Our Honeymoon Back 2 Back Cruise
Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
This was our Honeymoon Back to Back cruises on the Carnival Freedom. They were my 7th and 8th cruise all with Carnival and my wife's 11th and 12th (9th and 10th with Carnival - so she is now Platinum). We are avid cruisers and love to spend our time relaxing and enjoying the peace of the ocean. When we cruise we do not bring our laptops nor do we use our cell phones, it is our escape from all the hustle and bustle of the world.
The Carnival Freedom is an excellent ship and has a great crew! Our Cruise Director, Wee Jimmy, is hilarious and we feel that his happy go lucky attitude transcends down to his staff as every member of the crew that we encountered during our two weeks aboard was exceedingly pleasant. I would highly recommend taking a cruise on this wonderful ship! The decor has a patriotic feel too it which is consistent with the ship name.
We ate in the Chic (pronounced Shick) Dinning room on both cruises one time at a table by ourselves and the other with a More
fun loving group of 3 other couples. In both cases the service and food was good, but after two weeks some of the meals began to be repetitive, can't get enough of the chocolate melting cake!
Once again the photography staff was excellent, we posed for several pictures and purchased our fair share of final product, including several debarkation and dinner pictures which were unusually good on this trip.
The Pursers desk was extremely helpful as we primarily used a cash account vs. a credit card account. When we re-boarded for our second cruise, my wife was initially issued the gold sign and sail card that a repeat cruiser receives. We went to the Pursers desk and they quickly changed it out for her new Platinum sign and sail card and received all the benefits of her new status.
Lido deck staff was very good the burgers and fries were always fresh and plenty of servers to take our drink orders. One down fall was the pizza, although good service the taste of the pizza was less than desirable which is unusual so not sure what the issue was.
The Casino staff was very good with both hosts greeting us by name when they saw us, we actually did reasonably well in the Casino on this trip too. Bar service throughout the ship was excellent, we are not big drinkers, in fact all of our drinks were of the non alcoholic type. The coffee/cake bar was very good, the cookies were always fresh and delicious as was the carrot cake. Josh in the Piano Bar was very good and a pleasure to listen too, unfortunately I believe his contract is up so not sure who the new piano player will be.
Overall this was our best cruise ever and best crew, he had a fantastic trip and can not recommend the Freedom and Wee Jimmy highly enough!
On this ship we had a unique opportunity to take a behind the scenes look excursion. This excursion is only being offered on the Freedom at this time and will soon be offered I believe on 6 more ships in the near future. The cost is $95 per person and is worth every dime! The group size is limited to 16 people and you literally go all over the ship. We were taken into the engine control room, crew rest areas and lounges, crew galley as well as passenger galley, laundry room, supper club and best of all the bridge. While on the bridge we were greeted by the Captain and everyone had their picture taken with him either as an individual or couple as well as a group shot. At the conclusion of the tour we were all given lanyards, hats, wrist bands, a book about the ship, a carry bag and the recipe for chocolate melting cake (this makes it worth the cost alone). When at dinner that evening we each had 3 8 x 10 pictures delivered to us, one of us with the captain on the bridge, a group photo on the bridge and a group photo on the bow of the ship. Anyone who has ever purchased pictures onboard the ship before knows that these 3 pictures in the photo gallery would cost you $22 a piece or $66 for the set. Additionally later that afternoon we had a plate of yummy desert items delivered to our cabin. We also received numerous snack breaks during the tour consisting of cookies, coffee and juices (including fruit punch). The only downside of this tour was that we wished that we could have also met our cruise director Wee Jimmy along the tour as well, but otherwise this tour is one not to miss if you have the opportunity! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Panama is truly a tail of two cities! The port that we arrived in Colon is extremely poor where we were told that the average income is $325 a month and you could live very comfortably on an income of $1,000 a month. In contrast Panama City the other side of the county is like going into Miami with lots of high rises and modern style buildings. We took the most amazing excursion through the Panama Canal! In this port and for this excursion I would recommend taking a Carnival excursion because of the amount of time that this excursion takes to complete. We were in port for 8 hours and this excursion lasts between 6 1/2 to 7 hours. The tour started by gathering in the show lounge and being escorted off the ship and directly to our tour bus. The tour guide gave us lots of information in our 1 hour + drive to Panama City where we boarded our Ferry. Once we boarded our Ferry we saw dozens of ships anchored out in the harbor waiting for their turn for canal passage. We were able to proceed straight away into the canal with no delay of any kind. We went through a total of 3 sets of locks and it was the most AMAZING experience, one that everyone should experience at least once! In the first set of locks our boat was raised 27 feet in a mere 8 minutes before proceeding through the locks. Throughout the entire trip through the canal we had a guide providing us with information about the canal. Onboard the ferry was a small souvenir shop and plenty of water and soda available free of charge, beer was extra. Midway through the the canal lunch was provided with several different types of orderves and fruit available. When we returned to the pier the shops did not appear to have high quality merchandise, be careful what you buy here. However the prices were very inexpensive in the local supermarket. All in all the excursion was amazing but would not have felt safe walking around town outside of port area, so be careful if you venture out.
Cozumel is by far our favorite port of call! We were in port along with the Carnival Liberty and it did not feel crowded at all. This is the first time that I have arrived at the new rebuilt pier rather than the downtown pier. There was amble shopping available however Diamonds International and Tanzinite International were both closed due to the Jewish Holidays. However, we did find a nice set of pearls at a very reasonable price. We then shared a local taxi to Mr. Sanchos Beach, including tip it cost us $10 per couple each way. We were able to relax on the beach with no charge to use the beach chairs, it is a very nice beach! We did a little bit of shopping at the few stores there at the beach and the food from the Cantina was also good and reasonably priced. Mr. Sanchos Beach had all the activities available for a nominal fee such as parasailing, kyaking, jet skiing and horse back riding, go check it out!
Grand Cayman is a great port with lots of different things to do. On this trip we did not go ashore since it was a very rainy day, however we have been here many times before and enjoy the port. Excursions range from going to Hell, swimming with the sting rays and our favorite taking a local taxi to 7 mile beach and enjoying a relaxing day in the crystal clear water.
Cute port with plenty of inexpensive souvenir shops and lots of history. We are not party people so that part of the port didn't appeal to us. We did not take any excursions either, just walked around, the people are very friendly and laid back.
Ochos Rios is a decent port as long as you stay in the designated areas. We did not take any excursions on this trip, but we have been here before. On this trip we went out into town to find some of the best coffee in the world, Blue Mountain Coffee. There are some good excursions available in Ocho Rios, including ones to Mystic Mountain.
Costa Rica is a very poor country but has some very beautiful areas. The people are nice and you don't feel in danger at any time. Be prepared for kids to "give" you flowers, of course they are looking for a "donation" for their gift. We did not take a Carnival Tour in this port, but rather booked the A2 tour with Okey Dokey Tours (www.okeydokeytours.com). Charlie Soto was very responsive to all emails in a very timely manner. I can not say enough good things about Charlie Soto and Okey Dokey Tours we had a fabulous excursion! The A2 tour includes a trip to a Banana Plantation, a trip down the Tortugero Canal where we saw many native animals including a small crocodile, and the highlight of the tour was the 13 zipline platforms in the Brisas De La Jungla! Upon arriving at the top of the mountain we filled out the required paperwork then we were outfitted in our equipment. Our first platform guide walked us up the trail pointing out several different animals along our climb. The views were fantastic and the zip lines were very high and very long! They use a double cable and 3 hooks to attach each adventure seeker. At all times you are attached to either the zip line or the tree or both! We were very impressed with the personnel and the experience, HIGHLY RECOMEND OkeyDokeyTours and this excursion! The A2 tour also included a lunch after zip-lining that was individually prepared as the guests arrived to the lunch hut and not before. The meal consisted of rice and beans, chicken, boiled banana (which tastes like a potato), salad along with a drink and sliced fruit. The cost for this tour was $99 which was far cheaper than the similar tour offered through Carnival and there were more zip lines at a higher altitude on this tour. Also our tour guide stopped at a local fruit stand when we inquired about a rather peculiar looking fruit so that we could sample it. He also stopped at a local store upon our request to purchase coffee which was about 1/2 the price of the coffee offered at the pier shopping area.