We all decided to arrange our own air travel so we arrived in Miami a day early and rested up before we started our cruise, it worked out great. We stayed at the Hampton Inn near the airport. On Sunday the hotel staff arranged for a couple of taxi vans; in 20 minutes and a $28 fare for each van we arrived at the Freedom of the Seas. Don't use the hotel shuttle van it would have cost us $24 more. Upon our arrival to the pier (1:40PM) there was a long line of passengers. The line moved fast, it took about 30 minutes to get on board. There isn't any advantage to use the Diamond or Suite Express Check-in Lines.
The ship was delayed for an hour so that they could get the luggage on board. We had thought we could watch the ship get underway, but we had to get to our early dining seating. Our luggage arrived at our cabin just as we were leaving for dinner.
Our cabin attendant arrived at our cabin but he didn't offer to show us around the cabin. He didn't know how to operate the CD player. He did find out that you must have the TV on Channel 3 and operate the CD on the remote DVD mode, not the CD mode. The bed is very comfortable and the cabin was always clean and neat. There wasn't any difference in the Owner's Suite from the other Royal Caribbean Ships.
The ship's appearance: All the outside wooden railings needed to be varnished, they looked terrible and weathered. The rest of the ship was beautiful and well maintained. The three deck dining room was beautifully decorated.
The Flowrider and H2O Zone was an experience to see. The adult's only whirlpool hanging out from the side of the ship was an excellent idea. My wife loved the Royal Promenade and all its shops; she was impressed with the variety and number of shops.
Chops Grille is a special restaurant for excellent food and service, $20 per person charge. A week before our cruise started, I had the Suite Concierge reserve a dinner reservation. I found out without my reservation the only dinner reservation available were at 5:30 PM and 9:30 PM. You must make your dinner reservation as soon as possible.
Ice-skating Shows: The ice-skating show was a very professional and exciting performance by top-notch skaters, don't miss it. During our cruise there are 5 ice-skating shows performed and you have to line up and get your tickets first come first serve. Each ticket is assigned to a certain show. If you want a certain night for the ice-skating show you have to be early in line. If you book a suite contact your concierge before the cruise and you can get (2) tickets good for any ice-skating show performance. I got (6) more tickets for Wednesday's night performance....My sister's 60th birthday, through the Diamond Member's Concierge.
The Theater performances: The best shows I have ever seen on any Princess or Royal Caribbean Cruise. True professional performances.
The Casino Royal: The casino was too crowed with slot machines; It was hard to walk through the casino. A lot of cigarette smoke, the ventilation was poor.
Rip-off: The ship's shopping director gives a one hour class on shopping at the caribbean islands. The director promotes a shopping discount book for $25. The only problem is that if you book an excursion you will not have enough time to shop and utilize the book. If you are only shopping or you buy an expensive piece of jewelry there might be a saving in the purchasing the $25 discount book.
Excursions: We booked 3 excursions and they all took more time than stated in the excursion information booklet. We were leaving the ship late. I guess there are too many passengers to get sorted out for their excursions. The Mobay Highlights and Shopping Extravaganza at Montego Bay, Jamaica was not good. The shop owners are really poor and very aggressive; we finally retreated back into out bus at one marketplace.
Labadee, Haiti: We tendered in and we found a private beach with everything you would want at a resort beach. Water toys, jet boats and beach loungers just to relax and get some sun. The trick to Labadee is to make sure you take an early tender and you can get a good spot on the beach with shade. There is a nearby beverage hut and restrooms. Around noon there are 3 locations that you can get a great lunch. Free delicious Jerk chicken, pork ribs, hamburgers and hot dogs all you want. Just like on the ship you need your Seapass for cokes and other drinks. Cash for the local shop vendors.
Stingray City in Grand Cayman was a positive life experience. Picture yourself, traveling 30 minutes on a boat to a sandbar and getting in the ocean among 20 to 30 large stingrays. The boat crew know how to handle the stingrays, so it is very safe.
Disembarkation: For the first time we took our own luggage off the ship to a nearby taxi and went to the airport, fast and easy.
Overall a great ship and a great cruise.