First time cruisers here, I am 27 and my husband is 35. I picked the Freedom because it was a good price and I was very curious about the ports. I've traveled a lot in the United States, but never outside of the country.
Overall, our experience was very positive and I am looking forward to booking my next trip with Carnival. The cruise director Felipe was quite funny and energetic and I felt like he added to the fun atmosphere. Embarkation and debarkation were very smooth. From what I had read on the message boards, I was expecting worse, so that was a pleasant surprise.
The food was fantastic overall. I loved the breakfast buffet, and enjoyed the crispy bacon and a bowl of Lucky Charms every morning. For lunches, I ate mostly pizza or fried fish, the pizza was decent, but the fried fish was very tasty. My very favorite was the chocolate buffet, I had two plates of sweet desserts and chocolate covered fruit. We both enjoyed dinners in the Main Dining Room, I had fruit appetizers most nights and they were always a fresh and healthy option. Our favorite appetizer was the thai marinated chicken tenders. For the main dishes, I typically got the chicken dish, never a disappointment. My favorite in the MDR was the panko crusted shrimp and hubby's favorite were the ribs. I had the chocolate melting cake every night after the second and obviously loved it. It is now my favorite food.
For activities, there is never a lack of things to do. We managed to see four separate comedy shows (2 adult, 2 family) with two different comedians, Allyn Ball and Happy Cole and enjoyed them tremendously. We saw part of a musical show with Jamie Fraiser, and while he was talented, I didn't really enjoy it as I don't like big band. My husband enjoyed it though. We also went to the marriage game, which was very funny even though we just watched. I also enjoyed the movies on Lido deck, we saw both the Proposal and Up, and I have to say that movies are far better enjoyed on a warm night outside on the deck of a ship. My biggest disappointment for activities was how cold the pool water was. I should have been prepared, but I always try to be optimistic. Next cruise will definitely be during a warmer month. I enjoyed the songs by Music Boardwalk, a fun band that I learned to seek out wherever they were playing.
Ships amenities, no complaints. As it was a six day cruise, I didn't get nearly enough time to explore the ship. The gym is great, they even had a scale so I could monitor my weight (only gained 1/5 pound due to the gym and the stairs).
Ports were mixed, I would take a different itinerary next time. Key West seemed like it would be fun without rain (poured all day), though I did get to tour Hemingway House and shop a bit. I would go back with hopefully better weather. Cayman Islands were beautiful. That was probably the nicest place I've ever been, loved the beach and Margaritaville. Finally, Jamaica was beautiful, but the aggressive sellers really put a damper on the otherwise good experience.
Finally, as a first timer I have to say how different it was than my expectations. When I booked, I was looking at a cruise as the cheapest way to get to a variety of islands to check out where to book my next land vacation. I actually had more fun on the ship (other than Cayman Islands) and am now planning more cruises! I know some people look down on Carnival as being low end, but I think it is great, especially for younger people wanting a good time without going bankrupt.