We cruised the western Caribbean on Freedom of the Seas in late May. We really enjoyed the cruise. This was our 17th cruise overall and 7th on Royal Caribbean, also our 2nd cruise on Freedom. My wife and I cruised along with our 2 friends, all of us in our 50’s.
EMBARK. We live in northern Florida so drove down to Port Canaveral. We stayed in Orlando the night before and left the hotel to get to the port at 11AM when boarding commenced. It was very quick and we were in the Windjammer buffet by 1130. Good thing because by 1230 the Windjammer was very crowded. We walked around the ship until our rooms were ready at 1. We carried on our swim suits so we changed and hung out at the adult Solarium pool which was very enjoyable although crowded at times throughout the week. Lifeboat drill was at 4 and we sailed at 5.
CABINS. We had superior ocean view balcony cabins (D2) on deck 9. These are slightly larger than regular balconies so we had plenty of room. I recommend these larger rooms as you have more space to move around. Deck 9 was very quiet as we also picked our rooms away from the stairs. Our cabin steward Ralph was outstanding – he introduced himself on the first day and then we rarely saw him but the room was always ready and cleaned up.
SHIP. We really like the Freedom as it is large and has a lot of activities and great places but it is not as crowded as the Allure or Oasis. It is also very clean and well taken care of. Only drawback on this cruise was there were a lot of families which meant the ship was full so the elevators were fairly crowded all week, unlike our last Freedom cruise in December. So we waited a few minutes longer for elevators or used the stairs. Also the Solarium on this ship is too small so you need to get there by 8 or 8:30AM to get deck chairs by the adult pool. Otherwise there were plenty of deck chairs around the other pools or higher up. Note on chairs – we used our Solarium chairs from 8 until early afternoon. We saw a lot of saved chairs with no one using them. By 10, the stewards started picking up the belongings of those who had not showed up within 30 minutes – we were glad to see their rules were enforced.
DINNER: We reserved anytime dining and I booked us for 7:15 every night using their online system weeks before the cruise. This worked great as we had a table within 5 minutes and had the same waiters each night. Both our waiter Jake and his assistant Olena were outstanding! The food was good in the dining room with a lot of variety. As everyone knows, beef quality is less in the dining room as they want you to use their specialty restaurants. If you want a good steak, you can order the Chop’s filet for $15 in the dining room as opposed to going to Chops for $35. Seafood is very good. Lobster night was the 2nd formal night which was day 5 after Cayman Islands on this cruise.
Windjammer had okay food which was plentiful. It was crowded at peak times but we always found a table, usually in the far back with a nice view. The buffet staff will help you find a table if you don’t see one. We ate lunch once in the dining room and it was very good and not crowded. We also ate at Portofino’s, the Italian specialty restaurant, and it was very good and worth the $25 charge. We were there over 3 hours enjoying the courses and great view.
SHOWS: We reserved the ice skating show online weeks before so had a good time – first sea day at 4PM. If you do not book it, you will have to scramble to get a reservation on the ship and might get a less desirable show time. The ice skating show was excellent!
We did not see any of the singers or dancers but we did attend the magic show and the 2 late night adult comedy shows. All were very good.
LABADEE: We did the Dragon’s Breath zipline at Labadee which was very exhilarating. I did it last year so talked my wife into doing it with me this time. She was apprehensive at the top of the 500ft hill but loved it once she started down. Also a great view of the beach and ship. I carried my camera so took video as I went down and then took pictures from the bottom of my wife and friends coming down. If you are extremely scared of heights, don’t do it, but otherwise you will like it. Book the early times as it takes 1 ½ hrs so the rest of the time we hung out at the beach. Lunch on the beach was good – basic hamburgers and hot dogs.
JAMAICA: We have been here so many times that we’ve done all the main excursions so we just got off the ship and shopped at the port. It was standard cruise shops – Diamonds Intl, Tanzanite, local stuff, etc. We also went to Margaritaville at the port and had drinks. Unfortunately it was outside under a porch so hot and noisy. They do have a pool which is available on a first come basis and has a swim up bar. It was not very crowded.
CAYMANS: One of our favorite stops as it is friendly and beautiful. Unfortunately you have to tender but we were the only ship there so had all the tenders. It was only about a 5 minute ride from the ship to shore once you got on – although getting on or off takes 10 to 15 minutes. We booked the guided shore dive thru RCL and enjoyed it. It was with Don Foster’s Diving which is just past the tender dock and has a beautiful reef. The dive took about 2 hours which only left us with 2 hours in Caymans to shop. Unfortunately they are only there 6 hours and you lose an hour with tendering. The later tenders had long lines as well.
COZUMEL: We really like Cozumel also and they are in port longer – 9 hours. We elected to go snorkel with the sea turtles which required taking the ferry to Playa and then a van so it took 7 hours total including the hour long snorkel with the sea turtles. But it was a great experience and included a good buffet lunch and unlimited drinks at the resort so I do recommend it. Our friends went to Tulum to see the Mayan ruins and liked it as well. Both excursions end in downtown Cozumel so we had an hour to shop before catching a taxi ($8 per car) back to the Freedom.
DEBARK: As we had driven, we weren’t in a rush to depart. We left our cabins at 8:15 and went to the Windjammer to eat. The ship started disembarking at 7 so the buffet was clearing out when we got there. They only serve until 8:30 so we ate and then walked off at 9. The crowds were less by then so we got out of the terminal at 9:30 with our luggage in tow. If you are flying, I highly recommend the luggage valet service where they will take your luggage from the ship to the airport and check it for you to your destination. We had relatives do this before and it was well worth the extra cost as you don’t have to touch your bags until you arrive home.
OVERALL: The Freedom is a great ship and ideal for families with kids of all ages. They have the flowrider, climbing walls, ice skating rink, and other great kids/teen activities. We did not do any of them this time as we had done them before plus there were a lot of kids so some lines. We chose to relax so hung around the adult Solarium, also the terrific Promenade, and the quiet lounges around the ship. We especially liked the half price martinis in the Viking Crown Lounge on deck 14 before dinner.