Embarkation on this ship was smooth and relatively fast. We arrived around 2pm and the lines were kept manageable. The safety drill was organized well and stranglers were rounded up in a reasonable time frame.
The beds in our cheap interior stateroom were excellent with a very comfortable memory foam topper on each. The stateroom was a little bigger than we are used to at about 160Sqft and that helped with laying out luggage. The TV is a nice newer Samson LCD but as usual, the HDMI Port (Or any other input) is not selectable. The selection of channels is good and live but often cut in and out. I'm assuming this is because it was a live feed from satellite. There is a knob to control the volume of announcements in the room but hardly any announcements come through the room speaker. I found that if you have it turned all they way up, a little bit of muzak is piped through which made me think I was hearing the neighbors' TV all night through the wall until I figured out what was going on.
On that note, the sound insulation on this boat is excellent. I didn't hear a noise from any neighbor once on the whole cruise. My wife's parents also had a room and were next to a family with 3 kids and they didn't hear a peep either.
I found the food on this cruise to be refreshingly good. Every other cruise we have been on has seen the food quality get worse and worse. The freedom has a very large food staff and it shows. They are able to make all their bread products fresh every day. Portafino was delicious and well worth the $20 extra charge. We went to chops and not being a fan of red meat, I ordered the chicken. The chicken was moist and cooked perfect. Everyone said their steaks were delicious. The deserts in both specialty restaurants were also amazing. The main dining room is impressive and the food was good. Some ordered the NY Strip steak and said that it was a bit too chewy though. N this large ship, Sorrentos is its own separate full restaurant on the promenade. The Deserts there are very good and better than the windjammer. The Windjammer buffet was good the couple of times we ate there. Interestingly enough, the Pizza in the Windjammer was very good and better than Sorrentos. The Specialty cupcake shop was not that good. The cupcakes were dry.
There are bars everywhere of course but they seem to have made a lot of effort to make each one somewhat unique. There is a very nice English pub on the promenade that they keep dimly lit and full of dark wood. The drinks are made well for the most part but there is some issue with consistency. I ordered their Patron Perfect Margarita for the first time up in the Olive or Twist and it was amazing. Probably the best margarita I have had on the rocks. Then, later that evening, I ordered the same drink in the Casino and it was garbage. I ordered a third one another day in the Plaza bar and it was very good but still not as good as the first I had. The drinks of the day from the bars are always going to be better than from the traveling waiters at the pool of course.
The level of service on the Freedom I would also rate as excellent. It was very refreshing to have friendly helpful staff almost everywhere you went. We didn't have many dealings with guest services but when we did, they were efficient and friendly. When the line gets long, the manager will come out and talk to people in line to see if there are any simple issues or people are in the wrong line.There was one waitress in the Olive and Twist that while friendly, was completely incompetent but that was the only personnel downside. We had an issue with our smaller children being bullied and punched by some older kids up in the arcade and "Living Room" area which were both unsupervised. We reported it to security and they treated it with concern and professionalism and were able to find the older kids that did it. That being said, it would have been better to have the teen areas with some staff supervision.
The shows were pretty good but we are not the type to go to them so I will not review in depth. The main Arcadia theater shows 3D movies during the day. They use a great Dolby3D system that is very smooth and have a full 7.1 theater sound system. I forgot where I was for a while and thought I was at a theater at home. Our kids really enjoyed the ice skating rink, Flow Rider and rock climbing wall. Mini-golf was alright as long as you got there early enough.
There is a huge kids water area and the main pool area is large as well with two pools. There really weren't as many pool chairs as you would think for a cruise this size on the pool deck and of course, everyone was reserving them even though you are not supposed to. The adult pool area is very nicely done. The pool itself is segmented into two sided by a water bar with stools and the deep side is about 7' deep. There are two very big hot tubs in the adult area that hang out over the side of the boat.
For disembarking, we chose to carry our luggage out for express departure. Express departure starts rather early and runs from 6:45 am till 7:15 am. They ran two lines: one from the front and one from the back of the ship. They moved well and it was just a matter of exiting the elevator, getting in line and shuffling out.
One thing that was a little irritating was that the overall feeling is that they rather frown upon shorts. Since we were taking a cruise to the Caribbean in the late summer months and had to fit 7 people and their luggage in one minivan, we chose not to bring formal wear or even pants to save space. The dinning room recommends no shorts but they do not make an issue of it and the very friendly dinning room manager made it a point to make us feel comfortable going there. When we went to Portifinos and Chops, we wore a nice pair of shorts, button down short sleeve shirt and nice sandals. Portifino had no problem but the Gentleman at the door in Chops made it a point to let us know that they preferred we not wear shorts there. It was perfectly fine for the next group to come in with ripped jeans and a t-shirt though. Also, our invitation to the welcome back event for gold members specifically stated in bold at the bottom that no shorts would be allowed. I'm not sure who they are trying to weed out on a 7 day cruise that costs thousands of dollars but who knows... Anyway, just be advised to pack some sort of pants.