My family experienced our first cruise with the Freedom on June 24, 2012. (Western Caribbean)
We flew into Fort Lauderdale the morning of the cruise. I was very nervous as the weather was really bad. In the future I will plan to arrive a day early. We choose transportation services with Carnival which proved to be a great idea.
Embarkation/Arrival...Easy and fast. We submitted all of our information online. We checked in on our rooms and our luggage arrived later that evening. We had a balcony room on the Panorama deck and our boys (12 and 14) had an interior room across the hall. They claimed they liked their room better, but I think they just like having their own room! I am definitely hooked on having a balcony. The water was so soothing and relaxing. I wouldn't want to go somewhere else on the ship in order to enjoy it. When we arrived, we went to the Lido deck to grab a bite. It was a bit confusing, as there were different food stations and the deck was huge. For a first-time cruiser, this was a bit intimidating. Each of us wanted something different and I think it was by luck that we all found each other again when it was time to sit and eat. We decided at that moment, we would always grab seats ahead of time. We also made rules at that time for what to do if/when we were separated and felt lost.
Key West...Didn't happen. Tropical Storm Debbie ruined this port for us, but the captain was able to secure us a stop in Cozumel, Mexico in lieu of Key West. We spend the 2nd day at Sea and went to Cozumel on day 3. I took Day 2 to get more accustomed with the ship. This was also our first formal dinner night. (There were 2.) I read other reviews about people not dressing and rowdy teenagers, but we did not experience any of that. Maybe we were just lucky. Everyone dressed for formal night and children were very well behaved during our entire cruise!
In Cozumel...We took a cab to the beach, rented Jet Skis, and had a great lunch. It was pretty relaxing but I'd much rather booked excursions.
Cayman Islands...My favorite port. We booked "Explore Cayman Land & Sea" and had the best time. We went on the semi-submarine and saw two ship wrecks. Our guide was outstanding, explaining many of the sites and giving us a lots of information about the Cayman Islands. We then stopped at the turtle farm. It smelled bad but ended up being a lot of fun. All of us held turtles and ate a little turtle soup! We visited Hell and I sent myself a postcard. We stopped at a rum cake shop and went to the beach. After our excursion, we went to grab a bite at a restaurant near the port.
Ocho Rios...It is true what they say...you will be harassed by the natives, but this did not stop us from having fun. We learned to say, "No thanks Man!"
We booked "Dunn's River Falls and the Dolphin Cove". Climbing the falls was so much fun. It seemed never-ending in the moment, but ended up being a blast! The Dolphin Cove wasn't that great, as the show was somewhat boring. I'd suggest booking another excursion which includes the falls. Some people swam with the dolphins. That looked like more fun.
The shows...I really enjoyed them all. I am a fan of musicals and plays. I also enjoyed both comedians. The family show was a little lame for me, but the boys enjoyed it.
Circle C..was the worst. There were only few kids on some nights with little supervision. The older teen club was much better. There were always teenagers and they always seemed to be having fun. My boys spent most of the time at the arcade, in the pool, or at the shows with us.
Food..Not bad, but not great. I did gain 5 pounds. The Steakhouse comes highly recommended. The food was very good, but they gave us way too much. I also suggest having breakfast at the Posh restaurant. We did not decide to eat breakfast at Posh until the 5th morning. The breakfast was much better than on the Lido deck and there were many options.
Overall...Great cruise. I did not want to leave. I will definitely cruise with Carnival again and very soon. We purchased a future cruise certificate while we were on board, even though we had a cruise booked with RCL in March. I plan to cruise with Carnival instead but on a different ship, as I am hoping the club for my 12 year old will be much better. My other son will most likely be 15 by the time we cruise again, so I assume he'll have a great club to go to no matter which ship we are on.
I hope this review is helpful!