Because of our Diamond status we had VIP check-in and debarkation privileges.
Embarkation: From parking to on-deck 11 at the Windjammer Café for lunch was 15 minutes. Smooth, smooth, smooth.
First impressions: Fantastic! This was our second cruise on her – so I guess you would call it second impressions. Food: Outstanding selection everywhere. Although there wasn’t a pasta bar in the Windjammer Café, there was a selection of pasta every day. The set-up in the back of the restaurant is great. Never any long lines. The flow keeps moving. The variety of food at the Jade was also good. On Deck 5, you have Sorrento’s and the Café Promenade. There is always pizza, salads, sandwiches, desserts, and coffee. Yummy. Food in the dining room was excellent. We decided to do the “My Time Dining” and we loved it. Met some very nice people. Food arrived timely and prepared the way we ordered. Good selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts. Although we made reservations for every night prior to embarking, we were able to make changes very easily with the hostess.
Attire in the Restaurants and Food Lines: Unlike Carnival, everyone dressed for the occasion and looked nice. I did not see any bare chests, bare feet and wet bathing suits in the food areas.
Cabin: We had a balcony cabin aft on deck 8. The cabin was nice with plenty of room and storage space, a couch, flat screen TV, refrigerator, and safe. Unlike on Carnival, the balcony doors slide. On Carnival, the slamming of the balcony doors at all hours of the day and night drove us crazy!
Pools: My wife got to Deck 11 aft at the Solarium about 10:00 am and never had to wait for a chair. On one day in port we stayed aboard ship most of the day and we were practically the ONLY people there. If you get to the pool after 10:00 am while at sea, it is busy. If you get to the pool at 11:30 am or later while at sea, you will not find chairs for two or more people wanting to sit beside one another.
Chair Saving: RCI frowns upon chair saving. Chair saving does happen, but given our habit of being on deck by 10:00 am at the pool, this did not impact us. Nevertheless, everyone was considerate.
Labadee, Haiti: We have been here before so did not do an excursion. We went off the ship and walked around. We love what they did to this place. A nice way to spend a day. Its own little paradise. Also, lunch was served in several different areas.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica: Again, we have been here before so did not do an excursion. We went off the ship and walked around. We also went to Margaritaville like we usually do and we had a good time.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman: I know this is sounding monotonous, but we have been here many times also. This time we did not even leave the ship as we are not too fond of tendering.
Cozumel: Again, we’ve been there so many times that we just took a taxi into town. We walked around, looked, and ended up at Carlos and Charlie’s for a margarita. I noticed that prices in most shops were like “back in the day”. A dollar for this, two dollars for that … Very inexpensive. Not at Carlos and Charlie’s!! If anything, they raised their prices. Not worth it in my opinion. Next time, I intend to give the smaller shop owners my business.
Entertainment: The cruise director, Graham Seymour, was an absolute nut case! Not in a bad way – he was so funny. By far, one of the best CDs we’ve ever had. He also does a morning show each day – not to be missed! I don’t know what RCI pays him, but he is worth every penny. The guy at the piano bar was also excellent. He attracted a large crowd every evening. We enjoyed the shows for the most part. The singers and dancers were OK. Activities were numerous all over the ship. No excuse for not having anything to do.
Crew: Everyone from cabin staff, photo staff, restaurant staff, bar staff, and general cleaning staff were wonderful! Always pleasant and tended to greet you by name once they started to recognize you. If RCI gives them lessons in manners and how to speak English – they do a good job. Casino: Good. Not much different than other ships. They like to take your money! Casino staff was very pleasant also. There is not a separate Sport’s Bar like on other ships; however, the casino bar or Schooner bar serves this purpose.
Viking Lounge – Diamond Club: Outstanding!! This is a benefit unmatched by other cruise lines that I have been on. The Concierge, Rahul, could not have been better. The lounge was open for our benefit from 5PM to 8:30PM each evening and we were in attendance every night before dinner. We met some very nice people and hopefully will have lasting friendships. Bravo to RCI for this lounge!!
Studio B: The ice show in Studio B is not to be missed! Studio B is also used for other venues also, such as the Quest game. Fitness Center: I used the fitness center almost every day this cruise. It is one of the best that I have ever seen. There are also a steam room, a sauna, and even a boxing ring! Something for everybody.
Debarkation: Off the ship in 15 to 20 minutes. Got our luggage and drove home. Very impressive. We look forward to sailing her again!
General Comments: On this cruise I did not meet any passengers that were not happy with the Freedom. Normally, there are several that either do not like the food, the selection of food, the entertainment, the lines, the kids running around, and so forth. Please keep in mind that everyone will find something wrong if they look hard enough for it. You have to dwell on the good things. My wife and I have been on many, many cruises, but we always find a niche on every cruise. Sure, there are things we wish were better, but so what? A cruise ship is nothing but a cross-section of society. Your overall experience will only be as good as you make it. I honestly believe the “unhappy” people would not be happy with anything.