My wife and I took this cruise with our daughter, her husband, her two 8 year olds and her in-laws. It was our first cruise, but the other adults had cruised before. It was a good experience.
Freedom of the Seas was very nice. It was exceptionally clean and showed little sign of wear. Our stateroom #9612 was a deluxe balcony room on the port side. It was larger than expected. There was more than ample storage room and it was not cramped at all. Having the balcony was terrific. We enjoyed most sunrises and sunsets on the balcony. The bathroom was also very nice. The shower was a little tight, but excellent pressure and temperature control. The bed was quite comfortable and we slept very well. No complaints about the stateroom.
The first few hours before the staterooms were ready was a little crazy with people just walking around, but once the announcement was made that the rooms could be entered, that resolved. We enjoyed the pools and the athletic area. Our granddaughter loved the rock climbing wall and our grandson loved the Flow Rider. We spent lots of time in that area.
The ice show was surprisingly good. I guess we did not expect much of a show on a ship, but we were pleasantly surprised. We did not go to any of the other shows just because times did not work out, but my daughter's in-laws did and reported that they were very enjoyable.
The food was fine, but it was not a fine dining experience. There was more than enough to eat and the staff encouraged us to order more than we could consume. To be fair, we did not go to any of the specialty restaurants, but we do eat well at home and at area restaurants. It was mass produced and it was fine, just not great. We selected the "My Time" dining option, but with 6-8 people in our group at all times, it was not easy to vary our dining times. The buffet dining was always available and we used that for breakfast and lunch most days. There was a wonderful selection of foods, but again it was buffet cooking; adequate but not terrific.
Dining and drinking packages
This was something that gave us great issue prior to the trip. Being new at cruise travel we had great difficulty deciding what to buy. In the end we bought a ten bottle wine package which was very nice. The soda package was very popular on the ship, but I think it was a waste. First of all you have to carry around your cup to use it; not my style and not very convenient. Secondly, you could get lemonade, iced tea and other not carbonated drinks for free all day. The booze packages were of no interest to us because we would never drink that much, but many people did.
They were fine and well organized. In Jamaica, we took the plantation tour and jerk lunch. Our daughter and her family did the Dunn's Falls and tubing on the White River. The worst part of the tour was driving through the worst sections of Falmouth. Our daughter reported that the locals were very aggressive salesmen as they walked through the woods from the Falls to the river.
Grand Cayman was lovely and terrific snorkeling on the 7 Mile Beach. Loved it.
In Cozumel we did the dolphin adventure and it was just great.
One word about shopping in the ports. A great deal is made about the lack of tax and duty, but they do not tell you that if the items you buy exceed a certain amount (more than $800 for one person and $1600 for a couple) you must declare the item at US Customs and pay a duty there. You also need to have your receipt handy to if asked to prove the claimed value. The duty is not very high, but at our port you had to pay in cash or check. Don't know how they handle it if you lack the funds to pay.
The staff were all fine. Many were just fine and a good number were terrific. Our stateroom was kept beautifully and cleaned well twice a day. Our waiter was okay but not very friendly; seemed to have an attitude. The assistant waiter was just the opposite and he was an absolute pleasure to deal with. At the Flow Rider, for example, most of the staff just observed and would certainly help if asked. One fellow, on the other hand, was much more proactive and offered suggestion all the time. He was terrific.
We enjoyed ourselves on the cruise. Everything worked as it should. No one became ill and the staff worked hard to make sure everyone used Purell and washed their hands frequently. I am glad we went and will probably do it again.