Fun Ship 2.0: For You and Me, For LIBERTY, Part One

In November 2011, the CARNIVAL LIBERTY was the first ship in the Carnival fleet to receive the “Fun Ship 2.0” upgrade, launching a $500 million fleet wide enhancement project that will add dining and bar venues and a few entertainment perks. I joined the ship earlier this month for a seven night Eastern Caribbean cruise visiting St. Thomas, San Juan and Grand Turk.

Carnival Cruise Lines

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Saturday, January 7, 2011

Fronds versus fins: CARNIVAL LIBERTY first sighting at Miami.

While crossing over to Miami’s Dodge Island, we detected a fairly busy Saturday, with Celebrity’s CELEBRITY ECLIPSE and CELEBRITY MILLENNIUM and NCL’s NORWEGIAN EPIC sharing the waterfront with Carnival’s 2006-built, 110,000 gross ton CARNIVAL LIBERTY.

Upper Echelon Digs: A CARNIVAL LIBERTY Suite.

My traveling companion Lis Kemp and I rolled our luggage up to the terminal early, hoping to be among the first to board. We joined some 3,300 fellow guests who rapidly filled the deck areas and many public rooms, so concentrated our efforts on a deck-by-deck spree of the accommodation, documenting one of each cabin category before “occupation” commenced. A full, future Decked! will show all…

Farcusian passage art: Zeus or Caesar?

Admittedly, there are times I have to dig out the builder’s book or press release to fully understand what legendary Carnival architect/interior designer Joseph Farcus is going for and while some (OK, most) of the color schemes and patterns might be a bit over the top, I appreciate that his work is neither mundane nor generic.

Hot and Cold Nightclub “hands in the air!”.
Splotch! A totally random nightclub carpet shot...

A coffee table picture book, especially if it included Mr. Farcus’ earlier, “tres outré” spaces on ships like the FESTIVALE (the Fanta-Z Disco!), FANTASY (neon!) and ECSTASY (Cats Lounge!), must one day be realized. The most prolific interior designer in the history of passenger shipping, he is to the modern cruise industry what Googie was to post war Las Vegas.

Token Twister shot.

After touring a few of the as-yet-uninhabited public spaces, we ventured up to the open decks to enjoy a particularly beautiful Miami afternoon. After my obligatory Twister slide shot (every Carnival blog must feature at least one), it was time for some food, glorious food!

Emile's, facing forward from starboard.

Emile’s is the 1,396 seat buffet style eatery that takes its inspiration from the glass work of Art Nouveau era Parisian artisan Emile Galle. By the way, the CARNIVAL LIBERTY’s overall decorative scheme is based on “the work of artisans”, which covers a lot of territory — from cabinet makers to stone masons, jewelers, painters, book binders, iron forgers and even spoon smiths.

Wok Like A Mongolian.

I discovered the Mongolian Wok far too late on my cruise aboard the CARNIVAL MAGIC last November. The lines were initially off-putting, but it turned out, more than worth the wait. Queueing up begins with an empty bowl, an assortment of fresh noodles, veggies and tongs…

Wok Man.

Once the bowl is handed to the cook, a steamy,  aromatic swirl of activity begins. There is a choice of chicken, beef or shrimp and three very authentic sauces that include Szechuan (spicy!), Black Bean (umami and tangy!) and Thai Barbeque (oops, never got around to it!). Lis, no stranger to cruises (she worked for years with Royal, Seabourn and Voyages of Discovery) and genuine Asian cuisine, quickly agreed. The Wok is almost confoundingly good, especially for a supposed “Mass Market cruise ship buffet”.

Cabin 8445, facing starboard.

At 1:30, the cabins were cleared for occupation, so we headed down to 8445, a Balcony Stateroom on aft/starboard Verandah Deck (8) to unpack, sort out the bedding and ask for a few extra pillows. All balcony staterooms come with two twins that convert to a king, a triple wardrobe, cotton bathrobes, flatscreen television, telephone, safe, sofa and coffee table, under bed and in-sofa storage, various cabinets and drawers and a bathroom with plenty of storage shelves and shower.

No plastic bottles...

Carnival has dispensed with the little plastic amenity bottles in favor of more environmentally-friendly shower dispensers. On the LIBERTY, I was happy to find them labeled, so I would not be washing my hair with gel and so forth…

LIBERTY and free samples for all...

I covet the free product samples Carnival provides, affording guests a random assortment of toothpaste, hand lotion and/or Breathe-Right snoring strips.

Open dome on sailing day.

We mustered for a very thorough boat drill on Deck 4, then went back up top for sail away. Did I mention that CARNIVAL LIBERTY and most of her fleet mates have acres of beautifully maintained, genuine teak decking?

Darting Dodge.
EPIC exodus.

CELEBRITY MILLENNIUM had somehow slipped past us and NORWEGIAN EPIC kept a narrow lead as we began to thrust away from Dodge Island. Even the distant CELEBRITY ECLIPSE was simultaneously loosening her lines to take up the processional rear.

Miami nice.

I’m definitely a “west” coaster but there was no denying the allure of Miami on a temperate, sea breeze-kissed sailing day…

Golden setting.
Pizza plus Parmigiana.

After we unpacked, we watched from the balcony as the more urgent Celebrity ship “eclipsed” us and the sun fizzled into the sea. I yearned for a little more fuel to spark up my daily gym session, so headed up to the perpetually-open Pizzeria for a double slice of Margherita doused in Reggiano Parmesan.  Yep, real pizza with homemade dough, tangy marinara and quality cheese…

Post-Pizza Penance, facing starboard.

Accessed via the Spa, the gym is a state-of-the-art facility on Deck 11 overlooking the bow through multi-faceted walls of glass. There are treadmills and stationary bikes, ten ellipticals, a full circuit of weight machines and free weights. Separate men’s and women’s facilities include large changing rooms, saunas and steam rooms.

Silver Olympian Dining Room, facing aft from Deck 3.

We were assigned a second seating table for two at 8:15 PM in the aft Silver Olympian Dining Room, which accommodates 1,122 guests and is bordered by full length windows on three sides.

Silver Olympian detail.

The Silver Olympian and its midships counterpart, the Golden Olympian, take their decorative inspiration from “the art of fashioning fine tableware”. It took us a moment to realize the large silver fixtures on the ceiling were actually over sized, back lit cutlery handles with a “CL” monogram ( for CARNIIVAL LIBERTY, of course).  Silver friezes depicting Greco-Roman figures, vitrines displaying vintage silver items and incongruously ominous cobalt lighting fixtures round out the room’s uniquely distinct features.

Silver Olympian setting.

Our Filipino dining stewards, Romelito, Viktor and Andre, instantly greeted us by name — this top notch trio was friendly, kind and uber-efficient, keeping the water, bread and multiple courses flowing. Small touches like making sure Lis’ setting had the pink charger and ensuring nightly cruets of balsamic vinegar and olive oil did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Gazpacho, first installment.
Gazpacho, second installment.

After some 200 cruises, I can once again assert that Carnival’s food and service is well above and beyond its “Mass Market” designation. With such an emphasis on “Fun” I wonder if the value factor and quality of Carnival’s cuisine aren’t often overlooked. For instance, some soups (like the deliciously authentic gazpacho) are served in two installments to keep the flavors from blending. Most “Premium” cruise lines wouldn’t bother to do this.

Chocolate Melting Cake with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

And now that I have recently become a Carnival “regular”, I can once again testify on behalf of their Chocolate Melting Cake, a deliriously decadent coda to our most excellent first dinner on board the CARNIVAL LIBERTY.

Punchliners, facing forward/port.

We headed up to the 425 seat Punchliners, the former Victoria Lounge, which has a long bar overlooking the ship’s wake and vitrines with English-style Majolica pottery. As Punchliners, it is now home to some spirited karaoke fests and the new “Fun Ship 2.0” comedy acts that have been vetted by George Lopez in his recent teaming with Carnival.

Night Serenity, facing aft along port Deck 14.

From there, we strolled along the Deck 5 Promenade past the ship’s myriad clubs, bars and casino, into the pulsating-ly fiber optic Garden Villa Atrium and rode a panoramic elevator up to the top of the ship for a walk in the balmy sea air under a near full moon and stars.  …They were shining there for you and me…

Sunday, January 7, 2011

The Coffee Shop.

I skipped breakfast and bee-lined it to the Coffee Shop on Deck 5 for a double shot cappuccino. There are also Coffee Shop “outlets” in Emile’s Lido and in the Flower Bar on the Deck 3 level of the Garden Villa Atrium, the latter with the best, most flavorful results.

Golden Olympian, facing aft from Deck 4.

With a little time to spare before lunch, I decided to try and document the Golden Olympian, the 744 seat midships dining room.

Golden Olympian: The God is in the details.
Golden Olympian Murano.

In most respects, the detailing is the same as the Silver, albeit in tones of gold. The larger Silver has the added ambiance of windows overlooking the stern; otherwise, the two spaces are quite compatible.

Farcusian fin.

Perhaps Mr. Farcus’ most readily recognizable imprint on the world of cruising is Carnival’s distinctive funnel, introduced on its first newbuild, the TROPICALE of 1982. It was inspired by an airplane’s tail, although the concept of emitting exhaust to either side through wings was, of course, utilized two decades earlier on the SS FRANCE (later NORWAY) of 1961.

Southbound sea day on deck.

After lunch in Emile’s, we took a stroll around the upper decks. The pool areas were inundated with revelers, games, announcements and festive music…

Swinging in Serenity...

…which is why stodgier people like yours truly are so grateful for the two deck, adults-only Serenity area! I arrived a bit late to secure a deck chair but did manage a wind-whipped recline on the forward Deck 14 hammock with an outstanding view of the sea.

Silver Olympian tea.

Lis and I rendezvoused at 4:00 for afternoon tea in the Silver Olympian, where carts of sandwiches and sugary treats including scones with clotted cream, tarts and cakes rolled on up.

Starboard Deck 3 promenade, facing forward.
Peaceful deck.

After tea, we ventured out onto the underutilized teak promenades on Deck 3 for a close up view of the deep blue sea.

Fiery sunset aftermath.

A fiery sunset was my cue for the gym, where I would “pay it forward”, anticipating a particularly indulgent dinner.

Harry's, facing aft from port.

Harry’s, the ship’s 108 seat extra tariff ($30) steakhouse, takes its name from famed jeweler (aka artisan) Harry Winston. Situated on midships Deck 10, its decor includes vitrines with gold and jewel-like stones, diamond-patterned carpeting, Tivoli lights in necklace formations and…

Harry's detailing.

some totally “bling” light fixtures resplendent with over sized yellow diamonds!

All set for Harry's.

Settings in Harry’s feature Versace china, starched linens and elegant stemware.

Cuts to consider...

Prime USDA cuts, lobster and lamb are presented prior to ordering.

Contemplating condiments?

Gorgeous artisan breads come with a choice of baba ghanouj (eggplant dip), a marinated pepper tapenade or just plain “butta”.

Harry's Amuse Bouche.

And there is a nightly amuse bouche. This was a lovely pastiche of pomodoro with a crunchy crouton and melted mozzarella.

Vegetarian beefsteak with gorgonzola.

For those of us who do not eat red meat, there is plenty of “beef” in the form of a beefsteak tomato, arugula, slivered onions and gorgonzola salad, drizzled in pungent olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Rosemary Chicken entrée.

I went with the rosemary-infused chicken entrée, which was utter perfection. From my experience, I can suggest that regular dining on Carnival is worth a $30 cover and the steakhouse is worth a $100 cover. And the indulgent service from the largely Eastern Bloc staff was absolutely, I’ll state it again, exemplary!

Baked potato with sides.

Somehow I was derelict in prime rib documenting duties, but suffice it to say Lis was thoroughly delighted with her main course, which was accompanied with a baked potato side and all the right toppings.

Caramel apple dessert.

The caramel apple dessert is exactly why we strategically planned to dine in Harry’s on a “sea day eve”. Further enhanced with a bottle of peppery Syrah, tomorrow’s perpetual achy blur would be well earned.

All Around The World in the Venetian Palace.

Somehow we made it to the show, “Around The World”, which featured a myriad of international settings in a global musical tribute. After taking one discreet, flashless photo, I was immediately admonished by a member of the cruise staff who darted across the vast showroom like a heat-seeking missile defending the show’s copyright. No more photos of Carnival entertainment for this blogger…

Piano Bar, facing aft.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a walk around the lively ship. In the Seaside Theater, a movie was showing; in the Flower Bar, there was a bluesy country singer; in the Casino-adjacent Promenade Bar, a bluesy rock trio; in the Hot and Cold Nightclub, pulsating dance music; in Punchliners, a bawdy 2.0 comedian; and in the Piano Bar, a frolicky sing-along.

Totally random Piano Bar carpet shot.

As soon as our feet touched the distinctive carpet of the Piano Bar, we were greeted by an entire room full of people with, “Come On In!”

Towel frog.

And in our cabin, a towel frog bid good night…

End of “Fun Ship 2.0”: For You and Me, For LIBERTY, Part One

Much More To Come…

Special thanks: Martin Cox, Jennifer De La Cruz, Vance Gulliksen, Lis Kemp, Pier-Giorgio Micallef

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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