We just returned from a cruise to the Western Caribbean onboard Freedom of the Seas. We have cruised before, and always with RCI. Overall this was a very good cruise, and what little went wrong was mostly unavoidable. Here are my thoughts on the following topics.
Travel: We went to Miami 2 days early, as we have done this same cruise before, but wanted to travel on the Freedom. Got a direct flight from SLC, Utah, but arrived late in the evening. No problems. Weather rather wet in Miami.
Embarkation: It looked a little confusing at first, as we've gone though this same terminal before, but it actually took us less than 30 minutes from arrival to get on board. We arrived around noon, even though RCI asks you not to be there before 2 PM. Obviously, many others ignored that request, too.
Accommodations: I always book an inside cabin. I only sleep and change clothes there, so why spend several hundred dollars to upgrade. The cabin on Deck 7 was already available. It was larger than the others I have been in on Voyager, Radiance and Monarch. The bed was somehow made into a Queen bed, without the usual center "divot". The bedding was exceptional, and very comfortable. Nice flat screen TV, and Surich, our steward did an excellent job with the usual towel animals, and kept things very clean and homey.
Food: Overall the food was good, but the Windjammer was not as good as previous cruises. Rather bland, not cooked with much seasoning. The Dining Room, Main seating, was better, but I noticed one or two fewer choices of entrees. Our waiter, Promod did an excellent job, as we've come to expect from RCI. We did go to Portofino's one night, and it was outstanding!! Excellent atmosphere, great staff and every dish was super. I too don't like paying the $20 each, but would do it again. Johnny Rockets was very good, and since I had a Crown and Anchor coupon, had to pay no cover charge, only suppose to pay for drinks, but when we got the bill, it said zero. The pizza at Sorrentos on the Promenade was better than some reviews have lead me to believe. It's no New York classic, but it is included in the price, and there were usually several choices of toppings. Room service was used once, and it was quick and hot. Not complaints except you can't use your soda card in that situation.
The Ship: Magnificent!!! It is a stretched out Voyager class, but definitely bigger and better. The Flow Rider, even though I didn't try it out, is a fantastic attraction. Always full of spectators as well as eager passengers, willing to look rather inept at this new technology. The layout is much the same as Voyager ships, but some things moved around. Very smooth sailing ship, as are most of the larger RCI ships. The cantilevered hot tubs in the Solarium are fantastic. It is an area for adults at least 16 years old, and was that way with only one exception I saw. The feeling of being in them while sailing is very different.
Entertainment: Most of the shows were with the ships singers and dancers, but there were other acts. A couple comedians who were good to very good. The main event was the show by Rick Nelson's sons, The Nelsons. Did a great show with many of his songs, and some of their own. Stayed to sign autograph until all who wanted one was accommodated. The bartender in the Bolero Bar on deck 4 was great. Very entertaining. His name is Adrien Sauco, and apparently he gets the call each time a new ship is launched. Did some very good magic tricks, god jokes and stories, and remembered your name after only a couple visits. Had a great time there often. Lots of shows on and above the Royal Promenade with different themes.
Spa: We did make sure of the spa this time around. Had a couple combination massage and float bed session. Both very relaxing and enjoyable. Lots of classes to sign up for on many subjects relating to physical fitness. Even have an acupuncture specialist on board.
Ports: Cozumel, Mexico, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay in Jamaica, and RCI's private island of Labadee, in Haiti. Cozumel was rather dead in town, didn't do any tours. Been there 3 times, not much new. It was about 10 AM and most shops weren't open. Did the Stingray City in Grand Cayman, and it was a blast. Not with the ship's tour, but a local one for only $25 each. I thought it was going to be in a park or facility. No, open ocean on a sandbar only 3-4 ft deep. The death of Steve Irwin didn't seem to sway people away. These rays are very friendly, and well used to people and being handled. Climbed Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica, and it too was great. Kind of scary as we are not spring chickens anymore, but did it well, and had a ball. Labadee we just laid in the sun, played in the water. Have done the Jet Skis before, and it was a little scary if you've not done that before. A friend did the parasail. Said it was great, but didn't get much time up top, maybe 5-6 minutes each couple. Takes time reeling you up and down.
Debarkation: This worried me since last time was a disaster!! However, they have made great strides in speeding up the lines at US Customs. Found our bags, and overall were off the ship and into the street in about 30 minutes.
Overall View: Except for the weather not cooperating (rained some most days but still plenty of sun) and the slightly lower food quality, it was a great cruise. The ship is truly a destination in itself. I can't imagine what the Genesis Project ship will be like at 220,00 tons, compared to 160,000 for the Freedom. Only time will tell on that one. I would recommend this cruise to anyone. Still the greatest vacation going.