Carnival Freedom 2/20 to 2/27
24th cruise; 5th with Carnival. I was upgraded to VIP status but don't know why! We accompanied my diversified group of friends and family from OH, SC, NH, KY, WA. It was great to finally meet my clients at our Sail Away party, throughout the week, and at our Farewell Party.
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday on Southwest Airlines; flights were great, no issues at all. We stayed at the Hyatt Place North. We had an issue with getting the airport shuttle. Hotel bank phone did not have a key pad to answer automated numerical requests. I dialed direct number on my cell and evidently got the new Hyatt Place South. They sent their van. When it arrived and I said I was going to 10th Ave. and North, they said it wasn't them and I had to call again. The same and only number I had went to the North. The shuttle arrived in about 15 to 20 minutes. Double rooms were available at 1:30PM, so we checked in immediately. Desk staff where very friendly and helpful. Our room had a very musty smell which I didn't bother to report until check out. We opened the window for fresh air
We shopped at the Harbour shops a quick walk only a block away: Payless for Emily, Total Wine for us and 5 Guys Hamburgers for lunch. Boy those burgers where great! We took the Sun trolley (.50 cents per person) and we stayed on for the complete route along Ft. Lauderdale beach back to the Embassy Suites which was just a little closer to walk back to our hotel.
Our friends and other clients arrived about 6PM. They headed to the Outback but we choose to try the Bimini Boatyard for dinner. One of the couples had a vehicle and dropped us off at the restaurant. We did walk back, which was very easy on a well lighted 17th Street. It only took about a 10 minute walk. We were seated right away on the deck near the outside bar. There were many large groups waiting in the foyer for inside seating. The wait for our meals was very long. When it finally arrived they brought me a Shrimp dinner instead of a Salad with shrimp. It turned out to be the waitress's fault as she keyed in the wrong item. However, she was going to charge me for both entrEe's. I protested as it was her mistake and she had said I could have shrimp on my salad (it was on the menu for an additional fee). The manager took the cost of the salad off our bill but I was not content with that $5 adjustment.
Sunday morning we had breakfast at the buffet and brought our luggage down about 10AM. Although the driver said they start at 11AM, he also told me he gets on duty at 10 and would take us as soon as we were there. Well the line had already formed with about 12 couples with luggage. There was the grumpy old man who was going on a HAL cruise (thank goodness) who wanted everyone to line up behind him. However, when the driver got out of his bus, he asked everyone NOT to do this as the Look was not a good one for incoming passengers to see. (I am glad I am not sailing HAL.) We were at the port and in line by 11 AM.
They opened the doors at Port Everglades shortly before 11:30 a.m. and we were in the seating area until almost 12:30 before they started to board VIPs and Weddings and Special Guests. It was about 1PM when we were allowed to board and quickly got through the pictures and final boarding procedures.
Freedom Buffet: We found an empty table in the Freedom Buffet. We both tried the Mongolian Grille, which was wonderful. Buffet luncheon's were very good throughout the week due to the variety; Mongolian, Tandoor, Deli, Nation of the Day, Grand Buffet, Hamburger Grille (exceptionally good) and the Fish & Ship cafe up the stairs near the Statue of Liberty. Once the Fish & chips were great and once it had a very odd taste. We also ate breakfast at the buffet just once. The Omelet station was in the middle of the rear section. I think the line I was in was going in the wrong directions as the condiments were before not after the breads, entrEe etc. The Bacon was served by a waiter and was in the middle of this station. I overheard lots of folks looking for the Bacon!
Posh Main Dining Room: We had late seating. Our waiter Max and his assistant Yan were very good for our table of 9 to 11 - not intrusive at all but very efficient. We had one child at our table and the waiters made sure he got served quickly so he would be on his way to join the other children on board. Someone in my group said there where 800 children, but if there where, they were great and not seen at all. Dinner meals were very good. There was Shrimp Cocktail and Caesar salad offered every night. The Flat Iron Steak, Prime Rib, Grouper and Lobster Tail & Shrimp were prepared perfectly. I am not much of a desert eater but did have the Moulton Chocolate Lava Cake with vanilla ice cream, various sherbets and the diet Apple pie. We also ate many breakfast's in the Posh dining room. Only once was my order totally messed up. Instead of French Toast with cinnamon (on the menu) I received Cinnamon Crunch cereal in a very small egg cup style bowl! This was quickly corrected but I did not receive the bacon I had ordered with it!
Entertainment: We love to take in the shows. Victoriana Theater; Opening night was very good. The comedian, Happy Cole was fabulous. Everyone loved his act. He did an Adult show on Tuesday night with two standing room only performances. It was held in the International Lounge which is much too small for this venue. It needs to be held in the Victoriana Theater. We started to watch a "Ticket to Ride", the Beatles song & dance show, but I was bored and tired and fell asleep. I thought it would be like RAIN, but it was just Beatles songs & music with the Freedom dancers. Scott's Piano bar; was the place to be after dinner or shows. That place was packed. Gregg really drew in the crowd. However, we went one night when the duo Euphoria was performing. She (the vocalist) did one number then they took a break. A passenger stepped up to the piano bar and proceeded to Bring Down the House. OMG he was fabulous. Turned out he was a bar singer/piano player from the NJ area. He could belt out anything from oldies to Bill Joel to Leonard Skinner. The bar got packed and the waitresses were really hopping. When the group came back, he continued to play for at least 45 minutes. Various entertainers like the Country singer performed near the Casino in the passageway or the group who sang and played instruments both performed on the Promenade bar area as well as the Atrium lounge area.
Cabin: Balcony Cat. 8D #9222. Although our cabin was fine (love the size of Carnival cabins) our balcony was narrow. I am 5'6" with long legs, which almost touched the glass when seated in a regular lounge chair. We had a noise of water flushing or swishing during the night between 2 to 3 a.m. At first I thought we had rough seas, but it continued during the week primarily at these very late hours. The only thing I could attribute it too was the huge Jacuzzi in the Spa up on deck 11 above us. Maybe it was set for automated cleaning each evening as the Spa/Gym was closed at that time.
Ports: Key West - Rained almost all day We did the Old Town Trolley tour in Key West- trolley is enclosed the Conch Train is not; bought pre-paid tickets on-line cheaper than through Carnival; thank goodness because it rained all day! You take your voucher to the Mallory Square depot desk and board the next trolley. Due to the weather, we stayed on the trolley all the way around the entire 2 hour tour. We walked around the waterfront, down Front St. and finally found Kino's Sandals. I bought two pair; one man's and one lady's for $27. We stopped for a piece of Key Lime Pie at the Key Lime Factory Outlet. Then we headed down the block to Capt. Tonys for a drink and Local Color.
Grand Cayman: Beautiful mostly sunny day We went to the theater for tender tickets about 9AM, but they were already doing general boarding. We walked to the left of the dock area and crossed the street to the local bus van parking lot, which we took to the Royal Palm/Reef Grille for a relaxing day at the beach; $2.50 each both ways, and $7 for a lounge chair and $10 for an umbrella. Great spot to catch some rays. I shopped for some soda and a few little souvenirs at a local shop slightly off the main street for lower prices upon our return to town. We were back on board about 2 PM with no crowds at the tender line.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica - Rain started as we were on the Skyride in the Rain Forest At Ocho Rios, we went up the Skyride chairlift on Mystic Mountain (CCL tour cheaper than independent tour) and road the Bob Sled. For this Grandmother, it was a really big thrill. I am so glad that we did it. It rained again as we were on the chair lift, so we got soaked. Friends did the Tranopy tour which included the Zipline. They also bought extra rides on the Bob sled and Tranopy for about $20 for 4 extra rides. Our 10 yr. old guest was originally disappointed not to be able to ride the Zip Line. He had done it in NH at a facility owned by the same company. When his mother mentioned this to the Mystic ride operator, they said he could go on it! It pays to speak up.
Some went to Dunn's River Falls and the White River tubing with Peat Taylor @ $50 per person. They had a blast as well. Peat took them to the Ruins for lunch, one of my favorite places. I was so glad they had the experience to visit with a great local vendor.
Ft. Lauderdale - Everglades Tour Our flights were after 3PM, so we decided to show our teenage traveling guest the ecosystem of the Everglades. It was pretty cool out there with the air boat going full speed. We did see some gators in the wild and some beautiful birds. The short alligator show was pretty good. We bought this tour on board to have the bus and luggage transfer included to the airport. arrived at airport before 1PM.
Overall rating; 5, Food: 5, Entertainment: 4, Specialty Restaurant: 4 (they do not have the musicians playing for dancing any longer), Service: 4 (our Cabin Steward Skinner gave us a little issue on the day we boarded). He quickly learned we did not ask for much but expected our beds to be arranged as a Queen as requested of Carnival. Value: 5 Camp Carnival: 5 our younger guests had a blast.