The drive home after our cruise was somber, so to start with, that should give some indication that we did have a great time on the Freedom of the Seas.
We cruised the 7 night E. Caribbean itinerary, with stops intended at Coco Cay (which we had to miss because of rough waters and poor conditions for tending with the boats--a huge disappointment with everyone on the ship), St. Thomas, and St. Maarten.
Embarkation was a breeze as we drove in from out of town, parked right next to the terminal, and were onboard within 15 minutes of checking in at the counter (we did get to the parking lot by 10:30AM, though). The ship itself is beautiful and easy to get around, with giant flat screen TVs everywhere displaying an interactive map of venues and eateries. Cabins were on the large side for inside staterooms (ours was a Promenade stateroom with a view of the promenade and a tiny living room area), and the bathrooms were average in size. The shower, however, was best More
described by one of the onboard comedians during one of the shows: "Three bars of soap on the ground and a bruise on each knee"...
The cruising staff was friendly all around, with 99% of them smiling and asking "how are you" whenever you passed one by, whether it was housekeeping staff or one of the retailers. Every time we ran into our cabin attendant, he asked us how our cruise is going, how he was doing for us and if there was anything else we needed and if there was anything we were unhappy about. The Windjammer (buffet) staff were some of the friendliest people we'd ever met and were constantly walking around with coffee and drinks for the tables. The main dining rooms were beautifully appointed and the food, I'll get to in the next paragraph. Service in the main dining area was about as good as you can expect. The cruise director worked his backside off the entire cruise and did a lot of shows to keep us entertained.
The food on the ship was hit or miss. The main dining hall food was great some nights, but a couple other nights were disappointing and had us going to the windjammer later on in the evening to fill up again. The windjammer had a huge variety of food. There was Asian food, Indian food, American food (burgers, fries, hotdogs), and a carving station. The carving station was really just a pork station that served some variety of pork for 90% of the cruise. Only twice on the entire cruise did they have beef. One was a brisket which was inedible and the other was a decent hunk of roast beef. I love beef so I was disappointed by the lack it--we felt that the buffet was geared more toward non-Americans, which isn't necessarily a bad thing...although a BBQ station would have really been great.
The biggest drawback to this cruise that spoiled a LOT of the onboard experience was the temperature on the ship. The public areas on the ship were kept unreasonably COLD. This was a late spring Caribbean cruise, so the only jacket I packed was a silly colorful track/running jacket that I had to proudly wear on even the "smart casual" night because every dining area was kept freezing. We could barely sit in the famous "Royal Promenade" and enjoy the cafes because it was so cold that it was just uncomfortable, and my wife and her parents would be shivering. Worse yet, we had bad luck with weather and a few days at sea, it was cloudy, windy, and cold outside, and then you'd walk inside after a walk around the ship, and it would blast you with even colder air. Once, we walked through the onboard library and it felt like walking into a fridge. It was common to see the older passengers walking around the ship wearing sweaters or jackets. In retrospect, we should have complained to guest services about the temperature but really, we didn't think they'd turn up the thermostat just for us. So keep this in mind. Even if you're going on a cruise in the middle of summer, pack a sweater for the ship. This might be Royal Caribbean's way of keeping people from wearing shorts and beach clothing everywhere.
Another negative was when we had to skip Coco Cay, it upset a lot of people including us, but we understood that the water conditions were rough. The response from the crew, however, was very cold. The situation was basically addressed with a "hey, s*** happens" attitude rather than offering anything to compensate us. A little onboard credit, maybe one free drink for everyone, or even just a very sincere apology would have sufficed. They just didn't seem to care. We couldn't visit an alternate port because of time constraints so we just spent an extra day at sea.
Lastly, the hours in Windjammer really need to improve. The buffet closes at 9PM which might be OK for the seniors, but Princess has (or had, I don't know how it is now) a 24 hour buffet. They don't have to keep it 24 hours, but it needs to be open until at least midnight. Sometimes we'd watch a show and be hungry, so we'd have to put on our jackets and head to the Promenade pizza joint and eat Pizza all the time.
We're a couple of latetwentysomethings and we had a really great time with great memories and are already planning our next cruise with Royal Caribbean. The other cruises I took in the past were taken when I was a kid, and I was so young I don't really remember any of them, so this was almost like a first cruise experience for me. My wife did the Star Princess several years ago and while she had a great time on it, she liked the Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas experience better. With the main drawbacks being the freezing temperatures onboard the ship, the hit or miss food, and the buffet hours, they weren't enough to keep us from wanting to return to Royal Caribbean. Less
Freedom of the Seas Cruises to the Eastern Caribbean