February, 2011: We’ve tried the late booking from a cheap site, so this time we went with the early booking from Carnival cruise line’s own site. Well actually through phone and email with cruise line personnel. Always looking for a new way to save money. We did look at Sky Auction, where we found our Holland America Caribbean cruise so cheap last year. This early, they did not have rooms so cheap, but they did offer room choice, which they had not on the cheap one. Without our media discount, Sky Auction would have been slightly less, but besides the room assistance for relatives, by booking directly through the cruise line we will be able to take advantage of any rate reductions that may come along between now and when the ship sails.
Looking at the Liberty’s deck plans, we saw a few rooms at either the bow or stern ends listed as the same class as those around them, but with either much larger balconies or slightly larger rooms and balconies. We tried to book one, but even this early they were already booked. Wow, must have to book as soon as the schedule comes out to get one of those.
This time we went with the 2 week option where you tie two one-week cruises together to make it two. Holland America calls that a collector’s voyage. I haven’t found a name for it at Carnival yet. Even though we will have to return to the starting port midway through, we felt this was our best option for this cruise as we can have other family members join us that may not want to cruise for the full 2 weeks. My son and his wife have already booked for the first week. Carnival was kind enough to give them the cabin across the hall, and to extend the media discount to them as well. We wanted the luxury of the veranda cabin this time.
We normally go cheap and book the inside room, but the one time we did have a veranda on a Holland America poker cruise to Mexico, we loved it. I spent a lot of time sitting out there with a good book. On our previous Carnival Mexico cruise with an inside cabin I found quiet nooks near windows for reading. Now I find if I have any spare time away from the multitude of activities the ship offers, the computer gets a lot more of it than books do.
April 2011: We got our tax return and paid off the cruise. Then all we have left is plane tickets and shore excursions. And maybe a hotel if we stay a night in Miami. I’ve looked at the shore excursions a bit. So many interesting sounding things to do including zip lines, pyramids, and snorkeling. I’m particularly intrigued by the cave tubing.
May 2011: When we took the cruise on the Spirit, I discovered their laundry rooms, which they call launderetts. I have not seen them on any other cruise line that I have sailed on so far. Since this is a 2-week cruise I would find a launderette quite handy as it costs a fortune to have the crew do laundry, so without it we would either need to pack a lot or hand wash things in our bathroom sink. I posted a question on Carnival’s facebook wall asking if anyone knew if the Liberty had the launderettes, and got replies back both from former passengers and Carnival staff stating that all of their ships have them. Good to know, now we can pack lighter.
June 2011: Still intrigued by the cave tubing, I did a little research. I posted a question on Carnival’s facebook page asking for info from people who had done that excursion. The comments ranged from it sucked to best excursion ever. They ran about half and half as to whether they loved it or found it somewhat OK. So I did some further research online and found there are multiple tour companies offering that tour. Again the comments varied from you save money and get more freedom and possibly a longer tour booking on your own, to book through the ship because tours in Belize have a reputation for returning guests to the ship late. Of course if you return late the ship does not wait, except for official tours booked through the ship. The cost of transportation to the next port would far exceed any difference in cost between booking through the ship and self-booking.
August 2011: John mentioned fishing in Belize, but the rest of us are still mulling over the cave tubing idea. A longer, better, cheaper ride sure sounds good, missing the boat doesn’t. Perhaps they have more than one tour per day, in which case if we booked the earliest one we might be OK. I guess I need to start on the registration process so I can get the exact schedule and see how long we stay in Belize.
One comment in particular on one of the cave tubing reviews worried me. The person praised how the guides’ greatest concern was safety of the guests. So I wonder if they act as annoying as the horse guides and life guards at Half Moon Cay. “Safety” gone awry there pretty much ruined our day on our last cruise, except for the parasailing which had wonderful boat guys.
I did find out that the cave tubing tour involves a long bus ride and a hike through the forest to get to the river. The tubing part involves a relatively shallow stream, and part of the 45 minute or so tube ride takes place outside of the cave. The guests remain linked together throughout the ride as well. At least now if I choose this excursion I have some idea of what to expect. I’m going on this cruise with 3 other people so at least it will be a group decision.
July 2011: I keep seeing comments on Carnival’s facebook page about the chocolate melting cake served on Carnival ships. No indecision on this one, they all love it. Can’t wait to give it a try.
October 2011: Chris, Liza and I have pretty much decided to do the cave tubing, booked through an outside source. We might add a zip line to that as the combo tour there is less than just the cave tour through the ship and the website says that particular company always returns guests to the ship on time. The boat is also there pretty much all day so if we book an early tour we shouldn’t have a problem (I hope). I’ve never booked a tour through an outside source before, this should be interesting. John is still up in the air as to whether he wants to fish or come with us. The cave tubing excursion involves a hike through the jungle, and odds are we’ll do some walking at other ports too, so I am now equipped with new Merrill shoes. Everyone who has them says are the best.
I found some interesting news on facebook recently. Carnival has big plans to upgrade many of their ships to what they call Funship 2.0. Liberty gets renovated first, and is in drydock now, so we will be among the first to experience the new upgrades.
I’ve pretty well finished with the online registration for the cruise now, and we have our flights booked. Now we just need to print out our cruise documents and luggage tags and book a hotel for the night before the cruise since we arrive in Miami the evening before the boat leaves. We’ve recently joined a condo travel club, which promises big savings on most travel needs, so we’ll get to test them out with our Miami hotel. We’ll get to stay in timeshares for less than the people who own them as well as discounts on hotels, camping, resorts, etc, and most importantly, CRUISES!!!
Not long now until our cruise. The Liberty launched today with all the new upgrades. I can’t wait to see them. I made reservations for the cave tubing in Belize with an outside company. Something new to try. They asked for a cash payment after the tour and said if it rains or something and we decide not to go we just don’t show up at the meeting point.
We’ve done the random tours that hover near where passengers disembark waiting for people with no plans before, but never actually booked something not through the cruiseline. We’ve also looked through shore excursion options at other ports and think that the ruins of Tulum at Cozumel look interesting.