We just returned from a 6 day Western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Freedom 10/28/12 - 11/3/12. My family traveled with 2 other families that are friends of ours. In all there were 13 of us...6 adults and 7 children ages 13-17.
My family flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before we set sail. The other families drove in (from OHIO). We stayed at the Atlantic Sands Hotel in Hollywood Beach pre-curse-eve and it was nice to just hang out on the beach the day before. I highly recommend this and if you do, rent with Budget. They will allow you to rent the car from the airport & return it near the port..and they will shuttle you to the port. We paid $65 for a rental which isn't much more than a taxi ride.
My first impression was that the lobby wasn't very grand, compared to the Disney Dream, our most recent cruise experience. However, it was a nice looking ship overall. I liked all of the various pools and hot tubs. We were VERY impressed with the staterooms and storage space...especially the bathrooms! Often overlooked is storage space in the bathrooms and these had tons of shelves for toiletry items. There were some freebie's but like others have posted they aren't the same stuff as in the past. All we got was some soap, toothpaste & some sample shampoo/conditioner. The room was very clean. The TVs were a little dated however...not a huge deal since we weren't in the room much.
Overall lasting impressions:
1) Food -
It was pretty good. About a 7 out of 10 overall. Some meals were good and some weren't as great. They do good with the basics but on a cruise you really should try things out of your comfort zone...some of it they did well & some was so-so. They had a chocolate bar one day that was nice. My biggest complaint about the food has to do with the length of their buffet lines. They need to figure out a way to speed them up because breakfast & lunch lines were just way to slow for my liking.
2) Service -
Was very good. Everyone on the ship was very friendly & helpful. It was one of the best things about this cruise and I can't say enough about how great the staff was. Every night our service either sang or danced for us, which was pretty neat. You have the same staff every night so you get to know them and they get to know you.
3) Things to do -
The shows were OK..nothing spectacular but they were entertaining. The best one was the one they did that was a tribute to the Beatles. The comedians on the ship were pretty funny. Shopping wasn't too bad & the photographers on the ship got some great pictures of us. We don't gamble so I can't comment on the casino. One thing that was cool to me was that on Sunday & Monday night they played the NFL football games on the big screen on the Lido deck...it was pretty cool to watch NFL games out there.
Overall, I would rate this cruise a 4 out of 5. The ship was very nice and family friendly. We enjoyed the service, the food & things to do. They call Carnival "The Fun Ship" and I would say that they tried very hard to make it fun...there were lots of deck parties, music and activies.
One thing we did not use but had every intention to use was their Spa/Fitness facility. We did tour them and they looked very nice. The Fitness area & locker rooms were top notich and one of our friends on the cruise who worked out said the equpiment was very good.
I would definately have no hesitation reccomending this ship to anyone looking for a nice 6 day cruise experience.
The next cruise we take will be to the other parts of the Carribean. We're already planning that for next year.