We had sailed the Mediterranean around Europe on the Freedom last April. We loved the ship and the itinerary, so decided to try the Caribbean for a winter break. The Freedom was just as wonderful as it was when it was brand new!
We arrived in Miami a day before the cruise. Hey, we live in blizzard country and there was no way that I was tempting fate and arriving the day of the cruise. As it was, I was constantly going to the weather channel and checking out the forecast. We arrived to a beautiful day in Miami, sunny and in the 80's. We took a free shuttle to our hotel, Sofitel Miami Airport. With a quick check-in and some free drink and wine coupons for being a Sofitel Privilege member, we proceeded to the restaurant for a delicious and unique lunch. It was a little pricey but the convenience was worth it. After lunch, it was still early and we spent the rest of the day around the pool. Later, I talked to the concierge who arranged a noon pick-up for a shuttle to the port. The cost was $10 per person and delivered us right to the Carnival Freedom curb side.
We handed off our luggage to the porters and proceeded inside. For some reason, we were selected to go directly inside to check-in, by passing one of the initial check in points. The line upstairs was not too terribly long. The people checking guests in worked efficiently and pleasantly. After about a 15 minute wait, we were called to the desk. Our funpass had been filled out previously, as well as our sign and sail cards. In about five minutes, we were on our way to board the ship.
Since we had been on the ship before for almost two weeks, we knew how the ship is laid out. It is a little confusing at first. We went to our stateroom and immediately met our steward. Our room smelled strongly of smoke. We mentioned this to our steward and he began working on getting the smell out of our room. He continued this until we were finally satisfied that the smell was gone. (Later in the cruise, I (a non-smoker)happened to run into a couple that said they were going for a smoke. I asked them where on the ship they went to smoke. They told me their room. This, of course, is completely against regulations.)
There was constant cleaning going on everywhere. If I saw a tray in the hall when I was going to my room, when I came by again, the tray was gone.
By 1:00 p.m., we were on the Lido deck having lunch. The tables were cleared and cleaned very quickly every time we passed through the dining areas. One word of advice, the area in the back seems to be less crowded. We were always able to find a clean table, usually by the window. We found the best food during breakfast to be the scrambled eggs made with whatever you specified or the fried eggs made for you at the omelet station. We found this even better than the sit down breakfast in the posh dining room. The best food on the Lido deck for lunch we thought was the stir fry. Fresh and delicious. The desserts on the lido deck could use some improvement. Usually, I just went and got some ice cream.
We were assigned to the chic dining room for the late seating. We were disappointed that we did not get assigned to the posh dining room. That is where we had been assigned before. The maitre d, Ken is fantastic there. Our maitre d' in Chic was Elvis. While a very nice fellow, he did not have the personality nor the entertainment that we felt in the Posh dining room. The food was delicious. If possible, I think that it had even improved from our last trip. Our server, Antoine, was wonderful. His young assistant was a delight(I'm sorry but I cannot remember his name). He came up to me at the end of one meal to remind me that there was a lunar eclipse that night. Thanks to him, on that clear, warm night, we went out to see the most beautiful lunar eclipse that I have ever seen.
Because this cruise was not as port intensive as our last one on the Freedom, I was determined to use more of what the ship had to offer. I took a line dancing class, which was great fun. We went to the art auction, where because I made the biggest fool of myself (on purpose!), I won a bottle of champagne which we shared with our table at dinner. We went to the piano bar a couple of times which was fun and just a little "adult." One night we went to happy hour and dancing with Motown songs. I went to Bingo, while my husband went to jazz. We enjoyed the shows in the Victoriana theater. One note: I found the theater exceedingly cold for whatever program was being held there. Ladies, take a sweater or wrap. By far, the absolute best show is the Beatles's review. During the day, we sat in the sun and read. There were always an adequate number of chairs for us to find a couple in a sunny but somewhat quieter area. On one of our last nights, we went to a Caribbean breeze party late at night on the Lido deck. It was wonderful! There was different kinds of line dancing, steel drum music, a conga line. People from "tweens" to grandparents were all participating.
We did not use any Carnival excursions. I had set up excursions on our own for each of the ports. We had a great time in all the ports. I climbed the falls at Dunn's River, went tubing in Jamaica, kissed stingrays and went snorkeling in Grand Cayman and sat on the beach in Cozumel. It all was great fun.
John Heald, the cruise director, was marvelous. He added to the fun of the cruise. Admittedly, some of his jokes and sight gags we had seen before on our last cruise with him. But, they were just as funny the second time.
There were many families with children on board. I did not know that President's week was winter break for many schools. John told us that there were 792 kids on board. To be honest, I hardly ever saw any and can't remember ever being bothered by one.
Carnival Freedom really was the fun ship. It certainly was not the drunken, low class experience that some people purport it to be.
We arrived back to our home airport in Cincinnati, where there had been a week of ice and snow. Thanks to the gorgeous weather on our trip, we were very tan. I hadn't packed any "going home" clothes, so I had on capri pants and sandals with a great tan. Needless to say, we got a lot of envious looks in the airport.
To all of you who are getting ready to go on a cruise on the Carnival Freedom, have a wonderful time! I'm just a little bit jealous.