We all love to cruise and getting a good deal is an important part of the process. On a dreary Super Bowl Sunday (2/5/2012,) getting the best deal on our cruise ship was not even an issue. We were about to experience the most expensive staterooms on board the Freedom of the Seas and we were all excited. On arrival at Port Canaveral, we easily found our assigned complementary parking lot. We walked the short distance to the terminal and joined the rest of our group waiting to board the ship. At 11:00AM there were basically no lines. The grumpy employee stationed just outside our entrance was the only unsmiling employee we encountered the whole day. Soon we cleared security, proceeded upstairs to check-in with our group leader & received name tags. We then relinquished our drivers license to RCCL personnel in exchange for SeaPass cards on lanyards. After settling into comfortable seating, we were greeted by a most pleasant & informative RCCL representative Joanne (Jo) Cotterman, Business Development Manager. Exactly at 11:30, Jo led our eager group of 34 for quick ID photos and then we all boarded the ship.
For the next hour or so we viewed most of the ship's deluxe suites. We viewed Junior Suite-1544, Grand Suite-1548, Owner Suite-1620 and Royal Suite-1640 and others located on Deck 10. We also viewed a very roomy (handicap) Accessible Junior Suite- 1628. Jo showed us the more standard inside Staterooms (Cat. L) which were very lovely but it was the luxury suites that all of us were interested in seeing - staterooms that most of us would never get see otherwise. They are gorgeous. If you can afford one, what a way to cruise! How nice that all mattresses are rounded to give even more space & maneuverability. Later we rode the elevators to Deck 6 and viewed the unusual Promenade Staterooms. These inside cabins have large windows that look out on the Royal Promenade below. One unusual Promenade Stateroom-6305 is called The Ben & Jerry Suite. It is an inside room that faces the backs of the cow sculptures over the Ben & Jerry Store. To compensate for this view, the ship offers you free Ben & Jerry Ice Cream throughout your cruise. What fun! The Promenade Staterooms cost more than regular inside staterooms but I think that they are worth it as they offer a more open feeling. Of course, when you turn on lights you lose privacy unless you close the drapes. The Promenade Staterooms also give you an excellent view of the parades & dance shows that are staged during your cruise. The spacious Presidential Suite-6414 received the most accolades from us. It sleeps 14 passengers - this is not a typo - for $80,000. All of us were wowed by what we saw - spacious luxury.
Book a suite larger than a Junior Suite for 4-nights or longer on RCCL & receive extra special amenities. You'll have priority check-in, departure & tender boarding, complementary Concierge Club Service plus luggage valet service including free pressing service on the first formal night. You have use of luxury Spa bathrobes & slippers and even get to choose your own type of pillow. Receive VIP pool deck seating, reserved seating in the theater & private breakfast & lunch seating in specialty restaurants. Complete breakfast, lunch & dinner menus are available for your in-room dining. Ghirardelli chocolates will greet you at turn down service. You can wave around your special Gold SeaPass Card to impress the rest of us onboard. There are other perks and upgraded amenities too numerous to mention.
After an hour of viewing the many spacious staterooms & the awesome main public areas, we had lunch in the beautifully appointed Leonardo Dining Room Deck 3 AFT. I dined on Seafood Salad (shrimp, scallops, salmon,) Roasted Duck and Sky High Lemon Meringue Tart. In addition, I also sampled the Garlic Tiger Shrimp entree. Oh my! My husband had Caesar Salad & a very different tasting Eggplant & Roma Tomato Bake - he loved it. At the large windows where we sat, we had a perfect view of the Disney Dream docked right next to us. Our service was attentive, efficient and unobtrusive. After the delicious lunch, we were free to further explore the ship until 3 PM.
It wasn't just the gorgeous staterooms or scrumptious lunch that wowed our group but also the many unusual extras available on this beautiful ship. One that I especially want to try (someday) is the ice skating rink. Be sure to pack casual comfortable long pants for this one. The ship provides the skates. You can take lessons, too or watch the ice shows that are a combination of dance and athletics. Another unusual amenity is the 3D indoor theater showing first run 3D movies. There is also a large poolside outdoor TV screen showing first run movies and sporting events during the day & under the stars.
After food & entertainment, the cruise industry knows that passengers are very interested in the pool areas on board. Freedom of the Seas has 10 pools and whirlpools. Two huge pools & 4 whirlpools are right on the pool deck. Although none of us on the tour travel with children, we were very impressed with the innovative H2O Zone Water Park. It contains colorful fountains, geysers and water guns plus shallow water to keep kids safely entertained all day. We all enjoyed the complementary soft ice cream cones available on the pool deck. I loved the 2 large cantilevered whirlpools in the adults-only Solarium that extend 12 feet over the water. For males, there is a regulation-size boxing ring in the large fitness center. Ladies you, of course, can use it also. The most unusual amenity is the FlowRider. Watch brave passengers ride the waves on body boards & eventually wipe out. Padding prevents anyone from getting hurt. Stadium seating around the attraction permits you to be entertained for as long as you like or why not try it yourself?
Another exciting venue is the Royal Promenade. The centrally located 4-story Main Street on Deck 5 is named after a street in Milan & it is the hub of activities - boutiques, pubs, eateries, dance shows, parades & Meet the Captain events,. We spent lots of our free time here tasting the complementary goodies. My husband is still raving about the pizza he sampled at Sorrentino's. I loved their Chocolate Moose and the Amaretto Cookies. Cafe Promenade has delicious Starbuck's coffee and complementary cookies and confectionaries of different types. We sampled several of them. At Vintages you can self-pour a glass of wine to sample for a fee. Or, take a decorating class at Cupcakes Cupboard. I saw on display giant cupcakes decorated in Giants & Patriots themes for Super Bowl Sunday.
Children as young as 6 months are entertained in the colorful, cheery Royal Babies & Royal Tots Program. Older children have special activities through the day in the Adventure Ocean Youth Programs: Aquanauts 3-5, Explorers, 6-8, Voyagers, 9-11. Tweens & Teens have their own disco with more independence. There is Challenger's Arcade to keep the kids occupied also. Children as young as 1 yr. old can be babysat in either a group situation or in your own stateroom at additional charge if parents need more free time. Puppet shows and Dreamworks Character Parades also keep the kids happy and engaged. The facilities & activities are first rate.
Of course, the ship has the more typical amenities such as a challenging rock climbing wall, basketball court, ping pong tables and a mini golf course as well as the large Shipshape Fitness Center. The Skylight Chapel on Deck 15 is available for weddings or to renew your vows. We saw two brides getting married the day that we toured the ship. I checked out the Day Spa and found that you can choose from over 100 different treatments including tooth whitening & acupuncture.
I could spend more time talking about the theater, buffets, casino, hair salon, lounges, library, specialty restaurants, nightclubs & bars but I think that you get the idea that this ship is a destination in and of itself. If you think that this ship is just too large for you to navigate, think again. Throughout the ship there are innovative signs called "Cruise Compass" - directional aides with interactive touch screens that tell you the location of rest rooms, your stateroom, public areas - in fact every place on the ship - plus give you the route to get there. In addition, they list the daily activities. You won't be roaming the halls aimlessly. I was so impressed with everything that I purchased a voucher for a future cruise. The offer never expires and gives us back our $200 on our next deposit plus up to an additional $200 shipboard credit depending on the length of our new cruise. This is a better return on our money than we receive at the bank. Freedom of the Seas cruises the Eastern & Western Caribbean from Port Canaveral. The Independence of the Seas (Western Mediterranean) & Liberty of the Seas (Western Caribbean, Western Mediterranean & Transatlantic) are also Freedom Class ships with similar amenities. As we left the ship, the sun was shining and we all hurried home to warm up our TVs for the Super Bowl Game. Perhaps I'll see you on my next cruise aboard the Freedom of the Seas. It can't be soon enough for me.