We went on the Carnival Freedom 4/15 as a family of three (father age 62 and two daughters age 26 and 23). We have each been on 2-4 cruises in the past all with Carnival.
Embarkation: We drove to Port Everglades and parked there. They have covered parking lots that are gated and I did see security driving around in golf carts so I didn't worry about leaving our car there. It took us about 45 minutes to check in once we got inside the terminal. The longest part was waiting in line for our sign and sail cards, some of the employees were blaming it on a slow internet connection. We have cruised out of Port Canaveral before and the terminal seems to belong to Carnival their signs and banners are everywhere and the terminal its self is much more comfortable. In Port Everglades all the employees were working off of laptops and everything seemed a little more make shift but it ran smoothly and we had no complaints. On our last cruise we sailed out of Port Canaveral my one complaint is that once we went though all the lines and then once we got on the ship we had to wait forever in a line on the outside deck because it was taking a long time for them to scan everyone's sign and sail card in. On this cruise they scanned the sign and sail cards in the terminal and it went much faster. Going through security was very easy. I saw them ask people to take off their belts, hats and sunglasses but no one had to take off their shoes and I never saw them pat anyone down. The metal detectors seemed much less sensitive than the ones at the airport.
Food: We really enjoyed all the food. We ate breakfast and lunch on lido deck several times. For breakfast they have omelet stations, scrambled eggs, potato's (prepared different ways on different days) fruit, cereal, bacon, sausage, toast and more. I liked the breakfast a lot and always really like their scrambled eggs. For lunch they have different themes on different days but most days we ate from the deli or the grille station which had nachos with homemade salsa, nacho cheese and sour crÃ¨me. They also had good cheeseburgers and French fries that are a lot like McDonalds. On our last sea day after lunch they had a chocolate extravaganza on lido deck that had all different types of chocolate things including lots of different chocolate cakes and a chocolate fondue station. One night they had a late night buffet on lido that was Mexican themed, I did not care for that as much but a lot of the food they had included seafood which I don't eat.
We ate in the dinning room every night. We had the my time dining, most nights we were able to walk in and sit right down but if we couldn't we were given a pager that will work anywhere on the ship. There were a few nights where we choose to wait to sit with a waitress we really liked and got to know. All the food in the dinning room was excellent. My favorite thing from the dining room was the bacon mac and cheese that they served on the last night but the prime rib, flat iron steak and chocolate melting cake was very good too. We also ate in the dinning room for lunch a few times on sea days to avoid some of the congestion on lido deck. The food seemed similar to what they were serving on lido deck but it did have some diffrences.
Room service gives you options of different salads, snacks, sandwiches and deserts. We also sometimes ordered room service in the morning which gives you continental breakfast options. There was one morning that room service was running behind about 30 minutes but they called and let us know they would be late and asked if they should still deliver. Late at night when we ordered room service there were also sometimes that it was slow taking between 30 and 60 minutes for the food to arrive but they always let us know when we called to place the order how long it would take.
They serve pizza 24 hours a day and we also liked that for a late night snack the pizza is surprisingly good. The coffee they serve on deck 5 is an extra charge but well worth it. I didn't care for the coffee they served on lido deck and through room service.
We purchases the unlimited bubbles program on the first day with entitles you to unlimited soda. It came out to about 41.00 with tax and everything. We also purchased alcoholic drinks which were expensive but strong. I would say that alcoholic drinks cost between $7 and $12 on average.
We were in cabin 8205 which is an inside cabin all the way forward. Our room steward was great she cleaned our room twice a day. We always bring extra hangers and unpack our suitcases and stick them under the bed to save space. The bathroom had more storage spaces than other Carnival ships I have been on. There were plenty of shelves to allow us to stack all of our stuff in there. The room did have a mini fridge stocked with soda and alcohol. We asked the room steward to remove all the drinks from the fridge so that we could use it. The cabin was set up with two twin beds one on the right wall and one on the left with two small bedside tables in the middle. The 3rd bed came down from the ceiling and you have to use a ladder to get up there like a bunk bed. There was also a table with a big mirror to sit at and eat or do make up and there was also a small free standing table that could be moved around the room.
We stopped in Key West, Grand Cayman and Jamaica we preplanned an excursion in every port and bought all the excursions through Carnival.
In Key West we purchased the on again off again trolley ride. While all the shore excursions are a little bit expensive in my opinion I thought this one was one of the best value for the money. It was $30 per person and the and with the trolley we felt like we got to see everything there was to see in Key West. As they drive along they do give you a tour and point out different points of interest and tell you a little bit of the history of the island. You can get off as much or as little as you like and you end up right back by the ship. Key West is a nice town that is mostly for drinking and shopping but they also have some very nice beaches.
We thought Grand Cayman had the best shopping. We went on the tour by land and sea. The first part you go in a partial submarine boat and you see the reefs, lots of fish and two sunken ships. The captain of the boat actually gets in the water and feeds the fish for you to see. We had a lot more fun than expected. The second part of the tour they take you around to see some of the different sites, it was a nice way to see a lot of the island in a short amount of time.
In Jamaica we did a shore excursion where you ride mini boats to Dunne River Falls. The mini boats fit two people plus a guide. The ride was fun and lasted about 30 minutes or so and as a nice way to see Jamaica and it was gorgeous there. We climbed the Dunne River Falls which is like a big waterfall. You do need water shoes to climb the falls. It is not an easy climb but we all were able to do it with out a problem and it was one of the highlights of the trip. If you have not been to the falls before in Jamaica you need to do this at least once. The one drawback in Jamaica was how pushy people are trying to sell you everything. Once you get to the top of the falls there is an area set up with lots of little makeshift stores all in one area and it was like a maze trying to get out and started to get a little frustrating with everyone trying to stop us to sell us something.
Activities: There was always a lot to do on the ship and we tried to go to more of the activates onboard than we have in the past. We went to 2 of the shows at night. The shows were ok, the performers were good and the sets impressive but the quality of the show not quite as good as one that we may have paid for back home. We went to the past guest party which was like others we have been to in the past, their entertainment staff is there, they show a short movie they show, and they gave away a free dinner at the steakhouse. They also had drinks and oeuvres. We went to the towel animal folding demonstration and they actually give you towels and show you how to fold them. The serenity deck area (adults only area) was very nice and surprisingly quite compared to the main pool area on lido deck. As a smoker my only complaint was that there was no area on serenity deck where you were allowed to smoke. It seems silly that you should have to sit down by the noisy pool area with all the loud music and kids running around to smoke.
Debarkation: Pulling back into Port is was a little rainy that morning and they let us off at a different port than the one we left in. Carnival provided free shuttles to the parking area which was quick and efficient. I was surprised the driver didn't even ask for tips. We ended up getting off the ship late (about 10:30 by the time we went through customs). There seemed to be a problem not sure if it was with the terminal or the weather but we spent our time sitting up on lido deck and it was fine. I kind of preferred having a little more time and not having to rush off in the morning. When we got back to our car we realized that we had left a light on in the car and the battery was dead. In less than five minutes we found a security person riding around who was able to give us a jump.
All and all we had a great cruise, the staff was amazing, the food was great and the atmosphere was always fun. Now that we are back home we are already planning our next cruise.