This is our second cruise on the Freedom of the Seas in less than a year. Last June we did the Eastern Caribbean itinerary, and this time we did the Western Caribbean.
We have sailed many times with Royal Caribbean, and we have no problem with recommending this cruise to others.
I'm also happy to say that cruise director Graham Seymour is back on the Freedom. Our February 5th cruise was his first cruise back after holiday. He is a hilarious guy.
Despite what some are saying about the food and entertainment, we felt that both were excellent. The ship is very clean, and the staff were great. Overall, the Freedom is a well run ship. We had a great vacation with family.
We have tried both a "stay and park" package at a local hotel which includes transfers to the port and parked in the covered parking deck at the pier. Though it is perhaps more expensive (about $120 for the week), I must say that I prefer parking in the covered parking deck at the pier. The convenience of being able to arrive and especially to depart at our leisure and knowing that our vehicle is somewhat protected under the covered garage was worth it to us.
Regarding check-in at the pier, our experience has been that the bulk of the crowd arrives at around 11am. It seems that if you arrive around noon to 1pm that you can miss some of the crowd. I'm not sure if that is always true, but again, that was our experience.
Once on the ship, they do not open access to the staterooms until 1pm. Due to this, the Windjammer is extraordinarily crowded, and it can be difficult to find a seat, since many people will sit and talk at the tables after they have finished their meals. To avoid this, another option would be to either A) Wait until after 1pm to go to the Windjammer or 2)Try Sorrento's Pizza or Cafe Promenade on the Royal Promenade (deck 5). There was hardly anyone at these restaurants, and one could easily find a comfortable seat, without the stress of the Day 1 crowd.
The ship is beautiful. There are plenty of options for the family. It is amazing how clean they keep the ship. The workout facility and equipment is excellent.
They now play 3D movies in the main theater as well as standard movies in the screening room, so it is fun to catch a show at some point during the trip.
There is some slight vibration in the section of the ship above and below the dining room. To avoid this, book a room forward of the aft stairwell or in the very stern of the ship.
We found the food to be excellent on the ship. The variety was great, and there were actually some good healthier choices. Take advantage of room service, especially for breakfast on port days.
The service in the main dining room on this trip was the best we'd ever had on any cruise. A giant thanks to Eduardo and Diganne on Deck 3 Starboard.
We enjoyed the entertainment on the ship. I'm not necessarily big on musical stage shows, but the talent was excellent.
The comedian the first day left much to be desired, but the comedian our last day, Greg Otto, was hilarious.
For the magic show "Now You See It" and the Ice Show, if you can, get a seat in the center section, you'll enjoy both shows more if you do.
Regarding Graham Seymour, he is a hilarious guy, but be warned that though both the Love and Marriage gameshow and Graham's standup comedy show are both billed as "adults only," I'd consider the Love and Marriage gameshow to be more PG-13, while Graham's adult comedy show is a definite R rating.
For the next few months, check out Lace Walker each evening in the Bull and Bear Pub on the Royal Promenade. He is a very talented and personable guy. If it wasn't for him and draft beer, I wouldn't want to sit on those hard wooden chairs in the Bull and Bear Pub.
If you want to learn to surf, check your cruise compass and go up at night to the Flowrider. I went up one night at around 11pm there were only a few people there. The surfing is not hard, but if it is your first time, getting to spend some extra time with an instructor during a slow time is key. Or you can always pay for a lesson with a surfing instructor.
Most of the piers/ports, Labadee, Falmouth, and I believe Cozumel on the Western Caribbean itinerary are controlled by Royal Caribbean. This means that things are a little nicer when you get off the ship, but the shops are much like what you'd find on the ship.
Labadee was great. We enjoy the private beach experience, so we thought it was great. I did the zip line, and it was fun. Also, make sure you check out the Dragon's Breath Rock.
Falmouth, Jamaica was disappointing. The cruise terminal is owned by Royal Caribbean and was beautiful. We enjoyed walking around there. However, the area just outside the gate was not developed for tourism at all.
Grand Caymen was excellent. It is the nicest and cleanest port in both the Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. We did an island tour and a semi-submersible ride. We enjoyed both. Don't forget to take address for friends back home so you can send them a postcard from "hell".
Cozumel, Mexico was decent. We have been there before, and it is more developed for tourism away from the pier, but the pier is little way from downtown.
We were sad to leave the ship and are looking forward to our next trip on Royal Caribbean. I guess that is the sign of a successful vacation.