I want to give in good detail, an account of Royal Caribbean’s land package called “way more than a cruise.” If you are considering a trip to Orlando or a cruise out of that area you have the option of doing both. I booked through a travel agent and set up 4 nights in Orlando at the Hard Rock hotel and 7 nights on Freedom of the Seas. There are many combinations, pre and post cruise land packages and a shorter cruise or Universal days either way it can be tailored to your vacation.
I am 26 (Air Force Officer) my wife of 4 years 24 (Nurse), we have an energetic 2 year old that we took to Florida for quite an adventure. I guess my discloser statement is don’t take this to heart but I may make fun of some other reviews, I feel sometimes we need to take a chill pill.
Looking back at the trip I would do it again in a heartbeat. We flew into Orlando on Wed Jan 5th; the transportation is included and quick. The Hard Rock Hotel is incredible with outstanding service. The pool was something to write home about, real sand and speakers underwater with a nice size slide. The Value that you get with the package is great, Entry to the Universal theme parks one hour prior to the public, express passes at Universal $75 dollar value pp. we had 4 day passes, and since we came from Utah we didn’t have much time the first evening to go into the parks so we went and ate at city-walk. The parks were fun, if you want to see Harry Potter, the extra hour makes it so worth staying onsite. If you would like to know more about our Universal experience please ask as I don’t want to write a lengthy review. I do have some tips about the park and info about renting a car in Orlando.
Sunday morning was the least busy morning at Universal, so we headed into the park at 8am and spent an hour and a half while enjoying another butterbeer. We went to Disney one day so we had only used 3 days on our passes. The shuttle came to the Hotel around 10:15 and we were off, sad to leave one vacation but so eager to begin the next. Really this was like two completely different vacations in one.
Embarkation was a breeze; twenty min and we were on the Freedom. We took a cruise on Mariner last year so we were fairly familiar with the layout. The ship is great, I couldn’t ask for more, maybe if you get down on your knees and inspect you’ll see that 4000 people are on it every week all year long but it looks great, a nasty smell very occasionally but hey my parents own a 55 foot houseboat on Lake Powell and try living on that for a week with 15 people on it! I prefer the Freedom class to the Voyager class, the extra space is nice, and the extra food on both ends of the promenade. The Flowrider is by far my favorite! ! ! (by the way its free, I never saw that on a review. It has a good sized line most of the time for standup and a big line for boogie boarding) We had a promenade stateroom, I love it, having the great deal on the room but not feeling cramped at all even with the kid.
The shows were so fun, we went to nearly all of them and I don’t see how you could be critical? The sets were incredible for a ship and no other cruise line even has an ice show onboard hello. So fun, we missed the quest on Mariner so had to catch it this time around and my throat hurt from laughing. We had such a good time; there really is always something to do, if you find yourself with nothing to do on Freedom its you not the ship. And if the artwork is not up to some of your standards well sorry no Rembrandts, you’re welcome to go bore yourself to death on Holland America! Royal has the best range in people, every age people who are having a blast as we did.
The food was wonderful, it was not Prime Steakhouse every night but it never disappointed, (and my wife would say I’m usually very picky.) Didn’t eat at Chops of Portofino but we did catch Johnny Rockets yum! If you don’t have a soda card you can get a soda there and get free refills!
Labadee: I loved it so much! What an amazing place, we soaked in the sun and drank smoothies; I’m getting depressed just writing about it. The shops are fun, the people want to sell their stuff and can be a bit eager, I’d say less than Jamaica but it helped to speak fluent French to them. Its just I did overpay on everything because I felt so bad for our Brothers and Sisters in Haiti. Such a great stop.
Jamaica: we booked through Jaital the Dunns River falls and river tubing. We had a great time on the falls; I carried my two year old up the entire thing, its not that difficult if you were wondering, in fact we went with a guide the first time and then the wife and I with My father in law and bro in law went up the falls again, its touristic yes but way fun, plus the tour started there and we got there before the big crowd. River tubing was great, you are not connected to all the tubes like some and they have a little break halfway though to get your picture and sell souvenirs, this guy sold us raw and sugary almonds for a dollar a bag and they were fantastic! I’m glad we tried them; he just picked them off of trees and makes them there. We got dropped off at the Shopping center and then walked to Ocho Rios Jerk Center, it was a great taste of the Jamaican Culture, then we caught a cab back to the ship, meaning we never really got hassled all day no walking through the markets.
Grand Cayman: Missed this due to weather, though Grams’ jokes about it were funny, what can you do? . . . I know book another cruise!
Cozumel: My least favorite, the weather was bad and that is the main reason, but they are less likely to haggle with you there. We had 6 ships in port that day so they take full advantage of you. But its beautiful and we still had some good food. (note, if the weather is windy and maybe rainy try taking a ferry to Playa Del Carmen because my in-laws went over to that side to Tulum and they were in the hot beautiful no wind sun!)
This cruise was incredible, I cant wait to book another, we even ended by getting transportation to take us back to the Hard Rock Hotel and we used our last day of our tickets to go back to Harry Potter one last time, (we flew out the next morning and the hotel stored our bags)
Hope that was helpful and I’m jealous of whomever is booked for Freedom of the Seas DON’T BE TOO STONCHY OR YOU WONT HAVE ANY FUN! ! ! Mike