We sailed on the Freedom of the Seas for our Honeymoon. It was our first cruise and we booked it via our local travel agency. We found the RC Web site and Honeymoon registry to be easy to use and navigate and both were very helpful in our planning.
We arrived at MCO about 10 am the day of our sailing and the RC transfer folks (we had pre-purchased transfers)were waiting in baggage claim for us. We were quickly brought to the transfer desk and assigned a number. We waited in a comfortable lounge area for about 20 minutes before our number was called and we boarded a very comfortable bus to Port Canaveral. 45 minutes later we were at the cruise terminal and we were on the ship shortly after noon! The check in process was efficient and everyone most friendly and helpful. We took some time to explore the ship and I had a pina colada in hand 15 minutes after boarding! We had lunch in the Windjammer Cafe and were able to get to our stateroom at about 1:30 pm. We enjoyed the sailaway experience from our balcony with some champagne and cheese and fruit that was gifted to us and waiting in our stateroom on our arrival! We could hear the party on the pool deck and it sounded like tons of fun.
Stateroom: We chose a balcony room on the 9th level, center of the ship. It was more spacious than we imagined. The bed was very comfortable and the closet large and hangers were provided. The in room safe was small but sufficient for our needs. The bathroom is of course small, and the shower sort of space capsule in nature but the water pressure was amazing and we had no complaints. Our stateroom service was fantastic and we loved our towel animals! We arrived back to the room after dinner the first night to a trail of rose petals and two swan towels making a heart on the bed covered with rose petals(a gifted romance package), champagne and chocolate covered strawberries.
Food: OMG. So many choices both in location of dining and in number of choices. The service was all around excellent. We chose to have coffee/tea and juice via room service every morning on our balcony. We chose the dining room for breakfast most days as it was less crowded than the Windjammer but had the same food choices. For lunch we often went to the Windjammer/Jade on the later end of lunch time and never had trouble finding a seat. The food was fantastic and there were so many choices. The view was incredible as it is in the back of the boat and windows all the way around.
We chose the 8 pm seating for dinner and were quite pleased with it. Our waiter Ronald, assistant waiter Ronal and bar servant AKA 'booze man', April, were all top notch. Once they knew our beverage of choice I had a chocolate martini waiting for me every night when I arrived to dine! There were always about 8-10 entree choices and appetizer choices and about 6-8 dessert choices every night. You can order as many and as much as you like. The food was delicious and always prepared perfectly. The staff sang for us one night and did a little dance/parade another evening. Our table mates were also honeymooners and one anniversary couple close to our age group. We had a table for 8. We got on quite well and went out together a few evenings after dinner to a show, the casino or dancing. We met many other folks along the way and everyone was friendly and happy to share their experiences if they'd cruised before.
Entertainment: We were truly impressed by the quality of the talent on the ship. The singers, dancers and orchestra were phenomenal. We loved all of the productions we saw and enjoyed the variety of dancing available in the different bars and lounges. The cruise director Drew Devine was wonderful and we enjoyed his morning show and MC'ing of the shows/events. The activity staff was equally as wonderful, high energy and lots of fun. The game shows like Love and Marriage and Quest are must sees! The ice show was also fantastic with national champions and a few Olympic competitors who were even more amazing for performing on a rink 1/8 the size of a normal ice rink and on a moving ship! We are not big gamblers, but the casino was impressive and always quite busy. The ship photographers are abundant and we got some great photos of us both candid and from the formal portrait stations set up around the ship every evening and especially on the formal nights. The cruise in review DVD was worth the purchase price as a keepsake of our first cruise.
Ports of Call:
CoCo Cay was a lovely stop. We got on an early tender and wandered about the island. We sat in a hammock, saw some lovely iguanas, swam a bit and did some shopping at the straw market. We did the tandem parasail and that was an absolutely amazing experience. So peaceful and calm 400 feet above the water! We also did the jet ski tour which was tons of fun. Those things haul!!! We had lunch at the buffet provided by the ship's dining staff and ended our day with some snorkeling.
St. Thomas was next. Our ship and a Disney ship were both in port. We did an all day sail on the pirate boat "Blackbeard's Revenge". We have no doubt it was the best and most fun excursion offered at this port! The crew was so much fun and the sail boat experience thrilling. We sailed to a snorkel spot where we had a guided snorkel tour including seeing several sea turtles and many fish by the reef and then had some time to free snorkel on our own. Once back to the boat, rum punch flowed and temporary pirate tattoos were offered, oh the places people chose for their tattoos... We then sailed about for a while and went to Water Island and Honeymoon beach where we had a delicious BBQ lunch, swam (even saw a small sting ray) and played volleyball against another ship! We were the last excursion back to the ship and it was so much fun. Definitely a memorable day!
St. Maarten: We opted for a lazy day here and didn't get off the ship until several hours after we docked. We opted to wander around the shops. Jewelry bargains abound and the ship offers a shopping talk the day prior to let you know which stores they have relationships with and are reputable and what special offers/free gifts the stores offer to their cruise members. Definitely worth the time to attend if you plan to shop for jewelry at all. We also discovered a lovely shop/museum for Star Wars fans called the Yoda Guy. Owned by the man who built Yoda for the movies. My husband is a huge Star Wars fan and really enjoyed speaking with the owner and seeing his artifacts and memorabilia from the movies. We also did a little souvenir shopping and walked along the beach. The beach was gorgeous and lounge chairs with umbrellas were abundant for a small price. The island folks were eager to sell their wares but were not pushy at all. We were the only ship in port that day and it was like having the place to ourselves.
Sea days: These were lovely lazy days for us. The pool always had something going on be it line dancing or live music. A big jumbo-tron was above the pool deck and played movies or football games day and night. There are 3 pools, a kid zone, the main pool area and a smaller adult only pool in the solarium. The two cantilevered hot tubs were amazing! Getting a chair by the pool was all but impossible unless you were there very early in the day, but getting a chair a deck above was no problem and suited us better. Plenty of shade and sun for all. There were plenty of activities from dance classes, Bingo, game shows to participate in, ice skating, the flow rider, rock climbing, ping pong, basketball and more. There were parades and events on the Royal Promenade and that was the only time we noticed a crowd anywhere. It was truly mind boggling that with nearly 4000 people on the ship, we rarely noticed it as the ship is so large with so much to do.
The spa: We had a couples massage at the spa and although I wasn't expecting much, it was fantastic. Pricey for sure, but we enjoyed it and it was gifted to us. We probably wouldn't have used the spa otherwise just because it's so expensive.
The gym: We didn't use it (although given all we ate, we should have!) The view was gorgeous and the equipment impressive. Some of our table mates used it and said it was great.
Debarkation: You have to pack the last night and leave your luggage outside your stateroom. They give you luggage tags with a number and that corresponds with the time you are to get off the ship. We opted for the 'luggage valet' program which we loved. For $20 per person, they will check your bags from the ship through to your final destination, print your airline boarding passes and check you in. We were able to leave the ship whenever we wanted (but by 9:30 am) and were able to quickly get through customs and onto the bus for the trip back to the airport. (you have to purchase the transfers separately) We were impressed with how efficient and smooth everything was.
Overall, for our first cruise experience, we had a blast. Sailing during Hurricane season we knew we were taking a huge chance, but the weather was gorgeous the entire time! We were impressed with the ship, it's crew and the service provided. We never even had a chance to see and do everything available but that was of our own choosing, it was, after all, our honeymoon! They truly have thought through every thing and run a very efficient and well-oiled machine with fantastic customer service.
We are hooked and will definitely cruise again! We highly recommend Royal Caribbean and the Freedom of the Seas!