We arrived at Fort Lauderdale Airport around noon. It took less then 2 minutes to get a cab and we were on our way to the pier. I recommend going from the airport by cab rather than by bus or shuttle because you have to wait forever to fill the bus along with everyone else's luggage. This was the 1st time in 8 cruises I had to wait in a long line outside the terminal at embarkation. We got there by 12:30 and people were lined up. We usually take an earlier flight from home and get to the terminal by 11:00 am, and have minimal, to no line. It is all about timing. I'll stick to the earlier flights and the earlier arrivals to the terminal. The longest process was getting through security and the metal detectors. People not being prepared to go through is what slows up the line. If you know ahead there is a metal detector, then use your common sense and be ready so the line can move smoothly! After that, there was a faster line to check in. The staff was very friendly from minute one. As soon as you step on board and walk through the atrium, it is time to kick back and relax. Vacation has just begun!
For those who have cruised before, the Freedom and the procedures are the same with the muster drill. I cannot find anything other then the muster drill to complain about. Yes it is annoying, but once you get it over with, there are no rules. You make your rules and make your trip what you want it to be. I personally loved the ship, the food, the entertainment, the service, overall staff, the spa, ship itself, and whatever else I missed, better then the 7 previous cruises. I would have to say it is equal to my experience on the Carnival Glory in 2004. Perfect in every way! We celebrated my husband's 50th birthday that week, and the staff went out of their way to acknowledge it. It was by far the best food and entertainment I had in 8 cruises. I learned my lesson after trying 2 other cruise lines to go back to Carnival. They all pretty much operate the same, it is just that special touch that Carnival gives to make for a great time. My husband and I plan to go on the Carnival Dream next time.
Our first stop was San Juan. Not much to say because we were mainly there in the dark time. I hear it has some nightlife if you are into that, but we enjoyed ourselves just walking around the port town and exploring the shops. 2nd day we were at sea. Always my favorite! I could spend 8 days at sea and be happy. Afterall, it is the ship you are paying for. It has always been best for us to pick a cruise on a newer ship, regardless of which ports we go to. 3rd day at sea we stopped in St Thomas. Always beautiful. I bought a 3/4 carat diamond anniversary band at Diamonds International. They were very professional and gave me a great deal. My jeweler back home was impressed about the deal I got. Day 4 was Antigua. We didn't do much other than shop. I hear the beaches were beautiful. Next time I am going to skip the shopping and go parasailing here. Day 5 was Tortola. Nice little town. Then again we just shopped near the port. Day 6 was at sea (again my favorite!) Day 7 was the Bahamas. It was a little chilly and we all had to wear sweatshirts. A freak cold front came in and it was unseasonably cold but the sun was out and it was a beautiful day. Day 8 we were back home. The sad part. Getting off the boat and back to the airport was very organized. I would love to do a 10 day cruise next time.
All I can say is that we tried a few different cruise lines, one on Royal Caribbean, the other on Norweigian Cruise Line in Hawaii. 6 cruises have been with Carnival. I will 99% of the time return to Carnival because it has the best "overall everything" compared to the other lines. I am already planning my next cruise on Carnival and my tan hasn't even gone away yet! You will not be disappointed in the Carnival Freedom.