Here is a review of our 8 night cruise on the Freedom to Cozumel, Costa Rica and Panama. We arrived at the port later than anticipated due to some unexpected travel issues, but had no wait at all. We were on the ship by 1:30 and able to drop our carry-ons in the room before heading to the Lido for lunch. Lido had the usual fare except this ship also has Fish and Chips, Mongolian Grill and a Tandoori Station.
Our room was on the Lido as well, room 9276 and we found the location convenient to everything. The ship dEcor was rather dark. I think we were expecting something more like the Valor, but it was more of a dark brown dEcor with lots of patterns. We didn't seem much of our room steward and never met his assistant, but they always did a great job with the room
For dinner we had the "Your Time Dining" option for the first time. We were a bit apprehensive due to some mixed reviews about it, but it was the BEST dining experience we've had on Carnival. There was never a wait for a table for two and we usually went to dinner between 6:30-7:30 each night. The maitre'd and the hostess staff was always very friendly and accommodating. Our head waitress, Ulla, was the best. We've always had good waiters on Carnival, but the personalized attention she gave us was more so than a normal assigned waiter had given in the past. We thought we'd miss the personal attention from this option, but it was actually the opposite. She always addressed us by name, knew our preferences and was so efficient even while taking time to talk to us at length each night. We also saw her most mornings in the dining room for breakfast and even though she wasn't usually our waitress then, she always stopped by our table. We loved the flexibility of this option and will never go back to assigned dining tables on future cruises.
Cozumel—We had been to Cozumel several times before. DH went scuba diving and I got off the ship later to shop some and then meet him for lunch. We were docked Puerta Maya and went to the Cinco Soles there for lunch and then after some souvenir browsing, went back to the ship. DH enjoyed the scuba diving and we always have a good time in Cozumel.
Costa Rica—This was our first time here. We got off the ship shortly before our excursion to the Sloth Sanctuary and shopped around a bit. There isn't much in the port, just a large market with people selling their wares. We bought a couple of things and then went off the Sloth Sanctuary which was a great excursion. The bus ride there was about 45 minutes and when we got there we first saw a video about sloths and then the owner brought out the matriarch of the place, "Buttercup," who posed for pictures with all who cared to do so. After that we headed to the canoes for a canoe ride through the rain forest to spot wildlife. There were some sightings—birds, a sloth in a tree, a Cayman and heard some monkeys. After that we met up with the tour guide and she walked us through a nature trail pointing out some interesting trees and flowers. The tour guide there was the same one from the bus who told us a lot of the history of Costa Rica as well. Very informative. After that, we had fresh fruit and were able to see sloth babies. Sloth babies were adorable! Panama—We didn't want to do the full canal transit, so we opted for the shorter tour Gatun Locks and Portobello. We were able to see a ship go through the lock which was an interesting experience and then headed to Portobello where the main attraction is an old church devoted to the "Black Christ." The tour guide gave us some info about it and walked us around Portobello, which was incredibly hot. We stopped at a store for refreshments—Coke is .75 and a bottle of beer is .60 so many were happy with that. The city of Colon was more commercialized than what we were expecting. We didn't go out into the city because our tour got in late due to a traffic accident on the road back and we were only able to shop around in the port for a bit. Not too much there, but they do have $5 t-shirts that are better than the ones in the stores when you go up the escalator to board the ship.
As for the rest of the trip, we enjoyed a couple of shows. Thought the Beatles tribute show was pretty good and saw a few of the ship activities, including the cooking demo in the steakhouse. We also went to the steakhouse one night for dinner. Thought the food was good, but not great and actually got better service in the main dining room. We wouldn't do it again.
Debarkation was probably the quickest we saw on any ship. We had a late flight so we weren't rushing off the ship, but all of the self-assist passengers were off by 7:30 am. Even though our zone was to be called closer to 10:30, we were off before 10, so it was very quick. We would definitely go on the Freedom again and really enjoyed the itinerary. Let us know if you have any questions