Our experience with Port Canaveral's terminal was very satisfying. Unlike past times when the drop-off area was congested and ate up entirely too much time, they have reconstructed the process, and we were inside the terminal in less than 10 minutes. Security and check in was quick, and we were on the ship within 20 minutes. The problem was that we couldn't drop our bags in our room until 1:00 PM, so we hung out in the Cafe Promenade until that time. No big deal.....we enjoyed some slices of delicious pizza from Sorrento's while we waited.
Our cabin was a superior ocean view with balcony located in the front of the ship - port side. We booked this cabin specifically to avoid the cigarette smoke wafting from nearby cabins and the cigarette ash dropping down on top of us from the balcony above (this has been a major issue on past cruises). As in the past, the cabin was spacious and accommodating. Our cabin boy - Mitchell - was friendly and cheery, and he did an outstanding job in his duties all week long. One nice thing about the muster drill is that no one has to wear OR carry their life vests anymore.
The entertainment on Freedom of the Seas was the same as on our 2007 and 2009 cruises......the singers, dancers, and orchestra were outstanding in Marquee and Once Upon a Time. The headliner show featured vocalist Kenny James. By coincidence, he was the guest artist for the headliner show on our Oasis cruise last year, so we were delighted to hear him perform again!! The magic show (Now You See It) was outstanding (still featuring magician Drew Thomas). The ice skating show was fantastic as always. It continues to amaze me as to how 12-15 skaters can share such a small rink without knocking each other over!! The only complaint we had was the vulgar and sometimes obnoxious jokes which cruise director Graham Seymour continued to display in his attempt to be humorous. We definitely missed the family-oriented entertainment of our past Freedom cruise director Richard Spacey, and quite frankly, we found Graham's humor to be dry as dust.
As for the rest of the ship's staff, everyone was friendly and eager to ensure that we had a memorable cruise vacation. Most noteworthy is the sports staff which operates the flowrider. They are always helpful to first-time boogie boarders, and they want everyone to have fun. Levy in particular was great with the kids!!
Breakfast in the Windjammer was always excellent. We ate lunch at Johnny Rockets twice and enjoyed the singing and dancing of the waiters/waitresses.
We had dinner each evening at 6:00 PM in Leonardo's Dining Room. Our waiter (Lutfi) and assistant waiter (Edgar) always took care of us and brought our food out quickly. The piano/violin combo made for very elegant dinner music while we ate. We also became friends with another waiter (Richard) who insured we were entertained by his singing at the end of dinner each night.
Our ports of call were all successful and enjoyable. It was our first time to Cococay Beach. My brother did the wave runner and snorkeling excursions. I found the swimming areas to be either too rocky or full of plant life.....so swimming was not the greatest (Labadee - Western Caribbean - is better).
We were all holding our breath in the hopes that we would get to St. Thomas this year (last year on our Oasis cruise, a crew member committed suicide off the back of the ship, and our day in St. Thomas was canceled). We did get to Megan's Bay beach and enjoyed the day there (see my detailed port review below).
As for St. Maartin, we had been there 3 times in the past, so we chose to hang out on the ship and enjoy some R & R.
Freedom of the Seas was recently dry-docked for about 2 weeks. During this time they installed kiosk terminals near the elevators on every deck. These are touch-screen computers which provide a variety of information including finding your cabin (or any other area of the ship), checking out the dinner menu, or looking at the day's compass for current ship activities. The barber shop on the Royal Promenade was replaced by Cupcake Cupboard (found on the Oasis-class ships), and there is now a high-class gift shop (Brillo's) which sells colorful ceramics.
All in all we had a wonderful vacation, and we look forward to our next cruise vacation....whenever and wherever that may be.