Day 1 of our Royal Caribbean International cruise on Liberty of the Seas …
We arrived in Miami, after avery pleasant ten hour flight to an hour of snaking our way through a queue for immigration. Slightly delirious with jet lag Erica and I decided that we should play a game to keep us from falling asleep stood up. She spurned my I-Spy advances and opted for ‘Snog, Marry, Push off a cliff’ which was interesting. I’ll never look at Mr Tumble in the same way again.
Having travelled through Orlando several times and now Miami I am sure there is some way that immigration can be streamlined. After a ten hour flight the last thing you need is an hour long wait in a never ending line with shouty immigration staff.
Zombified we arrived at our hotel, The Hilton Fort Lauderdale, where we had dinner. I had the grilled garlic shrimp on black fettuccini followed by the Banana Box Tower, which I shared with Karin. It was all delicious but I nearly fell asleep in my food and was relieved when it was bed time.
The next day we lounged about by the pool and waited until it was time to leave for our ship. Being from Britain I am not au fait with tipping and only having $20 notes I didn’t tip the man who brought my case from a storage room three metres away which caused silent outrage from him as he tried to kill me with his eyes. Apart from the fact I had nothing smaller than a $20 note I also like to think that the person I am tipping has earned their tip. My half Scottish roots were trying to work out why I needed to tip a man who had walked less than three metres with my suitcase. As his eyes bore into my skull I moved, in a very British manner, outside and pretended he wasn’t there. Much to everyone’s amusement I left the hotel under a black tipping cloud. To all of your people out there who think I was wrong … you can take comfort in the fact that the look on that man’s face haunts my dreams.
Boarding the ship was easy enough. That morning we had made sure that we had the things we would need for the day in a separate bag as we had to leave our suitcases outside the ship for boarding. When you leave your suitcase in the dock it could take until 8pm that night for it to arrive in your room. After my embarrassing tipping embarrassment we gave the man, who took our cases, a collective tip. He walked less than a metre with our cases. Go figure.
We moved into what looked like a huge aircraft hangar where we joined a queue to check-in on The Liberty of the Seas. My only criticism of the check-in is that for most people this is where the excitement of their holiday starts. For us it was a reminder of the hellish immigration queue at Miami Airport. Although the staff were very friendly it was incredibly busy and my children would have got bored of the snaking queue which would have set us off on the wrong foot.
At check-in we were each given a Sea Pass which was our room key and would be charged each time we bought something. Not having to worry about cash, especially in light of my tipping debacle at the Miami Hilton, was a relief. You can arrange for a variety of staff members to be tipped at the end of your stay.
I went to look at my room which was lovely, just the right size and had a balcony overlooking the sea. Perfect.
We went and had lunch in the Windjammer which was a buffet style restaurant and just right for kids who like to help themselves. The cuisine was varied and I’d like to think there was something for everyone. The food in the Windjammer was free along with soft drinks.
We had a tour of the ship and bumped into Po from Kung Fu Panda on The Royal Promenade, an on board high street.
The Muster Drill, a necessary safety exercise for all, was carried out at 4pm and only lasted 10 minutes. Everyone has a different number on their Sea Pass card which corresponds with an area on the deck. If the alarm goes off you need to go directly there. We only had to do the muster drill on the first day.
That evening we ate at Portofinos where I had beef Carpaccio and a fish main course including scallops, lobster and shrimp. The food was amazing, as was the wine. To dine at Portofinos there is a $20 service charge per person which considering the quality of the food and service is incredibly good.
With a capacity of 3600, the ship felt a bit crowded at times but I can honestly say that the first few hours were the only time that the ship felt like this. This is mainly because everyone boards together, moves to the restaurants for food and then gathers on the deck for the muster drill. After that it felt like everyone dispersed and went about their very varied interests.
The size of the ship can be a bit overwhelming, on the first day, and you need to remember landmarks to get back to your room. I lost count of the amount of times, during the first 24 hours, I forgot whether my room was at the bow or the stern.
There are touch screens on every floor which have interactive maps in case you do find yourself lost, to guide you to where you need to be. On that first day, as we looked around and had a few tours, there were many WOW moments as we saw the ships amenities for the first time. I still, three weeks later, can’t get my head around the vast amount of things there are to do on board.
Click here to read my post Goodbye Preconceptions – Hello Royal Caribbean Cruising