Review: Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas

I’ve been struggling with this one.  Like…almost 9 months struggling to figure out how to write this without it just being super negative (and that’s not my vibe in general).  Because I really did not enjoy this experience.

I’ll start this by saying that I am unequivocally NOT a cruise person—at least not this kind of cruise.  This was my first one, but I went in knowing that there was a pretty good chance that cruising wasn’t for me (this experience just confirmed it).  I was, however, surprised by how much I disliked it…

Sunrise aboard the Liberty of the Seas

I thought my feelings on cruising would be more like my feelings on all-inclusive resorts:  basically, it doesn’t really fit my travel style but for the right kind of trip it’s totally fine.

Yeah, no.  (Though that sunrise shot is pretty gorgeous, no??)

So I’m sharing my feelings on the Liberty of the Seas, but know that I don’t have any other cruises to compare this to.  From all my research, this is not the nicest Royal Caribbean ship, but it’s by no means the worst either.  It’s fine, but not amazing.  This is just one perspective, and there were lots of people who obviously love cruising and loved being on this ship.  So feel free to take this review with a whole salt lick if necessary.

About the Liberty of the Seas

It’s not a terribly new ship, dating back to 2007.  CruiseCritic has a good overview of pros and cons from people who know much more than I do about cruise ships, which you can read here.

To me, the whole thing felt a bit older and shabbier, but the rooms in particular feel older, and it doesn’t have some of the insane bells and whistles that newer ships do.  From what they say, it’s a good cruise ship for kids, and my little nieces and nephews did have a great time.

I just felt like…I was on a Walmart cruise experience.  That sounds harsh, and for some people that’s not an issue at all.  It’s not a judgment, just a vibe I don’t find at all interesting about travel.  For me it’s about culture and amazing food and interesting people and getting out of my comfort zone.  This was not that.

liberty of the seas review, docked in Cozumel

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We had the misfortune to board following a norovirus outbreak, so they’d completely sanitized the ship before we arrived (they actually pushed back our boarding time by a couple hours to finish it).

I completely appreciate the effort at safety and hygiene, though the entire ship smelled like a high school locker room that’s just been doused in bleach.  The water in the restaurants even tasted like bleach.  And sadly pretty much my entire family (and myself, on the very last night) succumbed to the norovirus at some point during the trip, so that was a bummer.

The pool area

The ship has three different pools, and it’s definitely one of the boat’s highlights.  There’s a true adults-only pool area, which is a tad quieter, and where I tended to spend my time.  There’s an all-ages pool that’s like an all-the-time dance party (unh-ch-unh-ch…), and then a crazy little water park for the kiddos.

The biggest challenge for me is that they were all back-to-back, so the party music from the middle pool bled into the adults-only area…made it hard to chill.  It also gets super crowded and all the chairs are packed in like sardines—seriously, not even a couple inches between them.  So it’s not the most relaxing atmosphere.

One recommendation I will make is just to stay on the boat for the port days, or at least one of them.  Because so many people leave the boat, it was definitely the quietest day and I was able to grab a nice chair to lay out.

adult only pool area on liberty of the seas

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Because the pool was so crowded and I couldn’t find a chair in the sun, I often ended up on the top deck above the pool, where the running track is.  On the plus side, had a lot more space and quiet.  On the down side, it’s super windy up there so it wasn’t super comfortable.  And obviously, no pool (for me it was more about getting a tan).

LOOK AT THIS NUGGET!  Like I said, my nieces and nephews loved the splash park, and spent gobs of time there when they weren’t sick.

kids pool splash area on liberty of the seas

The rooms

So, the room situation on the Liberty of the Seas is one of my least favorite aspects, and I think it’s pretty much a constant where cruises are concerned.  They’re super tiny and just not that comfy.  When you’re used to snagging a pretty decent hotel or a great Airbnb for a fraction of the price, it’s tougher to swallow.

My room steward was Christopher, and while he was nice, he honestly was never around and I had trouble getting answers to simple things I wanted to know.  But he did give me some sweet towel animals—the sloth is my favorite (for my birthday)!

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The bathrooms in cruise ship rooms are particularly awful and cramped, which made getting ready (for things like formal nights) a big pain.  I kept banging my elbows on the shower walls and bathroom walls.

I’ve made some notes about must-bring items at the bottom of the post as well (and some things that I didn’t end up finding useful).

The food & drink options

First, and most importantly, drinks:

I got the full drink package so I could have whatever I wanted (including good coffees and bottled water) whenever I wanted.  For me that just made more sense, because I care about that.

I found the drinks to be strong, but the cocktails not great.  Got some okay pina coladas and the like at the pool bars, but at regular bars like Olive or Twist (at the top of the ship), the cocktails were terrible.

One thing I found super helpful… I typically asked for a bottled water each time I ordered a drink, and just started hoarding them since I was sweating constantly.

get the drink package on liberty of the seas

I did love this…this is a glass of port!  Usually a serving is 1.5 ounces, but with my drink pass they poured me a full glass!  (Though you really shouldn’t drink a massive glass of port.  But still, that would be like $50 in a restaurant.)

Main dining room:

My family and I were assigned to the main dining room on level 3.  I was 100% not a fan for dinner, but it totally fine for breakfast, and that’s what I’d recommend vs. the buffet—it’s just more chill.

For dinner, everything I had ranged from super “meh” to truly awful.  The steak in particular.  I feel like the lasagna and short rib weren’t awful.  I upgraded once to the Chops filet and it was okay (but not amazing).  Our waiters were super nice and accommodating, and hats off to them.

Specialty Dining Options:

I did splurge on the specialty dining a couple times, and would have more if I hadn’t been in a larger group.  We went to Giovanni’s for my birthday, and it was hands-down the best meal we had the entire time.  Literally everything was stellar except two things which were just good.

My parents and I ate a Chops one night as well.  It was good from a steak, wine, and service perspective, and the appetizers were pretty decent too.  The sides were fairly meh, kind of phoning it in.

Honestly, if it had been up to me I would have just gotten the dining package and splurged on better meals the entire cruise.  But food and drink are super important to me when I travel, so it’s something I am always willing to spend on.

Our wine even had its own bong 🙂

(J/K I know it’s an aerator…but really…)

Liberty of the Seas—the ship itself

I spent as little time in the big Promenade as possible, since it was always crowded.  I liked some of these little alcoves along the side of the ship that rarely had many people and actually were a way to get some peace and quiet.

I also really loved that the ship had a running track on the top, even though it was windy AF.  The sunrises from up there were pretty epic and I made sure to get out every morning.

liberty of the seas review, ship decks

running and walking track on top deck of liberty of the seas

The ports

Ugh.  The ports on our particular cruise itinerary with the Liberty of the Seas were the worst.  That was part of why I was so negative about the whole thing, I think.  If we’d had somewhere cool and new on the itinerary, I think I could have been a bit more excited.

Instead, our ports were Roatan, Honduras (where you go to get murdered), Belize City, Belize (where you go to get murdered), and Cozumel, Mexico (Senor Frogs…).  I struggled to figure out any kind of excursions I was excited about.  I ended up staying on the ship in Cozumel and it was totally the right call—I wished I’d done it for all three.

beautiful clear waters in Roatan, Honduras, when the Liberty of the Seas docked here

The Roatan port day was actually my birthday, so I wanted to do something nice.  None of the regular excursions sounded remotely interesting, so I booked one that was basically a spa day at a “private island”.  But first, ice cream…

port day for liberty of the seas in roatan, honduras

The place looked pretty enough, but wasn’t anything special.  And the spa day consisted of an okay body scrub and maybe a massage, but nothing super special.  It was a nice little thing for my birthday though, unique.

port day excursion in roatan honduras for the liberty of the seas

Belize City is a tender port, meaning the ships have to dock off the coast a ways and then smaller boats take groups over to the port.  This adds significant time onto any excursion (and Belize is often on a different time zone), so you should take all that into account in your planning.  We left the Liberty of the Seas behind and it was about a 20-minute ferry each way.

tendering from liberty of the seas to belize city

I actually did something fairly ballsy and did a DIY excursion over to Caye Caulker.  I’d been in Belize only 6 months earlier and had spent a few days chillin’ in Caye Caulker, so wanted to spend the day showing my mom around.  I’ve written a whole post about how to do it yourself…along with some strong warnings about why it’s not necessarily a great idea.

What I *would* recommend is a snorkeling trip out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve.  The second-largest barrier reef in the world is in Belize, so the snorkeling is WORLD CLASS (you can see a little more on that here).

Finally, Cozumel.  I’m sure there are some upsides here.  Thing is, I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the Riviera Maya (in this nice all-inclusive) and in Cancun, so there just wasn’t anything new here to interest me.  This is the day I stayed on the boat.  If you haven’t seen Chichen Itza though, this is the time to do it (you can see more about that here).

port day in cozumel for liberty of the seas

So.  Yeah.  I obviously wasn’t a fan, but that doesn’t mean that the Liberty of the Seas isn’t right for certain kinds of travelers—particularly families.  I tried to make lemonade out of lemons, since I was there with family and that was a big piece of the trip.  It was great to spend time with them, and I’m glad that I’ve given cruising a try at least once.

Some must-bring items for your cruise:

I did a ton of research ahead of time to figure out what was a must-bring.

  • First and foremost, tons of sunscreen, as well as after-sun lotion and hydrocortisone cream (for heat rash).  I’ve talked all about my favorite sunscreens for travel.
  • The fan I brought was CLUTCH in that tiny airless room
  • For me, earplugs and a great blackout mask are a must
  • I wished I’d brought some clips to hold my beach towels on the pool chairs
  • I didn’t use my insulated cup at all, and didn’t end up needing the fancy outlet plug thing I’d brought (but having a few long cords would be helpful, like for my phone)

Beach & pool adventures that *aren’t* cruises:

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