My first cruise on RCCL after previous trips with Carnival, Celebrity, MSC and Holland America. Arrived at Port Canaveral at 1045am and it took me just over an hour to get onboard. Most of the wait was caused by the TSA checking passports and the security check. The line curled its way 100 or so feet outside the building and once through the security check and into the hands of Royal Caribbean the smiles and welcome aboard attitude commenced and remained in place until the end of the cruise.
Headed for lunch at the extremely crouded Windjammer buffet and the staterooms were made available at 1pm. I admit to being a little surprised that it took until 5pm for my bag to appear but no major problem with that on a week long trip. The security drill occurred at 4pm and was over in about 20 minutes. While I appreciate this is a mandatory event I dont understand its real purpose. When forced to stand in a line that is maybe 10 people deep only the first 2 or 3 at the front of each line can actually see what is being shown. That seems like a waste of time to me.
We left port just after 430pm in a cold wind so while all the bar staff were out in force with their cocktails or vacation medication, most guests were back inside before we hit the sea. My cabin attendant introduced herself while I was unpacking and I was immediately impressed by her positive attitude which prevailed with every single member of crew that I met onboard Freedom. This was more than just excellent training but what appeared to be a happy crew that enjoy what they do and who made a big effort to make sure their guests were having a good time. I can honestly say that I did not experience 1 single member of staff who gave imperfect service and that is a very big deal on a ship of this size.
Dinner in the MDR at 630pm with the MyTime dining option was also accompanied by friendly attentive service and the food was pretty good. In comparing my previous cruises I would rate the food on Celebrity and probably HAL to be of a higher quality but when comparing price that is to be expected. The food on Freedom was consistently good. An after dinner nightcap in a bar on the Promenade was followed by an early retirement to bed after a tranatlantic flight with connection the previous day.
I was then further impressed by the size of the bed which seemed wider than on any previous ship and really quite comfortable. The cabin layout is standard but the balcony is deeper on Freedom than I have seen in a regular cabin on any other ship. I also like the shower which has a high power spray head and does the job nicely. For those of us who prefer a bath tub, this is a pretty good compromise. No issues with external noise and I was able to sleep well during the trip.
The first full day is a sea day enroute to Labadee and I ate 3 meals in the main dining room. RCCL have berries at breakfast time which I am very fond of and the service throughout each meal was spot on. I made a relatively poor attempt at burning calories in the fitness center and on the track on the top deck and had an enjoyable day.
Labadee I love and when the sun comes out this is a spectacular well run location with its amazing zip line, Dragon roller coaster and water slide. The barbecue buffet is burgers and fries and will keep you going until you get back onboard for the real food. Falmouth is an interesting place and outside the port facilities is the wild west but well worth the effort. Just say no to the 500 people who will try to sell you something you dont want. I found a bar and had some good conversation with locals and its worth it for the people watching.
Cayman didnt impress me at all and I think that tender facilities for a ship with 4000 guests plus the crew is not realistic. I believe that if these ports want the cruise business they should invest the money in providing meaningful facilities or the cruise lines should take their business elsewhere. Cozumel was the opposite extreme from Cayman with fabulous facilities and 5 ships in port. One of RCCLs top customers recommended me to a restaurant called Panchos on the Carnival pier, 5 minutes walk from our own pier. Great Mexican food and drinks and excellent views from a water side sitting area.
Back onboard for a 630pm departure and what the captain described as a fast 2 night journey back to Port Canaveral. I enjoyed dinner in Chops with salad, a steak and a creme-brulee. Didnt manage to get to Portofinos Italian restaurant.
The entertainment was reasonably good and I saw 2 shows, one of which the visiting entertainer.
Debarkation back in Port Canavaral and immediately obvious we were back in the hands of the TSA. 30 minutes delayed from the planned departure time from the ship and an hour to get through the process.
All in all, an excellent trip and a thoroughly positive impression of Royal Caribbean and the Freedom of the Seas.