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Freedom of the Seas Cruise Review by Artemis

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Freedom of the Seas
Freedom of the Seas
Member Name: Artemis
Cruise Date: June 2012
Embarkation: Port Canaveral
Destination: Western Caribbean
Cabin Category: E1
Cabin Number: 8536
Booking Method: Local Travel Agency
See More About: Freedom of the Seas Cruise Reviews | Western Caribbean Cruise Reviews | Royal Caribbean Cruise Deals
Member Rating   5.0 out of 5+
Dining 4.0
Public Rooms 5.0
Cabins 4.0
Entertainment 5+
Spa & Fitness 4.0
Family & Children Not Rated
Shore Excursions 4.0
Embarkation 5.0
Service 4.0
Value-for-Money 5.0
Rates 4.0
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Ship Facts: Freedom of the Seas Review (by Cruise Critic!) | Freedom of the Seas Deck Plans
Freedom W Carib June 2012: Another Royal cruise!
This is a "just the facts, m'am" review of the Western Caribbean voyage of Freedom OTS June 24-July 1, 2012...sorry, we didn't take a single picture! To make up for the lack of eye candy, I've published five downloadable PDFs with newbies and obsessive researchers in mind:

1. Food and Drink Specials -- An overview of featured food and beverage events and the daily MDR menu designations, e.g., Venetian Night;

2. "The Planner" - A handy one page flyer overviewing the highlights of each cruise day (sort of a condensed Cruise Compass for the week);

3. Royal's "Online Guide"--The brochure from the Internet cafe with package prices and "how to" instructions for accessing the Internet while aboard ship;

4. The Labadee map; and

5. Disembarkation Guide -- Everything you need to know about disembarkation.

(As this review template doesn't support the provision of URLs, I believe you can find the link to the above-listed documents in the identical version of this review that I posted to the Royal Caribbean forum under this user name.)

About us:

We are a Texas couple in our mid-50s (with two college kids who didn't join us this cruise--we're still not used to having all this fun without them!). This was our first Royal Caribbean cruise at Diamond status and 28th cruise overall.

Pre-cruise activities in Port Canaveral area + hotel & rental car info:

We spent two full days in the Port Canaveral area before our Sunday embarkation. I posted to the Florida Departures forum about our Priceline hotel, rental cars pre- and post-cruise and the area activities we especially enjoyed, from the Space Center to a wild plane ride and more!

Our Freedom cruise:

We had a terrific cruise experience on Freedom, and it seemed like a truly happy cruise for everyone, passengers and crew alike. This peak summer vacation sailing was full of families, honeymooners and young adults--we were definitely among the older set.

Overall Grade: A

We give this Freedom experience our usual Royal Caribbean high marks: entertainment and activities earned an A+ and food and service an A-. We are pretty easy to please and know what to expect, and all in all, they do a bang up job! We have sailed all the other mass market lines except Disney, and for our tastes, no one tops Royal Caribbean's entertainment and innovative features of onboard life that make you go "wow!," e.g., even though their introduction of ice rinks is now ancient history, we still think the idea of skating at sea is just wowsome! When it comes to food and service, we are partial to Celebrity, but that doesn't take anything away from our enjoyment of Royal Caribbean.

About the Ship:

I had to be reminded that before Oasis came along, Freedom was the largest cruise ship in the world! We felt Oasis actually handled people flow better--Freedom can feel pretty crowded at times, especially in the Windjammer, during promenade events and on the gangways to/from port calls, and the elevators are slooooow. But no worries, mon! After the usual mad embarkation day dash, most passengers relax into holiday mode and don't get upset over a little wait or long line.

I found the familiarity of the ship's layout and signature venues oddly comforting (even though I can't say it markedly improved my rate of going the right direction :p). Freedom-class ships look and feel like big Voyager-class ships, so if you've sailed any of the eight ships in the two classes, you'll quickly feel at home on Freedom from the ice rink and Studio B down on Deck 4 all the way up to the rock climbing wall and Viking Lounge on top. One slight negative for me, a fair-skinned fan of lazy days around the pool, is the fact Freedom's "Solarium" is a misnomer--it's not covered, so you have to be particularly skilled at playing the chair hog game to secure one of the few shaded loungers around the edges! On the other hand, a big positive of Freedom-class ships is the fact you can take a sauna or steam "for free," i.e., without purchasing a spa pass as is required on many ships.

Royal VIPs - The captain was Tore Grimstad of Norway. I wish I could tell you more about him--from announcements and TV clips, he seemed quite affable and more involved with passengers than some captains. But we never made a "meet the Captain" event, and we missed the usually informative and entertaining Q & A with the Captain. ("Captain's Corner" with both the Captain and CD was held at 10:15a on Day 7 at sea.)

Graham Seymour is the Cruise Director. He's a very clever British fellow. We were tickled by his morning TV show; his late night "adult comedy" show (see Day 5) was amusing, but not side-splitting humour, at least to our funny bones. I think Graham did a better job than most CDs in forming his team--each staffer we met at trivia and other games and activities was professional yet very outgoing, upbeat and sort of wacky...like Graham!

Eating & Drinking:

I'll just get another of my few "whines" out of the way: We really missed the Park Cafe (introduced on Oasis and now featured on some "revitalized" ships) and its famously tasty roast beef sandwiches and custom salads! In fact, dining options felt a bit limited to us--we found ourselves eating lunch in the Windjammer more than usual. On the other hand, with four port days, they don't count on serving that many lunches aboard, and in fairness, the offerings at Cafe Promenade and Sorrento's are far more extensive than sandwiches and pizza, e.g., the French sidewalk cafe-styled eatery serves a variety of salads and gourmet sweet and savory bites (plus Starbucks coffee drinks for an upcharge) and Sorrento's has a lovely antipasto spread.

There are a few special dining events throughout the week, including three featured dinners the first two nights of the cruise (if you're interested, you need to jump on these opportunities as soon as you embark, as space is limited), as well as frequent wine tastings and drink specials...like 2-for-1 margaritas every day! I put together a list of food and drink specials from my Compass collection and published it here: https://sites.google.com/site/freedomots06242012/ (I'm pretty sure that URL is going to be suppressed, so hopefully, like I said at the outset, it will be available in the forum version of this review, in the event you want to access these referenced docs.) I sure wish I'd caught that Port & Chocolate tasting while I was on board!

- Breakfast choices are Windjammer ("grab and go" at 6a, full breakfast at 7a), Main Dining Room (MDR) and room service. Tip: Use the door tag to place your order, they call just before delivery--what a great wake-up service!

- Lunch choices are Windjammer, MDR on sea days only (with express buffet and ' la carte menu), Cafe Promenade, Sorrento's and Johnny Rockets ($4.95 pp incl. tip, shakes are extra--if you have any Crown & Anchor status, check your coupon book for possible 2-for-1 shake discount).

- Dinner choices are Windjammer (which is dressed up with table clothes and attentive beverage service), the Asian section of Windjammer they call "Jade" (where you can find Asian specialties at breakfast and lunch, as well, but to a greater extent at dinner--if interested, ask when your favorites will be served, "sushi night" is very popular), MDR (follow the daily recap below if you want to know which of the "standard" Royal Caribbean menus matches with a certain day), Cafe Promenade, Sorrento's, Johnny Rockets, Chops Grille ($30 pp incl. tip) and Portofino ($20 pp incl. tip). Tip: Every night in the MDR, you can order a Chops filet ($14.95), a lobster tail from Portofino's or a surf and turf combo of the two (sorry, I can't recall pricing on the lobster and surf and turf). This is the second ship on which I've ordered the Chops filet in the MDR, and both times, I was served a high quality piece of meat cooked exactly to medium rare as requested).

- Afternoon tea is listed in the Compass a few afternoons, but it's no longer served anywhere, you can simply find tea sandwiches, scones and a few other traditional items in the Windjammer.

- Fee-based treats on the promenade include a Cupcake Cupboard (with make-your-own sessions) and Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream (the "free" Sprinkles ice cream stand is on the pool deck). Complimentary tapas are served when you imbibe at Vintages Wine Bar.

- Late night choices are Johnny Rocket's to midnight, Sorrento's to 3a and both Cafe Promenade and room service 24 hours (there's a $3.95 service charge on room service orders between midnight and 5a).

- MDR Tips & Tricks:

o Main seating is 5:30p, second is 8p and My Time Dining (MTD) is so popular, it's hard to get into! We never cleared the waitlist for MTD, but we also booked within 30 days of sail date; however, even early bookers have reported being told MTD is "closed." So if MTD is important to you and you don't get it when you book, the first line of attack is persistent requests during the pre-cruise stage. The second is talking with the Dining Room Manager on embarkation day (11a-3p, confirm time and location in the Dining section of the Compass). And then continue to follow up, as desired. We didn't press the issue after working out a pleasing late assignment.

o Don't let show reservations inform your dinner time--I made that mistake! As it turns out, show reservations weren't checked except for the ice show, so we kept our preferred 8p late seating, went to the 7p shows and skipped our 9p show reservations.

o Regarding location, the dining room spans three levels. The lowest level, "Leonardo's" on Deck 3, is the noisiest venue (due to the large, open expanse) and the engine vibrations are fairly noticeable (some people are hypersensitive to the vibration). However, we were very satisfied with our table in "Cielo," one of the two, small "private" dining rooms that flank the MDR on Deck 3 only. It was quiet and forward of the annoying engine vibrations. The only drawback for new cruisers is that you have to get up and go into the main body of the MDR to watch the wait staff parades.

Surfing (the 'net):

We travel with iPads and iPhones, but turn off all cellular service and rely strictly on wifi. We carry one of those handy gadgets with 3 outlets and 2 USB ports to charge everything (ours is a CyberPower TRVL918, under $20 online). We usually buy an Internet package, but our "one hour free" Diamond benefit (applying his and her coupons) was just enough to cover us when supplemented by free wifi at beach clubs in George Town and Cozumel and a $10 unlimited Internet card purchased at the Falmouth cruise terminal--the signal was strong enough to access from the terminal side of the ship.

BONUS! The "Online Guide: Again...at that same link...I published Royal Caribbean's Internet brochure (v.1/22/12) with package prices, "how to connect" instructions and helpful tips about configuring your devices, which you can do from home before you cruise. Be sure to learn how to log off so you cut your fee-based connection; pre-configure your device so you can download, read and compose email off line; and figure on depleting your package minutes faster than you expect--I don't know what kind of time zone you enter while surfing at sea, but it always feels like cruise ship minutes elapse at double speed!

Live Auction of extremely cool opportunities, all for the good of the Make-A-Wish Foundation:

Royal Caribbean has long supported Make-A-Wish by granting cruise wishes and raising and donating money through employee and passenger incentive programs, including the onboard "Walk for Wishes" held on Day 6 at sea. This cruise, we saw them successfully employ an additional fundraiser--an unpublicized live auction of coveted activities like making the midday announcement from the bridge and blowing the ship's horn when leaving a port of call. There are meet-the-Captain events, special tours, bundled dinners and shore excursions--you get the idea, an array of enticing things for cruise enthusiasts of all ages!

The CD conducted the auction just before both the early (7p) and late (9p) shows in the main Arcadia Theatre. Which night? I can't remember! Because it wasn't announced, it's not showing up in my Compass collection, so you should ask Guest Relations, and be sure to go to the early show because a few "one time only" items were auctioned then (unless they held back some other exclusives for the late show crowd). Bidding was by show of hands, and the winning bids ranged from $200-500 depending on the item. Later in the week, they announced the grand total raised for Make-A-Wish.

Merrymaking Day-by-Day:

Because we were pretty darned relaxed this cruise and didn't participate in much to talk about, I PDF'd and published The Planner so you can get a taste of how a week on Freedom doing the Western Caribbean itinerary usually goes...if you're sailing the alternate Eastern Caribbean week, things will be a little different! (Note: We didn't receive The Planner in our stateroom, so I don't know if that was intentional or a delivery error. If you don't receive one, check with Guest Relations, or if you have Diamond or Concierge Lounge privileges, it will be stocked there.)

Royal does a fabulous job keeping things fresh and interesting for every cruiser, and this week was no exception. They showed all the Euro 2012 Soccer Finals games on one of the several big screens onboard, as well as DreamWorks' latest movie, "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted"--complete with 3D glasses and popcorn--which just came out in a theatre near you! And they're constantly adding new standards alongside old favorites, like a flash mob dance lesson (true confessions, I have no idea when the mob actually performed!), "twenty" by Absolut--a Miami-styled night club and Family Quest--a family-friendly take on Quest, Royal's wildly popular "adults only" team scavenger hunt/performance game. So whether you're a newbie or repeat Royal cruiser, and regardless of your age or interests, you will find plenty of things to do...or not, which is the path we took most days. Now back home flipping through my Compass collection, I want a "redo" to try everything we missed!

Here's a recap of our daily experiences on Freedom, with random commentary!

Day 1 -- Sunday Embarkation

- All aboard at 3:30p - We are crazy people who do not rush to the port to board early. One of these days, I'd like to try that! Anyway, I've heard you can arrive as early as 10:30 or 11a, so check other reviews for details if you're interested. We arrived around 1:30p, the lines weren't too long, and because we are brand new Diamond members (yea!), we got to use a premium access line. Bottom line: It took 15 minutes max from curb to completion of check-in! And the nice thing about arriving "late" is, you can go directly to your cabin (I believe cabins are supposed to be ready for new guests by 1:30p).

- Muster at 4p, sail away at 4:30p - You can get cell reception from your mobile carrier for 1-2 hours as the ship slowly makes its way out to sea, so we always sit on the balcony and make our last calls to family and any last-minute emails and Internet surfing before shutting down cellular service . It's slow over 3G, but in case you forgot or need just one more, you have time to download an e-book, too!

- Welcome Aboard Show at 7p sandwiched between the 5:30p main seating and 8p late seating - We didn't attend; the Compass says comedian Saleem and the aerialists performed.

- 11:15p DreamWorks Move It! Move It! Parade - We strolled the promenade early to get a primo seat in front of the pub. The parade is basically a showcase of the DreamWorks characters who are on board for special breakfasts and other "meet and greets." Tip: If you're too tired or too young to stay up this late, confirm on your cruise Planner or with Guest Relations that the parade will be repeated later in the cruise and at an earlier hour. On our cruise, the parade repeated at 5:15p on the last sea Day 7.

Day 2 -- At Sea

- 8:30-10 AM - Ice Show ticket distribution (only time offered). Big tip: If you're a "rules follower" like me ;), you will spend a lot of time figuring out your show reservations in the online Pre-Cruise Planner precisely so you don't have to get up early to queue for tickets. Guess what?! The show times I picked were all screwy with our preferred dinner time, our pre-reserved ice show was canceled and we found out they don't check reservations at the door except for the ice show. So here's the scoop: Don't stress over your other show reservations, but be sure to pre-reserve your ice show, pick up ice show tix this morning or just go to today's 5:30p ice show...read on.

- Ice Show -- There were two ice shows today, one at 3:30p and the second at 5:30p. The staff told me today's 5:30p show is almost always available for walk-ins because it conflicts with people getting ready for the first formal night. So we went, and sure enough, they didn't even bother to check reservations at the door! The show itself was tremendous, and we were struck by how fresh the content was--I think the oldest material was the 60's/70's segment featuring "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In." One of the star skaters and her partner do a hula hoops-to-Slinky act that is jaw-dropping!

- First formal night - The passengers on our cruise definitely dressed up more this first formal night than the second one; even then, tuxes were few and far between--the interpretation of "formal" was a lot more casual than we've seen on past Royal Caribbean cruises.

- "Marquee" production show - We are big fans of musical theatre, so never miss a production show. Marquee was well-executed. It feels dated, drawing from shows like "Cabaret" and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," but the sets, choreography and costumes are impressive, and the current cast of lead performers and supporting singers and dancers is strong. In this and other productions, the orchestra was slightly elevated sometimes instead of always being down in the pit--those musicians are so talented! When we did the backstage tour (Day 7), we learned each show costs $8-10 million to stage, thus shows will play 6-8 years (unless they bomb). Also, the cast is hired as a company--they go through a competitive audition and selection process, then train together in Florida for almost two months before boarding a ship for a six-month run of show. If you want to learn more about Freedom's current shows, I found this web page: http://www.showbizfriends.com/index.php?categoryid=41&p2_articleid=83

Day 3 -- Labadee, Haiti

- We admire what Royal Caribbean's down with Labadee--it just gets better and better! This visit, we hung out at Columbus Cove, which is our favorite area, probably because when we started going to Labadee, our kids were with us and wanted to play on the water toys. But we like the sandy beach and the fact you can wade in and swim, which you can't do as easily on the other side (it's rocky and the surf is rough). We never manage to get there early enough for front row loungers. (Tip: Bring cash in case you want to tip the beach chair crew, buy local handicrafts, etc.) But if you stay long enough, you'll make it to the front row! The crowd always clears out shortly after the lunch buffet closes at 1:30p. We practically had the place to ourselves the last hour--it was idyllic. For those in search of an adrenalin rush, I can highly recommend the zip line, and because you get to ride "the world's longest zip line over water"--it's nearly a half mile--plus a shorter training ride, our family "tightwad" has proclaimed it worth every penny!

- Tonight's show was "Now You See It," a slick magic show. It's a permanent feature of their entertainment line-up, i.e., this is not a headliner magician they've flown in from Vegas for a one-time gig.

Day 4 -- Falmouth, Jamaica

- Falmouth's brand new cruise terminal is a pleasant place with plenty of shops, food and beverage. Currently, there is little in the way of local excursions and independent activities--I was wishing for even a simple motor boat tour of the lovely coastline--so you have to take a 30 minute-plus ride to Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, etc. to access the usual fun stuff. I'm sure Falmouth-based activities will develop over time. A "Margaritaville" beach club is slated to begin construction soon. Because we've previously done Dunn's River Falls (fabulous!) and all the other Jamaican highlights, we decided to try a first for us and stay on board. It was relaxing, but a little weird to me (I'm more of an explorer type). My husband went out to the terminal and bought a $10 "all day" Internet access card at a convenience store--the connection was robust enough to access from that side of the ship.

- Shout out & big tip: Take your Compass to port with you! -- A shout out to Royal Caribbean for prominently incorporating in the daily Cruise Compass the critical contact information you would need if something happened to you in port. For example, today's Compass has a listing for the US Embassy in Jamaica and the ship's agent in Falmouth. As cruisers who have generally done our own thing in port, thus lacked the support of a shore excursion agent, we appreciate this educational effort by Royal Caribbean.

- Tonight's show was the only flown-in headliner for the week, a fellow named Paul Boland who sings and does impersonations. He wasn't our cuppa.

Day 5 -- George Town, Grand Cayman (tender)

- In keeping with our R 'n R goal for the week, we exited the tender, threaded our way through the crowded cruise terminal to the street, said "yes" to a fellow hawking $4 pp shared van rides to Royal Palms beach club and, 10 minutes later, settled in for another perfect day on a gorgeous beach. Chairs are $10 each, an umbrella is another $10, cabanas are $50, food and drink prices are reasonable, there's parasailing, jet skiing and water toys galore and the wifi's free, but the signal's weak. If you're on a budget, you can lay a towel out on the sand for free--all Cayman beaches are "public" up to the high water line. If it's your first visit to the island, don't do what we did--you've gotta see the stingrays! And if it's your second and you have a longer day in port (Freedom's stop is a brief 8a-3:15p, which is shortened still by the time required to tender), rent a car and go out to Rum Point, making sure to stop at the starfish cove on the way. Speaking of tendering, when we returned to the cruise terminal a little before 3p so as not to miss the last tender, the line to board the tender was hundreds of people long. Just as I was beginning to wilt from standing on concrete in the hot sun, the Diamond Lounge concierge appeared and told us we had front of the line privilege. Nice. See my paragraph below about Diamond status.

- Second formal night -- It was lobster night in the MDR!

- The final and best production show of the cruise is "Once Upon A Time" -- This was one of my all-time favorite cruise shows! It is a very creative and contemporary take on classic fairy tales. The Pinocchio set and blocking is phenomenal. When we did the behind-the-scenes tour, one of the leads told us that this show is the performers' favorite show across all Royal Caribbean ships. It's the one Freedom show I'd tell anyone not to miss!

- No smoking night in the casino from 7p to close -- This is a savvy gesture, as the casino can get pretty smoky; a person with health issues probably couldn't gamble any other time. The casino ran several interesting promotions over the cruise week, including $3 Madness on the Tables and a Secret Agent promotion that my husband was sure he had nailed until a bunch of contestants entered in the last minutes!

Day 6 -- Cozumel, Mexico

- Paradise Beach never disappoints - We didn't dive, do the dolphins or a cooking class or go to Nachi Cocom or another an all-inclusive. (The Cozumel forum is a great resource when you need help in deciding what to do. Cozumel has it all!) We just did Paradise...again! It's clean, reasonably priced and perfect for another day of vegging at yet another gorgeous beach (plus their "new" pool is awfully nice). The taxi fare from the pier was $13 per vehicle. And to be accurate, we went there after lunch on the ship following an early morning of snorkeling with Dive with Martin, the outfit located on your left just as you walk off the pier. (There are multiple cruise piers in Cozumel--downtown, Punta Langosta, International = the one Royal Caribbean ships usually use, and Puerta Maya, which is right next to the International terminal and is a Carnival operation.) For $30-50pp, depending on your needs and bargaining skills, Dive with Martin will take about a dozen people out for a two- or three-stop snorkeling trip in the waters nearby. The pros are price, convenience (no pre-booking, just walk off and join a trip) and small group. I was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of their equipment (we always travel with our own) and their willingness to help newbies. The only con is, the snorkeling at this location at is just so-so! The coral has been hard hit by humans and storms, so is in regrowth mode; we saw some pretty fishes, an eel and a few odds and ends, but all in all, it wasn't a remarkable snorkeling outing. If you're studying Royal Caribbean's excursions, be advised that this is where the Fury cat goes (for a much higher price). The best snorkeling off Cozumel island is at Palancar and Columbia reefs, and trips that hit those two stops are common, but better done with a bit of pre-planning independently or via the Royal Caribbean excursion that goes to both before ending at Playa Mia, which is a beach club that gets rave reviews.

- Tonight's "show" was the "Madagascar 3" move in 3D (early) or the ice show (late). It was sort of a "make-up" night in terms of entertainment.

- Except that they go all out with the "Rock Brittania" a/k/a British Invasion dance party on the promenade--at 10:45p. I'd be lying if I told you I was there...but the playback on the in-room TV made me wish I'd stayed up for it!

Day 7 -- Saturday at sea

- It's busy! - On this itinerary, with one sea day at the beginning followed by four days in port, the last sea day aboard ship is very busy. There are a lot of "behind the scenes" tours and activities. And if you haven't rock climbed yet, or surfed the flow rider, or whatever...plan to queue and be happy!

- FreedomFEST on the promenade is a big midday event. Click here for more info.

- We caught the Madagascar movie this afternoon plus the parade(again) at 5:15p.

- The farewell show is comedy by Phil Palisoul and the aerialists.

- A few of the lead singers from the company put on a late night "jazz" cabaret in the Viking Lounge. It was delightful, except that it was heavy on Broadway standards and light on jazz (fine with us). We always spend a lot of time following the musicians around. They are a gifted bunch! We enjoyed "the pub guy," the Schooner pianist and the classical group (which doesn't get much respect, in a Rodney Dangerfield way, on Freedom--I'm a classical music nut and think Celebrity does classical the best of all the main stream lines).

Day 8 -- Sunday Disembarkation

- Luggage valet -- Not reflected on the disembarkation guide is the luggage program. You'll get a flyer about this, but basically, if you are flying any of the following lines, you may pay a $20 per person service fee for seamless transfer of your luggage from the ship to your airplane, provided it's departing from Orlando (MCO): Airtran, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United and US Air. Flights must depart after noon, be within the continental US and all connecting flights must be on the same airline. This fee is just for the transfer convenience. You must still pay any baggage fee your airline may assess.

- Independent travelers - We travel a lot and have a fairly hard and fast rule against checking luggage. It doesn't mean we compromise (much) on dress. We are just black belt packers! But bragging aside ?, if you want to bring your luggage on and off a ship, know that it's no problem. You simply need to be able to handle it all yourself. As for timing of departure, we never worry about what disembarkation group they've put us in--that's all about luggage staging and overall crowd control. When we're ready, we just go, and we've never been stopped. The only caveat I'd offer is, if you want to disembark early, in the first wave, be sure to sign up for that and get the appropriate tags so you breeze right through!

Diamond status is pretty neat!

Before I sign off, I want to say, "Thanks, Royal Caribbean, you made attaining Diamond {buying all those cruises} worthwhile!" As I said at the outset, this was our 28th cruise, but first as Diamonds on Royal Caribbean, and we have no significant status on any other line. That's because we've always selected cruises without regard to loyalty, but based primarily on timing, itinerary and cost. Now that we're Diamond, though, we will be motivated to book more with Royal Caribbean (and enjoy Celebrity's recognition of our Royal Caribbean status). Among the several Diamond perks we appreciated on Freedom were these benefits: $200 balcony discount, fast check-in line, Diamond Lounge complimentary specialty coffee and alcoholic beverages (our alcohol bill was a lot lower because of this + Diamond drink coupons--not so good for Royal Caribbean or us, as shareholders, in the short run; but it certainly entices us to choose Royal Caribbean when we have a choice, so probably a win-win taking the long view ), dining in Chops with our lunchtime Windjammer food (also available at breakfast), front-of-the-line privilege catching the return tender from George Town, coupons that covered our onboard Internet use and a lovely breakfast event. So the lesson, I guess, is buy more Royal cruises! (We are shareholders, too, but the shareholder benefits don't seem to apply...ever...because some other, better discount always negates them. Contrast, Carnival shareholder benefits-- which are good on Carnival, Princess, HAL, Cunard, Seabourn and some European brands and are usually cumulative of loyalty program and promotional discounts.)

Anyway...we're pretty happy campers...or cruisers...with Royal Caribbean! For more information about Freedom's Diamond Lounge and other perks of "upper tier" Crown & Anchor status, check out this thread to which I contributed a few updates.

The End - Whew! That's all, folks. Thanks for reading.

Publication Date: 07/08/12
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