Ship - Others criticized the dEcor of the Freedom. We heard from other passengers that it had been toned down. I found it similar to the Splendor.
Embarkation - This was our first time at Ft Lauderdale. It seems nice if you are parking a car there but it was a little more complicated with dropping off and picking up a rental car but still no problem if you know in advance where to go, etc. We rented from Hertz at the airport, dropped the car off at a nearby hotel, they took us to the pier and reversed the process when we got back. I never saw the zone system for registration before but I see others mention it, it was ok. All in all we arrived about 12:30 and were on the boat within 45 minutes.
Cabin - a midship balcony - perfect for us, typical of Carnival cabins. We had a minor issue with both the shower and tv and the cabin steward was helpful with both.
Overall ship. Someone else mentioned excessive smoking. Didn't seem worse than other ships except that there were some good bands playing in the Habara Bar and it was too pungent to stay in there. The serenity deck was well done and we would usually go there late day and it wasn't too crowded.
Food - they did seem to skimp a bit compared to other cruises. The sushi was nice. The wait staff was friendly and helpful although I think our head waiter, Joseph, spoke much better English than his associates. We had a nice group of adjacent tables (we were not traveling with them but we played ping pong with them) and that made dinner a lot of fun.
Activities - planned activities were typical and adequate. More participated in trivia than on my last few trips so that was fun but I totally disliked the format of the multiple day team trivia - took too long and was not fair. Ryan, the cruise director was good but the other staff members seemed to be "doing their job" - they lacked enthusiasm.
Shows - the first night was the same as other cruises so we weren't sure we should go back but after the first night they were different and they were very good, especially the Beatle's Review. We saw some of the regular and adult comedy shows and they were all pretty good.
Spa - I felt a bit ripped off by the spa. I wanted the seaweed massage with the floating table. They told my husband that they had the floating table but it wasn't offered to me and I got the impression that this was not the masseuse's regular specialty. I got that impression because when I booked I had asked for 5:30, they wanted me to come at 4:30, I was afraid I would not be back in time, they hesitated and then said 5:30 was ok.
Debarkation - We always do "self assist" - I don't know how they got that name. We could have been off the ship as early as 6:30am but we knew that Hertz didn't open until 7 so we took our time and I believe we were off about 7:15 with no line.
I would not recommend this as a "first" cruise but it was a nice, relaxing trip.
Cozomel - we are not shoppers but this trip we did make some purchases in the port stores - vanilla, a necklace and a tablecloth. Prices seemed fair.
Amazing Cozomel Race - since this was our third time to Cozomel we decided to try this excursion just for fun. If you want something truly different I would recommend this. We had 9 teams of two to four people - I think about 30 total. I think we ranged from about 20 years old to late 50's (my husband and I are 53). We were taken by taxi downtown, given maps, an emergency cell phone and directions. Some teams took off running but others walked (I have parkinson's and while I walk ok, I can't run well). We followed clues through town, touring a museum and other spots. I was a little concerned when the description said that one person had to swim in the ocean but actually several teams join together for that activity (although I could have done it if I had to). Ultimately we ended at a restaurant where they served a snack and drink and you could purchase lunch (frankly we were too hot to eat so we waited until we were back at the boat but the food looked good). We came in 6th of 9 and we were happy with that. They arranged for taxi's back to the boat or you could have gone back downtown and found your own way back to the ship. They told us that we walked about 3 ½ miles on the trip.
Costa Rica - This is not a port to go off on your own but that was made clear in advance. I had looked into a private tour but it was more expensive than Carnival's similar offerings. There were some flea market booths right off the boat, we did not visit them.
Nature & Traditions at Bocuare Haven - I would not recommend this excursion. I hear the term "eco tourism" quite a bit on this trip. I think it means make an artificial environment for tourists. This was an old plantation at some stage of being renovated to show off to tourists. We had a good time walking through the land and seeing plants and animals and then we were treated to lunch and a dance performance but I think other people might have gotten a better taste of Costa Rica on other excursions.
Panama - The port seemed to be a one ship port but there was nice shopping just off the ship. We purchased local coffee and some souvenirs . Most of the excursions were very long and that got me a bit nervous so we picked a shorter one. As it turned out the group of 400 on the canal tour were over an hour late getting back so our departure was delayed. If I go again I would probably do the Panama City tour.
Arial Tram - we took a bus to a resort in the middle of the country and then road a gondola over the "rain forest". At the top we climbed a tower (easy walk, no stairs) and had a good view of the area and the canal. I got a picture of a wild toucan!! We then saw some exhibits - reptile, orchids and butterflies and were given a snack for the bus ride back to the boat. It was nice but I think I'd do something else next time.