Well I will start with a little background information, my wife and I have been on 13 cruises prior to this on all the major cruise lines RCCL, Carnival, NCL, and Princess. I am 32 and my wife is 29. We are both active and have a 7 month old baby girl, she did not accompany us on this vacation. This was our first cruise with a group of friends, all together we had 10. Five couples, one couple had never been on a cruise, one couple had been on one other RC cruise, one couple had been on three Carnival cruises, and one couple had been on three cruises, one on Carnival, one on Princess and one on Celebrity. Our ages for the group ranged from 25 to 38. This is a very long review, if you want my final thoughts just scroll to the bottom.
Friday May 8th 2009
We started the trip off by flying from Norfolk to Orlando on Friday May 8th 2009. The flight was great and we arrived in Orlando at 7 p.m. After the flight we went straight downstairs to get in line at Budget rental car. We had already reserved a car and figured we would be out of the airport within the hour. Boy was I wrong!!! After a complete fiasco, including over an hour in line while employees took breaks and another 30 minutes waiting on a car that I had reserved, I finally had a car and was leaving the airport at 8:45. Needless to say I will not be using Budget again. Their customer service was terrible and I could not believe how oblivious they were to all of their customers. So we leave the airport and meet some friends at the Tommy Bahama restaurant at The Point in Orlando. Dinner was fabulous as usual, we have been there a couple times and have enjoyed it every time. We left dinner and went right across the street to our hotel. We booked a two night stay on Hotwire, the hotel we got was the Rosen Plaza. I loved the hotel, the location was perfect, the room was clean, and the pool was great.
Saturday May 9th 2009
We slept great and woke up the next morning and went and picked up our friends at the airport. We all headed over to Seaworld and had a great day watching the shows and riding the coasters, including the brand new Manta which wasn't supposed to be open yet. We left the park and went and got cleaned up and headed back over to The Point for dinner. The group decided to try the Red Rock Canyon Grill. The ribs were absolutely phenomenal!!!! We headed over to the hotel with the excitement of heading to the cruise the next morning.
Day 1 Embarkation Sunday May 10th 2009
I had a hard time sleeping that night, I think the excitement was getting to me, so I got up early and went and got some coffee and another Mother's Day gift for my wife. This being her first Mother's Day and being away from her baby girl I figured a few extra gifts wouldn't hurt. I got back to our room and everybody was ready to go, so we headed over to IHOP and got some breakfast. We hit the road to Port Canaveral at about 10:30 a.m. and arrived in Port Canaveral at 11:20 a.m. and the shuttle had us to the beautiful Freedom of the Seas by 11:50 a.m. The best part is we were on the ship by 12:15!!! Embarkation was a breeze! So we started to tour the ship, we were completely blown away to say the least! The couple that had only been on Carnival was with us and they could not get over how beautiful the ship was and how it looked classy and how much space there was and how elegant everything looked and so on and so on :). After a quick walk around Carol and I headed to our room, I had chosen the aft balcony cabin 9704. I really beat myself up over this decision, I knew I wanted an aft cabin but I wanted the perfect one and that was not an easy decision. As soon as we walked in I loved it, the big picture window was awesome! My wife on the other hand was not as impressed, she initially missed the sliding glass doors, she did say however that as the week went on that the cabin grew on her and she loved the balcony and would gladly sail in this cabin again. I gave her Mother's Day gift and it did the trick. So after checking out our digs for the week the flowrider started up at 1:15 and thats where we were for the rest of the week! It did seem that way sometimes though! We stayed at the flowrider until it closed at 5 or 6 because it wasn't crowded at all, and all the the guys working the flowrider (I will refer to it as FR from now on) said it would be crowded the rest of the week so we figured this would be our only chance. The group did get a chance to take a break and grab some food in the windjammer, I have to say the food was o.k. but the crowd control was great with the separate islands and the views were top notch and we also did the muster drill in between rides. After the FR shut down we headed to the cantilevered whirlpools, amazing, breathtaking, and awesome. You cannot appreciate the view from them until you are actually sitting in them, wonderful to say the least, and again no one was in them, I figured we should soak up the empty feeling as much as we could before the overcrowded feeling I had heard so much about. After the dip in whirlpool we went and got ready for dinner. All ten of us had late seating and we had table 360 with Sander as our waiter and Cassie as our assistant waiter. These two were great our entire cruise, not the best I have ever had but very very good!! Our dinner was good not great but good. This is true for most nights, good but not great. After dinner we hit the casino for a few and headed off to bed. Love the new beds on RC best we have ever had on a cruise!
Day 2 At Sea Monday May 11th 2009
So Carol and I ordered room service for breakfast and had asked for it between 8:30 and 9:00 cause the FR opened at 9:00 and 8:20 they called and said it was on it's way and sure enough at 8:30 it was there! Nice and hot and what we had ordered! So after eating we headed up to the FR and guess what? It wasn't crowded. The advanced surfing had started at 8:15 till 9:00 with surfing from 9:00 to 11:00. The five guys figured we were not advanced so we showed up at 9:00 but found out the first day or so the sports team running the FR are pretty liberal with the advanced surfing. My advice for anyone wanting to do the FR is to get there early every day you want to ride. This worked like a charm for us as you will see if you continue reading. So the FR switched over to boogie boarding at 11:00 and most of us had gotten our butt kicked so bad on the boogie board the day before that we took the afternoon off of the FR. We got some lunch in the MDR which had a huge salad bar that they would make for you as you choose the ingredients, LOVED IT. The menu was good too, however I was disappointed to find out that the lunch menu did not change, the menu was good but not that good. After lunch we hung out and checked out the ship a little more. Then around 3 the FR opened and back we went! After an hour on the FR we headed to the the cabin to get ready and go to the ice show. The ice show was at 5:00 the first sea day and it was repeated a few times over the week. The ice show was phenomenal!! It amazes me that they can skate and do tricks while we are moving!!! Wonderful addition to cruising in my opinion. After the show we got ready for dinner, it was the first formal night and they had the photos set up in force. We enjoyed dinner again, however this was the night of the filet and it was butterflied and not very good at all. Got some great formal shots of our group and headed to the show. The shows were a bit of a disappointment to me. I think the singers and dancers were great but I think the material they had to perform was not the greatest. The show was Marquee which was older broadway tunes, but not from recent broadway hits and the songs were mainly slow and boring. After the show we hung in the theater for the late night comedy act Carl Banks. The late night comedy show started at 12:15 and we thought he was hilarious! He started a little slow but finished great. Then it was off to bed.
Day 3 Labadee Tuesday May 12th 2009
I was up 8 to hit the FR and again it was a ghost town, so we got a ton of rides in without any lines, I got back to the room at 10, and we hit the windjammer for some breakfast, I was actually happy with the windjammers breakfast selection and enjoyed it. I normally avoid the windjammer or any other buffet at all costs but I feel like RC has made great strides in making the windjammer feel open and not as crowded as it has been on other ships. After breakfast the group of us headed to the tenders to head to Labadee. The group had all booked the Dragon's Breath Zip line tour. 6 of us had 11:30 and 4 of us had 12:00. So we got on the tender and headed over, on the tender over you could see where they were building the new pier. I think the pier will be great for this private island. So the group got over to the meeting place for the zip line, which was a pretty good walk by the way, and the 4 of us who had 12:00 times tried to switch to the 11:30 times but with no luck because the tour was booked the entire day. The Dragon's Breath zip line was a lot of fun, it was also expensive but very well ran, the total time doing both zip line's was about an hour maybe a little longer. The view's from the top were stunning and you can see where the new roller coaster is under construction. I enjoyed the zip line but did not get much of an adrenaline rush and I was expecting one! So I wouldn't do it again but I was glad I did it. After the zip line we got some lunch and being that it was almost 1:30 and they had stopped replenishing the food, but there was plenty of food available, just not all the choices that had been available earlier. After lunch the group headed over to the beach and found some shady chairs and just relaxed, a few of us went and got in the water and then came back and relaxed some more. Looking back on it, this was one of my favorite moments on the cruise. We were just all relaxing and talking and laughing with some of the best views in the world! It was great fun. We headed back to the ship around 4 and went straight for the FR and to sprinkles and then to the hot tub. The ship felt empty and everyone was getting ready for main seating dinner or taking a nap. We headed to dinner and enjoyed the company, the dinner was venetian feast and was ok. The tiramisu was not good but there was another dessert that was great, I wish I could remember it. We headed for the casino and then off to bed.
Day 4 Ocho Rios Jamaica Wednesday May 13th 2009
We met our group at 8:30 for breakfast in the MDR. Breakfast was good and everyone said the eggs benedict was wonderful. We headed off the ship to meet our tour guide for the day Phil Lafayette. It was a little chaotic at first on the pier but we had no trouble finding our guide and they directed us to a bus and it was actually Phil giving us the tour. Phil was over the top at first using only words that started with P but as the day went on Phil grew on all of us :). The bus headed straight to Dunn's river falls and when we arrived the parking lot was empty. Phil said he would get us there first and he had kept his word. He gave us a few pointers on how to shop if we wanted to and walked us to the falls. Dunn's River Falls was Amazing!!! I loved it! I had no idea how long of a hike i was going to be and I was happy that the falls kept going and going, one beautiful fall after another. The hike was a little slippery but I think I was the only one who actually fell :) After finishing the Falls we wanted to get the video. The only way to get the video was to go thru the craft market which was a nice adventure. We found the video and headed back to our bus to meet Phil. We had asked Phil to take us to an authentic Jamaican Jerk Restaurant, he said he would take us to one of his favorites. We stopped at an outdoor eatery called Scotchies, we didn't see many tour buses so we were happy and the food was yummy yummy yummy! The chicken, pork and breadsticks were great! I didn't care for the sausage but most others thought it was good. One of the best parts was that we got all this food for $6. You can't beat that. The food was a little spicy and the sauce that came with it was really spicy but it all was good. After Scotchies we drove through the city headed towards the river tubing. Another highlight I must say! We tubed down the White river and there were more rapids than I expected which was great. We have a river here that you can tube down but it is really slow and I mean slow, the White river on the other hand is pretty quick and the scenery is beautiful. I happened to drop my waterproof camera on accident so my group got stuck at the halfway point waiting on us to go back and find it. So our two guides took us back up the trail to go back into the river where I had thought I had dropped it. Another guide met us there with some swimming type goggles, and by some miracle after looking for 30 minutes we actually found it and it still worked!!! So I tipped the guides nicely and we were on our way back down the river. After finishing the river trip Phil was waiting for us and we headed back to the ship. I would give this excursion with Phil a 9.5 out of 10. I can't think of anything he could have done better but I don't give out 10's very often. We did a little shopping before heading back to the ship. I wouldn't recommend going to far from the terminal, we were getting some strange looks as we kept heading further and further away. After finding nothing on the shopping trip we headed back to the ship and went straight to the Windjammer for an afternoon snack, we got some great seats by the windows to watch the ship pull away from Ocho Rios. What a great day. I can't wait to go back! Carol and I relaxed in our room and watched the islands go by from our balcony until it was time for dinner. Dinner was good but nothing memorable. We headed to the Love and Marriage game show after dinner and it was hilarious!! One of the best I have seen. CD Richard Spacey was awesome! After the show more craps in the casino and off to bed.
Day 5 Georgetown Grand Cayman Thursday May 14th 2009
Up early at 8:00 for the FR. Had breakfast at Windjammers and off to the tender at 10:00. We had a 12:00 reservation for 6 of our group at Dolphin Discovery to do the Royal Swim. So we grabbed a cab and headed on over. We originally had planned Dolphin Discovery for Cozumel but that was cancelled due to the swine flu. Our group arrived early to Dolphin Discovery so they sent us over to the Turtle farm. The Turtle farm was included in the price of the Dolphin Discovery. Our group enjoyed the Turtle farm but I think we would have been upset if we paid $15 to get in. There was just not that much to see. It did look like the snorkeling area in the back of the turtle farm was very nice. That was an additional $15 and we had to head back for our dolphin swim so we did not have time to check it out. The Royal Dolphin swim was great unfortunately one of the people in our group was pregnant and they would not let her go. We had already paid for this excursion and up until today I have still not gotten a refund. This was not the worst part, they said that it was on the website and their brochure that pregnant people could not participate, so we went and checked all of those things and none of them said it was prohibited, they all said not recommended. I even asked on the phone and they had no problem taking my money. This wasn't the worst part either, the worst part was that we were all really excited to do this dolphin swim and then when they said she couldn't do it we could all tell it broke her heart, so her husband and the rest of the group were more worried about her than having fun. Luckily the people at Dolphin Discovery are much nicer than the accounting department. After seeing her being upset for a few minutes one of the trainers went and got her and let her sit with him and feed the dolphins and do some tricks and touch the dolphins. So after seeing that they were taking care of her I think we all relaxed a little and started to have some fun. My wife and I had done almost this same excursion in Cozumel and enjoyed it immensely. I think the trainers in Grand Cayman were a little better but I actually preferred the one in Cozumel due to the fact that when you are finished with the Dolphins you can walk straight to the beach and snorkel all you want. They also have a little Mexican restaurant on the beach that is wonderful. After our swimming was done we got a cab and told him to take us to the best local mexican restaurant on the island. Remind you I said local, so he took us to Breezes right next to the cruise terminal!!! What a joke!! Local NO, Mexican NO!! Thanks a lot cabbie! So we did some shopping after lunch and headed back to the ship. Back to the FR and the Solarium hot tubs which were again empty. Off to the room to get ready for dinner. Dinner again was nothing notable. After dinner we headed to the Battle of the Sexes game show. This was the only thing I didn't feel was ran well. It was a little disorganized and the questions didn't make sense. After the game show we watched a little bit of the magic show. I could see the tricks happening behind the stage, which was very cool but the singing and dancing between tricks was a little too much so we headed to the casino for a few minutes and then too bed.
Day 6 At Sea Friday May 15th 2009
This was the day we were supposed to go to Cozumel but that got cancelled due to the swine flu so we had a day at sea instead. I was disappointed with that because I feel like they could have found us another port to substitute but I wasn't about to let it ruin my trip. I was up early again for the FR, are we seeing a trend hear??? At 10 I met up with my wife for breakfast and then I went back to sleep. I was beat!! My wife and a few others went a did the mini golf and said it was good but it was blazing hot since we were hardly moving so there was no breeze. We met for lunch at 1:30 or so in the MDR. It was good again but I was not happy about the same menu, but the salad again was very good. After lunch the group of us headed to the sports deck for some dodgeball, which was awesome and then the sky opened up and it rained for a good two hours. During this time we found a new part of the ship, the olive twist bar up in the crown lounge, this was a beautiful spot to watch the rains come! After watching the rain for a while we all headed down to the Schooner Bar for some 80's name that tune. This game was ran well by David and we all had a blast. Boy's versus Girl's and of course they beat us by one or two but we all had fun. After the game we headed back to the FR!! We had reserved the FR from 6:30 to 7:30. This hour was another highlight. There was 7 of us in the group who enjoyed this hour tremendously. All the guys and girls in the sport staff were great to us the whole week and this hour was no different. Ryan and Juri helped us for the hour showing us how to get better and teaching Carol how do it since it was her first time trying it. Highly recommend renting it if you want it all to yourself. It ain't cheap at $300 but it was worth it. After FR a quick dip in the hot tub and off we were to hurry up and get ready for dinner. Dinner was as usual. The show was about fairy tales so we skipped it. The girls went to Karaoke and we played craps until it was bedtime. All of the casino staff was also wonderful.
Day 7 At Sea Saturday May 16th 2009
I decided to sleep in, I couldn't handle it anymore, I was beat!!! I think this was Carol's highlight of the trip! :) We woke up late and headed to the Windjammer for lunch and then off to the ice skating rink for a quick spin and some more bruises. After the ice skating we headed to the best of the best surfing competition. My friend Ben and I had entered, we both did not have very god performances but we had a great time and it was quite the experience. After the surfing, we had the crew versus guest dodgeball tournament which was great. It was time for the pool and hot tub and then off to get ready for the farewell show and dinner. The farewell show was awesome. Richard Spacey was hysterical and the comedian Eric Lyden was hilarious. The singers were great too. This was another highlight for sure. We went to dinner and nothing on the menu looked good and even though I am totally against it I decided to order the Chops filet for $14.95 and while it was by far the best piece of beef I had on the cruise it was not as spectacular as I was hoping. After dinner we headed to Karaoke and then to the Casino where I had a great roll and then off to bed.
Day 8 Port Canaveral Debarkation May 17th 2009
We woke up at 5:50 due to the announcements on the Disney Wonder and the Freedom of the Seas. We were able to fend them off until about 7 then we woke up and finished packing. We choose to carry our bags of the ship. We went and ate breakfast at 8 in the MDR. All 10 of us enjoyed breakfast and then we parted ways, it was sad but we had a wonderful vacation and had made some great memories. After breakfast we did a little cabin hopping and then we were off to the stateroom to get our bags. Carrying the bags of the ship was an easy way to go, it took us no time. We got our rental car and did some shopping and hit the airport and had a good flight home.
Lobster, Tortellini, Tempura shrimp, Chops steak, Prime Rib, Desert trio, banana desert
Filet, Surf and turf which was shoulder filet (terrible), tiramisu
Whole ship was amazing! Flowrider was awesome!
On Air karaoke bar was small.
Aft Balcony was great! Shower doors are good. Beds are very comfortable. The view from our cabin was awe inspiring. It felt like we could see everywhere. I could have sat out and watched the world go by forever.
As always more room would be nice.
We enjoyed all of the islands. Jamaica was our favorite excursion.
Missing Cozumel was a disappointment.
Everyone was a highlight. We could not find anyone who wasn't happy. All the crew seemed to be enjoying their job and they took care of us better than we could have ever hopped!!!
I think this was our best cruise ever! We could have only asked for better food. That was the only disappointment outside of missing Cozumel. Royal Caribbean has done a wonderful job on the Freedom of the Seas!! Out of all of our cruises the Freedom was by far our favorite ship. Thank you RC we look forward to sailing with you again soon.