Freedom of the Seas - Western Caribbean: Freedom of the Seas Cruise Review by emmy
Overall Member Rating
Freedom of the Seas - Western Caribbean
Destination: Western Caribbean
Sailing #1~ Maiden Voyage ~ June 4-11 2006
Ports of call: Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Labadee
Background ~ This inaugural cruise on Freedom was to be my husband Rick and my 7th cruise with RCI and our 12 overall. Of course I had waited for Freedom to open up for bookings from the time it was announced as the Ultra Voyager and not as yet named - slowly the information came out about this ship. Eventually we learned the name was to be Freedom and that RCI had a new marketing plan to open up this new class of ship for early booking on Feb 28/05 to Crown & Anchor members only. Like many others my phone call was made and a booking was made&. Thus started the long 15 month wait to step foot on this beauty.
I am a Cruise Critic member www.cruisecritic.com and many of the maiden voyage cruisers had been conversing on-line for all that time. We had named ourselves the Pink Boa Society and the ladies More and some men (Captain Kangaroo) Frank all wore Pink boas on embarkation and formal night and the husbands wore pink shirts/polos. On formal night the men looked handsome in their pink bow ties and cummerbunds with their black tuxes
I realize that many people sailed on this ship and we all will have had different experiences. I had heard and read many negative things and positives about sailing on a maiden voyage and just knew I wanted to try it once to form my own opinion. I am happy to report that this sailing had very minimal problems and I would do it again but most likely wait for the next new class of ship Genesis. This cruise was the best one I have taken and RCI really did outdo themselves in designing and building this vessel.
At the end of the review I will post a link to my webshot photos and welcome any questions. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Twas the night before Freedom
June 3, 2006 (Pre Cruise)
Our pre cruise hotel stay was at the Hyatt Regency in Miami and this hotel was secured by a Priceline bid of $110.00 4 months prior to sailing. We had a huge room, service was great, helpful and friendly. There is a small bakery restaurant called Don Pan International Bakery where we went for a quick lunch. They also serve breakfast and are only a block away. Also in this area is the Courtyard by Marriott right across the street.
We also found a liquor store called Downtown Liquor where we purchased some rum and a couple of bottles of champagne. This was within easy walking distance from the Hyatt
There is also a Walgreens just down the street and we purchased some suntan lotion and other things we had forgotten.
That evening dinner had been arranged for a group from our Cruise Critic Pink Boa Society at Lombardis. Lombardis is located at Bayside Shopping center. Dinner was very good but most importantly the company as we were all meeting for the first time.
June 4/06 ~ (Embarkation Day)
The greatest day was at hand
A group of us 14 people who were staying at the Hyatt had decided to arrive in style to the pier to sail on the Worlds Largest Cruise ship Freedom. We rented a stretch white Hummer limo to take us to the pier. We arrived pier side wearing our Pink Boas and stepped out of the Hummer to be greeted by a Pier agent who escorted the 14 of us into the check in area for Platinum/Diamond members and then to the lounge to wait impatiently to finally board our Freedom. We arrived about 10 am and check in was quick as we were among the first to arrive. We were allowed to board about 11am and we were quite the sight in a sea of pink riding up the escalators to be greeted by wait staff holding trays of champagne and female staff dressed in long black gowns and dresses.
We were finally on board and the smell of new ship was everywhere. Our groups first stop was in the Windjammer for some lunch. After lunch we did try to access our cabin on deck 8 but even though I made a good effort at it RCI had two staff waiting by the doors and they would not let us in until 1pm.
We kept busy with some things like checking out the dining room table location. The Maitre d was available for questions and changes starting at 11:45am 3:45pm. Others in our group went and made reservations for our group to dine at Chops. If you want a certain day or time for dining in either Chops or Portofino it is a good idea to go and do it on embarkation day. I have read that they do have samples of the dining room menus and the theme nights there to help you decide which night to skip having dinner in the main dining rooms.
We finally were able to get to our cabins and what a sight they were. The new bedding was so beautiful with crisp white linens embossed with the Crown and Anchor and contrasting pillows and throws. As we had read each cabin had a flat screen TV. Our cabin, which was an E1 cabin 8300 and it, was an interconnecting. Because of this we only had a chair instead of a couch as to not block the door. We found the cabin to be quite soundproof and heard no noise at all coming from the interconnecting cabin. The balcony was quite large in comparison to other side balconies on previous Voyager class vessels. Previously on RCI cruises I have had aft deck 10 balconies so I was used to the extra space but I was quite impressed with the size of the side balcony. Also if asked you can have your balcony divider opened up to create a larger balcony if you know your next-door neighbors. The rest of the cabin was about the same as the others I have experienced. I cannot stress enough the comfort level of this new bedding RCI has put on this ship& and soon on the rest of the fleet
I knew that I wanted to book a cruise on board and knew the ship, sailing date and cabin I wanted and to my surprise the Loyalty Ambassadors desk was already open on Deck 6 to make any new bookings starting at 2pm. I was served by a corporate office person who was on the sailing cause they knew with 1900 Crown & Anchor members on board the Loyalty Ambassadors area would be very busy. It was a good thing I had done my homework as at first he could not find the sailing in the system and I wanted an E1 aft balcony cabin and he tried to tell me that E1 were not balconies so my Platinum discount for balconies would not apply. Well after showing him the deck plans all went well. Then he was not sure how much the shipboard credit was for a 9-day sailing so there was a further delay until he could get it confirmed even though I knew it was $200.00&yikes. I wanted to say.Want to trade places. I will take care of the onboard bookings. Anyway he was friendly and maybe a bit frazzled as he had just boarded that morning and I had to be one of his first bookings. I worry about those who sat down and had not done their homework. Later that day I brought another cruiser friend to book the same sailing and he joked and said I should be on commission& if he only knew. After that two more couples from our CC group also booked this sailing on Explorer for April 2008.
While I was spending my husbands money and booking another cruise DH Rick was relaxing in the hot tub, all by himself with no one to bother him. This was about 2 pm in the afternoon& great time to check it out and enjoy some solitude on a mega ship&..who says they are crowded and you cant find a spot for peace and quiet...he later headed over to the flow rider and again on embarkation day there were virtually no lines. Maybe 4-5 people and he had many tries at it& loved it.
Muster was held at 4:45 pm on embarkation day and one piece of luggage arrived before muster and shortly after muster the other 2 pieces arrived and was not a problem for us as we had late dining and always carry a change of clothes for first dinner in our carryon.
After a heavy downpour of rain that cleared up for muster we set sail slightly late close to 5:30pm. Sail away location for us was on the bow of the ship on the helipad. You had to access this area by going through Pharaohs Palace go forward and walk up a half staircase to get there. It was quite a site to see the beautiful rainbow that Mother Nature provided after the rain as we sailed out of Miami& a good omen indeed.
On the first evening dinner times for main seating was 6:15pm and second seating was at 9pm for this evening only. The rest of the week dining times were 6pm and 8:30pm. The attire for this evening was casual.
The entertainment this evening was a Welcome Aboard show that included a comedian Don Friesen with a pre dinner show at 7pm for late diners and for main dining it was held at 9pm.
The highlight of the night was the first one two parades down the Royal Promenade the theme being Party around the world and it took place at 11:15pm and lasts about 20 minutes or so. It was so festive and you truly had to remind yourself you were on a ship.
June 5/06 ~ (Day at Sea)
The long awaited Sexy Legs Competition
Awoke rested from our eventful embarkation day on the worlds largest cruise ship. I called room service to deliver a pot of coffee and within 10 minutes they were there and we enjoyed it on our balcony& we were finally here.
We had some breakfast in the Windjammer Cafe and I found the food to be good. They had a huge selection for breakfast of everything you could imagine. The servers in the Windjammer would serve you coffee and juice at your table. I like that so you had one less thing to carry to the table and your coffee was then served hot. Jade would also serve breakfast items with an Asian flair.
They were handing out tickets (no charge) on this morning to the ice skating show. They do this to control seating in Studio B. One person per party could pick up a ticket for everyone in their party and it was available from 9:30 am 11 am on this first sea day. They had remaining tickets available at Guest Relations after 11:30 that day.
They announced in the Cruise Compass the recommended Ice Show times for main seating guests and Second seating guests so you could look at that and make your decision as to when to request a ticket for. We ended up going on the Wednesday evening (7pm) as it also stated in the Compass that on that evening there would be no show in the Arcadia Theatre that evening so the Ice Show can be your evening show entertainment.
The ice show debuted for this sailing on the first sea day at 5pm. It would be good for early diners but it was also formal night and the Captains Welcome aboard& The show was also repeated at 9 pm on Day 4 a good time for early diners to attend.
With today being a sea day there were the usual games poolside like belly flop and Mr. Sexy Legs competition. The availability of lounge chairs poolside was great and not an issue. Now all of us that were part of the Cruise Critic group known as Pink Boa Society had been waiting many many months and searching many months so come up with our chosen one to be in the contest. Patrick was our chosen one and he certainly did not disappoint and entertained all that were poolside. He was honored by being awarded the Flamingo Legs medal.
Another highlight of this day was our Meet & Mingle gathering of our Cruise Critic group. Our meeting took place at 5 pm in the Olive or Twist Lounge and some of us arrived in formal clothes and some in more casual outfits because of the timing of the event. Light refreshments and snacks were served and the bar was open& I liked the Freedom martini. Try one. Malibu rum, blue Curacao, vodka and pineapple juice.
During the event we had hoped to have the Captain attend so that we could present to him a beautifully framed copy of our poem Ode To Freedom This was a poem that was composed in the early days of our roll call thread on Cruise Critic by 13 of the posters.
We were happy to hear that Captain Bill had agreed to make an appearance at the gathering and when he did the poem was read to him by one of our Pink Boa ladies and the captain voluntarily donned one of the Pink Boas around his neck. We also handed out copies of the poem to those in attendance and Captain Wright very graciously stood for photos and signed copies of the poem for all who wanted it done& I was very impressed with his graciousness and this was evidenced other times on the ship as well.
It truly was a very special occasion for all who were there and a memory that will stay with us for a long time. I learned in an email that Captain Wright was very touched with the poem and he shared it with RCI corporate office. The poem is to be hung in a place of honor on Freedom. My job when I sail on the Crown & Anchor cruise in October is to find that poem and see where they have hung it.
The Captains Welcome Aboard reception took place this evening in the Royal Promenade where he gave his speech from the Flying Bridge&. This is a suspended bridge that is lowered from the ceiling of the promenade and the Captain welcomes everyone and his staff is introduced. They serve champagne in the promenade while early and late dining guests mingle& It runs from about 7:30 pm 8:30 pm with the Captains speech scheduled for 8:15 pm so both dining seatings can take part. You can have your photo taken with the Captain in the bridge in front of Guest Relations.
Watch out for those Krooz Komics who will be circulating. They are a fun bunch.
We watched them one evening from the Vintages Bar posing as mannequins in front of the Get Out There store&. Some people would stop and look and realize they were the Komics but one lady in particular stopped, looked and got really close to see if they were real and they said boo She screeched and actually walked away angry..or at least it looked that way..we roared in laughter. June 6/06 ~ Cozumel ~
Shopping ~ Carlos & Charlies ~ Panchos Backyard
We on Freedom were not superstitious -- how could we be with that beautiful rainbow that appeared as we sailed away so with the date 06 06 06 and given tender ticket #6. We made our way down the staircase to the tenders. Happy to report with all those 6s we had a great day.
Now usually Cozumel is a docked port but with Hurricane Wilma last October it made it necessary to tender in Cozumel -- Some tours met in the Arcadia Theatre so they did not need a tender ticket nor did those who were to meet on the pier. Their tour ticket doubled as their tender ticket.
We had no scheduled tour so we had to pick up a tender ticket in either Boleros or Schooner bar on Deck 4. These tickets started to be available at 7:15 AM. They asked that you not go and get a tender ticket until everyone in your party was ready to go onshore. Once we got our ticket we waited maybe 20 minutes until they called our number and the tendering process was not long or congested at least not when we went ashore. I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of the tendering process. I know we were only at Voyager class capacity but even for the first time doing this process on this ship from my point of view and what we saw everything went very well& a smooth process.
We tendered into the International Pier and the taxi ride was about $6.00
We got dropped off at the Carlos & Charlies and walked up to Los Cincos Soles and shopped along the way. We had lunch at Panchos backyard with CC friends Carol & Bob and met some other CCrs there as well. Lunch was very good and we each had a free margarita with the coupon that we had printed off their website
After some shopping we met friends at Carlos and Charlies for another margarita and then made our way back to the ship by taxi. The ship sailed at 4pm and the last tender was at 3:30 pm
This evening the Crown & Anchor repeaters party was held in Studio B. We arrived early and all the hot foods were gone and were not replenished but we did have our free glass of champagne. I felt it was kind of a strange place to hold such a gathering and it was not very conducive to mingling. Pharaohs Palace would have been a better location.
After this was over a group of us about 19 had reserved tables in Chops for 6:30 pm. The food was excellent but the service was not up to par -- it was slow and we had to ask for things more than once and the lack of the wait staff presence even made it hard to ask for things. They were not that visible. This was my second time dining at Chops. Once on Mariner and once on Freedom and I much prefer my dining experiences in Portofino which I tried on both Navigator and Jewel of the seas. Personally I find the dining experience more to my liking in Portofino, better choice of desserts and presentation is nicer. I thought the food was delicious in Chops but also wish that the portions of the side dishes could have been bigger especially with 6 people sharing. They brought side dishes we did not want or no one tasted but did not even ask if we needed or wanted more of those that we did like. Just inattentive service. I had read and am not sure if it is the case but that the Specialty Restaurants were not open during the pre cruises so if that was the case this was the first chance staff were getting used to serving cruisers.
Tonight they did the game Quest and it was held in Studio B -- we had a good time and it is a little different when they hold it in this venue& he separates the people in the stands into teams and no one leaves their seat except the captain of the team&still enjoyable as always& can you say happy face boxers J Rob&thanks for quenching Ken Rushs thirst that night. I noticed that on Day 6 they also hold a Family Quest
June 7/06 ~ Grand Cayman
Rum cakes ~ Rum Point ~ Torrential Rain
Another tendered port and again for us a very smooth process. Picked up tender tickets in Schooner bar and within a few minutes they called our number. They started to distribute the tender tickets about 8:45 am.
Our plans at this port were to rent a vehicle, which we arranged months before on line through Avis. We were going to drive to Rum Point with two other couples from our CC group Mary & Steve and Renee & Blake. After arriving at the pier we walked a short 10 minutes walk to the Blue Iguana Souvenir Shop just before the Hard Rock Cafe where the girl there called the Avis rental place which was located near the airport. They sent a courtesy shuttle to pick us up and take us to the Avis Rental office where we filled out the necessary papers and we were soon on our way.
Most of the information I found on Rum Point that helped in making my decision to try this place came from this thread on Cruise Critic.
The drive took a little longer than the usual 45 minutes as we experienced a downpour of rain halfway there. Our friends both rented PT cruiser convertibles and we had a soft-top jeep with of course the jeep top down when it started to rain. DH had to get out and put the top up& he got quite wet but part of the adventure.
Rum Point is a very pretty picturesque place even though it was drizzling but the sun did manage to appear for about 1 hour. There are plenty of loungers, picnic tables and hammocks. The beach itself if not that large but very pretty and lots of shade for those who want to get out of the sun. We had a very good lunch at the Wreck Bar there and some drinks. There is a gift shop and washroom and change facilities.
Driving on the opposite side of the road for the most part was not a problem and we managed just fine. After our ride to Rum Point we made our way back to the airport rental place and returned the vehicles and the shuttle took us back to Blue Iguana and we picked up some Rum Cakes and tendered back to the ship. This was the only stop that we were in port with other ships. Caribbean Princess, two Carnival ships and the worlds largest cruise ship Freedom.
This evening the entertainment was the Freedom-Ice.com show in Studio B&a totally awesome show from costumes to skating to the video clips and pictures they showed on the overhead screens during the show. This is definitely a must see and of the three ice shows I have seen this is by far the best in my opinion.
This was also the Love & Marriage Game show evening, which is always entertaining, but if you miss it as usual they rebroadcast it on the cabin TV.
June 8/06 ~ Jamaica mon
Zip lining ~ Shaggy concert ~ and the red carpet treatment by MoBay
Wow awoke and went onto the balcony to be greeted by that great sounding Jamaican music and a red carpet stretched out from the ship to welcome Freedom for the first time.
We had an early excursion booked on the ship Canopy Tours which is ziplining. We disembarked the ship about 8am and there was Captain Wright shaking hands as his maiden voyagers left for a fun day in Jamaica. We were led to a bus where our driver Captain K taught us the Jamaican lingo. No problem mon, ya mon and irie mon&now we were set for the adventure of a lifetime& swinging from the trees&well sort of
If you want to make like Tarzan and Jane then this is the adventure for you. After being harnessed up you'll glide silently across nine unique crossings through a tunnel of leaves and branches (the canopy) over rainforest and rivers. You'll reach speeds of 35 mph.
This was an exhilarating experience and even those with fear of heights managed to overcome them and have an awesome time. Do bring insect repellent because I found the bugs were biting although they did provide some repellant if you had forgotten like meJ I would wear a pair of comfortable shoes like runners cause the day we went it was muddy from a recent rain and you do have to do some hiking. A small fanny pack or backpack is allowed and remember to bring your camera. A hint for couples or friends going together -- do not go one behind the other if you want photos of each other on your own camera. A suggestion is to put at least two people between you and split up and then when one finishes the traverse they can take a photo of the other coming across. The longest traverse is over 1000 feet long called the Inter parish Express -- ya mon!
I felt completely safe and the guides Kisha and Dane did an awesome job with our group keeping us safe and providing some humor to relieve any tensions and anxieties we might have had. There were 10 of us in our group and happy to say we all survived and were quite happy we did this excursion.
Here is a link to the company the ship used for this excursion. There is more information here if you are interested in doing this one&highly recommended. They do sell T-shirts and souvenirs after and some photos of you ziplining are also available. You can buy a drink and some jerk chicken as well.
After this excursion a few of our CC group met at Margaritaville for a drink and some food and we then headed back to the pier.
A command performance by Grammy Award winner Shaggy, as well as complimentary Jablum Blue Mountain Coffee and Appleton Rum, were some of the treats served up to passengers dockside. It was quite the sight to see Captain Bill Wright alongside everyone down on the pier enjoying the music and many starboard passengers hanging out of their balconies listening and dancing to the music. Thank you Mo Bay for a wonderful welcome and a sendoff that day. That sight of a concert in front of the worlds largest cruise ship will be one I will remember for a long time.
June 9/06 ~ Labadee
BBQ lunch ~ floating mats ~ and Labadoozies
Labadee is on the island of Hispaniola on the northern coast of Hispaniola, which is comprised of Dominican Republic, and Haiti.labadee is in Haiti. Royal Caribbean has cordoned off a remote area of this peninsula and reserves this area exclusively for its guests
Aahhh. what a sight when I opened the curtains to the cabin and saw those awesome green hills right in front of me. Quite the beautiful sight. We watched the tenders start and take the provisions over for the BBQ lunch there.
It was quite a hot day so we simply rented a floating mat from one of the many floating mat stations there for $10.00 for the day. There are a few beaches to spend time at and they also have an Aqua park for a fee of $15.00 per adult or child. There are icebergs to climb, water trampolines and other water toys. You can rent wave runners, parasail, and kayak and there is a Thriller Powerboat tour. There is also an authentic Haitian market.
DH tried the snorkeling at Hideaway Beach the beach we decided to enjoy and said that the snorkeling was not good at that location.
We enjoyed the featured drink Labadoozie in a souvenir cup.
We tendered back and decided instead of the BBQ lunch to use our Johnny Rockets coupon from tour Platinum coupon book to have lunch there. Repeat guests with Royal Caribbean get a coupon to dine in Johnny Rockets free for the first time (subsequent visits there is a fee) although you do have to pay for any drinks like soda or the very yummy milkshakes which I tried. Beer was the only alcohol that they served there. I had a very good burger and a chocolate shake and my husband Rick had a burger and a draft beer. Rick also had a delicious chocolate Oreo sundae. For first time guests on Royal Caribbean there is a $3.95 fee per person for each time you dine there.
We were also there when the wait staff there did their little dance routine in the diner.
Early in the evening they held the second of the two parades down the Royal Promenade this one was called The Greatest Show on Earth. It was held at 5:45 pm but we did not get to see this one. It only lasted about 15 minutes, as main seating guests were due at dinner. June 10/06 ~ Day At Sea
Last chance to see everything and dreaded pack the suitcase time
Slept in a bit and got up and ordered a pot of coffee again to enjoy on the balcony and watch the sea go by. Nothing can compare to that. Rick and I decided to start at the bottom deck of the ship and work our way up trying to get photos of the areas we had missed of which there were many. One thing about 4 ports in a row is it did not give us enough time to explore the ship. So glad we are booked on her again for the Crown & Anchor cruise in October. We took about 2 hours to take some photos and then headed to the Windjammer for some breakfast. When we arrived home and looked at our photos we realized we still did not see all the areas.
We spent some time poolside as we heard the overhead announcement telling all how large the final day bingo was. I believe it was over $13,000 but one of our Pink Boa ladies did manage to win about $750 at that bingo.
Then it was off to some of the onboard shops to pick up last minutes souvenirs. One thing that disappointed many cruisers on the ship was the lack of t-shirts and other souvenirs with the maiden voyage date on it. Most of the items all said inaugural season. Our Cruise Critic group had t-shirts made up by one of our members. Thanks Tracy and we handed them out at the Meet & Mingle. We could have sold many more and my DH Rick and others were constantly being approached and asked where we got the t-shirts as everyone wanted one since there was nothing like it in the gift shop. My husband was afraid to leave the t-shirt on the deck chair. It was indeed a hot item. RCI missed the boat on that one.
Then it was back to the cabin for the dreaded nasty P word&packing. Our Cruise Critic group had a final get together to say goodbye and to take many more photos including a group photo, which by the way I will treasure always. We shared some drinks, tears and laughs. Thanks to the bartending staff there for doing the honors of being the photographers. I am sure Tracy and Cindy know who they are by name. Right girls .
Tonight it was the night to say goodbye to our wait staff and to extend to them thanks for a job well done and to give them their tips. This was the first time that I had the tip money put on my Seapass account. In the past I have always given cash. You will receive coupons/vouchers from the room steward that indicates their tip and you insert this instead into the envelope to hand out on the last evening. I also gave extra in the form of cash in the envelope.
June 11/06 ~Disembarkation
Goodbye ~ farewell ~ See you soon
I was awaken by the vibration of Freedom turning around in the basin at the Port of Miami. our taste of Freedom was over& and what a sweet one it was.
We had PINK colored disembarkation tags. of course what other color for a Pink Boa Lady.
The express disembarkation was called first and surprisingly it was called about 6:30 am with the first color beige called about 7:40 7:45. We headed to Pharaohs lounge, which was on deck 5 and set aside for Platinum and Diamond members. They served coffee, juice and continental breakfast there.
Our color Pink was called about 9:40 am and we were through security and customs quite quickly but the wait for our luggage took quite awhile. The luggage came out on an airport type carousel unlike in Fort Lauderdale when luggage is piled in rows. We were not in the taxi with luggage in hand until about 11am and heading to our post cruise hotel Royal Palm in South Beach. We liked the hotel and the rooms good. Comfy beds and a great location on the beach. Too bad the weather was not so nice with lots of rain but it did clear up in time for Rick and I to take a taxi to South Point Park to watch Freedom sail away past us with the June 11 lucky people aboard. She was an awesome sight to see sail past&
Ship ~ Freedom is quite the experience. If you have sailed on a Voyager class ship particularly Navigator or Mariner you will not have trouble getting around. The main differences I see are larger balconies, much better bedding and comfy beds, a longer Royal Promenade with more options there, a great H2O zone which I feel does wonders to keep the younger ones out of the other main pool. It really is a great area for children with even their own hot tubs. It is a large area too. Of course one of the biggest attractions and hits is the Flow rider, which was enjoyed by young and old. Another great addition is the cantilevered hot tubs in the solarium area& hint head for that area on embarkation day and you might just have the whole tub to yourself like DH Rick did. As well the Flow rider had a very small line on the embarkation afternoon. Smile for the camera as they take your photo wiping out. They also sell great t-shirts in this area too.
If you are a first time cruiser or have not sailed on this class of ship& watch out prepare to have yours senses awakened. When I are in the Royal Promenade on the first evening watching the parade and see those acrobats suspended from the ceiling you will have to remind yourself like I did that this is not a real street this is a ship.
A comment about crowding on a large ship. Although I understand Freedom was not sailing at capacity and was at Voyager class levels (no small ship either) I did not experience the crowding that sometimes scares people away from this size of ship. This was my third Voyager /Freedom class and on all of them I had not problems with lines. The cruise I felt the most crowded was Jewel of the Seas late April 2005 and it was spring break in the New York area with lots of families on board and quite a bit of crowding poolside.
Dining ~ We were seated at table 314 in Leonardos Dining room which is on deck 3 right behind the Captains table. I did not experience the crowded feeling and closeness of the other tables that others talked about before in reviews I read before we got on the ship. Perhaps it was cause we were seated so close to the Captains table and they allowed extra space between the tables there. We were situated right below the staircase. It made for a good location for any performances the wait staff put on. In my opinion the head waiter we had John from India was the best head waiter of all my cruises. He did make an appearance every night at the table and even told jokes to us a couple of times. He was definitely the most visible of all the head Waiters and engaged in conversation and was genuine in wanting to know if he could do anything. The wait staff was Nicoleta her assistant Christina. The service was uneven the first night on board, but they did get gradually better remembering our preferences. I was not wowed by the service and I have had better. They were pleasant and accommodating but not outstanding. I did notice that neither of them would tell of the next days activities which I have had wait staff do that before or neither did they make a speech about the comment cards that we needed to fill out and ask for excellent..this has happened in the past. I must mention that we were seated at a table of 14 so that might have been why sometimes the service was slow and the entrées and dishes did not all come out at the same time with long waits sometimes. With that said even though I knew all my tablemates a table of 14 is a oblong table an it makes for difficult dinner time conversation. I prefer a table of 8-10 and a round table.
Summary ~ Freedom is not just a cruise ship but an experience. The lack of fanfare as we left Miami for her first week long voyage did not bother me. The friends I met and the other cruisers made this the special cruise that it was. It was a pleasure to be among the first paying passengers on this cruise ship. Many staff welcomed us since they had a group that would not be leaving them in 2 days. It meant a different pace for them as well. I like Radiance class but this was my 3rd Voyager/Freedom class and personally I prefer it to the Radiance class.
My experience on Freedom started on Feb 28, 2005 when I first made my booking and went looking for the Roll Call thread started by Tagman. All the months of waiting and the little tidbits of info that RCI would release made the journey fun and exciting. All the friends I met on that Roll Call thread and then met on the ship each played a part in the total experience..Thank you one and all. You all have a special place in my heart. A big thank you to DH Rick who in the early days of the roll call thread had no clue who I was talking about when I would tell him about the posts but he knows now and is glad he was there for the ride&Happy Cruising everyone
Wishing fun times to all who have a taste of Freedom in their future.
Here is a link to my photos.
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