This was our 4th cruise and all have been with RC. We have been on the Oasis, Allure, Indy and this time it was the Freedom. As always we were not disappointed. Our group was 6 people ranging in age from 24 to 55. I will try to break in down into sections to give you all of the details. I will also provide my email at the end of the review if you have any questions I will be more then happy to answer them for you.
Pre Cruise - We decided to drive down from the Philadelphia area on Friday night prior to the ship leaving to save some cash. Took a good amount of time (18.5 hours) but it wasnt all that bad. We decided to stay at the Residence Inn by Marriot right in Cocoa Beach. What a wonderful hotel. Clean, free breakfast, comfy beds and a great staff and about 5 minutes to the port. For $249 we got a 2 bedroom suite with 2 king beds, 2 bathrooms and a pull out bed. Also included in your price was parking for the week which is huge. Along with the parking the hotel gave you 4 round trip shuttle passes to the port. Since we had 6 we had to pay an additional $24 bucks for the other 2 people. So since we had 6 and we wanted to get to the ship early because we had a luggage tag problem (our fault not RC) we called TRAVELYNX (who are awesome btw) and got a private shuttle to the port for no extra charge. This worked out great because it avoided the mass shuttle that everyone else takes which did not leave till noon. We left the hotel around 945 am.
Departure Day- We left the hotel around 945 am got to the port took care of the luggage tags (great porter service) and got in line. Only had to wait in line for about 10-15 minutes before they us in and through security. After that we were brought up stairs to check in. Check in process took about 5 minutes and we took a seat. Not sure about other cruise lines but RC has this process down. We took our seats at 1036 am and we were on the ship at 11 am sharp. Getting to the port early is one of my favorite things. You can get on the ship asap get a drink and we were int the pool by 1130. Would have been in earlier but wanted to book something first so that took a few minutes and I will explain later. Lastly we saw a lot of people carrying on or checking in cases of water and or soda. We didnt think they would be allowed but on they went with it.
Food/Beverage- Where to begin. I can not say enough good things about RC when it comes to food and drink. They offer something for everyone and the quality is tremendous especially for the amount of people on the ship. We ate dinner in the dining room every night and would do it again and again. Our servers Dave and Vilam were awesome. The were attentive and accommodating. The options on the menu vary every night with some food options are there every night so no one will go hungry. The dining room is one of my favorites about cruising. One tip I will suggest is, when you first get on the ship go to the dining room and check out your table. Most of the time it is not what you requested and if you get there early enough you have a good chance of having someone change it for you. We had 6 people and the table they had us at had 6 chairs but was only made for 4 people. The buffet is where we ate breakfast and has your normal options. It gets a little boring towards the end but be creative and you can surprise yourself. We ate lunch in the buffet twice (normal lunch food) and the other day (only while at sea) we ate in the dining room. It is a nice switch up from the buffet and i suggest trying it out. It offers a nice sit down lunch with an awesome fresh make your own salad bar. We did do Johnny Rockets ($) one day which is always nice to do once per trip. For a service charge $4.95 per person you can get anything on the menu (seconds to if you wish). The only thing the will charge you for is soda and milkshakes. Others in our party did room service for breakfast every port day and loved it. Delivered right to you door free of charge but a dollar here and there for a tip goes a long way. Also room service offers some good late day snacks. We did not get the all inclusive alcohol package as we are not huge drinkers. I mean we all enjoyed cocktails but we do not have to do it to have a good time. I think the cost was like $50 dollars a day. The problem is that both people in your cabin need to purchase it. I have a trick to saving some money so email me and i will give you the details. The Promenade Cafe is open 24/7 and offers free coffee, small sandwiches, cookies etc. Another great option there is Sorrentos. It offers pizza and some other food items like salads and cookies which is also free. They are usually open from 11 am to 3 am which is great for a late night snack. We also did not do the soda package.
State Room - We were on deck 7 room 7698. It is the last balcony port side of the ship. The room behind us had a balcony but we were surprised to see that it was just an ocean view. As for the room it is great. The A/C was pumping which made it nice and cool. There is plenty of storage space for all of your things and clothes. The bathroom and the shower are a little tight but its not the end of the world. Im a big guy and I manage. Another problem with the state rooms is the fact that there is only 1 outlet. So make sure you bring a power strip and an extension cord. Trust me on this one. And do not worry about the beds. THey are so comfy that you will sleep like a baby.
Labadee - This was our first stop and it is RC private island. It offers a nice and relaxing beach day with a ship provided buffet and so many other activities like wave runners, zip lining, kayaks, in ocean water park etc. We decided to get a cabana (again 3rd time) and it is a fan favorite. The trick is to get onto the ship early and get in line right away at the excursions desk to reserve it. I know it sounds expensive but if you have a big group or family it is worth it. Along with the cabana you get, chairs on the beach, cold bottled Evian water bottles, float mats, access to the suite only beach and the upgraded buffet with steak and shrimp and a private attendant that will get you whatever you need. Inside the cabana you have a "u" shaped couch, fan, two loungers and a nice private place for you and your family/group.
Falmouth - We are not really impressed with this port or Jamaica for that matter so we decided to stay on the ship. We did venture into the gated/guarded port that RC built and it is a total waste of time. Shops are expensive and it is just a strange set up. Im really surprised that RC doesnt do more but whatever. So I suggest staying on the ship and you get free run of the place. The pools are basically empty, they played outdoor movie by the pool, great window seats at the windjammer and peace and quiet.
Grand Cayman - This is probably our favorite place we have ever been to on a cruise. It is so nice that it rivals Maui. This port is the only port on this cruise that you have to tender instead of being docked. THe tender process is fast getting off the ship but getting back this time was a nightmare. So instead of standing in the long line in the heat we sat at the bar and had some cocktails. 4 people in our group did string ray city and a turtle farm. They booked it separate from the ship. I suggest booking all of your excursions on your own prior to departure because the ship over charges you and you can usually get a good discount. They liked stingray city but they said it was PACKED. I think everyone does this excursion. My gf and I like to be a like more low key so we went back to the same place we went to last time and it is called Royal Palms. It is a short cab ride from the port which costs $4 dollars per person. This place is awesome. They use to charge $2 bucks a person to get in but not this time. They also cut their chair price in half from $10 to $5 per chair. So for $5 bucks you get a chair, beautiful clean beach, crystal clear water, an adults only pool, clean bathrooms, shower are and a wonderful staff. They also offer for an additional charge food/drink, kayaks, wave runners, parasailing, snorkeling and float mats. As for the food it is awesome. I was shocked the first time we were there how good it was especially the wood fired pizzas. We are sort of pizza snobs being from the northest and let me tell you they are legit.
Cozumel - We have been here before and this time we decided to go big. We did a dolphin swim at Chankanaab Natioan Park http://www.dolphindiscovery.com/cozumel/chankanaab-national-park.asp. We booked directly through the website. All the reviews are right in saying they are a bit disorganized but it is not the end of the world. The dolphin swim part was really a lot of fun. Usually not my thing but enjoyed it very much. Just be careful there are different levels of dolphin swim. They have a few places to eat on the property (food was pretty good) and servers everywhere to get you something if you need it. They also had a great deal on 2 for 1 massages. As for the beach there are some pros and cons. First it is not a typical beach. It is more like a sandy area along the water that you need to walk down steps into rocky water. If you have small kids I suggest going to the pool area to let them swim. Now the pro part is that the snorkeling here is top notch. You do not have to go out far at all and you can see tons of fish. You can bring your own gear or rent gear for $15 bucks for the day.
Entertainment - RC always does a great job with offering something for everyone. They have 3D movies in the main theater, movie day and night by the pool, parades, ice shows, comedy shows and everything in between. The activities manager Jamiee (guy) was the best I have ever seen. He did everything and actually was way better then the cruise director. Do not miss Quest (game show) Love and Marriage, and the 70,s dance party on deck 5. The casino is really nice and offers tons of slot machines and a good amount of table games. They also have live poker which is really nice.
Departure - Again a breeze. We did express walk off and had to be off by like 8 am. You have to carry your own luggage but its not a big deal. We were at the Orlando airport (two people flew back) by 930 am and that was with a shuttle back to the hotel to get the car.
Tips/Random Stuff - Bring a waterproof watch and set it to ship time and wear it the whole time. Port times and ship times are usually different so this is important so you dont miss the ship. They changed the tipping procedure. Now they automatically charge your account $12 per person a day. You can opt out by going to the guest services desk. I decided to leave it on the card and give they people who took care of me a little something extra. Make sure you bring cash with you for whatever and make sure you have $1, $5, $10 etc. Another cool thing to bring along is chair clips. The hold your towel onto your chair during windy days by the pool and they can also be used to hang stuff on your balcony chairs to dry and not blow away. As for the pool on sea days get up early for a seat. I have never seen the pool this crowed before and by 930 - 10 am all the good seats were gone. RC does not enforce the 30 minute rule so get up early get some chairs (towel clips) and you will be good. Pools and hot tubs are open 24/7 which is nice. Also another great thing to take advantage of is "your next cruise booking". For a $100 dollar deposit you a reservation number to a future cruise. You do not have to book a cruise because it is an option reservation whenever you decide to book your next one. This is worth it because it never expires and not only does it give you $100 towards your next cruise but it also gives you a $100 dollar on board credit. So basically by putting a $100 down you get $200. Its a no brainer if you are going to cruise again. Sorry if I forgot anything and email me with any questions you may have. firstname.lastname@example.org