Let me pre-address this by saying I have been on 8 cruises now and this was my 2nd (and prob last) with carnival, I have been mainly on RCCL on both their older and newer ships. This cruise was a very very mixed bag when it came to what "fun" and "satisfied" is by carnival standards. I am a 28 year old male traveling with 2 other 20 year old males to get away for a vacation, we are all FL natives. We had a few issues which you will see in my review.
Embarkation day went extremely well with one caveat that was my own fault. I had booked a offsite parking for $5.99 a day with premier parking usa's port everglades lot, and when we arrived we waited for 15 minutes in line to have someone in a "Premier parking" T shirt approach us and say that the they were shut down by the police and to call customer service and get out money back and park at the port. So we ended up driving into port everglades and parking at the garage right up against the terminal where freedom was. We arrived at about 1Pm and we waited all of 5 minutes in any line, we were on board in under 20 minutes and every one was warm and kind. Once we got on we went to the buffet which was pretty decent, we grabbed burgers and the like and it was pretty good, they had a very big selection of "burger joint" sides, like nachos and cheese, and chili, and sour cream and hot dogs and fries that where crisp and fresh, as where the burgers. We ate and then went to see our cabin and settle in that. Our cabin was room 1002 it is an interior category handicapped 4 person sleeper room, however it is on deck 10 with a front facing window with a view of the bow and the open deck just outside (we called it our personal huge balcony as its not frequented by many people) that wrapped around the ship above the bridge. This room was 240Sqft easily and it was great to have plenty of room to spread out, I did a full review of the room in “Cabin reviews” its deck 10 room 1002.
Carnival freedom was the last of the conquest class quintet and clearly they ran out of truly tied in themes for this ship. The Freedom if you have been on another conquest ship is just the same boat with a different theme and I’m still puzzled to what “Freedom” is as a theme based on this boat. Also it should be noted this ship like all 8 Conquest and Destiny class ships suffers from a chopped up 3rd deck which you cannot egress from bow to stern on, and even on deck 4 you have to go through one of the dining rooms, so you mainly have to use deck 5 to travel in the lower ship and deck 9 to travel on top of the ship as deck 10 gets chopped up by the tiered seating and requires a lot of weaving (especially on sea days) around deck chairs and railings to navigate.
Now back to the freedoms theme or lack thereof. I only have one other carnival ship to compare and that is Valor and I must say its theme was extremely cohesive and made sense and hence I’ll be using it for comparison. First was the main lobby aka atrium which greets you when you walk in, its has light purple glassed elevators and everything else is bathed in a dark corral or orange hue of metal tile or sile stone and copper was in play for shiny bits in place of the regular chrome or brass/ gold color employed for railings and accents. Oddly the ceilings (which all have color changing ceilings) had the full rainbow spanning through it, instead of keeping in theme with the rest of the atrium. It felt more like Spain or Babylon then freedom, dark orange is the color of fire and heat, not what generally you want to convey for freedom. I have no idea how this was “freedom” Valor was beautiful deep blue glass elevators with red white and blue theming through the whole thing, with an oscillating colored roof of red white and blue with bright gold railings and eagles placed throughout the atrium, very Americana as they where supposed to be, after all they were names for after the sept 11 attacks.
The same thing applied to the elevator lobbies, the lobbies where all just pink and or coral mixed with blush dark reds with what looked like Atari logos on the doors and inside there was what looked like Mexican pottery art in blue and yellow on a white back ground and again the elevators ceiling lights oscillated rainbows instead of matching the either coppers and reds or the white, yellow and blue of everything else. Also all the ceiling had a very weird texture which is why I assume they all tie into the rainbow, it looked like rainbow bacteria, that’s the best way to describe it, it was very weird, but bacteria is everywhere so I guess that’s “free” and tied in.
The other weird design spot on the ship was the dining rooms, chick and posh. What on earth was going on in these rooms!? Weird mixes of purple and raspberry colored snake/alligator and liger skin lined walls adorned by random oval shaped 4ft tall wall lights with what looked like oranges on branches in matte gold on them on a lattice, and weird 80’s to 90’s looking huge 5 tiered round air vents in bone color that where actually lamps not a/c units. It was by far the weirdest room I’ve personally encountered on the ship.
To me, my take away on how this ship was designed was not that it was ugly (it was weird) but it wasn’t cohesive and it felt like whoever did it, didn’t care anymore to carry the “theme” like they did with the other ships. It felt like it was simply turned out as fast as possible to put another boat in the water. I mean even the cabin hallways where evidence, all they did was take some very odd Asian artwork and change the color every floor for it, ours was purple and below us was blue and so on every deck. Not to mention the cigar bar which was no longer a cigar bar was called Habana bar, what is or was ever free about cuba? Known to many to be almost as oppressed as Russia.
Many ships have no theme (usually not carnivals though), and if they don’t they also don’t claim to and just at least have flow and cohesion to their designs, instead of freedom which was a miss mash of color, texture, shape and form in all ways which doesn’t make sense. If this was a Farcus ship, I am certainly glad he’s no more and that the Dream class won’t be done this badly. If I ever go on a carnival cruise I will surely be steering clear of this ship again only because it was so odd.
I will say for all the weird design choices the ship was in very good shape being it’s never (that I know of) visited dry dock. The serenity area was pleasant and I always found a deck chair our ship was down about 1000 people so less people made it a lot easier I’m sure. Everything was clean and nothing looked overly worn besides the blue and yellow deck chair towels (balled up pulls of string and unraveling corners) the public areas of the ship all looked and felt well maintained and nothing was in disrepair or dirty. It was good to always see people running around cleaning and they had hand sanitizer stations around food areas and encouraged their use. The buffet was also very clean and I never saw empty plates left out.
The buffet could use some help, its ok but nothing I craved ever, pasta dishes sat out to long and the sauces got dried, no one stirred liquid items regularly and they skinned over which doesn’t look delish, and the area needs food stations and not 2 sided lines that meet in the middle making for a mess to finish and take your tray. Also as another note, they really didn’t use their brains with putting food out, they had turkey gravey set out before you got turkey making you have to cut or but or wait again in line to get gravy, this also happened with many other items, and it made it very awkward to get food having to “line cut” backward to get something that you should have available after.
In the dining room, which we were in the rear upper story, the food was good and service excellent, everything was properly prepared and server hot, only issue I saw was a lot of meat dishes (I should say beef) had very very high fat, or was way fattier then meats ever served on land or found in a grocery market, they to me need to step that up. Also the steak tasted more like chuck roast then steak. I liked all my meals and the deserts and apps where spot on, they should give up on 1 scoop of ice cream in ramekins, looks prettier on the plate next to what you get in my opinion. The dining room had food the buffet didn’t, and it also was better food for sure, we made sure to go to sea day brunch since we discovered that, we also could only get corned beef hash at breakfast in the dining room and not the buffet.
Most of these issues have to stem from the room itself and not necessarily the entire line but with 8 ships sharing 1 of the major issues, it did turn me off to “Conquest and Destiny” class ships again. The issue was the gym treadmills. They are right over rooms 1002 and 1001 and its MISERABLE when people are basically jumping or as they call it jogging on them. All you can hear from 7Am-10Pm is random thumping of people running at 10-20 or 30 minute intervals. It was always very clear thumps and you could hear them any time someone ran on the 3 treadmills above us. Now this wouldn’t be an issue and I dismissed it many times as I was not in the room and when I was simply turning up the TV if I was watching it would help dull it out, however there was more. The bigger and most annoying issue with the treadmills was that employees used them from 10Pm-7Am while the rest of us are trying to sleep. Every night and sometimes 2 times a night I had to call down and complain about it. One time I went down in my trunk underwear in a t-shirt just to convey my irritation as “where getting to you as soon as possible” happy hold voice lady was upsetting me greatly at 2 am being awoke by treadmills my patience was short. I am also not a light sleeper so for this to prevent me from sleeping or wake me up, it was loud. The last 2 nights they finally figured it out and no employees ran above us, however during the day they did nothing to fix it, either unplugging the treadmills or limit their speeds so you couldn’t run on them would have been nice as 8 treadmills where not over rooms and still would have been fine.
The 2nd issue ties into the 3rd one and Ill say that it was the most upsetting of them all. That issue was the temperature. Our room was not cold or cool by any definition. It was warm, like 80s warm maybe 79 if I was being nice, this issue lasted 3 days as “between 72-75 degrees is the standard” which is what I was told from the first floor supervisor who came up with a temp probe. It read 74.9 and it was by no means that temp. I keep my house at 74 at night and 76 during the day and 78 when I’m not there. I know what all 3 of these temps feel like, there 75.9 is our 78. Seeing as they could do nothing they said until it was higher than 75, I sighed and tried to stay in the almost artic temp public rooms and elevator lobbies which easily where in the high 60’s for temp which felt great or even to cold at times.
After having a sleepless night the 1st night I called and complained again, again up came a floor supervisor with a temp probe, again it read 75 exactly. This floor supervisor said this time it must be ABOVE that to even bother to try to do anything, to which I relented and the employee said once that hits 75.1 they can call engineering and they can magically (well I assumed through changing diverters and controls) make our room actually cooler, but that until then nothing would be done, regardless. Again later in the day I called when the room was even warmer than usual, this time it got a 78 degree reading, and they called an engineer in to look at the system. Once he was there he poked around our air vent, took off the panel in the hall and called down to engineering, he managed to get the room down to 76 within 30 mins, however the room felt just like it did the last 2 times I complained. I asked if they ever calibrate there temp probes and hes said “not really and they all read different” meaning the one that was first in could have been very off. The engineer then went to the cabin next door, made a few more calls and when I saw his perplexed look at the issue, I asked him, “what’s the deal” to which he said “there is really only so much I can do with this cabin” he then citied how this is a large interior cabin with a window and that the cabin next to us has 2 vents and we have 1 and also that we were at the end of the a/c systems ducting. This I was not happy to find out as it basically meant that they couldn’t really get the A/C down or they couldn’t do adjust it enough. It was about 9pm on sea day (day 2) and the engineer was nice enough to offer a fan to us, which I agreed to and then happily left hoping a fan would help more. When I came back from being out there was no fan and it was still not cool in the room. I slept through it and waited until day 3 in Grand Cayman to again complain.
This time I went to guest services (instead of calling) after we got back on board and explained all that occurred, the front desk guy “Victor” seemed more concerned that the engineer had offered a fan and snapped back with a “you can’t have fans in your room” than with the fact that the room was still warm and out of standard. I not being super excited about going into a warm room fresh off a hot island simply said “please fix it, this isn’t acceptable” and left the counter with assurances that a floor supervisor would be up. Again this did not happen, as after dinner on day 3 it was still hot, but now we had a phone message saying how guest services is sorry but no fans can be had in the room. As I listened to the message, in popped a engineer with a loud sunbeam 8” fan for us. That made me a bit frustrated as I was getting nothing but kindness from crew who take orders and nothing but rudeness from the hotel services that dole out the orders. The fan blew around the temperate air not cooled the room, and was loud, and in my frustration I again called down to ask how we had this secret fan, and to ask why the room can’t be colder not why a band aid fan we were not apparently supposed to have wasn’t a fix and why the crew keeps contradicting themselves.
To my finally joy they offered to finally move me rooms as someone missed boarding in grand Cayman. The room was on deck 2 in an interior with no ocean view and couldn’t have been 160sqft, almost half the size of ours, however it was the right temp, cold like they should be. That was not even the same category as our room, it was not something I wanted to stay with 3 people in (the room didn’t even have a couch) I think it was a 1A bunk room. I told them Id rather they try to fix my cabin and declined this room. I also then asked this female hotel staffer who was very kind a sweet, if we where supposed to have a fan or could her reply “Of course you can have a fan we want to make sure you are comfortable if we can, and fans usually help make airflow, people ask for them all the time.” I was shocked to hear that being it took such an effort to get it, and she said she was sorry for the confusion. As we walked back I inquired about a higher room (floor not category) or at least a bigger one, she said that was the only room available. This didn’t make sense to me somehow we had 1000 less passengers on this sailing, which I told them and they said “we sail full” so magically they had filled the ship with that much single occupancy? My spider senses say no. Finally frustrated with everything I decided to do my own engineering. I pulled off the diffuser which spreads the air across the ceiling from the vent and finally got a nice down drop of air (still not really cold air like normal). A floor supervisor dropped by and said we couldn’t have that off since there was high voltage stuff in the air vent. I told her it was the only way the air was getting cool and at this point I didn’t care if the air wasn’t diverted properly because it was off, that I just wanted the room to be cooler. She agreed said it was warm and took the temp at a finally getting comfy 73 which felt like my homes 76 still not bad but better than 78 to 80.
I dealt with this for our last 2 days on the ship but the morning we were leaving was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Keep in mind we were in deck 10 forward. As we were docking or for some time before it (5:40 AM), the ship was shaking, and not light vibration like when the bow thrusters work, which you can barely tell, this was violent earth quake the titanic just hit an iceberg kind of shake. I dismissed it for about 5 minutes, but as it shook the ship so hard that the water glasses and my 100 dollar bottle or YSL cologne fell off the shelf (even with the retainer ledge on the shelf) and onto the tile floor and shattered, making an amazing smelling mess, I was then thoroughly angry. It went on for over a half hour and then pulsated on and off several times for another 15 minutes, It was ridiculous. I finally got dressed and went down on debarkation day to tell them that I was sick of this ship (which clearly had something wrong to shake so violently) and that I wish to documents this issue, and also tell them I plan to never set foot on one of these terrible wale tail funneled heated, shaking torture chambers they called ships again. The room issues absolutely ruined this cruise for me, and I could not be more unimpressed and upset at carnival for not being able to manage my issues, not even offering an onboard credit or any sort of consolation, I wasn’t looking for a free cruise or a credit, but the lack of effort to do anything was a bit off-putting, all they did was say well notify your cabin steward to come clean it up.
This entire cruise issue could have been solved with a room move to a deck 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 window, interior or balcony move, I wouldn’t have cared or actually fix the air, but offering a A1 in the deep hull of the ship is not equitable. The on board hotel staff don’t care and its very disheartening when all of the service staff, from our room steward to the headwaiter, where such excellent people, and there service un matched by any one on our cruise. Maybe the hotel staff should take some training courses from them. I made it a point to track down every one individually to give them cash as a thank you and adjusted off the auto gratuity because as far as I know they may not even give it to the actual people who did their best to make the cruise good. Thankfully there are other cruise lines and other ships to go on, and I will certainly not be going on another carnival. I grabbed my bag after complaining at the front desk where they just shrugged when I demanded an explanation for the shaking, and told my friends to finish packing and let’s go. I have never been happy to get off a cruise ship except for this one, and I called carnival to let them know, they need to warn people about rooms below loud public spaces and that the AC need serious work because that wasn’t acceptable, I called minutes after getting off the ship and am awaiting a call back, at this point I want nothing but for Carnival to warn people and fix that room, there isn’t much they are going to do to convince me to get back on another ship of theirs ever. Hopefully someone will read this an not book that room, its size is not worth its troubles.
Cozumel is a long island I will say that, we docked at the most southern dock, and I def got in my exercise walking, we went around and shopped at the stores down town and also drank at Senior frogs as my 2 cruise mates where 21 and love the idea of drinking before age here since at 16 or 18 its legal, most of my time on the island was watching them as they were liquored up, but it was fun and being fully Spanish speaking I had fun with the guys teaching them silly words and talking with vendors and negotiating. Cozumel has a lot of stuff to do, and we didn't do much, I have been 6 times so i have done all to be done, pretty much any excursion is great and it’s hard to go wrong with ruins as a history buff. The paid beaches are much nicer than any public ones and you can see where they need a public beach and general cleanup program as lots of trash was limning the road and many abandoned buildings and structures from the hurricane where still very prevalent, here is hoping the cruise lines can inject some more money into more than just the docks and really make the place great.
Grand Cayman was a very nice island and you tender right into down town, I am a car guy and was excited to see all of the different euro specification cars. Grand Cayman is a very pretty island and has a decent little down town area, it doesn't have much but sights to see down town and the typical shops, however the beaches are pretty as are the water and views. Being a Floridian and hailing from the number one rated beach in the US, I am a bit jaded by beaches and was more excited to see through the waters and that they were blue more than the sand content, but it felt pretty course. If you walk around or taxi there is main shore excursions and snorkeling and diving to do, this island feels very relaxed and I never felt unsafe. Drinks and liquor are not cheap either, and the alcohol purchased goes directly to the ship you dot get to carry it on, which this is the only island I know of that does that, you generally carry it on and check it. Tendering is a bit more annoying than just docking and I must say it does eat almost an hour of your time as you have to be on the ship earlier then it says you are docked, and the ships never early to begin tendering either. I wish they would build a dock, but I do think its prettier especially for photos to see these beautiful ships afloat in that stunning clear blue water, it is my fav thing is to see the cruise ships docked in grand Cayman, I took probably 50 pictures of just our ship.