I travelled to Ft Lauderdale on 24 Sept by Air Canada. The flight was smooth and on time. I stayed one night at the Holiday Inn Express Convention Center 17th St Causeway. I called the hotel from the airport and was told to exit the doors and turn left and walk to the blue sign that said "hotel shuttle and off airport parking". I did this and waited and waited about 20 mins. there was no one else at this spot, and I felt something was not right. So I called the hotel from my cell, and was told that the shuttle have been there by now, but to please wait and they would call him again. I waited 10 mins more, and then I saw the Hol Inn Express shuttle slow down, and I walked to the curb, and he took off! A third call to the hotel, and the shuttle did return within a few minutes. The driver said nothing, no apology, no hello, nothing. Same at the checkin desk. I mentioned the delay with the shuttle, and the desk clerk said "oh that's too bad". Next up to the room. The window opened up to a view of a concrete wall. So much for Priority club rewards! Otherwise it was typical of Hol Inn Express. But I would not stay here again. The shuttle to the port next morning was however very efficient.
The 10.30am shuttle arrived at the port by 10.45, and I checked in quickly and painlessly, waited about 30mins, then boarded shortly after 11.30am. Because of Tropical storm Matthew, our itinery was changed from western to eastern route, and this was fine with me. I certainly didnt want to sail into a storm! Boarded and had a quick lunch at the lido deck buffet. Went to the stateroom at 1.30 when the rooms were ready. I had a 1a porthole cabin and it was great! I usually have an interior when I cruise alone, so this was a bonus for me. Two portholes were good for natural light, and you could get up and see if you were near land in the am. Lots of storage space and hangers. I didnt meet the cabin steward until the second day, when I saw him and assistant in hall, and they said hello. There was an issue with, no ice in the bucket two nights in a row early in the cruise, and I had to call room service to get some. The third night, when again I found no ice, I asked why this was happening and why I should have to bother room service for ice, and the steward arrived within a minute, and filled the bucket for me and was pleasant about it. After that no more problems with ice.
The ship was very nice and clean. I have read that folks didnt like the decor. While I would say it was not my favorite of the Carnival ship decors I have seen, it wasnt that bad either. I loved the serenity area, and had no problem ever finding a lounge chair there. I even enjoyed one of those great clamshells on a port day when I chose to stay aboard.
I did "your time dining" for the first time, and I was a bit concerned about not getting the same dining wait staff each night, but that was not the case. I was able to be seated in the same section each night, and the wait staff were absolutely excellent! All three of them made me feel like a queen! Even the maitre'd stopped by the table each night to see if everything was going good. I dont see that very often. The food was also very good. The only thing I didnt like was not because there was something wrong with it, just wasnt a good choice for me. Also while there are many 2 seater tables, which is where I always was, you are close enough to the other tables that you can converse with your neighbors if you and they like, or not, as the case may be. I met some very nice people. Also the buffet area was fine and never seemed over crowded. I would not want to eat all my meals here, but I could always find something I liked. I especially liked the Tandoor grille!
Entertainment was very good, the shows were quite well done. The first night or two there was a latin music band in the atrium, and they were fantastic! Later in the cruise, there was a young lady playing the piano there, and she was also very nice to listen to, especially as I sipped my before dinner wine.
Ports were Cozumel, Limon Costa Rica, Panama. I have been to Cozumel many times and though I love it here, I decided to spend a quite day on board, and that is when I got to enjoy one of those clamshells on serenity deck. In Limon, I did the tour "All about Limon" through Carnival. It was 4 hrs long and after a quick drive through Limon, we boarded a boat for a tour on the Tortuguero canal, and saw lots of herons and birds, mangrove and rainforest. Then on to a wildlife refuge, to see sloths, turtles, monkeys, a racoon, birds, and butterflies. Then to the del Monte banana plantation. It was a nice tour, and I was happy to see some of Costa Rica. The shopping on the pier is under a tent, some leather goods, t shirts, wooden items etc. Next day was Panama, and again I just did a little shopping at the pier, ( not much shopping here, but enough to find a trinket or two to take home ). I didnt do a tour here, as most had to do with the canal. Everyone I spoke to had a wonderful time on their tours though.
Two sea days after that, and I spent some more time sunning on deck. Also spent some more time in the casino. Carnival has a new program in the casino, that when you accumulate 1500 pnts, you get free drinks while playing in the casino for the rest of the cruise. I reached the 1500 pts about the third day, so enjoyed some pretty nice bevvies while playing. On the last sea day I was lucky enough to win 500.00 on a slot machine!
Disembarkment started early at 6.40am with self assist and regular disembarkment started at 8am. It was a bit slow to start with, but was fairly orderly. You were given tags for your bags the last night with a number and you had to wait for that number to be called. Mine was 24, and it was finally called at about 9.20am. I was at the airport by 10am for my 1200 flight.
Summary; I had a great cruise. I didnt think that my cruise on the Liberty last year could be outdone, but this one managed to edge out the Liberty just a little bit. I cant say enough great things about this ship and especially the crew. For the first time since I started cruising in 1999, I am considering booking my next cruise on the same ship. Next time I want to do that eastern itinerary. I love the Freedom!