This is our third cruise, but first on RCL (first two on Carnival). We absolutely LOVED Freedom of the Seas and cannot see ourselves every going back to Carnival. The amenities of this ship were perfect for our DS's (14 and 12).
Our flight arrived in Miami at 10:20. The RCL staff at the airport was extremely helpful and patient. We had collected our luggage (which took some time) and were on a bus en route to the port by 11:15. While the lines at the port were lengthy, they moved quite well. The security and check-in process were pain-free. We thought the complimentary drinks and cookies was a nice touch. We had to wait an hour to board the ship. The RCL representative told us that there was a problem with immigration from the previous trip. Apparently from reading other reviews, this seems to be the standard answer to deflect RCL from taking the blame. Once the line moved, we were onboard the ship in less than 10 minutes. Our room was ready, so we dropped off our carry-on luggage and headed up to the Windjammer for lunch.
Even with the size of this ship, we never felt as if we had to wait in a line. Obviously when everyone was trying to leave a show, there was a slow down, but otherwise, we never noticed the other 4000 people on the ship - even on sea days.
Our stateroom attendant (Rodney) was outstanding. Everything we asked for (which wasn't much) he accommodated with no waiting. Our room was always made up and we never had a dirty towel around for long. He was great with the kids as well as with the adults. In fact, he and the boys developed a "secret" handshake to greet each other. We thought the size of the room was adequate. We never really felt cramped. Storage space was fine - especially since the luggage fit under the bed. We could have done without the coffee table, but we put it in the closet to add more floor space.
We ate at the Main Dining. Our table was off to the side, but was a window seat which afforded several very beautiful sunsets during dinner. Our waiter and assistant waiter were less than great on the first two nights. We did mention this to the head waiter on the third day and from that point on were afforded much better service. We thought the menu offered a nice selection of food. We thought the food was good. The Windjammer also offered a nice selection of food. It was always hot and more than acceptable. We had dinner at Chops one night and felt that the entire experience was excellent.
As far as entertainment, we felt that RCL is far superior to Carnival. The Adventure Ocean program was right on with very much age appropriate as well as up to date programs for the teens. Our sons participated in many of the programs including the Guitar Hero contest, Wii games, Capture the Flag and especially the dodgeball games. The shows were enjoyable. We absolutely loved the Love and Marriage show as well as the Quest game show. If you get the chance to participate in The Ultimate Race - do it. We had a blast running around the ship looking for clues. Richard Spacey is a definite asset to the cruise line. He added many laughs to the entertainment.
The sports deck was our favorite place to hang out. We all tried (but did not all master) the Flowrider. Was a thrill that was. Ladies, when you are told to wear a t-shirt over your bathing suit - do it. From personal experience, you will lose your top (even on a one-piece suit). The rock wall as almost as much fun as well as the various games on in the sports court (soccer, dodgeball, volleyball).
The only negative thing we can say (other than the initial service of our waiter) was the Guest Relations person who serviced us every visit except once (Kavita I believe was her name). We needed to get a new card re-issued for my son. Not only did it take her three attempts to get the card activated, but we found out the next day when we tried to disembark for a shore excursion that the card was still invalid because she had attached a different person's photo to his card. We had to get another card issued before we could leave for our shore excursion and you guess it, we had Kavita again. She did fix his card the first time that time and we were able to go ashore.
In San Juan, we visited the forts on our own and then strolled through the shopping district. In St. Thomas we did some shopping and then went snorkeling at St. John's Trunk Bay. I found St. John's to be the most beautiful of the islands. We did the Rhino Rider in St. Maarten and would recommend it to anyone. Those were a blast.
We chose to do the early disembarkation since we had an early flight and did not mind carrying our luggage. From the time we left our stateroom until we were on the bus waiting to go to the airport, it was 20 minutes. Not one problem the entire time. I would recommend this for anyone who can carry their luggage. Miami airport and American Airlines left something to be desired as far as the ease of check in and the baggage check process. It took over an hour to master that process.
All in all, we had an absolutely wonderful time and can't wait to book another cruise - definitely with RCl.