I was Lido’d out.
I had about given up on sailing on large cruise ships. It was a case of been there, done that, spilled the Island Special on the T-shirt. I’d line danced on the Lido deck, waited for a spot in the kid-filled hot tub and cringed at the hairy chest contests. My stepson had even won the International Belly Flop Contest on our most recent cruise a few years back, so really, what was left to experience?
A lot, it turns out. In December my husband and I went on the Carnival Liberty for an entire week and experienced a whole new level of fun, more in tune with my older, more mature (?) self. We set sail from Miami, with stops planned in Cozumel, Belize, Grand Cayman and Mahogany Bay, Roatan. A week later we disembarked with a newfound appreciation for cruising and a long list of more destinations we’d like to visit by boat.
Many of our favorite things on the Carnival Liberty were new features that are being rolled out as part of the $500,000 Fun Ship 2.0 initiative due to be completed in 2015. Starting with food and drink of course, here are our favorite experiences:
Drinks at Alchemy Bar. Where pharmacy meets cocktail, this new addition to the Liberty may be my favorite bar, ever. You can take a look at the light-up menu for something intriguing or grab a prescription pad, describe what ails you and the lab coat-clad bartenders will whip you up a cure right away. Although we tested several cocktails, we settled on our favorite: The Radical Cure, a martini for healing. Tanqueray gin, lavender essence, fresh limejuice and maraschino liqueur. Heaven in a cocktail glass.
Beers at EA Sports Another of the 22 themed bars on board, EA Sports is small but popular with the sports fans on board, who can watch any of 16 screens along with a ticker tape of scores. My husband enjoyed checking out the more than two dozen draft and bottled beers.
Burgers from Guy’s Burger Joint. Fans of the Food Network will recognize Carnival’s partner, Guy Fieri, the white-spikey-haired big star best known for his show “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.” This cleverly decorated spot on the corner of the Lido deck (surfboards, car bumpers, servers in mechanic uniforms) serves up big, fresh burgers fast. Order one of six types of burgers, and head to the huge selection of condiments – underneath car hoods of course – to pile up with your choice of grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles and more. Burgers are served with large hand-cut fries.
They are large enough (as is my desire to still fit in my jeans post-cruise) that my husband and I could split one. (And leave room for fresh sushi an hour later from the Origami Sushi Bar, which just jumped on my plate as I was walking by.) We weren’t the only burger fans on board– the ship serves 1200 burgers a day.
Tacos from BlueIguana Cantina. Also located in a corner of the Lido deck, with rarely much of a line, the BlueIguana has one line for tacos (pork, fish or chicken) and one for burritos (chicken, beef or shrimp.) Again, the emphasis is on fresh food – even down to the tortillas, which are cranked out by the tortilla machine front and center. The fun really starts when you head to the salsa station where I loaded up on the selection of the usual, plus watermelon and jicama salsa, black and bean and corn salsa, sliced veggies and huge springs of fresh cilantro. And what’s Mexican food without tequila? Right next door is the BlueIguana Tequila Bar for margaritas and Mexican beer.
Harry’s Supper Club Our most elegant dinner was the night we indulged in delicious steaks at Harry’s Supper Club. Being devoted carnivores, my husband and I loved the big juicy cuts of meat that we were able to select when our waiter brought a huge tray of meat for our perusal. Reservations are required here and a $30 a person supplement applies.
Fresh Oysters from Fish and Chips Station I should have known from the huge smile on his face and the gleam in his eye that my husband had just gathered some food-related Intel from his dip in the hot tub. “They have fresh oysters at the fish and chips station,” he cried delightedly. Not sharing his love for the slimy, snot-like globs I did not share his delight but was happy for him to indulge. As much as possible.
Breakfast on our Balcony. The only other cruise I’d been on when I had a balcony was in Canada where the weather wasn’t conducive to hanging out and watching the scenery outdoors. And I’d never tried room service on a ship before. So for a few mornings we ordered room service and enjoyed yogurt and fresh melon while we pulled into ports. It was a delightful way to start the day.
And here are a few of the non-food related pleasures of our voyage.
Lounging on The Serenity Deck. We so enjoyed staying far, far away from the Lido Deck. With the exception of one singer who had a beautiful voice we enjoyed once at sunset, the music was way too loud and the scene too happenin’ for us. Luckily, the Liberty has a huge adults-only section with plenty of plush seating, hot tubs and a refreshing lack of any type of contests at all.
Lack of Crowds. Although our ship, like most cruise ships, was sailing full, it didn’t feel too crowded. We never stood in line for more than a few minutes for anything. Even the burgers.
The Fitness Center. As part of our weight maintenance program, my husband and I took the stairs everywhere, even if it was 12+ floors. And we also made daily use of the fitness center on the Liberty where there were plenty of machines for him and exercise equipment for me. I did venture into the sauna one afternoon, which had a window from which I watched us cruise out of Honduras.
Oops – there is one more food-related item.
The Yogurt Machines. Our afore-mentioned weight maintenance program would have been far more successful as it not been for the always-available frozen yogurt machines, by which we were unable to pass without stopping “for just a bite.” After all, it may have been at least 45 minutes since our last meal.
For more information on the Carnival Liberty, visit www.carnival.com/funship2.