This is a review of two back-to-back cruises on Liberty of the Seas in the Fall 2023. The first cruise was a 9-day New England and Canada cruise calling at Boston, Massachusetts, Portland, Maine, Bar Harbor, Maine, Halifax. Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick. The second cruises was scheduled to be a five-day Bermuda cruise but due to adverse weather conditions it became a Canada cruise calling at Saint John. Both cruises began and ended in New York harbor at the Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey.
The chief advantage of doing back-to-back cruises is that it makes for a longer cruise experience. However, back-to-back cruises are not the same as a single cruise of the equivalent length.
Most of your fellow passengers leave the ship after the first cruise and a new set of passengers comes aboard for the second cruise. Often, the demographics of the two groups of passengers are different For example on these cruises, the passengers on the first cruise were predominantly retired whereas on the passengers on the shorter cruise included more young families with children.
Along the same lines, crew members are assigned to different roles or go on leave so you may not find yourself interacting with the same crew members on the second cruise that you did on the first.
As a result, the atmosphere of the two cruises is often different. Another way of looking at it is that back-to-back cruises offer two adventures in a single vacation.
Royal made the process of sailing back-to-back on these cruises quite simple. Check-in for the second cruise was done via the Royal Caribbean app and by the officers aboard the ship.
On the day Liberty arrived back in Bayonne, the passengers continuing on with the ship were asked to gather in one of the lounges at a specified time. There, they were given a new Sea Pass card for the next cruise.
Once all of the disembarking passengers were off the ship, the back-to-back passengers were escorted off of Liberty into the cruise terminal. This step is necessary because US regulations require that all of the passengers leave a ship at the end of a cruise before the passengers for the next cruise can board. This is known in the industry as achieving “zero count.” (The back-to-back passengers did not have to take their luggage ashore).
Once in the terminal, the back-to-back passengers went through U.S. immigration. This process was facilitated by facial recognition technology that made the process quite quick.
When all the back-to-back passengers had done this, they were escorted back onto the ship. The whole process took less than an hour.
Passengers who were continuing in the same cabin were allowed to return to their cabins. Those who were changing cabins could go to their new cabins once they were ready. (Royal took care of moving their luggage from the old cabin to the new one).
Those who wanted to could go ashore. When they returned to the cruise terminal, all they needed to do was show their new Sea Pass card to the officials. They did not have to go through the embarkation process that passengers just joining the ship go through.
The back-to-back passengers were invited to a special lunch in the main dining room. This turned out to be the same premium lunch as offered to the guests who had purchased Royal Caribbean's Key program.
Weather is always a wild card in autumn cruises in the northeastern United States. Most of the time, the weather is clear but cool. However, hurricanes and tropical storms are more likely this time of year.
Just prior to the first of these two cruises, a tropical storm formed off of Florida and began to move up the coast. Dire weather predictions were issued for our journey. However, as it turned out, this storm was a non-event inflicting only occasional drizzle during our day in Boston. Furthermore, the sea was calm throughout this first voyage.
Up until a few days before, the predictions for our Bermuda cruise were generally good. However, an unnamed storm formed and dropped large amounts of rain in the New York area. Declarations of emergency were issued by several government entitie. Roads were flooded and airline flights were delayed or cancelled.
Nonetheless, Liberty was able to return to her home base in Bayonne as scheduled. However, meteorogists were unable to find a course that would take the ship from Bayonne to Bermuda safely. Therefore, it was announced that the ship would return north to Saint John, New Brunswick where it had been just two days before.
Realizing that a cruise to Saint John is not the same as a cruise to Bermuda in many people's minds, Royal offered a full refund to anyone who decided to cancel the cruise. It should be noted that Royal was not legally required to do so as the passage contract gives the cruise line the right to substitute ports.
Those who decided to sail received a $100 refundable onboard credit. (Refundable means that if the passenger does not spend the full amount, the remainder is credited to his or her credit card). About a third of the passengers scheduled to sail did so.
The sea was rough sailing back to Saint John. However, the day the ship was in Saint John was sunny. Similarly, the two sea days returning to Bayonne were also clear.
I first came aboard Liberty of the Seas during a pre-inaugural press event in 2007. Subsequently, I sailed on Liberty two more times prior to these two voyages.
Much has changed since that first visit. In 2007, Liberty was the largest cruise ship in the world. In the scheme of things today, she could be called a large medium-sized cruise ship. Still, she is large enough to be quite stable in rough weather. In addition, her size enables her to present a wide-range of attractions.
Indeed, one of the most striking changes to Liberty has been the addition of an array of waterslides and other amusement park facilities to her after end. These bring her closer in line with Royal's larger Oasis-class cruise ships, which have extensive amusement parks. However, since most of the amusement park facilities on Liberty are in a discrete area on deck 12, you can avoid them if you are not interested in participating in those type of activities - something that is much harder to do on the Oasis class.
Adjustments have also been made to reflect changing tastes. Liberty's two-level Gothic disco is no more. In its place, there is a Sabor Mexican restaurant and a new set of inside cabins. The 19th Hole bar has been transformed into the Diamond Lounge and the former card room has been re-conditioned into the luxurious Suites Lounge. The cigar bar is now called the Pinnacle Club Lounge but no one goes there as the odor from its former use remains. Sadly, the flock of penquin statues that used to adorn the top of the bridge have been removed.
Still, cruising on Liberty is still pretty much a traditional Royal Caribbean cruise experience. Her interior design is pre-Oasis class. This means that there is more Las Vegas flash in the public areas than on an Oasis or Quantum class ship. Along the same lines, the cabins, while quite comfortable and pleasant, are not as sophisticated.
The cruise experience still includes hallmark Royal Caribbean happenings. There are still street parties in the Royal Promenade. The waiters in the main dining room dress in Caribbean shirts on Caribbean night and on various nights they sing and dance. There is still a piano player in the Schooner Bar and a singer/guitarist in the pub. And they still play the Crazy Quest once a cruise in the ice arena.
One thing that really brings the cruise experience on Liberty to life is the friendliness of the crew. Everyone says hello and their smiles look genuine. This carries forward into consistently good service. In my experience, the people were always willing to go beyond their job descriptions to please the guests.
Dining and Entertainment
Liberty offers breakfast, lunch (sea days) and dinner in her grand and stately three-level main dining room. Breakfast and lunch are open seating. For dinner, two levels of the dining room were fixed time and one was the flexible My Time dining. The menus on each level are the same.
I enjoyed the food. In general, it was plentiful but the days of unlimited complimentary lobster tails are gone. Now, if you want more than one, there is an extra charge.
There are three extra charge specialty restaurants: the aforementioned Sabor, Chops Grille (steakhouse) and Giovanni's table (Italian). I found the food and service in each to be very good.
In addition, Liberty offers a Chef's Table experience and the ever-popular Johnny Rockets hamburger diner. Both ae extra-charge.
Complimentary casual venues include the Windjammer buffet, Sorrento's Pizza and the sandwiches and pastries in Cafe Promenade. (Specialty coffee is an extra charge). I enjoyed both venues.
The highpoint of the entertainment on these cruises was the ice show. This was a beautifully lit and costumed performance of ice dancing that included unbelievable acrobatics carried out on a moving ship.
The other main entertainment venue on Liberty is the Platinum Theater. The centerpiece show was a version of “Saturday Night Fever.” However, the ship's production cast also appeared in a show that featured aerialists. In addition, several visiting performers appeared in the theater to do comedy and music shows.
As on my previous cruises on her, I enjoyed these cruises on Liberty and would sail on her again. The ship is well-run and the friendliness of the crew was impressive. It is not a cultural experience but rather a relaxing, casual cruise experience.
Above: Liberty docked in Portland, Maine.
Below: Liberty in Boston.
Above: A street party ton Liberty's Royal Promenade.
Below: A balcony cabin on Liberty.
Above: Liberty across the river in Saint John.
Cruise ship review - - Royal Caribbean International - Liberty of the Seas - Back to Back 2023