Freedom of the Seas Cruise Review by Chester & Brewster: Bing bong!
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Background: This was the second cruise for myself & my husband (36 & 44, no kids). We sailed Voyager of the seas in Sept 2009 in Europe, so this was our first Caribbean cruise & first experience of the Freedom class of ships. Pre-cruise: We flew into Orlando the previous Thursday, and went to see the Atlantis shuttle launch on the Friday. We did a one way car rental with Dollar, and their shuttle bus dropped us at the port on Sunday morning.
Day 1 / Embarkation: Porters were waiting to take the bags off the bus as we arrived, and the check in process was pretty quick with very little delay. We did have to wait about 30-40 minutes until we were allowed to board. After a brief orientation of the ship (same layout as Voyager, so we knew the basic lie of the land) we hit the solarium until rooms were ready at 1pm. Then we went to the Windjammer for lunch once the major rush had died down. There were plenty of tables available. After lunch we went to sign Flowrider More waivers; you get a wrist band for the whole week. There was a boogie boarding session going on, so we joined the line & had our first go. Wow! This would prove to be the highlight of our holiday, we absolutely loved Flowrider! The staff are really helpful & you progress really quickly with their help. Muster drill was 4pm, and sailaway 4.30. We had a couple of pre-dinner drinks, dinner and a reasonably early night. The music from the parade at 11pm was really loud & could be heard in our cabin (time zone differences mean than 11pm is 4am for us - not a nice time to be woken up). If you like to retire early, don't choose #6578 - we later discovered it was directly above the Bull & Bear pub and quite noisy every night.
Day 2 At Sea - up early for a workout in the gym before breakfast. The gym is pretty well equipped (only one rower though??) but the staff were invisible all week. We sunbathed before our meet & mingle at 10.15, and pretty much the rest of the day. We didn't go on Flowrider today as it was way too busy. The obvious pool areas were busy, but there were plenty of loungers if you looked hard enough. We ordered room service lunch, which took over 30 minutes to arrive & then was cold. It was the only room service order we had the entire week. As we were getting ready for Formal night a bottle of sparkling wine & a plate of choc covered strawberries arrived (plus a $100 room credit!!) as an apology for the noise the night before. Not something we were expecting & a nice touch.
Day 3 Labadee - Once again we had an early workout in the gym, followed by a Windjammer breakfast. There was a 9.30 boogie boarding session on Flowrider, which was practically empty. There can't have been more than 6 people in the line at any one time. It was great. We didn't have a trip booked for Labadee, we just grabbed a couple of loungers in the semi shade & crashed out before the BBQ lunch, which was great. Back to the ship early afternoon; we cracked open the freebie bottle of wine from the night before on the deck. Dinner, couple of drinks, you get the picture.
Day 4 Ochos Rios - Our trip to Dunns River Falls didn't leave til 10.15, so we did our now usual gym, Windjammer & Flowrider morning combo. Again Flowrider was practically deserted. The excursion was the first "official" one we have ever done. It was pretty poor to be honest - the falls themselves were amazing, but the insistence on taking us to "shopping centres" full of tourist tat was fairly irritating, as was the tour guide. The whole thing was very disorganised & involved a lot hanging around. If we did it again we would just get a cab to the falls (not far at all) & pay at the gate. I would certainly recommend the climb, though it did require a certain amount of athletic ability & water confidence (not necessarily swimming). Some of our group struggled & opted out the first chance. We were back at the ship for about 2.30 & grabbed a late Windjammer lunch, wine on deck, crash out, sailaway, drinks, dinner.....
Day 5 Georgetown, Grand Cayman - no gym this morning; but we did get up enough courage to try stand up surfing for the first time. Again the staff were really great & helped us out a lot. There were no tender queues when we went down at about 10.30 & we had a wander around town & stopped for some lunch over by Eden Rock, before heading back about 2ish. Tonight was 2nd formal night & we did manage to see a show - the Beatles tribute. We made a special effort to go, as we really enjoyed the Beatles on Voyager last year. This group were a poor imitation and decidedly average in comparison.
Day 6 Cozumel - We woke at 6.30 to a storm, which lasted all through our gym session, breakfast & Flowrider routine. By the time we got off the ship it had stopped raining, so we caught a cab downtown for a browse round the shops & some lunch, which was fantastic. The rest of the day followed a similar pattern to previously.
Day 7 At Sea - Busy Flowrider for the final morning (oooh, at least 10 people!) & went spent much of the day working on our tans at the back of the ship, which was a lovely quiet area away from the busy pools. All too soon it was time to pack in preparation for disembarking tomorrow. Disembarkation - we opted to carry off our own bags, so had a Windjammer breakfast & walked off with our luggage at about 8am. By 9 we had collected our car from Dollar & were on the road. Actually, we stayed around Cocoa Beach for the next few days & managed to "see" (read "hear") the shuttle landing.
Food - We chose My Time Dining, having enjoyed a good variety of dinner companions last time. This time we were slightly disappointed that all MTD tables were for 2 (or 4/6 depending on your party size). This may prompt us to try second sitting next time. We ate in the main dining room every night & enjoyed all meals, particularly the rack of lamb. Staff were very accommodating - entrees as appetisers etc. Breakfasts & lunch were generally in the Windjammer. Didn't bother with Johnny Rockets, enjoyed Jade sushi & cookies from the cafe promenade. Drink - We booked a 12 bottle wine & dine package & drank 11 of them (the freebie bottle threw us off course!). We like to get a bottle of wine to drink on deck from the Windjammer mid afternoon, but this proved difficult on more than one occasion - staff acting like we were being very unreasonable asking to drink wine we had already paid for. In general we found most of the bar staff to be poor - ranging from slow & unenthusiastic to downright rude. The On Air bar had 2-4-1 Margaritas between 5.30 & 7.30pm each evening.
Entertainment - not really our thing; we only went to the Beatles as mentioned. We did go to the Crown & Anchor welcome back party & the Captain's speech on the Promenade 1st formal night. We didn't do Quest, quizzes, bingo or any other organised activity other than Flowrider. We did enjoy the music in Boleros with a late night (10pm!) mojito. Allan Brooks early morning TV show kept us entertained, he's very amusing.
Staff - generally helpful, friendly & enthusiastic with the exception of bar staff. The MTD hostess was a total star & the only person we tipped over & above. She worked so hard. Flowrider staff were also excellent. Room steward was OK - we did tell her first day not to bother with towel animals, for which she was very grateful. Less
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