Our family of three (mom, dad, almost 10-year-old daughter) booked this cruise last August. At that time, we were still in the "afterglow" of a fabulous Oasis of the Seas cruise (a 7-nighter to Western Caribbean). So, we had been looking forward to this trip for 10+ months.
While Freedom no longer has that "new car smell"--nor does it offer the over-the-top size of Oasis--it was a wonderful, wonderful cruise. As on Oasis, we loved having the Royal Promenade as our spot for coffee drinking and people watching. We loved the great food and service in the Main Dining Room (we were in Leonardo's on Deck 3). We also loved the entertainment (despite our overall impression that it was a teeny bit inferior to what we saw on Oasis); the stand-up comedians were my personal favorites.
I could tell that my husband initially wanted to dislike the Freedom purely for not being the Oasis. But by the end of our cruise, all three of us were sold on Freedom as a great ship: plenty big but much easier to navigate! In fact, we realized that the Windjammer felt much more spacious and less chaotic than on Oasis. We also observed MUCH less "hard selling" in Freedom's Royal Promenade (if you see our review of Oasis, you'll notice that was one of our only grips with that ship).
We enjoyed all three of our port days (Cococay, St. Thomas, St. Maarten/Martin).
Due to a mechanical issue, we were late arriving in St. Thomas. I think that caused a lot of trouble for some of our fellow passengers. We hadn't booked a formal St. Thomas excursion, so for us it resulted in a delightfully lazy morning taking in sea views on Deck 4. The only downside for us was the pure bedlam of ALL passengers trying to get into Charlotte Amalie at the same time. It was crazy (we even witnessed an elderly man pushing his wheelchair-bound wife on a narrow patch of concrete alongside taxis and shuttle vans...not safe!).
On Cococay, we kept it simple--booking the water slide for our daughter and an hour in the Aqua Park for all three of us. Both were fun and a decent (but not great) value. We really enjoyed our time on the beach, though.
In St. Maarten, we took the Ultimate Island Tour, which we highly recommend. It consists of a guided tour aboard a bus that travels from the Dutch side to the French side; about an hour of free time in downtown Marigot (we enjoyed a light lunch in an authentic French cafe); and then about an hour on a two-level boat with an open bar, live entertainment, and multiple bathrooms. It was a truly relaxing, enjoyable, and sufficiently educational day for our family.
WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE
We tried CHOPS Grille (something we had not done on Oasis), and we were truly underwhelmed. For the up-charge we paid, we expected more, and quite frankly, we were much happier with our experience in the Main Dining Room!
Also, we reserved seats for the Freedom Ice Show, and it turned out to be a real nightmare--not only for us, but for many others who pre-booked the show. My husband ended up not getting a seat (he stood in the back the whole show), while my daughter and I were directed to take two seats that another passenger had been reserving for HER husband and mother. It was just awkward and uncomfortable all the way around. Interestingly, this never seemed to be an issue on Oasis (where pretty much EVERY show requires a reservation).
This was our second RCCL cruise, and it definitely will not be our last. We now recognize the line's "template," and it really works for our family. We appreciate being able to expect certain core elements on a ship, as it makes it easier to get acclimated and move into "relaxation mode" QUICKLY!
Oh, and one final note: This time, we opted for the Express Walk Off--meaning we held on to our bags and walked them off the ship ourselves. It made for a way smoother disembarkation than we experienced in Ft. Lauderdale. If everyone in your party is physically able to handle that, we would highly recommend it!