We (DH-42, DS -11, and me - 43) sailed on the FOS on the 8/7/11 sailing. This was our 5th cruise, previously having sailed on RCCL, Carnival and Celebrity. We chose the FOS for the itinerary as well as the activity options on the ship. Prior to embarking we spent alot of time on the CC boards, planning our time, pre-booking our own excursions, and reserving shows and activities on the ship - I felt pretty prepared!
We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites the night before - adequate accommodations, and the pool was fine. Our one complaint was the LONG line and lack of tables for the free breakfast on Sunday morning, but that was to be expected. We got what we wanted and then took it back to our suite.
Embarkation was a breeze - we got to the port early and were one of the first 100 or so people on the ship. It is gorgeous! We walked around for a few minutes and then went to the Windjammer for lunch - it was still pretty uncrowded. Afterwards, we had time before cabins More
were opened so we explored - somehow we left our camera bag (1 SLR with extra lens, 1 flip video cam, and 1 point and shoot) in the arcade and when we later went back for it (about 90 minutes later) - of course it had been taken. I went immediately to Guest Services and surprise, it had not been turned in. They told me to check back again later, but I had my doubts we would ever see it again - and we did not, despite checking back numerous times (more on this below). We ended up buying a new camera in the ship's store the next day.
We spent the day at sea at the pool (no chairs, so we just parked our stuff and sat in the water). I had pre-booked a Flow Rider lesson for DS before embarking - well worth the $60 charge to avoid the very long lines and limited ride time during the public session. There were 8 people at his hour long time slot, and they each got personal attention to boogie board and surf.
Labadee - we went over to the far beach near the water park thinking it would be less crowded - nope. We should have scoped out the closer beaches first, they seemed empty when we were heading back to the ship. We rented a couple of mats and just lazed around. Having eaten a late breakfast, we skipped lunch and just waited for our 6 p.m. dinner.
Falmouth - the port area is really nice. Shops (mainly jewelry shops) are opening in the permanent spaces. It was very easy to get a cab. We like to venture out on our own on port days, so we went to the Iberostar Rose Hall Suites and got a day pass ($75/adult, half price for kids). We encountered no other cruisers there, so it was really enjoyable. The pool and beach are awesome. The lazy river is VERY lazy, so don't go here if that is your main draw. They had all kinds of activities going on, and the food was fine. Try to stick to beer and simple drinks, as they tended to water down the drinks as the day progressed.
Grand Cayman - pre-booked with Stingray Sailing - catamaran (did not sail, though, not sure why) to the sandbar and then snorkeling at the reef. They are great. They had a photographer on board who takes pics of you in the water with the rays, $6 each. The boat was perfect and uncrowded compared to some we saw (about 25 on board). They served free fresh fruit and water, and beer and soda were available for purchase. We did not really see a good place to eat that would go over well with DS and not cost a fortune, so we just got back on the ship and got something there.
Cozumel - we pre-booked with Nachi Cocum all inclusive resort - good facilities, and GREAT bartenders. (Holy moly, watch those margaritas - they make them strong!). DH, who can handle his liquor much better than I can, was doing shots of tequila with red eye chasers by the end of the day. The food and service were also very good.
On the ship - the food in general was sub-par and disappointing, and we are not terribly picky eaters. The Windjammer food was no better than cafeteria food, and heavy on starches (much to DS's delight). The MDR food was pretty tasteless and not well cooked. We ate in both Chops and Portofino - the Chops steaks were a cut above, but were overcooked for "medium" (and we did confirm when ordering that medium should be a pink center - it was grey). The service, however, and the rest of the meal was impeccable. Portofino was very good - note that they have very few traditional Italian American dishes (much to DS's chagrin) - this is definitely a high class Italian place. Save room for dessert. We ate early in both places due to their restrictions on kids, and loved being one of the only ones in the restaurants - window seats, and great service. The pools are really nice, but crowded on sea days. Ice skating was fun.
One annoyance was that the ship seemed overrun by unsupervised kids - some really too young to be roaming about on their own. Twice we got on an elevator to find that an enterprising kid (smirking in the corner) had pressed the button for every single floor. When we were doing karaoke in the private booths one afternoon, a couple of very young kids kept opening the door and sticking their heads in. We also saw plenty of young teens hanging about in the Windjammer making messes of food and creating nuisances.
Finally - on the camera issue - we checked back about 6 times with Guest Services but it never showed up. On Day 5, DH finally noticed that there are a multitude of cameras in the arcade, and we asked them to run back the tapes to see if they could find out who took the bag. This finally prompted a formal investigation which involved Security. I had to question why Guest Services had never offered the complaint process (I did not even know there was one)or a run-back of the tapes previously, and only did it when we pressed and then re-pressed the issue. They then appeared to undertake an investigation. A day later, they reported back that they ran the tapes back and said that we left the arcade with the bag and had tracked us back to our cabin, and refused to do anything further. We knew that we had left the bag in the arcade, and their description of "tracking us back to our cabin" was incorrect - so I asked them to tell me how many bags we were carrying when we left the arcade (I knew how many we had) or let me see the tapes, or, if they tracked us back to our cabin, to tell me where we had left the bag. They refused and just said they were dropping the investigation. I was very upset that it seemed like they were accusing us of fraud - absolutely ridiculous when we were obviously pressing the issue and requesting physical proof. After we asked again (twice), they finally gave us a copy of the initial security report (on which they wrote "for insurance purposes only"). Very, very badly handled by Guest Services and Security.
All in all, the cruise was a good one, but I am not sure that we would cruise the big RCCL ships again. Less
Freedom of the Seas Cruises to the Western Mediterranean