We sailed on the Freedom of the Seas, leaving Port Canaveral on Sunday, January 16th, 2011. WOW! What a beautiful ship!!! Our check-in was fast, easy and seamless. We were through the line, checked through security, and on the ship in easily under an hour. All of the staff, security, etc. was very friendly and helpful throughout the entire cruise.
Our Cabin was #8392 on deck 8, a balcony cabin. The cabin seemed bigger than the cabin we had on Carnival in 2004. It was clean, well maintained and very comfortable. The only complaint at all was when in port at St. Thomas, the ship was tilted slightly and water did not drain properly in the shower, resulting in some water on the bathroom floor. That is truly the only thing I could say that was less than outstanding. The balcony size was great and they brought us a 3rd chair after we asked for it for the balcony. Beds very comfortable and lots of storage space. Good job RCCL!
As we departed, there was a huge party on the upper deck (pool area) that was a blast. We dined in the "My Time" Galileo dining room on Deck 5, which was perfect for us as we did not want to have a set dining time. There were 5 in my party, including a 4-year-old.
Dinner was good, with good selections. The wait staff was OUTSTANDING! Thank you Elisio, Juilius and Kadak! These three took time out of their hectic schedule to entertain the 4-year-old, show her magic tricks and ensure she was happy. Very, very impressive!
Day 2 (Monday) was at Coco Cay, RCCL's private island. I was not real impressed. The island was relatively small and of course, packed with all those from the ship. The day was very windy and a little chilly (not RCCL's fault!). We quickly found that if you go towards "Barefoot Beach" and get away from the crowds, the landscape got much better and there was a lot more room. Lines were long for food, but overall it was an average experience. Back on board the ship, we dined in the dining room with the first of two formal nights. The only down side to "My Time Dining" was that the show in the dining room with the waiters, chefs and staff were on decks 3-4 for the assigned dining and not much happened on 5 in our area. We then strolled through the Royal Promenade on deck 5. We found the "Bull and Bear Pub," which was a quaint little "Cheers" type atmosphere. They had a live show by Charlie Jourdan who plays the guitar and sings older (60-70-80's) songs like Johnny Cash, Elton John, Charlie Pride, etc. I must say that anyone going on a RCCL cruise that has Charlie on it MUST GO SEE HIM! We spent time almost every night with Charlie. Every single night, the pub was packed and those walking by found themselves signing along to this marvelous artist. RCCL has really found something great in Charlie Jourdan!!!
Day 3 (Tuesday) was our first day at sea. This ship was so big, and there is so much to explore that I had an absolutely amazing time. We visited the pool deck, the fitness center, the bars, the arcade and Johnny Rockets. Johnny Rockets had wonderful food and super ice-cream! Guests had to pay a $4.95 fee for Johnny Rockets, but that was a small price to pay for the food you get there. The couple cruising with us enjoyed a couples massage in the Spa and we took the 4-year-old to the Studio B ice skating show. The show was outstanding, very entertaining, and interesting. Some seats in Studio B are behind pillars or otherwise not great, so get there early! We ate in the Windjammer Cafe for dinner. It was okay, dining room is better. Food is different between two areas. Windjammer is GREAT for breakfast and lunch. RCCL also has "Adventure Ocean" for kids. We took 4-year-old there and first night she did not like it, as she was the only child there. We took her back the next night and from that point on, she was hooked and didn't want to leave. Something different every day/night for the kids, separated by age group, and she really had a good time. She also got very attached to the staff there and they did a SUPERB job with the kiddos!
Day 4 (Wednesday) we were at St. Thomas USVI with 7 other ships. Uggg... Too many people, again not RCCL fault. We spent the day at Cocci Beach and Coral World. Enjoyed time on island, but would have liked it better with fewer people. Did some shopping near the port and then back to sailing. Dined in dining room again, did I say "WOW!!??!?!" Elisio, Juilius and Kadak were awesome, thanks guys! Then....Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, which also is additional money but you can get free ice cream elsewhere on the ship if you like. We spent some more time with Mr. Jourdan, and at other venues such as the dance club (The Crypt) and the casino. Also, forgot to mention Everton, our Stateroom attendant. He was great, took care of our every need, made sure our room was clean and always left creative towel critters for us!
Day 5 (Thursday) we were at St. Maarten. We elected to rent a Jeep from Coastal Rentals (2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, 4-door, very nice!) for around $115.00 which was less than what we paid for a cab in St. Thomas. We cruised the island with the top down, it was simply beautiful. Temp around 86 and sunny the whole day! At this port, YOU MUST VISIT MAHO BEACH! This beach is on the backside of the airport and planes land feet above you on the beach. Very cool. We did some shopping in Marigot and continued our journey around the island. We stopped by the area of Orient Beach and then shopping in Phillipsburg. St. Maarten was a beautiful little island, highly recommended and Coastal Rentals were great to work with, thanks Calvin! Thursday night dining, and dancing in the Crypt (dance club) with family night. 4-year-old loved it!! More Charlie Jourdan, Ben and Jerry's and exploration.
Day 6 (Friday) we were at sea and lounged a bit. Visited casino, pools, hot tubs and bars. Also had party under the stars on upper deck which was enjoyable and fun. This was the 2nd formal night and the dining room offered Prime Rib and Lobster. Both were delicious. Enjoyed time with the group, some more live music and relaxing. We also had to try the Flowrider, so we opted for private lessons ($60 per person) from 10p to 11p Friday night. We chose later time in hopes no one would be around to watch us (grin). We LOVED IT! The instructors were very patient and helpful and all of us were able to boogie board and surf. WOW, what a great time, you really have to try it. Even adults enjoyed it...
Day 7 (Saturday) we slept in and then enjoyed a couples massage in the Spa. We chose the hot stone massage and I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND it. It was absolutely exhilarating. Saturday night we dined at Portofino's, one of the two specialty restaurants on the ship. Portofino's and Chop's both require $20 per guest to dine in them. The food was good, but you will have to decide if you want to spend the $20 or stick to the dining room. Played in the arcade with the little one, which was great fun and spent some more time wondering around the ship. Became a little sad as we packed and prepared to head home after such a thrilling and relaxing week.
Sunday morning when we awoke we were at port in Florida. I think we got in around 4am. The seas were a little rough Saturday night, but rocking simply allowed me to sleep better. This was the only time that the ship was rough. We used the "Luggage Valet" service, which I also Highly Recommend. This is a GREAT THING RCCL! They get your luggage off the ship, to the Orlando Airport, and on your plane. You don't have to mess with it until you get home, how convenient is that? I loved it. We got around and left the ship with tons of memories, pictures and a few goodies.
I would definitely recommend RCCL and Freedom of the Seas. Our first cruise was on Carnival in 2004, and it was fun, but Carnival is like staying in the Motel 6 versus RCCL being the Marriott. Another note, the kids activities, facilities and staff on RCCL were outstanding and I was amazed at the activities that RCCL had developed to entertain the kiddos. In addition, there is always something going on somewhere on the ship. A lot of entertainment, and you can pick what suits you best. I was very pleased with the options and the parades and Brittian celebration were great fun! Very well done RCCL! I cannot wait to sail with RCCL again!