Freedom of the Seas Cruise Review by NoVa Cruisin Pair: Freedom in February
Overall Member Rating
Freedom in February
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Port Canaveral (Orlando)
We have been on over 25 cruises and therefore not all deserve a 5 star rating. That said, I would rate this cruise slightly above average or 3+ stars. The service staff was very good, the junior suite cabin was excellent, the entertainment was fair, and the food was fair.
My wife and I flew from Washington National to Orlando on JetBlue the day before the cruise and rented a car from Avis for about $55 plus $10 gas. The night before the cruise we stayed at the Fairfield Inn at Titusville. Unlike the hotels near the port, this hotel did not have a lot of cruise passengers and the free breakfast was not crowded. The hotel was a Â½ hour drive to the car rental return. The Avis shuttle took us to the pier. I was surprised to see that it appeared that the Port charges each vehicle just to enter the pier area, so that if we had unloaded our bags before returning our rental car we might have had to pay.
The boarding process went quickly since we are RCL Diamond More status and had booked a junior suite. Others had a much longer line. Once on board we went to the Windjammer to eat and had a hard time finding a seat, which we expected. At 1PM our cabins were available. Our cabin (1616) and balcony was the largest we have ever had on any cruise line, and was very comfortable. The walk-in closet provided plenty of storage space. The only problem we had was the location of our cabin when we docked at Falmouth. At Falmouth, the noise from the pier was so loud that we could not sit on our balcony in the afternoon. Consider the other side of the ship if this may be a problem for you.
We chose the My Time dining and it seemed to work well on this ship, unlike the minor problems we had on the Explorer-Oct 2011. The first night was very informal but that did not stop the photographers from coming to take our pictures at dinner. The second night was formal and once again the photographers were there. Fortunately, after that we didn't see them at all in the dining room. The food was adequate, but nothing to write home about. Although we were told constantly by RCL staff that it was "excellent", we don't agree (except may be for the jalapeno potato soup!). We ate in the Chops Grill one night (a gift from our travel agent) and found the food there excellent, but the service lacking in small ways.
RCL had sent us several emails telling us to book our show times online. When we tried to do it, we found out that the times we wanted to go (usually the 9 pm shows) were not available. Once onboard we were able to book our show times that we could not do online. Booking them was painless. We went to one of the lounges on the first day and selected our times. For each show, they scan your cruise card to insure that you have booked it, therefore causing some delays entering the theater. The system did not work very well and, according to the cruise director, it was going to be modified for the next sailing. The shows themselves were at best average, several production numbers, a magic show, and the ice show (best of the shows).
One night we went to the Schooner bar where Steve Green plays the piano. We heard him last fall on the Explorer and he was entertaining. That night he had a 50-60's trivia contest where he played a tune and you had to name the tune and the artist. I wish I could say I got a perfect score but I missed the beginning of the contest and there were a couple of tricky songs, like -- in 196x what 3 songs (and he played them) had the same melody (I got one). Another was the correct name of a song not the popular name. You got extra credit for the correct name like for example, **(WE'RE GONNA)** Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and **HIS** Comets.
On the Voyager class ships, there was a large indoor hot tub near the gym; on the Freedom it was replaced by a boxing ring (big disappointment). Another problem was the traffic flow from the Windjammer Cafe into the pool deck. On the Voyager, there was a separate entry way to the pool, but on the Freedom you had to go through the elevator lobby to enter a revolving door to get to the pool. This caused a traffic-flow problem, especially on sea days and other crowded periods. People waiting for the elevator as well as people coming off the elevators blocked easy access to the pool door. Also the revolving door slowed traffic unto the pool area. You needed to go about 10 feet and it took 10-20 seconds (does not sound like much but it takes time). The Freedom class has also moved the kids' pool to the center of the ship and reduced the size of the main pool area.
We purchased a soda package for the week. On this ship there is a self-service machine by the pool. To use it you must use a RCL soda container that has a programmed micro chip in the base which authorizes the machine to dispense. The container must rest on the base of the machine in order to dispense, if you hold the container it will not work. The price that RCL quotes does not include the 15% tip (even if you only use self-service) and does not include sales tax. The bottom line is about $55 for a week.
Normally we do not like large ships, but the RCL ships seem to be the exception. Previously we have been on 3 Voyager class ships. Since the Freedom class ship is a larger Voyager ship, we expected to like it. We did not -- it was too large (or maybe too many people). There is also more emphasis on selling you stuff once you are onboard; they keep the cabin prices affordable but increase the revenue by constantly selling.
When we got back to Canaveral, it was very cold outside; 37 degrees with winds of 25 mph. We waited in our lounge area until our number was called to get off. We then went from our indoor lounge area to waiting on an outside deck for 5-10 minutes (in the cold). Had we known, we would not have packed our coats. Then we were let into the building to stand in line for another 5-10 minutes for Customs. After Customs, we got our bags from a conveyer belt like the airport.
We chose to rent a car to return to the airport so that we could see the Kennedy Space Center. The ship offered a tour that drops you off at the airport but it was "SUBJECT TO AVAILABILITY" so we opted to go it on our own (a SURE THING). With a rental car (Budget) we could better time our trip to OUR flight departure. The car cost $73 plus gas. RCL would have provided us with transfers directly from the ship to the airport for $37 each. We probably would have enjoyed the Space Center more if it had not been so cold, even after getting our coats from our luggage. The wind really made it colder.
The reason we chose this cruise was: 1) to visit the Kennedy Space Center, 2) to see the changes to Labadee, and 3) to see the port of Falmouth. Having completed all, we will probably not go back to Canaveral unless a ship leaving from there provided an interesting and unique itinerary. Less
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