So just got back from 8 days on the Carnival Freedom. Overall we are giving it 4 out of 5 stars. First, The Good: this crew, over all, was great. It's our third cruise with Carnival, and this group was the most personable of the three. A big shout out to "Chubby", our Matri d'. He is professional, personable, caring and always had a kind word and a smile. We saw him all over the ship as he really took great service to heart. One more shout out to Joe in Camp Carnival. It was great to see a male crewmember up there and Joe did an awesome job with our son, no mean feet. All the staff at Camp Carnival was great, and considering they averaged over 30 6-8 years per session, that is high praise indeed. The Bad - the only exception was the hotel director. He was on vacation and rejoined the ship Thursday. I found him aloof and insensitive to the needs of the guests. The rest of the food and beverage officers were excellent.
Food -- The Good -- Overall, the food was well prepared, plentiful and tasty. The "Tandoor" buffet was consistently good and the line generally brief. The breakfast and dinners in the main dining rooms were excellent. A special shout out to Mlanden, our headwaiter. He did an awesome job and was great with our son. A true professional in every sense of the word. With one exception, the bar staff was very good and my better half bragged on all the "boat drinks" and smoothies for our boy. The Bad -- first day at sea, the formal dining room had a line down the stairs for breakfast. After bringing it to the attention of the assistant Food and Beverage Manager, it never happened again. From a quality of service point of view, the wait staff of Indian origin did not hold a candle to the eastern European crew. Not sure why; however, the difference was large and consistent across the ship. The UGLY -- Sun King Steakhouse. Booked our big night to celebrate our 10th anniversary for the last dinner on board 6 months in advance. The menu offered a 24 oz porterhouse steak. During embarkation, we went directly to the Steakhouse kiosk in the lobby to confirm. I noticed there was not a porterhouse on the "lettuce leaf" display of the cuts of meat and seafood. I asked the attendant to confirm availability, which she did. I am sure you know where this is going -- went we sat down and received menus -- no porterhouse. I asked to speak to the same F&B officer from day 1; however, I was informed he was busy elsewhere. So we proceeded to enjoy our dinner anyway. It would have been appropriate to "create" a porterhouse out of a smaller strip and fillet; however, it was not. So I ordered the lobster tail. The beautiful specimen on the "lettuce leaf" display rolled to our table was a honking 10 oz Maine beauty. Unfortunately, I was served 3 imported and thawed 3 oz leftovers from Monday's formal night. Yes, the total portion was correct; however, please don't show me the Rolls-Royce and bring me three Yugos and call it even. So when the fresh from vacation hotel manager came in, I excused myself to discuss the disappointment with the meal. He stated that, "they probably ran out and was asked to use what they had in the kitchen" in describing why there was no porterhouse. Additionally, if they had known my desire, "they could have saved one for me." Interestingly, 5 minutes later, the F&B manager came over to the table and stated, "we haven't had a porterhouse on the menu for 2 months." So which is it guys, you ran out or deleted them from the menu?
It is my experience that they dropped the porterhouse in an effort to low the food cost of the cruise. Even though the food was well prepared and served, based on our last cruise 18 months ago on the Legend, the overall food quality (think cost) was lower on this voyage. Mexican, Italian and American themes repeated twice during the week. This translated into a lot of ground beef and starch. Even the one late night buffet was Mexican. The unique menu options on each day in the main dining room just didn't have the culinary strength and diversity of the last cruise. Bottom line -- if food quality (not quantity) is as important you as it is to us, be prepared for mediocrity. Perhaps if the cost of fuel drops and the strength of the economy helps increased revenue per passenger numbers, Carnival will crank their culinary delivery up a notch.
Cabin -- The Good -- our cabin was clean, roomy and had plenty of storage space. The balcony is worth every penny. Our room steward Pete, did an excellent job until the last 24 hours. A lot of negative comments on the decor of the Freedom. Not sure why? It id WAY more subdued then the Legend! The Bad -- a small point, but it really let my son down -- no hanging monkey towel critter the last night. Come on Carnival, it doesn't cost any more to fold a monkey that a couple of lame seals, does it? The Ugly -- Pete decided my 6-year-old son was waking up the last day at 8:30 by banging on the door and immediately opening our locked door with his card. It is fortuitous for Pete that my wife was properly dressed as his indiscretion and zeal to get us out of the room was very rude. Note to self -- tip the room steward on the way down the stairs on the last day instead of tipping in advance.
Entertainment -- The Good -- Jacque did a great job as Cruise Director. Had a chance to chat one on one -- nice guy and very open. Overall the shows were good. Ticket to ride (on Friday) a Beatles review, was the best by far. Funny moment -- my wife did not see the PG warning for wardrobe. The look on her face was priceless when the female dancers turned around and presented the thong-clad derrieres to the audience. Dad thought it quite funny and my 6-year-old son didn't really notice. The Bad - Not sure where the found the male lounge singer in the main lobby. It was really very funny -- he could not get through one song without a total fail on the lyrics. Sometimes he just would "la la la" until he got to a part he could read. The wife was cranky, but I found it a real life Saturday Night Live moment. The Ugly -- The Big Easy stage show. Imagine capturing almost every negative stereotype of the American South and packing it into one show. Then delete every great musical genre of NOLA and replace with every crappy top 40 hit with the words "New Orleans" in it. Please, either rework the entire gig and bring in Zydeco, Jazz and the Blues, or kill it and put everyone out their misery.
Overall, we really enjoyed our cruise and we are already beginning to shop for an Alaska adventure. If you have kids of any age, we cannot recommend the Freedom enough to you and your family. (Authors note: yes, I realize Carnival can legally change anything at any time and without and notice. That doesn't mean they should. And it doesn't mean they cant step up and make it better.)