This was my fourth cruise with Carnival, it seems I keep going back because they're not as stuffy as some of the other cruise lines, and the fellow cruisers are a relatively approachable and sociable bunch. The only downside is because they are accessable a modest clientele, you do run into a few yahoos on every cruise (I could cite examples but I won't :-).
I was travelling with a partner-in-crime this time around, who has a natural talent for meeting folks. I'd go to the bathroom and come back, and she would of met 10 new people...it was all good, because by the third day we had a full social schedule for the rest of the cruise - including all the ports of call (St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola, Nassau). We spent all of our excursions with another couple, and had the best of times I must say ! The last stop in Nassau, saw many of the boat party types showing up at Senor Frogs (on the pier near the ship) for a final two hour blow out. That place is a bit nuts, in a college spring break kind of way, but it can be fun for all ages as long as you have an open mind. We had a blast, and our little group of 10 were the last to make it back to the ship :-)
I had no issues with the food at all, other than the dining rooms kitchen closing at 9:30. We did the Sun King Steakhouse one night, and the service was great. Our reservation was at 9:00 PM, and the nights show started at 10:30 PM, and they do like to take their time, so we had to bail on finishing our plates, and skip dessert all together. If you want to do the premium dining (+$30./each) and make the show, it's probably best to be there at 8:30 PM or sooner, but those slots fill up fast. The room only has about 20 tables. You make reservations from your stateroom phone, or in person, after 10:00 AM.
Carnival's prices for excursions tend to be a bit steep as they add on a little something for themselves on top of the tour cost as it would be at the pier. I stopped taking their pre-arranged excursions 2 cruises ago. It is much more cost effective to buy the same thing at the pier, or hire a driver (taxi driver who will be yours for the day, and will take you anywhere you want to go - including a supermarket on the way to the beaches to load up on "supplies" - and waits for you). We had a group of 4 this time, and just hired rides to get us around to the places we wanted to get to. Either a cab ride, or a dedicated driver for the day. You see all the same stuff (or exactly what you want to see), see it at your pace, and can do it for alot less than booking something on-board. For example, in Tortola we heard the cove beach (I think it's called Sugar Cane Beach) was amazing, and that is what we wanted to do. So we shopped in the port town for an hour, then settled on one of the drivers who approached us, and he was ours for the day. $16. each (return) to get to the cove beach on the other side of the island and back again in time for the boat - he stopped at all the best photo-op spots, gave us a narration, and he waited for us. Seems alot of other cruisers had the same idea, as the place was packed with folks from the boats (3 were in port that day). I highly recommend that beach in Tortola - it was the best out of all of them on the trip ! It had great sand, water, amenities, restaurants, and cheap cocktails all over the place. It even has a rum factory one block behind it that hands out cheap samples ! :-)
The Freedom staff were great, and Kudo's goes out to Tyson (entertainment staff) and his girlfriend (entertainment staff). Good fellow Canadians whom we ran into on shore a couple of times as well, and they had no problem sitting down with you at your table to say hi, even on their off-time...
The boat itself is in pretty good shape for its age, although its decor is rather garish. I saw a documentary on one of the in-room TV channels about the architect and the interior design. He was pretty proud of it - "it's not a theme, it's an intellectual idea" :-). Alot of it (and you'll read this in other reviews) was borderline tacky, and over the top. Carnival's designers have no sense of sublime, minimalism, "less is more", or cool...they just throw as much chrome, brass, mirrors, and disparate color combinations at you as possible, against rooms that all have different "intellectual ideas" (no continuity at all). Anyway, you get a bit dizzy from all the crap, but they seem to think it's awesome...
I do recommend the boat and the cruise I was on - we had alot of fun, had an extra night, and 4 ports - so it was a good length cruise to unwind and see some sights/beaches. I'm leaning towards newer and larger ships for the last 2 cruises, so I won't be back on that particulat boat, simply because it's over 10 years old now, and there's alot more interesting and newer options out there now, at similar price points.