In 1972, Carnival bought its first ship, the Mardi Gras, which began life as a the Empress of Canada. With that one refurbished ship they had a dream of starting a new era of fun and affordable cruising for everyone. On its maiden voyage out of Miami it……well Miami has no ice bergs, but it went aground on a sand bar. This could have ended Carnival before it even got started, but the owner decided to throw a big party on the lido deck. As other ships left port, their passengers watched people on the Mardi Gras having the time of their life. The Funships were born!
Through the years Carnival grew from a one ship cruise line to the largest cruise line of all. Now, nearly 40 years later, Carnival has begun Funships 2.0 upgrades starting with the Liberty. Carnival has teemed up with well known brands and celebrities to bring branding and improvements to both the entertainment and the food. With new training for DJ’s and comedians, upgrades for the shows, and a multitude of new spaces, the 2.0 upgrades mean more fun for everyone. Liberty was the first of 14 ships to get the new upgrades. Over the next 5-10 years other ships will have their turn, and all new ships will have the upgrades as well.
Guy’s Burger Joint
On the Lido deck near the pool we found one of the most popular new eateries. There’s always a crowd at Guy’s Burger Joint when its open. People love it. The menu offers several burger choices including chili burgers and one with a patty made entirely of bacon, but many people just order the “straight up” regular Guy’s Burger.
Guy Fieri, 2006 winner of The Next Food Network Star, created the menu and personally trained the cooks for Guy’s Burger Joint. Between Guy’s and the Red Frog Rum Bar sits a kiosk of burger toppings. Guy’s is one of many free eateries passengers on the Liberty have to choose from.
There are no drink stations in the outside eating area, so anyone wishing to eat near Guy’s might want to pick up their iced tea, lemonade, coffee or tea inside Emile’s buffet before venturing to Guy’s to order the burger.
As non-beef eaters, John and I expected Guy’s Burger Joint to offer some sort of chicken, turkey, or veggie burger. We felt a bit of a letdown seeing the menu had no such options. We did suggest to the Maitre D’ that they add a veggie and either chicken or turkey burger option. He said he would pass that information on to higher management, although they cannot change the menu without Guy’s approval.
John decided to make his own substitute one day. He picked up some chicken at the Blue Iguana, where the workers happily accommodated his request for meat only. At Guy’s though, he had to plead his case like a lawyer, backed by the rest of the people in line, just to get them to give him a bun with cheese and some fries. They tried to insist he had to take the meat even though they had a tray of buns with cheese sitting right there. The backs of their shirts say Have it Guy’s way, not your way, and apparently they mean it.
Chris does eat beef so he gave the Guy’s burger a try. “It’s a good burger, but not more spectacular than some others I’ve had. A bit too salty,” he said. Actually we found much of the food on the Lido deck too salty for our taste, but we use far less salt than the average person so other people may not agree. The judges on any competitive Food Network cooking show continuously complain about wanting more salt on food that already has way more salt on it than we would ever use. On some of the how to cook shows, people put more salt in one dish than I’d use in several months. So I’m guessing the average person would not find any of the food too salty for their taste.
Blue Iguana Cantina
The Blue Iguana also sits near the Lido pool, opposite Guy’s. There is no extra charge for any of the food places on the Liberty except Harry’s Steak House on deck 10, Starbucks, and the Jardin Cafe. Blue Iguana offers a choice of tacos or burritos. For the burrito, pick a tortilla, choose your meat and beans and start adding the extras like rice, cheese, lettuce, veggies and things. Top with salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole. Portions look a bit small on each item as they dish it up, but perhaps that is so that the burrito still rolls up after they are all added instead of being too fat and overstuffed to roll. Once you add all your toppings, it is plenty full and big enough.
There’s often a short line for the burritos, tacos normally have no waiting. They serve 2 tacos with a choice of several meats. They don’t start out with much else, but there’s a whole salsa bar with additional toppings. We’ve suggested they add some chips to the salsa bar as well for people who would just like chips and salsa. The tacos are a bit messy to eat, but taste quite good. The Blue Iguana also serves breakfast. I tried their delicious breakfast burrito one morning.
As with Guy’s, pick up your free drinks first because the outside eating area has no drink stations unless you want to buy something from one of the bars. It does have swirls soft ice cream stations next to both Guy’s and the Blue Iguana though.
Blue Iguana Tequila Bar
The Blue Iguana tequila bar sits next to the Blue Iguana cantina on the Lido deck. It opens later in the day than the Red Frog Rum Bar. The Blue Iguana hosts a Mexican Fiesta one night each cruise. The Blue Iguana cantina stays open for the fiesta, and Emile’s serves an upgraded Mexican buffet that day as well.
Red Frog Rum Bar
One of the new Funship 2.0 upgrades, the Red Frog Rum Bar, sits on the Lido deck, next to Guy’s Burger Joint and across the pool from the Blue Iguana Bar and Cantina. The Red Frog has some other alcohol besides rum, and has the ship’s own Thirsty Frog beer on tap. According to my son Chris, the beer connoisseur, thirsty frog is the best beer on the ship. The Red Frog opens at 8:00 am. The Red Frog hosts a Caribbean party each cruise. Musicians staged at each bar alternate playing times throughout the evenings.
Located on the promenade deck near the dance club and piano bar, the alchemy bar serves a host of interesting concoctions from its trained mixologists. Passengers sometimes have the option of creating their own potion to drink.
Hot & Cool Night Club
The former disco got a makeover and reopened as the Hot and Cool nightclub. It has different sorts of music starting at different hours to give people of varying musical tastes a chance to dance to their preferred music. The music each night is tailored to the taste of the crowd in attendance within the scheduled theme. Passengers under 18 are not allowed during nightclub hours, but may have their own party scheduled there earlier in the day sometime during the cruise.
Plans for the punchliner comedy club include having George Lopez train and mentor young comedians for the Punchliner Comedy show. It is currently open some nights, normally with a few time options for the 1/2 hour shows. Several different comedians come and go during the cruise. Some evenings offer family friendly shows early and most nights have late night adults only shows for passengers who enjoy a raunchier act. Photography is not allowed during the shows. Eventual plans include a comedy brunch.
The Funships 2.0 upgrade also brings changes to the main stage shows in the Venetian Lounge. Carnival now flies comedians and other performers in and out mid cruise to upgrade the quality and increase the variety of their stage shows. We saw an excellent comedy juggling performance with spectacular tricks by Edge, He did some amazing stuff, but unfortunately photography is not allowed during any of the shows.
A quiet comfortable retreat for the adults on board, the serenity decks offer plush deck chairs, hot tubs, and cushioned hammocks behind a no-kids-allowed fence. Located on decks 12 and 14 (somehow they seem to have forgotten to include deck 13) these decks also offer quite an excellent view. Sitting in the hot tub, one can see over the top of the ship to whatever scenery the current location of the ship has to offer. People (including us) loved this space.
EA Sports Bar
The EA Sports Bar is another new branded space. Watch whatever is current in the sporting world in comfort whether it is football, baseball, or even the world series of poker. This bar has the Thirsty Frog beer on tap.
Cherry On Top
This colorful shop sells everything from m&m’s to chocolate mice. It also has a small collection of sunscreen products and other non-food items. They can help celebrate special occasions with cabin decorating or party arrangements. Welcome aboard gifts or presents for other occasions can be ordered online pre-cruise. They also can send flowers or other gift items to passengers.
Behind the Scenes
Carnival’s 2.0 upgrades don’t stop with the new and remodeled spaces. More 2.0 upgrades happen behind the scenes as well. Starting from the very moment the guests step onboard the ship. Where a piano player or other musicians used to play set scores, now a DJ reacts to or with boarding guests. If a wedding party comes onboard, he can play wedding music. If guests come with musical requests, he can grant them. It’s not just random DJ’s. The new program includes training with DJ Irie of the Miami Heat.
Entertainment received upgrades as well. The production shows by the crew’s entertainment staff have new and better sets. Carnival is also making an effort to bring in higher quality entertainers for the nights in between the production shows. The entertainers used to stay on a ship for long periods of time, but now they may not even stay for an entire cruise, but rather fly out at a port stop and someone new comes in. This gives passengers more variety and access to quality acts by guest entertainers who don’t live on the ship for months at a time. It’s better for the entertainers as well since they can spend more time at home.
More planned improvements include teaming up with Haasbro for game show style contests the passengers can participate in and comedian training done personally by George Lopez.