Just Not For Us...
Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
This was only our second cruise, and out first with Carnival. We selected Carnival because of the excellent rate on balcony staterooms and the fantastic itinerary. While the ship experience didn't negatively impact the great time we had on vacation...it didn't enhance it either. The food was not to our taste. The food in the dining room was often cold, (breakfast and dinner)and it was obvious that it had been prepared en mass and had been sitting somewhere waiting to be taken to the dining room. While the servers were nice, the service was slow. Overall, if the "Freedom" were a restaurant, I wouldn't go back. I know some have said the food was delicious, but we didn't experience that. We did dine at the Specialty restaurant one night, which was fantastic. The service was perfect, the food tasty and beautifully presented.
Our stateroom was nice and kept clean. The balcony's were regularly cleaned. It's sometimes difficult to be a non smoker and have a balcony downwind from a More
smoker, but I wouldn't let that stop you from booking a balcony room. It would just be nice to have the sides separated.
The decor, as some have mentioned is...odd. It wasn't to our taste but it didn't ruin the cruise for us. It's not everyday that one sees red snakeskin print in a dining room...
Chairs in the adult section of the ship were difficult to come by. We weren't able to sit in that particular section once on our cruise. We didn't have trouble finding chairs anywhere else though.
We tried several nights to watch movies on the large outdoor screen, but the cruise director was constantly making speeches during the movie, so we stopped trying. It's annoying to be in the middle of a scene and have the sound cut out only to hear chitter chatter and whoo hoo's.
We found that the daytime activities were somewhat lacking. There was rarely anything new or different. BINGO lovers will be in heaven though! A few things we found odd...they close the mini golf every night at 6pm until midnight, and there's a giant window (skylight) in the middle of the basketball court. The gym was nice, and had a GREAT steam-room with a floor to ceiling window. Beautiful.
Overall, the ship was clean and the itinerary was great but we felt that it wasn't really a cruise for an "active crowd". We won't be cruising Carnival again, but only because you do get what you pay for, and we're willing to pay a little more after our experience. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We didn't book an excursion for this port and regretted it! We were hoping to book (non cruise ship) with Creole Cruises, but they were booked up. I think they only take out about 8 people a day, so book early if you can! Check them out on Trip Advisor. We took a cab to Dickenson Bay. There were plenty of people "selling" dirty beach chairs. The beach is beautiful, but you should probably select another beach if you're trying to snorkel, since there's no visibility, but if you're looking to lay in the sun...this might be the place for you!
This was the only excursion that we didn't book through the ship. We booked with Bahama Divers, (who I wouldn't recommend) and did a one tank dive. The weather was windy when we were in port, and some of the cruise ship excursions had been cancelled. In the terminal, we enjoyed conch fritters...which were freshly fried and tasty. That was all we really had time for. It was a nice quick stop.
We were in San Juan for a limited amount of time, but had booked an excursion through the ship to kayak Bioluninesence Bay. The Bay was indeed amazing...and the bioluminescence easy to see. If you use google, you can view the lunar cycles. That will help you determine how bright it will be, and how easy (or difficult) the bioluminescence will be to see. The bus ride was fairly long, but this was a worthwhile excursion! If you're going to participate in this excursion, I would highly recommend booking through the ship due to the location of the Bay. It's a fairly long drive (in traffic) from the Bay to the Port.
We booked the St. Thomas Ocean Race through the cruise ship. It was a fantastic experience. Each participant could choose if they wanted a "job" on the ship. We elected to participate and had a great time! After the race, each of us were allowed a chance to take the wheel. We would absolutely do this again! Since our excursion wasn't until 1PM, we also bought tickets to ride the gondolas up to Paradise Point. We haven't ever been to St Thomas, and the view was beautiful. It was $20 a ticket and aside from the view at the top, there's a bar and several local vendors selling their wares. Also a nice photo op (for a charge) with parrots. We won't do it again, but it was a nice one time experience. It did seem to get very crowded around 3PM, so I would recommend going early.
We booked scuba through the ship and dove the RMS Rhone. We needed some supplies for our underwater housing and requested that the cruise ship call the vendor that we would be diving with. Amazingly, the equipment that we needed was waiting for us when we met up with the Dive operator. The crew was so friendly, and groups were small. They took safety measures and did a great job on the dive briefing. Don't miss diving on the Rhone! It doesn't have the standard "ship" shape anymore, but the corals and sea life were abundant. Try to watch "The Deep" before you dive the wreck, they will reference it several times.