We arrived a day early as we have done in the past. Did not want the weather to play a factor as it very well could in Minnesota. Settled down, found the grocery store near the hotel to get our 12 packs of pop and time to get some rest as the next 7 days are going to be packed full of activity.
We took the shuttle service from the hotel and it was a little cheaper. Not much but we needed to get to the boat regardless. Arrived at the Port of Miami around 11:30 and got into line after passing our bags off and it was time for the fun to begin. Being that we were in the new cruise terminal it was, I felt a lot quicker than in past years. Nice facility. We were onboard around 12:30 and ready to get some lunch. Our rooms were not quite ready yet, as this was our first time on a Conquest style ship, we needed to explore and figure out the design so we could easily navigate for the next week. Ate our lunch, and the food up on lido was yummy. Headed down to our room around 2 and my bags had already arrived. It was nice, got myself all setup for the week.
Being that I had signed up for the bloggers events, we had a welcome aboard party for the bloggers with snacks and free drinks. It was fun. John Heald is one funny man. I would have to rate him the best in the 3 cruises I've taken with Carnival.
I've always felt the food was wonderful. I have nothing to compare as I've only ever sailed with Carnival. It was great. We had a great wait staff in the dining room. There was always a great selection of food on the Lido deck. I enjoyed the stir-fry line, as well as the Deli. I also experienced the dining room for breakfast this cruise and it was a great experience. I would probably on future cruises choose to eat in the dining room for breakfast as you can get anything you want and the wait is minimal. Overall, the food was fantastic.
As stated before, John Heald is hilarious. Each show was packed full of humor and since this was a special cruise for him; he had a few special guests make appearances. For anyone who's seen Goronwy Thom (www.goronwythom.com) he is amazing. He put on such a great show. The comedians were all right, the first comedian was ok, and the second was much funnier than the first. The two production shows that Carnival put together were great. Overall, the entertainment was great. Never a dull moment, and a lot of the fun was the interactive shows that John Heald puts on with the fellow guests. Never a dull moment aboard the fun ships.
Our ports of call were Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Ocho Rios. Great weather for the most part. Cozumel was a little bit rainy, and by the end of the day was beautiful. My dive excursion was cancelled due to the weather when we arrived and was given a full refund from Carnival. Got a chance to go parasailing. It was truly amazing. If heights do not bother you, it's an experience I would recommend. We had a long day in Cozumel, and the ship left around 10ish and we steamed for Grand Cayman. Arriving we were the first and only ship in at the time so we had the entire tender service to ourselves. It was quicker than I remember, but then again, they only had one ship for them to work on. Swam with the stingrays, and again, it is a once in a lifetime experience. They are amazing creatures. I would do it again. It was then we headed for Ocho Rios. We had booked a private tour with Marva Shaw. Her son was the one doing the tour for her this day as she had prior arrangements. He was great! If there is a private tour to be booked it is with her. Her son was on time and had us to each location we wanted to go. We had booked the Dunn's River Falls tour and Mahogany Beach break. Well worth the money we spent, he also got us to a shopping center and we got some amazing prices on goods. Like I said, if you want a private tour, she is so well known that when we arrived at the beach, they were charging for chairs, we dropped her name, and we had a table for 4 and there was no charge for it. Highly recommended. If I was to return, I would book with her again and maybe try a few of the other activities they offer. It is a beautiful country and one that without a guide may not leave you with the same impression.
That is truly the trip in a nutshell. We were sad we had to leave the following Saturday. It was painless, we placed our bags outside our rooms and the new system is in my opinion, much better than the way they used to run it. Self-Assist is still an option, but we had a late flight, so we figured we might as well hang out on the ship and take our time leaving. We were off the ship at 10:00, and through customs by 10:45.
This was our third cruise with Carnival, and they have once again surpassed my expectations as a vacation option. In this day in age with as many options for a vacation, it really means something to raise the bar in the customer service area. If anyone has any questions about the trip or the Freedom that I could help, feel free to shoot me an email.