First, I'm not a "Whale Tail" cruiser, this is my 2nd Carnival cruise on a Conquest-class size ship in the past 7 years. Most (emphasis on most) of the crew we met, were very professional, courteous, and friendly. We really enjoyed the itinerary of San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua and Barbuda, Tortola, and Nassau. That is the only reason we took this cruise, it fit our schedule and desires. There is always good and not so good parts of the cruise. I'll try to keep off my soap box when it comes to the negative parts. You have been warned!
We drove to Ft Lauderdale on Fri for the Sat departure and stayed at the Pier 66 Hyatt. We had a patio-level room overlooking the pool and courtyard. I can't say enough nice things about the place but it was exceptional and worth the extra bucks to stay there.
Embarkation - We arrived at the port around 11:30 am and we onboard and at the Freedom Restaurant around 12:15. VIP embarkation is the only way to go!
Room - Our room (OS 7272) was ready at 1:30. The room was very comfortable and spacious but the balcony was very narrow. A 4-foot person could not lay down across the balcony without having to bend their knees. Sitting in the lounge chair my knees were against the glass, I'm 5 foot 7 and ½ inches. The DW is 5'3" and could barely sit comfortably in the lounge chair. Fortunately there was a regular chair that we could use without feeling too cramped up on the balcony. Lengthwise the deck was about 10' so you could set up sideways to lay down on one of the lounge chairs, but only one person at a time. The bathroom was a double sink with a Jacuzzi short tub. There was ample shelving for toiletries. The entrance to the bathroom was a dressing area with 2 stand up closets and a vanity with drawers for the DW. There are 2 other stand up closets next to the queen-size bed as well as several drawers for my stuff. There is also a refrig, safe, and writing desk with drawers. Storage was not an issue for us over-packing fools. The room attendant and his assistant (Rocky and Nyomen) were non-intrusive and always had the room immaculate even after us being gone for a only a couple of minutes. I swear they jumped out of a closet somewhere the moment we left the room and cleaned up. We rarely ran into them in the halls so I don't know how they did it!!
Freedom Restaurant (Lido) - What a freaking disaster! This had to be the worst setup/design I've seen in my last 14 cruises. There were 5 food lines, they fed from both ends going into the center. It didn't matter what time of day you went in there, there was always a long line. The morning setup was the worst, the egg station was in one line, while the meat (bacon, sausage, etc) and breads were in another line. Till you could get out of either line to get your choices, your food was guaranteed to be cold till you could eat it. And it wasn't that good to boot. It was some of the sorriest (sp?) food I can ever remember in all my cruises. I'm not sure if it was the number of kids or what but nothing moved through the Freedom Restaurant very fast. I went to get a slice of pizza and was told (with one in the warmer) that it would be 5 minutes before I could get my choice. I was in line to get an omelet and they closed the line and told about 8 or 9 of us we had to go to another line, which of course was backed up to the line they decided to close for breakfast. I think I was able actually get 2 meals out of the Freedom Restaurant the entire trip. One was the 1st day, the next was 2 days later. The rest of the time it just wasn't worth the wait. Thanks to the Fish and Chips and dining room or we'd never had lunch on this trip. We ate off ship at the ports so we weren't starving but it was just unbelievable how poorly the Freedom Restaurant operated.
Chic Dining Room - We ate supper 3 times on My Time Dining. We never waited more than a couple of minutes to get in. They gave us a buzzer the first night but it went off before we could get to the stairs to go to the bar. 3 minutes tops, the rest of the time we were seated immediately with the same waiters, Franz, Henro, and Nyomen (not the same guy as asst room attendant). They tired really hard but managed to mess up 2 of 3 of the DW's orders. The food was always hot and tasted good except the fish which could have seconded for shoe leather, unbelievably dried out. The steaks and ribs were excellent as were the desserts.
Posh Restaurant - We had lunch in the Posh one day and it was excellent as was the service. I'd definitely recommend skipping the Freedom Restaurant for the Posh at lunch.
Sun King Steakhouse - We ate supper on both eloquent nights at the Sun King. Absolutely the best restaurant and service on the ship. The 12 oz lobster tail (DW) was sweet and perfectly cooked. I had a 14 oz boneless rib-eye that was the best steak I've had in years. I tried to eat the Taste of Chocolate samplers and couldn't finish them. We were so stuffed after the dinner dessert was not really necessary but I had to try the chocolate samplers. The second trip to the Sun King we both had the lamb chops. Perfection is the only way to describe them. I had the mango ice cream and the DW had the champagne sherbet f or dessert and they were delicious. The Sun King is definitely worth the $30 pp surcharge, there is no restaurant anywhere that can serve the quality and quantity food had for $30 pp. You are only cheating yourself by not experiencing the Sun King at least once per cruise.
Shows - We didn't do any of the shows so I have no comments.
Casino - Even though I won $2,000 on a video poker and the DW won $1,000 in video poker, the slots and machines are tight. We saw others win jackpots but they were definitely the exception to the rule. Most just donated mucho dinero with little return. The 3-card tables also were a bit tight, they were hand dealt. Some folks hit a good hand but they were far and few between. That's gambling so take it for what it is worth. The casino staff were mostly fun to interact with. The Pit bosses do occasionally give out free drinks while they talk to you, it was a nice touch.
Spa - Didn't do it, cost way too much and I'm not wrapped tight enough to need a massage or facial or whatever else they offer.
Bars - We spent a bit of time in the sports bar (allows smoking). Very nice bartender but as with all cruise ships, booze is way overpriced plus that 15% service fee. I used the Havana Bar (cigar smoking allowed) a couple of nights and it was never full but had relaxing muzac (elevator music) in the background.
Entertainment - MUS was interesting but the noise level on the Lido made it near impossible to hear the movies or shows. There was a C&W singer/guitar player outside the casino that needs to get a new living. He played the songs well and knew all the words but always sang dead-panned (monotone, emotionless, or whatever you call it). I never thought I go to sleep listening to Johnny Cash sitting in the middle of the casino!!!! Then they brought out a folk singer wannabe trying sing Bob Dylan, he sounded like a screeching cat more so than Bob Dylan. He was very good doing Don McLean (American Pie) but that was about it. Everybody raved about the piano bar but we never went there (no smoking) so second-hand information said it was fun.
Value for the money - We got a very good price since we had booked well in advance but won't do the Early Saver (or whatever it is called) again because you can't get the price reductions once you lock in to the Early Saver. We missed 2 price reductions, but in the end still saved a couple hundred because the OS room rate went back up above what we paid.
Overall Impression - Carnival is definitely a fun ship company but Freedom is not the ship for me. I didn't mention it before because I thought I'd finish with the worst. I don't know if it was the mid-ship deck 7 room or what but this by far the NOISIEST freaking ship I ever cruised on. At night, there was always doors slamming shut. The door to the dressing area was a sliding door, the least amount of rocking seemed to make them all slam open and shut. There was a catch to hold them closed but it didn't seem to work worth a damn in what I'd call mild seas (5 to 7 foot swells). The balcony partition rattled all night long while under way. There were creaks and bangs at all times of the day. Thank goodness I'm not a light sleeper because after the first couple of nights I could ignore the sounds. I'm at the age of nightly bathroom breaks so I could get to hear the chorus of creaks and bangs on my nightly trek. Don't even think you can close that sliding door quietly, it just ain't going to happen, you can't get over the latching mechanism without making the door slam. Surprisingly even though we had a lot of kids onboard, it was not them running up and down the halls making noise, it was just a creaky, bangy, noisy-ass ship! And this doesn't even account for those speed bumps we seemed to hit occasionally and cavitation (sp?) sounds from speeding up and slowing down or the accompanying vibrations. Would I do Carnival again, of course, if the itinerary met our needs but it won't be on the Freedom even if it is the only itinerary we like!