Background: My DH (Chris) and I (Jenn) are from Long Island, New York. We are a married couple in our late 20s. This was our 7th cruise, all on Royal Caribbean. We have been to the Western Caribbean before, but this was our first time in Labadee & Jamaica.
Day 1, Embarkation Miami, Florida:
We flew American Airlines from New York LaGuardia to Miami the day of the cruise. Yes, I know and I was totally stressed about it, but our flight went off without a hitch, and we landed early (YEY!!). We collected our luggage (was stressed that it wasn't going to make it) and headed to the taxi stand. Since we were flying in the day of the cruise, we asked the taxi driver to stop at a Publix to pick up a case of water and some Red Bull, since we didn't want to have to worry about the weight since we were flying.
We arrived at the port at around 11:30 and were on the ship by 11:45. Awesome! Unfortunately, we were heading over to the Platinum Diamond check-in we encountered a REALLY RUDE employee, his name was Roy. Guess he was just an obnoxious person because he felt it was necessary to yell at us and say that he would be the one to tell us if we were Platinum. Whatever... move on.
Once on the ship we headed straight for Sorrento's. It was great. No, it's not New York Pizza, but by cruise ship standards, it was really good. We ordered ourselves a couple of Coronas, and people watched. At 1:00 we were able to head for our cabin, 9322 a D2 just forward of the hump. We usually book an E2, so we were interested to see how this compared. It was exactly the same as we remembered but the couch was a full size instead of a loveseat like in the E2's.
We dropped our carry-ons and quickly toured the ship because we wanted to head to the FlowRider when it opened at 2. We went over signed our waivers and boogie boarded. Ok, we attempted to boogie board. It's a lot harder than I expected. After wiping out and getting pretty bruised up, we headed to the cabin to change and shower before muster.
Muster was fine, hot but fine. We were going to meet up with our CC buddies at the Sky Bar for sail away, but we sat on our balcony and dazed off a little, and watched sail away from there. A little while after we headed up to the Sky Bar and had just missed the gathering, so we ordered a cocktail and watched Miami fade away.
Before we knew it, it was time for our main seating dinner. This was the first time in all of our cruises that we didn't receive our luggage before dinner. Chris had clothes to change into, but I left my dinner clothes in my checked luggage so I headed over dressed as I was for boarding. Apparently I was not the only one, as there were MANY people in shorts, tank tops and I think I saw a few bathing suits.
We met our tablemates three couples, one couple from Texas, one couple from the UK, and one couple, honeymooners from Ireland. We were all very compatible and enjoyed our conversations each night. Dinner was good, the menu was the Bon Voyage Menu, but changed up a little. They no longer have the Herb-Encrusted Cod, it was replaced with a Pan-Seared Salmon that was wonderful.
After dinner, we were pretty tired from a long day of traveling, so we headed over to the cantilevered whirlpools and then off to bed.
Day 2: At Sea
I didn't sleep as well as I expected. I think it was that I was so excited to be on vacation that I didn't want to miss anything. I knew I needed to get ice show tickets at 9:30, so my plan was to be there at 9:00. I was up waaaaaay before that so I showered and headed to the Royal Promenade for a cup of coffee. I sat outside of Sorrento's and once there was the beginning of a line, moved from my seat. I think they handed out tickets around 9:05, not exactly 9:30 but no big deal. I went back to the cabin to see if Chris was awake. He was all ready to go to the Windjammer for breakfast. Had a wonderful omelet and made myself an iced green tea. Our meet and mingle was scheduled for 10:15 in the Olive or Twist Lounge on Deck 14. We headed up there and enjoyed meeting all of the people we had been chatting with online.
After the meet and mingle we headed to the cabin to change into our bathing suits. This is when we noticed just how many people are on this ship!!! We got lucky and were able to get two chairs on Deck 12 above the main pool as two girls were leaving. If they hadn't left I think we would still be walking around looking for a place to sit. Needless to say, it was very crowded at the pool, and rightfully so as it was a gorgeous day.
I think we skipped lunch... GASP.... on a cruise ship, missed a meal??? No worries, we headed to Sorrento's for a slice and I got a salad that was just perfect! I think we headed back for a nap before dinner.
This was our first formal night, so we got dressed and headed to dinner. The food was great as was the company and service.
After dinner we changed out of our clothes and headed up to the cantilevered whirlpools for a while, then off to bed.
Day 3, Labadee, Haiti:
Woke up pretty early, and were planning on headed to Labadee around 10. We went to the Windjammer for breakfast, got our stuff together and headed down to get in line for the tender. The process was pretty smooth, and I don't think we waited more than 15 minutes. They said that they can handle 500 people at a time on the tenders, so the process was pretty efficient. That said, I really don't like having to tender. Apparently they are going to start the building of the dock "soon". Not sure what that means!
We got to the island and headed down towards Hideway Beach. Well there must be a lot of people that read CC, because it was pretty full. We were able to get two chairs and set up camp. We brought our own snorkel equipment, and I purchased two swim rings at the dollar store before we left. They were worth way more than $1. It was hot... REALLY HOT, so I blew up my tube and hit the water. I heard a lot of people talking about my tubes, and a couple asked where I got them. A little while later Chris joined me. We decided to go snorkeling, so we grabbed our stuff and headed out into the water. The snorkeling is not great, so I don't know if I would spend the money on renting equipment from RCCL, but if you have your own stuff it was fine. We swam from Hideaway Beach to Barefoot Beach and were able to see the airplane wreck. I didn't see it but Chris did and he said it was just the fuselage and wing sections, but there were a lot of fish around it. I did see a bunch of sea urchins and heard about a few people getting stung. We didn't have water shoes, but I could see why people recommend wearing them.
We headed over to the BBQ, and had some lunch then back to the chairs for some sun. When we were finished, I found the first kid with their parent and asked if they wanted our tubes. They accepted and hopefully they had fun with them.
We headed back to the ship for a shower. Did some more exploring and then got ready for dinner. Before dinner we went over to the Crown & Anchor Welcome Back Party. This was really nice with all different kinds of drinks and hors d'oeuvres. This was Italian Night, our favorite menu in the dining room. We really enjoyed dinner tonight and then back to the cabin for a nap. We woke up from our nap and got ready to head out. Our tablemates had said they enjoyed the bartenders in the Olive or Twist, so we decided to check it out. Let's just say I had a little too much to drink and dealt with it the next morning. We then went to The Crypt. Neither of us are into rap music and it seems that is all they play. I think we lasted about 10 minutes. We went for a walk under the stars then to bed.
Day 4, Ocho Rios, Jamaica:
Today we woke up and headed to the Windjammer for breakfast. We knew we were staying on the ship this day. Before we left we watched a show on the travel channel all about Jamaica, and were intrigued with the different kinds of rum that are produced on the island. We changed our initial plan and decided to head off to a liquor store before we stayed onboard.
After we did our quick shopping, we headed back to the ship to change. We went to the Solarium where we found ourselves a couple of chairs with no issue. It was really hot, so I spent most of the time sitting on one of the benches in the pool... a little slice of heaven. We stayed there for most of the day and enjoyed having the ship to ourselves. I got pretty hungry in the afternoon, but didn't want to overdo it as we had a 6:30 reservation at Portofino.
Let me just say we love Portofino. We are from NY and know good food. We are not interested in Chops, as there are many many many steakhouses in NY, and it really doesn't appeal to us since we can get a good steak at home. Our meal was wonderful and we really enjoyed everything we ate. Tonight, we had tickets for the ice show. It was just as everyone says... a must do.
I forgot to add for the Jamaica day, we tried stand up surfing on the FlowRider. Well Chris got it for a good 30-45 seconds, I did not. I couldn't even have the staff let go of me, it was something with shifting my weight, I just couldn't do it. Oh well! I will stick to boogie boarding.
Day 5, Georgetown, Grand Cayman:
Four years ago we visited GC on the Jewel of the Seas. Little did I know after we returned from Stingray City, we would get engaged. Since Jamaica was a quiet day, we decided to be a little more active and do the Stingray City excursion again with Moby Dick Tours as recommended on this board.
Today, we woke up and hit the Windjammer for a quick breakfast. We were supposed to meet our tour at the dock at 8:40 am. We get in line for the tender at 8:00. Ok I am starting to freak... we get on the tender by 8:20 ok we may make it. Now we're sitting on the tender... and sitting and sitting, ok I am totally freaking out now. I am thinking of an alternate plan of what we can do and where we can go because there is no way we are going to make it. It's now 9:10 and I see they aren't letting anyone else on. Well I assume we missed our tour. We get to the dock and see the guy with the sign. I rush over to him and he directs us to the tent. We check in, and are good to go. They aren't leaving until 9:30. PHEW... we made it!!!
We get on the bus for the ride to the dock, no issues. Hop onboard for the "cruise" to the reef. We first snorkeled at Barrier Reef, very cool. The water was gorgeous, crystal clear and warm. Chris and I brought our own stuff, so were able to get in right away without dealing with the hassle of getting fins, mask, nasty snorkel (yuck). We snorkeled and saw a lot of fish and then the guide jumped in to feed Beverly the EEL!!! Soooo cool, but kinda scary because she was really going at those squid! After about 40 minutes, we got back onboard and waited for everyone else to finish up snorkeling so we could head over to Stingray City. Even though I did this before, I was a little freaked out in the beginning. Eventually I got used to it, and had a really good time. After Stingray City, we "cruised" back to the dock and took the bus ride back to the port.
We were hungry!!! We jumped on a tender back to the Freedom and decided to use our C&A coupons for Johnny Rockets. Now, we have a JR at home in the mall and it's pretty good. This JR's was AWESOME!!! We both ordered milkshakes, and ate the fries (Chris) and onion rings (me) delicious. I had the Original with cheese, and Chris had the Rocket Double. Everything was great.
Today our CC group had planned a Poker Crawl. We each threw in $5, and visited 5 different cabins to pick up a card in each, and who ever had the best hand at the end won the pot which was $75. Our cabin was first, so we toured and then headed on our way to an inside on deck 8, two balconies on deck 7 and then.... the Presidential Family Suite!!! How amazing is that cabin??? It was simply beautiful.
Tonight was our second formal night. We wanted to have our pictures taken, so we got dressed pretty early and headed down to the Promenade. Tonight was lobster night. Lucky for me, Chris doesn't eat lobster, so we both order it and he eats the shrimp and I eat the lobster. It was wonderful. Cooked perfectly. Our waiter came out with seconds, thirds, fourths... ok I ate 3 but he just kept bringing them until we said stop!
I don't really remember what we did.... I think we grabbed another bottle of wine and sat out on our balcony, then off to dreamland.
Day 6, Cozumel, Mexico:
Woke up and headed to the Windjammer for breakfast. I had rented a Jeep to explore the island on our own at our leisure. I was able to use my work discount which gives additional liability insurance over and above what they offer you at the pier. This is a personal thing, but I never take insurance when we rent a car. Except in Mexico. My personal insurance does not cover me for any damage or loss while in Mexico, so I opted for every option they offered. Either way the rental was $73 including everything. I did hear that some people got it for less, but I was able to get an automatic Jeep, which was exactly what I wanted.
Before we left, I tried to find out the rental car companies at the International Pier where the Freedom usually docks... I had a hard time finding this information, so in case anyone is interested, there was an Avis, Budget, Hertz, Fiesta, and Executive offices at the pier and in addition to the many people walking around with signs looking for your business.
We hopped in our Jeep and headed over to Paradise Beach. It was hot and humid. Yes, the water was still brown, but that really didn't turn us off. We got a bucket of Sol, 2 margaritas, guacamole & chips and an order of buffalo wings for $46!!! Nice. Stayed just long enough then headed out to explore on our own. We headed to the east side of the island where there is not much going on but is absolutely beautiful. We took in the scenery then headed towards downtown for some shopping. Parking is at a premium, but eventually we found a spot. We did some shopping then went back to drop off the car and have a few $1 Coronas. We did a little more shopping at the pier and really enjoyed our day in Cozumel.
Tonight, we also had reservations at Portofino. I think the food this night was a little better than the first night. We were sitting by the window and Chris saw a pod of dolphins jumping in and out of the water next to the ship. A perfect complement to our perfect meal.
After dinner, we napped as tonight was the big night onboard... QUEST, the 80s party, and then twenty - where they turn the solarium into a night club. We went to Quest, and I decided that I wanted to be captain.... then my DH, joined me as one of the male captains!!! Needless to say, we had a great time and yes... WE WON QUEST!!!! We got a tee shirt for our victory. We stayed for the 80s party but decided it was a little blah for us, so we went for a cocktail before we went over to check out twenty. We got out on deck and the wind was WHIPPING!!! It was rough out and very windy. We checked out twenty and it was again rap music... uh no thanks.
Instead we headed over to the Promenade where we met one of our Quest teammates and ordered a bucket of beer to celebrate our victory. The ship was rocking pretty hard, so I went over to Guest Relations to get some Bonine to calm my tummy. I was feeling pretty crappy, and couldn't finish my beer, so headed off to bed.
Day 7 - At Sea:
This was the first night that I slept really well... thank you Bonine. This morning was the Platinum & Diamond Breakfast in the main dining room. I thought the food was good, but my DH thought it was a little too fancy for his taste. He ordered a regular French Toast after not finding anything on the menu that he liked, and the waiter brought him a stuffed French Toast... not really his thing. I had a wonderful breakfast... it was an egg roll cut open with spinach, a poached egg, cream cheese and smoked salmon. YUM. They also served a mango parfait and mimosas.
After breakfast, we went back to the room to relax a little since we had a late night the night before. After we woke up the second time, we went to the dining room for lunch. The people that we were seated with said that they were by the pool but it started to rain, so it cleared out. We had a nice lunch, but our waiter was a little confused. For a starter, I ordered a ceasar salad with salmon, and the tutti pasta for my main course. My DH ordered a ceasar salad plain and the tutti pasta for the main course. Chris got his salad, ate it and I never got mine... then after he brought out the pasta brought my ceasar salad.... Strange. Either way both were very good.
After lunch, we headed over to the Solarium where we had no trouble finding a chair. I think this is because it was raining on and off all day. It was cloudy and then it would get really hot. At around 3, I went over and got nachos from the Windjammer and Chris ordered a couple of foo foo drinks. After we had enough sun we went to the cabin to shower and change. We then headed to the promenade to check out our pictures and do a little shopping. We bought a couple of bottles of duty free liquor and picked out the photos we would come back to purchase later.
After shopping, we changed for dinner got our tip envelopes ready and went to dinner. Dinner was nice, a little sad as we were leaving the wonderful Freedom and going home the next day. We ate our dinner, said our goodbyes and went back to the cabin to finish packing. Had a glass of wine on the balcony and off to bed... so I thought.
When I went to Guest Relations, they said to take 1 Bonine every 12 hours.... Now did I listen? No... I was feeling much better so I didn't bother taking another. Well it was rough... very rough. I got about 2 hours of sleep as we were rocking and rolling.
Day 8 - Miami, Florida:
The announcements started at 6:15 for departure. We had white tags, so were expecting to disembark at approx. 7:15. We woke up with the announcements and headed to an empty Windjammer for breakfast. We ate, and went back to the cabin to get our stuff. We were off the ship and through customs in a total of 10 minutes. We got a cab and headed to the airport, really early for our flight.
Our flight is scheduled for 12:25 great, what are we supposed to do until then. We get to the airport and check in. My cell phone rings, it's Delta telling me our flight is delayed. So I go over to the Delta desk and ask... they didn't know anything about it, tell us to go to the gate. We get to the gate... they tell us your flight is delayed... yeah thanks.
Ok, so now we're supposed to leave at 1:25, well no plane at 1:25 at about 1:45 the plane arrives and we begin boarding. We take off around 2. I was exhausted so I slept to about 4, because we were supposed to land at 4:30. Well the captain comes on and says we need to enter the holding pattern b/c we can't land in JFK due to weather on the way. A little while later he comes back on with bad news... we ran out of holding fuel and are going to Philadelphia!!!!!
We land in Philadelphia and they say they just heard we will be there for about 2 hours... then they change their mind about an hour later and say we need to leave NOW... ok fine... oh wait we just missed our time slot, so we're hoping they will hold the spot for a few minutes. Fine, back in the air for the 26 minute flight to JFK.
Finally land at JFK, get home around 10 exhausted, annoyed and tired.
We are fans of the Radiance Class ships... that being said, the Freedom is "ugly" as compared to the Radiance Class. That was the first thing that Chris said when we were pulling into the POM. I would not rule out cruising on a Freedom Class Ship, but to be honest I think the Oasis will be really cool, just not our thing. I am not gonna lie, we will probably try it for bragging rights!
Service: Our waiter Ibraham was awesome; our assistant waiter Ricardo was ok, not good, not bad. In his defense, he has only been onboard for 2 months.
Our cabin steward, Antone was great... we did not see him as often as on the smaller ships. I am sure that this is due to the size of the Freedom; the stewards are responsible for more cabins. We did get towel animals each night with the exception of the first night. Ice was never an issue; it was refilled twice a day. Our cabin was clean and comfortable. EXCEPT.... The bathroom sink. We were unable to use the bathroom sink as the water had a very very very strong sulfur smell that would stink out the entire cabin. We didn't complain, because we just brushed our teeth in the shower and it wasn't worth it to ruin our trip. For future reference... it was pretty stinky in cabin 9322.
Other service... I found the workers at Guest Relations to be the friendliest on any cruise. I really liked that on the second to last day they set up a separate line for Platinum, Diamond & Diamond Plus C&A members at Guest Relations, so we didn't have to wait in the long line. They also had someone coming along the line asking what you needed to make sure that you weren't waiting for something that could be taken care of elsewhere. One day I needed a piece of Scotch Tape... I was waiting in line and a gentleman approached me, asked what I needed, gave me the tape and I was on my way.
Now the not so great... there were a few workers in the Windjammer that were not so wonderful. We were yelled at by one of the staff member. Just because you said "please" or "excuse me" doesn't mean that you are being polite... it's like saying "Excuse me, you're fat"... anyways it didn't ruin our trip.
Food: Although this is a very subjective topic I will say that my DH is a very picky eater. We have never had a problem finding something to eat on RCCL. We became pretty big fans of Sorrento's Pizza enjoying a slice in the afternoon and a few days for lunch. Portofino was wonderful both times, and the second night was definitely better than the first. The food dining room was also fine, with an expanded selection and the newly bound menus.
Entertainment / Nightlife: Since this was our 7th cruise, we really weren't too into the nightly shows. We prefer to do our own thing. We usually attend the Love and Marriage Show, but this time we didn't make it. I know that I was pretty tired that night. Even though we are a late 20s couple we really do not seem to enjoy going to the disco. We have found the music to be not our taste. We did win the QUEST!!!!
Additional Comments: This was a Quince Cruise... that being said. We saw the girls on embarkation day as they were all dressed alike, and that was it. Our waiter did say that he was assigned to them for the late seating... this could be why we never saw them. We had no issues what so ever with them. We actually looked at their photos in the gallery and couldn't believe how many there were on the cruise!
We don't have any cruises planned for the near future. My mom's 60th is next year and she wants to do a family cruise, so I guess we will see how that goes!
Hope you enjoyed my review, and thank you for all of the nice comments!!! Any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!