This was our sixth cruise and our fifth on Carnival. Since we live in Florida, we drove to Miami from Orlando and arrived at the cruise terminal around 10am. We checked in immediately and were assigned Group 3 to board the ship. The wait to board was about an hour and a half so we passed the time by talking to other passengers that we met on the cruise critic board for this cruise. Our group was easy to spot because most of our group wore these neon green Freedom Floaters t-shirts that we ordered for this cruise.
EMBARKATION It took only four or five minutes to board the ship once our Group # was called. By this time the VIP's and special needs passengers were on board as well as two wedding parties and Groups one and two. This is the third time we have sailed out of Miami and I must admit that embarkation is very easy at this port. We would rate the embarkation process an A.
SERVICE I will break the service into three categories, Bar Service, Stateroom Service and Dinning Room Service. The bar service on the Freedom could use a little help. After standing at the empty bar in the Atrium when we boarded for about five minutes and not being served, we decided to go to the Lido Deck and get a drink of the day at a pool side bar. It took a couple minutes but we were finally feeling like we were on vacation and were enjoying our first drink of the day, a Funship Special. For those of you that complain that Carnival is always trying to force drinks on you, you will love this ship. We were constantly looking for a bar server or getting up and walking to the bar to get our own drinks. Since others were having the same problems we were having, the bars were pretty well packed. Then when we would get back to our lounge chairs with a full drink, four or five servers would walk by asking if we needed drinks. Then, when our drinks were empty, no servers. The good news is that this was the lowest sail and sign account bill we have had on our six cruises. The other good news is that we really didn't need the alcohol anyhow. Our room steward was Putra, and he did a very good job. We asked him for an ashtray and two red wineglasses when we met him and we never had to ask again. He did comment to us that we should not smoke on the balcony and that we should never throw a cigarette butt overboard. Since I don't smoke, I told him how much I appreciated his comment and assured him that my wife would not be throwing anything overboard. Our stateroom was always clean and stocked. Although we didn't use the mini bar, it was stocked with alcohol miniatures, sodas and water. Our dinning room waiter was Wayan and his assistant was Luis. I can't remember the name of the Sommelier. Wayan and Luis did a fantastic job of serving us and making recommendations and what they felt we would like. Wayan noticed that my wife asked for a baked potato the first two nights and made sure she had one each evening the rest of the week. Service would have been an A except for the bar service. Overall I would rate service a B-.
ACTIVITIES The usual litany of Carnival activities was offered on this ship. The Casino, a liquor tasting, karaoke, several trivia contests, bean bag toss, a singles dating game, not so newlywed game, mens hairy chest contest, ice carving, Are you smarter than a fifth grader, water wars, etcetera. They also had something that blew me away. They had a "Walk for the Cure" to raise money for Breast Cancer research through the Susan G. Komen Foundation. My Mother passed away last August as a result of breast cancer and I was moved by the Freedoms gesture. My hat goes off to the Cruise Director Todd Wittmer and the Captain, Captain Orazio D'Aita. Activities get an A.
ENTERTAINMENT The first night of the cruise we were fortunate to have the comedy of Allyn Ball. Allyn is a big burly guy with a very quick with and he entertained us thoroughly even though he was running a fever. The second night was a ventriloquist named Jerry Goodspeed and he was fantastic. I couldn't believe how he sang with two characters voices without moving his lips. If I ever hear of him performing in the Orlando area, I will gladly pay to see him again. The third night was a production show about New Orleans called the Big Easy and it was done very well. We were worried about the Ticket to Ride show because we saw it on the Miracle last year but decided to see it anyway and we're glad we did. The show was different. Although we preferred the show on the Miracle, this show was outstanding. On Wednesday night we had the comedy of Carl Guerra. Carl started off slow, in our opinion, but finished quite strong. He is a very funny man that once again, I would pay to go see. Thursday night was a tribute to swing called Jump, Jive and Wail. Unfortunately, we had a great time in Grand Turk and didn't make it to this show. The last show was the Carnival Legends show and I'm glad we made this show. Guests on the Freedom auditioned all week with the karaoke host Mouna. Mouna selected the people to perform by the applause of other cruisers that watched the auditions on the Theatre Under the Stars screen at the Lido pool deck. My fellow cruiser put on one heck of a show. Our cruise director, Todd Wittmer, is a pretty convincing Dolly Parton too. The shows were only a fraction of the entertainment. At the Lido Deck we were entertained by Caribbean Breeze, Karaoke in the International lounge with Mouna nightly, Steve performed guitar music outside the casino, Opus 3 performed in the Habana Cigar Bar, great piano music by Ron in Scotts piano bar (this place was packed every night), dancing with Rare Occasion, piano music with Mihail. You didn't have to go far to be entertained. I would rate the entertainment an A.
SHORE EXCURSIONS This cruise had four ports, Half Moon Cay, San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk. On Half Moon Cay we decided to take it easy and have a beach day. We did take our snorkel mask and fins so we did a little snorkeling. But mostly we laid out and relaxed. HMC is a beautiful place with lots to do. The Carnival staff put on Beach Volleyball, Tug-o-war and survivor, as well as a BBQ on the island (Hot Dogs and Hamburgers). In San Juan we did our own excursion, a Segway tour of Old San Juan. A Segway is a two wheeled personal transporter and it is a load of fun. Our tour lasted two hours and included a tour of El Morro Fort. Rather than walk through the streets, we glided through on our Segways. In St. Thomas, we once again booked our own excursion and did a two tank scuba dive at Coki Beach. Steven was our master diver and he was fabulous showing us a lot of underwater life. We got to see garden eels, moray eels, loads of fish and sea urchins and two nice coral reefs. After our scuba adventure we went up the sky ride to Paradise Point to enjoy the view of Charlotte Amalie and a few Bushwhackers. Several crew members from our ship and the Carnival Triumph were up there and we really enjoyed chatting with them. In Grand Turk, we once again booked our own shore excursion and went scuba diving with Blue Water Divers. On the first dive we saw plenty of fish and a nerf shark as well as swimming through a coral arch known as McDonalds because of the arch. The second dive was interesting. We saw plenty of fish a lobster that was about 15" long, several eels and four dolphin. We must have cut through the dolphins bedroom because two of the dolphin were mating. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined witnessing this. Our Dive master Andy dropped us off near the pier and we went into one of the beach bars and had a few drinks with some friends we met on the Freedom. Since we ordered our own excursions, I would rate them an A+...LOL
DISEMBARKATION We usually do self assist, but since we met some great people on this cruise, we decided to use normal disembark and spend some time chatting with our new friends. Carnival breaks you into numbers similar to embarkation and you proceed down to the main deck when your number is called. Since our number was 18, we had plenty of time to talk with our friends on the Lido deck. Number 18 was called around 10 am and we were off the ship, through customs and on our way up I-95 in no time. This was a very easy process; however, this is why I always get mad at Carnival. They make us get off the ship. Only joking. Disembarkation was a breeze and I give them an A here too.
SUMMARY While I don't think a Cruise Director makes or breaks a cruise, Todd Wittmer certainly added to our cruise experience. The Freedom is a beautiful ship with a pretty good crew. My wife and I achieved our goal of relaxing, having a great time, meeting new friends and getting away from the daily grind and the hustle and bustle of every day life. I would highly recommend the Carnival Freedom to anyone and everyone.