Freedom of the Seas Cruise Review by OV8: East Carib - Best Vacation - Feel Just Like the 1st Time
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East Carib - Best Vacation - Feel Just Like the 1st Time
Travel & Embarkation: GF & I flew into Tampa (TPA) to visit with family for 3 days prior to the Sunday embarkation & made the easy 2+hr drive to Port Canaveral that Sunday AM. We made a 1 way rental from Budget @ TPA & easily dropped off the car @ the PC Budget affiliate by 1115am. Waited about 15 minutes to unload & get the courtesy shuttle to the port. Travel time was 10 minutes & there was a wait to get an unloading slot near the porters.
Boarding: Unloading our luggage was quick & organized. We tipped the porter a dollar for each of our pieces of luggage. There was also a thunder shower which just hit us as we were unloading but the lines moved quickly into the security building. The security check also was an easier than expected once we were inside though it seemed for 4+k ppl there were only 2 scanners...hmmm. We were boarded by 1230pm & like most ppl went straight to the Windjammer for lunch & then walk around to check More out all the amenities before entering our room @ 130pm.
Stateroom: We had a D2 category balcony stateroom with the requisite queen size bed & as advertised the accompanying super comfortable mattress. The room has adequate space for 2 ppl to move around & the balcony has room for 2 to sit & enjoy drinks or food. The room was very clean and conservatively decorated but it was not as modern in style as one would think like a W Hotel or even a Hilton - more in line with a Marriot. The bathroom was very small, but everything is super efficient to get your business done. The best thing was the water pressure for the toilet is what you would hope for in your dream house - super suction! Storage room was adequate for our 4 pieces of luggage as we found additional room under the bed to store the empty suitcases. We were surprised that RCL supplied us with shampoo & soap as we had read to the contrary so we packed our own toiletries.
Food & Dining: We chose My Time Dining (MTD) & on the 1st night we arrived @ 9pm only to be seated an empty table for 8 on the 5th deck (highest dining room deck). The waiter kept trying to push us drinks & we were not happy. We requested a different table setup the next night & found a wonderful crew that we chose to wait on us the rest of the cruise. MTD was actually as advertised as the MTD host could accommodate our party kon each night & always gave us a great table to sit at. Our waitress Karen & her crew of 3 were nice & funny as they scared the heck out of us by faking a coffee spill on each of us. Made all the ppl around us gasped. LOL! The food in the MDR was inconsistent & the fish & seafood were dry every night. However, the lamb shanks were superb but lobster night (6th night on the Eastern cruise) was a dud - rubbery. Please go elsewhere for dessert as they were forgettable. Dress code for MTD was overall as requested & appropriate. We saw very few jeans. Breakfast & lunch was spent in the Windjammer on most days as they were really the best meals on all 7 days. We did have lunch in the MDR on the 1 sea day & it was nice but a little formal in terms of service. Still a treat nevertheless. For late night snacks - we chose to partake in Sorrento's & Cafe Promenade for pizza, coffee, water & sandwiches. These treats aren't found @ home on most nightly cravings! We went to Chops specialty restaurant on 1 night & while it was delicious & the price was reasonable, it was no better than Morton's on land. I tried it to see if it was worth it & it was but since most food are included already in the cruise tix & food shouldn't be the reason I am cruising - I will pass the next time.
Pools: We spent most of our time in the adult only (16+) Solarium. There were 4 pools: the kiddy H20 Zone, 2 main pools for varying ages & the adult Solarium. Very crowded esp. on sea days. As for the chair hogs, they were out in force but we just took their towels & chair when we found it was unoccupied for 1+ hr. We had 1 altercation but were victorious as we pointed out that their towel were tanner than they were! HAHA. We used the Solarium side overhanging hot tubs but they were quite hot & at times the best looking human specimen weren't occupying this space & made it uninviting. But that is the public hot tub for ya! LOL!
Sports/Gym: Took opportunity to scale the rock wall & after my first failure back in '01 I was determine to conquered this 8 yrs & 25 lbs later. The spotter was great & guided me easily up & down. Mission accomplished. We didn't do Flowrider as that looked tough but I can say that will be my next challenge on next year's cruise. But how tough can it be when guys 2x my age were giving it a go?! Ha-ha. Basketball courts were always opened & so was minigolf. Both of which we didn't take part in but there were no lines like the Rockwall or Flowrider. The gym rivals any land based mega gym in size & the view of the bow is 2nd to none! We got in a workout on all 3 sea days & it helps us feel less guilty about eating so much. The locker rooms & steam/sauna were also 1st class.
Entertainment: All the shows & entertainment directed by the cruise director Allan Brooks & his team were awesome from the 3 sets of comedians to the newlywed inspired show to our first Quest show & the 3 street party & parades. The Broadway shows was 1 that was ending it run on FOS & Marquee which were based on Broadway show tunes that was coming on. All nicely done. We skipped the Magic show with Drew Thomas regrettably based on scheduling but it was well done we heard. The 70's Street Party & Miami pool parties were outrageously fun. Must not miss is the comedy:" A One Man Show Wit Two Guy". Funniest thing I've seen in years. The Ice Show was okay as I've seen better on land. Main advice I would give is to come early to all shows in the main theater for seating & wait till the last matinee ice show as that is usually half filled. We didn't really partake in any of the pub or saloon lounge singing acts. Shopping/Spa: On board shopping was mediocre & expensive but it did pass the time. The number of logo products on this cruise was scaled down measurably. Main advice is to wait till the last day to see if they reduce the price - which they really didn't unless clearing inventory. As for the spa, the treatments were solid & some up sell takes place but overall for the money & with the various specials esp. on port days, it was reasonable. Main advice for the spa is to take advantage of the port days after you return as they usually give sub $100 treatments specials. Be prepped for lots of photo ops as the paparazzi are everywhere. It was fun & we actually ended up buying some of the lifestyle pics for $20 each. They were quality picture & there is no pressure to smile beautifully - you are indeed on vacation!
Port: CocoCay is just a small island that RCL sets up with a pricy kiddy inflatable play land & free lounge chairs & lots of drink pushing. Main advice - treat it like a beach day & if you want peace & quite walk 15 minutes to the far right side of this small island for palm trees & lonely lounging. St. Thomas - we took the ferry to St. Johns to Trunk Bay saw the most beautiful secluded beach in the world. Our self guided tour on this US National park is awesome & cheap. There are fees & transportation costs but it's a lot cheaper than doing any excursion. St. Maarten - we went to Little Divi bay & found another quite beach to lounge around. Nominal fee for umbrella & chairs if you want it else the beach is free & there are kayaks, mats & snorkel gear to rent too at both Trunk & Divi. Had plenty of time as the ship was in port for 8 full hours to get some shopping done in St. Maarten. IMO shopping is overrated on these islands esp. if you aren't specifically going in with a plan. Main advice is to treat Trunk Bay & Divi as a must do beach excursions - it's just sooo much better & cheaper DIY but save the shopping for somewhere else unless you know exactly what things costs on land where you may get better deals (check AMZN first).
Service: Except for the first night waiter in the MTD area, the overall service was top notch & 1st class all the way. We couldn't have asked for any better. Our cabin attendant continually refilled our cooler with ice each day for our Diet Coke cans & remade our room 3-4 times a day & kept it neat & tidy. Our MTD wait staff never pushed drinks on us & always brought our food & bread in very quick time. They also made every effort to get us out of the room fast to our show.
Disembarkation: We chose express DIY checkout & woke up @ 530am - had breakfast & took our luggage off @ 640am. Security & customs took another 30 minutes & then we were on the road @ the Avis back to TPA by 730am. Main advice -don't use Avis in PC. We heard that ppl had to wait a long time to get a car out of dodge after us. We were lucky that we were the first 1's there. I would do express checkout again as it was so nice with no lines!
Overall: RCL runs a first rate operation & it was very enjoyable. We spent a little too much money on board being newbies for all intent & purposes. But next time, we know better. The service & staff & entertainment & activities were excellent & enjoyable. The food was inconsistent & mediocre except for breakfast & lunch. The ports are great for all to do with variety & careful shopping. I highly recommend this ship & this itinerary & would do it again next year! Less
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