Finally made our return to Royal Caribbean and brought my son for his first cruise-and definitely not his last, God willing! This was a family vacation for my mother , me and my son. Mom is now a platinum member, I'm still gold and my son just joined the club. I'd like to share some notes for anyone looking to review the RC western Caribbean cruise and, share some tips that I took away from my own cruise.
First, the Freedom of the Seas is an AWESOME ship! The staff was tremendous and extremely friendly and helpful! The ship was spotless and well cared for. The activities were great--music for everyone, evening shows that were Broadway caliber, an ice skating show that was amazing, karaoke, surfing, rock climbing, teen club, arcade, jazz, salsa, contests, casino--you name it, there was something for everyone! If you go, make certain that you attend the evening shows in the Arcadia Theater, because it's like going to a mini Broadway show every night. The lead singer was first rate AMAZING! Catch the ice skating show, too. It is great! We also enjoyed eating in the dining room every night as our wait staff was so attentive and friendly. On this cruise, we did not use the My-Time dining option because it was PACKED every night and tough to get a reservation. We also did not get a chance to try the private restaurants. I figured, "why?" when we enjoyed such good food in the main dining hall, which is beautiful!
Regarding the ports of call: we enjoyed all of them!
The ship days were great-lots to do on the ship or just lay out and relax in the sun and get your tan on! Some things I will do differently next time:
1. Pack my walkie talkies to stay in touch with everyone in our arty when we separate!! No cell phones means no communication so we will definitely be bringing those next time!
2. Pack a shawl or sweater. Duh! I didn't pack one because I though it would be warm in the Caribbean. It was but the ship was nice and cool so I needed something in the evenings for the shows, etc. luckily, mom had some warm stuff!
3. Pack LESS! I packed shorts and tees for each day plus a different comfy dress for dinner plus workout stuff. Please! I didn't work out once! We had to be up so ally four our excursions that I just didn't have time. I wore my bathing suits every day with a suit cover and water shoes! I will only bring a few comfy stretchy dresses next time and rotate them.
4. Don't forget to pack a big Sam's shopping bag or a Marshall's reusable bag to carry your towels/etc from the ship!! Ours came in incredibly handy and folds down into nothing.
We had an excellent trip and smooth sailing on the Freedom and are already planning our next cruise for next year! Hope this helps anyone looking for info on the western Caribbean cruise! Happy sailing!
In Cozumel, we decided to take a cab to Paradise Beach and just hang out at the beach and get massages. Soon, our cab driver had convinced us that Play Mia was THE best beach to go to because we could pay one price and get all you can eat and drink and free use of all the water sports stuff. We went there, spent $60 each and ended up just laying on the beach. We did get massages $45/30 min) and we ate and drank a lot just to get our money's worth (LOL), but it wasn't worth $60/per person in my opinion. The only reason to go there is that it is clean, private and they have a great water park (which we did not use). We just spent our time in the water. My son thought this was the best beach of all the ports, but we didn't go to the beach in the Caymans. Lots of vendors selling more crap here but, if you love silver, that's the place to get it. I thought the silver was priced for tourists and not very cheap.
Lovely ride down the river with a great tour guide nicknamed "Wednesday". Somewhat short but sweet.
In Jamaica, we enjoyed the Dunn's River Falls excursion and river rafting, which we booked via Real Tours Jamaica-Day Tours. I highly recommend Norris Douglas' tours. I booked on line and got a little panicked because I kept asking at the information booth for them. No one really wanted to help in Jamaica at that booth but someone finally suggested that we walk to the end of the terminal and viola! Right there waiting for us was Ian with the tour company with my name in big letters! We had a private bus tour where Ian took great care of us personally escorting us to each of our excursions and taking us for the BEST jerk ever at a place I think was called Saucy's?? Delicious!! We truly enjoyed our private day with Ian! If you like beer and have never had a Red Stripe, it is a MUST have with real Jamaican jerk. TIP--save your money by NOT buying rum or lots of souvenirs in Jamaica!!! The prices are TWICE as expensive as Grand Cayman but they will tell you otherwise!! You can get the same Jamaican rums in Cayman for more than HALF PRICE!!
Next came the Cayman Islands which was beautiful and we loved!! The only problem is that the ship stays for SO LITTLE time here! We took another private tour via Stingray Sailing to snorkel and feed the stingrays. They have a nice catamaran that only takes up to 25 people at a time so it was intimate and felt like being amongst friends! Our guides were great and knew exactly where to go and what they were doing. We were in very good hands here and enjoyed touching and holding the stingrays (many of which have their stingers cut off by the local authorities)! Afterward the stingrays, we snorkels for a bit and then headed back to shore. At the pier,, we shopped at the Rum Shop and that's where I discovered that the liquor was CHEAP!!! Less than half the price than in Jamaica! Buy here and they will box and ship everything for you and send it to the ship so you don't have to carry it around and can enjoy shopping near the pier. Before we knew it, our time was up here!!
I was a bit skeptical about the Haiti stop, which was a beach day. However, it turned out to be one of the loveliest beaches on our itinerary. We just enjoyed the beautiful beach and the perfect weather, albeit hot! The vendors were extremely pushy and worked VERY hard to push their goods, which was all local crap--wood carvings, hats, etc. nothing really worth buying in Haiti.