Ok, let me start by saying this review may be long but it is worth reading. There were a total of 9 of us that sailed on the Carnival Freedom from Ft. Lauderdale on September 16, 2012. The age range was from 40 - 75. Seven of us flew from Atlanta on AirTran on Sept. 16 and the other 2 flew from Indy on AirTran on Sept. 16. I was lucky enough to find a place to park our cars all week in Atlanta that offered free airport shuttle to and from the airport on Airportparkinginc.com and it was cheap and easy. We arrived at the Atlanta airport just in time (after we checked in and went thru security)to catch our flight to Ft. Lauderdale. We always purchase the cruise transfers so we know that when we get at the airport we will have transportation to the ship without any problems and as always Carnival was waiting for us. We actually got to the ship about noon and we were thru embarkation in less than an hour. It was a breeze and they have definitely improved this since our first cruise in 1986! We made our was to the Lido deck for lunch and yes it was crowded but we were able to get a table for all 9 of us. The food was good and plenty of variety. I had read other reviews about the food being cold and not good but that was not our experience. Maybe this would be a good time to tell you that we are not much of a complainer and we believe that you are in charge of making your vacation a good or bad vacation and we have never had a bad vacation because we can usually find something good in a bad situation. After we left the Lido deck we went to our cabins and they were exactly what we expected. We had an outside cabin on the port side which was great. Our room was very clean and the one time that we had a problem with the TV, maintenance came right to our cabin and fixed it. Our cabin steward was very nice and anything extra I asked from him, he was more than happy to accomodate me.
We chose early seating for dinner. The reason we chose early seating is because we have done the anytime seating but we like having the same wait staff and table every night and we have done late seating before but it makes it too late for most of us to eat (acid reflux comes with age. LOL!). Our wait staff was excellent and so was our food. We are a very sharing group so if someone ordered something different and you wanted to try it, we just kinda shared. The night we had alligator fritters and frog legs, the wait staff brought several of them to our table so that we could all try them. My only complaint about dinner is that there are 2 formal nights and none of us really like to dress up, while on vacation, to go to dinner. We ate in the dining room on the first formal night but skipped the second one and went to the buffet on the Lido deck which was very good. We also ate at the Sun King steak house one night and it was very good also but alot of food. Worth the price to at least try it once. The steaks are huge and cooked perfectly. My niece ordered the cheesecake for dessert and it was the biggest piece of cheesecake that we have ever seen. She said it was better than the Cheesecake Factory.
On the first night, after dinner, we went into the Victoriana lounge (which is where we spent most of our free time, especially at night)to watch the tivia shows, play Bingo, and the Welcome Aboard show (EXCELLENT). After the Welcome Aboard show we headed up to the International lounge to watch the Adult Only comedy show (EXCELLENT). After the adult comedy show we headed to the Casino. The first night we didn't go to bed until about 2:00 am (and most nights after that).
Basically, the rest of the cruise was much like the first day but we did do shore excursions at every port (explained later). When we were on the ship, we always found something to do and something to eat.
This was our 8th cruise, 6 on Carnival, 1 on Royal Caribbean and 1 on Princess (Alaska). With the exception of our Alaskan cruise, this was the best Caribbean cruise we have been on to date. The weather was perfect, the food was perfect, the ports were perfect, the staff was very friendly and even the passengers were all nice. It was just the perfect vacation.
One side note, if you get a chance to do the Behind the Fun tour, do it. This is done on the last day of the cruise and they take you to several places that you normally don't get to see. This was my husband's second time at this tour and he learned something new. The girls skipped this tour and had a spa day instead, which was EXCELLENT!
By the way, debarkation was a breeze too but flying out of the Ft. Lauderdale airport was a little disorganize. The airport needs to improve on their system but we were still able to catch our flight.