The Carnival Freedom Experience....
Boarding at Port Everglades was very fast and no stress or waiting at all. Don't believe anybody here who says otherwise. And the terminal is fully air conditioned. Believe me. We arrived there at 1 PM and we were eating at the Lido
Deck buffet by 1:15. Our Verandah Deck room was ready for us immediately, and all our luggage arrived at our room before 5 PM.
The decor of the ship is fine. Anybody who complains about it being too gaudy or glitzy should have stayed home in their basement apartment watching Judge Judy instead. The bright lights and colors only added to the liveliness of all the surroundings. After 15 minutes aboard, who notices the decor anyway?
The food is very good but the portions appear to be smaller than before. No problem. Just order 2 appetizers and 2 main courses each night. Hint....the best steak on the ship is served at breakfast (on sea days only) with eggs(on sea days only). The lobster tail was excellent, but the shrimps were very shrimpy.The Cappuccinos are not free anymore. There's a $2.95 charge a piece. Hot coffee or tea are good substitutes.
Our waiter brought me Diet Cokes every night for no extra charge. The service was outstanding. Very friendly and prompt.
The Lido Deck buffet seemed smaller with fewer hot varieties than in the past. Also the hours were shortened. So the lines were longer and slower. The pizza section was very limited and not as good as it used to be.
Whatever happened the the Midnight Grand Buffet? But room service is still free, and we used it once and were satisfied.
Some of the nightly entertainment has been recycled and repackaged over the past few years. Every Carnival cruise has the same "Big Easy"and "Faux Beatles" shows. And they all seem to drag up Marcus Anthony from St. Thomas too. How about something new and original, Carnival??
The Filipino rock band, "Music Boardwalk", was very good and entertaining. And the house band, the dancers, and the show singers were excellent. The lounge singers and performers were just mediocre. The amateurs/cruise passengers were more talented.
One thing new I found was the Serenity Deck on decks 10 and 11. It was adults only and quiet, except for the strong wind up front. There were at least 2 hot tubs to hang out in without kids deep sea diving all around.
Another new thing is Cabin Door Decorating. This is big with the teenage girls.
Words of warning to all. DONT GET SICK ON THE SHIP.
My girlfriend and I got infected on a very warm and airless, long delayed flight from NY. We both were carrying the Flu virus when we boarded the ship 48 hours later and got very sick the next day. A simple 5 minute doctor's visit on board including a package of prescription antibiotics cost over $300. NO INSURANCE PLANS ACCEPTED.
And the medication did little to nothing for us. We suffered all week long and wound up purchasing $8 worth of medication at the Fun Shop for $18. after we ran out of the bargain priced stuff we bought in a St. Thomas pharmacy.
Dining options...I would strongly recommend choosing the Chic Dining Room because the Posh is very difficult to find and get to. It is so far away from the Forward cabins that I'm convinced it's in a different Time Zone. By the time we got to it for dinner we were famished and exhausted. And a couple of times we arrived a few minutes after it closed. but when we were able to get to it in time, the service was prompt and attentive.
There's something new called Anytime Dining. We were just the two of us and preferred dining with the same couple and same waiters at each late seating dinner meal. But the option is good for those who need to dine at different times during the week.
Breakfast service at the Posh is EXTREMELY S-L-O-W, but worth the wait.
The Lido buffet is ridiculously crowded, and shoveling the food from a trough into your dish is very unappetizing. I strongly recommend the dining room for a leisurely and appetizing meal. Just leave yourself extra time just to find the Posh.
We took a van from town with 6 or 7 other passengers to Magen's Bay Beach. The 15 minute "guided tour" up and down the mountains runs about $8 each. Admission to the beach is $4 each. Then they get you for a chair and a lounge for $12 total. Shade under a tree, if you can find it, is no charge. The beach is beautiful and very quiet. No annoying vendors allowed. There is a bar and restaurant right there. The changing facilities are OK with showers too.
No problem getting a van or cab to go back to the ship. Either arrange with the driver when you first arrive at the beach or take one of the many ones available at all times.
The next day in Antigua we did pretty much the same thing and grouped up at the taxi stand in town. We chose to get driven to the nearest beach, which is Dickinson. The fare was $3 per person for the 10 minute van ride through town to the beach.
This beach is "free" but some Rastafarian hustler greets you there and takes $20 from you to find you 2 lounges and a spot with an umbrella. He has no ID, no receipts, and no credibility. He gives a phony name and tells you the lounges and umbrella are all yours for the entire day. He takes the money and does a disappearing act. I doubted that he was legitt, but nobody bothered us the rest of the day, except for all the beach vendors selling everything from aloe vera plants to hats, shirts, and massages. Its Montego Bay, Jamaica revisited.
The brochures tell of changing facilities and showers. They've gotta be kidding! They were dirty, dark, cramped, and disgusting. You take your chances. Our driver was waiting for us in the parking lot, so it was another $3 back to town where we walked around and decided theres nothing there we wanted to buy except for Ship but homemade ice from a street vendor.
The next day is a short one in Tortola, which may be the most beautiful of the three. We booked a 4 hour resort visit with lunch through the Ship, but it was canceled the day before due to a lack of sufficient participants. So instead of rushing out early and spending about $89 each, we walked up to the waiting public
tour drivers and hopped on a tram that took us all around Tortola including a one hour Cane Bay Beach visit all for $20 p.p. The beach was "free" except for the chairs and umbrella. A family was leaving their spot just as we arrived and we gladly accepted their invitation to move in there. Just as we put our bags down, a young woman swooped out of nowhere and told us that spot will cost us $13. Apparently chairs and umbrellas are non transferable. She grabbed my $20 bill, offered no receipt, and then took off somewhere. My girlfriend said she got back the change, but I wouldn't swear to that, though.
The beach was fine. lots of small shops and bars at the entrance. Rum drinks and beer bottles were just $3 each. there was no real changing room or showers. even the water spigot to wash your feet was pitiful.
The ride through the mountains of Tortola was treacherous and bumpy, but it was guided by "Yankee" who kept the tram from falling over the steep cliff and kept us informed about the sights were were passing.
We also opted for a van ride to the beach at Paradise Island in Nassau. They piled about 50 of us in a van fit for 12 and took us on a 10 minute drive over the bridge to a "free" beach by the Atlantis. All for $4 p.p. it was tge same stiry at this beach. Just as we stepped foot on the sand we were attacked by swarms of shady characters demanding between $35-$50 for one umbrella and 2 beach chairs.
Also there are young boys roaming the beach demanding that you hand over your bottled water to them so you have to buy more from their older brothers who are selling it 2 for $5. Plenty of vendors selling all kinds of crap on the beach, but the water was warm and beautiful with small waves and a mild undercurrent. No changing facilities offered.
Our weather was picture perfect all week. We proved our friends were wrong when they boasted how they would never take a Caribbean cruise during the summer hurricane season. And we are so glad we chose a balcony room to enjoy the beautiful weather even more, especially for us when we were too sick to stay by the pool or inside our cabin. The fresh air is wonderful. Pay the extra $2-$300 for the balcony room. You won't regret it.
Finally,...embarking back in Port Everglades. It's never been so quick and easy. Very organized and stress free. We were off the ship, picking up our luggage, and through US Customs in about 15 minutes. So our Carnival Freedom trip started well and ended well.
If it weren't for the Flu bug and those annoying beach chair and umbrella hustlers, it would have been a perfect cruise and vacation.