Our party of seven sailed on the Freedom of the Seas on September 11, 2011. I am 54 years old and my husband is 61 years old. Personally, this was our 13th cruise overall and our 5th cruise on Royal Caribbean. We flew from West Virginia to Orlando the day before we sailed. We stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Cocoa Beach the night before we sailed. We were shuttled from the airport to the Comfort Inn and Suites and again shuttled to the port by Cocoa Beach Shuttle. Cocoa Beach Shuttle provided excellent service and I would highly recommend them. We arrived at the port around 11:30 a.m. and were checked in and on board by 12:30. We went straight to the Lido deck for lunch. We were in our cabins by 1:30.
The Captain is an American and during the muster drill a moment of silence was observed for the victims of the 9/11 attack, which I thought was classy.
My 77-year-old mother rented a scooter from Care Vacations. The scooter was in her stateroom when we arrived on the ship. She was allowed to leave the scooter in the hallway each night and it was charged by using an extension cord into her cabin. Care Vacations is highly recommended for mobility assistance.
Of course, my mother always had to use the elevators as she was on her scooter. Of course, the elevators were always crowded. For the most part, other passengers were considerate of her and the crew was ALWAYS considerate of her.
The ship itself is absolutely beautiful. But the service provided by Royal Caribbean has gone down the tubes. Our room steward was very nice. We got towel animals every night, but there was no turn-down service and no chocolates on our pillows. An ice bucket was provided only after we requested one. Now .... I'm a big girl and I can turn my own bed down. But, this was the first time in all of our cruising adventures that this service was not provided.
I am a fanatic about details and, luckily, I learned in the weeks before we cruised of the necessity of reserving seats for the shows. Yes, the shows are still free. But with 5,000 passengers, RCCL has implemented this system to control crowds, I guess. The week before we sailed, I reserved seats for all of us for the shows. And while I'm on the subject of shows, the ice show is incredible and is not to be missed. Fifteen minutes before showtime, if there are any vacant seats, the non-registrants are allowed into the theaters.
Our cabin was Promenade 8309. The cabin was spacious with lots of storage space. The view was beautiful and I loved watching the crowds from our stateroom. But .... RCCL is of the opinion that the middle of the night is the best time to perform on the Promenade. We had a lot of noise from "music" on a few occasions. I would never book another Promenade stateroom.
RCCL also schedules events (that I would have liked to have seen) late at night, thus I missed those as well.
Unlike Carnival ships, the hamburger/hot dog grill was inside the Windjammer buffet, making it necessary for pool lovers to come inside for a hamburger or hot dog.
The buffet was always crowded. The food was always the same and not very good. I'm not a picky eater, but I ate plenty of salads and hamburgers/hot dogs and pizza. My sister lost 7 lbs. during the cruise.
We only ate in the dining room a couple of nights. I liked what I had (usually fish), but my family members ordered steaks and they were inedible. The service was lacking and the Assistant Waiter was rude and was very upset because we couldn't tell which water glass belonged to whom. Remember, YOUR water glass is at the end of YOUR knife - if you can tell which knife is yours.
Neither my husband nor I are smokers, but three members of our party are. On other RCCL cruises, our friends would sit on the smoking (starboard) side of the pool deck for hours and drink beer and watch the festivities (hairy chest contest, belly flop contest, ice carving, etc.). Smoking is not allowed on the pool deck at all now (though it has been allowed in the past). Smoking is allowed in one small bar section of the Sun Deck and on the starboard side of Deck 4 and inside parts of the casino. These three passengers paid as much for their cruises as we did and they felt slighted - and I don't blame them. I would much rather smoking be allowed on open decks rather than in the confines of the casino.
We sailed the Eastern Caribbean itinerary, though we only departed the ship in St. Martin. We took the island tour in St. Martin and it was very good. I can't comment on any other shore tours. We are not beach and sun worshipers.
Deparkation was a breeze. We were again shuttled by Cocoa Beach Shuttle from the port to the Baymont Inn and Suites at the Florida Mall in Orlando where we spent the night before flying home the next day.
Again, let me say that the Freedom of the Seas is a beautiful ship. The crew members were all very nice. But, with 5,000 passengers, the ship was always crowded. I'm sizing down the next time and will probably sail more with Carnival. I'm hoping that there are still cruise lines that will give us the service and quality of food we've come to expect from past cruises. RCCL certainly didn't impress us with this one.