My Mother, Brother and I sailed September 23-30 on RCCL's Freedom of the Seas to Eastern Caribbean. It was our 4th RCCL cruise (we've also been on the Golden Princess to Alaska and the Carnival Glory), and as usual, we had the best time on RC.
Embarkation through Miami was a breeze. We live 4 hours away, so we spent the night in West Palm Beach to avoid the haul to Miami on Sunday morning. The parking garage at the Port of Miami is well marked and easy to get around, and we were out of the car and on the ship in about 20 minutes.
In spite of its grandeur size, we didn't have any problem at all in finding our way around the ship. We have been on Mariner of the Seas twice before, and Freedom's layout is almost the same. We found the ship to be clean and the staff to be helpful and courteous. Our cabin was spacious and accommodating....although it did get a bit crowded at night with the sofa pulled out into a bed. Jimmy, our cabin boy, kept the room in tiptop shape all week. Although we rarely ever saw him, the evidence of his performance in our cabin was quite obvious. He constantly kept the towels changed and the trash cans empty. We got much use out of our balcony - especially with going in and out of each port. It sure beats standing in crowds up on the pool deck!!
As always, we chose early seating in the dining room. Our waiter (Gusti) and waitress (Tyare) were friendly and always made us feel important. The food was wonderful, and the menus were varied each evening. Breakfast in the Windjammer was pretty good. They have a variety of food to choose from, and you never walk out of there hungry. Unfortunately they weren't opened 24 hours, but the Royal Promenade Deli provided excellent midnight snacks as did Sorrento's Pizza. We ate in Johnny Rockets twice for lunch. As usual, we were entertained with the singing and dancing waiters/waitresses in their feature song "Staying Alive".
The shows on Freedom were the best we have ever experienced on 6 cruises. Hats off to Cruise Director Rich Spacey who provided the best entertainment in the theater one could ask for. The RC singers/dancers were fantastic as was the RC pit orchestra. The magician was wonderful as was ABBA Cadabera - a singing group who presented an all ABBA-music concert. The ice show was another hit, and I thought it was equally as impressive as Mariner's ice show. One thing I was disappointed with was the lack of atrium music on the ship. There was a string/piano trio and a guitarist who played once in a while on the "Flying Bridge" over the Royal Promenade, but it was hard to watch them because they were always facing the wrong way.
The biggest highlight of the Freedom ship that we enjoyed was the Flowrider (onboard surfing). The staff was friendly, patient, and helpful to everyone, especially to guests who have never surfed before. Kudos to the photo staff for capturing some pretty incredible closeup shots of guests on the boogie board!! The H2O water park was a hit with the kids. The pools were seldom ever overcrowded - even on days at sea. I will say that this is the first caribbean cruise we've been on that had fresh water in the pools!!
PORTS OF CALL:
San Juan, Puerto Rico: If your ship ever sails here, don't bother wasting the time getting off and going ashore. We did the Old/New S.J. bus tour, and we found San Juan to be run down and dirty for the mostpart. The bus stopped at some sort of capitol building, but there wasn't much to see. We also stopped at the fort which gave us spectacular views of the ship and the docking area.
St. Thomas: We went on the 9 AM Castaway Girl Catamaran Sail and Snorkel excursion. The sea was quite rough, and some of the guests got ill before we reached the snorkel area. The original snorkel spot was too rough to stay in, so we moved to Turtle Cove which provided a calm snorkeling experience. We also took the Panoramic Drive tour which provided incredible views of St. Thomas and Megan's Bay.
St. Maartin: We were scheduled to go on the Sail Away catamaran tour, but the seas were again rough, and we didn't feel like going through a repeat of St. Thomas, so we cancelled it and went shopping instead. We had already been on a bus tour of St. Maartin on a previous cruise, so we spent most of the day relaxing on the ship.
Debarkation in Miami was again a breeze. In general we again found that RCCL has Carnival beat in almost every aspect of cruising. It's the only way to go.