I(Mom) planned this family cruise. Two of us had never cruised before and none of us on Carnival. I had heard and read so many different opinions about Carnival that either said it was horrible, or it was wonderful.Being unsure, I booked anyway as we really wanted a "fun-ship". We were most certainly not disappointed from the minute we stepped off the plane. We sailed from Fort Lauderdale, and would gladly always sail from there. The 20 minute cab ride that my daughter and I took, including a quick stop at Publix, was fantastic. The guys took another cab with the luggage and by the time we arrived at the pier we were ready to check in. Check in went very quickly and soon we were boarding. We were told that our cabins were ready so we went right up to them and met Pichet(sp) our steward. He was wonderful the whole trip. Took great care of all of us and even helped me keep track of the rest of the family. Never being on the Freedom before it was a little difficult finding our way around, but we soon figured it out. My husband has some mobility issues, so for the first day or so we thought the boat was enormous, but soon got used to where everything was.
Day 2 Key West. This is one of our favorite ports as we don't really need an excursion. We rented bikes and rode around the island. Went to Higg's Beach, Southernmost Point, the lighthouse, Saw Hemingway's cats, Hit Duval Street, Mallory Square and some shopping, then finished up with a couple of drinks with the fam at Kelly's on Whitehead Street followed by Key Lime Pie on a stick. What a perfect day. Back on the boat we had dinner and then found our way around the boat again for a while until we found Scott's Piano Bar. Marty was the piano player, and he was fantastic. I would give him a 12 out of 5. What a talented guy, and could really get the audience going. He mostly played requests and lots of sing alongs. You definitely need to do this at least one night. We met lots of people there and we all returned a couple of times.
Day 3 was a day at sea, and we spent most of it sitting by the pool. and on the serenity deck. The large round lounge chairs on the serenity deck are sooo comfortable. We were either sitting there, or on the small deck on the bow of deck 10. That was beautiful. Our cabins were right there on Deck 10 and we found the door leading to this wonderful hideaway where we could just watch the ocean pass by. This was elegant night, so we did dress. I didn't feel overdressed, but did not need formal wear. The guys had shirts and ties, but no jackets. I really enjoyed that the atmosphere was more casual than I expected. The food was good, not over the top, but still good.
The only complaint I had all week was the Prime Rib that had a lot of fat and gristle, and the buffet sometimes had unbelievable lines. there was a great selection to choose from, and I always found something I liked.
Day 4 Grand Cayman, we did not book excursions, and wished we had. Hubby and I took a $4 shuttle to the beach and spent a while there and then shopped after returning to the pier. I would have loved to snorkel there. We saw some spectacular fish right at the pier. Returned to the ship for dinner and then hit the comedy club for the evening. The comedians were terrific. I did like that they had earlier shows that were PG and then more adult shows later.
Day 5 Jamaica, Cool Runnings/Dunn's River Falls. This was a fantastic trip. What a blast on the boat. We rode a catamaran to the Dunn's Falls beach where we met our guides David and Barnaby. They led us up the falls and what a blast. We are 59 and 69, and made it with no problem. The rest of the family was not sure about this trip, but after it was over they also raved about it. The trip back to the ship was so much fun. They served Rum punch and played music all the way back. There were girls on the boat dancing and encouraging everyone to dance and have fun. We sure did!!! We all were a little stiff the next day though. Worth it all!!
Day 6 our last day. It was a sea day, and after Jamaica we needed the rest. I don't think I have ever been drunk twice in one day before. Of course I don't drink very often, so it didn't take much,ha ha. Again we spent it lying in the sun. after lunch we made our way back to our beautiful cabin and started to pack. We wanted to be packed so that we could enjoy the last night at the Piano Bar singing with Marty. I did get the family to sit for a few pictures on the last day that came out beautifully. I really love the casual photos that they do on the ship. We closed the bar at 1:30 and knew we had to be up early, but no one really cared, we were having too much fun.
Debarkation was the best I have ever experienced. I was smooth and went very quickly. I did like the luggage express that they offer. They tag your luggage and transport it to the airport for you, so once you put your luggage out, you don't have to deal with it again until you get off the plane at home.
I would definitely rate this cruise a 5+ experience. We are already looking at when we can do our next Carnival cruise.