We were very concerned prior to this trip about the bad reviews this Ship had been given since it left the USA, and we had a certain trepidation on what we were going to face. However this was totally unfounded, with the Ship overdue its revitalization we were amazed at how clean it was, with only certain areas showing wear and tear.
Embarkation was first class at Southampton, and we were on board and "eating" within 15-20 minutes from parking my car. Very smooth.
We were welcomed on board from a smiling staff, and we had the benefit of being in a suite, which gave you willy wonkas golden ticket in regards to show seats and sunbeds. To be honest because the ship was full there was a shortage of sunbeds, which on the Freedom Class is covered by the fact there is an extra 100ft in the middle of the Ship. A lot of people did complain about this, and they put extra sunbeds in every conceivable location which did alleviate a lot of the issues, however "Spanish Sunbed Alarm Clocks" were set for 8am and a lot of abuse went on even though the towels were supposed to be removed after 30 minutes if the beds were empty however they never were removed.
Even though we had our 5 children with us we never bring them in to the Concierge Lounge after 5pm as it is very small, and this was a major complaint for most Suite guests as too many children occupied seats and spoilt this room for everyone. We used the Diamond Lounge instead which was very good with the DL ambassador far superior than the concierge. In fact I would say it was the poorest Concierge we have ever dealt with, and this was the only negative point we personally come across in the whole cruise.
Our room attendant Nancy was extremely friendly and reliable, and everything was kept shipshape for the whole cruise by her and we awarded her one of our "WoW" prizes. The other "WoW" prizes went to the whole of our Dining Room staff (Ritish - Waiter, Eugenio-Asst Waiter and Farrell Adams- Bar Waiter) who were simply outstanding and always willing to go that extra mile. In fact they have been the best staff we have ever had on any previous RCCL trip.
Due to the amount of Children aboard the facilities just could not cope with the sheer numbers in to the tiny club rooms, and this meant teens were dotted all over the ship in little groups which was a bit unfortunate for them and should be addressed if this Ship is to cater for that amount of children in the future.
The Headliner shows were all very good, and there was plenty of them but felt the ice show lacked behind many previous ones we have seen. This is not to say the ice show was bad because it wasn't , its just that we have seen better on the Independence and Liberty previously and it is extremely difficult skating at that quality on such a small amount of ice.
The Windjammer quality was very good, and it did get very difficult to obtain a table when on sea days, but the staff did work hard in finding you a table in other areas which was very much appreciated. The outside food on the pool deck (especially the Ribs) was fantastic, and this helped alleviate the strain. As a family we tended to eat breakfast in the Dining room and again the staff were just fantastic.
We were very impressed with the calibre of staff and all wanted to help. I did have a good laugh with the Bar Manager who was always on deck 5 smiling and willing to help anyone, great bloke. Bar prices are high, lets be honest, however we are on a ship, and you will pay prices very similar to London. I would have liked to see actual beer promotions as well as Cocktail promotions as this would increase patronage in quieter areas and increase beer sales which in turn would make cruisers happier :)
Overall we really enjoyed the cruise, but remember a cruise is what you make of it, and RCCL supplied all of the tools to give you a fantastic holiday, which we had, and it was fantastic to link up with some first time cruisers who found their sea legs who also really enjoyed it.
Roll on next year .... I want more....