Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas Review
A mega-ship in every sense of the term, only three cruise liners are larger than Liberty of the Seas.
A mega-ship in every sense of the term, only three cruise liners are larger than Liberty of the Seas. Debuting in 2007, Liberty puts activities and entertainment front and center on the daily agenda with a long list of blockbuster attractions, such as a cool surf simulator, a towering climbing wall, a theatre with productions that aspire to touring-show quality, and an ice rink—there’s even a cupcakery offering hands-on baking lessons!
Along with siblings Freedom of the Seas and Independence of the Seas, Royal Caribbean calls the vacation “onboard excitement on a whole new scale.” We wondered if the experience was so big there was no real need for the captain to push off at all. With a 2011 renovation to flaunt, we decided to put Liberty of the Seas under the microscope.
About Our Cruise
Liberty of the Seas offers the cruise ship experience on steroids. Plumped with activities, diversions and entertainments, the ship is not unlike a theme park in its zeal to appeal to the broadest possible spectrum. The bevy of bells and whistles range from a surf simulator and rock-climbing wall to cantilevered party-size whirlpools and a casino big enough to get lost in. Running through the center of the ship is the Royal Promenade, an atrium lined with shops, dining and drinking, much like a mall.
On Liberty of the Seas, nothing comes in half-measures. Consider how the captain is introduced during the Welcome Aboard Reception: Held inside the four-story Royal Promenade, the captain arrives by way of a “flying bridge” that descends from the roof of the atrium, hovering like a spaceship with music blaring and the crowd cheering—the only thing missing was a laser light show. The overall experience is high-energy—often to a fault, as with the needlessly ear-blistering announcements from the ship’s cruise director (especially at the Muster Drill, when we saw some passengers plugging their ears).
Liberty of the Seas spends winters in the Caribbean and summers in the Med—not that the destination much matters. Based on sheer size alone, there is more to experience on Liberty of the Seas than most of us can tackle in a week—who needs ports of call when you’ve got an onboard shopping mall? And that was a central complaint for us: Royal Caribbean made little effort to connect us with the fabulous ports the ship sails to—except for the obligatory sales pitches for shore excursions and port shopping. Instead, Liberty puts its muscle behind onboard diversions, and the offerings are varied and often impressive.
We found the two headliner shows in the Platinum Theatre entertaining. “Saturday Night Fever,” an abridged version of the Broadway hit, is a perfect excuse for a ship-wide contagion of disco fever, while “In the Air” is a big-scale homage to Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics, replete with zany costumes and trippy music. “Encore: An Ice Spectacular” is just that—and between shows the ice rink is open to guests for skating. The rock-climbing wall and surf simulator are other offerings that make the ship inviting to active types, and there’s no add-on fee for any of these. Royal Caribbean has built tie-ins with crowd-pleasing brands like Johnny Rockets and Dreamworks (creator of the Shrek franchise) and, with a solid kids program and terrific H2O Zone, the ship is a natural for families, especially teens.
Economies of Scale
Carrying 3634 passengers at double occupancy (and usually sailing with more), we were impressed that—overall—Liberty’s traffic flow was smooth and crowding was not usually a problem. Free tickets were issued for the most popular shows (the venues are not large enough to accommodate all passengers), but there were still scattered seats available at showtime for performances we attended. Still there were a lot of bodies to manage, and it didn’t always run smoothly. We found a line present at the Guest Relations Desk through most of the day (thankfully, a crewmember frequently went out to “work” the line, trouble-shooting simpler issues). And at one port long lines formed in the hour prior to disembarkation, leading to frustration for many guests—shore excursions should have been better timed to minimize the logjam.
Our dining experience was—at best—average for the cruise industry. The buffet offerings were uninteresting, and the main dining room was a hit or miss affair. Of the specialty restaurants, Johnny Rockets delivered just what we expected, while the Italian Portofino was a fairly good meal, helped by attentive service; the steakhouse Chops Grille was a letdown, and not quite worth the surcharge.
There are a lot of common areas to navigate and these were mostly appealing. There was a sufficient amount of pool and deck space, much of it linked to the various activities. We liked the large interactive touch screens found at each elevator/stairwell, which provided directions to major areas of the ship, as well as “what’s on now” information. We found the art in stairwells fun—contemporary photos that toy with reality and illusion—while in hallway corridors there were photos and art, with a theme for each floor. One is exotic monuments, another magicians and sorcery, and another dedicated to recent movie heroes (Jar Jar Binks, really?). On the downside, Royal Caribbean says “our ships are designated as non-smoking,” but we found cigarette smoke persistent, sometimes inescapable in quite a few indoor (non-smoking) areas.
To our taste, Liberty of the Seas was neither intimate, nor subtle, and the ports were more sideshow than true destination. In trying to cater to the widest possible audience on a grand scale, the ship won’t be a good match for some cruisers. But one of Liberty’s strengths is that there is something for almost every age bracket at almost all hours of the day and evening, making it an especially good pick for a multi-generational family cruise. While the dining was unimpressive, bring an appetite for fun and entertainment and Liberty of the Seas could be a good fit for you.
Get Our Newsletter
Real advice from real experts. Sign up for our newsletter
Thanks for signing up!