I was pleasantly surprised by this cruise. I love Carnival and this was my 7th cruise with the line. Have always had a good time - some better, some less. Again, this trip was for my sons 18th B-day even though he wouldn't be 18 until a few days after we got back. I was terribly worried, with this being spring break that it would be nothing but drunken college kids - it wasn't. Now, there were a few, but there are always a few. The mix of people was pretty much like always. Some lovely people, some not so much.
We flew into FLL the day before and stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, Cruise/airport. It was pretty good for a budget hotel but I would probably book Embassy Suites (they were full) earlier next time as that is what we are used to. Don't know if it is closer or better restaurants close by but...The staff was great and they were very crowded. The 'free' shuttle was really of no use due to high volume. Caught cab to the cruise pier on Sunday around noon and since we had a suite, we walked right in. No line at all!! The VIP line in FLL is the easiest and best organized I have seen!!(out of 4 VIP trips)
On board we sat in the lobby and looked at the 'fun times' and just soaked it all in. First notice with the Freedom is that the lobby/atrium area is more closed in that some of the smaller ships we have been on and that was a negative. I had a cocktail, kid watched the girls walk by and off to the suite. We left the luggage with the porters and it was delivered around 4pm. Very impressed with the room. Loved the bathroom - more on that in other section.
Went down to the buffet for a snack. Btw, some days the buffet was good and some days it left a little to be desired. Although, I didn't eat there often. Don't miss the chocolate buffet! Crowded but never once on this cruise - and the ship was max capacity - did we feel that it was overly crowded.
Our cabin steward, Nidi, came by to introduce and he was a lovely man. Did a great job taking care of us - as they always do.
Ready for dinner and in the atrium bar there was a guitar guy - Jay- who was great! Mostly sang around the casino at night. Very personable and sang just about everything you could ever want to hear.
Dinner in the 'Posh' dining room with our server Anthony (Tony), he kept us full and happy. I read many poor reviews about the new menu and was worried. No need, the food was better than I expected. The only bad meal was the last night when my prime rib was far over cooked. Had lovely table mates. The first formal night my son and I went to the steakhouse and what a treat. Delicious and well worth the extra expense!! Just go!!My son is a huge eater and he wanted to go back the next night - they even managed to fill him up. I had e-mailed ahead and they put b-day candles on his dessert without my reminding them. Nice job!!
Kid spent his nights in the Club 02 which he loves - met a lot of buddies and had nothing but raves about it. (His third cruise and he has always raved about it)
So, that leaves mom to go to the casino. Well, the casino has lost it's mind. Sorry, I am a smoker and I got mad. You can only smoke at certain tables/ games which I totally respect but I was playing at a no-smoking table and got up to go over to another area of the casino which was smoking to have a smoke - and I was told that I couldn't be there unless I was actually playing at that certain machine. (Was sitting at a slot that said 'smoking allowed'. You can't just go to the casino for a cig. You must be playing at a smoking table/machine. Really??!! Also, for that matter, the cigar bar is non-smoking. I totally respect that most people do not enjoy my smoke but why on earth have a smoking section that you can't smoke in???!! OK, enough of that..The wait/bar staff in the casino however couldn't have been better, after the first night everyone of them called me by name.
The ports were Key West, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios. We chose this trip specifically because kid loved MO Bay last year when we were there and wanted to go back to Jamaica. KW and GC - well, been there done that...We really had a great time in OR and did the Falls/Bamboo Beach Club. Great excursion - recommend highly! More about that in another section. We did eat lunch at Casanova, the Italian restaurant right at port in GC...Very good and cheaper than Hard Rock cafe. Also recommend- Sit on the porch right on the water. Nice..
We did self-assist off the ship and it was again, a breeze. Line was very long but moved quickly. Jumped in a cab and off to the airport.
Sorry, can't really review many of the other areas as I was never there...Although did see one of the adult comedies one night and it was pretty good.
Overall the ship was not gaudy as I feared (anymore than any of the others), the spring break crowd was far from unbearable, and the service on all fronts was very good. It does seem to me that Carnival overall has scaled back some of the activities but there was plenty to do - although most of the time I just sat on my wonderful balcony and enjoyed the view or reading in the quiet.
Overall great time for me and the kiddo separately, and together. Would recommend this ship.