We sailed aboard Freedom of the Seas February 5th to the Western Caribbean. As usual Royal Caribbean provided a great cruise experience, our 4th with RCI. Legend, Mariner, Oasis and Freedom.
Cabin: We were on deck 8 with a promenade view. The cabin was what we expect and have experienced on other ships. It was clean and provided everything we needed for the week. Our cabin steward met every need and served every request without issue. He is a busy person so if you're going to expect to have someone "wait on you" all day, you may be disappointed. We require little tending and only ask for ice (brought twice daily) and assistance with the occasional system snafu.
Food: We dined nightly in the main dining room. The menu was nearly the same that we experienced on Oasis last year. For those that find the food quality lacking, all I can say is that you must eat at a much more elegant level than I am accustomed to. We found the menus to offer a wide variety of appetizers, soups, salads, entree meats and seafood and desserts. All well prepared and presented. Dining room service is awesome. I imagine that 5 star dining establishments may be of superior quality, but they are typically not serving 1500 guests in a seating. The Windjammer buffet has much of the same menu items without the structure and presentation of the dining room. Breakfast and lunch at the Windjammer is nothing special, but would satisfy most appetites. We typically ate in the main dining room for breakfast where a scaled down buffet exists and ordering from a menu is available. We don't feel the need to dine at the specialty restaurants on board so can't comment on those. Sorrento's or the Promenade Cafe offers an option for a "light lunch" which we took advantage of from time to time. Soft serve ice cream is available on the pool deck all afternoon.
Entertainment: Non-stop and top quality. Cruise director Graham Seymour is excellent. I can't remember an RCI cruise director that didn't impress me with their ability to entertain. The shows were all excellent. Having cruised on Oasis, we were familiar with the reservation system and reserved all our show times prior to boarding. That relieved much of the chaos involved in attending the shows. They have some bugs to work out with this system and a statement was made during our cruise that changes to the admitting process for the shows were being instituted this week. Hopefully, that clears up some of the issues with getting seated. Without knowing what changes are being made, my advice is to make a plan and reserve your shows before boarding. Arrive at the theater at least 45 minutes before show time with your entire party to get your preferred seating location. The late night "Love and Marriage", "Quest" and Graham's stand up show are all worth attending. Bingo, the Flo-Rider, basketball, volleyball, arcade, mini-golf, golf simulator, ice skating and the list goes on. So much to do...so little time.
Ports: Labadee was a pleasant surprise. RCI has a peninsula with a few beaches to sun bathe and swim. There are plenty of lounges available and staff throughout the area to serve your needs. The ship caters an extensive lunch buffet on shore. A couple in our party experienced the zip-line and highly recommended the "thrill".
In Falmouth, Jamaica we went on the Windjammer Sail and Snorkel and had a great time. You're bussed over to a resort on Montego Bay and board a sailboat for a short cruise to the snorkel reefs in the bay, snorkel for about an hour and then party with the staff while touring the bay and finally returning to the resort and busses back to the ship.
Grand Cayman was a tender port. We had no plans for activities there and only browsed the shops in town.
I booked a deep sea fishing charter in Cozumel. It was OK but I believe there are probably better options for that activity in other parts of the world. We did catch a Barracuda so the trip wasn't a total skunk. Being a Great Lakes fisherman, it was an economical way to experience the salt water fishing methods. I enjoyed the charter. The captain did do a nice job aboard a 32' sport fisherman. We made a 45 minute run along the island shoreline and then trolled for a couple hours at the south end of the island before returning to the ship.
Getting on or off the ship was no more painful than transiting an airport, probably less. Because over 3,000 people are involved in the process, there is some waiting, but nothing that is unbearable.
In a nutshell, I found absolutely nothing to complain about during this cruise. I will admit that my first cruise experience 22 years ago was indeed more of a luxury experience and cruise lines have made changes to offset economic pressures. That said, my week aboard Freedom of the Seas was everything I expected and more.