We (wife & husband) have nothing to compare as this is first time on a cruise. Arrived Ft Lauderdale and stayed overnight at the Hyatt Place FLL Airport & Cruise at Dania Beach, FL. Hotel is a good pre-cruise hotel. Many guest are pre/post cruise so the hotel is geared for that as well as the other clientele they serve. A shopping mall is just a few blocks away. At the mall you are able to buy the last minute items you may need as well as soda, water and wine. A fair amount of restaurants in the area. Right at the intersection where the hotel is located are four fast food restaurants. Food inside hotel good but expensive
We took a taxi from the hotel. This was a bit more expensive than the hotel shuttle service. If the timing is right for you we recommend the hotel shuttle service to the Cruise Terminal. We arrived at around 140 PM to long lines at pre-security check in and security and then check in. Everyone had received a message not to arrive until 130PM due to Govt Inspection. Although the lines where long we where onboard in our room by 220PM. So it went rather smooth. At check in the customer service people where very informative and friendly . We opted to bring all our luggage onboard (2 airplane carry on size and one slightly larger than carry on size all on wheels) rather than check the bags to the ship. This worked out great for as soon as we left the check in we went immediatley aboard, our room was ready and we had our luggage.
Much has be written about the decor of the Freedom. We liked it. It was funky. It was fun. We thought it added to the whole fun experience that Carvinal is going for. First impression was that this is great. Did not even unpback right away. Went right to the balcony and started enjoying that immediately. Having the balcony was the best experience for us. Our room was great. All the space we needed for us and storage. Very comfortable.
Ship itself was in good condition and clean although some areas are showing signs of wear. We understand that the Freedom is going in for a rehab soon and we would guess that the areas showing some signs of wear will be rectified.
Service was great. Crew friendly and attentive.
Food. Plenty of food. We had any time dining - great choice for us. We ate in the MD only four times. Once for breakfast and three times for dinner. We prefered the buffet for breakfast as it just seemed easier and more comfortable. The lines where short. The three dinner visits to the MD where excellent. Food was good service was great and the choices were enough for us. We went to the Steak House one night. In my opinion - well worth it. Truly a steak house of high caliber. Lunch was either the Deli or the buffet. We did not even attempt the Wok as the lines never seemed to move. Had burgers once - not bad. Did not try the Fish & Chip. Desserts where good but much better in the MD than at the buffet. Enjoyed the 24 hour Ice cream. Got a kick, when at 730AM heading to breakfast, kids where bearing down on the ice cream machine. DId not try the pizza just too much other food.
Shows OK. Beatles show the best of the two and enjoyable. Comedians - outstanding - the adult version.
Serenity, adult section of ship, wonderful. There where 800 children onboard from infant to 17. We really did not know that there where 800 kids onboard until the cruise director stated so. It seemed that the ship absorbed them well.
At times we felt the ship was crowded like a Saturday Afternoon Department store type crowed but not Christmas rush type crowd. We where able to find many spaces onboad that where not crowded. To us room 6251 was always a comfort with the balcony and room service.
Port objecive: To see as much as we can of the ports visited.
Key West - booked the Hop On Hop Off tour on line and saved a few bucks. We where happy with this as we received an overall picture of Key West. We hopped off at the Southern Most Point. Walked back via Whitehead and Duval Streets passing the sites: Hemingway House, Sloppy Joe's and the other bars and shops. Overall enjoyable relaxed take your time kind of day.
Grand Cayman - Pedro St James, Hell and Beach Escape. Purchased this from the ship as it was resonable. OK tour. History at Pedro St james was interesting - beautiful grounds.. Hell - pure tourist trap. Glad we only spent a short time there. Beach (7 Mile) great. Water beautiful. Had a great swim and just enough time for us at the beach.
Jamacia - Dunns River Falls Jeep Safari purchased from ship. A bit on the expensive side, but chose this because this was our first time to Jamacia and wanted the comfort of knowing that we did not have too worry about safety concerns or miss the ship if we broke down or something of that nature. Interesting tour driving up the mountain that rises above Ocho Rios. We drove through some city, country, poor neighbors, middle class neighbors and wealthy areas. Stopped at a small coffee farm. All of this was very interesting. Then we wrapped it up with a visit to Dunns River Falls. Had a blast climbing the Falls. All in all a good tour but have no plans on returning to Jamacia.
Hit the Casino, did some triva, hit a few bars and just enjoyed the ship from stem to stern. Went to a Cruise Critic M&G where we did a swap of home town logo items (shot glasses, pens, cork screws [popular items] , lottery tickets, drink coolers and many other items. Items could be stolen instead of picking, Item could be stolen back. Fun and a lot of laughs. Great to meet the people that where once just screen names on the roll call. The M&G was a lot of fun.
Disembarkation. Took our time getting off as we would have had to wait at the airport anyway. It went pretty smooth as far as we could tell. We put our bags out the night before and picked them up in our section in the building just prior to customs the next morning.
Summation: Fun Fun Fun! We had a blast. It started right away when boarding with the decor that to us just screamed of fun. I do not know how the crew does it all the time but they made us feel special. It seemed that every passenger was there to have fun and only fun - mission accomplished. Thanks to the Ship , Crew and fellow passengers. We will be cruising again.