We just completed the 6 day Western Caribbean cruise on the Freedom. In a word, it was Fantastic! We were about to give up on Carnival but this cruise brought Carnival back up on our list. From embarkation to disembarking, everything went great!
We flew in on 9/4 and had a room at the Best Western cruiseport at the airport. Nice room and it was just a place to sleep. The had a continental breakfast and it was a 1 block walk to Winn_Dixie to stock up on last minute pre-cruise needs. The shuttle to the ship the next morning started at 10AM and the line formed early. It did go smoothly and we were at the pier by 10:30. We had VIP check-in and went right through and only waited about 20 min before we were on the ship.
We had received a call several days before our cruise to solicit us to upgrade our cabin. We took the offer and went from 6B to OS. The suite was very nice. It was considerably larger, had plenty of storage and it had a tub which made DW quite happy. Other than VIP embarkation we did not notice and additional "perks" with the suite. That didn't really matter since I was out quite a bit and DW loved the balcony.
The first nights dinner showed the only less than positive experience of the cruise. We were on anytime dining. When we showed up for dinner, we asked for a table for 2. We were seated at a table for 2 which was a table for 6 that was slightly spread out to give the impression of seating 2. The waiter waited for all 3 couples to be seated before taking orders and serving. We were really at a table for 6 and it just did not meet our expectations. The regular timed dining has actual 2 top tables the offer a true dining alone option. Good new was the staff members were all great and so was the food.
Our first port was Key West. Seeing the town main sights and shopping was quite easy by just walking. The only draw back was the humidity. Even if we had taken the trolley or train, the only difference was some of the walking. They were all open and still in the heat. It was a full day, the Little White house, Coast Guard Museum, Hemingway house, light house, stand on the southern most point in the continental US and then there were the bars! No need to but the pub crawl, just walk a couple blocks and enjoy! Don't miss the first ever Margaritaville.
The show that night was Jump, Jive and Wail. This show was energetic and the singers and dancers really seemed to genuinely enjoy performing. This was one of the best production shows we have watched on a cruise. We thoroughly enjoyed it!
The next day was at sea and elegant evening. Had a nice quiet day relaxing. This ship never seemed crowded. There was always a lounge chair to be found, even if was in an area away from a pool. Food lines were there but they moved well. The Mongolian BBQ at lunch had several lines open and the service moved slow but steady. There was almost no line at the deli for sandwiches and it took several days for line to appear at the Fish & Chips counter.
The Captain's Celebration was held, $1 off drinks for 3 hours. Dinner was lobster and we always enjoy that. It was hot and tender and we had a third plate we shared. The show this night was The Big Easy. It was a retrospective on New Orleans and very well done. They also had the new Punchliner Comedy Club operating on our cruise. This is a nice addition for Carnival. As long as you don't mind walking forward and aft, you can see the Comedy show, walk forward and see the main show and walk back aft and see a different comedy show. That is what we did and it worked well. The lounges did fill up so getting in a little early would be a good idea.
Next day was Grand Cayman. We located Chip Whitney on the pier and went with him on the Far-Tortuga catamaran to swim with the sting rays and snorkel. What a unique experience. We would recommend doing this if you have never done it before. We ended up at Margaritaville here and it was a blast. I even went down the water slide and enjoyed the swim up bar and DW took the pictures and stayed dry.
For dinner on this night, we had the Chefs Table. This was a truly different evening from any cruising dinner we have ever had. We met in the atrium lobby and were led into the kitchen during the serving of the dining room salad course. It was a trip watching everyone hustle about. We had champagne and appetizers in the kitchen. Then we saw them baking the chocolate melting cake. It was at this point that we made a batch of the chocolate melting cake from scratch! It would be served to us at desert. Then we went to a private dining room and the meal began. Our chef, Sanjay Chowdhury, was an elegant host. His story was very interesting and the meal was superb! The bottomless glasses of wine didn't hurt either. Definitely worth the $75 for the experience! We skipped the Variety show.
Next day was Ocho Rios. As much as we read about Jamaica, we expected the worst. We were pleasantly surprised. After walking around the pier checking out the shore options, we elected to book the Dunes River falls and Jamaican Bobsleds through the ship and it was a good call. The falls were fun. Don't forget to pack your water shoes for this one or you can pay $7 to rent some that are not as good as what you will bring. We had a great time walking up the falls. I chose the hard way and DW followed the crowd the easier way. It took some balancing but I made it without any scratches or broken bones! On to the bobsleds!
When we arrived at the bobsleds, we went right to the start of the experience. This is a ride up the mountain on a "ski lift" through the rain forest. You also get a great view of the ship during the ride. At the top, we went straight to the bobsleds and got in line. It was raining and they said it actually made the sleds go faster. DW and I went tandem so the hook 2 sleds together and the front one controls the brake. I was in front and didn't use the brake much. Racing around in the warm rain was great. The rain storm got worse and they shut down the ski lift and bobsleds. They ended up bringing buses to the top of the mountain to take us back to the ship.
We had the bus drop us to go shopping and we wandered right over to Margaritaville!! Once again they ad a pool but no one got in due to the heavy rain. That didn't stop the party in the bar and we all had a great time. Then it was a short walk back to the ship.
This was the Prior guest reception evening which we managed to nap through. Dinner was very good and then it was on to the shows. We did the comedy club, main show and comedy club again. The main show was Ticket to Ride which was a Beatles music tribute. Very well done and it was also great! One more sea day and the cruise came to an end. The seas were very calm for the entire cruise and we never felt any rocking or vibration of the ship. If you like the sushi bar, there is purpose built sushi bar on the ship and again I never saw a line there.
Overall this cruise rated as one of the best cruises we have been on. Our cruise director was Ryan and his assistant was Sam. They made a great pair and they made the cruise very enjoyable.
The Freedom is a well run ship and all of the crew seem genuinely happy to be there. Many of the crew I spoke with were on second or more contracts on this ship. When a ship is "ship shape" it really shows and makes for a very enjoyable experience. I would highly recommend this ship for a great cruise experience.