We sailed on the Freedom of the Seas Jan 8th returning Jan 15th. This was our 4th cruise overall, all of them with RCCL. We have previously sailed on the Mariner, Independence, Oasis and now Freedom. We had cruised with my family, a party of 12, my in laws, and our two teenage sons, but this time it was just my wife and I. Our overall cruise experience, from Pre cruise flight, pre cruise hotel to the actual cruise was excellent.
Flight and ground transportation: We flew Southwest for the first time. I highly recommend paying the extra $10.00 per person for priority seating. We booked Travelynx for ground transportation to cocoa Beach. After landing, we called Travelynx and they were there within 15 minutes. Our Driver, I believe his name was David ( long blond hair older surfer dude), was very knowledgeable and informative pointing out points of interest as we drove from the airport to our hotel.
Pre-cruise hotel: We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Astronaut Blvd the night before our cruise. It was clean, staff was friendly and near Cocoa Beach Pier which we wanted to check out. Advantages to this hotel were plenty of restaurants within walking distance along with a Publix right next door which we used to pick up soda and water to take on the ship. We ate at Beef O Bradys which is in the same shopping strip as Publix. It was good, not great. My wife had the Ruben platter which she said was good. Next time I think we will check out Boston Beef and Seafood which is directly across the highway from our hotel.
We booked a shuttle to the port at the hotel front desk the morning of the cruise, you could not pre book the night before, it was first come first serve in the morning. It was 5$ per person. our shuttle was to leave at 10:00, it actually left at 10:30 and we were at the port in 10 minutes.
Upon arrival at the port, from security to getting our sea passes and on the ship it was 20 minutes. The Freedom is the sister ship of the Independence, so we were familiar with the layout. This was the first cruise where passengers were not able to get to their staterooms before 1:00pm. All the corridors leading to the staterooms were closed until 1:00 exactly. No big deal, we checked out the Windjammer and grabbed a bite to eat. After making our way to our cabin, we met our stateroom attendant, David. He was a tall quiet fellow who always had our room in pristine condition. I requested an extra white plastic bucket with Ice on the first day to keep my beers chilled and David had my ice bucket filled twice daily without asking. He addressed us by our first names, Mr Mike and Miss Debra every time he saw us.
Food: I have read on this web site where people have complained about the food on RCCL not being as good as it once was. That was not the case in my opinion. Both my wife and I thought everything was just a good if not better than
our previous cruises. The windjammer (ate there 4 or 5 times) was decent. The selections were different every day at the hot station islands. Jade's menu was different every time I ate there and even the dessert station always was different. The main dining room was also good. Selection and quality was present every night. I only ate off the Alternative menu once because the offerings on the daily menu wasn't to my liking. Our waiters, Barrington and Kevin were great, even though one of their tables was for 12 people (6 of them being young children) they always had our food delivered first, before any of their other tables along with promptly gathering our finished dishes. No complaints here. We ate at Portofinos once. The mushroom risotto along with the pan fried veal was to die for. Refik our Waiter, was very gracious and helpful. Room service food was average, breakfast was the same everyday so we decided to eat in the dining room a couple of times. Johnny Rockets was good as always, they have expanded the menu to now include chili fries and chili dogs, very good.
Entertainment: The entertainment on this cruise was better than any other we have been on. The best had to be the Headliner Drew Thomas from Americas got talent. his show was Las Vegas quality, and we heard this from other passengers as well. The Ice show was also good, a little long but altogether entertaining. The quest show, in my opinion, always seemed to be "rated R" but this cruise it seemed a little toned down, more like PG13. Allan Brooks made the Love and Marriage show. His off the cuff remarks were not only for the games contestants, but also for making fun of people getting up during the show.
Ports:Labadee, my wife did the zip line, i was to chicken. She loved it. Labadee has 2 beaches, one where the zip line ends, the other you can take a 2 minute tram ride to. the one that is a little further away is the better beach, less rocks. Both beaches have a out door buffet, windjammer food. Shopping is limited on Labadee, there is a market of about 15 stores behind the further beach, but the locals working in these stores are very aggressive. Big turn off.
Falmouth: the main shopping when you get off the ship is the best you will find in the area. Once you leave the port area which is fenced in and watched by guards you are on your own. We did the horse drawn trolley tour which was very eye opening. you see the poverty areas which are very sad to see. We stopped at a historical marker church which was interesting. My biggest concern with Falmouth was it seemed there is no speed limit enforced. here you are on a horse drawn buggy and cars are driving by you at 60-70 mph. Scary.
Grand Cayman: Best of all the stops, we did all of our souvenir shopping here. Clean shops, no aggressive selling, and reasonably priced. We didn't have any excursions here, we planned on using this port as a walking, shopping day.I recommend checking out Caraloha, it is a linen store. My wife bought the softest towel set I have ever felt there.
Cozumel: We have been here before, nothing special, you take a cab to the far end of down town then walk your way back along the main highway checking out all the shops. Taxi is $7.00 one way. All of these stores seem to sell the same thing. My suggestion, do your shopping in Grand Cayman.
Overall it was a great cruise, weather was 85-90 degrees and sunny every day except Friday afternoon when we were leaving Cozumel, a brief storm came through. I would highly recommend this cruise. RCCL has a lifetime customer as far as I'm concerned