This was our second cruise with Carnival traveling over Spring Break. Our traveling party included my husband and myself, our two boys, ages 10 and 14 and my parents. We flew from Colorado to Ft. Lauderdale on Friday and stayed one night at the Hyatt Place North in Ft. Lauderdale. The rooms were nice and the continental breakfast was just OK. One of the primary reasons we stayed at this hotel was due to the free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel as well as from the hotel to the cruise port. The pick-up worked OK, but the transfer to the port did not as they had filled up all the early slots and told us they would take us at noon. We did not want to wait that long and get stuck in the boarding lines so we paid $15 per taxi to get to the dock.
We traveled on the Carnival Conquest last year so we were familiar with the Freedom's layout. Some people do not like the bold colors and design but we think it is lively and entertaining. I will start with what I like best about the Freedom. The food is actually really good in the speciality areas such as the 24 hour pizza, the Asian food, sandwich bar, and fish and chips. We also really enjoy the dining room menu and entertainment from the staff.
We really appreciate the layout of the 5th deck - where the Arcade is right down from the Babylon Casino. Our boys could play in the Arcade for 30 minutes while we gambled (that's all the time you need!) and then easily find us when they were done.
I think the Lido deck is great! Music, the big TV, hot tubs and the pools - always lively action. Once again - the kids area is located in close proximity to the adult pool which also has the 24 hour pizza bar. We could go to the adult pool and hot tub and our boys would come find us (they are allowed in the area - just not in the pool or hot tubs) and have pizza while we stayed in the water!
We also tried the adult-only Serenity deck - also really nice. There is nothing like sitting on the front of the ship in a big lounge chair, sipping on a pina colada and feeling like you are on top of the world!
Finally, my last two favorites were sitting in the sauna and steam room and looking out at the ocean - great views - and sitting on our balcony from our room cabin. Is a balcony worth it? I would say yes - I loved watching us dock from the balcony as well as just standing and looking out at night. It is amazing how vast and dark and amazing the ocean is at night.
Now for complaints - and just a few. I hate the buffet eggs - really just awful as well as the coffee. The Vienna Cafe is well worth the money if you are a coffee lover. My biggest concern was actually for the staff. All were very nice and pleasant and we have fond memories of our dining room staff in particular. However, Carnival (and I believe other lines as well) are really cutting their staff levels back and working them too hard. You can sense they are burned out and rightfully so. They have a hard time keeping up with many things - from filling your water glass, having time to talk to you or take your drink order in the dining room, or even getting your drink order while sitting on the Lido deck. I think Carnival needs to do a cost-benefit analysis and realize they are losing out on money by not staffing right. I know we would have purchased more drinks-of-the-day if we would have had servers come by more often.
As an overall review though - it was a great trip an we loved "A Ticket To Ride" - the Beatles tribute show. We also won a "Carnival Freedom" trophy playing trivia that is proudly displayed in our bookcase!