Carnival Freedom Cruise Review by Linerguy: Great cruise with just a few issues
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Great cruise with just a few issues
On May 10th, my wife and I sailed on the BREEZE for eight nights out of Miami, and then went to the Lauderdale airport to pick up our 19 year old son and his friend, and then sailed on the FREEDOM for six nights. The following is the review for the trip on the FREEDOM.
Embarkation – Well, I’d like to say that checking in and boarding was as seamless as the BREEZE, but, no go. When we went up to the guy checking passports and birth certificates, he told me that, because of the deck our cabin was on, Deck 2, we needed to get into line number 1. He wrote a 2 on our Funpass – I assumed for Deck 2 – and we went upstairs to check in. We were thrilled that there were only about five people in line 1 and we started to get in line. Just then a lady from Carnival walked up and asked to see our Funpass. She saw the number 2 that the guy had written on it and then told us we were in the wrong line, and that we should be in line 2 – which had about 300 people More in it. So, we moved to line 2. Just then I noticed a sign on a post that listed what line to get into based on your deck….and it said that people on Deck 2 should get into line 1. So, I went back to the lady and, very politely, said that I think there was a mistake. She cut me off, point-blank, yelling, “Sir, you are supposed to be in line 2, your Funpass has a 2 on it, THAT’s your line!” So, we went back to line 2 and waited….for over an hour. After the lady at the counter checked all our paperwork, etc., she said, “OK, now you’ll have to follow me to the other side of the room because your boarding cards are over in line 1…you got in the wrong line.” I was livid. I told her what went down with the other lady and she apologized profusely. I explained that it wasn’t her fault, but that someone should talk to the other lady about procedures and customer service. She agreed.
When we went to board the ship, there was a problem with my boarding card – the machine wouldn’t take it. The guy did something on the screen that allowed me to board, but he said that I would need to go to the Guest Service desk before we stop at Key West the following day and they would issue me a new card.
Although our room was supposed to be ready, it wasn’t. No problem, we just went to the lido and had lunch and explored the ship a little. After that, my wife and the boys decided to go see if the room was ready. I lagged about 10 minutes behind. When I got to the room, I walked in and it was like an oven. My wife looked at me and said, “The air conditioning isn’t working.” I went to find our room steward and, instead, found an officer. He told me that, because all the balconies had been opened up when the ship was cleaned, the ship was hot on the inside. He said he would have a fan sent to our room, but that the ship should cool down after we set sail. What a line. I went back to the room and confirmed that NOTHING was coming out of the air vent on the ceiling. It wasn’t that the ship was hot (the corridors were plenty cool), it was that it wasn’t working. So I called the Guest Service Desk and reported the problem. They said they would send someone down to check it out. We went to the safety drill and then stayed on deck to watch the sail away. I went back to the room and it was still like an oven, so I called again. They sent someone right away, and a lady brought a temperature gauge with her….it read over 80 degrees. I decided to go to the Guest Service Desk to get a new boarding card and to discuss moving us to a different cabin. When I got there, I asked the lady how to go about implementing the Carnival guarantee – she looked at me like she had never heard of it before. I said, “You know, the guarantee that says that if we don’t like our cruise, Carnival will fly us home or back to Ft. Lauderdale?” I said that, unless the a/c is fixed, or they move us to another cabin, I wouldn’t hesitate to use the guarantee. She checked the computer and said that an a/c unit had broken down, they were working on it, and that it should be up and running within the hour. Finally: the truth. Sure enough, after dinner we returned to a nice cool room. Crisis averted.
Cabin – The room itself, 2324, was fine – a pretty typical outside cabin. It was in good shape, but the mattresses had seen better days. There was plenty of storage space; even for four people.
The ship – Most people know that the she just came out of dry dock – well, she looks great. New carpeting, fresh paint, the 2.0 enhancements, etc….it all looks good. As far as the décor, it’s pretty much typical Farcus stuff. The atrium looks like something out of ‘War of the Worlds’ and the faux wood grain all over the place makes for very dark stair landings and elevator banks; interesting if nothing else. I will say I loved the look of the Chic and Posh Dining Rooms – very classy. The really interesting thing about them is the wall covering. At first it looks like a red Victorian motif, but, after a closer look, it’s actually snake skin! Both dining rooms had a grand feel to them – more so than some of Farcus’ other work.
The addition of Guy’s Burger Joint and The BlueIguana Cantina works very well since they were built in areas that originally had something else there; however, the RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar take up precious deck space, making the midships pool area that much more crowded. They did move the hot tubs away from the pool, which was smart, and that helps a bit. Inside, The RedFrog Pub looks exactly like the one on the BREEZE. The new Alchemy Bar replaces the old Nouveau Wine Bar; frankly it looks out of place. As you walk down The Centuries Promenade you’re surrounded by all this whacked-out Farcus décor, and then, out of the blue, sits this sleek-looking BREEZE-like bar that looks like it should be on a Celebrity ship.
They were still working on some of the 2.0 enhancements – mainly the outdoor children’s play area, and the Warehouse Video Arcade. The location of Serenity in relation to the children’s areas is sort of goofy as they're right by each other.
Unlike the BREEZE, the FREEDOM doesn’t have a wraparound promenade deck, the open deck on Deck 3 dead ends both forward and aft. Like the BREEZE there are forward observation areas, but you have to know how to find them. On FREEDOM, the forward observation areas below the bridge are accessible at the end of the cabin corridors on Decks 6 and 7. Above the bridge it’s Deck 10 (because of addition of the suites on Deck 9, the reconfigured observation deck on Deck 10 is massive). I actually liked the observation areas on the FREEDOM better than the BREEZE.
Food – Pretty much the same as on the BREEZE; with the exception of the 24hr. ice cream. On the BREEZE it was gritty; not very good. On the FREEDOM, it was excellent…just like Mr. Softy or Dairy Queen (which I like). The menus in the MDR were basically the same, and the food was just as good – no major complaints. The boys (OK, and I) had as many warm chocolate melting cakes as possible. The food at the buffet (the Freedom Restaurant) was fine. The Fish & Chips didn’t look all that great so we skipped it, but The BlueIguana Cantina was just as good as on the BREEZE. The boys liked Guy’s, but, on this cruise, I decided to pass. Pizza was better on the FREEDOM. No Tandoori.
On the first elegant night, the four of us went to The Sun King Steakhouse. This time, it was just okay; not nearly as good as on the SPLENDOR. At the beginning of the meal they brought out the usual tiny 'compliments of the chef' offerings...they gave my wife and son each a small tureen of mushroom soup, and my son's friend and I were given filet mignon tartare with horseradish ice cream. I enjoyed it – somewhat – but Jeff (my son's friend) had a look of terror on his face when they sat it in front of him. I'll give him credit: he tried it. For some reason, not sure why, they gave us a complimentary bottle of wine, which was nice. She liked it, I thought it was just ok.
Service – Although the crew weren’t quite as friendly as on the BREEZE, the service was still fantastic; especially in the MDR. We had YTD and we asked for the same section every night, which we got, and our waitress, IIS, was just lovely. Our room steward did a decent job, but it was two days into the trip before we met him, and when my wife asked if he could put some Coke Zero in our fridge, he said no. He rarely said hello or anything when we would pass him in the hall. To be honest, I don’t even remember his name. Service at all the bars was great, and they were very friendly…no attitudes whatsoever.*
The photographers were out in full force, but unlike our experience on the SPLENDOR, they were not pushy; nor did they take up nearly as much room when people were trying to walk through the ship. This brings me to something I forgot to mention in my BREEZE review: the photographers doing the formal portraits on the BREEZE took advantage of the many alcoves and nooks throughout the public rooms: they NEVER set up in the way. Oh, and they've finally done away with art auctions in the atrium...good move.
Entertainment – Having learned our lesson on the BREEZE, this time we decided to skip Playlist Production on the FREEDOM. The boys could care less about Vegas-style shows, and my wife and I had had our fill. We did go to see Peter Gross, the magician/comedian; he was pretty good. In the atrium and near the casino, an acoustic duo (a female guitarist and a male bassist) would play..they were pretty good (though I heard the same tunes for six nights straight).
And yes, we had to suffer through what seemed like endless hip hop from the DJ...I just don't get it: I'm on a friggin' Caribbean cruise – why the hell does Carnival think people want to listen to that garbage instead of actual Caribbean music? Save it for the dance club.
Misc – Although the midships pool could get crowded during the day, I didn't notice any chair hogs or scuffles over chairs, everyone seemed to have a good time and were well-behaved.
Everyone, that is, except the handful of rude smokers who, just like on the BREEZE, thought that the rules don't apply to them.
Ports – While we were in Key West, it was hotter than blue-blazes, but we did manage to walk around for about four hours. We went to Mel Fisher's Museum (HIGHLY recommended), had some key lime pie and ice cream, went to the southern most tip of the U.S. (which I don't buy), did a little shopping, and then headed back to the ship. The museum was the highlight.
Grand Cayman – We tendered in and, after making our way through shopping hell, we grabbed a taxi and headed straight to the Royal Palm Resort on Seven Mile Beach. After that, we went to the turtle farm, which was pretty cool. It was $18 for the basic ticket. Afterward, we stood out front until a local bus came by and took us back to the ship ($4.00 per person, much cheaper than a taxi). The BREEZE was also there, so we got some great shots from the tender. About 20 minutes after we got back on board, the sky opened up and it poured...and I mean buckets.
Cozumel – It was like Carnival was invading Mexico. The TRIUMPH docked first, we were second, and then the BREEZE. As a ship nut, I was loving it. We took a taxi to Paradise Beach (we had been there before and loved it), and had a great day swimming, using all the water toys, snorkeling, etc. I was disappointed how much more expensive it was this time. When we were there the last time, just a few years ago, it was $14 to get in and to use all the facilities. This time it was $18 to get in, PLUS you had to buy $10 worth of food/drinks per person.
Disembarkation – What is it with Lauderdale? You'd think they'd have this down by now. Unlike getting off the BREEZE in Miami, this was a cluster you-know-what. Once we did get off the ship, it took nearly an hour to go through customs and immigration. They had only two people working the booths, which is ridiculous. Then we had to wait nearly 45 minutes for the Alamo/National bus to come by to take us to the airport to pick up our rental car. Miami has it down, Lauderdale needs some work.
To say that we had an excellent trip is an understatement. In the overall scheme of things, Carnival did a great job on both cruises: the ships were cool, food was good, service was pretty flawless, and it was great to do our first back-to-back. Nineteen days is a long time to be off work, but, as usual, it flew by.
Contemplating the DREAM or MAGIC in September. Less
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