We are a couple in our early 50's. This was our fourth cruise in the past five years. We had chatted via Cruise Critic for almost a year with other members of our roll call and were looking forward to spending time with them in person. We flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before from the airport in Milwaukee. We meet six members of our roll call at the airport as they were on the same flight as us.
We had booked the Hyatt Place North on SE 10th based on recommendations from other Cruise Critic members. We took advantage of the free shuttle service that the hotel offered. We had to wait about 20 minutes for it to show up but where told that the shuttle was coming from the port. Our room was clean and comfortable. We did notice that when we turned up the temperature of the room air conditioner that there was a musty smell, but not that horrible. The hotel was within walking distance of a grocery store and wine store. There was also a selection of restaurants. Once we checked into the hotel we walked about 4 blocks to the Southport Raw Bar for lunch. We had eaten there last year on the recommendation of some other Cruise Critic members. There is a nice outdoor deck area. After lunch we walked to the grocery store and picked up pop and water for the cruise. When we arrived back at the hotel they had the sign up sheets available for the free shuttle service to the port. Their first departure was 10:30 a.m. and we were part of that group of 25 to be on that shuttle. There were 24 members of the roll call who had also selected this hotel, so we planned a pre-sailaway meet and greet for later in the evening. Dinner was at Five Guys Burgers and then a quick stop at the wine store before our meet and greet.
We choose this trip because we like the class of ship that the Freedom is, having been on the Conquest and the Valor in the past, and that we would get a chance to go to three new ports. We had read the many comments about the dEcor of the ship and although it is not something I would choose to decorate my home with, after a couple of days I didn't really notice the dEcor.
We meet in the hotel lobby at 10:00 a.m. to check out of the hotel and get ready to take the shuttle to the port. Since there were at least 8 ships leaving Port Everglades that day, we did have to make two stops at other ships before we were dropped off at the pier. We gave our bags to the porters and watched them being placed into the racks that get loaded onto the ship. We then walked into the terminal and began the check-in process. There was a new 4 question health survey that you needed to fill out before you could get your sign and sail card. We were in group 6 to board the ship. The check in process was quick and efficient. We had to stand for about 20 minutes or so until we could board the ship. They finally started calling groups and we were on the Lido deck with a Funship Special by 12:07 p.m.
We had booked our port excursions before we got onboard the ship. We selected a day at the beach at Nachi Cocom in Cozumel as an independent excursion. We had also booked the Bus, Boat and Train Excursion in Costa Rica and the Panama Canal by Ferry in Panama through the cruise line. We wanted to take the Behind the Fun tour that was offered as well, but they only allow you to book this tour once onboard the ship. We stopped at the excursion desk when we boarded and were placed in the second tour group. This is a very limited tour as they only took 16 passengers on the tour and there were two tours.
We participated in many different on-board activities. This included karaoke, hairy chest contest, cooking demo, wine tasting (for a small fee), name that tune sing-along contest, where husband won the 24K gold plastic ship on a stick, line dance lessons, ultimate lounge hop, deck party and the Behind the Fun tour. We also tried our hand in the casino. We also had scheduled a sail away party for our Cruise Critic roll call and a cabin crawl where we had a chance to see five different cabins of other roll call members.
The service we experienced was good. Everyone seemed friendly and accommodating.
We were allowed to access our rooms at 1:30 p.m. We were in a 8E balcony cabin on the Lido deck that we had upgraded during a past guest sale. We booked using the early saver rate and did see a few price drops. We had been in this category of room before so we knew what to expect. I did notice that they had removed the extra bedding from the one closet shelf. The three closets offer two with hanger bars and one with four shelves for plenty of storage. There were also three medium size drawers as part of the desk area. There is a small book case, cupboard with safe and a narrow shelving unit with doors next to the desk. There were also two small cupboards as night stands on either side of the bed. Our room steward Arti unlocked our refrigerator and we were able to put our pop, water, wine and champagne in the refrigerator after we removed the items that are normally stocked in it. The bathroom had the usual body wash and shampoo in the shower as well as a small basket of toiletries with toothpaste and razors.
We were scheduled for early dining in the Chic dining room. We were seated at a four top but didn't have tablemates. We had a view of the water and were able to catch some beautiful sunsets. Our waiters Hengi and Hardy made our dining experience great. They made the effort to learn our names and to make us feel very welcome. The food was good. It always had lovely presentation and we were able to find something to choose off the menu each night. My husband had his favorite warm chocolate melting cake almost every night. Service was prompt and even though we had to be done with dinner so they could reset the dining room for the next seating we were never made to feel rushed.
We attended the Big Easy, Ticket to Ride and Carnival Legends show in the Victoriana Lounge. We listened to some of the ship entertainment whether it was the calypso band on the Lido deck or some of the other entertainment at various venues throughout the ship. We also attended the adult's only comedy show.
We placed most of our luggage outside the room the night before and were placed in group 20 for disembarkation. The ship arrived into Port Everglades and cleared customs by 6:30 a.m. They started announcing the self-embarkation by floors and then the group numbers. We packed up the last of our belongings and headed to the Posh Dining Room for one last breakfast before we dis-embarked. By the time we ate breakfast and walked back to the lido deck to await our group number, Arti already had our room ready for the next guest. They called our group number about 8:45 a.m. and we left the ship. We found our luggage, cleared customs and caught a taxi to the airport. We were at the airport by 9:30 a.m.
This was a great vacation for us. We enjoyed having the opportunity to meet so many great Cruise Critic roll call members. Having the opportunity to see three new ports was the main reason we selected this cruise.