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....
Posh and elegant and NOT too expensive, you can walk from the ship along the Harbor and see all the tremendous yachts !! Jackie Onassis yacht was in, and her grand daughter or great grand daughter was eating on the rear !!
Cannes is a lovely town and if you want to pay expensive you can on all of the top fashion names. We found pricing to be similar to London and there is a lovely Irish Bar on the front by the pier where we enjoyed a nice beer in the hot sun.
Plenty of walking, and again a really nice port of call.
We would try to arrange a tour next time we are here as i am sure there is a lot more to see than we did (Mostly due to the Irish Bar !!)
I have only given this tour a 3 as it was padded out with a boat tour that really was a waste of time. However as coaches are not allowed in Pisa it offered a very good toy train trip directly to the site, which seems a bit silly at first until you realise how far you would have had to walk if you went on the coach to the tower only (20 min walk from coach) This saved a tremendous amount of time as the train took you straight to the tower (literally !!) The guide was really good and informative however the subsequent boat trip down a swampy river with homeless people living on each bank did not make for pleasant viewing and really should be omitted.
The boat then arrived back at the nature reserve for your coach journey back to the Ship.
The tower is a must to see if you are stopping in Livorno.
This port we did not like as it was raining and weather was poor. Plenty of shopping however expensive and offered nothing to see other than a very nice Church with a fantastic ceiling in the main town.
I would book a tour next time at this stop.
A Fantastic port that we both really enjoyed, we booked an independent tour which was really interesting. Great views from the top of the Rock, and we explored St Micheal's Cave which can house an orchestra, and wondered outside with the Barbary apes, which again was very good and NOT frightening as many people lead you to believe. As long as your not eating food they just leave you alone.
Great Siege Tunnels were good and at each point inside the tunnels there is voice update about each part of the cave, but beware you can walk quite far inside the tunnels and the return trip is walking uphill. Very interesting to see the runway cutting straight through Gibraltar and they have to close the main road !! for a plane to land !!
Shopping is very good and Duty Free !! and is the cheapest in the Med, so if you have any purchasing for Tobacco or Alcohol this is the place to buy it.
Distances are all short from the port so it is very easy to walk about from the ship BUT going up the rock is better on a tour due to the inclines. Please bear in mind that if you get the cable car up you then walk back down unless your going to pay again and it is very steep in parts.
Overall it was just our favourite port of call throughout the trip, and nudged ahead of Rome.
Expensive shuttle bus ($15 per person) which includes a second stop at a castle which may appeal to a lot of people , however not my cup of tea and it would be cheaper if 4 of you get a taxi each way (15 euros each way for 4)
Lisbon has fallen on hard times, and it is quite apparent in the main shopping areas since the last time we visited with a lot of boarded up shops. If you however you walk away from the main shopping (Now tat area) in the opposite direction you hit the better shopping which includes all the main names at really good pricing. We did not find this out until it was too late, and only went in about three of the shops which was much cheaper than the UK and most had sales in progress.
A very nice city with some good landmarks but found the increased begging hard to take as most had limb deformities which really pulled at my heart strings.
Will also take a tour at this stop in the future.
We just LOVE Rome !! Fantastic port of call and the only problem is the distance from the port (1.5hrs each way) so if you are booking your own tour please BEWARE of the time it takes to get back to ship. We took the private train to Rome but we had already booked our Vatican Tickets online (Direct with Vatican...Beware of imposters) and this was literally a godsend !! as the queues were nearly half a mile long and we just walked in at our allotted time !! so please do this before you go !! Sistine Chapel and all of the rooms were amazing and well worth the visit. Vatican square is were you enter the Vatican Church (which is free to enter) but the queues were even bigger for this and in this heat would have been unbearable.
Once we completed the Vatican (3hrs) we headed off towards the Trevi Fountain but in this heat we gave up after 30 minutes walking and plonked ourselves in a fantastic pizza restaurant which hand made the pizzas (They were the best I have ever eaten) and a few Becks biers swilled them down ... what a day ... Tired , exhausted and euphoric.