Just returned from an 8 night cruise on Carnival Freedom. 4 Days at sea and 3 ports of call.
Embarkation out of Ft. Lauderdale was handled well. Crowded, but the lines moved along and it took about 1 hour from start to finish to get on the ship.
Our 2 balcony cabins were on the Lido Deck - #9. We chose 9249 and 9253 because the balconies could be combined for those 2 cabins. We then had one large balcony to enjoy. Being on the Lido deck was very convenient to the pool, large screen tv, lounges, and buffet. It was also only 2 floors from the fitness center and spa. Our hallway was not a through hallway so we did not have a lot of noise. The only people walking down our hallway were ones with rooms there.
We had no trouble getting lounges any of the days at sea. There were plenty to go around. We also found a sheltered from the sun area on deck 12 where we could be outside but not baking in the hot sun.
We were traveling with our two grown children celebrating our daughter's college graduation. Our son has food allergies to Gluten and Lactose. We had alerted the ship ahead of time as to his special dietary needs. For the most part, Carnival did a good job accomodating his needs. There was gluten free bread on board and soy milk. We also chose the early seating in the main dining room (Chic) so we could always work with the same wait staff since he had special dietary concerns. Carnival also assigned someone to us so that each evening in the dining room she would go over the menu for the following night with our son, to make sure the kitchen could cook his meal gluten and lactose free. Up in the buffet for breakfast and lunch, there were omelettes he could have and meat at the carving stations along with fresh fruit and tossed salad.
We did eat at the Specialty Steakhouse one evening. We will not do this again. It was an extra $30 per person and not worth it in our eyes. The waitress messed up our daughter's dinner order and by the time it was corrected and came out, we were done eating. The meal was very long - took 3 hours to complete as the service was slow. Food was fine, but not worth the extra money.
We only went to 2 of the shows and they were well done. We especially enjoyed the Beatles tribute - Ticket to Ride. The comedians were very enjoyable and we tried to go to both the early and late comedian shows. Get to the venue early as it fills up quickly and was standing room only every night.
The ports of call: Cozumel - because we have been here before twice, this time we did our own thing and pre-booked a reservation at a private beach club called Nachi Cocum - about a 10 minute taxi ride from the ship. It was $50 per person for the entire day - all inclusive - all the food and drinks you could want, lounges, pool, hot tub, clean bathrooms, personal wait staff, etc.. Island Marketing was the company we used. Costa Rica: We did the ship sponsored Canopy Rainforest Zip Line Tour. Awesome and I highly recommend it. Then in the afternoon we took a taxi to a private beach only 5 minutes from the ship - Bonita Beach - lovely. Last port - Panama: We did the San Lorenzo Fort and Gatun Locks tour. Great tour. Didn't take up the whole day. Had a little time to shop back in port. The locks were fascinating. Saw two large freighters going through.
Days at sea were relaxing. Worked out in the fitness center - plenty of treadmills available, listened to the outdoor band at the pool (they were just o.k.), played Bingo once, watched one movie on the big screen, and did a lot of reading.
Food in general was fine. Not gourmet, but certainly plentiful and varied. We ate breakfast and lunch at the buffet on deck 9 and dinner at the early seating in the Chic dining room upstairs. The chocolate buffet on the last day at sea was quite a sight. Lines were very long to get some of the chocolate desserts. Frozen yogurt was always available - morning, noon, and night.
Disembarkation was not as smooth as embarkation. Something were wrong with the deck everyone was supposed to leave from, so the ship had to scramble to get us off on a different deck. This slowed things down considerably. We finally made it off the ship by 10:30AM, just in time to get the transfer we had booked through Carnival which took us to the airport. We had a 12:30 flight from Ft. Lauderdale that we just made it to.