To Florida from eastern Canada is a bit of a jaunt, and seeing that it's winter, we left a few days in advance... drove 3 hours to Bangor, Maine and stayed at the airport Sheraton there... (travel info - $160 for the night for 4 of us - 1 room with 2 double beds... room smelled a bit gross, but overall hotel was fine and it claims to be newly renovated... bar is nice, connected by pedway to airport terminal... included up to 14 days of parking free... ours would have cost us about $90, so it worked out well for us)... we got there around 9pm their time, had a beer and went to bed... four of us travelling this time around, 3 past cruisers with Carnival (and 2 of us have been on the Freedom before), and one newby with a blue Sign&Sail card ... If your card is blue, you buy the first round... rules are rules!
Flight left Bangor at 6am, so we were at the airport around 5... Delta oversold this flight (which seemed to be a common occurrence throughout our travels), and we were happy we weren't the folks who were involuntarily bumped off the flight... had a bit of a wait at LaGuardia where we had an overpriced airport breakfast (Note to LaGuardia - get a Starbucks) and then off to FLL (note Delta oversold that flight as well). That flight was delayed slightly due to a screaming child who wouldn't calm down because it wasn't allowed to sit on it's mom's lap during take off... Arrived in FLL mid afternoon, called and waited for our hotel shuttle, and were at the hotel about an hour later... we stayed at the Hampton Inn Plantation - not really that close to the airport/port, but the price was good (about $90 for a room with a king bed/fridge/microwave/free wifi on New Years Eve, with free shuttle from airport and to port). There's a mall/Target pretty much across the street, and restaurants within walking distance. Dumped our stuff, got changed, and headed out to find some beer for the evening (hotel shuttle guy drove us to a liquor store not too far away - though it would have been a fair jaunt on foot - so we could stock up on beer for the night and wine for the cruise)... went to Target to grab a couple of things, had supper at TGI Fridays (local Cuban place we wanted to try was closed for the holiday and by then we were too hungry to walk around and find anything else), and back to the hotel to enjoy our beer. Front desk staff at this hotel was great - really friendly and helpful.
Day 1 - Saturday - First day of 2011... Up early the next morning - went for a walk around the hotel (stores were open, which wouldn't have been the case at home, with Jan 1 being a holiday)... had hotel continental breakfast (coffee wasn't the worst ever... I'm a coffee snob... eggs were gross... but it was free and it would do)... took the 11am shuttle to the port... it was a full shuttle, but the port wasn't crazy... it was a Saturday and we were the only ship in port... we were through the line and on lido in about an hour / hour fifteen from when we left the hotel... so not too shabby... had a tasty sandwich at the deli and walked around a bit until our cabin was ready... master hallway doors opened at 1:30... which is pretty impressive because I suspect with the last night of the previous cruise being NYE, it was likely a bit of a party... some of the staff looked a little green for sure. We had both pieces of our luggage unpacked by 3:00. Muster was the same pain and suffering it always is (tons of people squished into the open deck, a good chunk of them complaining, and without life jackets), but it finished before sail-away for a change, which is nice.
We puttered around before dinner to refamiliarize ourselves with the ship (which didn't take long), stopping for a drink and to listen to the acoustic guitar player in the lobby bar. I love this class of ship (or larger), and once you get it sorted that you can't cross on decks 3 and 4, you're good to go. Our cabin was a balcony near the aft on deck 6 (6416) - loved the location. Our only issue, and issue may not be the best word because we don't spend much time in our cabin, especially at night, was that it's located right over the Swing Time lounge, and the new karaoke with a live band is held there... so we were treated to some pretty horrible singing some nights, whether we wanted to hear it or not... though mostly you could just hear a bit of a beat coming from below. We never went to bed before midnight, so we noticed it, but it didn't bother us.
We had early dinner in the Posh dining room... we were on the second floor of the dining room at a booth for four along the railing looking onto the lower level. We had three servers for the week... Ionut (from Romania), Raymondo (didn't catch his location, but he has the best laugh ever and I called him Giggles for the rest of the week... he also has very acute hearing - he came running when we were trying to quietly figure out his name one night), and I Wayan (from Indonesia)... the servers looked to have more people to handle than before... but there was three of them and they had 2 stations to work from... I would say they had 5-6 booths of four people each, and then at least 2 two person tables. Service was a bit slow the first couple of nights... not bad in any way, just a bit slow... with everyone getting into the swing of things. We had a couple of tables around us where people would order two of something for every course each night... and we had a complainer at the table for 2 beside us that had to send something back just about every night (not to mention that the complainer's husband ratted out people wearing ball caps in the dining room because at one point in the week he had been asked to remove his at breakfast... and complained constantly about not being able to get specific sports games on the tv while floating in the middle of the ocean)... so possibly that didn't help to speed anything up. I found the food to be the same as it is on all the other ships I've been on (which is delicious)... we really liked our servers... I found the maitre'd to be a bit annoying, but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn't matter. I didn't take pictures of any of the food, since I've had a lot of it before, so I hope you'll pardon the lack of food porn. I had all of my usual favourites... the Indian vegetarian dinner the first night is my very favorite meal on the ship... and I mostly stick to the vegetarian options (though I do eat meat, I find the veg dishes to be very tasty)... this became a bit of a joke over the week with our server who recommended the meatiest dishes on the menu every night and I always picked the vegetarian entrEe... which he referred to as the "vegetarian thingy" most nights, so I just started ordering it like that... the last night he made a crack about not having been able to convince me to eat the meat entrEes :) He had a very dry sense of humour, which I love.
After dinner, we headed to the Casino area to listen to the acoustic guitar guy again for a bit, and then decided to check out the piano bar. I don't smoke and I don't enjoy being surrounded by smoke, but I'll suck it up with minimal complaining when the piano player is good (I just make an effort to get a seat around the piano where it's sometimes a bit less smokey). I didn't have to bother this time around. Doug Ross from Canada was the piano player on this sailing, and he is not my cup of tea for sure. I think he just recently came on the ship, but most requests people asked for, he didn't know... and he just played the same crap over you always hear (once upon a time, I used to like songs like Sweet Caroline, Piano Man, American Pie etc...)... now I hate them and never want to hear them, and generally that's exactly what the people in the piano bar want to hear (that and Jimmy Buffet songs, which I also don't like). I don't recall the first song he played, but the four of us didn't clap or cheer or anything and he made a crack about us not being impressed, and keeping with my normal smartass state of being, I let him know we'd clap when he was looking if it would make him feel better. Lasted maybe 90 minutes in there and never went back for the rest of the week... All I want in the piano bar is someone who knows more than 10 songs, knows most of the words to those songs, and can carry a tune... I'm afraid Doug failed on all counts... and I even tried to give him a bit more benefit of the doubt because he's also from Canada (though I think about ½ the ship was from Canada on this sailing). Every time I walked by for rest of the week (which was fairly frequently, since it was en route to our cabin from most anywhere we hung out), it was pretty dead in there. I think I've been spoiled having sailed with Damien and Vince... so I never hold high hopes for the piano bar anymore.
Went to the late night (11:45) R-rated comedy show (John Rathbone) and found him to be pretty funny. Shows lasted about an hour and were always held in the International Lounge. There was usually 4-5 shows a night, alternating 2 comedians, each with at least one PG show and one R-rated show. The lounge got packed for every show we attended. Bar servers in there were great (and they had $1 off specific drinks every night).
Day 2 - Sunday - SEA DAY!!!!! I say this every time and in every review, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE sea days... Breakfast in the dining room (same menu as always), and then we went up to Serenity to read for a couple of hours. I love that this has been added to the Freedom, and it's a great area. Except that the chair hogs have found it as well (Note to chair hogs that may be reading this - you're an a$$hole... just sayin'). We managed to secure a piece of a couch this day (were up there about 8:30) and stayed for a few hours. Sea days are also kind of a blur, but we likely played a bit of trivia (though the novelty of that wears off by about the second day), had some drinks, wandered around... I think we did some big screen cartoon trivia and watched cha cha lessons or something... had lunch in the dining room as well (hate lido and avoid it like the plague)... I don't like the broadway-style shows (not to mention we saw them all on the Freedom last night we were on it), so we didn't check out any of those.
While I'm on the subject of entertainment - the best to be had on the Freedom was the acoustic guitar player - Danny Black. We watched him most every night, and had great time. We spent about 9:30 to 12:30 watching him this night, and a highlight was an hour long 80's medley of songs mashed together where he pretty much didn't stop between any of them... pretty impressive, and I hate music from the 80's... he was a self-proclaimed player of all decades of college rock... he was great with requests and the crowd, from kids and their parents to drunken cougars...and had some pretty creative arrangements for songs (including the use of some thinger that records what he just played/sung so he could use it throughout the rest of the song... I'm not musically inclined... so I don't know what it was... I just know what I like). Check him out at thedannyblack.com. He only "annoyed" us a couple of times, as he was trying to hold a live facebook webcast for remote fans during his set, and there was a couple of times where he would stop playing for lengthy periods trying to get that to work (on an Internet connection that is shotty at best, as we all know).
This was also the first of two formal days... I don't love the formal days to be honest... we change back to our normal clothes as soon as we're finished with dinner, and we never ever get our pictures taken... so for us, it's just extra clothes and shoes we would rather not bring (but we don't want to eat on Lido either)... it's not the end of the world of course, but it's especially annoying on ships like the Freedom, because they block off big chunks of deck 5 with photography stations... and on several occasions over the week, we were stuck in human traffic because people were waiting for photographers to get their shots. I have no issues with the photography stations - if people want to get their pictures taken, by all means... my only issue is that they need to stop blocking walkways with them (and the gang planks getting off the ship too)... and stop trying to take my picture while I am eating supper. Rant complete.
Oh - and we also ordered a cake (from Formalities) for our friends to celebrate their recent engagement - a small chocolate one - certainly enough for the 4 of us... it was $7.95 and delicious.... was delivered to our table at dessert that same night.
Day 3 - Monday - Sea Day until 5pm / San Juan, Puerto Rico - Slept in this morning and missed breakfast in the dining room, so this would be the only day we braved the lido deck to eat (well, the only day I did... my husband was nice enough to bring me breakfast in bed the other day we didn't have time to eat in the dining room :) ... We puttered around the ship and read some today... did some more trivia I think... I bought my future cruise certificate today (Note: these have changed - as of Friday past, they are only good for 2 years... the one I bought is good for 4 years... )... it was delivered to my cabin the same day and charged to the credit card linked to my Sign & Sail card. Dining was different for this day as well - they just had open seating in the back dining room ... I guess they just assumed everyone would get off the ship right away in Puerto Rico. I don't know anything about what happened for Lido... like I said - we don't eat there.
We didn't have any plans for Puerto Rico (we docked and were cleared by 4:30)... we just planned to walk around, and we were perfectly content with that. On the main street you are on once you leave the port.. if you walk down to the corner past the CVS, there's a tourist information center where you can get a map. We got one, but we didn't really use it. From there, we headed uphill because we wanted to see the forts before it was completely dark. We didn't walk all that fast, and it was about a 15 minute walk up to Castillo San Cristobal... we spent about 20 minutes there and it was about completely dark by the time we left. We followed the road/grass along to the next fort from there. I spent some time near the graveyard (it's amazing, and despite being too stubborn/lazy to carry a tripod when I travel, I managed to get a few decent shots in the dark)... the second fort, San Felipe del Morro was lit up fairly well, so I got some decent shots there as well... (I think this one is a UNESCO site - not sure about the first one)... and I don't know the historial signifance of either of them.
After that we walked down to the square where the status of Columbus is and admired all the Christmas lights that were still up. There was a small artist market type thing set up there, but we didn't buy anything. There was some jewelry and art, as well as several people with cigars. From there we walked back to where we started and followed a pedway out to the water (and a fountain)... nice Christmas lights there as well, and we tried some ice cold mavi, which is really tasty (I've since looked this up online and apparently it's a drink made from the bark of the mavi tree). Then we decided to brave Senor Frogs... I've never been before, and it was pretty full, but I suspect that wasn't busy for that place. We ate there (food was only OK) and had a few drinks. Then we walked about a block down the road and stopped at a different place (Punto de Vista) - just about right across from the entrance to the port. Heinekin was $1 a piece (small cans) and a local beer (Medalla Light) was $1.50 a piece (with buy one get one free)... not great beer, but I've had worse... stayed there for a fair bit and we likely had about 20 beer between us and the guy working there got confused and was only going to charge us $2.50 (including a round on the house for slow service, even though we didn't complain or anything)... but we paid for our real bill... which was still only around $13. Back to the ship after that, and Greg and I walked around up top to watch sail-away. The Freedom has great decks at the front that aren't that crowded... perfect places for sailaway. We sailed away a few minutes earlier than the scheduled 11:59 time, and no runners to be seen. Off to bed after that.
Day 4 - Tuesday - St Thomas - We were in port from 7am to 6pm (back on the ship by 5:30). We did a private excursion with Godfrey Tours, starting at 10... so we didn't rush to get off the ship. We had breakfast in the dining room and didn't rush. Godfrey met us himself at the port security gates at the exact time he said he would. The tour was $30 PP and included 2 hours of shopping time (we're not shoppers, we found beer), and then a bit of an island tour, 2 hours at Magen's Bay, and then finishing the island tour and back to the port. The shopping area (he took us downtown)... it was mostly jewelry ... there was a bit of a market place too, with the normal tourist stuff... we walked around for a few minutes, but none of us are really shoppers... my husband gets off very easy :) So yea, we found a coffee shop type place that also had beer and stayed there for a bit... then we met back at the vehicle and did the first part of our island tour. Drove to some lookout area where we could see all the ships in port (5 that day), we went to some other botanical garden type place ($2 admission) with a another lookout place. They are famous for their banana daquiris... which was good, but not amazing. More beer was involved, and then back to the vehicle.
I don't really recall where else we went... we ended up at Magen's Bay ($4 admission, closes at 4)... FYI if you plan to go there and want to eat... the line takes forever and the food is shitty... pizza, hot dogs, and that kind of thing... overpriced by a lot... if you're starving, it would be fine... otherwise, don't bother. There's a bar there as well. We stayed there for 2 hours and that was plenty. Then we finished the tour by driving by a golf course and that kind of thing. The tour with Godfrey was fine, but he was very repetitive with the information he gave us, and repeating himself 2 and 3 times (throughout the day) on just about everything. When we booked this, we were choosing between this tour and Sunny Liston (tours were about identical)... and while we can make our own fun anywhere, I think Sunny's tour might have been more our style. We were back at the port around 5 I think, and got right back on the ship. I think what was provided was definitely fine for what we paid.
Sailaway was during dinner (including the fun part when the side thrusters are going). Greg was disappointed in the timing for this (and it happened the next day as well) because his favorite thing to do is to watch sail-in and sail-away... but he also likes dinner :)
After dinner, we checked out the PG version of John's comedy show (not nearly as funny as the R version), and then also watched the R-rated show for JeROME. Also pretty funny. We also wanted to watch Danny again that night, but he was scheduled to play on Serenity or somewhere weird (i.e. the fun times were wrong and he was no where to be found).
Day 5 - Wednesday - Antigua - I had high hopes for this port, just because our excursion provider gets such amazing reviews and because I wanted to visit Devil's Bridge. Antigua didn't disappoint. There was some miscommunication between ship time and island time on this one I think, but they waited for us and we finally found them. They told us to wait at the security gate, but apparently they aren't allowed down there and have to wait further up by the taxi dispatch. They did try to send an email to let us know where they were, but I don't check email on vacation. It all worked out in the end though. Our tour was with Luxury Safari Tours... our guide was Shawn (Sean).... Elmo was supposed to have another group, but they didn't ever show up. It was $95 PP, which is a bit pricey for the Caribbean, but it was worth every cent. There was just four of us and Shawn drove us all over the island in an SUV. We first went to the hospital (which is weird I know), but it's on a hill and looks down over the port. Shawn told us a bit about the island... about its industry and that kind of thing. Then we stopped to check out their cricket stadium.... that was interesting, and it was neat that you could walk right in. We don't really even have a stadium here, but if we did, it would be locked up tight all the time. Next we drove to Devil's Bridge and Shawn explained the history and the myth about that location. It was beautiful there, and I could have stayed there all day. Shawn had rum and mix in the back of the vehicle, as well as some water, and kept telling us the bar was open all day so we could have a drink whenever we wanted. Next we we to Shirley Heights I think, for more great views of the island... and then on to lunch. Shawn took us to a local place called Caribbean Taste... the food was great there (3 of us had chicken roti and one had curried goat... we also tried ginger beer and ducana - a doughy cod fish thinger)... it was nice to get off the beaten path and not eat anything near the port (which we try to avoid as much as possible anyways). Then on to Nelson's Dockyard to see all the yachts and stuff (and there were some pretty swanky ones there, complete with their own matching welcome mats)... we spent about 20 mins there, and that was plenty of time. Any place we went that had an admission charge was included in the price of the tour. We stopped to try some fresh pineapple on the way back to the port.
We were back at the port area around 3:30, and we didn't have to be back on the ship until 5:30, so we walked around some and had a few drinks. I have been trying to find some Brogan's Irish Cream at liquor stores all over the place and finally found some there... and I bought a painting there as well... and that's pretty much the extent of my cruise shopping (when we crossed back into Canada, we had $175 in stuff, including 2 bottles of liquor and a bottle of wine between 4 of us... like I said, not shoppers).
Sailaway was during dinner again, but I managed to finally catch a sunset that day... I kept missing them for some reason, and I slept through the sunrises...it got dark pretty early every night on this itinerary, with it being January and all. Evening was spent in the usual way... listening to Danny with some drinks.
Day 6 - Thursday - Tortola - I was pretty excited about this stop as well. We booked a charter with Tortola Charters to go to the beach at White Bay (Jost Van Dyke). This one didn't start off so great. The email they sent us said to meet them at 8am, and to be there 15 mins early... which we did, according to ship time. So 8am ship time (Freedom stays on the same time as Fort Lauderdale, so Eastern) would be 9am island time (which is what they advertise on their site as the leaving time)... so we got there in plenty of time ... got taken to the boat we were going on... paid ($55 PP), signed a waiver... and proceeded to wait... and wait... and wait... it was at least 9:30 ship time (10:30 island time) before we actually left... they claimed we were waiting for other people that were supposed to be on the boat that weren't there yet, but they never did show up (there was 14 of us waiting, and while no one was really freaking out, we were all aware we were losing out on time on the beach)... eventually they showed up with 6 more people, who were actually supposed to be on a tour to the baths at Virgin Gorda instead and ended up coming with us... no apology or anything once we finally got underway... many felt they were just lingering around the port trying to find more people to fill the boat, but that's just a guess...
Anyways, we finally got going, and the guy piloting the boat and the girl with him pretty much ignored us the entire time (except at the start when he gave us a lecture about how to use the bathroom on the boat properly)... I think the guy answered a question about what some other islands were called when asked, but nothing more than that... it took about an hour to get to Jost Van Dyke, so that now put us about 2 1/2 hours into the tour without having really done anything yet. JVD is BEAUTIFUL - the nicest beach I have ever been to without question ... when we got there, there's no dock, so you either have to swim in or go in in the little dingy... the water would have been about 12 feet deep we our boat stopped... once we got to the beach, we only had 2 hours there (which stung a bit because it was so beautiful), but we made the best of it... (FYI: they have snorkel stuff available on the boat if you wanted to use it)
There's 4-5 beach bar type places along the beach... One Love, Gertrudes, Soggy Dollar, and a couple of others. One Love is known for the Bushwhacker drink (which is delicious!!) and Soggy Dollar is known for the painkiller... there are lounge chairs all over the beach that are free for use... we had some drinks at One Love and lunch at Gertrudes (slow, a bit pricey, but tasted pretty good)... spent some time walking around and playing in the water, and then unfortunately it was time to head back... we had to be back on their boat by around 12:30 ship time... they served rum punch on the way back, that was super rummy (which is normally fine), but not very tasty... were back to Tortola port area within an hour... got our shoes back (they took them when we got on board so people couldn't walk around on the boat with shoes on), and headed back to the ship... I didn't really notice much of anything at the port, but I am sure there must have been some stores there... So, JVD was beautiful and I will go there again at some point... but I don't personally recommend Tortola Charters... maybe they were having a bad day (they normally get great reviews) or something, but we lost a lot of time on the excursion and they didn't care one bit about it... this would likely work great through if you had a big enough group that you could charter the entire boat... Just a word of warning, if you use them, make sure you are clear about ship time and their time (though some of us did that and it still didn't matter)
We sailed from Tortola at 3, but we didn't watch... had a nap instead (or tried to)... pooped from a fun day in the sun. Dinner was the usual... and then off to see Danny for a while. Two new comedians were supposed to come on today (JR McCollom and Jerry Goodspeed (with puppets)), but the second one didn't make the ship (and came on in Nassau instead). We went to see JR's R-rated show, but didn't find him to be all that funny. The best part of his was when he told the annoying blond heckler (who we kept seeing all over the ship) to shut the F up and then about how he would proceed to shut her up if he husband wouldn't do it. Not really fit to print here, but it was funny at the time for sure.
Day 7 - Friday - SEA DAY! .... this is a great itinerary (I love the 8 days ones), but not enough sea days! Breakfast as per normal, and then we thought we would try and find a seat on serenity to read for a bit... we got up there about 9am... and we didn't see a single seat available anywhere on lido or serenity... but lots of towels laying out in the sun getting a nice tan. (Chair hogs - you're still jerks... just didn't want you to forget). We didn't bother waiting around to see if we could find a chair by removing someone stuff after 30 mins... but there was a fight taking place between some people right by the pool about this very thing as we were leaving the area. We headed down to read by the coffee shop on deck 5 for a bit instead. Afternoon was spent basking in the sun and reading on our balcony.
Tonight was the second formal night for the week... same deal as per usual... photo stations blocking all the hallway on deck 5 and we changed back to our normal clothes immediately following dinner. There were some pretty wicked looking outfits on this sailing (I'm not the fashion police for sure, and I don't really care about clothes/fashion), but I've never seen so many short skirts and high heals on a ship before. Stayed up late listening to music and called it a day.
Note: Our luggage tags came today... we had zone 19 or something like that, but changed to zone 2 because we had an early flight on Sunday. Took 2 minutes at the purser's desk and no hassle at all.
Day 8 - Saturday - Nassau - So this was a port I was fairly indifferent about, even though I've never been here before. Sail in was very pretty in this spot... it looks bland and boring until you get fairly close, and then you can see the beautiful green/blue water... there's a little lighthouse coming in, and you can easily see at Atlantis resort in the distance coming in. We had to turn around to back into our docking spot (on the end, furtherest from the entrances to the city) and we dredged up an awful lot of sand in the process. There were 4 other ships in port with us (Disney Dream, RCL Monarch of the Seas, Carnival Imagination, and Norwegian Sky - I think), but we didn't arrive until 11am or so, and we could get off at noon.
We didn't book anything in advance and just planned to wander around some (there were tons of buses at the port offering island tours - like $10 or $15 PP for an hour or so I believe is what they were saying). If you like to shop, and like having lots of stores near the port, you will love this port. You can't even get out of the port itself without going through a building of shops. We grabbed a map in the terminal area and walked down to Arawak Cay (took about 20-30 mins I guess... we dawdled)... for the fish fry area... stopped at Twin Brothers (there's 2 of them) for a daiquiri (pineapple daiquiri is DELICIOUS) and conch fritters. Walked back along the beach and headed to Fort Fincastle (not really all that interesting - $1 adminission)... and then down the Queen's Staircase (not sure the significance of, and too lazy to look right now)... then back along by some shops to the port area... and stopped to have a beer at 2 Coconuts (in the alley beside the Harley Davidson store)... they served a local stout there - very tasty. We had tried some Kalik earlier in the day at Twin Brothers as well. After that, back to the ship. Sail-away was at 7.
After dinner we quickly packed up our stuff and put them out just before midnight (they had to be out between 8 and 12 said the fun times)... spent the evening watching Danny in the lobby. We had bought some liquor in Antiqua and that was delivered around 7 (and we could have EASILY brought it back to our cabin on the ship with us, but since I wasn't planning to drink any on the ship, we dropped it at the liquor table when we came back on in Antigua, as asked).
Day 9 - Sunday - Time to go back home ... BOO!!! Debarkation was a breeze (except for a misplaced luggage incident)... had breakfast in the dining room (and good thing we did, since we didn't have a chance to eat again until about 5pm). Then sat around waiting for zone 2 to be called (started around 8:15, pretty much right on schedule with how it was listed in the paper they gave us). The staff did an excellent job of keeping the line moving smoothly and spacing out a bit of time between zones so it wasn't chaos getting out. We left the same way we came on (deck 3 lobby). Three of us found our luggage no problem in the zone 2 pile, but the fourth finally found hers (after looking for about 30 mins with the help of 2 of us and many Carnival shoreside staff) in zone 8. After that, off to the airport. It cost just over $11 for 4 of us and our luggage to get there. Don't get caught up in the Carnival shuttle mess - they charge $15 PP and make you wait until a bus is near full before it will leave.
There were 7 ships in port - pretty much every line looked to be represented, and we were sure the airport would be chaos. I guess maybe we just happened to get their early enough because it wasn't too too bad. (FLL, you need a Starbucks too!!) Considering the number of cruise ship passengers that would come through here on a weekend, you would think they would be better set up to handle crowds... but no. Oh well.
Our first flight was over an hour late leaving FLL - they had a problem with the second way they have to confirm the amount of fuel in a plane before they take off and had to wait for someone to read it manually with a fuel gauge. The captain kept us up to date on what was going on, but it wasn't looking good for making our connection in New York. When we got to New York, we literally just made our next flight - we walked (ran) off our flight, boogied to the next gate (that was thankfully very close) just as they were calling our names over the loud speaker and getting ready to give away our seats. A bus ride to the next plane, where they thankfully waited for our luggage to arrive and off we went (hungry and in need of a pee :P ). Arrived in Bangor at 5 ish, grabbed some food and headed home... back around 10 our time... and so ends our adventure.
So the random stuff... I have the fun times if someone has a specific question, but I don't plan to be taking pictures of all of them or scanning them and hosting them anywhere online. They'll be in the recycle bin next week sometime likely.
This was my second time on the Freedom and I liked the ship just as much this time around as I did the first time. Since we were last on it, they've changed the location on the coffee shop on deck 9 and they've added the Serenity area... I didn't notice much else that was different. The Christmas decorations were still on the ship when we got on on the 1st, and I noticed them starting to take them down as we were headed into Puerto Rico... they were neat to see though, as we never sail actually on Christmas (can't justify the price being about double for the same thing).
I didn't go to any of the shows in the theatre... I've seen them all already (last time on this ship) and don't like any of them enough to watch them again. Ryan was our cruise director, and thought he was fine. He did announcements probably 2-3 times a day, and did tend to ramble a bit, but not too bad. We spoke to him in the hallway a couple of times and he was always very friendly. Tyron from the entertainment team was very funny during one of the trivia sessions as well (he chased down a girl who yelled out a trivia answer while walking by, brought her back, and made her sit in time out for the rest of the session... good stuff!)
I didn't use the gym/spa/Camp Carnival/arcade, go to the steak house, go to the Disco, check out the chef's table, get thrown in the brig, or do any Carnival excursions, so I can't comment on those. I spent $10 on slots in the casino for someone else and didn't do anything else in there. We did buy an internet package on board (husband did - I didn't check anything the whole time) and found that the internet didn't really work at all for the first few days and it was pretty hit and miss after that... not great, not the end of the world. It is definitely expensive. The stores onboard looked to have the usual stuff - didn't spend much time in any of them. Didn't play Bingo either, but there seemed to be a fair bit of it. There was also a free cruise raffle being announced, but we never did bother to go see what that was about.
Our cabin steward was Bonnie - he was great, as we have come to expect. We met him the first day, and pretty much just saw him in passing from there out. We didn't have any special requests except that he unlock the mini bar fridge... and we're pretty low maintenance to begin with. They cleaned our balcony twice during the sailing, and notified us in advance both times (and it happened while we were in port).
We briefly visited a deck party, and I kind of think the whole Carnival colours thing they do is stupid, so we don't participate in much for mass group activities... we're content to make our own fun.
I would definitely cruise Carnival again - I think the value is outstanding, the drink prices don't bother me one way or another, the food is great, and I like that it's casual... I would like to see some new itineraries (especially outside of Mexico and the Caribbean), and I was pretty excited to read this morning that Carnival will be going to Australia (even though spirit class ships are my least favorite).
Weather was great the entire time... not so hot that you wanted to die, but warm enough that you could always wear shorts. I think it rained for a couple mins the first sea day, and again for maybe 2 mins in St Thomas... cloudy here and there, but otherwise perfect... which is especially nice since we were escaping snow :) I don't know the Fahrenheit equivalent, but 25-30C at least every day!
We didn't get a comment card, like others have been reporting... hopefully we'll receive it by email.
So that was our adventure - safe travels all!
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