We traveled with 2 other couples new to cruising. We spent the night in Fort Lauderdale at the Laquinta just south of the airport. I recommend the hotel if you just want to spend the night with out a lot of frills....it is fine for the prices in the area. Hotel shuttle picked us up at FLL and took us back to the hotel (free), we arrived around noon and they had rooms available. The area has a shopping center with a few stores and restaurants within walking distance. Hotel pool and hot tub were great.
The hotel has an arrangement with a shuttle service to take you to the port, cost was $8pp (1 way). Company name was Allstar Shuttle service. The shuttle was clean and OK. Here is the problem I had: WE WERE STOP #5 of cruise ships at the port. The hotel is approx. 4 miles from the port, but we were on the bus over 1 hour.....I was not impressed with that. Then the driver stopped at a terminal and told us this was for Carnival Freedom. We got off started unloading luggage and I looked around, no Carnival signs, uniforms etc. I asked a porter, he said they were for the Princess ships.......so we loaded luggage back up and drove around and found Carnival Freedom terminal. The shuttle service also picks you up from the port and takes you back to the hotel or the airport, whichever you need. We used that service too and it worked fine. The service was $18pp round trip, didn't really understand pricing for that because the airport is closer to the port than the hotel was. Future cruises I would take a taxi and pay a little more, but wont be riding around for an hour. The shuttle from port to FLL we stopped at a hotel and dropped 1 person off, then stopped at several airlines before ours. Keep that in mind if using this service.
Now on to the cruise!!!!
We were told we were the 3rd cruise out of the new terminal. It was great!!!! We walked in the building at 1110, walked right up to an agent and registered. It was handled great, we were loading zone 2!!! We walked in to the waiting area, very small but they had punch and water available. I poured 1 cup of punch and they announced we are now loading zone 2. We couldn't believe it. We were on the ship by 1135!! We did wait a bit at the ship entrance to get our photo ID, I think they were having a problem with a few of the machines.
Lido deck was up and running....drinks in hand and we toured the ship. The other couples with us were stoked!!!! I had to play tour guide for several hours.
On a side note- Oasis of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)is parked next to the Freedom- WOW....
This was our first cruise with an inside cabin. We have 5 prev. cruises all with balconies. We were trying to cut costs for the other couples, we probably wont do inside again. It is OK, not terrible....but once you go balcony....you wont go back!!!! We ordered Bon Voyage cakes for the other couples rooms, they weren't delivered until about 4pm, I asked them to be in the rooms by 130 (when you can go to your rooms)- Didn't happen.
We went to the Posh dining room to check our table. We had a straight table for 6 along the side of the ship, not at a window. The bad part was the other end of the table was right across from the waiter staging area. You looked right in to where they took all dirty dishes and stacked them to carry back in to the kitchen. Personally I don't know why they would ever put a table in that spot, move it 3 feet and you don't line up with the waiter area. Also the angle of the wall leans in and the people at other end of the table doesn't have any room. You can see where the chairs have knocked the trim off the wall by pulling the chair in and out....our table was #312- Posh Lower.
The cruise was very rough for the first 2 days, winds were 25-30mph. One in our party was sick for several days. He used everything, he wont cruise again. Too bad because his wife enjoyed it. Seas were so rough we could not stop at Grand Turk, we were bummed about it.....no fault of Carnival.
We stopped at San Juan PR, we enjoyed the fort very much and highly recommend it...we walked there. Enjoyed a few shops along the way. To enter the fort we paid $3, but well worth it if you enjoy that kind of thing. Lots of stairs to climb, but great vantage points for photos of the ocean.
Next stop was St. Maarten. We had arranged a tour through our roll call on this site. We used Bernards tour for an island tour. 2 motor coaches (smaller ones), we stopped at a small park with Iguanas you could take close photos of. Then stopped along the road at a small parking lot, a guy is there and he shows you stuff from the ocean (starfish, Conch,sea urchins)the guy was hilarious...you can tell this is his livelihood so we tipped him....he gave away approx. 5 conch shells so I hope others tipped as well. We then went to Orient beach, yes clothing is optional....a few topless women, nothing to go gaga over guys!!
We then went to a shopping area, very inexpensive....tables of goods under tarps.....pretty cool. Last stop was Maho beach, its at the end of the airstrip where large jets take off.....the beach was packed so I didn't really experience the jet blast. We had a good time on this excursion. We paid $35pp and had......UNLIMITED BEER.....yes you read that right!!! This was prearranged though, I think his regular price for this tour is $40pp.
Final stop was St. Thomas.....I refer to St. Thomas as the "Detroit of the Caribbean" and they didn't let me down.....we got on one of the taxi buses to take us in to town. $4pp from port to downtown, Taxi holds about 20 people, we had about 16 in ours. We get about half way there and the guy pulls over to a pull off in the road. He gets out and says "I need you all to pay me now". I said are you serious........he said yes......Believe me if you are reading this, we are not thugs, just typical 45-55 age couples. I told him it was the "halfway hijack"- everyone laughed. I'm surprised he didn't ask for more than the $4pp..Classic. Also, a side note, we found things were cheaper in the shops at the pier than in town. I paid $20 for a hat in town that was $16 along the ship. So if you just want a few hours of shopping stay there by the ship.
OK back to the cruise......again the cruise was OK not great...just a lot of little things I noticed: beer bottle tops in drains on Lido, still there the next day, chairs with ripped fabric, look at the chandelier in the theater (the very large one in middle) I think I counted 23 burnt out light bulbs, the light has probably over 75 bulbs...but come on, drop it down and replace them. A Lot of other burnt out bulbs in the theater- just look around and observe. Reading this you may think I am too critical- I get that..just observe things. Dishes outside of rooms at 9pm at night, still there in the morning. They had a few broken pieces of glass, they got fixed...after about 3 days. One of the lasers by the main pool is strapped together with an orange ratchet strap..really?? Our closet doors were loose in our room and with the high seas, they squeaked alot. Drawers had no type of latch or magnet and slid open at night from rocking of the ship. Bed was terrible, time to replace the mattress...must be too many buffet people sleeping in this room!!!! Sink drain was broke, steward said he called maint. It was never fixed.
Food was great in the MDR, we have never had complaints on the food...our friends were very impressed and happy. One thing we did different on this cruise was eating breakfast 7 out of 8 days in the dining room. I recommend this, also ate lunch there 1 day. Smaller portions...try it, you will be OK!
Our waiter was Jerryco- Fantastic job..top notch- Yes, I tip extra. Cocktail waitress was Hannaka.....great job also, I have a beer every night with dinner...she brought them right on que!!!! Yes, I tipped her also.
Here is probably the most important thing I can tell you about the cruise: DO NOT LET THEM HANDLE YOUR LUGGAGE FOR DISEMBARKING....You would not believe what we saw in the terminal. Here is what happened. Our friends did self assist, we left our luggage out of our room the night before. We got off the ship with our friends, helping them with their luggage. They walked to Customs, we stood off to the side waiting for our luggage. Well, they don't want you to do this..now I know why. They started bringing luggage in the terminal, had areas roped off by zones. Fork lift trucks set the luggage cages down. The 30-40 porters started pulling suitcases off the racks....dropping them every step of the way. It was unacceptable....they were throwing suitcases. Each porter would drag 1 suitcase at a snails pace to the area. Several liquor bottles were broken in suitcases, they had to get a mop and clean it up...all worked stopped for this. Porters seemed to think it was funny.
I kick myself for not pulling my phone out and recording this for youtube. UN- FREAKIN ACCEPTABLE!!!!
All in all you will probably have a great time on this cruise ship....I just feel they are slipping in a few areas...we have 1 more Carnival cruise booked but will try another line after that.......just time to try something different.