Just got back from our spring break cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas, March 18-25. This was our fourth cruise with RCCL, second in the Freedom class of ships and probably the best cruise we have been on to date. We knew going into this cruise that there would be an abundance of kids/spring break college students, but we really didn't see too many kids and the ones we did see were extremely well behaved!
Embarkation: We arrived at the port after dropping off our rental from Thrifty (free shuttle to the port) around 11:15 and were on the ship walking around by 11:40. Since we are Gold Members (and because we got there so early) there was no waiting in line while checking in. It literally took five minutes to get our Sea Passes. We then walked on the ship for our first (of many) picture taking opportunities and then finally walked onto the ship. Since we have been on Liberty (Freedom's sister ship,) we knew the basic layout of what it looked like so there were no surprises there. Since the cabins wouldn't be ready until 1:00, we decided to go and have our first (again, of many) meals of the week up in the Windjammer Cafe. I was slightly nervous because it had been two years since we took an RCCL cruise and I had read many reviews that the Windjammer is crowded and the quality of the food went downhill but we had no problems. We got our lunch and were able to find a seat by the window with no problems...and this would be the precedent for the entire trip. Plus, after our last year's disaster cruise with Carnival, anything would have been better.
Once we finished with lunch, we decided to walk around. I had forgotten how much I love the atmosphere of RCCL. All the employees were so friendly and even though they were probably dead tired, you could never see it from their faces. When we went to our room at 1:00, about five minutes after we were in, there was a knock at the door. Fitzroy, our cabin steward, came around and introduced himself to us and told us if we need anything at all, let him know and also told us he would be visiting family in Jamaica when we docked so please pardon him if he didn't get to our room before 10:00. I thought that was nice of the cruise line to let him have a few hours off to see the family and made a mental note to tell RCCL we appreciated their graciousness to their employees.
Our waiter Rajesh and assistant waiter Gregory were two of the best waiters we have ever had. Both my husband and I had the soda package and before we were even done with one, they had a refill waiting for us on the table. FAR cry from last year when we had to ask twice for refills on Carnival and didn't get them half the time. I can't say enough positive things about both Raj and Gregory. If we do sail Freedom again next year, we will be requesting their tables (and hopefully they will still be aboard Freedom.)
As for the ports...didn't care for Haiti at all. Especially didn't like the shops and the pushy locals on the island on RCCL's property. We were so tired of being asked to come see their stuff that we went back to the ship.
Jamaica was ok...did the Dunns River Falls/Green Grotto Caves excursion. My only complaint (and this is noone's fault) is that the falls were so crowded that we felt rushed at times. There were five or six ships in Jamaica that day. Again, noone's fault from RCCL.
Next stop was Grand Cayman, where we did the stingray city excursion. This was the worst ever but again, not the cruise line's fault. Our tour leader was 10 minutes late and by the time we finally made it to Stingray City, we had 30 minutes in the water. When we got back to the dock from the ferry boat, our bus driver was not there, even though we were 10 minutes later than we should have been. The next bus was so late that all aboard was at 3:15 or 3:30 and we were JUST getting on the bus to get back to the port. I wasn't concerned since we were on a RCCL sponsored tour so the ship had to wait for us but I didn't appreciate the wait and we did not tip the tour guide for her tardiness and the fact that she was rude to be regarding the pictures. BTW, ONE picture cost $30.
Final port was Cozumel, where we took the Tulum Mayan Ruins excursion. We LOVED it but definitely heed their warning for rough seas on the ferry boat from Cozumel to Playa Del Carmen and be prepared for a TON of walking. Would definitely do that again!
Food was amazing...we didn't have a single meal we didn't thoroughly enjoy (and sometimes ordered two dinners!) We had breakfast every morning in the Windjammer and never had to wait for a table. Food was hot and there was a good variety. Definitely something for everyone and anyone who disagrees with me, I'd like to know what was missing. Dinner in the MDR was perfect every night. No complaints from us! We also went to Johnny Rockets for lunch one day. What a great time and Wilson was an awesome waiter! So friendly!!
Few things I didn't really like...the poolside movie was always at 8:00 during our dinner seating. It would have been nice to be able to watch a movie while laying out during sea days or late at night because there are no later shows (get more into that in a minute.) I didn't like that the Love and Marriage show was on night one and (for late dinner seating) most shows were at 7:00. For us it was kind of difficult to go to a show before dinner, especially after having an all day excursion and getting back on the ship right at all aboard due to the excursions. Didn't leave much time for relaxing so we had to pick and choose...relax or get ready and see the show at 7. I personally prefer an after dinner show. If you're not a fan of karaoke or sitting around in a bar, there is not much for you to do after dinner (not counting the late night comedy or the Quest.) By the way, go see The Quest show and volunteer to be a captain! I had a ball and it also probably helped that I was the captain of the winning team! I am sorry that we didn't discover the Olive or Twist bar until the last night of our cruise. If we found it earlier, I definitely think we would have spent some time in there after dinner. Graham Seymour was a good cruise director but personally I preferred James from Liberty two years ago. We also very much appreciated seeing the Captain all over the ship. One night he was dealing poker in the casino, another night he was playing guitar with the band on the pool deck and another time we just saw him walking around the ship talking to passengers. We stopped him and he graciously took a picture with us.
Disembarkation was just as easy. We elected to do the express walkoff with our own luggage. They tell you to walk off between 6:15-7:30 or something like that but we stayed in our rooms until 8:00 and were off the ship on the shuttle to pick up the rental car by 8:30. I will never, ever wait for luggage again!
All in all, the Freedom of the Seas was a great ship with great service. We tipped Fitzroy, Raj, Gregory and Wilson extra and all really appreciated it. They work their butts off and deserve every penny they make. RCCL has a repeat cruiser for life!! I'm sure there are some things I am missing but this is the gist of it. If you got through this entire review, I thank you and hope it helps you!