I'm traveling with my mom for my 1st ever cruise, her 2nd (previous was HAL). We had booked this trip just 64 days prior and I spent the next 63 obsessing over it.
We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in Cocoa Beach. Did the Fly, Snooze, Cruise package so there would be transportation from airport to hotel to port and back to airport (provided by Travelynx). Maybe not the cheapest route but it was easy. Hotel was fine, shuttle & bus was on time and comfortable.
I chose Jr. Suite 9328 and couldn't be happier with the location. Down 2 doors, turn right and you're at the Centrum elevators. Exit on Deck 5 and you're right at Guest Services & MTD entrance. Exit on Deck 11 right at the Windjammer. I was originally concerned that being so close to the elevators & stairs I'd hear the wild & noisy hoards of people congregating there. Never happened.
The room itself was comfortable, roomy for 2 people. I'd gladly give up a foot of room space to gain that in the bathroom though. Walk-in closet was awesome, and doubled as a changing room. Tons of storage space between that closet and the drawers on the dresser/desk.
Balcony had 2 chairs, 1 normal lounger and 1 footstool style lounger, plus a small round table. And there was still room to move around.
Mom's bag arrived promptly, mine didn't show up until after dinner. Wasn't happy about having my first main dining in a pair of shorts :-(
One thing I discovered right away is that it is pretty chilly in most places inside the ship , at least by my standards. I ended up buying a long sleeved top and a light sweater. Outside was pleasantly warm, mildly humid, and windy most of the time.
Another thing that struck me was that the Royal Promenade wasn't as big as I had imagined. But that was actually nice, because I had visions of it being like a half hour walk to get from one end to the other , it is really more like 3 minutes, unless of course you stop along the way at every table & store with tempting things to buy.
Richard Spacey - the Cruise Director, and Jamie , Activities Manager, were a riot! We often laughed to the point of crying. Try to catch as many of their shows/events as possible. As for the other shows:
Marquee: Singers/Dancers are very talented, music was good.
Now You See It: Magician Drew Thomas from America's Got Talent. Little turned off by his long intro video patting himself on the back, clips of the judges saying how awesome he is. The tricks were good though.
Once Upon a Time: I was bored and actually dozed off for parts of it.
Freedom-Ice: Was just OK. I imagine it must be hard to do what they do on a small ice rink, but I guess it just wasn't my thing. Plus I was freezing cold in there. Guess it should have dawned on me to bundle up a bit more , the place is full of ice, duh!
Labadee - very pretty, nice beaches on one side, rocky on the other. Look around before you plant yourself. The barbeque/buffet was fine , reminded me of a company picnic. Had to try a Labadoozy (those puppies are strong!)
Jamaica - Did a catamaran/snorkel excursion. Was fun although I didn't get to snorkel as much as I hoped. I don't like deep water, prefer to snorkel out from a beach. Crew was nice & helpful.
Grand Cayman - did the Atlantis Submarine excursion. Nice way to see coral/fish without getting wet. There wasn't a huge variety of colorful fish though. Maybe this wasn't the place to do it.
Cozumel - Did the Chankanaab Dolphin Encounter. Was very fun to interact with them. Water could have been a smidge warmer. Heard others say the swimming area had too much seaweed.
Food & Drink:
We did the My Time Dining all but 1 night. Most times I was very happy with the selection and quality of starters, entrees and desserts. My favorite was the Horseradish-Crusted Salmon. Waiters were attentive, and the Head Waiter stopped by every night.
Did dining room a couple times for breakfast , Eggs Benedict was pretty good. Other times did Windjammer. Same things offered each day, but really how much variety can there be for breakfast?
Did Johnny Rockets for one lunch because we had enough casino credits to cash in for the cover charge :-) I was shocked, however, that the milkshakes were $5 , and they really weren't very good. Won't be doing that again. But the burgers & onion rings were yummy.
The prices for Starbucks was pretty much the same as it is at home. Couldn't use my Starbucks gift card there though. The prices for drinks were about the same as I see at most restaurants for a Lava Flow, Colada and such. So I was happy they didn't take advantage of a captive audience.
Embarkation was very smooth, no long lines - we arrived around 11:30 and were on-board probably by noon. Debarkation took just a little longer. We had late flights so chose to be in the last group off.
We were so very sad to step off the 'Sunday' elevator for the last time. But I had the time of my life. Freedom is a beautiful and well maintained ship. The crew is friendly and helpful. Richard Spacey is a great CD (and has some wild socks). The entertainment had some good and some so-so, but then we didn't see everything there was to see. There is almost too much to do and it takes some careful juggling/planning to make smart choices without running yourself ragged. Labadee & Jamaica were nice, didn't see much of Grand Cayman or Cozumel. But there's always next time. I am sooo looking forward to next time, whenever that may be.