Carnival usually has great itineraries and great value for money, which is why we usually choose them for most of our cruises including this past one. After this cruise, I have realized that the phrase "you get what you pay for" stands true when cruising.
CHECKING IN On embarkation day, we arrived early, to be confronted with a line that wrapped around the building. Usually, Carnival separates first-time cruisers (Blue tier), past guests (Gold tier), and 10+ voyage guests (Platinum tier). At Port Everglades, this was not done, and the security waved us through without even looking at our tickets and passports. The terminal was not air conditioned (and in Florida that's like being in an oven), so while we were with the agent getting our passports scanned, we almost finished, when the servers overheated and crashed. We had to start all over again, and boarding the boat took an additional hour.
DINING On the Freedom, there is no such thing as customer service. It all started with dining. If you've cruised Carnival before, then chances are you're probably gonna eat the SAME FOOD AS ON THE OTHER SHIPS! The menu did not change at all from the last cruise I took, and in fact the lunch ones were the same as a cruise I took in 2006 right before another. The room service also messed up every order, and I think it was deliberate. We once ordered three items, and only two arrived. Then, in the mornings, if tea was ordered, coffee came in a jug, accompanied by tea bags. If coffee was ordered, no cream or sugar arrived. At the bars, the bartenders do not serve you if they see you have a soda package card (because it means that they don't make a 15% gratuity). My son waited 10 minutes once for a Coke, and received a Shirley Temple instead, and was told to "deal with it" when he corrected the bartender. When I went gambling and told him to wait at the bar outside of the casino, the bartender served him after 15 minutes, and told him rudely to leave because the bar was in a casino (when it wasn't at all). I somewhat understand this, but not when he was sitting next to a group of six-year-olds who were allowed to sit there.
SHOPS When we wanted to buy some watches, we literally had to sell them to ourselves. When we wanted them sized, they acted like they were doing us a favor! Some associates couldn't work the registers, and couldn't handle an influx of people on sea days.
PURSER'S DESK When we wanted to settle the bill in cash on the last night, the associate wouldn't help us because she didn't want to count change out. After realizing her 5 minutes of horrible attitude, another man came over to help us. However, when I got home, my Visa was billed for the same amount that I paid off!
DEBARKATION I thought this would be easy; fill out a customs form and put your bags outside your stateroom for the porters to take to the terminal. Nope! We put our bags out as told and went to bed. The next day, ready to disembark, we went to deck three to get off, but when we swiped our cards to leave the vessel, the machine denied us permission to leave. The guard shouted "GO PAY YOUR BILL" at the top of his lungs, loud enough for the entire atrium to hear. When I told him that I paid last night in cash, and showed him the receipt, he picked up the phone and called the purser's desk (which was right next to us)! He then threw the phone on the floor, and escorted us to the purser's desk. We were then escorted by security off of the ship, with everyone watching. We got our bags, and were taken to Customs. Then, we realized that we had exceeded our duty free limit and had to pay an extra $85. No problem; but why the hell were we escorted off like criminals? The security never apologized, and we were told to "deal with it" again.
Overall, I expected better from Carnival Cruise Lines and will NEVER EVER sail with them again. It seemed as if my family was punished for spending $6000 in the jewelry shop onboard... so if you choose to continue sailing on this vessel; don't exceed your duty limit. All that was needed was handcuffs... and the atrium would've been a crime scene.