Freedom of the Seas Review from a Wheelchair....by accident
As Captain Kasselas says, "Good morning from the world's smallest captain on the world's largest cruise ship!"
We (Me-Sheila, DH-John, and our best friends-Howard & Margaret) were on the May 24th sailing on the Freedom of the Seas out of Port Canaveral to the Western Caribbean. This will be a completely honest review as I'm a very straightforward speaking person. If you know me, you know what I'm talking about.
We were in cabins 7278 & 7280 (E2). We've cruised on the Mariner and Navigator and the balconies on the Freedom are bigger than the Voyager-class ships, which was a nice surprise.
We arrived in Port Canaveral on May 22nd and stayed at the Radisson Resort at the Port. It rained buckets off and on, but we had a good time going to the Cocoa Beach Pier and watching the crazy surfers. Unfortunately, I fell down the stairs at the hotel on Saturday and broke my ankle.
There were a lot of Cruise Critic members staying at the Radisson or nearby so we had a little party at the Radisson on Saturday night. It was really nice putting faces with screen names. I wish I could have walked around to meet more people, but I was stuck with my leg propped up. Thanks to the CC members who came by to speak. I really appreciate it.
Embarkation was a breeze since I was in the wheelchair. (My friend Margaret said that on our next cruise, it is her turn to be in the wheelchair. LOL!) After we got on the ship, we headed straight to the Royal Promenade's Bull & Bear Pub and met Marsha from St. Vincent who was a sweetheart. We later ate in the Windjammer and got to our cabins around 1:15pm. Everything was nice and clean. Our room steward was Hamilton from Jamaica who did an outstanding job all week.
We had a Pre-Meet & Mingle planned for the Sky Bar at 3:00. We met more CC members and several foo-foo drinks were consumed. Shortly after, it was time for the muster drill. (My favorite part of the cruise...NOT!) We were on deck 12 for the sail-away. To me, sail-away is a thrill! Afterwards, we went to our cabin to try to un-pack. John had to do most of our un-packing, which was difficult for both of us. I normally send him to the pub and I un-pack by myself.
We had late seating at table 368 in Leonardo's. We had a table for 6, which included our best friends from Scotland and some of our friends, Al & Lydia, which we haven't spent much time with in many years. It was really nice renewing our friendship with them and they added such a fun time to our table.
Our head waiter was Heeran (pronounced He-Ran!) from India. She was a delight and the best head waiter we've ever had. Our waiter was Donovan from Jamaica. He's been a Royal Caribbean waiter for 11 years and you could tell by his efficiency. He was also a lot of fun and we looked forward to him and Al torturing each other every night. Our Assistant Waiter was "AK" and has the most beautiful smile and sweet personality.
We went to the Welcome Aboard show and I really like the fill-in Cruise Director, Leigh Daniels. I think that he is currently the Activities Director on the Freedom. Leigh told us that Richard Spacey is going to be the CD on the Oasis. I hope RCI gives Leigh a shot at full-time CD on the Freedom. He's really great! The headliners for the show were comedian Tim Jones and Fulcrum (acrobats).
We slept in and after breakfast, we went to the Solarium for a little relaxation. This was the first Royal Caribbean cruise we've been on where there wasn't pool chairs saved with no one in them. We found out that the pool attendants place sticky notes with times on the chairs. GREAT JOB! Later, we found chairs at the main pool and watched the Mr. Sexy Legs contest. Oh my!
Tonight was the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception and Gala Dinner. We all put on our pretty clothes and took pictures. There are several places for pictures and different backdrops to choose from. Our pictures turned out really well.
I had the pleasure of being escorted via a beach wheelchair to a lounge chair near the wave runners by a local Haitian. Bless his heart. He only knew a few words of English and tried his best to make my ride entertaining. Since I wasn't allowed to get my foot wet, I had to cancel my wave runner ride. I was disappointed, but at least John and our friends were able to go. I took video and pictures of them and other CC members. The BBQ lunch was so-so, but typical. John said he'd wait until we got back to the ship so we left shortly after. I felt that we didn't get to enjoy the whole island experience due to my injury. We've been there before and really enjoyed it.
The headliner show for late seating was before dinner so we went to see the group called Mosaic. These talented guys are amazing! They are definitely the BEST show that I've ever seen on a cruise. They are a musical group that sings and uses their mouths/voices for the instruments. If you ever get a chance to see them, do so. After dinner was the 70's Song Tribute on the Royal Promenade. It was really good. We watched it from Al & Lydia's Promenade View cabin. The Promenade was crowded with people dancing with each other or by themselves. Looked like a lot of fun!
We've been to Ochos Rios before and took a tour and climbed Dunn's River Falls. This time, we walked (and I was pushed) into town and did some shopping and ate lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. There wasn't many locals trying to sell us "things" or asking for money as we experienced in the past. Maybe we looked like we didn't have any money and they left us alone? LOL The shop clerks were very helpful and not pushy at all. I LOVE Dunn's River Falls and would've climbed it again if given the opportunity.
Tonight's dinner theme was "Surf Attire" so we all wore our tropical prints and strapped surf boards to our backs. The Love & Marriage Game was at 10:30 and the longest married couple had been married for 64 years. The husband was hilarious! Leigh did a fantastic job being the "game show host." Lydia made it even funnier because she laughed and laughed through the whole show and you know how contagious laughter is. The Surfing Under the Stars dance party was canceled due to thunderstorms in the area.
We tendered to Grand Cayman, which is a beautiful and very clean island. Margaret and I felt safe enough here to shop on our own without the men following us around. They headed to the Hard Rock Cafe for some local brew while we shopped. We bought some nice silver jewelry and cosmetics. The guys didn't stay long at the Hard Rock because the local brew was very potent and they knew we couldn't carry them back to the ship.
This night was the 2nd formal night and we attended the Freedom-Ice.com show before dinner. It was very good, as always. The dining room was serving lobster and it was good! After dinner was the production "Once Upon a Time." I've read on here several times how great it is so we went. John fell asleep about a ¼ of the way through and my ankle hurt, so we excused ourselves. Our friends thought production was very good.
Yet another day of shopping planned. I know the men were probably tired of this by now, but they were troopers. This was our 2nd trip to Cozumel, but let me tell you, the poor shop clerks were actually begging you to buy stuff. They even came out of their stores and followed us down the street asking us to come have a look. I felt extremely saddened by their desperation, but we just couldn't buy something from every shop. We finally had enough and went to Carlos and Charlies for some refreshments and fun. We took a taxi back to the port and bought some vanilla, Kahlua, perfume, and t-shirts at the stores there. The next time we go to Cozumel, we will definitely skip the shopping....except for the vanilla. With me being in a wheelchair, we were just very limited as to what we could do as far as shore excursions go.
Lydia and Al went to swim with the dolphins. Lydia had an amazing time and Al took a lot of pictures of her and she had a huge smile on her face the whole time. She highly recommends this excursion.
The dinner theme for this night was "Anchored in Excellence." I guess it is a spin-off of the Crown & Anchor Society. We rushed from dinner to Studio B for the Quest game. Since it is a "secret," I will only mention that our team won! YES!
Our last full day on the ship...how sad. Does anyone else get the blues on day 7? We decided not to do the pool thing, but explore the ship since this was our first time on a Freedom-class ship. The ship is just amazing! We all shopped on-board and are now stocked with Freedom merchandise. John climbed the rock wall and everyone except me played putt-putt golf. The Flowrider was amazing and wish I could have ridden it. Since it was our last day, we had to pack. Have you ever tried to pack with a broken ankle? What a nightmare!
The Farewell Show was before dinner and it was really good. The comedian, Dan Wilson, was very funny and had several cruise bits that were hilarious. I loved it when some of the crew came through during the show so we can all clap for them. They all had big smiles on their faces. Leigh was hilarious, as always. He was the most accessible CD that we've ever had. (It used to be Becky "Hello Luv" Thomson). He's such a nice guy. See the picture of Leigh sitting on my wheelchair in my siggy below.
Dinner was the "Feast of Nations" and we said goodbye to our wonderful wait staff. I truly wish we could've carried them home with us. I'm sure we made our way to one of the bars at this point, but I can't remember. LOL We had to make it an early night so we could finish packing and put our luggage outside our stateroom.
Our color was called around 8:15 and we went to Boleros. A very nice crew member wheeled me all the way to the luggage, which was nice since John was loaded down with the carry-on bags. We took the shuttle to the Radisson to pick up our cars and drove to Orlando. We said goodbye to our friends before they had to fly back to Scotland. We drove home and I slept almost the whole way. My poor DH!
All I have to say is I didn't have to cook it or clean up, so I was happy. Yes, there are several food items that could be improved upon, but the staff does the best they can with the many mouths that they have to feed. I will say though that the Key Lime Pie and the Mudslide Cookies are TOO DIE FOR! Most of our meals were either in the dining room or on the Royal Promenade. We only ate in the Windjammer a few times and at Johnny Rockets once.
The crew members were incredible! On our last Mariner cruise, we thought that the service had declined, but that wasn't so on the Freedom. I could not have been treated better since I was in a wheelchair. I even had a maintenance worker open a public restroom door for me and waited outside until I was finished to wheel me back to the photo gallery. That's what I call service! I went to the Cafe Promenade many times with either my DH or friends. I would wheel myself to see what was being offered, and before I could turn around, a server was asking me what I wanted and handing it to me. An extra server would just appear from out of the back room. Service! Whenever we ate at the Windjammer, DH would park me at a table and would get my food for me. A server always came by the table first thing to ask me what I wanted to drink. I just really can't express enough how great the staff treated us.
The only issue that we encountered on the ship was at the photo gallery. I got one of our pictures copied for our friends and I was told that it would be ready at 6:00pm the next day. We didn't go pick it up the next day, but on the last sea day. The crew member refused to give my friend the picture because it was before 6:00pm. What?! It was suppose to be ready 2 days before. Can they only hand out copied pictures at 6:00pm? My friend gave them a picture to hold and place with the one I had copied and she would pick them up together. When she went back to pick up both pictures (after 6:00pm), they lost one of the pictures and it was too late to get my copy made. It was our formal night picture with all four of us in it.
To Hamilton, Donovan, Heeran, AK, Marsha, and many other smiling faces, thank you so much for your helpfulness.
To all of the crew members who had their toes run over by my wheelchair, thank you for not fussing and we're very sorry! John was not a very good driver in the beginning...especially after a few pints. He got better with experience. Thanks to my DH and my friends for pushing me around all week. I couldn't have gone on the cruise without you.
To the pool deck patrol, thank you so much for ensuring that there were not any chair hogs.
I honestly do not know how some people can complain about the service on the Freedom. Every crew member we encountered smiled and spoke to us....the officers to the stateroom attendants. Everyone seemed to really enjoy their jobs and it showed.
Here's a link to the Cruise News (Front & Back), which introduces you to the officers and just general information about the ship.
Tip for the Ladies(and maybe some men)
Since it takes some acrobatics to shave our legs in the normal stateroom showers, here's a tip for you. Remove any trash from the metal trash bin underneath the bathroom sink. Flip it upside down and place it in the shower. You've got yourself a foot prop and you'll be much more comfortable shaving your legs.
OK, this review has gone on long enough. If you have any questions, ask away!