Freedom of the Seas - Northern Europe: Freedom of the Seas Cruise Review by madforcruising
Overall Member Rating
Freedom of the Seas - Northern Europe
Destination: Baltic Sea
Royal Caribbean International invited me to the first sailing of the Freedom of the Seas from Hamburg to Oslo on 04/25/06 04/26/06. While this was not the official maiden Voyage as the ship will be christened on 05/12/06 in New York it was indeed the real maiden Voyage as it was the very first time Freedom of the Seas set sail with passengers onboard.
The Freedom of the Seas arrived from the shipyard in Turku, Finland at Hamburg on 04/17/06. At this time she was to be drydocked at Bloom & Voss shipyard Dock Elbe 17 for some last things to be done. Next to some final repairs and finishings she got her final paint done while in there.
On Saturday 04/22/06 Freedom of the Seas left the dry dock at 11:00pm. She sailed out on the River Elbe for some Sea trials.
After getting mixed information on the Internet about when Freedom of the Seas will be back in Hamburg I decided to More arrive in Hamburg earlier then planned. Just a couple of minutes after I arrived at the Hamburg dockside Freedom of the Seas got visible in the dust. It was a great moment as it was the first time I saw the biggest cruise ship on earth.
It was a great sight to see her passing by on her way to the cruise terminal. Many people watched this scene though many had been surprised as most thought she wouldn´t be back until Monday morning.
The Freedom of the Seas sailed straight to the Cruise terminal to dock there. In front of the Hamburg Cruise Center a stage and a large video wall had been already set up as well as many tents with food and beverages. A big party is planned for Monday. On this sunny Sunday many people used the opportunity to get a view of the new ship and soon the area around the Hamburg Cruise Center was crowded. Of course nobody was allowed near the ship and to get to the cruise terminal you had to pass several security check-points. Not for us today as we are on the list for Tuesday only.
I spent the two nights until the cruise at the Hotel Hafen Hamburg from where I had great views of the Hamburg Harbour and the now empty dock Elbe 17 where Freedom of the Seas sat for a week to be finished.
On Monday morning the party at the Cruise terminal started at 07:00am. There was a life report in the TV about the Freedom of the Seas. After having some breakfast I arrived at the cruise terminal. At this early time not too many people had found their way here, especially as the weather wasn´t that good. It was cold and foggy.
Anyway later in the day it brightened up and the sun came out. Weather got warm and sunny.
A local radio station had performances on the stage throughout the day and there has been life music and reports from the ship too. TV had several reports throughout the day too. There was a tent with TA´s advertising cruises too and RCCL threw tons of their brochures out to the people. It got really crowded and all the people have been in an aaawwwhhhhhh.
As the weather improved so much I decided to do a harbour cruise which took me out to the Freedom of course too.
In the evening the party kept going and the highlight was a big firework above the Freedom of the Seas. It was the real highlight of the day and a great sight. A couple of hours and I will board the Freedom.
On Tuesday 04/25/06 the alarm clock got off early to not miss the ship. I arrived at the Terminal around 07:30am. Check-in was just about to start though boarding didn´t start for another 45 minutes.
Once onboard it was announced that cabins wouldn´t be ready until 11:00am. Anyway I proceeded to my cabin and dropped off my luggage.
As the cabin stewards were still preparing the cabins this was the perfect time to explore the ship and get a view of some cabins that would not be open for viewing later. All in all this gave me the chance to get pics from 23 different cabins.
At 10:00am sharp the Freedom set sail towards Oslo. Onboard about 600 invited Crown & Anchor members Platinum and above. A few celebrities and about 500 workers from the shipyard and other contractors to do some final works.
Royal Caribbean has been very generous with this invitation. Not only the cruise was for free but they also included all food and beverages. It was open bar for everybody. Even things like Ben & Jerry´s, speciality coffee´s and the Internet have been for free. Only place to spend money onboard the casino and the shops. Of course most of the day was spent with exploring every part of the ship and there was a tight schedule to follow too. Royal Caribbean had set up an Ice Show, a Crown & Anchor Cocktail Party, Parade on the Royal Promenade, Show in the Theatre and of course Dinner in the Dining Room.
The Ice Show was simply amazing and incredible. I would rate it among the best shows I´ve seen on a ship. Especially one scene was impressing where an actress changed her costume during one scene at least 10-15 times on the open ice.
The show in the Theatre was good but nothing to write too much about. It was the usual Broadway musical type show like we all have seen on many ships.
I had not seen a parade so far as this was my first time on such a big ship (Radiance class my biggest so far). It was nice too but I wasn´t too impressed by this either. Nothing I really need.
A few facts about Freedom of the Seas:
Occupancy: 4324 Full guest Occupancy 3634 Double Guest Occupancy 1400 Crew members on board
Staterooms: 1817 Total 1084 Oceanview 842 Balcony Cabins 733 Inside Cabins 172 Promenade View cabins 1 Presidential Suite for a max of 14 guests on 1215 Sqft. 32 Handicapped rooms
30 Lifeboats with a capacity of 150 each 78 Life rafts
Capacity of venues onboard: 2143 Dining Room 100 Portofino 104 Chops Grille 224 Jade 84 Johnny Rockets 500 Windjammer 335 Viking Crown Lounge 112 Schooner Bar 1281 Arcadia Theatre 218 The Crypt 894 Studio B 447 Casino 45 Skylight Chapel 368 Conference Center 222 Adventure Ocean
Ship´s statistics: 158000 GRT Length: 1112 ft. / 339 m Width: 184 ft. / 56 m Draft: 28ft. / 8,5 m Cruising Speed: 21,6 Knots
There are several amazing features on the Freedom of the Seas. Some of them are a first in the cruise industry others have been on ships already, especially on Voyager class. Though I´ve not been on a Voyager class so far, so many of them have been new to me. Please not that all my comments are based on my cruise experience so far on Radiance class and Vision class ships and my comparisons are made to them and not to Voyager class.
On this deck you can find the Conference Center. Unfortunately I have not been able to make any pics here as they were in use. I think they did some plannings in there because while walking past one of the rooms I could get a quick glimpse in one of them with large deck plan print outs on the wall saying Genesis class.
On deck 3 the main entrance to the Arcadia Theatre can be found. The Theatre is nice set up and you have a pretty good view from everywhere. From here you can also enter the lower level of the Nightclub the Crypt. Here the lower level has the Dance Floor.
From the aft. Centrum area you can enter the Studio B / Ice rink through the Karaoke Bar On Air Club. To me it was truly amazing to have the Ice rink onboard a ship and see this fantastic Ice Show. In the Centrum area you can find the RCTV, where you can watch the crew programming all the TV channels and doing the video stuff. This is also the place for the Art Gallery. Towards the back you enter the Leonardo´s Dining Room. This was during our cruise the only used level of the dining room for Dinner the first day and Lunch on the second day. It was one seating and find yourself a table.
Deck 4: On deck four you find the second level of the Dining Room Isaac Dining Room. The Centrum area features the Bolero´s Bar. Right next to the Bolero´s is the Photo Shop and Gallery located. The Photo Gallery has direct access through a stairway to the Royal Promenade. There are computer stations set up where you can use your seapass card to review and order portraits taken of you. These have not been in use but I assume that whenever you get some portraits taken they link those to your seapass and won´t print them unless you order them at one of those digital stations. If it is like this I´d say good idea as not so many pics will be wasted. Hopefully this would make the pics a little cheaper too. I know not likely.
The casino takes a good portion of the deck and has lot´s of slot machines and table games. Again there are stairs to the Royal promenade. Walking towards the front of the ship you find the Schooner Bar and the upper level of The Crypt as well as the upper level of the Arcadia Theatre.
In the back you have the upper level of the Dining Room Galileo Dining Room. The aft. Centrum area hostess the Guest Relations Desk and the Explorations desk on one Side and the Champagne Bar on the other side. From here you enter the amazing Royal promenade. I´ve never seen something like this. It gives you the feeling of going out to town with the shops, street cafes, Bars, Ice cream Shop, etc. With the many shops, it´s length and 4 stories height it is just like being in a mall. Towards the front you find the Pharao´s Palace Lounge and the Connoisseur Club (Cigar Lounge).
Deck 6, 7, 8, 9, 10:
These decks are almost only cabin decks. With the Business Center (Deck 6), the Library (Deck 7), Royal Caribbean online (Deck 8) and the Concierge Club (Deck 10).
The cabins are comparable to the cabins most of us know on other ships in the fleet. Things to mention about the cabins are that all showers have the round shaped doors instead of the shower curtains. I appreciated this very much as it gives you more room in the shower without the curtain sticking to you and having the bathroom floor flooded.
Another thing to mention is the new bedding. There are nine inch spring mattresses with 2 inch thick micro fiber pillow tops. 220-thread-count long-staple cotton-blend sheets. Duvet with cotton-blend sheets. Colored bed scarves at the end of the beds. The beds are very comfortable! One last thing about Balconies. The balcony dividers are sliding doors. They are locked and I don´t know if it will be allowed to open them but it is technically possible and a triangular shaped key would be needed to open them.
On Deck 6 there are two special cabins to mention. Presidential Suite #6414 This suite sleeps up to 14 people. It has a large master bedroom with two beds a spacious area with a comfortable chair, closets, vanity area and a bathroom like in a GS with bathtub. This bedroom has direct access to the balcony and there is a small hallway to reach the Living room and the other bedrooms. The second bedroom sleeping two people is a lot smaller with a bathroom like the first one and direct access to the Living room and the balcony. The third and fourth bedrooms sleep four people each with upper bunks. These are inside rooms and with four people in them very tight. Both have a bathroom like standard rooms with a shower. There is a small hallway with vanity for these rooms and closets.
The living room has a sofa sleeping the last two people if fully occupied and a dining table. With 14 people in there I would say the living room is way crowded.
The balcony is very large and has a huge hot tub. However it´s only half way covered and the not covered part is not private as the balconies from above look down on this part. Also the balconies of the cabins next to the Suite can -while standing at the railing- oversee the dividers and look onto the Presidential Suites balcony. In front of the Balcony there is a huge steel platform and at the end of the ship there is some steel superstructure. It´s an amazing suite of course but I can´t imagine staying there with 14 people in it. With 8 People it would be OK but not a single more for me.
The second Sweet on deck 6 to mention is the Ben & Jerry´s Sweet (Cabin 6305 Promenade View). No this Is not a Joke and I´m not spelling wrong. This cabin has two cows from the Ben & Jerry´s display right in front of their Promenade window and as the guests in this room have to look at the cows butts they receive free Ben & Jerry´s Ice cream during the cruise.
All cabins have quite good storage space. The JS have a true walk-in closet that is a real separate room with a regular door (like the bathroom door). All cabins have fridges. The one in my cabin seemed to be pretty cold. The safes are in the closets and are the kind to be operated with a four digit code.
I couldn´t enter the Concierge Lounge on Deck 10 as it was not in use yet.
At the aft. of the ship Chops Grille, Portofino, Jade and Windjammer are located.
The Windjammer is set up with food Islands to avoid the long lines like on the Radiance class ships. I was a little surprised about the fact that the Windjammer only holds 500 people on a ship this big. I guess it will get quite crowded when the ship is full.
There is the new H2O Zone onboard which is a completely from the Main and Sports Pool separated area on the pool deck. It´s designated to families and has lot´s of water spray grounds, water falls and a family swimming pool. Anyway, as it´s often discussed all areas in this H2O Zone, including the wading pool areas are strictly for potty trained children and no diapers / swim diapers are allowed. This is according to signs at the pool. In this area there will be a bar with healthy fruit drinks named Squeeze. This was not completed yet.
Next to this area there are two pools, separated by a wall from the H2O Zone. These are the Main Pool and the Sports Pool. There is a Pool bar of course and one deck up the Sky Bar. To me it seemed because of the separation to the H2O Zone the Main Pool area is not too spacious. Towards the front the loungers are set up on several levels like a terrace. This gives everybody a nice view of the pools. In this area there is a Ice cream machine too.
Going further forward one reaches the Solarium which is an open air pool with a quieter atmosphere and it´s a little more enclosed while still open air. Here are those two overhanging Whirlpools. They are covered with a roof and enclosed with glass, though they are not totally inside. The Solarium poll was not filed on this cruise and still some work was going on in this area. The pool as some seats at one end under a bridge overspanning the pool. I´m not sure if this is going to be a swim up bar. It was said so but on the other side there was no bar like set up so far. Of course there is a Solarium bar too.
Stepping further forward you reach the shipshape center. Right at the entrance you are facing the boxing equipment and the boxing ring. Towards the large front windows there are all the treadmills. This area has a men´s and woman´s changing room with sauna and steam room.
There is a direct connection to the Day Spa which is above the Shipshape Center.
Deck 12 features next to the Jogging track and many loungers the Adventure Ocean area. You can find some pics in the Phototour. The Area was not in business yet and some work was still going on there. Of course Johnny Rockets is located here too, but it wasn´t open yet too.
In the front you can find the St. Tropez deck on deck 13. But the main attraction here is the Sports Deck. Here you can find a full size Basketball court, Mini golf, a Golf simulator and of course the biggest Rock climbing wall on the high seas. This can only be topped by the Flowrider. A five foot wave is created by 35000 gallons of water rushing through at 30mph. It was spectacular to watch the surfers riding the wave. For your refreshment there is the wipe out bar.
Here you can find another signature spot on Royal Caribbean ships, the Viking Crown lounge. The main lounge up here with a small stage and a dance floor is the Olive or Twist. There are two smaller rooms the Cloud Nine and Seven hearts game room. There is also the Diamond Club a nice private lounge overseeing the ocean for all Diamond Crown and Anchor members. Definitely the nicer spot than the Concierge lounge.
Deck 15: This deck is only accessible from the Viking Crown lounge and hosts the Skylight chapel.
As you can see from my description I was amazed by this gorgeous ship and I felt very lucky to be part of this maiden voyage. I would have missed something if I wouldn´t have seen this ship, though I´m not sure if I would like to sail on the ship. I´m a little concerned how the ship will feel when full. On this cruise we had maybe around 1000 guests onboard probably less than that. Even then on the last day most seats in the bars and lounges have been occupied while waiting for debarkation. What will happen when 3-4 times more people are onboard?
Another thing that I missed was the ship feeling and the view of the Ocean. On Vision and Radiance class you have these huge glass walls with great ocean views from soo many spots.
We had to leave the Freedom in Oslo on 04/26/06 after a just too short time again. We arrived in Oslo around 02:00pm. Unfortunately the weather was not too good so we couldn´t enjoy the sailing into Oslo like it could have been. Anyway on the second day of the cruise we had some more time to enjoy the ship. From 11:30am lunch was served in the Dining Room in open seating again. Debarkation went painless and RCCL had set up busses to bring us to the train station. From there it was a 20 minute train ride to the Airport.
I hope I have covered most important details, anyway I´m happy to answer any questions you may have.
See my pics and contact information at http://www.gwall.de Less