This was our second cruise with Carnival, the first cruise being in 2004. It was a last minute decision to book, but having sailed with them before, we were looking forward to sailing with them again.
We landed at Fort Lauderdale airport around 10.30 in the morning, and proceeded to wait in line for a cab to the cruiseport. We had decided to make our own way to the cruise terminal as it was only a few miles away from the airport. The total cost of the cab including tip was $15 each way. If you had booked transfers with Carnival, it would have been $15 per person each way.
EMBARKATION: When we arrived at the cruiseport, we left our bag curbside as instructed and then waited in line for over an hour to get to the check-in desk. Once we had checked in, we walked straight onto the ship as boarding had already started. The cabins were not available and so we went to the Lido deck for lunch.
PUBLIC ROOMS: When you first board the ship, I have to say the Freedom did not have the "wow" factor that others have had. I would go so far as to say that if the ship were turned upside down, the walls in the atrium would make an excellent rock climbing wall! The casino was well equipped but we could not stay in there for too long as people were allowed to smoke in there making it unbearable. the general layout of the ship did seem a little weird as you very often had to up to then go down to get to where you needed. I did not like the idea of having to pass through thick smoke filled rooms to get to my destination.
POOL AREA: The Serenity area was very nice although we did not use that area. The "Timeless" main pool area where the big screen was, was an area we avoided as at times it was extremely noisy, and seats were hard to find. We spent most of our time in the "Endless" pool area. It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who could not read the signs that stated only over 18's were allowed in the pool and hot tub. Parents took great offence when politely asked by one of the crew to remove their children from the pool. We had read other reviews about people leaving the towels on loungers and disappearing for hours at a time, I have to say that was our experience too. One morning, I came early to the pool area to find not one lounger available. they were covered with towels, flip flops of just a book. There were probably about a dozen or so people on the deck. It does state in the daily newsletter that belongings will be removed if they are left unattended for more than an hour, I did not witness that anytime.
CABINS: Our cabin was a balcony cabin. The room was very clean and serviced at least 3 times a day. We did not spend too much time on our balcony, but it was large enough for 2 to sit on but you would not have been able to recline. Our itinerary was not a lengthy one and so we did not spend too much time in our cabin to really comment.
DINING: My husband did enjoy the Indian food station during the day, however night time dining was the area of the biggest disappointment. Our previous cruise with Carnival pleasantly surprised us at the quality of the food and service in the main restaurant. We chose to eat in the restaurant at night and had opted for the "Your time dining" option. Our first night dining in the "Chic" restaurant was not the best. We had to wait in line for nearly 45 minutes and we were then sat at a table that was pushed up against the side of the stairs in the restaurant and was a thoroughfare for wait staff with dirty plates plus it was extremely noisy. Subsequent nights were met with much of the same. On the first formal night, we waited in line for 30 minutes to be then given a pager with another 20 minute wait. Once you were seated, there was a definite difference in the standard of service. The choice of food was not very exciting, nor was it particularly very warm when it arrived. I would not recommend this dining option.
We did dine in the Sun King restaurant one night. I can thoroughly recommend to anyone this option. The filet was cooked perfectly and the cheesecake was delicious!
ENTERTAINMENT: I have to agree with another reviewer who was on the same cruise, the entertainment was not as good our past experience. the comedians were very funny although it was a shame that they repeated their performance. The stage shows were just OK. The Beatles tribute was perplexing to say the least and i am still wondering why they flashed their behinds at the end of 1 song.... The lead guy did not have a very strong voice and at times it was drowned by that of the leading lady. Her voice was good, but at times wayyyy too loud, it sounded like she was shouting rather than singing.
DEBARKATION: You do have the option of paying for Carnival to check you in and transport you bags to the airport. We only had 1 checked bag but an early flight so did enquire about this option. In the end, we did not do this as we would have been charged $20 per person for this, (plus the luggage fee which we would pay anyway) which seems a little ridiculously expensive. In the end, we opted for the self assist option and so was off the ship by 7.30am
Overall, I do think this will be the last time we sail with Carnival, it is true that "you get what you pay for." The quality of service and food has definitely deteriorated. This is a large ship and perhaps it is a case of bigger not been better, I don't know. Nothing that we experienced ruined our vacation, but it did not make it enjoyable one.