Previously, my family has sailed on Carnival Miracle in 2006, Carnival Freedom in 2010, and Disney Dream in 2012. We had balconies on both Carnival cruises and an interior room with a virtual porthole on Disney.
My family and I were really looking forward to sailing on Freedom of the Seas for our first RCI cruise. It was my daughter's high school graduation gift so I booked two interior adjoining rooms. My daughter and her best friend were in one room and my wife, my 22-year old son and I were in the other room.
Because I was paying for two cabins initially I was going to book the Carnival Dream but many of my cruising friends said I really should try RCI. Although it cost more they said it was a big step up from Carnival. However, my parents, who have been on 38 cruises cautioned me about taking a cruise on a ship that was more than five years old. They said in their experience the entertainment, food, and general ship appearance degrade after five years. The previous ships I have sailed on were all less than five years old and I had a great cruise experience on all of them. I read most of the reviews on Cruise Critic for the past year and decided Freedom the Seas was still a safe bet. Based on the reviews I had reasonably high expectations for our cruise.
We arrived at Port Canaveral just before noon where we waited in line for 30 minutes to process through security. It was hot and uncomfortable in this part of the terminal making this my least favorite embarkation so far. Once we got on the ship we tried to find a seat in the Windjammer to eat. It took a while because it was so cramped and crowded with the tables on top of each other. It was almost impossible to navigate around the dining room. The food was mediocre at best. Next we tried to get to our room, but the elevator wait times delayed that process, which was an ongoing problem throughout the cruise. When we finally got to our rooms I was surprised to find out when you get two connecting rooms the couches do not exist so that the door can open. The cabins were very plain, small, and showed their age. There were tears in wall border material, a damaged TV screen, and other worn out items in the room. Needless to say I was surprised at the condition and cramped size of the room. All my previous cruise rooms were far better decorated and bigger for the same class of room. I checked out the balcony rooms too and that same assessment applies.
As we walked throughout the ship during the entire cruise, my family and I noticed the staff other than our cabin steward and dining waiters were not that friendly. Normally on a cruise I am used to every crew member at least greeting you when they come across you on the ship. All five of us felt like the crew went out of their way not to engage.
Now for the good! The overall appearance of the ship other than our cabin was nice and the promenade (Deck 5) was impressive. The 24-hour pizzeria had some of the best pizza I have ever had. We all enjoyed the banana bread and the cookies at the 24-hour bakery.
We went to every show and enjoyed all the entertainment on the ship. Richard Spacey, the cruise director, was absolutely the best cruise director we have ever seen. We enjoyed the rock climbing, flow rider, pools, and hot tubs. However, for some strange reason the hot tubs were closed a lot.
Now for the bad! The food selection and quality in the Windjammer buffet was terrible. They had almost the same limited selection daily and quite frankly I have had better food and selection at a Golden Corral. They only offered a handful of entrees, very few vegetable selections other than salad, and the variety was just pitiful. Also, only a handful of desserts were available and they just did not taste very good. My whole family and guest agreed this was the biggest surprise and disappointment of the cruise. I did not expect the food to be this poor.
Although the food in the dining room was better, it still did not meet the standard of all the previous cruise food I have enjoyed. I ate every meal in the dining room that was available and I usually ordered at least two different appetizers, three entrees, and three desserts. I am a foodie and I like to try a little bit of everything. Of the 24 entrees I tried over the cruise three were terrible, three were outstanding, and the rest were just ok. Most of the vegetables were served extremely undercooked.
Just one example was the chicken cordon bleu. The chicken was almost burned and there was no cheese in the dish. Our waiter was surprised when he examined two of the orders we were given.
Time for the ugly! Some of the crew were just down right rude. The security people must just hate their jobs, because we all had a bad experience with them on the ship.
Overall we enjoyed the cruise, but the food in the windjammer was a very big disappointment. I also thought the food in the dining room was not up to the level it should have been. So far our best cruise was with Disney and my next cruise will be with Disney. They are the benchmark in every area that was an issue on Freedom. It was not worth the extra money I paid to sail on RCL. I would rather pay less and go with Carnival on one of their newer ships.
We took a cab downtown to shop. The shopping was good and Mexican beer was only $1.50 a bottle.
There were lots of shops inside the cruise port complex. However once you left the gated area you were pretty much attacked by vendors. Therefore we decided not to walk outside the gate.
Lots of shopping is available with easy walking access. We found a very nice church where we admired the architecture and we met one of the caretakers who gave us a lot of history about the church and the island. She was from Ireland and told us all about the large Irish presence in Grand Cayman.
The aqua waterpark was a lot of fun but a pretty hefty workout to get up on some of the floats. Shopping was ok but the vendors were extremely aggressive.