We took this cruise for our Son's Graduation present, as he wanted to go on this brand new ship. We are Diamond Members, and have traveled with RCL many times. The itinerary for this ship was not what we desired or were we excited about, but this was for our son so we went with an open mind.
We have traveled many times on the Voyager Class ships. Three times on the Adventure, and once on the Mariner. Getting on the ship, the Port of Miami is a very busy place, and getting 4000+ people off a ship, and 4000+ people back on is a very big process. We got on in about an hours time as we are Diamond Members, but still you have to wait until 1:00 to enter your room.
Our first impression of the ship, was this is EXACTLY like the Voyager Class ships. We knew where everything was as there is nothing different, except for a water park in between the Adult, and Regular Pool area.
Rooms: Very nice, we had a junior suite with an adjoining junior suite for our two kids, 18 & 13. The balconies on the ship adjoin also, so this gave us a huge balcony. Our room steward was great, maybe the best we have ever had on RCL. She had come from the Smallest RCL ship the Empress, and said that she has a lot more rooms on this ship to take care of. Our room was always clean, and in place and anything we need she would take care of.
Food: The dining rooms are not as pretty as most ships, but are the three levels same as Voyager Class. The menus, we could have named what we were having as they are so similar to the Voyager Class. There was no difference which we thought there should be. The food was good, nothing great, but in these class ships feeding so many people they do a great job. Our waitress was great, she was trying to train to be a Head Waiter, which she should be. Our Head Waiter, one who has been with RCL forever, we only met once. He never came over after that to our table. We watch the other Head Waiters helping their tables with the lobster, and shrimp, and making conversation, but with us nothing. Our waitress that Freedom hand chose all the staff on this ship, but we had never met so many new first time people as staff.
Entertainment: The shows were the same as the Voyager Class. Game shows were the same, Love and Marriage, the Parades, the Welcome aboard night. The Comic on this was very good. The pool area's were nice, and I believe with the water park it did take away a lot of the little kids running around you. We had no problem finding a Lounge Chair. The pool games were the same Sexy Legs, and etc. We did miss the Horse Racing, as that is something they did away with. Something new they did do was have a Adult Disco at the Adult Pool with changing music every 20 minutes, and no kids were allowed.
Casino: They have a problem in this area. It is designed the same as before that you must walk through it to the dining area. But I have never seen so many KIDS playing slot machines. Kids as in under 18!! They try to keep them out, but they stand with their parents and watch the parents play. One night at 1:00 a.m. here is a couple with their 2 year old asleep in a stroller playing slots. Talking with Guest Relations, I asked why they couldn't have someone stand at each end of the Casino and inform parents with kids you must walk right through, and kids or teenagers without parents you can't pass through, as they can go up one floor and down one floor and avoid the whole place. They do this at the Disco "The Crypt".
Elevators: WHOEVER DESIGNED THIS SHIP DID NOT PLAN FOR 4000+ PEOPLE!!! I say this as I have never walked so many stairs in my life. As before this ship is no different than the Voyager Class and that means it has the same number of elevators!!! Boarding day, the crew takes over two elevators to just get the luggage delivered!! With tendering, everyone must go down to the first floor to get on a tender than holds over 300+ people, which is the same amount coming back on, and 8 elevators can't take care of this. Especially with parents with the HUGE Strollers. This is the first time I've ever seen so many STROLLERS. Dinner time it's hard to get back up to your room with the elevators. Plus the fact there is a big problem with lots of unsupervised teenagers that take over a elevator and won't let you on. I advise anyone with trouble getting around with stairs, take this into consideration. We ended up walking from Deck 1 to Deck 9 after each excursion.
Ports: Cozumel, we booked Passion Isle for some beach time. This was a blast. 3 hours at a private beach, free food, and drinks. The water was great, the place was beautiful, and the staff went out of their way to help you. I would highly recommend this excursion.
Grand Cayman: We booked beach time again, but this time on our way to the beach by boat, a storm came over, and it started raining & Lightning. We decided to go back instead of being dumped off at the beach, which we when through rain, and Lightning by boat. We were drenched, and got back and hung out at the Hard Rock, then went back to the ship. The island is expensive as Cayman's money is worth more than US's money.
Jamaica: Personally I have no use for this island at all. I have spent a week on this island, and visited it before. It is so poor and people are such beggars. We only got off long enough to get some of their Blue Mountain Coffee which in the US sells for over $100.00 a pound
Haiti: RCL private island. Beautiful place and very well done. Here you can use your room card to charge any drinks, and the food is brought over by the ship, and worked by the ship crew. They have a local shopping market, but the people are very pushy. We paid extra to go to Malfina beach, which they only take 20 people there. It was beautiful!!! But if you don't want to spend the extra money for an excursion the main beach area is plenty nice.
Up Charge Dining: We only did the Portofino's, and were not overly impressed. The biggest complaint was it took over 2 hours to eat, and the waiter disappeared on us. The food was good, and much tastier than the regular dining.
Flow Rider: My 18 year old did it once. The crew is good there and show how they can surf, but since it is only open 3 hours at a time, every l5 minutes the crew surfs for 5 minutes. Meaning if you do this you might not get much time. Plus lots of hurt people doing this. One girl even broke her ankle!!
Teen Programs: My 13 year old only went a couple of times, not many kids attended. She spent more time talking to the staff of the Programs.
Crew members were great, we especially like the Schooner Bar, with the Piano Player. Most of the crew like to say they were hand picked, but so many of them are new to RCL. I also never before seen so many crew members from different areas attending the shows, and sitting having drinks with each other. Not meaning the working staff, but more the dancers, the ice show people, the upper staff.
Also there are a LOT OF KIDS on this ship. True it is summer, and I have my own 2, but there are many misbehaved kids on this ship unsupervised. The drinking of underage kids is there too, which adds to the misbehaving. We lost our room service menu outside our door twice, had kids running up and down the halls, and knocking on the doors in the middle of the night.
The Captain never came on and really talked. He never even talked at the Crown and Anchor meeting. All ships we've been on before he talks as we depart, and tells you what is happening. We have also heard a captain address the unruly teenager, telling the parents to take care of the situation, or be prepared to pay the consequences, but this never happened.
My overall opinion of this ship comes from a crew member themselves. Freedom doesn't have a soul yet, and it needs to develop its OWN soul. Will we cruise with RCL Of course, but next time with a smaller ship. As these ships are getting TOO BIG, with a bigger on for 6000+ people yet to come!! Bigger is not always best, as it's quality, and different things that make up a cruise.