One word to describe this vacation…..AWESOME! Our average age was early 30’s. Our previous cruise experience was on the Crown Princess (also great!) so I use that as comparison in some of this review. I would recommend and sail on both again!
The day before the cruise we stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in Cocoa Beach using the fly, snooze, cruise package. It was great and because it was a few miles from the port so there wasn’t a herd of cruisers in the morning waiting for a shuttle. Travel Lynx was the shuttle provider and we had great service. After the last couple in our group arrived at the hotel, the shuttle driver brought us all to the port area for dinner on his way back to the airport. It saved us some taxi fare. We had a great start to our vacation with dinner and drinks at FishLips.
Embarkation: Embarkation was a breeze on the Freedom. We didn’t have to wait in long lines and got on the ship pretty early, around noon.
Cabins: We loved our balcony cabin. We thought the layout of the cabin worked perfectly and it had plenty of storage to keep everything neat and out of the way. We preferred the layout of the cabin on Freedom to the one we had on the Crown Princess a couple of years ago. We didn’t have the most attentive cabin steward but nothing serious to complain about. There was a bag of chocolates left in a draw from previous cruisers, he forgot to leave the cruise compass/debark info one night so we had to get it from guest services, and we got charged for what the previous cruisers used in the mini-fridge (got it taken off our bill easily though…just pay attention to your bill).
Food: Dinners in the main dining room were one of my favorite experiences. We had Ruby from the Philippines as our waiter and she was great. Our head waiter Mario was also very attentive to the gluten/dairy allergies one member of our group has. Having a good waiter can totally make or break the experience. There was a wide variety of options and I thought most of the food was really good. I loved the Indian options, I highly recommend the vegetable vindaloo if it's offered on your cruise.
I wasn’t impressed with the windjammer (buffet), the food was just okay. There was only one made to order egg station so if you wanted this option you had to be prepared to wait a while. The breakfast options never changed except for maybe changing the flavor of the pancakes or bagels. It also wasn’t open all the time which was annoying. I preferred the food, layout, hours, and seating options on the Crown Princesss. On a cruise it’s nice to eat outside.
I enjoyed the café and pizza place in the promenade. Great places to grab some coffee and snacks. These were the only places that were open most of the time.
Entertainment: Entertainment on this ship will be hard to beat, it was great. The activity staff does a really good job. We got involved in most of the activities and enjoyed dance lessons, trivia, some pool games, the game shows (we won the Quest!,don't miss the Liar game show it's hysterical!), dancing in the promenande, and the shows in Acadia, especially the magician and comedians. The ice show was really cool too. Our first day was Superbowl Sunday and we didn’t think watching it in the Acadia theater would be that great because it didn’t feel very sportsy…but it turned out to be a lot of fun. We spent some late nights dancing in the crypt. I preferred the dance club on the crown Princess, I think it was called skywalkers as it was a lot more open. I would have liked to have spent some time in the Piano Bar (Schooners) but it was a pretty small space and there never seemed to be a spot to stand or sit. We also had fun on the rock wall (great exercise) and the mini-golf course. I didn’t try the flow rider personally (I’m too much of a clutz) but enjoyed watching others. Some members of our group enjoyed the competitions they held and it was fun to see who showed up with medals each night at dinner. I guess we are a competitive group.
The only thing I didn’t like was Bingo. They have these electronic machines they use that do everything for you, no dobbing or anything you just sit there and do nothing as they call the numbers. They have normal cards too but it doesn’t seem encouraged as it’s cheaper/game to use the electronic machines. I love Bingo but wasn’t a fan of doing it this way. It probably saved me a lot of money though!
Ports: Our cruise went to the Western Caribbean so we stopped at Labadee, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. I would recommend all of the tours we did.
Labadee: The whole group of 8 of us did the jet ski excursion. I wasn’t sure what to expect because it’s more of a follow the leader tour than getting to do your own thing. It was a blast though. You go pretty fast through the waves so it was very thrilling. My parking job at the end wasn’t so hot. I ended up using too much gas and ended up on the dock. The Royal Caribbean photographers were there and ready to get a great picture and the staff didn’t get angry. My friends won’t let me forget that one! We spent the rest of the day swimming and relaxing on the beach. I recommend water shoes if you plan to swim, it’s rocky!
Ocho Rios: We did an ATV excursion with 2 of the other couples we were with and 2 other couples from the freedom that were really nice. I was glad we had a planned excursion because the locals can be tough with how much they harass you one right after the other. I had never ridden ATV’s before so it was a fun experience. The best part was the end though when they brought you to a cove to swim. You had to jump off a 15 foot cliff to get in the water. It was high enough to be exciting but not too high that it prevented you from jumping.
Grand Cayman: We did the dolphin swim in Grand Cayman which was awesome. Definitely something you need to do once in your life. We had the first morning tour so afterwards we walked around the port area and then went back on the ship to relax by the pool and nap for a bit. It was a great day.
Cozumel: We did the Amazing Cozumel Race and ran through the streets of Mexico completing tasks and hunting for clues. It was very well put together and a lot like the show on TV! Your team could be as big or small as you wanted so my husband and I competed as a team and another couple we were with competed as another team. Unfortunately they beat us….but we still medaled coming in 3rd out of 8 teams! It was a fun and different way to tour Cozumel.
Debarkation: It was pretty easy getting off the ship and through customs. The only part I didn’t like and my only true complaint was the way they did the luggage. They are on conveyors. I’m not sure if this is a port Canaveral thing or a Royal Caribbean thing. We were waiting quite a long time for my husbands and one of my friend’s luggage. It turns out they were in the “missing tag” spot even though the tags were clearly on them. There were other people searching for their luggage for over an hour as they were put on the wrong conveyors, etc. This is probably the only true negative I have about the cruise. I would recommend doing the express walk off. One couple we were with actually walked off with their luggage well after the express walk off time and had no difficulty.
I loved the Freedom and am jealous of all those sailing on her now! You’ll have an AWESOME trip!