Our group of five (H + DW in our young 50's; daughter + BFF both 23; son 14) sailed the Freedom's 6-day western itinerary on a hot, sunny August week. We preferred the Sunday departure which gives you Saturday to tie up loose ends and then a Saturday return to decompress on Sunday. I used to prefer 10 days, or at the least 7, but in the spirit of 'do nothing on the cruise you do at home', like exercise, and taking the gluttony and boozing activities seriously, six straight days of such hedonism is plenty. The 3 port days and 2 sea days on this cruise was perfect.
The ship is beautiful and could not be better maintained; the crew and staff courteous and eager to please. I believe Carnival began years ago pulling itself up by its bootstraps with each new ship, and as long as you understand and accept that Carnival IS mass market cruising, that there will be plenty of young partiers and boisterous "Fun", and that buffets and pools will be occasionally crowded, well then: No Problem, Mon! Bless the ship's air conditioning which consistently kept all public areas and cabins plenty cool, given the 90 plus degree heat outside. Indeed, the weather on this voyage was perfect - blue skies and calm seas every day and nary a cloud, let alone a drop of rain. Best ocean excursion activity weather I've ever seen, and I'm a native Floridian.
The somewhat elder, English CD, John "Love to Hear Myself Talk" Heald sort of grew on you. He ran every show, seemed to make every announcement, and on sea days hosted a live morning or afternoon show on the jumbo-tron screen by the pool with a simulcast on the cabin T.V., where he would ramble on, read passenger letters and call cabins live to like wish someone happy birthday, etc. It was oddly fun and entertaining.
The food on the Freedom was extraordinary, as in extra ordinary, mostly, save for a few highlights: complimentary sushi every evening for cocktails in the promenade, fish n' chips, fried calamari and seafood bisque for lunch one level above the Lido buffet (never crowded up there). The first formal night featured prime rib and/or lobster (a whole Florida lobster) served with 4 jumbo shrimp. Double orders no problem - we couldn't fit all the plates on our table - fantastico! Lobster only the once, but prime rib offered again the last night. Escargot, lobster bisque and a delicious stuffed mushroom appetizers also come to mind, but otherwise, let's move on. Some nice touches included reasonable drink prices - less than $5 for domestic beer and well drinks (bartenders gave you a good poor too); for men the "cruise casual" evening dress code actually allowed for dress shorts in the dining room for informal nights, something I especially liked.
Our balcony was cleaned twice during the voyage so you could see through the glass rail, and bingo and art auction pitches were mercifully minimally invasive. Slight rubbs included a late embarkation due to the ship's delayed arrival (medical emergency - can't blame Carnival for that), but once embarkation started about 12:30 we were onboard and eating in the Lido within 45 minutes. Our girls in the inside cabin on main deck reported consistently haphazard room service, although the one occasion DW & son ordered it was fine. And there is no walk-around outside promenade for us occasional, minimalist exercisers. I did notice the nightly portrait taking has become a booming cottage industry; they were everywhere, every evening, but people were doing it, so hey, o.k. We had a great cruise - next time we're Platinum - and would recommend the Carnival Freedom. Steve Glerum, Cruise Travel Enthusiast