Carnival Freedom Cruise Review by RichH: Carnival Freedom - Western Mediterranean
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Carnival Freedom - Western Mediterranean
This was the 4th cruise for my wife Denise and I, the 3rd on Carnival. We were travelling with our friend Tom, and Denise's mother. We took the cruise in celebration of both my wife's and Tom's 50th birthdays, both of which would occur during this cruise. Just as background information, I'm 50 years old also, and somewhat mobility impaired -- I don't use a wheelchair, but I walk with a cane, and I can't walk very far distances or stand for any length of time.
Denise Tom and I had a direct flight from New York to Rome that got us to Rome late in the morning on the day of the cruise. We hooked up with Mom in Rome without trouble -- her flight came from New York with a stop in Cincinnati.
The airport was fairly tiring, but not too bad. We found the Carnival reps immediately, and they got us to our transfer bus to the ship with no problem.
Embarkation was a breeze. Last time we cruised from Miami, and the embarkation was a nightmare, but here, we went through More one short line through the metal detectors, and one more short line, and we had our boarding passes and were ready to go.
We had an inner handicapped cabin right near the elevators. It was a little noisy at times, but basically gave us everything we needed.
We sat at the late seating for dinner in the Chic dining room. We sat at a table to four, in between two other similar tables, with a British pub owner and his family on one side of us, and a Russian family of four (the teen daughter being the only one who spoke English), and it worked out to be a fun and friendly place to dine.
The food I had was mostly good, with a few great desserts thrown in. My mother-in-law was less in love with the food, but I've got a less critical palette. Our waitress Tata and her assistant Victoriana were consistently pleasant and helpful. The kitchen also did a nice job on birthday cakes for both Tom and Denise.
As for other food throughout the ship, the deli sandwiches were excellent, the breakfasts were pretty good in the Lido Lounge, and the pizza was always tasty.
The entertainment was a little disappointing. The ship's singers and dance troop was the I've seen on a cruise ship. They performed three different shows that were all first-rate. Some of the other entertainers weren't as good, though. They had a young Brit who sang alot of Bobby Darin-type stuff, and was mostly a little flat; a magician who did mostly card tricks which he projected onto the giant overhead screen; and a juggler/unicyclist/comedian who was actually pretty funny.
The entertainment throughout the ship was OK, but we couldn't all agree on one act that everyone liked. I enjoyed the classical trio and the ship pianist, and there were two male-female duos I thought were pretty good. I found the rock band disappointing, nowhere near as good as the band I saw on the Carnival Victory 2 years ago.
The Cruise Director, John Heald, was first-rate -- entertaining and knowledgeable. The events he ran were always enjoyable.
The casino was a decent size, and had a pretty good assortment of slots, etc. I played some craps the first night, and played slots throughout the voyage.
This being a brand new ship, the ship was one of those that has a large screen on the deck for movies, etc. It was a little cold most nights for a movie, although I did catch the most recent James Bond flick there one night. (Also caught The Da Vinci Code on the indoor screen at the Vicoriana Lounge one night when the weather was too cold for an outside film).
The demographic for this cruise was different than that of any of my previous cruises -- much older, with many more disabled and partially disabled people. I think this had to do with both the European itinerary and the fact that it was the last European cruise of the season. There were only 16 children on the whole ship, which I was just as happy about.
Which brings me to the itinerary, and oh what a great itinerary.
Naples was interesting, but nothing special. I took the city tour, and it was sort of like coming to the U.S. and taking a tour of Baltimore. Denise, Tom and Mom took the tour of Ancient Herculean in the morning, which they enjoyed, but it wore them out so much they switched their scheduled tour of Pompeii in the afternoon to the same city bus tour I took.
Next were 2 days in Venice, which in a way was both the high point and the low point of the trip. The low was that I didn't get to get off the ship in Venice. There were no shuttlebuses because it was the end of the season, and the one excursion I could have taken, the Panoramic Water Tour, was sold out. (And the women in the purser's office were particularly unhelpful ad unsympathetic to this situation, to the point of rudeness). So having traveled to Venice, I never got to experience any of it firsthand. (The rest of our party did, and had a great time).
The positive was that the view from the ship both pulling in and pulling out of Venice is breathtakingly beautiful, enhanced even more by John's tasteful decision to put a Pavarotti concert up on the big screen on deck as we first pulled into port. It was a moment I wouldn't trade.
Next was Dubrovnik, an up-and-coming city that will doubtlessly be the next big destination. It's very scenic. We passed on the ship's excursions here, electing to take the shuttlebus into town. I parked myself in the town square while the others explored. My mother-in-law, who is an experienced world traveler, fell especially in love with Dubrovnik, and hopes to come back and spend a week or so.
After a sea day, we hit Messina, Sicily. Messina itself is OK, nothing special -- I took the bus tour (and unfortunately started the day by slipping and falling on the wet pavement first step off the gangplank -- it's slippery when wet). The rest of the gang took the excursion to Taormina, birthplace of the canoli. Happily, they brought me back some samples. I also tasted my first Italian Gelato in Messina, which was a worthwhile experience indeed. Ironically, though, Tom had what he said was the worst Sicilian Pizza of his life while in Sicily -- go figure.
After another sea day, we hit Barcelona. This was my favorite port. It's a very beautiful and fascinating city, with strange architecture by Gaudi, beautiful modern athletic facilities left over from the Olympics in the 90s, lots of interesting looking little shops and restaurants, and some of the tastiest sangria on the Planet Earth. This is a city I'd really like to come back to and spend some time in. We all took the city bus tour excursion here.
Next day, we hit Cannes, France. Cannes is an attractive-looking city, but I only saw it on my way through, as we all took the excursion Monaco and Monte Carlo on Your Own. Monaco proved to be beautiful, and as a casino enthusiast, I was thrilled that I had the chance to enter (and lose a few a few bucks) in the famous Monte Carlo Casino. There was a lot of walking on this excursion, though, and even more standing and waiting for the bus, so this was the most tiring excursion of the whole cruise for me.
Our next (and last) port of call was Livorno, Italy. Here we split up. Tom and I had never seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa before, so we took the Pisa and Wine Tasting excursion, which turned out to be my favorite of the whole trip. I only saw Pisa from a distance -- it was too far for me to walk from the bus -- so I waited while the others toured the tower area. Then we went to a Tuscan winehouse, for what was listed as "wine tasting" but turned out to be a meal of breads, cheeses and hams with all the wine we could drink, followed by biscotti with a dessert wine. Our group started off cautiously friendly, but by the bus ride back, were doing singalongs. Denise and her Mom took a Beautiful tuscany excursion, which brought them up into the hills for some beautiful sights, then ended with a similar lunch-and-wine party.
Our last night, we had a champagne party at our table to celebrate Denise's birthday and our British friends' anniversary (unfortunately our Russian friends didn't' come to dinner that night -- we had plenty of champagne for them too, courtesy of John the cruise director).
Disembarkation was easy. Tom and Mom didn't have transfers back to Rome, so they took a 3-hour tour of Rome.
We all stayed in Rome for an additional 5 days, but that's a story for another day. One thing I would add, though -- the flight home wasn't great, courtesy of Alitalia airlines. First, they wouldn't let Tom on his early-morning flight because he was only an hour early not two (and at first, they tried to make him think he'd have to buy a new ticket. Eventually we got him on standby on our flight. Then I discovered that even though I'd bought 2 seats for myself (being a portly fellow), that the arm rest between seats didn't go back all the way, so I had to sit squashed up with a chair arm in my back. (They eventually let me move up to first class after 4 hours, then moved me back for the last 2). I wouldn't recommend Alitalia to anyone, but I'd recommend this cruise to everyone. Less
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