Carnival Freedom Cruise Review by Greenjean: Carnival Freedom - Eastern Mediterranean
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Carnival Freedom - Eastern Mediterranean
Arrived in Venice Monday evening (had planned to arrive Monday morning but missed flight from Catania, Sicily...misjudged traffic snarls in Sicily!) Check-in went very smoothly, probably due to the late arrival. We (two ladies, 50ish and 60ish) booked this cruise at a rockbottom price and expected to be lodged in the bowels of the ship! What a pleasant surprise to open the door to a twin room on deck 2 with a window, couch and table! Not sure what we did to deserve this upgrade but thank you Carnival!
This is only my second cruise (NCL Southern Caribbean 2005) and my friend's third (several caribbean). Since this was the inaugural sailing for the Freedom we were expecting to see a few kinks in the system that may need to be worked out, so I won't be overly critical of small issues. The only glaring problems I noticed was long delays for port debarkation. Perhaps this is due to port clearing regulations since this was the first port visit for the ship. At a few of the ports More the waiting (standing) became uncomfortable for some of the passengers. The mandatory life boat drill also seemed to take an extremely long time. I'm sure these will be improved with practice. Also, I had a few occasions to visit the purser's desk and several times there were 1/2 hr lines there.
We were scheduled for the early (5:45) meal time and I felt it was too early to eat dinner. I only went to dinner twice in the dining room (Chic). The food was nice: one meal was lobster (large tails, and very delicious), the other T-bone steak (okay, but cut fairly thin and only medium well choice for doneness, which was a bit overdone for me). My friend went a few more times and had escargots one night which she said was also good. The breakfast buffet was standard fare and quite mediocre. We tired of this after a few days. We then ate breakfast at the sit down Posh restaurant which offered eggs benedict, bagels and lox, corned beef hash, fresh fruits, etc. We enjoyed this very much. The lunch and dinner buffets seemed a bit better but still sort of bland for the masses. I enjoyed the special early evening offerings on deck 5. One day they had tapas, another mediterranean fare and twice delicious sushi. We didn't try the premium restaurants and I didn't talk to anyone that had. We only used room service for morning coffee and it arrived promptly each day we ordered it. The daily cocktail special was very good also, although the price (usually around $6 I believe) didn't seem very "special" to me. A few times I had dessert at a small area by the casino on deck 5 where they offered extra fancy things like cheesecake, chocolate and fruit tortes, chocolate strawberries, lots of mouth-watering things. They were a few dollars extra but very delicious. I thought the desserts in the freedom buffet were not that special. Also, only once I ate in the fish 'n chips and felt that was a bit greasy. Also, it was only open for lunch/early dinner and we were always touring ports so only able to try it on the one "fun sea day". Overall, the food met my expectations...I am not partial to buffets while on land either. As an aside, I felt that the wine and cocktails were a bit overpriced, but the house selections were nice. That's it for food/drinks.
I didn't go to the shows but heard no negative reviews from passengers. Most said it was the best cruise entertainment they had ever seen. I did enjoy a few lounge singers and watching some of the couples dancing. I used the internet cafe a few times and as usual it was extremely overpriced but the person running it was most accommodating and helpful. Only problem is location: right next to the CIGAR LOUNGE with cigar aromas wafting in, which many found offensive. The internet lounge is also very small and often there were people waiting for a computer. We found our cabin very nice, and I must say the beds are extra comfy. I wouldn't go so far as to buy one (they are offered for sale) but I certainly slept well on it and the sheets were nice. We had a fresh bucket of ice and a large bottle of water provided each day. Also, a fat white terry cloth robe (offered for $40usd at cruise end) for each of us which we loved. There is a laundromat on each deck (costs about $4/load I believe) or a laundry service for a premium fee. Iron and ironing board is provided in the laundry room also. No irons are allowed in the cabin. I did feel there could be better signage indicating fore/aft of the ship for those of us lacking a sense of direction. I never did get my bearings and spent quite a bit of time wandering about.
Another aside: The weather on this cruise was fabulous....only a bit of rain in Dubrovnik. Otherwise it was t-shirt weather! I hadn't expected this and packed a bit heavy clothes wise. The Europeans say they haven't had winter this year. Also, I booked a pedicure in the spa after returning from one of our tours. It was wonderful and a bit of heaven after a day spent on the cobblestones.
I found the ports of call on this cruise wonderful and above expectations. Due to our late arrival we didn't have much time in Venice, so we walked around and I felt we got a good overview of the city. Dubrovnik is beautiful, we had a nice lunch at Dominos (lovely proprietors), walked the wall, visited with a few shopkeepers. Again, we toured independently and I felt that we got a good feel for the city on our own. Dubrovnik is very clean and tidy with virtually no graffiti or garbage. They are very proud of their city. Katakolon we joined with another couple and arranged a trip to ancient Olympia via cab. The ruins of Olympia were incredible and worthwhile. We had about 2 hrs afterward to wander about Katakolon (mostly touristy souvenir stuff, jewelry) and have lunch. Athens (Piraeus): We opted to take the train to the Acropolis stop and walk up. I had printed directions from an internet sight on ports of call and we followed them successfully. This is very easy to do independently and absolutely fascinating. The train is very straightforward and the Acropolis sight well marked. The walk is uphill but you can stop and rest and then press on. We did encounter crowds here, despite the time of year. Athens is kind of a mess, but still very exciting. There is graffiti everywhere...and I mean everywhere, unkept streets, sidewalks with potholes and sawed off pipes sticking up. We browsed in the marketplace and had a great lunch at a little hole in the wall cafe in the market. This was a very tiring day...walking on cobblestone streets takes a while to get used to! Next was Izmir. I had researched an independent tour guide for this port and Bekir proved to be a gem. He met us as we disembarked with a sign, loaded us (only the two of us) into a pristine van and we headed for Ephesus and Mary's House. On the way he pointed out many points of interest: nomad villages, ancient buildings and ruins. This was probably my favorite stop on the cruise. Mary's House was fine but possibly a tourist trap. Ephesus is stunning and so rich historically. We spent a good while here and it is just amazing. Afterward we drove to a carpet making village. We were served a nice lunch, drinks and turkish coffee. We watched a girl weaving a carpet, saw silkworms used for silk. We then participated in the "carpet show" ritual where the merchant and his helper try to entice you to buy a carpet. They were all breathtaking but we declined to buy and they were very gracious. Next day Rhodes: We opted to tour Rhodes independently. It was Sunday and we walked around the medieval town, through a Muslim section during prayers. Photographed a lovely old woman with a very long white braid, walked up to a castle and toured the museum. There are many other touring options for Rhodes with coastal tours...A lovely place. Finally, not a moment too soon, a "fun day at sea". This itinerary, while captivating, was very tiring. A few more days at sea would be enjoyable. Last port of call was Naples. We joined another couple in hiring a cab for touring the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento and finally ferrying to Capri, then ferrying back to Naples. The coast was awesome, though I can't imagine how crowded it would be in summer....we were at times bumper to bumper. The views are breathtaking. Sorrento is lovely, and worth a visit. Capri is lovely but I didn't feel it was worth the extra time...only my opinion. There were too many options for Naples and not enough time. Pompei didn't open until an hour after we arrived so will have to do that another time. Finally docked in Civitavecchia near Rome in the morning.
A few glitches disembarking...very slow to call the group to leave the ship but eventually we left. Free shuttles drove us away from the ship. We walked for about 1/2 hour with a group of people to the train to Rome. This is very doable...I had read pre-cruise of people paying $100 to get a cab or shuttle to Rome. The walk is easy and the train ticket is not expensive. Spent a few days post-cruise in Rome...not nearly long enough. Love this city. Overall the cruise was a very enjoyable experience. I'm so glad I got to visit each of these ports, and will return to many for a more leisurely visit. Less
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