We (Deb and Jack from Massachusetts) cruised to the Western Caribbean during the week of February 7, 2010. This was 9th cruise, and our first with Carnival. Since we had already had the experience of a cabin with a veranda (balcony), it was a "must" for us again this time. The Carnival Freedom is an extremely beautiful and extraordinarily large ship.
Pre-night in Ft. Lauderdale: We stayed at the Ocean Point Resort in Pompano Beach. I suggest that a pre-night is a 'must' if you can afford it, but I would not stay at that particular hotel again. The hotel was directly on the beach and that was the only thing good I can say about the hotel. Stay away from it.
Embarking (getting on the ship): Not so smooth. We got there just before noon and lines were long, staff was limited, and it was generally chaotic. We had planned ahead to get together with a few of our new Cruise Critic friends at sail-away. It was disappointing that only a few of us showed up.
Cabins: Our cabin (#7351) was very nice and very close to elevators. Two twin beds were made into a king-size bed and it was adequately comfortable. The room was attractive and very clean. The balcony on this ship was very disappointing. It was very narrow and barely fit two chairs. This was also the first time we ever had a balcony without sliding glass doors. This is one reason we would not choose to sail Carnival again. However, I must say that the air conditioning in the cabin (and entire ship) was much better than any other ship we've been on. That being said, it also means that the ship is pretty much air tight which may have contributed to why both of us were sick when we got home from this cruise. This was also the first time we were able to hear the people in the cabins surrounding ours.
Alcohol on Board: Carnival does allow you each to bring one bottle of wine on board. We bought a wine package at dinner in the main dining room and got to take as many bottles as we wanted back to our cabins this way too.
Dining Room Food: Usually we prefer not to eat in the main dining room because we find the buffet food is perfectly fine. However, this time we gave it a try since we had a table for two. We found our server to be very laid back. To us, that wasn't a good thing. The person who took our drink order was the most rude and disrespectful staff person I've ever encountered on any ship. Needless to say, after the second time we ate in the main dining room, it was our last.
Buffet Food: Carnival gets our vote for the best food we've ever had on a ship. They have the best desserts too! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet food items varied, but there was much less of a variety than we've seen on other ships. Again though... delicious food. Something that bothered us about the buffets was the lines. There were always long lines and since they do not space different food stations, it was always very crowded. The chairs were the best I've seen on a ship. A lot of booth type chairs which were more comfortable than regular chairs.
Specialty Restaurant: There is one specialty restaurant, a steakhouse, which we tried at $30 per person. It was nothing special. Save your money and skip it.
At this point, I must mention that the passengers on this cruise, in general, were very rude. They would step right in front of us and at one point, I saw a teenager actually sitting on top of a table! I also saw a woman take a plate, decide she changed her mind, and put the plate back!
Ship DEcor: Gorgeous. The detail on this ship was magnificent. The colors were very nice and not the flashy colors I expected to see on a Carnival ship.
Ship Layout: Confusing. Very confusing. By the end of the week, we still couldn't find things. The elevators had a ship directory in front that had such small print, we couldn't even read it.
Swimming Pools: More pools than other ships, but very small. More hot tubs than other ships too. Hot tubs were large; pools were small.
Ship Cleanliness: Horrible. While we did see staff dusting a lot, there was absolutely no effort to encourage people to use sanitizer on their hands. The hand sanitizers were not located in a conspicuous place and we rarely saw people using any before they entered the food areas. We didn't see anybody spraying tables either. They just wiped them off. Perhaps another contributing factor as to why we were both sick when we got home from this cruise.
Singles and Children: Lots of singles and way too many children for our liking. If you are a single person who likes to party into the wee hours of the morning, this is definitely the cruise for you.
Average Age Range: I would guess there was an equal split among families with children, singles, and couples. The average age range would be 20's and 30's, although there was a significant number of 50's and above.
Wheelchair Access: Must be okay because I saw quite a few people wheeling all around the ship.
Cruise Activities: There were a lot of activities to do and much more of a variety than other ships. We did go to Bingo one time and donated money to the casino more than a couple times. We enjoyed trivia too, but mostly we spent time relaxing.
Ports of Call - Key West: This was our first time in Key West and we loved this port. You could spend an entire day just walking around and looking at all the creative shops everywhere.
Grand Cayman and Ochos Rios: Stayed on ship. Check out the terrific view from the hot tub on the top deck of the ship.
Cruise Staff: Oh, did they have cruise staff there? All we saw were a lot of people standing around and every now and then they would clear a table. Overall, the staff appeared to be very young and perhaps inexperienced.
The cruise director (Filipe) was the most annoying guy ever. He was obnoxious with his announcements in every cabin hallway between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. As for the captain, I think we heard him speak one time.
Casino: We did spend too much time in there (sigh), making our donation to somebody's bank account, but not our own! Don't expect free drinks when you gamble like in the U.S. One thing that was interesting is the video poker game which was just like what you would play online, but instead of an avatar, there were real people sitting in front of the virtual table.
Entertainment-Poolside: Good band.
Disembarking (leaving the ship): Everybody has a color code and that determines when you will leave the ship. They don't rush you out of your cabin like they used to do years ago, but the cruise director began his 7 a.m. announcements!
You have black luggage? So do 1,000 other people! Put some ribbon, yarn, sticker, or something on your baggage that can be seen from afar. Getting off the ship was much easier than getting on the ship.
Overall Cruise Comments: The Carnival Freedom did exceed our expectations in the area of food and ship dEcor. Other than that, it was a disappointment. This ship, with over 3,000 passengers on board, felt much more crowded than other ships of the same size we've been on. We will never try another Carnival cruise.
If you have any questions about my review or experience, please feel free to email me and I'll happily respond to all.