We wanted to go on a Princess cruise for our honeymoon, only to see that about a month from our wedding, our dream cruise was sold out. So, we found the Carnival Freedom, a large, fairly new ship from Carnival (our second choice to Princess), at a good price and going to ports of call that I had been dying to try. I wasn't expecting it to be amazing, to be honest, but it fell short.
We got to Port Everglades around 11am, and joined the massive line. Overall, I think Princess does a much better job at embarkation, they divide up the line by ship deck so you don't have to wait so long. The line was huge, but when we finally got to the desk they were efficient and friendly, and we went to sit down to get called to board and sat for less than 5 minutes. We brought our luggage with us (since it was our honeymoon we didn't want to take any chances losing luggage on this trip!). It really wasn't so bad to bring the luggage on board ourselves. I sat with the luggage at the buffet while my husband got us a plate of food, and we ate, and then he sat while I got more food. By that time, our room was ready so we just took the luggage in and kept on exploring the ship.
My husband and family and I go on cruises for food -- that's our favorite part and we dream about cruise food constantly when we're on land. The food on the Carnival Freedom was really good, but again, it wasn't showstopping. It was definitely worth it though, the food made us happy!
We really enjoyed the dining room food from the first minute. Right after we boarded the ship, we went to the matre d' to request a table for two since we were on our honeymoon. He made it so quick and easy, within a minute we left the dining room with our new table number. That night when we got to the dining room, our server, Carla, already knew that it was our honeymoon. Carla and her assistants were wonderful. They were always very prompt about getting our menus and food to us, and when we ordered multiple appetizers, entrees, and desserts (it's ok, I'm in my twenties and weight 110 pounds and I order multiples of everything, so don't be afraid to do it), they brought them at the same time, which suited me because I like to try bites of everything at once. They were incredibly great servers and entertainers -- the shows at dinner were fantastic as always. The second night they brought us a special large slice of cake and sang Happy Honeymoon to us, my husband was embarrassed but I was thrilled at the gesture. Thanks, Carla!
At the dining room, here are a few things that you cannot miss, they are so good! Appetizers: French onion soup, strawberry bisque, escargots, frog legs (the last two only if you're adventurous, but the garlic bread is still worth the entire plate). Entrees: Braised beef brisket, braised short ribs, barbecue ribs. Desserts: Warm chocolate melting cake, vanilla crÃ¨me brulee (if you like sugar).
You can see pictures of a lot of the food, dining room and the rest, on www.cruisefoods.com.
The Freedom had a cooking demonstration up at the Sun King restaurant, which we highly, HIGHLY recommend. It's a lot of fun, and we got samples of all the food the chefs cooked. This was probably the best food of the entire cruise, even though we just got small tastes of it. They also pass out the recipes, which is so nice!
The Freedom has a Fish & Chips specialty serving area, which our previous Carnival ship did not have, and it was terrific! Do not miss out on the Fish & Chips, they are fried crispy with a light batter and piping hot with crispy French fries. Beside the serving area is a condiment bar where you can get lemon, lime, tartar sauce, salsa, and remoulade (my favorite). They also had some sushi cups of shrimp, squid, tuna, etc.; I tried the tuna with watermelon and it was the first time I enjoyed raw fish. It had a nice zing to it but was really refreshing too. A lot of people don't know about the fish station, but we had it multiple times and loved it!
The pizza station on the Carnival ships has never been our favorite, the pizza is just a little bit bland, even if you try to add lots of parmesan, red pepper flakes, and oregano. The calzones are much better, but you usually have to wait about 10 minutes while they cook it for you. The Caesar salad is good too. One thing I noticed at the pizza and fish stations is that sometimes the workers linger in the back and don't come out when a customer arrives, that annoyed several guests a bit.
The deli station workers were fast and efficient, taking orders and serving right when anyone arrived. Their food is one of my favorites. I love the tomato, mozzarella, and arugula sandwich on focaccia, if you like mozzarella and pesto stuff, it's to die for! The turkey wrap is really good too, and our only complaint about the grilled sandwiches is that usually they don't keep them in the press long enough to melt the cheese fully. Yummy though, and open late!
We like the grill, though with the fish and deli, we only tried it once this cruise. I'm a fan of the chicken tenders which remind me of Walmart chicken tenders, and the chili cheese fries. My husband complained that the cheese wasn't hot, which made it a little less appetizing. The burgers are generally decent, nothing special.
The Freedom had the Mongolian wok station, which was new to us on Carnival. The wait is long, and hot and sweaty, but it was really good! You get to choose your noodles, vegetables, meat, and sauce and they stir fry it on the grill in front of you. We got the middle spicy one (Thai barbecue), and it was pretty spicy but delicious.
We absolutely love the ice cream and frozen yogurt on Carnival, it's that little treat that even though you're full, you can make room for. I'm a sucker for the vanilla and strawberry frozen yogurt. We're also kinda suckers when it comes to the hot chocolate machine -- you have to try it. Our friend is looking to buy one for his house now. It makes steaming hot delicious cocoa for one mug, and it's oh so good.
The buffet on the Freedom was a little disappointing, but honestly we don't much like any of Carnival's buffets. The way they are set up makes the lines a bit long (the Triumph was worse, the lines were terrible), and the food selection is nothing special. The highlights are probably the desserts, which again are a level down from Princess, but still yummy, and the chocolate buffet was quite delectable. We were overwhelmed by how much chocolate selections there were -- everything from chocolate ice cream swan cream puffs to chocolate cheesecake to banana fritters and chocolate fritters and at least 15 types of chocolate cake, and a large chocolate fountain. Pictures of all this delicious food is on www.cruisefoods.com.
Our cruise director was Jacques; he was a really good cruise director but not as good as Newnan on the Triumph. The other members of the entertainment were wonderful as well. George, the assistant cruise director was hilarious, and the auctioneer, Eddie, actually was incredibly funny too.
Carnival entertainment is wonderful. We went to the Welcome Aboard show, we weren't going to miss it again, it was great. It was really funny, when the singers came out we realized that we had the same singers as we had on the Triumph. I only realized because Kate is really, really good, she's spectacular! We were not impressed with the Beatles show. We really liked the word show, I forget the name of it, but it was quite funny.
The ports ended up being the most disappointing part of the cruise, and it was the main reason we chose this trip. We were supposed to go to Key West, sea day, Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios, sea day. It ended up Key West (streets almost flooded, torrential downpour, most people stayed on the ship), sea day, Montego Bay Jamaica, sea day, and Key West again.
After the nightmare of Key West the first day where there was no sunshine and buckets of rain and wind, the captain decided to sail the other way around Cuba, and he sailed us into perfect weather for day two. It was clear and sunny and hot, but breezy, and beautiful!
Unfortunately, it switched our itinerary to Montego Bay instead of Ocho Rios, and that was to come before Grand Cayman. I was devastated, because Ocho Rios is the one destination I have always dreamed of visiting. They still had Ocho Rios excursions, but since we were on the other side of the island, they took about 8 hours (a 3 hour long bus ride to get there on a Jamaican bus) and the prices were at least doubled. I couldn't get myself to justify paying so much and the thought of if I need to use the restroom on that 3 hour long bus ride was not going to happen. So we decided to go shopping, and there isn't much shopping you can do right off the ship, like in Cozumel. You have to take buses to the shopping areas, and considering our bus was almost hit by another bus within 30 seconds of leaving the ship, we weren't enthusiastic to pay money to almost maybe die in a fiery bus crash in Jamaica.
Then we went to Grand Cayman the next day. My husband and I love Grand Cayman! It's a terrific port, and we highly recommend the snorkeling and swimming with the sting rays, it's one of the greatest experiences we've ever had and extremely affordable too. Some people we met on the Freedom recommended the Turtle Farm, so we booked that and I was ecstatic to go see the turtles! When we got to Grand Cayman, Jacques got on the speaker and said that they were hoping to get us tendered out, but that conditions were unfavorable. Apparently it was too windy for the tenders to sail, but in the meantime we watched tenders riding around, waiting to take us ashore. We were supposed to leave at 8, and they dragged on and on for at least an hour and half, telling us every half hour or so that conditions were not looking good but to stay put and wait to see what happened. Basically, my husband and I sat in the atrium for an hour and a half waiting to see if we could go ashore or not. Finally, they decided they could not take us ashore and we left to have a sea day. I was not happy, Grand Cayman has some really good shopping and I was hoping to get presents for everyone there. On the ship they put our Grand Cayman tshirts for $15 and $20, but I wouldn't buy them because on shore you can get them for $4-5.
They explored options to get us another port, but with our time constraints, the only one we could possibly visit was Key West, so we went there again. It was silly, because since we were entering the states, we had to go through immigration. From the moment we arrived at Key West, everyone had to get in line to go through immigration. The line literally started at the theater, wrapped around the first floor atrium, wrapped up the stairs to the second floor of the atrium, wrapped up the stairs to the third floor of the atrium, and extended past the casino to the back of the ship. Bad planning, bad planning. It was ridiculous. We waited until the line got shorter (only to the third floor stairs), and then went through immigration and went to Key West. Key West was beautiful! It was a gorgeous day, and we decided to walk around Mallory Square and Duvall Street, check out the pier and eat some conch and key lime. Key West has such a nice atmosphere to it, it was definitely worth coming back to. There are lots of chickens in Key West walking around the streets, we saw many chickens, roosters, and even baby chicks!
The Freedom is very large and beautiful. It is big and bright, pretty flashy. It was all nicely maintained and clean. Although there was a lot going on, it was never really loud, and it's easy to get around. Our favorite spot was the back of the ship at the upper level of the buffet, because it's so nice and quiet, and we can sip hot chocolate, eat desserts, and I can read my book, yet we can go out the back door and see the beautiful ocean any time we want.
We booked an interior cabin, and honestly it was plenty spacey. The bed was nice and big, the closets were good, the bathroom was a good size, but the layout still wasn't quite ideal as there wasn't a good spot to put luggage. The cabin came with a refrigerator, which was nice though so fully stocked with expensive liquor that it's hard to fit a buffet plate in there.
Our one complaint with the cabin was the noise above. We were right under the Lido deck (awesome, up a flight of stairs to the buffet -- perfect!), but there was a constant creaking sound. It was quite loud, and we're pretty sure it actually didn't have to do with the people above, that was fairly quiet. We think it was the ceiling panels creaking, something was off there and it was incredibly annoying when we were trying to sleep.
One of my goals this trip was to get a really great honeymoon picture, so we dressed up for formal night and took some pictures with the Carnival photographers that are everywhere. It's really fun to get your picture taken in all different stances and different backdrops and go the next day to see how you look. We bought one that looked amazing, as much as a I cringe that we paid over $20 for one print, it was worth it.
My husband and I ordered our shore excursion (which was canceled) on the in-cabin television after seeing that the shore excursion desk line was huge. Ordering online was extremely convenient, and we got our tickets like clockwork. The television also gives the dinner menu if you're wanting a sneak peak (I like to know, but my husband likes to be surprised, so I go on the television when he's in the shower and look at the menus).
We decided to take our luggage off the ship too instead of leaving it outside the door, because we had a long drive ahead of us and wanted to leave the ship early. That was fine, no problems at all.
The most disappointing part of this cruise was the weather, which Carnival couldn't do anything about. I will say that they did a very good job of handling the weather factor, and I give them props for the course changes and quickness of getting updated Funtimes to us. Nothing was bad about the ship, crew, service, or entertainment. It was a good cruise. I would go on Carnival and on Freedom again because they have good deals, and they are worth the money, but the next time I want an amazing vacation, this won't be it.