Freedom of the Seas exceeded our expectations!
We stayed the night before our maiden voyage at the Conrad Miami and were able to view the UW benefit sailing from our bay view room. If you like a close by luxury hotel we recommend the Conrad. However, beware of the taxi drivers who prey on you and take you the long way to the pier terminal: our one way trip was $17 for less than 3 miles.
The embarkation process was smooth as the staff were efficient and prepared for us. We were given a handy pocket sized map of the ship which made navigating the decks an easy process. Sadly, the reverse wasn't the case and was a nightmare.
The Windjammer Cafe was as expected with the various stations open and waiting! The staff there saw to our needs and came around to the tables with beverages before you could blink. As we have never been on the Voyager class ship we didn't know what to expect but it was not at all crowded. There are so many common areas with diverse selections of bars and watering holes. Boleros catered to the latin crowd, Oliver or Twist the more sophisticated. A hot new spot was the CRYPT!
Ken Rush made sure we were all entertained and he has the energy level of a 13 year old. A must is the ONCE UPON A TIME production. I loved the ice show but my husband was bored. Of course, do not miss the Quest and the Love and Marriage productions. Plus, the Sexy Legs contest as well as the belly flop. I am married to the maiden voyage sexy Flamingo legs winner. Although they are a standard, the new players make it fun. I am new to the BINGO arena but I am now hooked. This is only my second attempt and I came out ahead and won $753; it draws people of all ages.
Try out the new cantilevered whirlpool spa! Amazingly there wasn't a line as everyone was considerate and maintained a 15 minute visit. Sadly, I never made it to the miniature golf course although we walked around there. I did indulge in the new spa and am still enjoying the after glow of the massage. Do keep in mind that the markup in the spa is at least 15 to 20% higher than in your own home towns. They do run specials when we are in port.
Excursions are plentiful and the selection diverse. I highly recommend going with a ship excursion. A group came back from Dunn River Falls almost an hour later and the ship waited for that group!
Dining was a pleasure; we were at table 443 which was right in the middle. The menu has been changed a bit and offered more ethnic selections and flavors. Of course, the standards are still available: prime rib, and turkey. For you first-time cruisers you can order more than one entree, appetizer, dessert etc. The midnight buffet was held Friday night at the Windjammer; what a spread!
Do try Chops Grille but be prepared for a lengthy dining experience: we were a party of 19 and were at dinner for 3 1/2 hours. Although the service was below par, the food more than made up for it! The lobster bisque was to die for and the desserts...out of this world. Although we did not eat at Portofino's, it was highly recommended.
If you want to be entertained 24/7 this is the ship to experience. Remember to participate in the Meet and Mingle and meet your fellow cruisers through the Cruise Critic boards! My husband and I now have some new friends...we've even booked a cruise in 2008 with a number of our new inaugural cruiser friends! Last but not least, the new beds are to die for; I thought I was back at the CONRAD. Heavenly beds move over...