Embarkation: Embarkation was very easy. We checked in at the "new" terminal. The new terminal looked more like a terminal in an airport rather than a terminal in a seaport. They called us up to get in line by zones and this was a much better idea than just allowing everyone to flood the lines. I was on the ship in about 25 minutes from the time we entered into the terminal. GREAT!
Ship Info: Freedom is the newest ship in the Conquest class. Carnival has a tendency, to me, to be a bit over-the-top with its decorations and designs. To be honest, I wasn't overly excited by the faux orange snake-skin but it also wasn't enough to make me think twice about it. The state rooms were much bigger than I remembered or expected. My cabin number was 1339 and for some reason, I didn't realize that that meant that I would be on the Riviera deck- the first floor! I have NEVER stayed on the first floor and I was a little nervous as I am a faithful dramamine user. Back to the staterooms- there were three of us that stayed in the room and to my surprise (pleasant), none of the beds were bunk beds. The room was nice. The tv was a flat screen. The only thing that I did not like about the staterooms was the fact that the bathroom always smelled like a public bathroom :-( We were three very clean females, but it always smelled un-fresh (even when our room steward- ORLANDO!!!)cleaned it. By the way, our room steward was good, not great. He did keep our room clean, but he didn't do very many towel animals and if you like that sort of thing, you might be disappointed. Orlando definitely did his job, but he did not go above and beyond.
Service: Service was generally very consistent. There were a couple of times that I got lost, but I just asked the nearest Carnival employee and they either told me or took me to where I needed to be. The photographers were really good too. Several times Emmanuel gave us personal "photo shoots", taking about 10 pictures per person and he did this for EVERYONE. Of course, I didn't buy most of the pictures taken because the 8X11's were $21.99. Shore Excursions: We took advantage of one shore excursion booked through Carnival and that was in St. Maarten. We went snorkeling in Shipwreck Cove. This was my first time EVER snorkeling and so, I was very nervous- to say the least. The guides were understanding and silly and definitely made the entire excursion fun. The excursion was $54 for three and a half hours and I thought that this was very reasonably priced. On the way back to the port, we were given a water tour of the Dutch side of the island and we were given complimentary rum punch (yummy).
In St. Thomas, we did our "own thing" and caught a local taxi to Coki beach. It was a cheap ride and the beach was beautiful.
Puerto Rico was definitely a place for walking. I loved the feeling of the old world style roads. I really think that for the area, Puerto Rico is a place that could be discovered by foot. Save the $5 and get some exercise in. I was disappointed in the fact that we didn't get to PR until 5. I guess that is where the cruise ship experience didn't suffice. The next time, I will have to fly to Puerto Rico.Dining: I consider myself somewhat of an amateur food connoisseur. I know what I like and when I find what I like, I like lots of it. I would say that Carnival was very uneven on the food this time. I know that overall, Carnival does offer the best food for the value. But, this time, I was a little disappointed. Breakfast in the main dining room was good except there was no change. Everyday the options were the same, which could get redundant (at best). Buffet style on the lido deck was so-so. I kept to my routine and got danishes/croissants, omelettes, and grapefruit. Everything else was just not that great. The potatoes were soggy, there was no option of turkey bacon or sausage. Lunch was pretty much the same, except there was lots of variety. Mediocre variety, at best. There was stir-fry line that allowed you to pick your noodles, your vegetables, and your meats and then have them stir-fried in a sauce (that was generally very salty). the line was 40 minutes (literally) and the food was alright, better than what else I could have eaten. The stateroom service was HORRIBLE. The wait was always 30-45 minutes and when I got the food, it was not good.
Supper Club: This was the best $30 that I could have spent. The service was excellent. The food was delectable and it really was superior quality. I had lobster bisque and crab cake for an appetizer. I had the ceasar salad (made tableside). For my entree, I had the surf and turf- 4 oz. filet mignon and lobster tail with creamed spinach and mashed potatoes with wasabe horseradish. For dessert, I had the fresh fruits and berries with homemade sherbert. We ordered a bottle of wine which complemented the meal superbly. All-in-all, I was very impressed and the next time that I sail, I will definitely take advantage of this a couple of evenings.
Disembarkation: LONG!Because I was on the 1st floor, I was one of the last to disembark. We were number 31 (out of 36)-as they disembark by zone numbers instead of colors. When I was talking to my dinner mates, a couple were taking advantage of the "take your own luggage off the ship" and the rest were doing it the old fashioned way. When I mentioned that we were 31- one person said, "I didn't know the numbers went that high". We knew that we were in for a long wait the next morning. We got up and had breakfast on the lido deck one last time. Then two and a half hours later, we were allowed to disembark. Although I was not a happy camper, our flight didn't leave Miami until 5:30, so we had nothing but time. If I had someplace else to be or a flight to catch, this would have been a much bigger problem.
Spa: On the second day, all three of us took advantage of the spa specials that were going on. I got a 50 minute full-body massage, a facial, and a scalp massage for $130. This was the first time that I had gotten a massage on the cruise ship, but the therapist did a very good job. The room was minimalistic, the music was soothing. The sauna was hot and did its job. The whirpool was not hot enough for my taste and the jets were a little overwhelming. I could only stand to be there for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
Overall, I enjoyed the cruise. This was my first 7-day cruise and I think that it was the perfect cruise time. Out of 10 stars, I would give this cruise an 8. If the food was better, it could be a 9. The older that I get, the more I'm into luxury and being pampered. The ports of call were excellent, and it was a much needed vacation!