My Mother, Brother, and I recently sailed on the Carnival Freedom for 8 nights to the Southern Caribbean (Grand Turk, Dominican Republic, Curacao, and Aruba). We have been on 1 other Carnival cruise (Glory) 10 years ago which was pretty good, but we were never more disappointed with a ship than we were with this cruise on Carnival Freedom.
We have been through Ft. Lauderdale before, so we knew what to expect at the pier with security. We breezed into the parking garage and through the terminal in about 20 minutes, and we found our cabin with no problem. We were in 8201 with lots of cabinet/drawer space for storage and a nice bathroom.
First...the good points of this ship:
The service all over the ship was outstanding. The crew was very friendly, and we had no complaints whatsoever with the ship's staff. If you are into getting nightly portraits taken by the ship's photo gallery, they have stations set up all over the Promenade deck during evening hours EVERY NIGHT. The backgrounds are excellent and plentiful from which to choose. Also, check out the instant hot chocolate in the Freedom Buffet. It's available 24 hours a day and is really tasty!!
We had dinner each night in the main dining room with a wonderful family from Atlanta. The food was pretty good, but there sometimes weren't enough entry choices on the menu to make for an enjoyable dinner. The service was outstanding with Luis as our head waiter, Putu as our waiter, and Januar as our assistant waiter. The warm chocolate melting cake was excellent for dessert.....highly recommended!! As an alternate to the dining room, we went to the Sun King Steakhouse at the end of the cruise. We were very surprised to learn that the cover charge has gone up to $35.00 (used to be $25.00). Our meal overall was average....nothing spectacular.....and not worth $35.00, but whatever......it was a break from the dining room.
Now for the negative points:
Breakfast in the Freedom Buffet each morning was good...lots of variety, but lunch was really pathetic. The menu was EXACTLY the same EVERY DAY with 80% of the food being rabbit food (salad trimmings) and 15% being hot food. I felt like Carnival was literally trying to starve me to death, because there was so little to eat for lunch. I ate from the Mongolian Wok buffet twice.....it was pretty good - even though standing in line took up to 45 minutes. Desserts in the buffet were ok...nothing to get excited about. There were days when the lemonade and soft drinks were really watered down and had no taste. It seemed to get worse as the cruise progressed.
While I understand that Carnival IS known as the "Party" cruise line, I do NOT understand WHY there had to be continuous loud heavy metal music at the pool - played by a DJ - all day long!!!! I was most disappointed with the absence of live music all over the ship........there was NEVER an Island band playing at the pool (like I've enjoyed on all the Royal Caribbean ships I've been on), and there was NO string trio or light classical music whatsoever. The 70's group (quartet) that played in the atrium was pretty good, but again...where was the rest of the live music?????? Listing to 2 hours of Kenny G in the dining room every night got OLD very quickly (and I love Kenny G, but not on a nightly basis!!). It was just one more indication that Carnival is cutting their amenities.
As an alternate to the constant noise around the pools, the ship offered the aft section of deck 10 (around the Steakhouse windows) to relax and read in a lounge chair......until the pool patrol guys showed up at 3:30 PM and started stacking and tying down the lounge chairs. Trying to go anywhere that was quiet inside the ship was impossible.....there was canned music playing in every lounge. The quietest place I found to read (besides my balcony) was the bathroom in my cabin.
Speaking of the balcony, we only got to enjoy it during the day, because at night the balcony light was inoperable during the entire cruise. When we inquired about this, we were told that the bridge turns off some of the balcony lights at night because they interfere with the navigation of the ship!!! What hogwash!!! The ONLY time our balcony light worked was when we arrived back in Fort Lauderdale at the end of the cruise to disembark the ship.....very disappointing!!
As for the entertainment, it was pretty pathetic. The singers and dancers performed for 3 straight nights (which got very monotonous), and the magician (Bob Brizindine) was really awful......he ran his mouth 95% of the time, and his jokes were as dry as dust - not to mention extremely suggestive and unfamily like (and the theater was filled with kids). We would have gotten up and walked out, but we didn't want to have to crawl over people sitting on either side of us to do so. We never went back into the theater for the rest of the cruise.
On sea days, there was next to nothing to do on the ship except for trivia, bingo, gambling, and listening to raunchy music by the pool. We have been on large and small ships in the past, and there has always been an array of activities to do or even watch, but this was certainly not the case with Carnival.
The ship overall could use some attention.....the interior areas lack color.....RED seemed to be the dominating color everywhere we went. Also, there wasn't a lot of art work or sculptures to enjoy as we have enjoyed on past cruises.
Disembarking the ship took 45 minutes (inside the terminal). There were only 4 out of 10 boarder patrol booths open....due to government budget cuts (what else is new???).
We took this cruise mainly because of the ports - which we DID enjoy. However, the clientele (passengers) was loud and raunchy most of the time, and we felt like we were among the minority of passengers on the ship. Taking everything into consideration regarding the ship, we do not feel we got the value for our money we spent, and we will never be sailing on Carnival again.
When our ship pulled into port, there was a 4-piece band and 4 dancers entertaining us with island music to welcome us to La Romana. (This was especially nice for us considering that our ship offered next to no live music whatsoever.) We were disappointed that there was very little shopping at the pier. The only gift shop was at the top of the hill, and it didn't have a whole lot of offer.