This is quite long--so be ready if you have the time. First, I had to travel from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami as I had disembarked the Jewel of the Seas after cruising back-to-back from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale. I might add that this was the third time I have done that repositioning cruise and once again Jewel rated a perfect "10" all the way around. My travel from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami was done with the assistance of Larry's Limo, which I highly recommend--especially Harvey as the driver who was professional, friendly and made the trip fun for me.
I was then to meet my family and friends at the Embassy Suites Miami for a 3-night pre-cruise get together. I might add that my son was getting married through Royal Caribbean's Royal Romance program, on the beach in Crandon Park, Biscayne Bay the morning of the cruise.
The wedding itself was beautiful as the weather was picture perfect and the beach was incredible. Royal Caribbean, however, slipped up on some things, which totally surprised all of as as we expected everything to be handled professionally and it was not. The bride's limo did not know where to go and got lost. The music that was supposed to be provided was nonexistent and further details would be available from my son, who was extremely disappointed.
Also, cake and champagne were paid extra for the entire group and there was not enough cake to go around.
Before I continue I would like to add that the Embassy Suites, Miami, was a great place to stay. Most of my group of approximately 50 people had rooms on the 6th floor. Everyone agreed that the rooms were clean, comfortable, very large and accommodating. We also had a wonderful 3 days in Miami before the cruise at South Beach and enjoying many pre-wedding festivities. Looking back, this was probably the best part of the entire trip.
Embarking Freedom was a breeze as we were a wedding party and all had priority to embark the ship as a group.
My first impression of Freedom was, of course, that she is a gorgeous cruise ship. The staterooms are absolutely beautiful with the most comfortable bedding ever. The balconies are more private than most and the partitions can be removed if traveling with friends/family, to allow accessibility to another's balcony. That was a nice feature that is not available on other ships, that I know of.
There was one other plus on this cruise and that is the Cruise Director, Ken Rush. He was probably one of the best I have ever had on all my cruises. By the way, Freedom made me a Diamond Plus member with Royal Caribbean.
Unfortunately, that is all the good I can say about this cruise and Freedom of the Seas. In fact, if this were my first cruise, I probably would not ever go back to the line. Sadly, this was the first cruise for many in my group of 50 or so.
The first night in the dining room was extremely disappointing to me. First, our wedding group was split up with tables of foreigners in between our tables. Nothing against foreigners, but you would think that Royal Caribbean would have the entire wedding group into one section. Being split up did not make for fun dining. And remember this was a wedding group. Second the Head Table with the bride, broom, matron of honor, her husband and me, also had a friend of the groom's and his girlfriend--the friend I have not seen in 25 years and the girlfriend never. Why not the bride's two children. Why not other "family" members. The groom has a brother and sister. Where were they??????
The table waiter provided spotty service to say the least. She admitted that she had been promoted to waiter in one year instead of two. She was slow, forgot orders, and non-personal. There were no fun "tricks" to be seen. Bread was served only once unless you requested more. The head waiter showed up only one time, not even on the last night. If I had not purchased the vouchers, he would have had nothing from me.
The food was barely average. Quality has gone down tremendously on Freedom. In my opinion, they should offer smaller servings of higher quality. On a small serving, one could always request additional if desired. I found that I was barely eating a half of each serving. Appetizers were often forgotten. And coffee was offered at the end of the meal only once during the 7 nights.
Sadly, my expectations were for exceptional guest entertainers for the Inaugural Season. The comedians were blah-blah-blah. The magician was boring. The Nelson brothers were the "names"--and also very disappointing.
Of all my cruises, I have never seen so many dirty dishes around the cruise ship with half eaten food. I don't mean in the hallways outside staterooms. I mean, in stairwells, near elevators, even on elevators, on ledges, in the library. I mean every day--all around. Not cleaned up at all.
The crew around the ship seemed depressed and unhappy. There was no "good morning--maam" and "my pleasure" from crew at all. My stateroom attendant was very good, however, he worked until 2 or 3 every afternoon. Perhaps they are required to do too much with not enough help.
Not the mention the Norovirus. The news going around is that 380-400 guests were sick. HA!!! My group alone (including myself) had at least 25 of us sick and now that we are home, more are coming down with the virus. That ship had thousands sick!! Maybe it is because they don't clean like they like you to think.
There was no food served at Labadee, the last two days of the cruise Johnny Rockets was closed. The Diamond Club lounge did not serve h'doerves the last few days. Some crew was walking around with masks and gloves. You could not serve your own food in the Windjammer. I have never seen anything like it.
Activities were sparse. No horse racing, no guest talent show, very little karaoke, no Captain's corner. Of course lots of art auction and bingo.
Unfortunately, I have another Royal Caribbean back-to-back cruise booked for January, and final payment has been made. If not for that, I would definitely cancel.
In the past, Royal Caribbean was my cruise line. In the future I will look in other directions. I am thoroughly disappointed in Freedom and the line. If I do cruise with them again, it would definitely not be the Freedom class.
Good luck to all if you have this ship booked and happy cruising.