This was our 4th trip on the Freedom, as it is my favorite ship in the RCI line. We have been on the Allure and plan one on the Oasis in October. This was a "last minute" cruise and we didn't get the balcony or inside over the promenade as we did in previous cruises. We upped our Crown and Anchor to Emerald status on this trip so I am anxious to see what the difference is on our Oasis.
I will try and get the good, bad and the ugly here and as honest as I can.
1) Port Canaveral is always a cluster of people all trying to get on asap. I found that if you try to embark early, you will fry on the sidewalk. This time we arrived a little after noon and it wasn't nearly so bad. The Windjammer is jammered on the first day. If people would eat and leave, it would be wonderful but many, many families take up room and just sit for an hour waiting for clearance to their rooms. Food the first day isn't exactly great anyway.
After the first day....
We usually do breakfast and lunch in the dining room, which although little variety is at least hot and served to your table. Try the eggs benedict or French toast for breakfast and skip the buffet there. The lunch salads are really good.
2) The dinners on Freedom are the best in RCI bar none. Always tasty and I like new menu which has a list of "favorites" if you don't like the menu on the day. You can always get salmon or a steak. Portions are small but there are so many different courses. Get a salad, and appetizer, main course and dessert and so will have more than enough.
3) The cruise director on this ship was Luke, we really, really miss Graham who was our cruise director on previous sailings. Grahams' Rock Brittania was superior to the Dancing in the Street on this cruise. Bring back Graham!
4) Our room was really small and 2 adult crowded it. Many on our floor had 4 or more in the room and I truly don't know how they did it. If you are on floor 3 you cannot get from your room to anywhere without going up to 4 and thru the stinky casino. We took an elevator to 5 across the Promenade to our dining room on 3 every meal. PITA. Same for shows etc.
5) We only took one excursion, $190 for the two of us to sail on a 65'sloop called the Capt. Morgan. This was to include a BBQ on board and snorkeling.
They took us a short ride under motor power to a place where you could get off and snorkel. The snorkel gear didn't look clean to me so we passed on it but did get in the water to cool off since it was incredibly warm and the boat had little shade. After an hour, while they were cooking ribs on a charcoal grill, we got back on board for what was supposed to be a sail. They put up a sail on the front, but the ship was under power the entire trip, never under sail as advertised. Our lunch consisted on 2 very small ribs, cold saffron rice and a mustardy salad. The ribs were good but very, very small. Rum punch and water was served. I didn't see anything else offered. We motored to the airport and sat for a half hour watching planes come in over the water. $190 for this???? Never, ever again. This is the reason why we rarely, if ever, do an excursion offered. The only one I enjoy is the 12mm Yacht Race here. Same price but more exciting by far.
6) I take exception to all the reviews which claimed the staff wasn't friendly. I never had a crew member in any capacity pass by without saying "Good Morning" or "Good Afternoon". The concierge staff and officers always stopped to ask if everything was going well. And the ship was very clean. There are some aging problems with the ship. Our shower door had a large crack in it and a little mildew showing. Our room steward Drusy nearly always had our room cleaned while we were at breakfast.
7) My time dining - this is the first time we did this. You have to prepay your gratuities which was different but understandable. We had a standing 7:30 reservation which was the only late time available. We could be finished eating in time for the shows but could never get a seat. Service was always wonderful.
8) We did the drink package for the first time. I like it for mixed drinks BUT you can only get house wines which you did not get a choice on. The mixed drinks used premium liquors which was good. Also, careful to not get the drink of the day as you will be charged for the souvenir glass (about $5.00) whether you want it or not. The drink package ran about $700. The first couple of days we found it worth it but by the last days the novelty wore off.
9) There were 2 Crown and Anchor parties on the cruise. The first one showed a movie about the Quantum of the Seas and although Free Drinks were served (drink package for us so no biggie) it was boring as hell. The second for "Top Tier" members was so much better. Orchestra, entertainment, dancing, Appetizers and drinks. Crowded but better than the movie. One guy had 972 cruise nights. Really? I know people in the Navy that haven't spent that much time on the sea. From now on we will skip the first event.
10) RCI like others are looking to make money everywhere they can. They push their shopping on board to great lengths. It gets tiresome. And really, I wonder how many people come on board a cruise ship to spend $35K on a diamond ring. I bought a $6.00 glass sting ray and watched a bunch of people shove and scrape for a $10 bracelet.
11) Here's the ugly for us....I hate the Dream Works thing. I am so over it. It's the same thing on literally every cruise ship RCI has. I am 64 years old and I know the names of every dream works character. Maybe the kids like it, those under the age of 5 anyway. That said, the 3D movies in the main theater was as good as any I've seen on land. I saw Turbo one sea day. Cute. They also had Iron Man 3 in 3D.
12) So many of the shows were overcrowded. Couldn't get tickets to the ice shows, sold out. Most of the nights we couldn't find seats in the theater so skipped every one but the final night. Don't miss "The Quest" it's always a fun night but to participate (if you choose) you need to be in the first couple of rows or on the aisle. NOT FOR CHILDREN! I cannot emphasize this enough. People remove clothing.....seriously.
Well, that's the good, the bad, and the ugly. Bottom line, I like the Freedom but look forward to once again sailing on an even bigger ship.