We are a couple in the 40-50 age range, and have been looking forward to this awesome cruise on Royal Caribbean for some time. It didn't dissapoint. Our only big negative was that our flight from L.A. was cancelled and we were re-routed to Baltimore and then to Orlando Sunday morning - spending a sleepless night in the airport. There was nothing that could be done about this, so we made the best of the situation and spent our first couple of days on the ship catching up on sleep. The other negative for me was the humidity. Most of the people we met were from the east coast and are more used to humidity I assume, but we are from California and the heat and humidity were difficult for me. I will definitely take future caribbean cruises in the winter!
Embarkation was quick and easy, we rented a car from Budget and returned it in Cape Canaveral, and they shuttled us to the port. The cost of renting a car both ways was about the same as a shuttle, but gave us flexibility to go where we wanted to while in Orlando. We arrived at the port at about 11:00 and were on the ship in about 30 minutes. The Windjammer was crowded, but we found a seat and enjoyed lunch before being allowed into our rooms at 1:00 - where we slept until it was time to get ready for dinner!
This was our first time traveling without other couples or family, and we actually really enjoyed getting to know the two other couples at our table, and many other people we met in the dining room for breakfasts and on shore excursions. We didn't meet anyone that we didn't enjoy visiting with - the passengers were all friendly and genuinely nice people. Since it was summer, there were many families traveling with children. Since I love children, this was a positive and not a negative. All of the children I saw were very well behaved.
I thought the food on the ship was outstanding. We ate in the dining room every night exept for one - when we got back from our shore excursion in Cozumel after dinner had already started. We decided to try Johnny Rockets that night, which we really enjoyed. The food in the dining room was great - the meats were always very tender and flavorful, the appetizers were great, and the desserts were as well. We also enjoyed the dining room for breakfast most mornings. They get you in and out in 30 minutes, so it doesn't take much time and you avoid the crowds in the Windjammer. They have a buffet area in the dining room where you can help yourself to some items, or you can order what you would like from the menu (or both). The orange juice was better than in the Windjammer, and we also enjoyed hot chocolate in the dining room. We also had lunch in the dining room one day, they had a buffet salad bar which was very good. Also, there was complimentary food in the Royal Promenade at Sorrento's Pizza and the Cafe Promenade. They had all you can eat pizza (good pizza!), and yummy desserts like tiramisu and white chocolate mousse. The cafe had sandwiches and cookies that were nice for a snack.
We had a balcony room on the 7th floor. The location was perfect since we were close to the stairs and elevators. Only four flights up to the windjammer and pools, four floors down to the dining room, two flights down to the promenade. We took the stairs most of the time - very convenient. I have to admit the room was smaller than I expected for a balcony room, but it had plenty of room for us and we really enjoyed going out to the balcony each night (and day) to see the views. The room was beautiful and our cabin steward kept it very clean and left us fun towel animals each night. No chocolates on the pillow anymore though, I heard that Royal Caribbean discontinued the chocolates as well as the midnight buffet. A word to the wise - I got upgraded to a balcony room for free when the prices dropped about a month before the cruise. But you have to call and ask them. They won't refund your money but they will upgrade your room for no charge if prices fall enough so that the price you paid equals the new price of the upgraded room.
We loved the fitness center and went there most mornings. You have a beautiful view of the ship pulling into port as you use the machines. There were plenty of machines, and a small tv screen on each.
The rest of the ship was just gorgeous! We loved the Royal Promenade, it was so amazingly beautiful, with each shop looking it's part. For example the pizza place was decorated like a pizzeria with red brick. Just gorgeous.
The onboard activities were fantastic. My husband quickly became obsessed with the flowrider and spent all his free time there. We also enjoyed the rock climbing and miniature golf. Our favorite shows were the ice skating and the magic show "Now You See It" by Drew Thomas - fantastic!!! The other shows weren't really my thing, but they were very professionally done. Mostly song and dance type shows or comedians. We watched the Love and Marriage Show on TV the next day in our room - very funny. We heard that Quest was very fun as well.
Labadee Haiti had beautiful beaches. We went to Columbus Cove and enjoyed swimming to the perimiter they had set up. The water felt great - not too hot or cold. The beach was gorgeous. They brough a BBQ lunch to the beach and we enjoyed it before going back to the ship.
We went to the Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica. You need to book this through the ship in order to do it. It was about an hour to get there by bus, and although it was very crowded, we loved climbing the falls. It wasn't too difficult to climb, and the cool water felt great since it was pretty hot and humid. They said it was a 900 foot distance to the top, we LOVED this excursion! The locals told us this is by far the best excursion to take in Jamaica.
In Grand Cayman we did the swimming with stingrays. I think you can book this through private companies, but we decided to play it safe and book it with the ship. There were a lot of boats there, but still plenty of stingrays for our group to see. They were very friendly and would swim right by your legs. The guide would help you hold a stingray and "kiss" it if you wanted (supposed to bring you 8 years of good luck!) You could take your own pictures since the water wasn't very deep (maybe 3-4 feet). The water was beautiful and clear, just like a swimming pool, and you could get a good view of the stingrays without snorkeling equipment.
In Cozumel we went to see the Mayan Ruins in Tulum. We were the first off the ship and the last back on. It was about two hours of travel each way, but worth it to see these amazing ruins. Our guides were knowledgeable and gave us lots of good information. We booked the tour that stopped for lunch and a beach break, and had a wonderful lunch at a beautiful beach. This is an amazing tour, Tulum is built at a beautiful site overlooking the beautiful caribbean ocean. The only negative was that it was very, very hot and humid.
Disembarkation took a lot longer than embarkation, but that wasn't a big problem for us, it was just a long process, especially waiting for our shuttle back to Budget car rental.
All in all a wonderful cruise. My husband and I agree - this is the best vacation we have ever taken (and it's our fourth cruise - the others were on older R.C. ships)! We highly recommend the Freedom of the Seas!!!