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Cheeseburgers in Paradise

On an exciting cruise through the Caribbean, Carnival Liberty shows off its enhancements with new restaurants and entertainment options.
By Dennis R. Heinze

As the burgers sizzled on the grill, a mouth-watering aroma wafted toward us. Standing in a short line, we couldn’t wait to savor the fresh hamburgers, but it was hard to be impatient with an inviting, sun-drenched pool just a few feet away and stunning views of the Caribbean Sea just a few feet farther.

ship

Above: Cruise passengers taking the lift chair to the beach on Isla Roatan.

Below: A fresh batch of burgers at Guy’s Burger Joint on board the ship. Carnival Cruise Line photos

Liberty Guys

At this burger bar at sea, even the scenery is delicious.

Guy’s Burger Joint, developed by Food Network star Guy Fieri, is just one of several new additions and changes to the Carnival Liberty that we enjoyed during a western Caribbean cruise earlier this year. The Carnival Liberty was the first ship in Carnival’s fleet to be transformed last fall by Fun Ship 2.0, a multi-year program designed to enhance the onboard guest experience of all of Carnival’s ships.

In the first phase alone, Carnival will invest more than $500 million across 14 ships through the end of 2015, offering mouth-watering new dining choices, more exciting bars and lounges, and captivating entertainment options. It is easily the largest and most ambitious initiative that the cruise line has undertaken.

Cuisine and comedians

When our family of four discussed the cruise and the ship’s enhancements, our 15-year-old son was excited, but our 12-year-old son’s eyes lit up. He borrowed a line from Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire when he made a statement that amounted to: “You had me at cheeseburger.” A burger aficionado, he was drawn to Guy’s Burger Joint like ketchup to a bun once we got on board. After sampling several, he declared the cheeseburger topped with onion rings called “The Ringer” to be his favorite.

At Guy’s Burger Joint, guests have a choice of delicious fresh-off-the-grill burgers designed by Fieri, or they can create their own at a condiment bar by adding a variety of tasty toppings, such as guacamole, garlic aioli, and chipotle mayonnaise. The savory burgers are complemented by hand-cut fries, and best of all, they are included as part of the cruise fare.

The cruise line’s partnership with Fieri was one of several that it struck up with some of today’s major talents and popular entertainment brands for Fun Ship 2.0. Another was with comedian and TV personality George Lopez, who is acting as a consultant on the hiring of comedians, as well as advising on the décor, lighting, music, and more to enhance the cruise line’s overall comedy club experience. The ships offer a family comedy show most evenings, which ours sons relished, followed by several adult-only shows.

In addition to the poolside burgers, the ship introduced two relaxed bars on either side of the main pool where shorts and flip flops are de rigueur. The RedFrog Rum Bar offers the quintessential Caribbean vibe, while the BlueIguana Tequila Bar has a laid-back Mexican-themed atmosphere. Live musicians entertain at both at various times throughout the week. Also nearby is the new BlueIguana Cantina, a complimentary casual dining option that features freshly made burritos and tacos with a variety of salsas and toppings. Don’t miss the breakfast burritos in the morning.

Carnival also partnered with leading video game manufacturer EA SPORTS to create the first-ever EA SPORTS Bar at Sea. Designed to be the ultimate hangout for sports fanatics, guests can play their favorite video games and watch live sports on a massive video wall.

Jungles, beaches, and cities

You could stay on the ship all week and enjoy everything it has to offer, but with such amazing ports, we were compelled to venture off the Carnival Liberty. We found fascinating and adventurous destinations, including jungles, beaches, cities, and markets.

Our first port was Cozumel, Mexico’s largest island, located about 12 miles off the mainland. The Mayans were the first settlers on the island, and the ship offers several excursions to explore Mayan ruins on the island and at nearby Playa del Carmen on the mainland. Instead of ancient treasures, we opted for some shopping to take home some personal treasures, including silver earrings and the requisite T-shirts.

Next up was Central America’s Belize, which has been called “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret.” We quickly discovered that the title is apt. Even arriving at the island demonstrated its diverse natural resources because the ship had to anchor a couple miles offshore to protect a 185-mile-long barrier reef–the longest in the western hemisphere–that hugs the coast of Belize.

Roughly half of Belize is covered by dense jungles and rainforests, and much of that landscape is under government protection to preserve it from development. To experience some of that unspoiled beauty, we decided to embark on a kayak excursion at Bacab Eco Park. After a tender to the port and a short bus ride through Belize City, we arrived at the jungle playground.

With a knowledgeable guide leading us, we skimmed along a stream that was barely wide enough for our kayak paddle in places. The lush jungle canopy enveloped us, and we scanned the trees for parrots, herons, and howler monkeys. Afterwards, we returned to the eco park for lunch and a dip in a massive pool.

Even more adventure awaited on Isla Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras that was formed on a backbone of volcanic rock. We woke to find the ship tucked into beautiful Mahogany Bay, with forested hills rising above the azure waters of the cove.

Just a short walk through the Mahogany Bay port complex, which featured a number of shops and restaurants, brought us to Clip‘N’Zip Canopy Tours, an exhilarating zipline experience located in a 150-acre nature preserve. We careened through the treetops–in some places 65 feet above the ground–on 11 different segments that totaled more than a mile in distance. We were novices when we began, but by the third segment, we were gliding through the forest like experts.

Then we sought a different high-flying experience with a ride on the Magical Flying Beach Chair, a lift system that transported us from the port complex to Mahogany Beach. The five-minute ride soared 67 feet above the ground and gave us a bird’s-eye view of the 825-foot-long white sand beach on which we were about to relax.

Our final destination was Grand Cayman, where we shopped in the colorful Caribbean-style buildings of George Town and squeezed the last relaxation out of our trip that we could at world-famous Seven Mile Beach, a crescent-shaped gem with white sand stretching as far as the eye can see. Lapped by crystal waters, the beach often is justifiably rated as one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.

When we returned to the ship that afternoon, famished from swimming and sightseeing, we headed to the burger bar. We savored our snack and talked about what our favorite memories of the trip would be. What could be better than cheeseburgers with a side of tropical adventure?

Dennis R. Heinze is regional editor of the AAA Southern Traveler.

Nov/Dec 2012 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO

Seven-night Carnival Liberty cruises in 2013 start at $759 per person, cruise only, double occupancy for a balcony stateroom. Price based on Jan. 12, 2013, sailing.

For more details, see your AAA Travel professional, call (888) 366-4222 or visit AAA.com/travel. Visit a list of offices to serve you.


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