Carnival Freedom: sail date 7/21/14. Ports: Nassau, Half Moon Cay & Grand Turk.
This was my families fourth cruise and second time with Carnival. We are now starting to fall in love with Carnival cruises and this is mainly for the fact that you get a great cruise at a decent price.
Travel: We drove down to Fort Lauderdale and parked at the Park N Fly which cost around $65 for the week and had excellent shuttle service to and from the ships port.
Embarkation: Was smooth. Got to the port around noon and were in our room less than 30 minutes later.
Food: Carnival doesn't have the best food as their buffet is fairly limited in choice but still sufficient, however their Guys burgers (on 2.0 upgrades) are excellent. Dining was always enjoyable with a great wait staff and ample food choices. Tried 4 of the 5 "Dija's" just couldn't do the frog legs again. The Deli and burrito stations are good for an early or late afternoon lunch choice. Don't miss out on the 24-hour pizza parlor if you need to satisfy a late evening hunger craving. Overall I would rate the food a 4 out of 5, but would love to see some better food choices at the buffet line.
Cabin: We had 3 rooms next to each other: The Junior suite 9205, balcony 9207 and interior 9209. The junior suite that my wife, son and self stayed in was perfect. The whirlpool tub was worth the extra money and there was a good deal of room space. The only knock on this particular room was that the grand suite that was forward of our room has an extended balcony and the two balconies parties can look at each other. Also during sea cruising, when the winds are strong, the balcony door is hard to open and close and rattles the room while open. All three rooms had fully stocked mini fridges. If you don't want to use any of the beverages or alcohol, you can set them in a cabinet during the duration of the cruise and place them back in the fridge at the end. We brought our own soft drinks and water to stock the fridge, as each person is allowed to bring a 12 pack of either on their carry on. Each adult is also allowed to have one bottle of wine (750 ml) on their carry on - just don't forget your wine opener.
As far as ship entertainment, we mostly watched movies on the Lido deck in the evenings after winding down from the port/shore excursions. All the movies were fairly recent or something we hadn't seen before and family friendly. They had popcorn served at the Red Frog bar during the movie which is a nice little snack. The towel hut offers blankets and towels to use as well. We did go to one comedy show and the lady was pretty funny. There are plenty of other activities to do on the ship for all ages, so there was never a reason to be bored.
We have been fortunate with all our cruises in that the weather has been about perfect. Rain showers and wind is to be expected when cruising in the Bahamas and Caribbean, but there was only a little in the way of rain. We did have a big downpour when we got off the ship at Nassau, but it only lasted a few minutes. The seas were pretty calm, but being in the front of the ship you can really feel the motion which only bothered my youngest daughter - nothing a little Bonine or Damamine can't take care of.
Ports: The first port was Nassau, Bahamas. And we did the Atlantis w/lunch excursion. First let me just say that Atlantis would have been better provided you had more time to spend. There were four ships docked at port and just image all those people looking to do the same thing - it was crowded. With the excursion you get on a bus, ride through the town to the resort and take a small tour through the hotel casino and aquariums before actually getting to the park. Advice: Skip the tour, leave your group and head straight for the locker rental. The line to the locker rental can last up from 45 minutes to an hour (also note that they only take credit cards for rental - no cash). Secondly, hit the slides early before the lines start forming and then go do the lazy pool and beaches. You get a free lunch with the excursion, otherwise food runs about 8 to 12 dollars per meal.
The second port was Half Moon Cay. This is a private island and very beautiful. You have to be tendered over to island from the ship. You have to go to the towel hut on the lido deck to obtain a tender ticket and they announce tender numbers over the intercom. If you have an excursion you don't need a ticket as you go over as a group. The kids and I did the Stingray swim and it was really fun. This last about 1 hour and you get time to swim freely with some Southern stingrays (which are about 3 to 4 foot in length) before spending time hand feeding (with assistance) squid to the rays. They provide snorkel, vest and foot gear or you can use your own. Cameras are welcomed. After the excursion you are dropped off at the pirate ship bar and can you spend the rest of the day on the beach. Advice: Head back to the ship early, otherwise wait an hour or so at the end of the day to get tendered back to the ship. Having an hand umbrella would be a good ideal when waiting in line under the hot sun.
The third and last port: Grand Turk - this is my favorite and have been here twice now. If you love to snorkel and see stuff without having to pay for an excursion then this is for you. They have all varieties of fish, flounders, stingray, nurse sharks, puffer fish and yes, I did come close to a 4 ft barracuda. If you like to party, then Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville is that place. Also plenty of stores to do a little shopping if that's your thing.
Service: I have never had bad service on Carnival. I also understand that these folks work round the clock for six months, cruise after cruise. So if they look tired or wore out, they have a reason. But, they've always managed a smile and nice greeting, or helpful advise for my family. The bartenders respond well to tips.. so if you want a little better drink service, hit them up.
Disembarkation: If you leave your luggage out the night before you get a ticket to stick on your luggage. Our cabin (9205) was number 1 and we could have gotten off first, but waited with the rest of our family to leave the ship. Our other two cabins (9207 & 9209) were number 21 on the list which is pretty much the last ones off the ship. Advice: Hand carry your luggage and be the first off the ship if you are on the upper decks. The custom line gets pretty long being the last off the ship and spent an hour before getting on the shuttle back to Park N Fly.
All in all, a great cruise and would love to go on the Freedom again. However, we are eyeing the Carnival Dream for next year.
Thanks for reading and Happy Cruising!!!