Freedom of the Seas Review 10/7/07 Eastern Route
We flew in to Miami the day before we sailed. We had no problem getting a van taxi to take us to the hotel and paid $35 with tip. We had hotel reservations at Holiday Inn Bayside, and had to get a larger type room since there were six of us (we needed a roll-away bed) and paid $200, the hotel was nice. We had dinner over at Bayside at the Hard Rock Cafe. The only downside to this hotel is that there was very loud music playing over at Bayside until midnight. I don't know if this is normal but I don't recall ever reading about loud music late at night.
We checked out of the hotel at 11 a.m. and were at the Port by 11:15 a.m, there was already a line to get into the building. Taxi ride there was $15 with tip. We got in pretty quickly, there wasn't a wait at the Priority Embarkation (we are Diamond members) and we had our Set Sail passes ready to go, but unfortunately they weren't boarding yet so we had to wait. About 12:05 they started calling priority boarding so we were off. Our first stop was to have the YEP bracelets placed on the kids in case of an emergency. Then we had lunch at the Windjammer and then explored the ship. If you want to boogie board, pack your swimsuit in your carry-on. There were only a few people up at the FlowRider.
We were in one of the Family Oceanview Staterooms on the 8th floor (the bigger ones), cabin 8200. The cabin was great and much larger than the FO's on the other floors. The kids area with bunk beds had a separate bedroom with a door, and there were two t.v.'s in the stateroom. There was also an extra closet.
We loved the ship but the artwork wasn't that great. We had two favorites. The first being the Promenade deck. We spent a lot of time in Cafe Promenade and Sorrento's. I also enjoyed browsing the shops. Our other favorite was the H20 zone. For those with younger children, this is perfect! We spent a lot of family time in the H20 zone. Being at the very front of the ship we got a lot of exercise but that's o.k., we just worked off all the food we ate.
We had main seating Dining in Leonardo's dining room, table # 343 which is a window table. Our waitress was Alicia (from Trinidad and Tobago) and she was fantastic! The best we've ever had. She was so good that I nominated her for the Commodore club. Our assistant waiter Alston (from Jamaica) was pretty bad. I wonder if he was new because it took a long time to get our drinks then we always had to ask for refills. We would see him standing in the back doing nothing, just looking around. The food was pretty good in the dining room, better than the Windjammer, even though we ate most of our meals in the Windjammer. We never had a problem finding a table for six people in the Windjammer even though it seemed crowded all the time. We almost always ended up at a table with Dube (from South Africa) as our waiter. He was really good, and good with the kids too, so we always tried to get a table in his area. We also had lunch one afternoon at Johnny Rocket's. We had exceptional service and the food was really, really good. My kids enjoyed Sprinkles and had to have a cone every time we walked by it.
The first sea day was kind of rough. Being at the front of the ship we felt it as soon as we were awake. One of our boys didn't even make it to breakfast before he got sick, one got sick at breakfast, the other got sick after breakfast. They've been on three other cruises and this is the first time they've gotten sick. Later that morning we went to the Meet and Mingle. It was nice to meet some fellow cruisers that we had been chatting with for months.
San Juan, Puerto Rico. I've been there a lot so we really didn't want to take any tours. We just walked around for a while with the kids going into a few of the shops. We then came back onboard and enjoyed the H20 zone almost to ourselves. It was nice as the ship was empty. We played for a while and had a later dinner at Windjammer.
St. Thomas. I've also been there a lot so we just took a taxi in to town ($4/person) and did some shopping. On the way back we had our taxi driver drop us off at Skyride to Paradise Point. I'm afraid of heights but wow, what a view. I'm glad we took the ride up there.
St. Maarten. I've also been there a lot but wow, it sure has changed, it's been about 15 years since I was last there. I really enjoyed St. Maarten a lot, it was my favorite port of this cruise. We took the water taxi ($5/person good for all day) over to do some shopping and walking along the beach. We got a few souvenirs and the highlight for my husband was visiting the Yoda Guy store. It was a really neat store. You can check them out at www.yodaguy.com. We took the water taxi back and then did a little more souvenir shopping right by the pier and went back onboard the ship. We wanted to take one of the segway tours but just ran out of time.
Friday morning we were invited to a Diamond/Diamond+/Platinum breakfast in the Galileo dining room. It seemed unorganized and the service was really slow. Our invitation said it was from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. but they didn't open the door until around 9:15 a.m. We were then told it was a printing error and it shouldn't have started until 9:30 a.m. We were served mimosa, a yogurt and fruit appetizer, and our choice of three different entrees. The stuffed French toast was really good. If they have this breakfast on future cruises we will probably just skip it. We did get a nice little souvenir menu. Friday was also the t-shirt sale day (2 for $20). If you don't like crowds, avoid this area! After just seeing the mobs of people practically fighting over the t-shirts, I said forget it and went back later, after lunch, where there were only a few people.
We used the kids club three times for our boys who are 6, 6, and 8. We had tears when we dropped them off as they'd rather stay with us but we needed some kid-free time. One time we went back to pick them up and they were running around laughing and having such a good time that we decided to come back later. My daughter would have been in the 9-11 group even though she turned 12 the day after we sailed. She did not want to be with the younger kids, and I did not want her to have the freedom to come and go as she wanted with the 12-14 group so she didn't spend any time in the kids club, but I was o.k. with that as I don't feel comfortable with having her possibly be walking around the ship by herself. We did enjoy a few of the group family activities, which is something new since the last time we cruised with RCI.
We enjoyed the H20 zone (love the freshwater pools!), playing miniature golf, rock wall climbing, ice skating, as well as boogie boarding. It is very entertaining to watch the FlowRider. I did boogie boarding twice, after hurting my ankle/foot the second time I decided I was too old to do it anymore, but still was glad I tried it.
I had a small issue with something I ordered online prior to the cruise through Gifts and Gear. I talked to the Guest Relations, they made a call and told me that 1) it would be taken care of and 2) they would follow up on it. Unfortunately it wasn't taken care of so I went to Juan who is the Diamond Concierge and he did what was necessary to get it taken care of, thank you Juan, he was very efficient.
We had access to the Diamond Lounge. Unfortunately we only got to enjoy it one evening while family members were watching our kids for us. The chocolate covered strawberries were yummy. It was nice to spend some time in there and Juan was a good concierge and very cordial. We also were able to get ice tickets from Juan instead of having to wait in line like the others.
We used quite a few of the Diamond coupons from the booklet. We were only asked to verify we were a Diamond member when using the photo coupons. We didn't find much use for the kids' coupon booklets. The only ones we used were for the arcade and for the free ring at Del Sol store. Our three boys in the 6-8 age group all received the Crayola twistable crayons as their Crown & Anchor gift. My daughter received a messenger type bag. My husband and I each received the other tan tote bags that say Freedom of the Seas. We also had the white robes waiting for us in our room to use during the cruise, as well as a few other goodies throughout the week.
Diamond/Diamond Ultimate Value Book: 7+ Night Cruises: Spa Credit - 20% off any one spa or salon service. Bingo Credit - One free strip of three Jackpot Bingo cards (total value of $10). Bar Credit - complimentary cocktail in a souvenir glass or you can have soda or a bottle of water. Complimentary Wine Tasting Seminar - Wine Tasting Certificate. Photo Credit - Receive a complimentary free photo (any size). Casino Credit - $12 for $10 (3 of them) (when I turned these in at the casino cashier they just gave me $6 cash). Casino Credit - $5 Match Play Casino Certificate (limit 3 certificates per guest). Internet Credit -- $10 internet credit. Gift Shop Discount - 10% off any Royal Caribbean International logo merchandise purchase. Gift Shop Discount - 10% off any perfume purchase. Bottle of Wine Discount - Purchase any bottle of wine and receive a 20% discount on any second bottle of wine under $50. Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream - One free Peace Pop ice cream bar. Seattle's Best Coffee - One complimentary non-alcoholic coffee . Johnny Rocket's - One complimentary dining experience at Johnny Rockets. Vintages Glass of Wine Discount - Purchase any glass of wine and receive a 75% discount on a second glass of wine of equal or lesser value. Vintages Wine Flight Discount - Purchase any wine flight and receive a 20% discount on a second wine flight of equal or lesser value. Diamonds International - 10-15% off any Platinum, White or Yellow Gold (14kt or 18kt) piece of merchandise. Or $750 off any 5 ct (or higher) loose Diamond.
C&A Crown & Anchor Society Youth Program Activity and Ultimate Value Booklet: Arcade Game Credit - $15 USD for $10 USD - Receive $15 of arcade credit when you purchase $10 of arcade credit. Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream - Buy one Peace Pop ice cream bar and get one free. Free Pay Per View Movie - Buy one Hollywood pay per view movie and receive a second movie free. Airbrushed Temporary Tattoos - Purchase a cool looking temporary Airbrushed Tattoo and we will make it look cooler with FREE Shimmer Color! In addition, ask about our You Tattoo take home packs and get 20% off! ICafe Internet Credit - 10 free minutes in the youth area. Y-Spa Credit - 10% off any one Y-Spa treatment. Del Sol - Free color-change ring. Del Sol - Free Solar Slime when you spend $50 USD. Del Sol - Free Message in a Bottle when you buy two t-shirts. Del Sol - Free color changing necklace when you spend $100 USD. Del Sol - Buy a pair of Solize sunglasses, and get an additional pair 25% off.
The entertainment onboard was great. We missed the comedian the first night and were busy packing the last night, but we saw the other shows and they were great. The ice show was fantastic! We didn't get to attend any of the late night activities. We also enjoyed the entertainment in the Promenade. We would have liked to have seen more live music around in the bars.
Disembarkation was pretty bad. We had an early breakfast in the Windjammer then we hear our colored being called, last call for it, which was about an hour before they said it would be called. We rushed off only to find that the white colored tags (the first ones off) going around and around and around. We waited over an hour before our colored tags started coming off. We bought the transfers through the cruise line back to the airport so we were able to get a bus right away and get to the airport pretty quickly. Next time we will just grab a cab ourselves as it would have been much cheaper.
Overall, the cruise was GREAT! The downside was 1) I hurt my ankle on the flow rider, 2) lack of assistance from Guest Services 3) our assistant waiter, and 4) it rained the first day at sea and last day at sea (making it too cold for me to swim). There are so many pluses but some of them were watching my six year old climb to the top of the wall with no problem, having a lot of great family time in the H20 zone with the freshwater pools, boogie boarding (I had to at least try it), the entertainment, all the food, the nice people we met from the cruise critic board, our room 8200, and the best family photo ever which was taken on formal night. I'm looking forward to my next cruise which will be on the Liberty of the Seas next October! The Freedom Family type ships really have me spoiled.