This was our ninth cruise, and our fifth on Royal Caribbean. At present Freedom of the Seas is the biggest cruise ship afloat-3500 passengers-until Oasis of the Seas debuts in December. Apologies for the length of this, but there's lots to talk about.
Embarkation. Quick and easy. We live in south Florida, so we can drive to, and park at the port. We arrived at the port at 11:45, checked our luggage, and parked in a lot convenient to the terminal. The check in process took no more than a half hour, and we were on the ship by 12:30. A key here is to have all your cruise documents filled out ahead of time. Excursions. Very little to say here. We didn't do any excursions as we have been to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St Maarten before. Mostly we shopped. We did take the short walk to Fort Moro in San Juan. Lots of history there. The sights as you come into this port are just made for pictures. I do wonder why the cruise lines stop in San Juan You don't get there until 3:00pm. It's rush hour with lots of traffic, and not a lot of daylight to see anything. It's the same with most cruise lines who stop here.
Promenade This is a feature exclusive to Royal Caribbean. There are shops, bars, Sorrentos Pizza, and even a barber shop, and tattoo parlor
Activities What do you want to do? There's the flow rider, miniature golf, basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, and ice skating (on a ship!). Also, the usual trivia contests, belly flops, mens sexy legs, etc. For quiet time, they do have a library, and an Internet Room where some people were actually on work sites, as well as a place for a quiet card game.
Service What can I say? It's Royal Caribbean. Our Room Steward and waiters called us by our first names. The staff always greeted us with a smile. For those who criticize the crews attitudes, let's remember that a lot of these people work 16 hour days, and seven day weeks. You might be a little cranky too.
Stateroom We had a Promenade on deck six. Plenty of room for clothes, including lots of hangars in the closet. Tip-remember to put your suitcases and other luggage under the bed. Bathroom and shower were average size. For those who complain about this, you're on a cruise ship where space is at a premium, not at home. My only complaint here is that I wish someone could work out a cabin design where the bathroom door and the closet didn't collide. It's the same on most cruise lines Speaking of home, the bed and bed linens were as comfortable and luxurious as you'll find anywhere. Better than home. Our cabin location was also great for watching the shows on the Promenade.
Dining Our waiters, Benjamin, and his assistant Miguel, were the best we've ever had. They knew our names and needs after the first night. They were friendly, and always took the time to chat with us in spite of how busy they were. The food, as always, was first rate. The was a good selection, maybe even too much, and always cooked the way we wanted it. I've seen the negative comments about the food and service on this and other ships. In an average week, the Freedom serves between 60,000 and 80,000 meals in all its food venues. You want five star dining? Go to a small intimate restaurant on shore, or one of the alternative restaurants on the ship. Entertainment Our favorite part of the cruise. Those who follow the ship on this and other sites have heard about the cruise director, Richard Spacey. How many out there remember the names of their Cruise Director. I guarantee you will remember Richard Spacey. He's energetic, talented,funny,and much more than your average cruise director. We'd go on Freedom again just to see him. The singers and dancers were great as they always are on this cruise line. The theater has plenty of seating, but the shows aren't just there. There was a 70s show, as well as two great parades, on the Promenade. The Ice Show is incredible, and not to be missed. The two comedians, and a magician, were good as well. The cruise directors staff were great also. The Love and Marriage show as well as Quest, both MC'd by Richard Spacey, were hilarious. It's amazing what people will do for a key chain. Also there was an 80s show, and dancing where the Ice show was held, with a floor placed over the ice.
Debarkation This was the only negative. As with most cruise lines, this needs work. To save time, we chose the Express, meaning we carried our own luggage, and should have been first off the ship. Less than five minutes after our group was called, the first group with luggage tags was called. This resulted in mass confusion in the debarkation area, with people screaming at the poor crew members who were trying to sort it out. I realize that it's hard to get 3500 people of the ship in four hours, but there has to be a better way. Next time, we'll choose the last group, although we will still carry our own luggage.
Conclusion. Will we cruise Royal Caribbean again? Would we choose Freedom of the Seas, which is moving to Port Canaveral, again? The answer is a resounding yes!