Arrival-We drove to Ft. Lauderdale from Michigan for our 2/5/12 sail date. We came in a day ahead to help unwind from the drive. We stayed at the Holiday inn Express in Ft. Lauderdale and left our car there for the week and got a shuttle to the boat free of charge. Hotel was great. Friendly staff and shuttle was very easy the next day. The pool at the hotel is fabulous too. Only down side was having to get a taxi back to hotel after cruise.
Embark-Was very smooth. We shuttled to port from hotel and got our bags dropped right off and got in line. Line moved by steady and we arrived there about 11:15. We moved right along and were on the boat by around 12pm to have lunch. I thought the embark was very well run.
Ship-Freedom is a very nice ship. We love the layout of it. We had been on the Inspriation for our last cruise which is a much smaller boat. We love the three pools and the adult only deck. The water slide is a little slow for those thrill seekers like the DH. Pools are busy on sea days but that is to be expected with 3,000 people on board. We played some volleyball games on the sports deck and enjoyed the mini golf as well. Ship was very clean and well maintained. The decor was nice. The statue of liberty heads hanging around everywhere are a little wierd but you get used to them. We loved the ship.
Room-We were on the bottom floor which we loved. We were the very first room on our deck at the front of the boat. We had a king size single bed room (or two twin beds pushed together in cruising terms). Our room was interior but nice in size. Cruise rooms are always small but you are not in them enough to notice. Bathrooms are kind of small. Meant for one person at a time. We loved having the end room on the boat. No hall traffic to speak of. We had boat noise on mornings in port but you can hear that in almost all the rooms. Our room steward was great and kept the room very neat and clean. Out of our other 4 couples we all had different rooms and i liked ours the best for the money we paid for it.
Dining-We had my time dining in the Chic dining room. We ended up eating every night at 5:45pm though when they opened because our group of ten wanted to sit together and it was easier to get a seat this way. Dewa our waiter and his staff were the best we have ever had. They looked after us like kings and queens. We always got brought extra dishes to try and share. Anything beef in the dining room is to die for. The seafoos was good as well but the beef is so tender you cannot pass it up. We almost always had chocolate melting cake with extra ice cream. This is a must at dinner. We ate in the dining room every night. We ate lunch and breakfast on lido deck. Buffet was good. Always lots to choose from. Deli sandwich bar was really good. My DH loved the chicken tenders. The late mexican buffet was really good the one night too. Also the chocolate buffet for lunch the last day is great. I ate my weight in chocolate that day. We had pizza and ice cream almost every night. Pizza was nothing special but sould not complain when you are eating at 1am. We did not have room service but one couple in our group did every morning for breakfast and loved it. You definelty get your moneys worth just out of the food you eat.
Entertainment-Carnival ships never lack for entertainment. We seen all the shows in the mai lounge. I especially like the jump and jive show as well as the always funny newlywed game show. That is a must see. Different each time but always funny. The comedy shows were great. JR was especially great. We all laughed so hard at his adult shows that we were crying. The stories he has from the boat are too funny. Not for the easily offended though. Must get there early to get a seat. Always full. We loved Brad our cruise director. He was funny and personable. He did such a great job and I do not think anyone can live up to his standards that he has set for us now. he is so down to earth and loves his job. Hairy Chest contests and pool side antics are always funny too. With our group of 5 thirty something couples we were never bored and did not get much sleep. Don't go on a cruise to sleep. You can do that at home. We are still recovering a week later. Never a dull moment on a carnival ship. That is one reason why we love it. Something for everyone to do.
Ports-We stopped first in key west. We just got off and walked front st. and duval st. Just did some shopping. Lots of shops but mostly the same stuff. Great prices though and brought home some nice stuff. Just the average tourist day. Next was GRand Cayman and we had been there before. The rest of our group were first time cruisers, so they opted to do sting ray tour and they all loved it. We had done it before so we just shopped and took a taxi to the royal palms and went to the beach. They had showers and changing rooms and could get onthe beach for $2.00 there. Taxi ride was $4.00 a person to get there. We did not rent chairs. They were available to rent for $10.00 but we opted to just lay in sand. Beach is so beautiful there it is a must see. Water was great and just relaxed. took taxi back and got on boat. Boat is dead on sea days so you can get a chair easy on the adult deck and just relax and enjoy the view. You must tender in from Grand Cayman which is not my DH favorite thing to do but it went fast. Only one other boat in port with us. Last stop was Ocho Rios. We did the carnival dunn river falls and paradise beach club excursion. The falls are beautiful but very busy to be prepared for lots of people. It is a must do if you have not done it but it was a one time thing for us. Nothing special to have to go back. You have to walk through lots of hustlers to get out of the falls. Jamaica is not a place to go off on your own. Shop back by the port. They are pushy but you can barter with them and get things for cheap if that is your thing. The beach club was okay. Nothing special. Jerk chicken is so spicy not my thing. I just had a hotdog. Rum punch is potent so be careful. Beach was clean but nothing special. Heard great things about bob sled excursion will probably do that next time. Jamaica is not for the faint of heart. Need to be okay with pushy and sometimes scary. We did not shop because of this. We shopped at he other two ports which are more laid back.
Disembark-We chose to carry our own bags off at 6:30am and got a taxi. This worked out great for us. We wanted to get on the road home and it was so easy and not busy on the early walk off. You have to carry your bags but if you can handle that this is the way to go if you want to get right off and out of ft lauderdale.
Summary-The service exceeded our expectations. The shows and entertainment were so amazing. The dining was great and we all gained 10 pounds. You cannot beat the value for your money. We will not sruise with anyone else. We love the carnival atmosphere and loved this cruise. Nice length of time and great internairy. We are already picking out our next cruise. We put a deposit down while onthe boat for another cruise for the onboard credit special.