This was my 5th cruise and 4th with Carnival....
So I will start with the usual..
We parked at park and go and registered on-line to recieve one day free.
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived around 2:00pm and went right through with no long lines. We had no issues other than the wife's iron getting nabbed in the carry-on.--which we knew we forgot to to put it on our checked-in luggage and were not surprised ot got nabbed.
If you can read between the lines.. YOU CAN BRING ANYTHING YOU WANT--ON YOUR CHECKED IN LUGGAGE---check other boards for more info, just do not try it on carry-on--or else whatever you may try to bring will be nabbed!!!
Upon arrival to the ship the first thing i did notice from the other reviews I read previously was that the overall design of the ship is VERY DARK. It is a very elaborately decorated ship, as all Carnival ships are, but Joe Farcus went with a rather deep dark French Victorian style. While it is nicely done,the wall treatments around the elevator halls and in between common areas is very dark. I did not like the simulated wood grain paneling that reminded of houses in the 70's. I can honestly tell you that with the overall design of the lounges and common areas..I found myself at times wanting to go outside to get fresh air.
Our cabin was nice as we had a balcony. We had them empty out the Mini Fridge so we could keep our goods in there. Along with smuggling things in your checked luggage..YOU CAN LEGALY bring a case of water and a 12 pack of soda per person with you. Our room steward was great also as we asked for 2 ice buckets and she brought us a jumbo plastic container and and the regular ice bucket and kept them full all day and night.A room is a room pretty much so not much to say here...EXCEPT....
For some reason they had an issue with their toilets. We saw several people having toilet issues, then low and behold, our relatives that were cruising with us had thier toilet back up for over an hour.....then the same night....OUR TOILET BACKED UP..it took almost 2 hours to fix the toilet!!! Not a fun thing....then the neighbors down the hall--their toilet backed up-Yikes!!
While on the subject of bad smells...When we first went down to the muster stations, we could smell a smell of refuse--or dead fish, it went away after that, but then on 3 different nights, when we got into the elevators it would resurface. The smell is similar to that of a dump or something?? We could not figure out where it came from--maybe the ship was dumping waste??
We had my time dining -but our Maitre'D did ot think so. He offered us an 8:00 seating if all 5 in our group would agree--and we said NO!--After getting into a serious argument and having to get confrontational---the Maitre'D said he would allow us to have my time didnig (even though we booked it that way) -as long as we did not show up around 8:00pm because everybody shows up for my time dining then--(He claims thw web site does not caution if it is full or not and allows people to book my time when there is none available....???
Food in the dining room food was very good. I feel Carnival has a better selection of food than RCI, and it tastes better.We had my time dining so we had a couple of different servers, but all were very good. There was a couple of nights where I think Carnival over-reaches with food selection in the dining room--they always offer their classics, but some nights the food was a bit bizarre---so we headed to the Lido Buffet...
Overall The Lido buffet was not that great.They would have some of the same food the dinig room had, but overall the selection was not a very tasty one AND CAUTION YOURSELVES.....THE CAKES ARE DRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYYYY YES ALL OF THEM. One passenger got a piece of CHOCLATE DREAM CAKE,...and spit it out real fast, while spitting out cake she replied,,,CHOCLATE DREAM??,,,MORE LIKE CHOCLATE DRY AS HELL CAKE!!!
For dinner I will say RCI is better--LIDO BUFFET ONLY
Lunch...the usual Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, fries, etc..and then where Carnival excels at...THE MONGOLIAN BBQ!!---very good both days we had it. Overall Lido Buffet at lunch was OK---and UNLESS YOU LIKE FIIIISSSHHHYY FISH...Avoid FISH & CHIPS...blllllllllllaaa---A hunk of the most salty and fishy tasting peice of fish wrapped in a bucket of fried dough. That was a major let down. Also the fact that the Mongolian BBQ is only open for lunch was a letdown. The deli was also pretty good and we did not have to wait to long to get out reubens,
The 24hr pizzeria was aways good and rockin as was the free 24hr ice cream and frozen yogurt..RCI could learn something here instead of closing everything down by 10:00
No more midnight buffets, but a sampling of cheese, fruits and deserts were always out around 11:00 pm at the sushi station on deck 5...Again Carnival excels at things like the SUSHI BAR---very good sushi ..but only available form 5:15 to 8:30.pm
Buffet breakfast was --eh..so so. definitely not as good as I remember from my 2008 Carnival cruise. Eggs were like watery goo--(egg product) pancakes had weird flavor, and...THEY ARE RATIONING BACON~~yes...you read correctly. Apparently pork futures have skyrocketed and thus in turn was causing the buffet attendants to ration only a couple of peices of bacon to each guest.
And that coffee stuff in the Lido...wooooooooooo...it will grow hair on your teeth.
But if you go to the dining room, food is cooked much better and the waffles were really good and you can have your omelettes made without waiting in the buffet line. ALSO TO ALL COFFEE DRINKERS...in the dinig room--ITS ACTUAL REAL COFFE. If you can eat in the dining room for breakfast everyday do it! its way better and no crowds with great service.
Room service breakfast is also a good choice as we did this once.
On the last night the wife and I went to the Sun King Steak House---it was well worth the $30.00 cover charge. Great steak and lamb chops - awesome desert--the Cheese cake is a whopping 12 ounces!! The food and service were just as good as we had at The Golden Fleece on Carnival Legend---FYI...RCI steakhouse was terrible last year.
The big review show..the Mardi gras tribute was a spectacular show, not to be missed, however the rest of the shows were below average musicals that left much to be desired..we got up and left half way through because of fear of falling asleep...seriously.
For the first time in 4 Carnival cruises, they have changed the way they do the comedy shows....no longer in the main show lounge(victoriana Lounge). Now everyone wanting to see the comedians must pack in to the international lounge, which is where they have the karaoke.
1st they still have a pg and an R rated show,They have 2 different comedians. One was a ventriloquist and was very funny,,the other was a regular stand up and was really hit or miss the entire show.(lot of people walked out)
The letdown???---THE COMEDIANS ONLY HAVE ONE ACT EACH and they repeat them 3 times on various nights...Good if you missed a show, not good if you thought they would do something different--a little odd to me--6 day cruise and you got no new routines??
New to Carnival...SERENITY ADULTS ONLY RETREAT very nice area with couches, large 2 person hammocks ans thes large chairs with a cover on the back that could hold a few people, lounge chairs with pads and 2 extra hot whirlpools located on deck 13-14 in the very front.
Also on Freedom..another adults only section in the very back of the ship that actually had a retractable roof. An adults only pool and 2 more hit tubs--I thought this was a nice touch, as our last RCI cruise had a similar area.
Put-put--looked fun, but always too windy
Did not use any spa services, but checked out the gym..very nice and used the sauna and steam room, very nice as well.
M.U.T.S---movies under the stars was nice, unless you were a fan of the Miami Dolphins and watch them get shalaked on a jumbo screen on Monday night..PASS ON THE STALE DAY OLD POPCORN FOR $1.50
Like I said earlier...the ship and all the lounges and rooms are very nice, just real dark everywhere.
The disco is by far one of the best discos I have been to on a Carnival ship,,,but you would think Carnival would hire some competent dj's??
Habana bar is great also...BUT THEY DO NOT SELL CUBANS?? only Dominican and Jamaican seed cigars??
Scotts piano lounge was cool, but oddly there was hardly anyone there most nights.
There was a jazz themed lounge also thart nobody attended.
Sports bar was nice too as was the casino.
Past guest party...Good as use to be with free drinks, but Carnival cut way back on the apps...only 2 or three apps and done.
THE GRAND GALA BUFFET...
In an apparent cutback, Carnival has ended a long time tradition of the grand gala buffet and replaced it with a last night of the cruise all you can drink party for one hour for free...so I guess its a toss up of what you prefer. They also cut out the pre-dinner cocktails for free at the captains dinner and this is part of what makes up for it??
KEY WEST...its ok been there done that went shopping and went to Fat Tuesdays
GRAND CAYMAN..took a taxi to cemetery beach, and tried to go snorkeling, but could not as there was a bad storm the night before and some rain in the morning---causing sevaral excursions to be cancelled and we had to dock on the other side of the island--taking another hour out of our little bit of time we had,,,but ended with going to breezes and having Category 5 hurricanes!! Then we waited for almost an hour in the tender line..argg--not fun as it started to rain.
JAMACA....Jamaica was fun--Did Dunns river falls and was supposed to do the sky lift, but it was broke so instead they offered us the Jamaica Bobsled for an additional $7.00 total,,,it was a blast---if you have not done dunns river,,,DO IT!! Just pay no attention to all the pestering people selling trinkets,,just walk with your shades on and look at the ground and ignore them all---they are rude and will not stop bothering you until you leave. After we got back by the ship we caught a taxi to OCHO RIOS JERK CENTER--if you want real Jamaica jerk, go there, and then where we went next....WELL----WHAT HAPPENS IN JAMAICA STAYS IN JAMAICA----RESPECT!!
Overall...would I sail Freedom again,,,yes--only somewhere different though
I still need a couple of days to figure out thr ship as the lay out is weird..you can not walk through the middle of the ship--except on decks 9-3-4-5 other than that the ship is a bit of a maze as the dining rooms are on deck 4 and 5 up and down front and back...confusing I know
Also carnival has chilled out the servers coming buy every 2 seconds asking if you want a drink, which is a good thing.
But nit-picking....Carnivals bartenders suck!!--don't ask for anything not on the bar menu!!--RCI excels at his as they will and can make anything you can imagine. Maybe its part of Carnivals cut backs or something but I would say 70% of the staff was Asian and not very attentive to customers. I remember Carnival having a large number of people from all over the world--but now I guess they are outsourcing the Philippines for service??