Carnival Freedom January 11, 2009 to January 17, 2009 Fort Lauderdale, Key West, Cayman Islands, Ocho Rios, Fort Lauderdale
This is our second trip on the Carnival Freedom and our 6th Carnival Cruise. We have also sailed three times on Princess and once on NCL.
I may make some comparisons here with Princess cruises as my wife and I just completed a Princess cruise that started on Nov. 30th in Los Angeles and went through the Panama Canal ending in Fort Lauderdale (14 days). (Island Princess)
This cruise is a little different than the ones we have done in the past. On this trip we are a party of 7. This includes my wife and myself, one of my brothers and his wife (all early/mid-50s), my Mom and Dad (age 86 and 76) and my brother's wife's mother, age 86. We decided to take this 6 day cruise to give my parents an introduction to cruising and as a chance for us to do something together.
Embarkation: (January 11, 2009) This went very smoothly. My parents More
are in a suite so we were able to use the VIP check in. In fact, there is not a VIP check in room at the port in Fort Lauderdale but they have an express line. As it turned out, my brother was late in arriving. There were long lines for regular check in at 1:00 PM when we arrived but when he arrived at about 1:50 PM, the lines were completely gone.
After getting on the ship FINALLY by 3:15 PM (some paperwork delays with the accounts for my brother, myself and our wives), we wanted to get something to eat. Unfortunately, the food outlets closed at 3:30 PM in preparation for the mustering drill at 4:00 PM. Oh well, we missed one buffet.
After the mustering we got our luggage put away and went for a sandwich. The corned beef sandwich at the deli is really good. Highly recommended.
The dining area on the Lido deck is pleasant and well lit. Tables are nicely arranged and not overcrowded.
Because of limited mobility, we had arranged for electric scooters for my parents and my brother's mother-in-law. These were in the room waiting for us. I should point out that these were arranged through a third party company by our travel agent. Bring your own extension cords and multi-outlets. After our snack we went to the rooms to set up the electric extension cord (using duct tape that I brought along) to hold it to the floor to prevent tripping.
We are at the late seating for dinner. Mom and Dad were tired so skipped dinner. The rest of us (5 people) went to dinner in the Chic dining room. Service was OK. No hand sanitizers at the entrance to the dining room. I brought this to the attention of one of the head waiters. She indicated that they do not use these on this ship. There had been an announcement regarding always sanitizing before entering a dining area. Princess has sanitizers at the entrance to every eating venue. After dinner I went to the purser's desk to ask the name of the person in charge of sanitary conditions. They would not give me his/her name. I expressed my complaint. The person at the desk said she would pass it on. I asked if I would receive a response. She indicated that I would probably not. I told her I was not satisfied with this and then she said that I would receive a note from her showing that the comment had been passed along to management. I accepted this for now. I have my own bottle of sanitizer with me.
Dinner was acceptable but not exceptional. My wife requested shrimp cocktail without the red cocktail sauce but instead with mayonnaise. They brought the shrimp cocktail with red cocktail sauce and also a side dish of mayonnaise. Princess had no problem with this request two months ago on a Panama Canal cruise but it seems they have trouble working this out on Carnival. Perhaps tomorrow. (Note: For every dinner after the first night the waiter had pre-ordered a shrimp cocktail without sauce. Very considerate.)
I ordered a steak medium rare. It was very undercooked. They took it back for more cooking and it came back fine.
I ordered a plate of vegetables to go with our dinner. Everyone wanted extra vegetables. They brought a dish with two pieces of carrot, some mushrooms and two slices of potato. I then asked for some green vegetables. They brought a nice plate of broccoli. I guess I don't consider getting carrots, mushrooms and potato as a vegetable serving. (Every night after this we got green vegetables on the table.)
The tropical fruit plate for dessert was mediocre. Not very plentiful and not exceptionally well presented. I know I can get seconds but it just did not live up to expectations.
No evening activities tonight as we were all pretty tired.
Something else I should point out: There seem to be a lot of children on this cruise. Lots of kids running around. My experience in the past on Carnival has been that children, even when present in abundance, are generally not running all over the ship. Let's see how things are once we are settled into our daily routine.
January 12, 2009 Key West
Arrival at about 7:30 AM. Disembarkation available at about 8:00AM. My brother and I got off the ship at 8:30 AM to pick up the rental car (van) at the airport. We docked at the Naval base and therefore had to take a short shuttle ride (free) to the downtown area. This takes between 5 and 10 minutes. The shuttle lets you off near the end of Duval Street and it is best to take a taxi to the airport to pick up a rental car. Cost is $7.50/person plus tip. Ride to the airport is about 15 minutes due to low speed limits and traffic lights.
We had arranged with Thrifty for a 7 person van for our group. Price was $105 including taxes and fees plus gas. (I ended up putting in $5.00 in gas when returning the car.) This worked out well for our group because we had three elderly persons with limited mobility. The van gave us great flexibility.
As an alternative, I would suggest investigating electric golf cart type vehicles. I saw some that take 8 persons. Most take 2, 4 or 6 persons. I don't have information on the prices but they are available downtown and would be an interesting alternative. (I got the picture of one cart with a phone number of 305-294-9990 for reference. I called and spoke to Mark on 1/1809. He quoted a four seater at $140 for 4 hours with an additional 2 hours free as I told him I wanted it from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. The 8 seater was not available.)
You can buy a ticket for a tram with a circular route. On/Off as often as you like. Price is $29/person. The tram takes you to all the tourist sites. Note that you still need to buy tickets for the sites.
Several in our group wanted to go to the Mel Fisher museum. Admission is $12/person. This was enjoyed by all.
Lunch was at a local "dive" called Ricky's Blue Heaven. Nice fish sandwiches and fancier dishes. Expect to pay about $15/person. Live chickens on the roof and walking around the restaurant. They offer outside dining as well as eating inside if you like. Outside is recommended. Allow 1 to 1.5 hours for lunch to enjoy and relax.
We drove to the K-MART in the "old town" area. Good place to pick up provisions you might need for continuing your trip. There is also a CVS drugstore in the downtown area near where the tram drops you off.
We were back on the ship by 4:00 PM. Sailing time was 5:00 PM.
We had dinner in the main dining room. (Chic). There are two sit-down dining rooms (CHIC and POSH). I would strongly recommend the CHIC over the POSH. The POSH is at the stern just over the engine room. The noise and vibration can be very disturbing especially for tables in the center of the dining room. The CHIC is mid-ship and not affected by these noises.
We went to the 10:30 PM show. Cruise director started off with a song. This was followed by the "STRING/SPOON" game. (Ten guests are divided into two teams. They then pass a spoon on a string from one person to the other. Down the shirts of the ladies and down the pants of the men. First team to finish wins.) This was followed by a comedian.
January 13 Sea Day
Cloudy and rainy morning. I went jogging in the exercise room. Bring a headset because each jogging machine has a TV screen and you can plug in your headset and watch/listen to whatever you like. This is very pleasant but you must have a headset to listen.
Breakfast at the buffet. Excellent melons (cantaloupe and honeydew). Also very nice navel oranges. Oatmeal and grits available as well as cold cereal. Omelette station also available. Normal breakfast items such as bacon, sausage and ham also available.
I am going to compare here the breakfast buffet on the Carnival Freedom with the Island Princess. The seating area on the Freedom is larger so it is never difficult to find a seat. During peak times there was sometimes a seat shortage on the Island Princess but you could usually find a table to share with someone else if you wanted to. The buffet seemed more "civilized" on the Princess. Also, you did not have to wait in line for different food stations on the Princess. You could easily move from area to area (breads, cereal, omelette station, fruits, etc. On Carnival, there is basically one line for the various stations. I found the Princess method more user friendly.
One other difference: On Carnival you help yourself to coffee, tea, juice, etc. That is your only choice for beverage service. On Princess, they have waiters to get the beverages for you if you like. You can also get your own. Also, Princess has pineapple juice available from the waiters at the buffet on request. This is not available on Carnival. It might sound like a minor point but on Carnival and Princess all of the juices in the machines have added sugar. Pineapple juice is pure juice. For people wanting to restrict their sugar intake this is important. (I should note that later in the cruise there were a few beverage servers with carts available on the Carnival Freedom in the buffet during lunch/dinner but not at breakfast.)
Today's activities that interest me include: 1.Line dancing class 2.Cooking demonstration 3.Loyalty and Cruise Expert Seminar
My wife is going to take in the Tea Time.
Positive note on Carnival Freedom: The cabin steward is very attentive and friendly.
Carnival now also offers a FUTURE CRUISE CREDIT similar to the package available on Princess. The price is $100/cabin. This can be used as part of the deposit for your next cruise within 60 months. You will also get a cabin credit based on the length of the next cruise. The certificate is fully refundable if you do not want to use it for a Carnival cruise. Something worth keeping in your pocket.
Line Dancing: This class was held on the small dance floor of third floor atrium. Not a very good venue for this activity. It was way overcrowded. The teacher was good but the class lasted only about 30 minutes. This was the only line dancing class on this cruise.
January 14, 2009 Grand Cayman
This is a tender port. Seas were not too rough but the tenders bounced up and down quite a bit. We are traveling with 3 older people (ages 76-86) with some mobility issues. Getting on/off the tender was a little tricky but the crew handled it well.
The older people and my brother and his wife went on a glass bottom boat trip. They arranged this at the pier for $47/person. My wife and I went to the ATLANTIS SUBMARINE for the submarine dive priced at $89/person. We got a 10% discount for being nice people (see Marie at the counter and tell her you are a nice person and would like a discount). This is a 1.5 hour ride (allocate 2 hours for the tender boat ride to and from the sub. This is a great ride but you do need to climb down a steep ladder so be aware if traveling with people with limited mobility. There is no claustrophobic feeling. Big windows line both sides of the vessel. Interesting commentary is presented by the crew of 3.
Free Wireless Access: Walk right out of the pier area past the Atlantis Submarine booth. Across the street is a shopping mall with a red railing (Harbour Place). Bench seats in the courtyard. Good wireless signal.
My brother and his wife and the three older folks took a tender back to the ship ahead of my wife and I. We were all back on the ship in time for the buffet lunch.
January 15, 2009 Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Arrived at about 7:30 AM. Ship docked at the pier making disembarkation easy especially for the older members of our party. We had three electric scooters rented for this cruise and were able to take them off the ship today (with a little effort) to facilitate transportation for Mom, Dad and Barbara. The roads and walkways are less than perfect so we had to watch out for potholes and also some speedbumps along the way. Anyway, the electric scooters made an excursion within a mile or two of the pier feasible. (For reference, the electric scooters rented for about $250 for the six day cruise from a third party vendor arranged by our travel agent. They were in the staterooms waiting for us and we will leave them in the stateroom at the end of the cruise.)
We all went to a crafts market just outside the pier area. Actually, it is about 8-10 minutes walk from the exit of the pier. You can follow the harbour past a pretty beach and then make a right turn at the entrance to the beach area. Bargaining is mandatory and everyone is anxious to sell you something. If you are not interested just politely say "no, thank you" several times and they get the idea. Net price after bargaining is about 30% of the original asking price.
Internet: I found a reasonable internet cafe just next to the Burger King (across from the craft's market). I easily connected my PC wirelessly. They use a security (WEP) code but the person working their keyed it in for me. Good speed connection. $3.00/hour. Be friendly and if you only use 30 minutes they will charge you less. (Computer Wizz 974-5844 Mon-Sat 8:15AM - 7:30 PM, Sun 12:00 - 5:30 PM) The shop is upstairs with the stairs at the back of the building next to a barber shop.
I mentioned a beach on the way to the craft's market. It is called Ocho Rios Bay Beach. Entrance fee is JA$200/adults and JA$100/children (about US$3 and US$1.50). That gets you into this pretty beach area. There are restrooms and lockers. You can arrange various water sports at the beach including: Glass bottom boat ride $20/person Dunn's River on a Glass Bottom Boat $50/person Snorkeling at various locations $30/person Wind Surfing $30/person Jet Ski $70/half hour or $140/hour Beach Chair $5.00/rental Locker $5.00/rental
I did not go in so I don't know how negotiable the prices are. The beach is within 8-10 minutes walk from the exit of the pier.
Suggested restaurant: If you want a local lunch, go to Substance de Cafe. It is down the street from the entrance to the beach (about 1 block) on the left side. It is a take out place that has roasted chicken, fried chicken, curry lamb and pig tail soup. The chicken is served with red beans/rice and a small salad. The meal comes in three sizes priced between $3.00 and $4.50. I purchased the large order. My brother ate the roasted chicken and said it was very good. I had fried chicken. It was a bit dry. The rice/beans were good. The prices on their menu are in JA$ but they offer a fair exchange and take US$. You can also request either dark or light meat if you prefer. They are very friendly and it is obviously a popular local spot. Busy at lunch time.
We were back on the ship by 2:00 PM. Deadline was 3:00 PM as the ship sailed at 3:30 PM. Another formal night tonight. (That makes two for a 6 day cruise.)
January 16, 2009 Day at Sea
The whole family had a relaxing day at sea. There were a few showers and the temperature got cooler as the day progressed (we were heading north). We found the area on the port side aft 10th floor to be very quiet and peaceful. If you want Jamaican style band music and lots of activities, hang around at the 9th floor pool area. There was lots going on there.
We had a lovely sit-down dinner and then my wife and I attended the hypnotist show at 10:30 PM. This was the non-X rated show. His performance was acceptable but not the best hypnotist show we have seen. Also, his voice was rather shrill but this is a personal item and I know that many of the people attending enjoyed the show.
Unfortunately, there was a very negative occurrence during the performance. Approximately 25 minutes into the show, a group of 10-15 people sitting at the rear of the theatre started having a very vocal argument. I am not sure of the nature of the argument but they were shouting and using foul language. This went on for about 10 minutes and was obviously very disturbing to the audience. The hypnotist had to shop his show at one point to apologize. What surprised me was that Carnival did not take swift action to handle this event. There were a couple of bar waiters in the area but apparently no Carnival staff called security to ensure that the problem was handled in a timely fashion. Eventually the people involved left the room.
January 17, 2009 Disembarkation in Fort Lauderdale
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the buffet. We disembarked at about 9:00 AM and it went very smoothly. Very little waiting. We picked up our cars from the garage across the street ($15/day) and off we went.
Other notes: 1.I wish there had been more ballroom dancing and line dancing classes. 2.My wife and I did not find a suitable venue for ballroom dancing in the evening. Perhaps this cruise did not really cater to people with this interest. (It was something that we really enjoyed on the Princess cruise in December. 3.The dining room food quality was acceptable but slightly less than on the Princess. Less
Carnival Freedom Cruises to the Southern Caribbean
Suite 7228. Very spacious. Handicap equipped. Nice appointments. Large balcony. Wind noise from balcony door even when closed securely.Two Oceanview rooms (2401/2423) Well appointed and spacious. Nice to have the couch in the room. Closets are opposite the bathroom door so you need to be careful when opening the bathroom door.One Inside Cabin (8440). Spacious and well appointed.