Hello fellow cruisers! I hope that this review is helpful! I have cruised 18 times. I used to be VERY loyal to Royal Caribbean (unfortunately, I found that over the years, the general experience was deteriorating. Then I had a VERY negative experience, which prompted me to try different cruise lines).
However, with the launching of the Freedom of the Seas, and the heavy publicity about how grand this ship would be, it made sense to give Royal Caribbean a try again. Maybe things had improved.
When you first see this ship in person, your jaw will drop. Going over the bridge that connects the city of Miami with the port, you could see other cars slowing down and every passenger in them turning their heads to watch. It is indeed impressive.
Walking into the ship, you can't help but sense that feeling of awe once again. The ship is indeed beautiful. And looking at the deck plan, you can't help but wonder, how am I going to do everything there is to do on this ship??
We chose a Promenade stateroom. This was a new type of stateroom for us, so we wanted to see what it would be like. I knew that the square footage would be less than on higher category staterooms. However, I didn't expect it to be smaller than inside cabins on other cruise lines. Claustrophobia QUICKLY set in as I walked in. Pretty and functional, but these staterooms are SMALL. There is no way around it. Maybe this would prompt me to spend more time enjoying the ship!
I'm so sorry to say that as I spent more time onboard, I realized that I had purchased a "book with a pretty cover, but no substance". Yes, the ship is huge, there are plenty of innovative activities, tons of bars and lounges, and plenty to see. However, there are so many passengers onboard that you feel like you're walking down the street in the middle of rush hour in New York City. Not my idea of a relaxing vacation. It's very "gimmicky" with a bunch of activities that normally would not be associated with cruising.
As a rule of thumb, if it looks fun and it's innovative, it's going to cost you extra. That's a BIG disappointment when you're nickel and dimed for everything in sight, and that didn't sit well with me considering that I had already paid inflated rates just to experience the "largest and newest cruise ship in the world". What happened to the good ol' days when you could go on a cruise and besides your drinks and tips, you didn't really have to spend money to enjoy what the ship had to offer?
I'm sorry to say that the food is a MAJOR disappointment. Still better than what I eat on a daily basis at home, but it made me yearn for the days when you would come home raving about the excellent food onboard the ship. Everything was bland, tasteless, and even though it is hard to feel "special" on a ship of this size, the Freedom of the Seas takes it to a new level. The staff was not rude, but not attentive either. Not a smile in sight, the order would be taken in a rush, the food would be served in a rush, and we always had the feeling that we were being kicked out of the restaurant in order to make way for the next group of guests.
Getting off the ship at the different ports of call will make you want to stay onboard and just forget about exploring any of these ports. Although I'm used to all guests rushing for the exit when a ship arrives in port, this was utterly ridiculous. The lines would twist and turn up the stairs for 3 decks and it would not move at all. Some guests would be pushing others, and a few choice words would be exchanged. Classy... Once again, it reminded me of rush hour in New York City. By the time you'd get off the ship, you would be so irritated that it would be hard to feel on vacation. The line to get back on the ship wouldn't be any better.
Maybe I am a bit of a night owl. I look for fun and excitement after dinner, and I believed that this ship would be filled with exactly that. After the shows, the ship would be DEAD every single night. Except for a few people in 2 or 3 lounges and the casino, the ship felt like everybody had jumped overboard. Royal Caribbean is doing something wrong when you're traveling on a ship of this magnitude with so much to see and do, yet everybody goes to bed early.
Finally, the new bedding system that has been so highly publicized, was disappointing. It's nice, but it's hardly the best night sleep you'll ever have. I don't know if I have been spoiled by Carnival's Comfort Bed System that I experienced a few months ago, but I just couldn't help to compare.
I really wanted to like the Freedom! But I have now experienced other products (Princess, Carnival, and Celebrity) and unfortunately for Royal Caribbean, they leave them in the dust. There's NO comparison. Anybody with the misconception that any of the three lines that I just mentioned have an inferior product, should think twice.
The Freedom is a great ship, and the improvements that would make it indeed grand would come from things that CAN be changed, like food, service, passenger flow, and eliminating the expenses associated with some of these new activities.
Maybe the ships have just gotten too big. My last cruise, which was aboard the 85,000 Carnival Miracle was a total pleasure. Not as many guests onboard, great service, excellent food, the best staterooms I've ever experienced on any ship, and I could still feel I was on a cruise ship, not on a crowded amusement park.
I think that my ideal ship size is in the 70,000-90,000 ton range, but I guess it's a matter of personal choice. I hope that this is a helpful review. I once again apologize if I sound negative, but I went on this cruise with the most positive attitude and excitement, but as the days went by, I just felt more and more disappointed. I still enjoyed it, and I know most people will too. But I've found other cruise lines that will make me enjoy cruising more. I think that I'm saying goodbye to Royal Caribbean for good....