Carnival Freedom Cruise Review by Jules50: Fun Time on Freedom!
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Fun Time on Freedom!
This was my 2nd cruise and my husband's 1st, so we don't have a lot of past experiences for comparison. We sailed from Ft. Lauderdale with stops in San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola, and Nassau.
We took a taxi from the airport to the pier and were glad that we followed the advice of other Cruise Critic members not to book our transportation through the cruise line. We did not have to wait long for a taxi and the ride cost us under $20 including tip, which was a lot cheaper than paying $15 each for the cruise bus. We also didn't have to wait for other passengers to fill the bus, so it was both a faster and a cheaper option for us. If you are not travelling alone, this is definitely the way to go.
We arrived at the pier shortly before 12:00. Embarkation was very quick and easy. We were on the ship in under half an hour. We were immediately able to grab some hot food from the grill and a cold drink from the bar. Our stateroom was ready around 1:30 as promised and More we were pleasantly surprised by how spacious it was. The room was sparkling clean and the bathroom, despite being small, had tons of storage space for our stuff and plenty of towels.
One word of caution is that our luggage did not arrive at our stateroom until around 6:00. For future trips I would pack my bathing suit and shorts in my carry on so I could get changed right away without having to wait for my luggage to arrive. Not a huge issue, but would have been nice to know.
Lots of other reviews have complained about the loud decor on the ship. It certainly was not my decorating style, but I did not find it distracting or headache-inducing as some have said.
We chose the "Your Time Dining" option and were glad that we did. The only time we had to wait for a table was on the first Cruise Elegant night, and the wait was about half an hour. They gave us a pager, so we were able to head to a lounge and had a drink while we waited. We also found a tray of desserts in our stateroom that night with a note apologizing for the wait. A thoughtful touch!
We heard that they were very strict on the assigned seating times and turned away a couple who were 5 minutes late. The flexibility of the "Your Time Dining" was well worth the potential for a short wait.
We were assigned to the Chic dining room and were content with the service there. Most of the dishes were quite good, although my husband did find that the Prime Rib was quite fatty. The food was always hot and fresh and the servers were very friendly.
We also dined quite frequently at the buffet and found it to be adequate for the most part. The line-ups were very reasonable and tables were generally pretty easy to find. The food at the buffet was usually pretty hot and fresh, and if we didn't find something we liked there we always found another option elsewhere that we did like.
The food at the grill was your standard fare of hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, and chicken fingers, but it was very good and we enjoyed it on several occasions. It was always hot and fresh and we were impressed.
The best kept secret on the boat was the Tandoor Grill. If you like Indian food, then this station is a must. Be warned that it did have a bit of a kick, which we both love. I only wish that it was open for dinner and not just for lunch.
The 24 hour pizza station was also a good bet. The pizza was always hot and fresh and the quality was good enough to rival a lot of pizza joints.
We tried the deli once and the sandwiches were made fresh to order and were good. We also ordered room service a few times and were impressed that they were quick and the sandwiches were very good. We got the veggie sticks and my husband tried BLT's and turkey sandwiches, which he would order again.
We did not try the Asian grill, Fish and Chips, or Sunking Steakhouse, so I can't comment on them other than to say that the Asian grill looked to be good and was made fresh on the spot. The ice cream and frozen yogurt stations were a nice treat, especially on the hot days.
I tried out the spa on our first day at sea. Be warned that I pre-booked the spa before the cruise and paid for it at that time, then got billed again at the end of the appointment on my sail and sign card. It took two trips to Guest Services to have the duplicate charge reversed. I had the pedicure service, which was a bit pricey but had a nice window view of the ocean. The staff at the spa were friendly and professional and the service was prompt, but the sales pitch for their products was a bit annoying.
My husband used the gym facilities on a few occasions during the cruise, but found the treadmills very difficult to run on with the rocking of the boat and made sure to do most of his workouts while we were docked. The equipment was very high quality and well-maintained. He found the gym to be packed in the morning, but quiet at most other times of the day.
We were excited about the prospect of the sports bar, but were sorely disappointed with what we found. We are not smokers and it was always filled with heavy smoke. We were looking forward to taking in a few hockey games and were disappointed to learn that they did not subscribe to Versus and thus did not have any hockey available. Oh well, we found plenty of other activities to keep us busy.
The specialty coffees at the Viennese Cafe were delicious and were reasonably priced. A nice treat that I enjoyed almost every day.
We did not attend many of the entertainment events, but we did take in a few comedy shows and were impressed with the comedians that we saw. The R-rated comedy shows are popular, so get there 20 minutes early if you want a decent seat.
Housekeeping cleaned our room twice a day, and we were very happy with the service that we received. We always looked forward to seeing which towel animal we would find left on our bed every night. A nice touch!
The rest of the ship was also very clean and in very good repair. All of the staff members we encountered were extremely pleasant and helpful.
We chose to do the self-assist option for debarkation. It was so fast and easy that we ended up with too much time to kill at the airport! We did not have to drag our luggage very far or take it up or down any stairs, so if you are in decent shape and have an early flight it is a great option.
Overall we were impressed with the quality of the cruise for the price we paid and we would not hesitate to book with Carnival in the future.
We did several shore excursions, feel free to read about them in my port reviews :) Less
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Cabin review: 6A1270 Ocean View
We were happy with the location of our cabin. Very close to the stairwell which was convenient. We had a long walk up from the 1st deck to the 9th for the main pool deck, but we are active people so we didn't mind the exercise. Our room was nice and quiet at night. The only potential issue was that our room was directly above the gangway, so we could hear the beep as each card was swiped. We were up early at each port anyways, so it didn't bother us but it might annoy passengers who are looking to sleep in.
Port and Shore Excursions
The first was the beach horseback riding experience. The pamphlet described it as a "scenic" tour, which was generous to say the least. The taxi ride to the site was fairly short, again around 15-20 minutes. Our tour guide was friendly and matched us to our horses by our riding experience. My husband and I were first-timers, so were given very laid back horses. A little TOO laid back in fact -- the horses we were assigned did not seem too enthusiastic to be out for a walk and it seemed like every step was a chore for them. The equipment was also very unsophisticated (ie. beat up bicycle helmets, old comforters used as padding under the saddles, no horseshoes, etc.) We are not horse experts, so I can't comment on whether they were malnourished or sick, but they certainly did not look as healthy as the horses we see at home. We were not allowed to take any photos during our ride for safety reasons, which was a bit disappointing, but we did stop at an old fort and the tour guide took some photos there for us. The route did go along the beach front for a short period, but most of the route was past run down properties and junked out cars. The few manicured properties we did see were surrounded by barbed wire fences. I wish we had said we were experienced riders as some of the other horses were a little more lively but still easy to handle. At the end of the ride, we were given the opportunity to ride a horse bareback into the ocean with a guide leading the horse. It was more of a photo opportunity than anything else, but still pretty neat. Overall the experience wasn't quite what it was cracked up to be, but we had a good time nonetheless.
Our second excursion was the ATV tour, which was also booked through Carnival and this tour was a blast. The tour group was very small -- normally 6 people, but one couple was turned away from our group and had their money refunded because someone crashed one of the machines earlier in the day. Our tour guide was awesome, and this tour was way more adventurous than we had expected. The machines we were given were FAST and the guide did not encourage us to slow it down at all. We quickly realized why someone had crashed in the morning, as we went flying along roads and bumpy, rocky trails. We went through the rural parts of the island, past a number of nearby farms. We were amazed to have donkeys and goats wandering across the trails in front of us, as the farm fields were not fenced. This tour was not for the faint of heart, but if you are looking for a fast-paced thrill ride, then this is the tour for you.
We decided to wander away from the tourist area a little bit and ran into a little festival full of locals. We wanted some authentic food, so we wandered up to a Jamaican food booth and asked for Jerk chicken and rice. They did not have any prices posted and we were shocked when they charged us $8 for a small tray of food. I have a feeling they inflated the price for us since we were obviously tourists. The chicken was cold and not up to our expectations so we promptly left the festival to explore the streets some more. We passed some very neat old churches, then went into a local convenience store. We both felt like we were being eyed up while we were in there, and both had a feeling something bad was going to happen. Nothing did happen, but we decided to walk back to the tourist district where it felt a lot safer.
We booked the Dolphin Swim Adventure through Carnival at this port. It was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience. The bus was prompt and it was only a 5 minute drive to the tour site.
Upon arrival we were suited up with life jackets and sat down for a quick briefing. We had to leave our valuables in open cubbies, which was less than ideal, but at least they were within eyesight. Our tour was broken into 3 groups, each with about 10-12 people. Each group was assigned to a trainer with one dolphin, in our case "Kepler". The trainer was friendly and knowledgeable and the dolphins seemed to be happy and well cared for. We each got to experience 3 interactions with the dolphin - a belly swim, dolphin kiss, and a "dance" with the dolphin. The trainer ensured we had adequate time to take pictures, and we were fortunate to have our waterproof camera with us. Spectators were not allowed onto the docks to take photos, but they had a photographer with a DSLR camera taking photos which were available for purchase. We also got plenty of chances to pet the dolphin, then the trainer had him sing for us and then splash us with water. The experience was amazing and we did not feel rushed. At the end we had the opportunity to review the photos taken by their photographer. They were good photos but they were not cheap. They were saved to a CD and were priced at $25 each or we were told we could get all of them on disk for $200 along with 2 printed photos. We were happy with our own photos and felt these prices were outrageous, so we promptly declined the offer. On the bus ride back we spoke with a couple who were given the photo package for $100, so if you do the tour and want the photos, make sure you negotiate a better price. The tour itself was expensive, but worth every penny in our books.
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