Embarkation went easy and fairly quick, debarkation also went well. This was our 22nd cruise and we have seen a lot of changes in the cruise industry over the past 20 years. Some good and some not so good. Freedom of the Seas is a huge ship, but easy to find your way around. The ship was put into service in 2006. It is starting to show some ware. The cushions on some of the chairs and sofas in the public areas were worn and dingy looking and the carpets were spotty. Fixtures are starting to fade, but it is still a pretty ship. The Promenade in the center of the ship is nice, but needs more seating areas so people can socialize. I could not help feeling that I was on land and at "the mall."
We had a promenade stateroom on the 6th floor above the purser's desk. The room was nice but definitely could use some sprucing up and deep cleaning. The location was convenient to all venues. Love the shower w/doors...beats the clingy shower curtain anytime. Bring your own shampoo and conditioner, no free samples. We were concerned about possible noise from the promenade "mall" when we booked, but were never bothered by light or noise. Just remember to close the curtains when you are getting dressed...ha, ha. We are not fans of the "heavy" bedding that the cruise lines have started using. We do not like the feeling of being weighted down. Maybe if we were going to Alaska instead of the Caribbean it would be ok. I don't know who has decided that a 20 pound plus comforter feels good, but not to us. Give me light and fluffy. The bed is two twins pushed together to make a King and that was fine. Included are a hair dryer and a small refrigerator. We asked our cabin steward to remove the cruise line water, soda and candy so we could actually use the refrigerator. The TV is basically Royal Caribbean info on almost all the channels all the time. There is CNN and FOX news that repeats over and over and cartoon kid chanels. Movies are pay per view $12.95 plus. We were hardly in the room so it did not matter. Other ships that we have been on showed the movies for free.
The ship itself is very "Americanized" with a Mall running down the center of the ship on deck 5. You could be on this ship and never know that you were out at sea. You never have to worry about missing a shore excursion because every morning you are awakened at 8:00 AM by the captain announcing the day's events. Forget sleeping in.
We had four stops on our Caribbean Schedule. Port Times were all cut short by 1-2 hours each day w/o any explanation. "More time on board means more money for the cruise line." We did our own shore excursions and had a great time. Cozumel was the only really "Hot" spot as usual. I do not think that I have ever been there that it did not feel like it was 110 degrees w/100 percent humidity. Being spring, the water was still cool at all of our port stops.
RC has started to cater to the "family" crowd. Most of the activities on the cruise were advertised as "family friendly" or "family fun." We are in our 50s and still like to be very active. Sorry, but I don't want to be surrounded by a bunch of little kids on my vacation. How about some adult only activities?
Dinning: We ate our Breakfast at the Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11-Pool Deck and usually skipped lunch. The food was decent and very plentiful even if it is served in a very controlled atmosphere. I over heard one of the staff stating that they could feed 1600 people at a time. The place is very crowded with the tables only a foot apart. No intimacy here. It's about control and movement, keeping the dinning experience contained. Not relaxing and enjoying your meal. "I miss setting by the pool having a leisurely lunch." I have this image in my head of this group of planners setting around deciding how every aspect of the ship activities would be run including dinning, but forgetting about the human factor. "Keeps em moving." It felt more like cattle being prodded through to craze. Dinner in the Windjammer was fine, not crowded. The main dinning rooms were ok, but could be a bit noisy. A little more elbow room would be nice too. We ate at "Johnny Rockets" for lunch one day, the hambugers and milkshakes were average, but the staff were above and fun-worth the cover charge of $4.95 p/p. We did not try the Steak or Italian specialty restaurants, there is already way too much food available.
Getting a glass of water or a cup of coffee was a chore also. You either went to the rear of the ship on deck 11- the Windjammer Cafe or to the deck 5 coffee shop. No easy way to get a drink of water unless you wanted to purchase a bottle at one of the bars. I can't believe there is not water, punch and tea available in the pool areas. This does keep clean up to a minimum though. I don't think I saw one glass setting on deck. "Back to the master plan."
Royal Caribbean has always been my favorite cruise line, but this cruise was missing the relaxing and laid back atmosphere I've enjoyed in the past. All in all, the cruise was very nice. With cruise ships getting so large, they are basically little cities and they need to be run as such. I suppose when you get that big you have to control every aspect to keep a smooth sailing ship... I also realize that I may have just been at the wrong place at the right time. We create our experience.