My Brother, Mother, and I just returned this past Sunday (5/17) from a great week aboard the Freedom of the Seas. It was our 5th cruise on RCCL - which means we are now Platinum members of RCCL's Crown & Anchor program. We cruised on this ship about 20 months ago, so we knew the ship's layout well, and we expected nothing less than a relaxing week away from the stress of life. It was our 3rd cruise to the Western Caribbean, and we were hoping that by going in May we would avoid past problems with Hurricane season and half of our ports being destroyed before we got there. We booked our shore excursions through RCCL's website about 4 weeks before the trip. It was very convenient and easy - and highly recommended considering that 4200 other passengers might want to do the same excursions!! We've been on cruises in the past where shore excursions have sold out by the time we got on board, so now we book everything ahead to avoid disappointment. About a week before our cruise, RCCL emailed me to inform us that our last port (Cozumel) had been canceled because of the Swine Flu and was being replaced with an extra day at sea. We were slightly disappointed, but we have to been to Cozumel twice before, so we were ok with it.
One thing that made us book a 2nd cruise on the Freedom was that RCCL just repositioned this ship from Miami to Port Canaveral a week before, so we didn't have to go to Miami to get the ship. We live 45 minutes north of Pt. Canaveral, so it was an easy drive to the terminal. Dropping the luggage/passengers off was a bit congested, but it moved quickly once we got inside the terminal.
Upon boarding the ship, we soon discovered that the cruise director (the person in charge of the ship's entertainment) was still Richard Spacey......the best in the business. He was the cruise director our first time on Freedom, and we were hoping to have a repeat of him again.....which we got. The entertainment on RCCL ships FAR beats any other cruise ship's entertainment. There is simply no comparison. We have sailed on Carnival once and Princess once, and the shows were so raunchy and suggestive, we walked out of the theater the 2nd night and never went back. Freedom's shows are nothing less than fantastic, energetic, and awesome. The Freedom dancers and orchestra are some of the most incredible entertainers you'll ever find. Of course Richard kept us constantly entertained with his nightly jokes and dancing all over the stage. His version of "A Day in the Life of a Cruise Director" was especially entertaining.
As always, the staff on board was accommodating, friendly, and helpful during our cruise. We ended up dining with 2 other couples in Leonardo's dining room. They were talkative and friendly, and they made for wonderful table mates the entire cruise. Our waiter (Ibrahim) and assistant waitress (Veronica) were wonderful, and we were treated with high class in the dining room each evening. The food was always tasty and was more than we could eat each night. Of course one of the biggest drawing features of the Freedom class ships is the flowrider (surfing simulator). The staff is pleasant, encouraging (to those who are intimidated to try boogie boarding for the first time), and helpful.
Our cabin was a superior balcony stateroom (6630) in the middle of the ship. Our cabin boy (Anton) was ok.....not the best we've had.....but he sufficed. There was one day when he didn't supply us with replacement pool towels, and we had to wait until 9:00 AM the next morning for them. Anther issue we had was that the people in the cabin next door to us constantly smoked out on their balcony, and we were always breathing in a waft of cigarette smoke whenever we tried to sit on our balcony.
We had 3 days at sea, and there were plenty of activities on the ship to keep us thoroughly entertained. Of course the pool deck is a popular place to be.....as is the flowrider.
One nice thing that everyone seemed to take advantage of was the 24 hour Cafe Promenade Deli and Sorrento's Pizza. It sure beat the Windjammer's pizza upstairs, and the little dessert cups of chocolate mousse and Teramizu were always delightful.
There were several changes that we noticed from the last time we cruised.....which we inquired about. They have discontinued the pillow candies at night on ALL of their ships. Too many of them were going to waste, so they stopped them. Also there are no more midnight buffets at the pool or in the dining room. We always went to them and enjoyed the professional and fabulous displays of food. They said that 25% of the guests came to the late night buffets, and there was too much food going to waste, so they cut them out. I guess like everyone and everything else, RCCL has to economize as well.
There is one thing we did on this cruise for the first time ever: we booked a future cruise on Oasis of the Seas!! That ship is going to be so fantastic, and we're already looking forward to it. Our on-board consultant, Lewis, was very helpful in booking the cruise and answering any questions we had.
All in all we had a fantastic cruise, and it was sad to see it all end. We got to meet Richard Spacey and speak to him in person on the last night. Getting off the ship was a breeze, and we had no problems walking through customs. This cruise again surpassed our expectations. RCCL is the ONLY way to go.