We planned this cruise to celebrate our 15th Wedding Anniversary. We decided to take the kids along, as well as friends who were 1st time cruisers. Our party of 8 included DH and me with our 2 dd's age 7 and 10 as well as our friends and their 2 kids, dd7 and ds3. We had noted on our reservation that we were celebrating our anniversary, but there was no acknowledgement of this all week.
We booked the cruise package at the Country Inn and Suites. Arrived on Saturday and signed up for the 1030 shuttle. We arrived very early in the day on Saturday, and although our room was not ready, we were given complete access to the property. On Sunday, our shuttle left a little early and we arrived at the port shortly after 1030.
Check in was easy, we had a short wait outside then moved easily through security. This was the first Freedom cruise after the change in the wine policy; my friend and I had both picked up 2 bottles of wine and they were all taken. The security guard taking the wine was quite slow in filling out the form, but overall no big deal. (We did get our wine back later in the cruise, checked with Guest relations a couple of times and it finally showed up in the room on day 3.) DH and I have cruised RCI before so we were in the gold line for check in, our friends had not so they took about 20 minutes longer in the regular line. They were allowed to sit with us in the gold member area to wait to board. There was a delay in boarding; we were initially told that it was due to a computer problem with the seapass machines, but when we got to our room there was a notice that they had done a deep clean due to a Noro outbreak on the previous cruise.
Once on board we went to the Windjammer for lunch. WOW was it crowded! We did eventually find tables to fit our party of 8, it just took a while. No other problems with seating later in the week, and there was always someone working in there to help find us a table if needed. Food was good for buffet food, we had lunch here just about every day. The selection did seem to be pretty repetitive but overall it was good. We only dined here once for dinner and it was very similar to lunch.
Rooms were available after 2. We were in 2560 and our friends in 2564. I was worried about being on deck 2, but we ended up loving it. Yes, it took longer to get around, but we were ok with that. Not too much motion; my friends kids have some issues with motion sickness (get car sick often) but had no problems. The room was bright, plenty of light through the porthole. Luggage fit under the bed, and the drawers and closet had lots of storage. The hallway was quiet, never heard any noise from anything around us. We had our stateroom attendant have the fridge emptied so we could use it for wine and water, this was completed by the time we returned from Coco Cay (day 2). The only annoyance was that on day 1 we took the aft elevators down to deck 2 but were told that we needed to go to deck 4 and take the forward elevators because we could not walk all the way around on deck 2. We took them at their word and did this all week. On day 6 we were exploring and discovered that we COULD walk all the way across on deck 2. This would have saved us a bit of time during the week!
Dining: We had early seating at 530 and were overall very pleased. We were in Leonardo on the 3rd floor right next to the staircase. My family prefers eating dinner in the main dining room and did so every night except for our St. Thomas night. Our friends, having a 3 year old, only dined with us for 4 nights; they found the windjammer less stressful with the little one. We were pleased with the food overall; the only big disappointment for me was that I ordered the strip steak on the last night. It was cooked medium as I requested, but it was one of the toughest steaks I had ever had!!! Our waiters (Jonathan from Philippines and Kayvon? from Jamaica) were great, and kept the kids entertained each night. We did the character breakfast on the second sea day; it was just OK. Service was chaotic; there were only 2 characters (Alex and Gloria) and their appearances were very brief and took a while for them to show up.
Kids Clubs: Overall we were very pleased. The kids went just about every night after dinner and a couple of times during the day on sea days. Everyone had a great time in each of the age groups. Our biggest complaint here was that our 10 year old was in the group with the 6-9 year olds all week; I guess there were not enough kids in the Voyager group to keep them separate. She had a great time overall but was disappointed on the night that the younger kids did the pirate parade; the voyager compass stated that they would do activities on the sports court during this time but instead she had to be in the pirate parade as well. The counselors were terrific with the kids. We sailed on the Disney Dream in January 2012; when I asked my girls which they preferred I was surprised that they said they liked Adventure Ocean better. It was MUCH less chaotic than Disney. They said that on Disney there was just too much going on at once; and even when there were scheduled activities on Disney there were so many kids that chose not to participate that were just wandering around and they didn't like that. Adventure ocean had everyone participating in the activities together so there was less commotion. Granted, there were nowhere as many kids here when compared to Disney, so that probably made it easier on the counselors to keep everyone together as a group.
Entertainment: We saw the ice show (loved it!) and Once Upon a Time (also really enjoyed this). My friend and I watched Graham Seymour's comedy show for adults and enjoyed that as well.
Activities: DD10 tried the flowrider and had a blast. My friends dd7 enjoyed the rock wall. All enjoyed mini golf, it was crowded (but we did do this on a sea day so that was expected). There always seemed to be plenty of activities to choose from; lots of trivia and other contests throughout the day and night. The girls did the kids cupcake class on the last sea day. The cupcake was pretty basic (a monkey) but they all enjoyed it. We also went ice skating one day and everyone in the group had a good time. The ice was pretty rough with so many people on it, but we only had a couple of minor falls in the group.
We were very pleased with RCI and would definitely cruise with them again. We had superb service throughout the week. We had never done an Eastern itinerary and really loved St. Maarten and St. Thomas. CocoCay was "ok" for a basic beach day; but we have been to Disney's Castaway Cay and fell in love with it, so I don't think much else can compare to it!