I really wanted to take this cruise because I had never visited Antigua and Tortola before. Because I could not convince anyone else to go I decided to go by myself. I read up on cruising solo on Cruise Critic and decided why not try it. Well once I tried it, I don't think I ever want to travel with a roommate again. I did exactly what I wanted, when I felt like it. There was no pressure and it was the best cruise I have ever taken. However, Carnival charged me double. When I booked, they told me I would be able to add someone else up to 2 weeks prior to sailing. Being charged double was the only downside.
I also had to do the plane fare watch. Usually I book departure and return flights separately to get the best price but that was very hard this time. I can usually get to Ft. Lauderdale for less than $250 round trip but this time I had to go two days early to get a good deal and wound up paying a total of $400. Up until 2 weeks before I left, I thought I was going to have to get Greyhound back to NY! Plane fares have really gone up. If they would do 7/8 day cruises leaving on Tuesday or Wednesday, we could get a better deal on plane fare.
Now for the good points. I spent two relaxing days at Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale. They have smoking suites available, it only costs $8 to get the shuttle from the airport, they offer free hot buffet breakfast, free happy hour, and right out the back door is a shopping plaza, the Harbor Shops. I saved 40% on food at Duffy's Sports Bar in the plaza. Just have to sign up for their MVP card, eat between 2 and 4 pm, Monday through Friday. So I just ordered enough for lunch and dinner and did take out. The frig in my hotel room helped a lot. Only spent about $12 both days which included delicious Key Lime pie for dessert. Then on to Publix to pick up last minute items and a case of water which I checked through on the ship as luggage. Had a delicious Smoothie right near Publix and then called for the hotel van to pick me up. Van ride was free, the concierge just told me to tip the driver.
Saturday, for another $8 I was taken to the port right on time. I had been sent an email telling me to arrive between 1:30 and 3:00 so that worked out fine. First time cruising that I did not have to wait in a long line in the sun to check in. Great. I had not been on the Freedom since 2009 and was very pleased to see the new [at least to me] signage on the Lido deck. The Grill, The Omelet Station, Swirls [for ice cream], etc. All I had to do was follow the signs and I knew exactly where to go -- only got turned around once. Just could not figure out why they put Swirls right near the smoking section because the traffic there was mostly families with children. I also liked the new kiosks that will print out your statement since the one I got that last night did not include my late night casino playing and drinks. Food was okay -- not as good as I remember on previous cruises but the salad makings were so fresh every meal. I found out that many of the entrees on the dining room menu were also on the buffet on Lido so most of the time it was easier to go there -- plus I could get the salad just like I wanted it.
Disembarkation was okay -- they just started at 6:30 A.M. and I never remember them starting that early before. It was barely daylight and they were calling for people to get off the ship! And I waited 45 minutes to get to Customs from the time I got off the ship. The line was ridiculous. In the past I would always get a porter for our luggage and we would breeze right through. Now there is not a separate line for the porters and they have to stand in line like everyone else. I know that really cuts down on the amount of people they are able to help.
Another thing I tried for the first time was using Luggage Express. It was well worth the $20 not to be bothered with my luggage until I got back home, especially since my plane did not leave until 5:45 pm and you often cannot check your luggage too far in advance at the airport.