We were excited about the 8-day itinerary having three sea days since our cruise before was a 12-day Mediterranean cruise on Carnival Magic that left us thrilled but exhausted. Our goal was a lazy sea-filled holiday with no internet or cell phone bother. Freedom's itinerary delivered that wonderfully.
Freedom is clean and well-maintained. While it isn't fair to say she is worn around the edges, her decor is a bit dated. Maybe frumpy is the word I should use. Our cabin was clean and well kept by our Steward. I think I heard the Cruise Director mention that she was due in dry dock for a refurb before long.
The crew were up to Carnival's usual standards of efficiency and politeness, but there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm or friendliness beyond the letter of Carnival's expectations for employees. That is not to say the crew were unfriendly. Our room steward was quite friendly and polite, for example, but the bar staff, the entertainment crew, and the dining room staff did not go "the extra step" that we have come to expect from Carnival crew members. I can't exactly put the words to the feeling, but it came from a crew motivation issue that is the director of the hotel's shortcoming.
We use Anytime Dining, so we did not have a single server for the duration of our cruise. The service in Anytime Dining varies from efficient to distracted depending on whether the dining room is filled or not when you eat. Since we eat relatively early, the Anytime Dining area was crowded most nights and it was difficult to get everything to the table at the same time. We often waited for silver service or for a tea bag or honey for coffee. The waits were not terrible, but it was a bit frustrating to sit with food in front of us while we waited for the proper untensil(s) or to have coffee go cold before the honey arrived. The quality of the food was Carnival's best fare, although the one night I had the Flat Iron Steak I had to send it back twice to get a rare piece. As usual, the dining staff were willing to accommodate whatever food combinations we requested.
The concierge services we receive as Platinum Cruisers were delivered as promised, and the VIP check-in got us aboard and settled at a table on Lido before the boarding rush began. We were off the ship first (with the early flights) and were in the car and on the way home before 8:30 AM.
The Cruise Director was consistent with the lack of enthusiasm we found from the crew (maybe he was the source). Jacques was effective but he had the annoying habit of coming on the loud hailer and going on with a five minute litany of activities rather than saying 30 seconds worth a time so we could get back to whatever we were doing. Our last sailing was with John Heald, so it is probably unfair (but inevitable) to compare.
The musicians on this cruise were not to our liking. There are inevitably one or two Promenade/Sun Deck acts you can take or leave, but the mix of music on this cruise was uniformly off our radar and not very good to boot. That doesn't make or break any cruise for us, but if I were under 45, I would have been disappointed. In fairness, we are not late night disco goers, so that music may have been just what the doctor ordered for those who like it.
We used this cruise to unwind and relax, so we participated in fewer of the onboard activities than we usually do. It is uncommon for us to come home without at least one "ship on a stick" but we passed in favor of card games on the Promenade and lazy afternoons on the Serenity Deck.
Freedom is a fine ship and its crew are right up to marks. As I said, there was something undefinable missing from this experience that we have come to expect from Carnival cruises. We enjoyed the cruise a lot and would not hesitate to book Freedom again, so I am not damning with faint praise. We simply did not have the "wow" experience we have had on nearly all our other Carnival cruises.