Flew in to Ft Lauderdale 4 days before the cruise and visited Orlando. Rented a car drove to Orlando, did the Disney World gig, then drove back to Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday July 25 to board the Freedom. We left Orlando around 8 am and got to Ft Lauderdale around 11:30 with stops in between. DH dropped us off at the pier with the luggage and drove back to the airport to return the rental car (not far a few miles)and took a taxi to the port. We embarked and was on board the ship by 1:30 p.m. in time to go to our cabin, freshen up a bit, then went up to the Lido deck to eat lunch. Embarkation took about 30-45 minutes so it wasn't so bad. Muster drill was the usual can-we-just-skip-this-part part. They had to do it in English, French and Spanish, so you do the math on how long it took....
Cabin - as always clean and comfortable. Cabin is cleaned twice a day. We go to breakfast and when we come back, viola cabin has been cleaned. We go to our 6 pm early dining, when we come back, viola cabin is clean again. Fresh towels and freshly made bed 2x a day for 6 days really spoils you. Our cabin steward Michael was great, he says hi and good morning or good evening when we see him (most of the time you think a ghost does the cleaning because we don't see him too often.) We asked him if we can have ice one time, the whole six days our ice bucket was filled. We brought our own soda cans(about 2 dozen). I placed it in one of our extra carry-on luggage by itself. I was worried Carnival were going to say no you can only bring so much, but it went through. There was a fridge in the cabin, I asked the steward to open it and we placed our soda's inside. Didn't touch the rest inside the fridge though. Hey what can I say, we're on a budget. Gotta save some for the bar drinks and the pictures you just can't say no to.
Dining - we're not a picky eater, so most of the food specially in the dining room was great. Try the duck, I was surprised how tasty it was. The usual small lobster one night, spareribs was good, pork loin and prime rib nothing to write home about. Black Forrest cake and Amaretto cake was superb. Melting chocolate cake not as good as before (don't know why). Our head waitress Cristina from Romania and her assistant Carl from Honduras was great. Lido deck buffet was the usual long line. Not as bad as some people say, you're not going to die of starvation the way some people were describing the line. Expect it because it's the height of summer and with 3600 people on board...come on you will go through the line. They had omelet station in the morning, cook to order mongolian, fish and chips, tandoor, and of course the 24 hour pizza. We weren't able to try the sandwich shop, but it looked good.
Entertainment - we're from Vegas, so the vegas show like didn't impress us much. It wasn't bad. Didn't watch most of it, been there done that, ditto with the casino. The comedian Allan Byrd was funny though. He had the PG and adult show, both were good, but if you get offended easily do not go to his late show because it gets offensive for sure. He actually mooned the people outside the lounge waiting for his next show and that's only part of it. Cruise director Josh was good and so were the rest of his crew. I still like John Heald.
Key West - just went shopping, didn't book any tours. They offer a conch train tour for $30 which takes you around the island. They have a bus for $20 where you can hop on and off I think.
Grand Cayman - booked our Stingray tour through Stingraysailing.com. I recommend them because for $40 adult ($30 for kids I think), they take you to the stingray sandbar and give you the best time of your life. They only allow about 25 people on their tour, so you get a more personalized feeling with the crew. There were 4 crews to 25 of us. It was great, my kids loved it. They were able to hold, pet, feed and take a picture with the stingrays. If you haven't done stingrays, you should try this. This is a good time to have a waterproof camera around. Although the crew took pictures they charge $30 for 5 picture poses. We spent about 30 minutes or so at the sandbar, then they took us snorkeling at the barrier reef. Chip the owner of the tour met us by the dock, drove us in an air conditioned van to their boat. The Carnival ship stayed with Florida time, but Grand Cayman was an hour behind. When we docked and tendered we had some time to browse around the shops before our 830 (Cayman time)tour started.
Ocho Rios - booked our Dunns River Falls through Jaital.com. Heard some bad things about Jamaica so we decided to book a tour instead of going on our own. Although you can go to the Falls by taxi (don't know how much), and just buy your ticket at the park ($15). Watch out for those pesky people selling their souvenirs, they can get aggressive. One tried to hold my son's hand to show him their wares. My son said it was more annoying than scary. Just ignore them and their sarcastic remarks and you'll be fine. When we got to the park we rented a locker to put our stuff for $5, they charge you $8, but give you back $3 once you give the lock back. We had two guides and a videographer. Charged $40 for the video. I guess $40 is a little bit much, but we were able to watch our climb so I guess it's worth it. The guides asked for $10 "tip", it's up to you if you want to give it. One guide actually followed us to our locker to make sure he gets his "tip" wow.
Sea Days - just lounged around the pool area. Lots of people, but a lot more lounge chairs than our previous cruises. Usual activities was offered. Tried their gym, crowded sometimes, they have a limit of 30 minutes when using their equipment.
Debarkation - Our flight was not till 1 pm, so we didn't do the self-assist as we had 2 big luggages and 3 carry-on's. Our zone was 30 out of 37, so we had time to eat breakfast, take a shower, get ready until they kicked us out of our cabin. Waited in one of the lounges on deck 5 until they called our zone. Out of the ship by 10:00, no problem finding our luggages, went through customs who just looked at our passport glanced at our custom form and out we went. Took a taxi to the airport for $16 plus tip. End of vacation boo-hoo....
Had fun, always do with Carnival. By the way Carnival Freedom Decor is not bad except for the Statue of Liberty at the buffet dining room, just ignore her while you eat. Ship configuration was weird I agree, but hey you can practice reading the ship direction conveniently posted on each floor by the elevator. Good luck.