We are a couple in our mid 40s who enjoy good food and good holidays. This was our first ever cruise. Having the right expectations helped us have a great time.
We flew into Orlando 3 days before the cruise and stayed at the Doubletree International Drive. For the money, I thought this hotel was very good value. It was very clean, pools were large the staff were always helpful when we approached with questions. Having the Itrolly just outside made the hotel very convenient for shopping and eating out. The shuttle transfer to Universal was a very efficient and friendly experience too.
The day of our cruise, we booked a car through Interplex. Cost to Port Canaveral was $110 plus tip. We could have done it less expensively, but we wanted a nice easy transfer to Port. Driver showed up early, he was pleasant and the journey took less than an hour.
Driver dropped us off where the porters were, and they happily took our luggage - no one at any time asked us for a tip. This was about 1030 and there was already a line to get in the terminal building. The line went moved quite quickly and I think we boarded around 1pm. Given how many people were in the line, our experience was that of a well organised, smooth embarkation.
We had a quick stroll around the ship, found our room and headed for the Windjammer for a quick bite to eat. It wasn't busy when we arrived, but when we left it was a different story. Manic! Food was as we expected. Tried the honey stung chicken but can't say it made an impression! Salad bar selection was fine and the staff were very helpful, making a special trip to get me a breakfast yoghurt, even though it was so busy.
We had a balcony room on Deck 7 a few feet away from the Library. There were no other rooms across the hall from us, and so it was a wonderfully quiet location. The balcony was a joy. We live inland, so being able to get up, done a robe and sit on the balcony early in the morning to look out on the sea was my idea of heaven. I thought the room was ample in size as was the bathroom. For a ship, I had expected smaller accommodation. The bed, was the best bit. For 7 nights I had the most comfortable sleep of my life! If I could buy those beds in the UK I wouldn't hesitate!
My husband and I both enjoy our food and I was really concerned about the food in the MDR. I knew that cruising has changed considerably through cost cutting over the years, so I had my expectations in line. I felt that for the price we paid for our cruise, I would have to be realistic about the quality of the dinner provided when Freedom was serving 4000+ guests. This was our experience. We had a table for 2, my time dining. We only every waited 1 night, the last night of the cruise. Otherwise, we were always seated as soon as we arrived. Our waiter was Manuel. You could tell all the staff were busy, but it never resulted in poor service in our experience. I listened to Manuel's recommendations each time we at the MDR. And I was never let down. Whatever he said was good, I ordered it and was not disappointed. I thought the prime rib was delicious and I had that twice. I also had a fish dish that I thought was very, very good. Didn't try any desserts as I was saving myself for cocktails! Overall, I found the main meals in the MDR to be of a good standard and I have no complaints. Our waiter and his staff were great.
We ate breakfast in the Windjammer and that was fine. We also tried Chops, Portifino and Johnny Rockets. Chops had a warm, gentleman's club feel to it, but after such attentive service in the MDR we found the service lacking. My husband had the steak and said it was good. I had the lobster and it was good. But we weren't tempted back. Portifino was a much better experience. Staff were very friendly and I felt the food was really wonderful. We went to Johnny Rockets for lunch on the last day at sea. What a mistake that was! ;) To say it was busy, was an understatement. We must have waited almost an hour to get a table. The food wasn't much quicker but it was tasty and the shakes were yum! We never said a thing to the waiter about the slow service as you could see that the entire restaurant was overwhelmed. When we asked to pay the bill, we were told that there would be no charge because of the exceptionally long wait. I thought that was a good decision on the Restaurant's part and it left us with a good impression. In future, we would be prepared for a long wait at a peak time on a sea day. Loved having fresh pizza at Sorentos!!
We loved the selection of bars on the ship, but never managed to get to Olive and Twist. We tended to drink either at Boleros, The Schooner or at the Champagne Bar. I am a cocktails girl and I thought the drinks I had were great. Every bartender we came across was friendly and new how to make a good drink. Hats off to the chap who made us a Wild Blossom Martini we ordered through room service. I was hooked! Twice we ordered cocktails and appetizers and had them delivered to the room. We then sat out on the balcony and watched the sun set - some of the best moments of the cruise. Weren't bothered by smoke at any point on the cruise. :)
Some of the other highlights of the Thanksgiving Cruise were the Promenade Parties - loved the 70s and the Britannia parties. Graham, the cruise director, knows how to have a good time and we really enjoyed ourselves. We didn't attend all the shows, but we did see the ice show, the 80s show and love and marriage. Good time had by all.
The day we sailed from Port Canaveral, was a grey day but the rest of the weather on our trip was perfect. Seas were rough a couple of nights but we docked at all 3 ports without a problem. Cocoa Cay was a great beach day - didn't think this would be for us but loved wandering around the island and did plenty of snorkeling. At St Thomas we didn't have much time with an 11am arrival. We caught the excursion to St John and then took a taxi to Hawksnest Beach as we didn't want to deal with the crowds at Trunk. Hawksnest was beautiful and quiet - only a handful of people were there. Snorkelling was right off the beach. Not too many fish the day we visited but beautiful corals. St Maarten was lovely. We intended to snorkel but ended up spending the majority of the day shopping! Would happily go back to explore more.
We did the early, early departure our last day and carried our own bags. We were off the ship in less than 20 minutes. It was a breeze!
Overall, a great time on Freedom. Attentive staff and lovely large ship that should have, but never did feel crowded. RCI can't control the sea nor the weather. Lucky for us, we didn't have a problem with either. I felt RCI delivered on the areas within their control and they delivered very well against the price we paid. We were lucky enough to visit every scheduled port and to have great weather and can't wait to cruise again!