My Wife & I (along with another couple) sailed the Carnival Freedom out of Ft. Lauderdale for a 6 day cruise. This my 7th cruise overall (4th with Carnival)
We chose Freedom for two reason's: 1. New ports to visit, 2. Cost.
We generally cruise the first week of November as it fits into both of our working schedules best. We have also found that prices for air and the cruise itself are generally lower then most other times of the year.
First, the ship itself. I enjoyed the Serenity deck, and made use of the hammock (loved it), watched some of a Sunday Night Football game up at the big screen with a few "beverages". Liked this area. Had some pool and hot tub time in the Aft adults area. Another nice area -- has ice cream there too :)
Did not get to play mini golf (too windy, more on that later) but did lose money in the casino, spent more money in the Atrium lounge, and DW dropped some coin in the gift shops.
Only issue I had with Freedom was it's layout. Difficult to go from bow to stern when on decks 3 and 4. The Chic dining room sits in the middle of the ship and you must either go through the dining room, or go up a level, then back down again to continue on. For some reason I could never get the hang of the layout. Maybe it was just me.
We've been to Key West a few times, but our travelling companions had not. So I rented a 4 seater electric "golf car" and we toured Key West at our leisure. $100 for 4 hours - split between the two couples worked out quite well.
Never been to Grand Cayman, and really loved it. We had decided not to spend money for a tour here, but just walk around at our own pace. We had scheduled a long tour in Jamaica, so that was going to be our "splurge".
Well, we didn't make it to Jamaica. Hurricane Tomas blocked our path, so we were informed the night before that we were going to Cozumel instead. Hey, not a big deal --- yeah we were bummed, but I'm on a Cruise!!!
Again, we've been to Cozumel but our travel partners had not. We didn't get a chance to sign up for an excursion as lines were real long aboard ship, so we said, lets just go into town. We took a cab into town, walked around for a few hours, and came back for some R&R aboard ship.
Our last sea day (Friday) we were rolling & Pitching all day. High winds had closed the Serenity deck along with several others. Quite chilly (in the 60's) and some rain was the deal for the entire day. The casino called to me again (I shouldn't have listened) -- and I spent some time in the Aft adult area since they had closed the roof there.
Dining, We used Anytime dining again for this cruise. I really like this option. We have never been fond of a specific time to eat. And I like to have a few beverages on my balcony before dinner, so not being tied to a schedule is right for me. Another nice feature of Anytime Dining, is if I like a particular wait staff, I can (and do) request them for the rest of the cruise. This cruise Joel (in the Chic dining room) was great. Knew his stuff (said he'd been with Carnival 19 years) and never steered us wrong with selections.
I live in the Washington DC area and we flew JetBlue direct to Ft. Lauderdale. Spent the night at La Quinta on 26th st. Never needed a car. La Quinta picked us up at the airport and took us to the Port the next morning. We were able to walk to a Red Lobster for dinner that night (along with about a bizzillion other people). La Quinta was adequate, I'd say a solid "B". Price wise an "A+++"
Only other "issue" was the wait time to board Freedom. Freedom had a medical emergency during her cruise before us. It brought her in about 6 hours late. So we didn't board until 5pm, and didn't sail until 8:30pm. Many of us 2600+ passengers were scattered in several "holding locations" waiting to be processed. Carnival did supply boxed lunches, and provide regular updates. It was just a long wait.
Will I cruise Carnival again, you bet!