, the ship’s atrium, or even by the bar or along the Promenade Deck passageway. Smoking is allowed in guest cabins, and on guest balconies, and on the starboard side of outside public decks.

Cuisine

Carnival’s cuisine has improved dramatically in the past decade. Some time ago, the cuisine on Carnival ships could have been rated equal to a budget cruise line. Today’s offerings have enough quality and taste to allow it to compete easily with any of the other mass market lines.

We were positively impressed by the wide variety offered on the nightly dining room menus, which also feature a lengthy list of always-available selections. Portions were plentiful, and other than a lack of artistic presentation and repetitive use of accompaniments to entrees, we finished all our dining room meals most satisfied.

Desserts in the dining room were the highlight of each evening; taste and presentation were equal to any ship we’ve experienced. The highlight of the dessert menus is the warm chocolate melting cake, which was on the always-available menu each evening.

Food in the buffet on Lido Deck was also above average. My expectations at a buffet are naturally lower than in a restaurant or dining room. But the diverse variety at Liberty’s buffets was enough to satisfy for most meals. Various buffet lines offered different types of food; two lines referred to as the Grand Buffet were similar to a typical buffet, with choices changing daily, and ending at a carving station. Two lines featured a “Taste of Nations” selection, representing a different ethnic cuisine each day; and there were two lines doing stir-frying (where passengers chose the raw ingredients and cooks prepared them on the spot).

There ship also has also typical grill areas where hamburgers, hot dogs, and even grilled steak sandwiches are made, and of course Carnival’s 24-hour pizzeria, which also offers Caesar salads.

Ship Overview

Launched in 2005 as the fourth vessel in the Conquest-class, Carnival Liberty was the first ship in Carnival’s fleet to receive the cruise line’s latest “Fun Ship 2.0” upgrade in 2011. Her interiors reflect some of the original theme—a sparkling tribute to artists and craftsmen—but also features new dining options and poolside bars. Carnival Liberty alternates weekly sailings to the Eastern and Western Caribbean from her departure home port in Miami.

Taking Fun Ships to new lengths and widths, Conquest-class ships are among the largest in the Carnival fleet. They’re basically larger and more feature-filled versions of earlier Destiny-class vessels. More space translates into additional decks, an upscale steak house, and even more bars and lounges; however, well-proportioned public areas belie the ships’ massive size. You’ll hardly notice that there’s slightly less space per passenger after you take a thrilling trip down the spiral waterslide.

Public rooms flow forward and aft from stunning central atriums. Just off each ship’s main boulevard is an array of specialty bars, dance lounges, discos, piano bars, and show lounges, plus seating areas along the indoor promenades. The promenade can get crowded between dinner seatings and show-lounge performances, but with so many different places to spend time, you’re sure to find one with plenty of room and an atmosphere to suit your taste.

The world’s largest cruise line—and one of the most widely recognized—originated its “Fun Ship” concept in 1972 and has been launching party-packed superliners with signature red funnels ever since. The line’s ever-growing fleet features entertainment and activities designed for passengers of all ages, from game shows and lip sync competitions to twisting waterslides and mini golf. These ships are a reliable choice for families as well as young singles and couples who want a vacation that won’t break the bank.

Nearly all onboard dining options are included in the fare, as are comedy and production shows, children’s programs, and use of state-of-the-art fitness centers. With some of the most comfortable accommodations at sea, large new ships are continuously added to the fleet and rarely deviate from a successful pattern, while older vessels are updated with popular features, such as the poolside BlueIguana Tequila Bar with an adjacent burrito cantina, the Red Frog Rum Bar that also serves Carnival’s own brand of Thirsty Frog Red beer, and Guy’s Burger Joint, created with Food Network star Guy Fieri.

  • 13 passenger decks
  • specialty restaurant, 2 dining rooms, buffet, ice cream parlor, pizzeria
  • Wi-Fi, safe, refrigerator
  • 3 pools (1 indoor), children’s pool
  • fitness classes, gym, hot tubs, sauna, spa, steam room
  • 9 bars, casino, dance club, library, showroom, video game room
  • children’s programs
  • laundry facilities, laundry service
  • Internet terminal
  • no-smoking cabins

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Pros
Cons
The lounge chairs on the deck above the aft Lido pool are almost always quiet
Steak houses on these ships are some of the best restaurants—and dining bargains—at sea
The ships have been retrofitted with Carnival’s Seaside Theatres—the jumbo-size poolside LED screens
Cabins and balconies on deck 8 from mid-ship to aft are beneath the Lido and suffer from pool-deck noise overhead
Seating at the casino bar can be noisy with sound from the slot machines dueling with nearby musicians
Likewise, sound from the Seaside Theatre can be annoyingly loud

What to expect on board

Staterooms & Cabins

Layout
Decor
Bathrooms
Accessibility

As on all Carnival ships, cabins are roomy. More than 60% have an ocean view and, of those, 60% have balconies. For those suites and ocean-view cabins that have them, private balconies outfitted with chairs and tables add additional living space; extended balconies are 50% larger than standard ones. Every cabin has adequate closet and drawer shelf storage, as well as bathroom shelves. High-thread-count linens and plush pillows and duvets are a luxurious touch in all accommodations. Suites have a whirlpool tub and walk-in closet; two Captain’s suites that were added to Carnival Liberty in 2008 have two bathrooms. A plus for families are a number of connecting staterooms in a variety of ocean-view and interior categories. Balcony dividers can be unlocked to provide connecting access in upper categories.

Light-wood cabinetry, pastel colors, mirrored accents, a small refrigerator, a personal safe, a hair dryer in the top vanity-desk drawer, and a seating area with sofa, chair, and table are typical amenities.

Shampoo and bath gel are provided in shower-mounted dispensers; you also get an array of sample toiletries, as well as fluffy towels and a wall-mounted magnifying mirror. Bathrobes for use during the cruise are provided for all.

Twenty-five staterooms are designed for wheelchair accessibility.

Food & Drink

Food

Two formal restaurants serve open seating breakfast and lunch, and dinner is served in two traditional assigned seatings or an open seating option. The casual Lido buffet’s food stations offer a variety of choices (including a deli, salad bar, dessert station, and different daily regional cuisines). By night the Lido buffet is transformed into the Seaview Bistro for casual dinner. The ship also has an upscale supper club that requires reservations and assesses a cover charge. You’ll also find a pizzeria, outdoor poolside grills where burgers and other favorites are prepared, a specialty coffee bar with pastries, a complimentary sushi bar, and 24-hour room service that offers a limited selection of breakfast items, sandwiches, and snacks.

Entertainment

Conquest-class ships were the first to receive Carnival’s newly branded bars and comedy club in 2012. While Valor and Freedom won’t be outfitted with all of them until 2014, they will be the first Conquest-class ships to have Hasbro, The Game Show. All have lively piano bars and nightclubs featuring music for dancing and listening. Deck parties are a staple that are highlighted by new poolside bars and related musical performances.

Spa & Fitness

Operated by Steiner Leisure, spas and salons are ubiquitous and treatments include a variety of massages, body wraps, and facials for adults and teens. Complimentary steam rooms and saunas in men’s and women’s changing rooms are glass walled with endless sea vistas. Salons offer hair and nail services and even tooth whitening.

QUICK FACTS

SHIP STATS
Entered Service
2005
Number of Cabins
1,487
Passenger Capacity
2,974(3,700 max)
Crew Members
1,160
Passengers to Crew Ratio
2.56
Gross Tons
110000
Width
116 feet
Length
952 feet
CRUISE LINE INFO
305/599–2600 or 800/227–6482

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