This was my first time on a Freedom class ship and actually thought it had a less crowded feeling than a Voyager class. At any rate, this was reunion cruise for about 14 of us that have cruise before, and no matter what, this cruise would be filled with many great memories. I am Diamond and this was my 27th cruise overall, about 14th with RCI.
Embarkation was a bit of a nightmare. There was a boarding delay, and when I arrived, the line was out the door of terminal 25 and around the building. Dropping off luggage before parking was basically just handing your bag to one of the porters who lined it up with the rest of bags overflowing into the street. Departure was even delayed because of the issues in loading the bags. Luckily, a port person came up the line after about 15 minutes and said my friend and I could go to the priority line, and that processed much faster. The whole process was about 50 minutes to get on board. I actually always have better luck at Port of Miami than Port Everglades. I did tell them I had a bottle of wine in my bag, and they didn't care. I think the new policy is now fairly well known by the security people.
After stopping in my room - a JS aft on deck 10 - and it's a long walk, met my friend in the Windjammer. The layout and food is the same (or so it seems) as Voyager class. A fairly good selection and it was good quality. We then ran into a group of our reunion friends by the Squeeze bar by the H20 kids zone. To me the most noticeable difference from a ship like Navigator is the H20 zone and the divider from the rest of the pool with the big screen TV. Muster was delayed because of the departure delay, but all of that went smoothly. I like the interactive ship guides very much.
After muster we had our unofficial meet n greet at the pool bar and had a nice turnout. For anyone considering this, the Sky Bar on deck 12 is probably a better choice - larger area to congregate.
After our gathering, stopped at the room. Bag finally arrived and unpacked. The JS was great. Nicely sized and the walk in closet is the best amenity. Also really liked having the tub. My cabin attendant Lorreine was great - unobtrusive but attentive.
Dining room - for those wondering about the new menus, overall I think they are a welcome change and offer plenty of "classics" and daily choices. Our menus were Mojo, Saffron (formal), Pimiento (the favorite of our group) and Pomodoro. One night I had the Angus Beef Sliders - loved them. Our assistant waiter Shawn was fantastic, and the drinks waiter service is noticeably improved. Our group had two tables next to each other on deck 3.
Food otherwise. Unlike Navigator, Cafe Promenade is in the middle of the promenade instead of at the end. I have always found their selections tasty. Not so this time. Pretty run of the mill and bland. Same with Sorrentos Pizza - I have never complained about pizza on a ship, we all disliked the pizza on LOS. No sauce? weird. I did not try Ben & Jerrys or the cupcakes.
Bar service - generally very good service (as always in my experience) but having to sign for every drink makes me long for the Celebrity drink packages. Just seems ridiculous they are not offered on US RCI cruises. Champagne Bar is a nice quiet place to meet if you have a few people. Schooner is nice, but usually packed. We ended every night in the Catacombs and the DJ did a great job and there were plenty of seating options for our group.
Spa - I had two treatments during the cruise, and was pleasantly surprised that there was no hard sell for the Elemis products. Both treatments were worth the money (oxydermie facial and reflexology).
Diamond Lounge - this was my first time on a ship with a dedicated DL, and it was great. Very attentive service, good hors d'ouerves, and a nice space off the Viking Crown with an outdoor space as well.
Flow rider lesson - what can I say - glad I tried it and the instructors are very patient, but surfing on a ship is just not my skill.
Shows/Entertainment - we did Up in the Air, and Saturday Night Fever. I usually find the shows boring, but both of these were truly good shows. We did Quest, and as always it was a fun, good time.
Cozumel - generally I get bored with Cozumel since I have been there so many times. This trip the group went to Nachi Cocum beach club. That was great, and would always go back. All inclusive with good drinks and quality food and just a super relaxing atmosphere free of screaming kids and the spring break atmosphere with a good selection of water sports and massages on the beach. Be sure to confirm your price with your taxi driver. It should be $4/per person. Our guy tried to charge our group of 10 $5/per person, but he backed down when our spanish speaking member had a chat with him. :)
Debarkation - went very smoothly but be warned that it's a lot of walking. The longest part (time wise) was waiting for the garage elevator since one of the elevators was not working.
So that's about it. Since I have cruised so many times, I just don't do every single activity or every single part of the ship anymore. :) Overall, great memories and a nice ship.