My DH and I have cruised three times total; all of which to the Western Caribbean. This was our second time on Freedom of the Seas. The first time was in January, 2010; therefore little had changed but still a great cruise overall. I would take this cruise even a third time. This time was a little different; my in-laws were along and this was their first cruise. Actually, their first vacation in MANY years. I enjoyed the element of experiencing it through a "first-time cruisers eyes."
Anyway, to the review. We all piled in the car and made the eleven hour drive from NC to FL on 11/13 and stayed at the Radisson Resort at the Port. I HIGHLY recommend this hotel. The beds are Sleep Number beds, the breakfast buffet is free and includes made-to-order waffles or omelets, parking is free for the duration of your cruise, as is the shuttle from the hotel to the port. The service is also top notch.
The following day, the hotel seated us on an earlier shuttle than our appointment. Once we reached the terminal, we were on the ship within twenty minutes. Nearly every staffer we encountered had a smile on their face and a pleasant disposition. Once on the ship, we purchased our soda package, found our table in the dining room, and booked our shore excursions. All the while my in-laws were in absolute awe. By this time it was time for lunch so we headed to the Windjammer. Bad idea, it was packed and difficult to find a table. Many people were sitting on benches, eating on their lap. After, lunch we explored the pool deck and I delighted in the fact that it was WARM (Florida was experiencing their worst cold snap in twenty years back in January). We were able to get into our rooms around 2pm. Upon opening the door, all four of us made a beeline for the balcony. Prior to this cruise, I have only had interior cabins, this time we splurged on a balcony cabin. I was hooked immediately upon seeing the room. I doubt I will ever go back to interiors. We spent quite a bit of time here during the week, starting with sail away. Our cabin steward did a very good job keeping the room clean and supplying us with towels; however he was not the most outgoing of individuals.
The seas were quite rough that night and the following day. I had placed a sea-band on each wrist before boarding and taken a Bonine tablet before dinner and had no problems. My MIL; however became nauseous. After the first day, the rocking subsided for the most part so everyone fared much better.
The ship is exquisite. You cannot be bored unless you choose to be. There is so much to do, from ice skating, putt putt, rock climbing, surfing/boogie boarding, swimming, shopping, gambling, dancing, or just chilling out. It has a neat, organized and clean appearance. Staff are friendly and accommodating (for the most part).
We were slightly disappointed with the cruise director this trip, the CD in Jan was Alan Brooks and he set the bar exceptionally high. We missed him on this cruise. Graham Seymore is quite good and very amusing though.
Regarding Dining/Food: I always enjoy the MDR; however the in-laws found it a little fancy for their tastes. Our waiter and assistant waiter were more than perfect. Sophia was from Trinidad & Tobago. Kaneesha was from Jamaica. BOth ladies were truly superb!
Ports of call were great. We especially enjoyed Labadee and Cozumel. Grand Cayman and Jamaica were having less than stellar weather. We now refer to Jamaica as "interesting" and "an experience." After visiting this port twice, I am not sure I would visit it a third time.
The entertainment had not changed since January. We did see the ice show for the first time and it was quite good. The rink is small and the ship was rocking substantially at show time. A few skaters did fall, but all did well considering. The production shows are very good. The sets and costumes are impressive. "Drew Thomas Magic" blew mystified (again). We were sitting on the second row and could not figure out how he did any of the tricks/illusions. Definitely a must see I would say,
Debarkation was almost as seamless as embarkation; however was an hour behind schedule. By the time we arrived in NC that night, we were EXHAUSTED. But we have been back nearly two weeks and had our first snow/sleet event today and I am ready to go back to the caribbean. I wonder if they would let me off of work another week.......?