I was part of a group of overworked and simply exhausted individuals, who were in desperate need of a vacation! Our group size was 69 minus 1 person who canceled 2 days prior to sail date as a result of throwing his back out. And unfortunately, he didn't have trip insurance for his balcony! : ( This has taught me to always buy cruise insurance, you never know what hand fate can deal you. The age of our group was from 6 to 85 (a 76 y/o was in a wheel chair). We sailed on Freedom Of The Seas on 8/19. As you can imagine, hurricane Dean weighed heavily on our minds. So much, that we were thinking about leaving my mother (the 76 y/o) at home. That dilemma was solved quickly when she told us "DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT"! The Capt informed us that he would be sailing a different route out of Miami. Which would be more northerly than usual, to avoid possible swells from Dean's aftermath. We were also told that our 1st port of call would definitely be Labadee. And from then on, the amount of damage that Dean caused would determine if our itinerary would change. I can honestly say that not one person within our group complained. I supposed the loss of life and property was far more important than our next port of call. Which remind me, when one is in this situation the most accurate info will come from the Capt or his first officers. Try to avoid hearsay from fellow cruisers. One poor fellow told me that he "herd" we might be rerouted to Hawaii! (LOL)
We awoke the 1st morning in 10 to 15 ft seas. Which is a true testament of how well Freedom is built, because all we felt was a minor rock. A few of the people within our group felt a little queasy at breakfast. However, by lunchtime everyone was in full cruise mode.
I am also happy to say that our itinerary did not change, although I always wanted to visit Hawaii. ; ) The seas were smooth aft that 1st day. This worked out well for a couple on our ship that planned to have a wedding in Grand Cayman. I didn't get a chance to congratulate them. If they read this, much happiness.
We were surprised to find very little damage was visible within any of the ports that we visited. And I later found out that we were the first cruise ship to visit Jamaica, post Dean. However, I did find that the water was somewhat cloudy on all of the beaches that we visited. And I didn't see any reef fish while snorkeling from off the beach. I'm sure this is a result of Dean. The waters will be back to normal within a week or 2.
I saved the best for last, THE SHIP!! I think I can fairly say that I speak for everyone within our group when I say that, Freedom more than met our needs for entertainment! If you don't have fun on this ship, it's because you simply don't want to have fun. RCC have set very high standards for other cruise lines to follow concerning their "water park" on Freedom! One of my favorite pastimes was watching my 6yo daughter in the wave pool, not to be confused with the flow rider. The wave pool was a small 3.6ft pool that had a minor circular current that carried the children around the pool. Let me tell you, these kids were in pure bliss! You would not believe how hard was to get my daughter out of the water park at the end of the day. The adult section was equally as fun.
The food was standard "cruise" food. If your budget allow, I would recommend dining at least 1 evening at one of the specialty restaurant. I guarantee you won't be disappointed if you choose Chops! Their veal is to die for. If you can, save enough space for desert, unfortunately I didn't, try the Mississippi mud pie. I thought my brother was going to cry aft he tried it! Not that I spent a lot time in the room but, I found a nice treat when lights out. There bedding is high end from the feather bed to the monogrammed sheets. I slept like a baby! One last thing, I found Freedom to be very handicap friendly. Approx 95% of the ship is accessible by wheelchair. This was a wonderful surprise after having a terrible experience on one of Carnival's ship.