Confession: I've never even seen, let alone been on, a cruise ship. So maybe I have a touch of newbie-itis. But Freedom of the Seas isn't a ship; it's a floating all-inclusive resort hotel. It's got several pools and hot tubs, most of which have their own bars; a separate water park for kiddies; a miniature golf setup; a minibasketball court; a standing wave for surfing; an *ice-skating rink*; a movie theater; a Broadway-style theater; a ton of restaurants (many of which are free); an indoor mall that runs most of the length of the ship; a library; a board-game room; an arcade; a helicopter pad; a solarium; a full-service spa; a workout room; a casino; a photo studio; and lord knows what else. Talk about decadent. Seriously, the hardest decision we made each day was "should we try a new restaurant today, or just go back to the Windjammer?" Hot and cold running activities 24/7, especially if you like shopping and/or dancing. We had a nice room with private balcony, and from what I could see of the suites, they were primo. I can't imagine the logistics needed to pull all this off.
Anyway, embarkation went smoothly for us--we were in our stateroom within 1 hour after arriving at the pier.
We had to skip one of our scheduled ports of call (Coco Cay, RC's own private island in the Bahamas) because the weather was too rough, but that was OK--we got another day at sea! So we had 3 sea days, 1 day at St. Thomas, 1 day at St. Maarten, and another 2 sea days. I was pleasantly surprised that I never got seasick, despite the bad weather, and now I'm having trouble getting my "land legs" back. And I miss going to sleep to the rocking of the boat. Still, it was rough, and I know that lots of folks were sick and had other excursions cancelled.
The service was impeccable throughout, from the "world's smallest captain" (Capt. Kasselas) to the cruise director (Graham Seymour) to our room attendant (Savio Gracias). We ate in the dining room only once (I hate eating with strangers), but that seemed top-notch, also. The offerings at Portofino's and the Chops Grille were outstanding.
The morning we got back, we took one of RC's excursions, an air-boat ride on the St. Johns River in Florida. We saw lots of alligators, ospreys, egrets, herons, bald eagles, etc. It was beautiful but short. Not sure it was worth the $, but the tour guide was informative and funny, and the transition from the ship to the tour bus, and then on to the airport, was seamless.
I do think we went at the right time of year for a cruise--kids were in school, so there wasn't a lot of noise, competition for activities/elevators, etc. The ice show and other performances were excellent, and the trivia challenges were fun!
I really can't recommend Royal Caribbean enough. And now I sit in my office on this gray day. Wanna go back!