Our sailing date was February 23rd - March 1st 2008. 7-day Eastern Caribbean Cruise with stops at Puerto Rico,St. Thomas, and St. Martin.
SOME BACKGROUND ON US: My father (50/s), mother (50's), brother (15) and I (20) traveled onboard the Freedom. This was my parents 7th cruise and my brother and I 6th cruise.We had previously sailed Carnival before and love their ships.(Carnival Victory,Carnival Spirit,Carnival Liberty & Carnival owned Costa Cruise Line-Costa Atlantic, and Costa Mediterranea)All cruises were to the Caribbean. Been to these ports in the past and wanted to revisit them again.
Arrival: We always fly the day of due to our schedules. Living in the northeast(Near Buffalo New York) we had some worries but everything worked out great. We purchased air and airport transfers through Carnival as well as insurance just incase (Highly recommend this)and had gotten to the ship with plenty time to spare. We flew U.S. Airways from Buffalo,NY to Philly then to Miami and took a bus ride with our transfers to the Miami Pier. On the way home we used our transfers from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale Airport and flew to South Carolina back home to Buffalo, NY. We had no delays (THANK-GOD!) and had a pleasant time.
The Ship: The Ship itself is pretty identical to the Liberty. The decor is strange but we enjoyed it.It was kept very clean and had wonderful hard working staff. As with the Conquest class the 3rd and 4th floor doesn't go all the way through because of the two dinning rooms. I knew this way in advance but still seemed to forget this at times. We enjoyed the Big Screen t.v. and the mini golf was a great touch. The Victoria Lounge and the Lido Deck was were we spent a lot of time. Now the Victoria Lounge is practically the same on pretty much all Carnival ships but, this time I realized how obstructed some of the the seats really were up in the balcony. The railings were right in the way and unless you are really tall your looking at a bar most of the time. Down below on the 1st floor it seemed to be quite cool. All in all I think they should do something about the seating, perhaps raise the seats or something. Spent time in the casino as well. My mother loves going to casinos so of course she was there every night. Won some lost some. I mostly lost some. Our room steward kept it nice and clean and called us by our names many times. This surprised us since this was the 1st time a steward greeted us by our names..
FOOD: The food was very good. We ate at the buffet every day as well as the outside hamburger/hotdog grill. They have a sushi bar,Fish and Chips Station, a Deli, 2 main dinning rooms (Posh and Chic) a stirfry station, a pizza station and I'm sure more that I'm forgetting more. We had the 8:00 pm dinning in the Posh and had pretty good service overall. We originally requested the 6:15 but got the 8:00 instead which was fine. Only ate there on the 2 formal nights however. The singing and dancing were entertaining as well as the singing maitre d Ken. For the 1st time our waiters remembered my name and were very friendly. On the 2nd formal however we got a different waiter I don't know where our original waiters were that night. The service wasn't as good on the 2nd as the 1st was and neither was the waiter. We had empty glasses and no steak knives for quite awhile and the service was slow. By no means did this upset us as we are not that hard to please. I tried the chocolate melting cake for the 1st time but didn't care for it.
ENTERTAINMENT: There was a wide range of entertainment. There were 3 main shows: Ticket to Ride (Beatles Tribute)/The Big Easy/ and Jump Jive and Wail. The 1st two shows were great with the Jump Jive and Wail being one that could be missed in my opinion and my family's. There were also 2 Rated-R comedians 1 being a ventriloquistic. I forgot their names but very funny guys and worth seeing. Each performing at midnight 2 of the nights onboard. The dancers,singers/orchestra were outstanding. The whole entertainment staff was very energizing and entertaining as well. Had some deck parties very entertaining. One was the night we were in Puerto Rico. We had a sail away party as we left Puerto Rico. Lots of entertainment and loud music as we departed.We had the privilege of sailing with the Cruise director John Heald. Last year on the Liberty we had Todd Witmer and thought he was by far the best cruise director but now believe that John Heald is. Very Very funny and entertaining guy he is. He made everything funny and interesting. We truly enjoyed him and would love to sail with him again no doubt!
PORTS OF CALL: We had 3 ports of call: Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Martin. Monday- Puerto Rico: Been here a few times in the past.We got there a few hours early and left at midnight. Once we got off we explored alittle and took lots of pictures. We had no excursion booked. Tried to do some shopping but couldn't find many places near the pier to do so. Couldn't believe this but still enjoyed our time here. Interesting to see the forts as we sailed passed them. Tuesday-St. Thomas: What a beautiful island.We had been here a couple times in the past. Booked the Seablaster and snorkel tour.Boooked this because last time we were there we did a similar excursion a loved it. We boarded a really fast boat which supplied us with rum punch,snacks,music,laughter,great memories,and getting us soaked. On the ride there we got extremely soaked. Couldn't stop laughing as our eyes burned from all the salt water. Once we got to a snorkel reef my brother and I went snorkeling for our 1st time, while my parents hung out on the boat and talked to the crew. It was awesome we saw many fish,sting rays, coral formations and even a barracuda which was very close to us. Highly recommend this tour through Carnival.Also did some shopping and found this stop to have excellent shopping. Wednesday St. Maarten This is also a beautiful island. We booked the Little Divi Bay Beach excursion and had a wonderful time. Gorgeous weather,sand and water. They supplied us with a free barbecue. We had 2 free drink coupons as well. Great beach. There was a volleyball net and water skis could be rented along with islanders selling handmade reasonable beaded jewelry. Beware there are several trying to sell their jewelry to you. They try and push more and more on you even if you have already bought some from someone else. Very friendly guys though. Great experience would recommend this to anyone.
DAYS AT SEA: Lots going on. Great time to relax from all the ports of call. Enjoyed these days .
OVERALL: We had a wonderful 7-days onboard the Freedom. Lots going on everyday. We had 2 people onboard get pretty ill and needed medical attention right away. Carnival handled this very well. As we left St. Martin, heading back to Miami we had to make an emergency stop back to St. Thomas to get the critically ill man to a hospital nearby. This didn't even delay us getting us back to Miami. Then as we were getting closer to Miami, another man was ill so the Captain speed the ship up again and he managed to get us back to Miami pretty early. Was surprised we got back as we did so early. For the most part the weather was just beautiful.Coming home the seas were a bit rough however but the other days it was pretty calm. It truly is a beautiful well maintained ship. Loved every aspect of our Cruise. Great itinerary,price, ship, food,entertainment and staff. They truly have great quality for their price. We love Carnival and see sailing with them in our near future. We recommend Carnival especially the Freedom to anyone no matter what age. Only downside to this cruise was having to disembark and head back to snowy NY.