This was our first time to cruise with Carnival. We typically sail Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line.
The rates for this cruise, at about 90 days prior to sailing, were just too good to pass up and the weather in Minnesota was promised to be just too darn cold to stick around all winter.
We selected any time dining. We had to pretty much insist on a table for two for each evening meal and specifically requested to be seated in Alan's wait staff area. Our polite insistence paid off and we regularly had a table for two and were able to sit in Alan's area for each evening meal. Alan and his team were exceptional. Very quick, very accommodating and very professional. We loved our dining experiences on the Freedom. In fact, granted this was prior to the new dining options that we understand will be coming out on Carnival, but we believe that we our dining experiences with Carnival compare very well with several of our previous 10 cruises on both Royal Caribbean and NCL.
The entertainment was lacking on Carnival. We understand, I think, what they are trying to do with bringing on different comedians throughout the cruise, but overall, we prefer the entertainment much better on NCL. Royal Caribbean comes in a close second.
The ship was nice and the staff all seemed pleasant and helpful. We have had more favorable experiences on previous cruises, but certainly nothing to complain about with the Carnival staff.
We arrived at the terminal slightly after 11:00 and were well into our first meal on the Lido deck before noon. Very efficient in getting us onto the ship, even as first time folks sailing with Carnival. Departing the ship did not go quite as smoothly, but still a rather good operation at both ends of the cruise.
At St Thomas we spent the day at Sapphire Beach, even though we had a difficult time convincing a couple different cab drivers that we wanted to be taken to that location. Some of the buildings were closed down, but the beach itself was not closed down and there were sufficient people there that we never felt unsafe or uncomfortable. A very beautiful beach! We will probably go to Trunk Bay on St John's next time, just for the variety, as we like both, but if interested in going to Sapphire, be insistent that you want to go there or they will talk you out of the experience. (In fact, a family that took the taxi with us over to Sapphire let the taxi driver talk them out of staying at the beach at the last minute, and they went to some other near by beach, I believe.)
In Antigua we contracted for a Lobster Lunch excursion outside of Carnival. It was wonderful.
For Tortola, we took a taxi over to Brewers Bay. A very good choice... a nice, not too busy beach. Be aware though, for the return trip, the taxi drivers seem to be only interested in taking back the customers that they brought over to the beach. We had to wait for a good thirty minutes to be "added in" to a taxi's load. Had we known this, we would have made more firm arrangements with our personal taxi driver to return for a pick-up at a predetermined time/place. (I call this island politics!)
We just walked around the port in Nassau. Certainly not a favorite port for us, although we didn't leave the port, so we can't really judge the port too fairly. No real desire to go back there again...
After departing the ship, we drove our rental car out to Shark Valley for an Everglades experience which included a very informative two hour tram ride with lots of great views, sightings and great information. I would consider this a must-do for anyone who hasn't yet visited the everglades. Very nice and informative. (Not too commercialized at all.)
We truly enjoyed our Carnival experience. We will be more than pleased to sail with Carnival again... being certain to avoid the party times for which we know of their reputation. Great trip! Thank you Carnival and staff of the Freedom!