Background Information Hubby and I took our kids, DD 13 and DS 7 along. This was our fourth cruise and their third cruise. We had previously traveled on RCI without the kids, then a family cruise on Carnival and NCL. Needless to say, we were back to RCI without giving it a second thought! The overall experience on this line was far better than any of our others thought about being. Travel To Port of Embarkation We live in NM, so we drove to ABQ and flew into FLL (cheaper flights than to MIA) on Saturday. We arrived in FLL about 5pm. We rented a car with Dollar and drove to Miami. Short drive and worth not hassling with shuttles, etc. Hotel Info Pre-cruise stay at Doubletree Grand at Biscayne Bay. Highly recommend this hotel. Great bay views. It was awesome to wake up and see FOS right there from our balcony waiting for us! Post-cruise stay was at Doubletree Gallery One in FLL. Great intra-coastal waterway views and overall nice hotel. Close to FLL beach although we did not get to go due to the weather. Embarkation We arrived at the pier at 11:30am. Took care of getting the tags on our bags and went up to go through security and check in. All was flawless and we were on the ship by 12:15. Ship Info The ship.... Well, the ship is truly FABULOUS! They have really out done themselves on this vessel. The layout surprisingly flowed well and after the first day, never got lost. I had previously heard complaints about waits at the elevators. However, we never really experienced that. We did use the stairs a lot since our cabin was easily accessible to most public areas. But, the only time we really had to WAIT was getting back on the ship at port. That being said, it was never a painful task. I was a bit worried that with all the passengers, we would feel crowded... never did. The ship is the perfect size in ratio to the guest count I guess. The only incident that comes to mind is the day we slept in (yes, we were on vacation) and almost did not get ice show tickets. People, when they say go get these- you better go! My daughter was literally the last person in line to get the last 4 tickets. WHEW! I feel certain that we could have stayed on this ship for 7 sea days and been perfectly content. You can be as active or as lazy as you want. Every detail on that ship is gorgeous. We hardly ever felt the ships movement, except for a little vibration at times, but nothing bothersome at all. Activities Where to start? The Flowrider. DD had a blast on this. The sports staff - Rebecca and Leigh in particular- were great with the kids. You can tell they truly love their jobs. Riders must be 54" to boogey board and 58" to stand up surf. They were smart in the fact that they can put up a divider so two lines can be made and two riders can go at once. This speeds things up tremendously. This was a very popular thing. They even offered private lessons for $60/ hour. DD did one and really loved it. It was worth the money. DS wasn't tall enough to participate. He was devastated. I was a bit confused as to why they go by a height restriction. I could see no reason why height would have any bearing on the safety issue. I mean, you have to sign a waiver anyway, so if I wanted my son (who was 2 inches too short to ride) I should have been able to allow him. But, he got over it. I just know we will be cruising again on a ship that has this feature. Guess that's a good way for RCI to make sure I return? ? The Wall. Parents also had to sign a waiver for this. I do not recall there being a height restriction, but I think you had to be 6 years old to do it. They provide shoes, helmet and of course, the harness. The only drawback to this is there was one day when it was pretty hot and they had to close it because the "rocks" were burning people's hands. I cannot imagine how many days they have to close it during the summer months. I realize this was not the fault of RCI, but thought I would mention it. The lines were not too bad considering how many guests were on the ship. On sea days, only about a 25 minute wait. Freedom Fairways. Small but nice mini golf course on the sports deck. Pretty fun overall. However, there really is no place to stand (for the players or watchers) while the game is being played. You had to stand on one of the grassy hill things to be out of the way of the other players. They do also have a golf simulator, which I never saw anyone in. It is open strange hours and, to me, seemed to be a waste of space. Would have been nice if they could have used that space for the mini course. H2O Zone. Nothing short of non stop fun for the kids. Bright and colorful and I found it nice to sit around and watch all the kids. It does close at 8pm nightly, which is a good idea for safety reasons. I saw everything from babies to seniors playing in this area. This area is also pretty at night. They have special lighting that really makes this area stand out and gives a nice effect for that area. I also want to make a note about enforcing the rules. A lady had sat her baby- still in diapers- down in the water, which is about 6-8 inches deep. One of the staff observed this and went to advise her of the rules and told her she could only walk through with her child as this was a health issue. The lady was not happy, but I was glad to see them actually enforcing the policy... especially for something related to our health. Ice Rink. There were certain times the rink was opened for free skate. The kids did this more than once. Again, another waiver and as far as I can tell no restrictions either. The only concern I had with this was that I think they should have a designated time for kids only. Reason is because I witnessed several adults who were not good at staying on their feet or tried to be daring almost totally wipe out kids time after time - mine included. Other than that, this is a great activity. ShipShape Fitness Center. This was where my major disappointment was with this ship. They do not allow children in gym under 16, even with a parent or guardian. My DD trains almost year around for softball and uses our home gym daily. We were all so excited that FOS had such a wonderful gym facility and she had been looking forward to using it for months. When we went to tour the area, they advised us of the rule. You can tell by looking at her that she an athlete and even told the gym staff what her normal workout consisted of and how each machine helps her. They were not willing to budge even if I accompanied her. I can understand that for the most part, kids only want to come in and play on the equipment, but if an adult is present, I disagree with their rules on this. Service Our room steward was great. He wasn't very talkative but did his job well and we never had a problem. Our room was always spotless and tidy. Our waitress, Hyde, was great as well. We had second seating and I am not sure how she still had all her energy and enthusiasm for us, but she did every night. She knew our names and always had our drinks ready when we arrived. She was good with the kids and patient with my DS who tried everything and most of the time didn't like it so had to order something else. Assistant waiter was so-so. She did her job but wasn't very personable. Head Waiter was interesting. He came to chat every night at length. He was very funny and was good about letting the table know about that nights events. Overall service was fantastic! Almost anytime I would see a crew member, they made a point to say hello and play around with my kids. The bar staff never seemed bothered to get them sodas on their soda card. In fact, I witnessed multiple occurrences of staff going above and beyond their calls of duty to accommodate a passenger. I would say the only negative experience we had was with room service. We ordered salads and sandwiches one night pretty late. It took 1 hr 15min to arrive, even though I was told about 20 minutes. We did give a second chance one morning for breakfast and it arrived on time, but then again, it was pre-ordered the night before. Shore Excursions We did not book any excursions through the ship this time as we normally do. We did San Juan and St Thomas on our own and used an independent company for your St Maarten day sail. Stateroom We were in a D1 (balcony), on deck 10 port side. I was very happy with the size of the room and thrilled with the location. Very convenient to everything. We found the balcony to be plenty big, although I would have preferred a larger table rather than the lounge chair. The bathroom was also very comfortable. The shower doors are a huge plus and made that tiny shower all the more inviting.
Dining We had late seating in Leonardo's dining room. I was very happy with this choice. We never felt rushed to get back on the ship while in port in fear if being late for dinner. They did a good job of arranging all the entertainment around both seating so everyone had a chance to attend. The dinner menus were good. Each night, they had a fair variety of options. I really enjoyed the onion tart appetizer. The lobster was amazing. I always worry about the outcome of this dish since it is so challenging to prepare for many guests, but they did a great job- not dry one bit! I thought they could have offered more selection for dessert though. I recall our last RCI cruise there were so many great selections, and this time there were fewer. We ate lunch mainly in the Windjammer or Jade. If you can't find something to eat in there, you are in trouble. They always had a great selection. Only thing I would have changed is the sandwich selection. It would have been nice if they would prepare the sandwiches fresh at a station so you could get on them what you wanted. Never really had a problem finding a table either. On the last day, we were passing by the dining room around lunchtime. We decided to go in and have lunch there. I must say it was the BEST lunch we had all week! I do not know why we did not think to go there earlier but this will be a must on our next cruise. The selections were more abundant that at dinnertime and the food was very tasty. It also flows much faster than dinner, with the same great service, which was a plus. We ate a Johnny Rockets twice. The food there is typical greasy burger type...but good nonetheless and the kids enjoyed it. They have good shakes and malts too. We don't have this chain where we are from so it was different to try, but I could see it not being anything special if it is available where one lives. Sorrento's is absolutely the best pizza on the ship. It is a cute pizzeria type spot on the Promenade. A very popular place late nights when one doesn't want to wait an hour for room service! I noticed on the menu they do serve Panini sandwiches, although we were never there the hours those were available. Cafe Promenade is a great place to just sit, relax, and enjoy some coffee and a snack. They have a couple different sandwiches and several dessert or pastries to choose from. The coffee was also great. Good location to sit back and people watch or chat with friends. Open 24 hours. Children's Clubs Adventure Ocean is also highly recommended. Both kids attended their age groups and enjoyed it. The older kids >12 really have more of a laid back, hang out type atmosphere with less organized games and activities, but it worked and that group seemed to be having fun. They even restricted the Crypt club for the teens one night, which was a big hit. It was nice that DD is old enough now to sign herself (and DS) in and out. The 6-8 group was fun as well. Most times when DS went in, he did not want to come out. They have very structured events and activities. He loved the counselors and fun so much that he begged to go to after hours, which was $5 per child from 10-1am. Worth the money, as DH and I got spend some alone time together and allowed us to have adult time with another couple we met onboard. The facilities are great. They are not cramped as I have seen before and have the latest in technology and games. There is enough room for many kids to be in each room without being a safety issue. Entertainment We attended all the nightly shows, including the headliners, Marquee and Once Upon a Time. All shows were very entertaining and kept my attention. I would have to say that I enjoyed the magic show most of all. It was magic but put into a production type show, which made it much more entertaining. I cannot recall the young magician's name, but he was quite good and very likeable. The Ice Show is not to be missed. With such a reduced ice area, I did not expect the performers to do much in the way of couples routines or technical tricks. Well, I was WRONG. They were flawless and you would never know they weren't on a regulation rink. This was by far the best entertainment onboard. Be sure to go get tickets when they say they are available. We slept late and DD rushed down at the last minute and was literally the last person to get 4 tickets...they were gone after that. So, when they say it is a must do- it really is. The parades were also interesting. They have some very extravagant costumes. They had two that week, and it was a fun late night event for the whole family to attend. Again, it was crowded, but not so much that it was uncomfortable. Be sure to go early to get a table on the promenade or you will have to stand. Disembarkation Went very smooth. We decided to carry off our own bags. We were not in a hurry since our flight was the next day. We finished packing and went to breakfast in the Windjammer around 8:30. Came back to the room to retrieve our luggage and were off the ship by 9:30. No line at all getting off. Had to wait about 15 minutes in customs line, but compared to what we have experienced, this was fast! We were so sorry to leave, but I am certain we will cruise her or the Liberty again, no questions. I now see why they call it the greatest cruise ship around....it truly is. I thought that with all the research I had done, that I knew exactly what to expect, but I was mistaken. You don't even have a clue as to how brilliant this ship is until you've set foot on her. Freedom of the Seas gave our family the best vacation we probably have ever had together. It was an experience that will not be soon forgotten. Thank you Royal Caribbean and Freedom of the Seas.