I got such helpful info from Cruise Critic before we went, so let me know if you have any questions- email@example.com.
We stayed the night before at the Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach- nice beach hotel- left car there for the week using their stay and cruise package- no problems and the shuttle service was very prompt and easy- will use this again to save a weeks long port parking charge.
Embarkation started at Port Canaveral- no problems with the porters- everyone was very nice and helpful- didn't feel pressured to tip any of them at all- I did give one that handled all our bags $5- they worked hard!
It was one line after another in the terminal to get through security, then check in and get sea pass cards, then another line to get photo before boarding ship. From the curb to the ship took 45 minutes- not bad at all!
Windjammer is crowded at this first lunch- nothing horrible -we had a bite and went exploring.
Our cabin was ready at 1pm- bags showed up one by one and had them all by about 5pm.
Safety drill is without life vests and was very easy.
I think there were 4600 people on the ship- never horrible lines any time during the cruise, but there were times when you realize lots of people are on board.
Here is a rundown of what we thought- just our opinions
Bar service was fine- we used daily without problems- very nice and happy people- we tipped them with cash for all their great service.
Loved the H20 zone- my 11 yr old son had a blast- we always found chairs around the pool any time of the day- people do save chairs- always seemed to be someone leaving or empty so never an issue for us.
If you are taking a toddler be warned- they may only use the baby pool if they are in diapers. We saw several families that had babies or toddlers that wanted to get in the splash zone or pools, and were upset when told no kids with diapers in those areas.
Can't wait till we can take advantage of the adults only solarium area- nice loungers and nice and peaceful! Didn't get in the hot tubs here - but they sure look nice!
The main pool was a blast- lots of great music and fun events- a bit crowded- however I always saw chairs to be had on deck.
Sports deck: Loved the Flow Rider- all three of us did the boogie boarding- what fun!!! Get signed up early on Sunday starting at 2:30pm- and go as much as you can- lines can be long- we would wait sometimes 30+ minutes for our turn- I would suggest private lessons of some sort to really take advantage of the Flow Rider. There are height requirements, so our 11 yr old was a hair too short to stand up surf, so that really limited our time use. Ladies, wear a shirt over your suit, can't tell you how many tops were "rearranged "- and that water can even pull off your bottoms, so were something that fits tighter or has a string Only saw one person with injuries from the Flow Rider- looked to be a 18yr boy- stand up surfing and wiped out- something to his arm/shoulder area- he was in fine spirits telling his story to everyone- hope it wasn't anything too serious.
The rock wall is fun to climb, and there were always soccer and basketball games of some sort on the court.
Other activities: we loved the ice rink- was great to have something to do besides roast in the sun all day- we loved all the Royal Promenade had to offer- feels like a mall ! We window shopped, and usually had drinks and people watched. Loved all the different parades and events they have.
Entertainment: The shows were fine- comparable to Carnival ones we saw last year. We saw them all- Comedians, illusionists, the Drifters, RC stage productions . We enjoyed them all. Seats start going by 8:15pm for the 9pm show, and people do save seats (which they shouldn't) - so be prepared to go early and enjoy a drink in your seat while you wait- The Ice Show was also great- we got tickets on Tuesday am in the Royal Promenade- they will announce where and when to be getting these ice show tickets. We enjoyed the parades and it seemed there was always several other late night parties or events going on that were always fun.
Food:- Let's just say that we love to eat- however we are not expecting gourmet meals from this type of cruise. We have no complaints.
Windjammer- buffet style- always busy- short lines- decent food- no complaints. Ate breakfasts and lunches here- one dinner. Staff works hard to keep tables cleared, bring you drinks, keep food replenished. No complaints.
Main Dining Room- Very nice- again- staff works hard- we did 6pm seating- menu was fine- not as many choices as other lines, but something for everyone. Very willing to accommodate special requests or extra portions. No complaints. Ate two breakfasts here- nothing spectacular- although it was fun to meet people at the tables.
Cafe- great sandwiches and desserts- visited mid day for a snack or late night for something sweet. Water and coffee always available.
Sorrentos Pizza- pizza and other yummy things- always yummy.
Room Service- used for coffee in the mornings- filled out the form to hang on your door the night before- always called before they came- no complaints.
Johnny Rockets- fun- hotdogs and burgers- fries and rings- ate here twice- no complaints.
Ben and Jerrys- had a few cones or cups- reasonable prices
Chops Grill- ate here once- it was great- all had filet mignon- delicious- great service- amazing desserts- much better than the MDR- you should try to eat here at least once! GREAT!
I will say that we all agreed that the food was comparable to food we had last year on Carnival- however, Carnival does a much better job with their desserts.
Room and Service Our room was a balcony - mid ship - loved our steward- great job- funny towel animals- no complaints. The room was the two beds pushed together- very comfortable- and a sofa couch that could sleep two kids- also surprisingly comfortable. The bathroom is small and tight- bit of a pain- but I guess they are smaller than others to make room for all the fun stuff...
My son loved the soft serve ice cream up by the pools- 11am-8pm-
All the different pubs/bars areas were really neat and had their own "feel" to them- always had great service.
There can be waits for the elevators- we were happy to be on deck 7 so up or down was easy for us- keep that in mind when booking rooms
Allan Brooks was very funny- I liked that there weren't constant announcments- you read the compass or watch the daily show on TV for all your info-
We saw the Captain everywhere- not used to seeing the Captain out and about as much as we did- we found that to be a nice touch.
We didn't get to see or do everything on the ship- you need two weeks to fit it all in!
Ports: - Coco Cay- we didn't get off the ship- the tenders looked packed - and it was HOT! We chose to spend the day by the pool, and shared it with a very small crowd! Those that did go, say it was nice, but most were hot, tired and crabby when they returned.
St Thomas- beautiful port- we chose to take a taxi to Secret Harbor Beach and had a great few hours. Taxis area is bit confusing, open air taxis are fun- kind of like a mini rollercoaster on some roads! The taxi to Secret Harbor was $10 per person each way. Secret Harbor was nice little beach resort- quiet and out of the way- rented chairs and umbrella for $20 - beach side bar and clean bathrooms. The front desk called us a taxi when we were ready to go. Recommend for families looking for quiet beach.
St. Martin- beautiful port- we took the water taxi over to town for $6 roundtrip- shopped and then took a taxi to Maho Beach where the airplanes fly right over. Taxi was a van and $8 per person each way. We spent the day at Sunset Bar and Grill - rent your chairs and umbrella from them- had a bucket of beer and sodas- great burgers and Mahi sandwiches for lunch. It's fun to see the planes come in and the water is very clear!
Disembarking We chose to take our own luggage off- so we were expected to be off by 7am- we packed, showered, hit the Windjammer one last time, and were off the ship by 7am- breeze getting through customs - our shuttle was waiting and we were in our car and on the road by 8am- it was sad to see the Freedom in port as we drove away
We had a wonderful time- everyone on this ship works very hard and was always very nice.
We will recommend the Freedom to all our friends and family, and are already talking about trying her out on a Western Caribe route.
Have fun when it's your cruise!!!!