I continue to pleasantly surprised how Carnival is closing the gap on some (not all) of their competitors in the lower priced market (mid-range ships). The value for the money is certainly getting there. We booked this one to maximize downtime so won't go too much into details on the ports or excursions as honestly we didn't do a lot since we've been to all the stops on numerous occasions. So let's start at the beginning.
Embarkation: Arrived FLL from ATL same day around 10:30 am (trip started off with a bang with an upgrade to First Class so we were in a good mood anyway). Like leaving from FLL as it's a quick taxi ride ($15 plus tip) to the pier. Must admit taxi driver was a little anxious to get going as he started out before wife had time to get into the cab. Sprang for an OS room which allows VIP embarkation. Which went well although they misdirected us at first, but corrected that. Time to get on board was less than 30 minutes tops most of which was sitting until they were ready for boarding. Of course when we got to the room (2:30pm is when they say they're ready) ship and sail card for one of us didn't work (mine) and although they 'fixed' it at Guest Services, got the dreaded "invalid' Card first time on/off board in St. Thomas. Finally got it fixed on day 4.
Room: nice room, tons of storage (two closets, one in the room and one in the little foyer to the bathroom. Loved the bedding, some of the best we've had on any of our previous cruises (kudos to CLL on that). Nice bathroom with dual sinks and a rather narrow shower/jetted bath combo (didn't use the tub though was good to see that they thoroughly cleaned it - bleached- both at start of the cruise and mid-week). Balcony had two chairs, smallest table you can imagine and a little chaise). Spent most of my time reading. Had non-smokers on both sides which we were grateful for.
Tony was our room steward and was fantastic. Been a long time since we've had someone who actually could remember our names and greated us most times we went in and out. In fact, all the crew were exceptionally friendly (not something we experience all the time). Well done Freedom!
Whoever designed this one must have been a little schizo or was told to use whatever was left over from other ship designs. We spent a lot of time trying to figure it out and couldn't. If there's a theme, it's not one that just leaps out at you. Color scheme is mix and match. A blue Statue of Liberty in the cafe? And who told them Miss Liberty head (in blue) sconces had even a remote sense of taste?
Posh Dining room was even odder (far east meets new wave?) Had a table for four though only the two of us mid-room on lower deck. Ronny was our waiter and had an infectious laugh. Nice guy, easy going, sometimes didn't get all the food right. No complaints on the quality of the food in any of the dining areas.
Breakfast - ok variety on buffet. Great poached eggs in Posh dining room along with hot syrup for your belgium waffles. Posh has limited menu but all the basics served much warmer than buffet.
SunKing Steakhouse - first time we've done the pay extra dining and it was well worth the extra. Excellent, top shelf food. Steaks were tender and cook to perfection. If you don't like onions in your sauteed mushrooms let them know. Desserts? well they're huge here. In fact all the portions were huge. Actually too big (half a head of lettuce for a salad?) But would definitely do it again.
Entertainment: Forgettable. The only major mark against CCL. Second rate everything. Major shows were all song/dance types, couple including the cruisers so I guess they can cut expenses on investing in better talent. No magician by the way (a staple for cruising). The New Orleans show was so boring I felt bad for the dancers. On the plus side, had two sets of comics in the International lounge most nights. Do 'family' shows and then adult shows later on in the evening. Family shows are a stretch, the four we heard were obviously not accustomed in toning their acts down. But better than the main shows.
Miscellaneous Ship stuff:
Want pictures? Hope so as they're set up all over the Promenade deck each night, multiple stops as you get off at each port and of course at dinner. Way overboard.
Need a Drink at 8am? They're there for you. Hawking drinks day and night. A CCL trait.
Want help with your lunch tray? Forget it. Saw a lot of seniors needing help but to no avail. My harshest criticism for this ship on customer service.
Cruise Director? Didn't see a lot of him and when he was on stage didn't seem to be really into it. Boring. Now the Ass't CD was a hoot as his sidekick on the morning show.
Shopping Ladies? Not here. Small selection especially in perfumes.
Debarkation: no problem here. Walked right off. Funny thing though, CD at his debarkation speech literally said they don't pay any mind to the number or color of your luggage tags. Just get off the ship please. We're done with you (ok didn't really say that last part but is what it sounded like).
Do CCL again? Yep if the price is right.