First, a little history: This was my 17th cruise and my husband's 1 and my husband's 13th cruise. Living in Florida, we try to take advantage of living in a state with 5 cruise ports, and usually go on at least one short cruise and one longer cruise each year. This was our 7-day cruise on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas. I have sailed with Royal Caribbean before and have achieved Platinum status, but this was actually my first week long cruise on one of their larger ships. All of my other Royal cruises have been on their Sovereign class ship. The WOW factor was definitely evident all throughout our cruise!
Getting There/Cabin Info: This cruise was a Sunday to Sunday cruise, although I generally prefer those that leave port on a Saturday. That extra day before returning to work, and to reality can be quite needed after sailing on a ship chock-full of activities! We drove to the port, arriving around 12:30. The lines were long at check-in, but moved quickly and smoothly. We were on the ship by 1:15, and as our rooms were ready, we went directly there to drop off our carry-on luggage. We had a great balcony cabin on the 9th deck (9316), and spent many mornings and evenings out on the balcony just enjoying the water and the scenery. By the way, I just loved the shower door in the bathroom! Much better than fighting with the shower curtain and having water all over the floor every time I take a shower.
Up we went to the Windjammer to grab a bite to eat, then we walked around the ship oohing and ahhing at everything we saw. The spa had tours and booking specials, and we enjoyed walking around the Promenade. Soon it was time for the muster drill, and while I was grateful not to have been required to wear my life jacket, we were outside where it was very hot. Once muster was over, we went upstairs for a cool drink and standing out on the deck for sailaway. By the time we made it back to our room, our luggage had been delivered. Unpack, freshen up, and get ready for our early dining.
Dining: My first impression of the dining room was jaw-dropping! 3 levels, each level a separate dining room, and the decorations were just beautiful. We sat at table 292, with Keron as our waiter. Keron took very good care of us, and if something wasn't right - he did whatever was necessary to fix it. Sonia took care of our drinks, and usually had our usual jack and coke waiting for us when we sat down. Having the soda card was nice as well, and Sonia kept our glasses full. The food was delicious, although I have to say that I enjoy the food in Carnival's dining room much more - especially the Caesar salad. What I ate was good, but as I am not a much of a meat eater, I sometimes had a hard time choosing an entrEe. Where Royal does shine is in their appetizers! The Vidalia Onion Tart and the Mushrooms in puff pasty were delicious, and my favorite appetizer by far is the Risotto and Scallops. My mouth is watering just thinking about them!
We did not eat in either of the specialty restaurant, but we did go to Johnny Rockets one afternoon. As always, it was fun, it was delicious, and it was way too much food!
Entertainment: This is another area where Royal Caribbean shines. From the comedy shows to the production shows...from the Ice Show to the Promenade Parades and Street parties - there was something going on every night. Lots of variety, lots of fun! Graham Seymour is the Cruise Director, and one of the best I have ever seen. His staff is great and they all work very hard. Freedom Fest is a mid-day party on the Promenade with lots of food, lots of activities, and lots of good shopping sales. While it was a bit crowded at times, everyone was pretty happy and got along well.
We had our Meet and Greet with our Roll Call, the Past Cruisers party, and I attended a Platinum get together. All were very nice, and well attended by Royal staff and crew members.
Ports: We had 3 scheduled stops, but only made 2 of them. Hurricane Igor was making its presence known several hundred miles away. We had great weather, lots of sunshine, but there were lots of swells in the ocean. It never was enough for anyone to really feel sick, but there was quite a bit of motion going on.
We stopped at CocoCay first. We went to the island around 10, and had no problems finding some chairs together in the shade. We read for a while, and decided to go in for a bit of cooling off in that beautiful blue water. Unfortunately, I was stung by a jellyfish, so I did not stay in the water very long. There were quite a few of them in the water, and several people were lined up at the first aid hut for treatment. My sting was minor, but some people were stung pretty badly. I know that CocoCay has been known for a jellyfish problem, but this is the first time in 6 visits that I have been stung. After lunch, we decided to go back to the ship and swim in the pools. Much, much better!
Our next port of call was in St Thomas. We docked, and immediately were swarmed by bus drivers selling tours. We ended up with an independent taxi driver who took our party of 6 all around the island for $20 each. We had a great time, and Carlton was very knowledgeable. He made the drive fun and relaxing as we stopped at several of the more popular places to take some pictures. After the tour, we walked around and did a bit of shopping before heading back to the ship.
Our third port of call was supposed to be St Maarten, but with the ocean swells being what they were, it was cancelled. Captain Tor made the announcement, and immediately Guest Services was swarmed with people asking about a credit for the missed port. Our last 3 days of the cruise were spent being at sea...which was just fine with me! A credit of $22 per person was added to on our onboard account for the missed port, which was a nice plus - but not something I would have stood in line and hollered about.
Final Notes: The Freedom of the Seas is a large ship, and very beautiful. There was so much to do, and we took advantage of the extra day to play some putt-putt golf, to watch the people on the Flowrider and the Rock Wall, and to walk around and see everything.
Debarkation was pretty smooth, and being Platinum, we waited in one of the upstairs dining rooms as we enjoyed some coffee and Danish.
We really enjoyed our week aboard this ship - so much so that we took advantage of the reduced booking fee and OBC and booked a repeat cruise for next year. I understand why so many people love this ship...I am now a fan of the Freedom of the Seas as well.