My mom (54) and I (24) decided to treat ourselves and went on a cruise together! This was my second time cruising on Royal Caribbean. My first, was when I was 11 on Voyager of the Seas during its maiden year. Also, I am gluten free and left a specia; review below in dining.
Got to Orlando around 11:15AM I think. We had arranged a transfer from the airport to the ship through Royal Caribbean. You had to wait a little while for a bus and then it was about 45mins to the port. We are gold members so it didn't take us long at all to get onto the ship. We were on the ship a little before 1:00PM and our stateroom was already ready :)
The first day was a little crazy... there was a huge storm so you couldn't be outside on the decks. It made things feel cramped and overwhelming that first day. Also, our dining room and table number weren't printed on our see pass cards so we had to go wait in a line at the dining room and ask.
We had an inside cabin on deck 9. It felt a little cramped, but wasn't too bad if we remembered to clean up a little every day. Sometimes our stateroom attendent, Mark, would clean up for us... I guess we were a little too messy for him! Mark was awesome! My mom asked for hangers with clips and that night received about 8, which was more than she needed! I needed to get a white dress washed and bleached after it turned grey from the dry cleaners right before the cruise. It was picked up the first night and I had it back before 3:00 the next day. I found the entire ship to be a little too cold and suggest having layers for when you're inside.
Even though I'm horrible at them, I love trivia and "what's that tune"? I wish they had a few more activities going on around 4:00-7:00. Many times the afternoon felt a little slow and we didn't know what to do (we had the 8:00 dinner seating). We liked to use the pool in the morning and hang out in the afternoon. Many times during the "slow" period we got a snack and explored some of the ship a bit.
We didn't go to too many of the late night activities, but we did go to Quest and Battle of the Sexes. Both were very entertaining and I participated a little in both! Richard, the Cruise Director is super funny and so is the Activities Manager, Jamie. Seeing them dress up as the Village People (with some other crew members) for the 70's dance party in the Promenade was hilarious!
We went ice skating once which was a lot of fun. Make sure to have long pants! One afternoon we played Chinese Checkers in the game room next to Olive or Twist. The Solarium could get really crowded! By 8:30AM all of the chairs in the shade would be gone. I also highly recommend a class at the Cupcake Cupboard! They were able to make me gluten free cupcakes and we decorated them to look like birds!
I loved our waiters Roberto and Trevor! We ended up sittin gon Deck 3 right next to the Captains table! He actually dined there on the second formal night. We were in the second seating at 8:00. We usually do the second seating in hope that there will be less kids around. I gave dining a 3 purely b/c the gluten free aspects.
A note on gluten free food:
Arasu (sp?) in the Windjammer was super helpful the first day with pointing out gluten free foods. On other days though if he wasn't there it was difficult. I went to try and get a snack on the last day of the cruise and had to wait 5-8 mins while someone tried to find the head chef. He finally came back and said sorry we don't have many gluten free foods right now, but I can get you a burger. I was super upset! They had a whole buffet and nothing was gluten free!? RCI supposedly had a total menu revamp to support special diets yet, when they have nachos for a snack in the Windjammer they don't use corn tortilla chips! I was really disappointed that day.
In the main dining room our waiter, Trevor, had me pick out my meal the day before. I don't really understand why they do this because you don't actually even get what the meal comes with. Every single night almost I had carrots and brocoli with what I ordered instead of the sides printed on the menu. Eventually I asked for no more carrots and brocoli because I was sick of it. Also, I could only have baked potatoes, because their mashed aren't gluten free :(. The meat or fish I had was always good. They do have really good gluten free bread!
We went to the main dining room every day for breakfast. I warn you to stay away from the GF pancakes; they were pretty horrible. RCI, if you read this, tell the kitchen to get gluten free bisquick. The pancakes I make with bisquick are way better. Since the bread was good the french toast was pretty yummy. The sausage is not gluten free so I had a lot of bacon.
Also, there was a dessert every night that we joked looked like a caterpillar. These desserts were always hit or miss but erred on the side of miss. By the end of the cruise we joked that we should ask before hand if it was a "caterpillar dessert." We also didn't like the beverage plans. I signed up for the adult soda one just because it seemed like it was going to be a pain the butt to go to the bar every time I wanted a soda or lemonade, but I think it would have been cheaper to just pay by individual drinks. The alcoholic drinks were crazy strong! Can't complain that they're stingy with alcohol :).
The ice show was amazing! It definitely is a must see. I really liked the two broadway like productions, Marquee and Once Upon a Time. The first show and last show were fun too. Both comedians were hilarious and there was a couple who did a great routine with silks. We didn't go to the magic show because neither of us are really into magic, but the other guest entertainer was good.
I gave service a 3 because of the long lines at guest relations. One of my only complaints about this cruise besides some of the food is the sea pass cards are way too sensitive! Mine stopped working four times because it demagnetized so I couldn't get into my room. Every time you had to go wait in the crazy guest relations line. The first time I waited an hour and it took 2 mins to fix. The second time I went first thing in the morning and only had to wait 10 mins. The third time was about 25 mins and half the people in the line were there for the same reason! The 3rd and 4th time it happened it was in a bag that didn't have any credit cards, cell phones, or cameras in it so I have not clue what happened. My mom's card was in with it too, but hers only stopped working once.
Also, it was annoying that the crew never told people in the Solarium their kids couldn't be there. Half the time it was impossible even to find a crew member. On more than one occasion my mom and I had to be the bad guys. I was talking to one person who said they told a group of kids they weren't old enough to be in the Solarium hot tub and the kid got his mom and she allowed it! Where was the crew!? I book cruises with Solariums/adult pools so I don't have to be around screaming children. This is one area where Disney wins over Royal Caribbean for those who like to compare cruise lines.
Also, at the very end of the cuise, the morning of debarkation, in the Windjammer a waiter assaulted us about our table. I say assault because at 7:15 in the morning that is what it felt like. He came up to us full force and was freaking out because our table was apparently slightly blocking a pathway causing a fire hazard. We didn't move the table, it was where it was when we picked it and sat down. We explained this, and he said ok, but then kept going on and said we had to move. We paused, standing there with our food, totally taken aback by his manner and he progressed to say fine, I'll move it for you. Maybe he was really stressed or tired, but he could of just politely explained that the table needed to be moved over a little.
With that said, most of the crew members were very helpful, and like I said out room attendant and waiters were fantastic!
We loved our shore excursions! We did the champagne cat sail and snorkel to St. John when were at St. Thomas. Great snorkeling spot! We saw a Spotted Eagle Stingray which are apparently rare there at this time of year. It was huge!
At St. Maarten we did the sensation tour and beach. It was pretty fun and we had a good 3 hours at Orient beach which was absolutely beautiful! Be prepared to see some topless women.
All in all we had a great cruise! Freedom of the Seas is a beautiful ship and is big, but not too big. I would definitely sail again with Royal caribbean.