My husband, 13 year old son and I decided to do the Western Caribbean cruise on Freedom of the Seas again because we enjoyed it two years ago. However, I found there are somethings that have changed since then.
We drove to the port and parked in the parking garage. Although 15.00 a day does seem high, we prefer being able to get into our car without waiting for a shuttle and begin to head home. There are other facilities around that charge less that offer a shuttle if you wish to go that route.
On the plus side - checking in on line does make embarktion much easier and quicker. I booked all my excursions on line as well. We were on the ship by 12:00 and lunch was available in the Windjammer. Our room wasn't ready till 1:00. Our room which had a balcony was nice and appeared clean. Since the ship is now 6 years old, there are some signs of wear such as chipping in areas of the bathroom.
We have always been satisfied with the food in the Windjammer as well as More
the dining room. There is enough variety of things available. We found the Windjammer to become crowded and opted to have breakfast in the dining room which was much quieter and you could have the buffet or order off the menu.
One of the things that has changed is their partnership with Dreamworks. Having characters from Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda dancing about made this cruise more like a Disney cruise with over 400 kids running about. If I wanted to be around 400 kids - I would have taken a Disney cruise. Parents don't control their children, bring them to adult shows late at night and simply made the cruise less enjoyable. My husband and I tried relaxing by the adult pool - but there was always a constant parade of kids walking through to get from one end of the ship to the other.
We also found the employees not as friendly as previous. They were nice - just not more than usual. We remember our head waiter on our cruise last year who paid attention to our son every night - joking with him, chatting with us and making sure he received his meal quickly. We never saw our head waiter who we didn't bother tipping - sorry, we don't tip someone we don't see.
RCL needs to provide be more friendly towards their guests. It would be nice to be given FREE bottles of water upon returning to the ship from ports and maybe leave a little something other than a coupon book in the staterooms of returning guests.
We enjoyed the ports. We appreciated the new port in Falmouth, Jamaica. The previous port in Ochos Rios was terrible and basically unsafe - so that was a wise move by RCL to move to Falmouth.
We still had a nice time - but I will try to avoid their ships with characters in the future! Less
Freedom of the Seas Cruises to the Western Caribbean
Our guide, Martin met us at the pier and took us to Discover Mexico Park. He gave us a tour of the museum which he talked about different Mexican cultures and outside were small replicas of various types of temples. He would take our cameras and took up close pictures of the temples to make it look like you were climbing it - he was fun and informative. From there, we drove a short time to Chankataab park. This was a beach area that you could, from a fee - swim with dolphins, scuba dive, or snorkel. We did the snorkel and enjoyed it very much. There were areas in the water marked for different things to look at while snorkeling. An outdoor restaurant was available to get something to eat - we loved our nachos, fajitas and quesadillas. There is a garden to walk through - not flowers - just tall green trees or bamboo - but I enjoyed it.
We booked the Honeysuckle beach ride. We have ridden previously and thought that riding on the beach would be great. It was ok - except the horses looked rather old and the saddles well worn. The horses simply walked nose to tail and although I wanted to gallop or trot in the water, that never happened. I found it to be boring since the walking pace of the horse was that of a snail. It was so hot - it would have been nice for them to have some cold water available when we were finished.
We have been to Labadee previously and love this beach to sit back and relax. Don't forget your water shoes - there are sea urchins in the water and you don't want to step on one! My husband and son did the Dragon Coaster -which they enjoy. There are various things to do - just be careful walking past the markets - they can be a bit aggressive trying to get you to buy their things. Royal Caribbean provides a barbecue lunch which was very good.
Our combination tour began with boarding a bus with our guide, Camille and bus driver Joe. The bus ride from Falmouth to the falls was almost an hour. But Camille made the ride fun and enjoyable. We have been to the falls before and know that it can be difficult for people as it can be a bit strenuous. Don't forget your water shoes! They try to sell you an expensive dvd with pictures they take as you climb or a video - but they ask 40.00- which is a bit much. Take your own water camera - much cheaper!
From Dunn's River Falls, we were taken to the zipline. They provided a good chicken, rice and coleslaw lunch in a covered pavillion which was very good. From there, we were harnessed with equipment. We were driven up to the starting point - but had to hike about 10 minutes down through the woods - can be difficult for people that are unsteady - the zipline was fun and went through about 6 ziplines altogether. Our guides were great and very helpful. After we were finished, we had another 10 minutes of hiking. We would do this again! Wear closed toe shoes!