Getting there: Our original plan was to travel to Miami the night before and then stay there wake up early the next morning and travel to the ship. Although that plan did not happen it was a good plan. The original flight that we had chosen was a US Airways departure out of Pittsburgh to Miami. Well, US Airways decided that they were going to cancel our flights so we ended up flying into Ft. Lauderdale. This was fine and we had a good flight down. Once we arrived in the airport the Royal Caribbean representative told us that there was going to be a rush of people within a half hour after we had arrived so compact ourselves to accommodate everyone in the airport. The representative also told us that we would be out of the airport by 10:30-11:00 and on our way to Freedom of the Seas. This statement was false as it was not till about 12:30 when we had boarded the first bus with about an hour travel to the port of Miami.
Embarkation: Once we had arrived in the port of Miami we were greeted by a Royal Caribbean employee that had welcomed us to the Freedom of the Seas. Then we were greeted with a line of people that had stretched all the way down to where there were Explorer guests getting off buses. The line would have taken hours to get through but luckily there was another guest who had found another entry way and there was a mad dash of about 200 guests trying to be first in line. We decided to us the SetSail pass and printed out our cruise documents before we arrived at the pier. Then once we had gotten into line for our SeaPass cards it was smooth sailing getting on the ship and we were on in about 20 minutes. By this time we were able to go straight to our rooms. Of course there was the mandatory muster drill which is a Royal pain and the ship didn't depart till about 6:30 that evening.
Staterooms: For this trip, as well as every other cruise we have taken as a family, we got two rooms. The boys shared a category L interior stateroom, number 8659, and the girls shared a category D2 Superior Ocean view stateroom with balcony, number 8660. What to say about the rooms. Well the interior has plenty of room for the people who are looking for a cheap room but a great cruise. There were 3 guys in this room and we all fit comfortably without getting in each others ways. The superior ocean view with balcony was so spacious and there was even more room for the two messy girls. The beds were probably the most comfortable beds that I have ever slept in. The only problem in the interior stateroom is that they have forgotten to make the Pullmans bed as comfortable as the regular beds. There are only two positions on the Pullmans beds, uncomfortable and more uncomfortable but for the price it was a good deal. The flat screen TVs are a nice extra but probably the most unnecessary thing ever. The good thing was that on Thanksgiving we were able to get the football games on the TVs which is a big must. All in all the staterooms are wonderful.
Food: Every corner you turn there is food and lots of it. The food on a cruise just keeps coming. You most definitely eat more in a week on a cruise then you would at your home. The food on a cruise, Royal Caribbean especially, is amazing. You are able to try so many different things that you wouldn't normally have because if you don't like it you can have them bring you something completely different which is so nice. The food quality is excellent. The dining room on Freedom is no larger than on Navigator or Voyager but there are definitely more chairs and table just shoved in their. Windjammer has great food in a more casual atmosphere and is great for breakfast and lunch while the dining room is the spot for dinner. The Main seating is a good choice if you don't like to eat late while the Late seating is a good choice if you like port exploring and not worrying about rushing back onboard to make sure you are on time for dinner. All in all the food on this cruise was still at the level of excellence that you can expect from any other Royal Caribbean cruise ship.
Service: The housekeeping service was at its top notch service and very friendly at that. Coming back to the bed already turned down after dinner with your little mint on the pillow is quite nice after a long day of adventure. The cabin was always clean and the maid was always nice to get us anything that we might need. The waiters in the dining room are excellent. The level of service that they provide is amazing. They are always polite and it is nice to have a server that by the end of the week already knows your name. The servers always had a smile on their faces and were always able to get you what you needed. The bartenders by the pool were always there to get you a cold one when you needed it, and let me tell you, you really need it when it's in the 80s in the Caribbean. The service is also fast and friendly here too. Altogether the service on a Royal Caribbean cruise always has a high level of excellence.
Entertainment: When you are on a Royal Caribbean cruise you can always expect to be entertained all the time. Between the theater shows, the ice show, or any of the other amazing activities you are bound to never be bored, which in Ohio is not unusual. The theater performers are absolutely amazing. Being able to do all of the things they do while the boat is rocking back and forth, and let me tell you it was rocking, is really amazing. We had a special performance by the Nelson Brothers while we were on the ship. They are awesome. The comedians will keep you laughing the entire cruise and are hysterical. The ice show is probably the best show that you will see while on the ship. Although you have to make sure that you get tickets because the do go fast. The level of skill on this ship by the performers is amazing. The tricks and stunts that they do are amazing. There are also a number of pool side activities that will keep you entertained as well.
Things to do at sea: The FlowRider was a lot of fun but will definitely not make or break your vacation. The rock climbing wall is also very fun to use and is a good workout. The H2O zone is the perfect place for families with little kids but it not an addition for the teens. Bingo is a good way to earn a little extra cash if you are lucky, along with win a cruise bingo and the snowball jackpot bingo is also a good idea to try your luck. There are also plenty of bars to have a good time at. Evenings can be spent in the casino or in the Arcadia Theater, either is a good choice.
Western Caribbean Ports: Cozumel, Mexico- The first port of call on the Freedom itinerary for western Caribbean is Cozumel. What to say about Cozumel. The first thing is unless you have booked a shore excursion it is kind of pointless to get off the ship unless you want to be bothered to buy things by locals. We didn't book a shore excursion although I wish we had. All there really was to do was go into a lot of jewelry stores and look at jewelry that we didn't buy. Our stay got extended until 10:00 that night because George Town, Grand Caymans got cancelled due to awful weather. The weather in port that day was not as nice as it could have been but it was still better than Ohio, being able to still wear shorts and catch the sun by the pool. At times it was a little windy but that can be expected. All in all it was a good day in Cozumel. George Town, Grand Caymans- Our trip to George Town got cancelled a day in advance due to bad weather and rough seas. The whole port was shut down so no cruise ship was allowed to arrive there. The port thought the water was too rough and dangerous to tender people to shore. Instead we spent the day at sea. Montego Bay, Jamaica- Thanksgiving morning when we arrived in Jamaica it was foggy and nasty outside. It had been raining there since a week before we had arrived. We got in a little bus cab and we went to what seemed to be the city center consisting mostly of jewelry stores. Our cab driver informed us that Margaritaville was closed due to the terrible weather that they had been experiencing. After a while we were able to go up on deck and lounge around for a while. Fortunately, the Thanksgiving football games were available on the TVs in the staterooms and TVs throughout the ship. We departed Montego Bay on time and were on our way to Labadee. Labadee, Hispaniola- We had arrived into Labadee about an hour late that morning. The good news was that it was extremely sunny and hardly a cloud in sight. The temperature was around 80°-90° and it was amazing. The one thing I can say about Labadee is that I would hate to miss it. It was the most amazing port on the whole cruise. We had booked the SeaTrek Parasailing online before we boarded. It was absolutely amazing. I would recommend it to anyone who asked. It was amazingly peaceful in the air and I would have enjoyed staying up there even longer. There was an awesome lunch buffet and plenty of places to get drinks. There was lots of help on the beach, everywhere from getting lounge chairs to instructing you where to go. The beach of Labadee is one of the most amazing places anywhere.
Debarkation: At this point you are extremely refreshed but completely depressed that you have to leave this wonderful ship and excellent time behind and go back to the real world. We went to Windjammer Cafe for breakfast. They don't lie when they tell you that you won't be able to hear the color tag announcements in the Windjammer. We sat there and enjoyed a nice long breakfast. Meanwhile they called our color as we were hanging out. We then left the Windjammer and head to the line to get off the ship. It is always faster getting off than it is getting on. We went through customs and we were off to claim our bags. There are plenty of porters to help you with your bags. Soon we were on the bus and headed to Ft. Lauderdale for our 6 hour wait for our flight.
Trip as a whole: All in all the Freedom of the Seas is a wonderful cruise ship and I would recommend it to anyone. Although, traveling on Freedom is not necessary. It was an awesome ship but it was just as nice as Navigator or Voyager. Another tip is don't always go for the nicer, more expensive rooms. Just think the cheaper the room the more cruises you can go on. Another thing is that a cruise is for all different sorts of people. Cruising isn't just for the rich. When you think about it you have your food (and lots of it), entertainment (of excellent quality), lodging (nice enough), and transportation (more than just one place visited) all together. When you add it up it is probably just as much or less than a regular family vacation. Happy cruising!