Traveled with our tween on the Freedom July 3rd sailing and will hit the high points:
Embarkation - incredibly smooth - RCI displayed their expertise in handling 'people traffic' consistently all week long - the line looked very long at first but there are so many agents handling check in that we were only in line around 25 minutes or so, then on to the ship - cabins were ready at 1 as promised.
Dining - we were scheduled for early seating as a party of 3 but were given a table of 2 and crowded in - it was okay for the few meals we had there but we preferred the dress code (anything goes) and atmosphere (warm and casual) of the Windjammer and ate most meals there. There was always plenty of vegetarian and Indian dishes available and multiple types of soup at each meal, including the wonderful chilled fruit soups. We learned that the servers there work in the MDR for 3 weeks (getting tips) and one week in the WJ (little to no tipping) but the staff could not have been More
more pleasant and accommodating.
Coco Cay - this is a tender port but the tenders ran frequently - we were on the island by 9 - plenty of chairs and shade if desired - did the Aquapark but the tide was very strong and it was pretty difficult to climb on the inflated toys so we didn't use our entire time slot - it was still a very nice day and the Coco Loco's were very good! One note about the frozen drinks: the waiters walk around with the non-alcoholic version and a bottle of rum that they will add to the 'adult' version so the kids can enjoy the drinks as well as the adults. St. Thomas - ship arrived around 11 - we walked around the shopping area of Havensight (just at the port) and then got a snack at Senor Frogs before our excursion to Turtle Cove - took the 'Dancing Dolphin' catamaran to the cove and paddled around til it was time to come back...a lot of the group was able to see sea turtles but we had some equipment problems (!) and weren't that lucky, but it was fun anyway. The captain let the kids take turns at the wheel on the sail back and hey all enjoyed that.
St. Maarten - terrific rain storm that did not let up until, you guessed, it was time to leave port...but we still took a water taxi (just a few minutes walk from the ship) into Phillipsburg and shopped around until we were too waterlogged to continue - one note, they sell these great Guavaberry coladas right before you pass through the checkpoint to get on the ship - they will let you get past the checkpoint but you cannot carry the drink onto the ship itself.
Our son is 12 and was in the teen age group - we were a little concerned about the safety but he had to call the cabin phone each time he left one activity to go tho the next so we could always figure out where he was - he had a ball - made some friends the first night and hung out with them most of the week - his one comment (other than how much fun it was) was that the Adventure Ocean staff didn't interact with the group that much. There were plenty of activities for them (he got his own Teen Compass each night) so on the whole, it was a very positive experience.
There are so many things each day that you can be as busy or as relaxed as you want - try not to overplan - take advantage of time away from cell phones to recharge YOUR batteries...they have lots of trivia contests, a fair amount of gambling games, very good live entertainment, and the cruise director, Graham Seymour, is hysterical. Don't miss his morning show on the in-cabin TV on channel 10!
We chose to use Luggage Valet ($20/bag or person, can't remember which - in addition to any baggage fees your airline charges) so we walked off the ship around 9 a.m. or so, had Ace Luxury limo pick us up and were at the airport by 10:30. Less
Freedom of the Seas Cruises to the Eastern Caribbean