My Wife and our two youngest boys (both 13) just got off the Carnival Freedom after a week of bliss. This was our third Carnival Cruise, plus one on Royal Caribbean and one on the Crown Princess two years ago (the last one we have done). In almost every respect, this was far superior to all other cruises we have done.
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale on Friday Evening and stayed at the Springhill Suites. It provided a hot breakfast and a shuttle to from the airport and to the Pier. In addition, for $8 per person we were able to book a transfer back to the airport. The transfers were as painless as possible. We left the Hotel about 10:45, were at the pier about 11:00 and were on the ship just before noon.
Despite the reviews that complain about the decor on the ship, it is not that outlandish. When we were on the Imagination and the Fantasy, the dEcor was much more garish. While we would not decorate our house the way the Carnival Freedom was done, it was not that bad. In certain places it was very nice.
Anyway, first we had lunch on the Lido. Everything we had was tasty and done nicely. In fact the food on the Carnival Freedom was without a doubt the best we have ever had on a cruise. We did not have a single thing that was bad. Some things were absolutely fabulous. The only complaint I had was when I went to have the Mongolian BBQ. I waited on line for over an hour. While it was good, it was not that good. The Dining Staff was wonderful, the service impeccable and the food terrific.
We had two cabins on the Lido Deck, one a balcony for us and one inside right across the hall for the 13 year olds. Both cabins were very nicely done. The Balcony Cabin was large enough, and had a couch as well as the bed.
Our first stop was Cozumel, Mexico. Because of a mistake on my part we missed our Deluxe Snorkel, Beach and Sale party tour, so we ended up walking across the street and booking a snorkeling tour on our own. It ended up that it was just the four of us, and we happened to have some of the best snorkeling views we have ever seen.
Second stop was Limon, Costa Rica. We did the Canal and River Boat and Banana Plantation Tour. It was incredible trolling down the river/canal seeing the wildlife. We were even able to see two different species of Monkeys!
In Panama we had rain for the first time essentially (Other than an occasionally short shower). We book an outside tour with "My Friend Mario." All we really wanted to do was see the Canal and Locks, but there is no tour for just that. There really should be - or that and shopping. This tour went to the Gatun Locks, then to Portobello (which was somewhat interesting) and then stopped at Langosta (Lobster) beach for Lunch. Since it was raining we had no interest in the beach. Fortunately, the small group we were with all agreed to leave the beach early and head back to the ship. However, there is very little shopping next to the ship -it looked like maybe you had to take a cab, so we were not able to do much else as our tour came back about an hour before we sailed. One thing we noticed during this trip is that there seems to be a dearth of entertainment at night (prior to midnight). It seemed that when the show in the Theater was on, nothing else was happening. Both my wife and I recall much more activity during the evening and night on our previous Carnival Cruises, and even on the Princess one we last took. Maybe it is economizing, or maybe it is just us. The entertainment was very good - the comedians, Beatles show, the duo in the lobby (wow does she have a wonderful voice), the guitar guy at the Casino bar and music in motion. The piano guy we were just not interested in...not the best voice.
On the last evening we went to the Sun King Supper Club for dinner. It was very nice. The food was a notch above the regular dining room, even if you could not order more than one entrEe (You could order two starters however).
As was said earlier, we ranked this cruise above even Princess. However, there were a couple of things that Carnival Freedom did not measure up to the Crown Princess with. First was dEcor and to some extent the layout of some of the decks. The second was the upscale coffee shop. On the Crown Princess it was located near the Atrium, in a section where you could sit and read, or watch the entertainment. On the Carnival Freedom it is on the Promenade Deck, right in the middle of the traffic.
The staff on the Carnival freedom could not have been more friendly and helpful. Every single one we met was happy, friendly and pleasant. They all said hello and had a smile. Our waitstaff - Maya and Wahou(sp?) and Ryan our "drinkmaster" were wonderful, knew what we liked and were proactive as a result. Carolina our steward also was terrific! We have never been taken care of so well on any of our previous cruises - and we didn't have any complaints on them! They were just exceptional on this cruise!
Our opinion of Carnival, which was good to begin with, went even higher as a result of our wonderful trip.