Liberty of the Seas
Liberty of the Seas is a visual feast for the eyes. Top left is a bird's eye view (looking down) onto one Centrum. Top right is another Centrum shot, this time from a forward viewpoint.*
By Susan J. Young
We’ve seen a lot of ships, big and small. Each has its own personality, attributes and perks for cruisers. What strikes us about Royal Caribbean International’s 160,000-ton Liberty of the Seas is its “overall package”
- First, the ship -- built by Finland by Kvaerner Masa-Yards – is a stunner. Since I sailed over Mother’s Day, I took along my mother. She just kept saying, “This ship is simply gorgeous.”
And so it was. So if you cruise on Liberty of the Seas, expect a classy overall feel with touches of glitz.
Throughout the ship, you’ll find superb artwork; the entire art collection onboard is reportedly valued at about $8 million.
For example, shown at right is "Tequila Sunrise," a mixed media work in Boleros lounge. The colors of grenadine red, solar orange and the amber glow of tequila create a artistic, tropical garden wall.*
- Second, this ship – which cruises along at 21.6 knots – truly delivers “the goods.” Liberty of the Seas, which sailed its maiden voyage May 19, 2007, and sister Freedom of the Seas, which launched in spring 2006, are the world’s largest ships. As a result, they’re brimming with amenities.
You’d have to be seriously catatonic to say you’re bored on this ship.
Yes, you'll find such usual fare as bingo, art auctions, spa treatments and pool games.
But Liberty of the Seas also offers a skating rink, shopping promenade FlowRider surfing pool, a boxing ring (shown above*) and a Royal Promenade.
- Third, the crew members we encountered (1,360 crew members sail on each voyage) were a cut above in friendliness and the proactive ability to solve problems. We had some challenges onboard due to use of my mother’s transport wheelchair.
But along every step, the crew members responded competently. “Marina” from Guest Services was a jewel, as were members of the Security Department. Our cabin steward also was very attentive.
- Fourth, while the ship is virtually a copy of Freedom of the Seas (minus a small bookstore), it has become the platform for the launch of several new programs.
Among them is a new Vitality program that combines new spa and fitness offerings, wholesome culinary fare, and active onboard and on-shore activities.
Women are shown at right exercising as part of Royal Caribbean's new Vitality program.*
So let’s take a look at our impressions and a general overview of what Liberty of the Seas offers to cruisers….
The Royal Promenade
Entering the ship, you’ll find yourself close to the Royal Promenade. Longer than a football field, it connects two Centrums (atriums). The Centrums and Royal Promenade feature dramatic artwork by Miguel Chevalier, a French artist who has pioneered interactive digital art. Through the use of color, video and light projection, the art is ever changing in look.
This 445-foot-long Royal Promenade (seen in the photo at left*) is usually abuzz with activity -- shopping, dining and entertainment. We loved the Pirate Parade.
That parade is offered once weekly as is the “Soca-licious” Caribbean-style parade.
Both parades are free, so just go about an hour or so early to grab a table along the parade route; we enjoyed having drinks and a snack as we waited for the parade.
Several small children next to us even brought pirate gear with them and dressed in “character." Their devotion would have made Captain Jack Sparrow proud.
Need a shave? A Clean Shave is the promenade’s barber shop offering grooming services for a fee. The “Get Out There” retail shop is popular for souvenirs, sundries and clothing.
One popular promenade stop is Ben & Jerry’s, a 1950s-style ice cream parlor (shown at right*). We can vouch for the Cookies ‘n Cream and the Pistachio flavors (so many flavors, so little time).
Sorrento’s, an Italian venue, and Café Promenade, a continental-style café, offer free snacks, tasty pizza, sandwiches and some beverages.
Ben & Jerry’s, specialty coffee drinks, some other food fare at the various dining spots, bottled water, sodas and alcoholic beverages carry a nominal charge; it varies per product.
One favorite of some fellow cruisers on our voyage was the English-styled Hoof and Claw Pub; it’s the perfect spot to grab a brew and watch the people stroll along the Royal Promenade. Prefer wine over a brew? Then head for Vintages, the wine bar just across the “street.”
At Explorations, you may ask questions of the shore excursion staff or book your shore tours and ground arrangements. We felt the Champagne Lounge was an excellent, relaxing enclave; of course, its offerings were appropriately bubbly as well. Latte-tudes is another coffee bar, and there’s karaoke fun at the Sphinx.
Get Out There: Active Diversions
While the most razzle-dazzle feature on this ship is the 32-foot-wide by 40-foot-wide FlowRider surf pool, the ship also boasts a 44-foot-wide Rock Climbing Wall, the most extensive in the Royal Caribbean fleet (along with the one on Freedom of the Seas) and a full-size Everlast Boxing Ring.
If you say “oh I wouldn’t want to surf,” that’s fine. Stay dry but whatever you do, go! It’s a hoot just to watch from the bleachers.
You’ll see your fellow travelers attempting to balance on a surfboard as 35,000 gallons of water per minute rush underneath them at 35 mph. The wave action is shown in the photo at left.*
After viewing the FlowRider and its brave participants, it appears to us that surfing this pool is even a bit harder than surfing the ocean.
When a “wipe out” occurs on FlowRider, the surfer is swept back up the slope. After just a few seconds, they’re back on the board again. And yes, training is provided in the aptly named “Wipe Out” facility.
That multi-purpose Wipe Out area also (1) houses a bar offering beer, wine and fruit ice drinks; (2) has a Sports Outlet that provides free rentals of FlowRider boards, golf clubs, basketballs, and volleyballs; and (3) is home to a small shop selling tee-shirts and other souvenirs.
At 44 feet wide by 43 feet tall, “The Wall” is Liberty of the Seas’ signature rock climbing structure. It’s larger than on other Royal Caribbean ships (with the exception of Freedom of the Seas) and has 11 separate climbing routes.
Also on the top deck is a golf simulator and the nine-hole Liberty Dunes miniature golf course.
Nearby a hard-surfaced Sports Court is the place for basketball, paddleball and volleyball.
It's popular with cruisers of all ages and multi-generational family groups as well. At right, a grandmother plays hoops with her grandson.*
On Deck 12, fitness buffs will find a jogging track that circles the deck perimeter.
As for pools, this ship has three major pool “zones.”
Farthest aft is the extensive H2O Zone, a fanciful waterpark for kids; adults playing with the little ones will also love it.
Kids can’t get enough of the watery playground (shown at left*), resplendent with waterfalls, spray “characters,” a bucket that dumps water from above, and a host of other wacky diversions.
A small circular family pool also sends children (and their folks) going around in circles. We think the adults we saw were having just about as much fun as their kids.
That waterpark is quite handy to the Windjammer Café. Also nearby on the exterior deck is Sprinkles, a self-serve frozen yogurt station. The SeaTrek dive and snorkel shop is also close by as is a juice bar.
Mid-ship is the main pool, open to kids and adults alike. Cascading rows of lounge chairs ring the pool area and the deck above.
Those opting for the top deck area will have bird's eye views of the pool below, as in this photo at right.*
A stage adjacent to the pool rocks at certain times of the day and night with small musical combos, singers and other entertainment.
A pool bar is close or you might order a cool, tropical drink, beer, glass of wine or a cocktail from the crew members circling the deck to assist guests.
But if you seek a more soothing atmosphere – without any children permitted – the Solarium is for you.
It’s a cerebral oasis with a large pool and a dramatic walkway over the water. The pool is flanked by hammocks and comfortable lounge chairs.
One spectacular feature of Liberty of the Seas is its cantilevered whirlpools. Located on both sides of the ship in this Solarium area, they extend 12 feet out beyond the sides of the ship.
It’s a bit eerie but also exhilarating to be “beyond the ship’s structure” and 112 feet above the ocean.
Definitely take time to peruse the Solarium’s impressive “bird art.” Below left is a 1897-era Italian wall mosaic; it's on an outside wall (but covered above to protect it from the elements) just before you enter the spa from the Solarium.
In addition, we enjoyed the individual bird sculptures (one is shown at right*) across the top of the ship’s structure near the pool. Colorful birds seem realistically "perched" and watching all the pool action in the Solarium.
And, two 8.5-foot-high toucans made of resin, bronze and ceramic tile, welcome visitors to the Solarium pool area bar.
Spa and Fitness
Continuing aft, you’ll enter back inside for the Liberty Day Spa and Fitness Center. At the entry to the fitness center is the Everlast Boxing Ring; here you might learn boxing techniques or just watch a demonstration by the staff.
Whether you prefer a spirited boxing lesson, a massage or a soothing manicure (shown at right), you'll have a wealth of health, fitness and beauty options on Liberty of the Seas.*
Operated by Steiner, the spa offers a full-bodied menu of massages, manicures, pedicures and other treatments. An acupuncture treatment costs $150, while you can get your teeth whitened in 30 minutes for $199. Salon services are also available.
Among the massage offerings is a 75-minute Balinese “Hot Stone Massage” for $193; it’s a good choice if you desire a traditional full body massage combined with deep penetrating heat from volcanic stones bathed in Asian oils.
In addition, Royal Caribbean’s new Vitality program is centered around much activity within the spa and fitness center. Elements include Tai Chi and meditation classes, therapeutic Chinese herbal medicinal offerings, acupuncture at sea, a “New Look & New You” mini-makeover programs and more.
Weddings and Other Diversions
Planning a wedding in port? High atop the ship in an out-of-the-way spot is a small nondenominational Skylight Wedding Chapel.
The chapel seats up to 45. The area within the chapel where couples exchange vows is shown at left.*
Royal Caribbean now features an Explorer Weddings program, a more adventurous extension of its Royal Romance wedding and vow renewal program.
So, yes, you can even tie the knot (in ports) or renew vows while riding the wild surf on the Flow Rider.
Or, the line will help arrange for onshore or undersea weddings or vow renewals. These might include such activities as hot air ballooning or scuba diving.
Just downstairs on Deck 14 is the pleasant Viking Crown Lounge. The lounge is multi-dimensional with a separate card room, full-service bar, cushion chairs, tall cocktail tables with bar chairs, and a small dance floor.
Jazz performances are offered many evenings. One plus is the lounge's lofty perch (see photo above right*) above the H2O Zone; it's a great spot to watch kids frolick in watery fun.
You’ll find plenty of entertainment options just about everywhere on Liberty of the Seas. On Decks 4-5, the two-deck-high Platinum Theater is the place for shows.
We personally loved the Egyptian theming of the Sphinx, (see photo at left*), a place for daytime activities and nighttime cabaret and dancing. It shouldn't be missed by anyone who's been to or ever wanted to go to Egypt.
Also on Deck 4 is the Casino Royale with 19 tables and 308 slot machines. Boleros is a Latin-themed bar with live music.
The line’s signature, Schooner lounge features nautical theming and a piano bar.
For those who want to keep in touch with family and friends at home via the Internet, Royal Caribbean Online offers a wealth of terminals for Web surfing and e-mail access.
One trip to this Internet café also will allow you to set up your own laptop to receive Wi-Fi transmission throughout the ship. This worked superbly for me while onboard but one fellow journalist had some challenges in securing the Wi-Fi signal in his cabin.
On Deck 2-3, Center Ice is a skating rink used for “Encore on Ice,” an evening ice show performance. See the production shot at right.*
The rink is also open during certain daytime hours for free guest skating. Socks and pants are required for skaters.
Kids under 18 must have a waiver signed by their parents before they’ll be allowed on the ice.
Also on Deck 3 is the On Air Club, a karaoke venue, and the Catacombs, a rather spooky two-deck nightclub is for guests 18 and up. If you’re into photos, you’ll also find the Art Gallery here; photos taken onboard by the ship’s photographer may be purchased here. The gallery also sells cameras, equipment and photo supplies.
As for children’s areas, this ship features Adventure Ocean, programming for guests 3 to 17 years of age. Royal Caribbean has a partnership with Fisher Price and there are many options, including Aqua Babies and Aqua Tots interactive classes with parents and children.
A new Chefs on Deck program for tots is designed to spark culinary interest in even the youngest cruisers.
We enjoyed the Adventure Ocean’s 3-5 year old area. These kids have their own colorful computers, myriad games, a “ship" play area and colorful bean bag animals (shown above right*).
Each age group has its own distinct area. Teens hang out in the “Living Room,” and a new teen advisory board is helping the line assess what teens really want onboard and ashore. Challenger’s Arcade is an entertainment area for teens and adults.
Royal Caribbean has enhanced its Adventure Ocean program with such elements as Adventure Theater by Camp Broadway, New York city’s famed children’s theater group. It introduces kids and teens to the world of theater arts through folktales, music, dance and cultural elements.
Teens can also hone their turntable skills in Scratch DJ classes hosted by the Scratch DJ Academy.
A World of Dining
This elegant main dining room has three separate areas named for painters to help you find your way to your table; the dining room features two fixed seating times for dinner.*
To help spread folks around for dining, the main dining room has two fixed seatings. It's also comprised of three separate areas – Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Botticelli, depending on which deck you enter the dining room. As with other Royal ships, we found the seating – when the restaurant was packed – left little room to navigate between tables when exiting the room.
Two alternative restaurants, each with a $20 per person cover charge, are located just inside the entryway to Windjammer Café.
Chops Grille is an elegant specialty restaurant offering steaks and fresh seafood.
For a truly special dining experience, we recommend Portofino. This restaurant prepares creative and savory Italian cuisine. Shown above, the elegant dining room features floor to ceiling windows for great ocean views.
My mother’s steak was “to die for” she said. My seafood entrée was superb. And the European-style white glove service was impeccable and friendly. Royal Caribbean has come a long way during the past five years in its fine dining presentation and quality of cuisine.
The Windjammer Café (including the Asian buffet Jade) was highly popular during our cruise. I personally loved the Asian food. The crew kept the buffet clean and well-stocked.
In addition, there are stations for American cuisine, pizza, sandwiches, salads, desserts and so on. Individual food “islands” help keep traffic flowing during prime dining hours.
Of course, if you’re just seeking a place for a drink and your favorite libation, you’ll find a host of watering holes around. You might partake of “sakes” and teas in addition to cocktails at the Plaza Bar.
One crew member serving drinks in Jade loved chatting with my mother. This delightful employee called my mother by name on subsequent visits. The crew member said she'd enjoyed working on Royal Caribbean ships for some time but always on the line’s smaller ships. She wondered if she’d like working on such a large ship, and she told us she was happily encouraged that guests were just as friendly and fun.
From our side, we also wondered how crew members on such a large ship would treat guests? Would the experience resemble a cattle car. Thankfully, the answer was no. Overall, we found the crew on this ship very proactive, helpful and engaging with guests – at all levels and throughout differing departments.
Booking the Right Cabin
With the massive size of Liberty of the Seas (its length rivals the Empire State Building in height), it's important to pick the right cabin locale for your cruise personality. That way, you'll be close to your favorite venues and you won't spend undue time and enery walking long distances.*
The godmother of this ship, Donnalea Madeley, is a Canadian travel agent. While she's clearly an excellent travel agent and a good community citizen to be chosen by the line for such an honor, we think travel agents as a whole are an invaluable resource if you – as a consumer – plan to travel on this ship.
Why? Given this ship’s massive size – 1,112 feet long, 237 feet high and 185 feet wide, not all cabins onboard are created equal. Keep in mind that Liberty of the Seas’ length is just slightly less than the entire height of New York’s Empire State Building. It’s twice as long as the Washington Monument is high.
So, if you don’t want to feel like you’ve just walked a marathon around the ship every day just to get from Point A to Point B, then ask your travel agent to help you select a cabin that best meets your needs. With the size of Liberty of the Seas, this is not just a nicety but a necessity.
Keep your personality and cruising style in mind. What facilities will you use most onboard?
If you spend 60 percent of your time at the spa, fitness center or adult pool area, definitely book a forward (toward the front of the ship) stateroom.
However, if you prefer to be close to the buffet restaurant, Internet café, the Sports Court, the FlowRider surf pool, the Adventure Ocean children's facilities or the H2O waterpark, the aft area (rear) of the ship is a good choice.
Some deck corridors do not flow “all the way through." So you might need to "go up or down to the next deck and then across." Again, when booking a ship this size, it's important to consider the deck plan, talk to your travel agent, and carefully select your cabin.
You’ll have plenty of stateroom choices. The ship boasts 1,817 staterooms. Of those, 1084 are ocean view and of those 842 have balconies.
In addition, there are 733 interior staterooms including 172 with an unusual “inside view” of the Royal Promenade.
Bringing the kids? Then you want one of the 855 staterooms with a third/fourth berths. Liberty of the Seas also has 32 wheelchair accessible staterooms.
These interior Royal Promenade view cabins are great if you enjoy a flow of people and activities below. For example, such a cabin is a great perch for watching the Pirate Parade.
At right, you'll see that some interior staterooms have windows overlooking the Royal Promenade.*
For the same reasons, though, these are not always the quietest staterooms. And, remember to keep your stateroom drapes pulled while dressing.
Editor's Note: The Ben & Jerry's Suite, number 6305, is an interior family suite with a Promenade view. Book this suite and you'll receive an added perk -- free Ben & Jerry's ice cream throughout your onboard stay.
Among the many suite options onboard Liberty of the Seas are one Royal Suite (sleeping up to four with separate living area and wet bar); eight Owner Suites (sleeps up to four with separate living area and mini bar); and one 1,215-square-foot Presidential Family Suite (sleeps eight to 14 with a spacious living area and 810-square foot outdoor living area with whirlpool and private bar).
Royal Caribbean has never been known in the industry for huge staterooms, but the size of Liberty of the Seas’ cabins is certainly adequate. The cabin "look" and decor is attractive with crisp white linens and dark green accents.
All twin bedded staterooms can convert to a queen bed configuration. All staterooms have a private bath, small but attractive. The small circular shower features a door that pulls around you, easier to contend with than the shower curtains in baths of the same size on other lines' vessels.
What stateroom amenities can you expect? Liberty of the Seas’ cabins all feature a flat-panel television (one example at left*). In addition, staterooms have a telephone, mini-bar, hair dryer and individually controlled air conditioning.
As part of the line’s new bedding program, you’ll likely get a good night’s sleep. We did.
The new style of bedding frames, mattresses, sheets, pillows and duvets are a far cry from the past bedding set-up on Royal Caribbean or other lines.
The line also puts a sheet under the duvet; that's a nice touch as, at times, the guest simply prefers a lighter covering.
Itineraries and Pricing
Liberty of the Seas is a floating resort that takes you to the Caribbean on either an eastern or western itinerary; its Platinum Theater is shown above.*
As for itineraries, Liberty of the Seas and sister Freedom of the Seas both sail from Miami. They alternate between seven-night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries with Liberty departing on Saturdays and Freedom on Sundays.
Both itineraries include a stop at Royal Caribbean’s private “island-like” experience at Labadee, Haiti. Liberty of the Seas' western itinerary calls in Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman, and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The eastern itinerary features calls in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten with a lot of sea day time for those wanting to “do it all” or, alternatively, to just enjoy a relaxing time onboard.
Pricing on both itineraries varies by date and inventory, but generally begins at $680 per person based on double occupancy for standard inside (non-oceanview, non-Promenade) accommodations.
For More Information
Call your travel agent or Royal Caribbean at 800-327-2056 or www.royalcaribbean.com.
For more photos of Liberty of the Seas, visit our That's Entertainment page for Pirate Parade shots, and our Royal Caribbean page for a Photologue of others; both are highly graphic intensive so please be patient.*
Susan J. Young sailed on Liberty of the Seas in May 2007. She was also the first U.S. travel trade journalist to sail onboard Freedom of the Seas in spring 2006. A veteran journalist, Young is the former Cruise Bureau Chief and Southeast Bureau Chief for a major New York travel trade magazine, and she remains contributing editor-cruise for that publication. She also freelances for many national and regional publications. Young is editor in chief of SouthernCruising.com™ and SouthernTravelNews.com™.
*Photos owned and copyrighted by either Royal Caribbean International or Susan J. Young. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.