BACKGROUND: This was our first cruise and we had no idea what to expect for me and my hubby. It was the best vacation ever and we want to go back, we would definitely go on the Royal Caribbean again.
HOTEL INFO: We departed from Port Canaveral, so we spent the night before in Orlando and drove to Port Canaveral on the morning of departure, getting on board the ship by about 1:30pm. We rented a car to go to Port Canaveral, the car rental one way is cheap FROM Orlando and slightly more expensive back TO Orlando, with Hertz - about $40 there but $80 back. Still cheaper and more flexible for two people than taking the shuttle.
SHIP INFO: The Freedom is a beautiful ship! The promenade is a lot of fun to walk down and all of the decor is tasteful, elegant, and over the top at the same time. There was never a crowded moment although we were told about 4,100 people were on the ship at that sailing. We didn't have to wait in line at any of the ports except the one with the tenders (and then it was only 20 minutes). We never waited in line for food. The ship has five hot tubs and two (three?) pools - we hot tubbed primarily in early morning/late at night and generally had an entire hot tub to ourselves. We also went to the deck to watch the sunset several times and it was very peaceful.
ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES: We primarily enjoyed the shows and dancing in the evening. The shows were on par with Broadway shows that we have seen, in particular, spectacular sets and the dancers and singers were great. There were a few comedy shows that were also funny and the cruiseline gets "guests" to come do some of the shows, who have been on TV etc. In the evenings after the show they had salsa/swing dancing in a small restaurant called Boleros, as well as live music at a few of the other bars. In addition, they had a dance club, which had a young party crowd so that could be fun. they also held parties in the Promenade area with live music, dancing and entertainment and they were themed (80s night, etc). Many people went to these and we stopped by a few. They had game shows later in the evening which were also funny. In the daytime they had a lot of bingo/casino activities which I did not partake in. Best of all the Cruise Director was very funny and always at every function. He also did shows on the TV. I also tried FlowRider and Rock Climbing, but not Ice Skating since I do enough of that when it gets cold at home. The Rock Climbing worker was not too nice (the only time I encountered that on the whole ship) because he acted unhappy when I asked to come down after being halfway up since I got nervous about the height - he said I should have tried harder. We ended up not going to the gym although we did one of the Tai Chi classes once that was pretty neat. I had been hoping the Yoga/Pilates classes would have been free because I would have gone, but at $15 each this is what I pay at home so I decided to skip it. We also did not utilize the spa although it looked fantastic. There is a nice walking path on the upper deck as well.
SERVICE: The service people are very nice and cheerful. We never had any problems, they cater to your every need and there are so many of them.
PORT AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: We did not take the ship excursion, every port we went to we got out and found people selling excursions for much cheaper (about 1/2 to 1/3 the price of the ship's) and we enjoyed these, it was also more spontaneous.
DINING: The formal dining is fantastic, although as vegetarians there were not many choices for us at dinner, the rest of the dinner crowd seemed to enjoy it. The head chef on the ship currently is Indian, so each meal featured one vegetarian indian course, this worked out well for me. They also had a vegetarian pasta option. Non-vegetarian options included steak, lobster. And you can order more than one entree/dessert! The desserts were spectacular. If you do not like your dining assignment you can go change it after the first day and usually get a choice of table plus description of your probable dinner companions. We changed ours due to being at an intimate table with a non-talkative other couple, and got put at a fun 8 person table. Service at the formal dinner is very quick, the formal dining room is beautiful, and a few of the nights we had live music. There are also two fancy places, Portofino and Chops, which we did not try. There is also Windjammer which has almost any food you could want, and a pizza place and sandwich/cafe place. I would not say the food was to die for, but there was a lot of choice and it was much better than I would have expected. The bars do allow smoking and there were some smokers on the decks in the designated areas.
STATEROOM: Our room was great, it was a balcony room with a couch in it, nice TV, bed, and big balcony (to me). People said not to get the rooms overlooking the promenade because it is loud at night with parties. our room was very quiet and we almost never heard any neighbors. We watched the sunrise from our balcony and also got room service and ate on the balcony a few times.
DISEMBARKATION: Was extremely quick - we went with the very first non-express option (7:15am). We spent about 1 hour 30 minutes from the time we left our stateroom to the time we got into our car at the rental place, and that included going to the wait area to grab breakfast, checking out of the ship, going through customs, collecting our bags, waiting in line at the Hertz bus stop, taking the Hertz bus, and getting the car rented. I mentioned the car rental because Hertz told us had we come an hour later we would have faced big lines (which is why we chose to go early, although we also didnt know if we would get breakfast the last day). I also was surprised how friendly everyone was on the last day, still serving coffee and breakfast in a few locations onboard.
OVERALL: We LOVED it, especially the variety of activities, the evening shows, the ports, the view from the balcony and room in general, and the great attitude of the service people. We are definitely going back and we are definitely taking RCCL again. 5+++++!!!