Background - we are four ladies (one mother-daughter pair, and one aunt-niece) traveling a for relaxing girl's trip during spring break. As we are all teachers, we must travel during spring break. We love kids, but wanted to get away from that for a bit so our cruise involved activities away from the hustle and bustle of the ship. Ages from 55 to 31. Two were first time cruisers, and two were experienced cruisers.
Day minus one - Flew to Orlando and used Cocoa Beach Shuttle to transfer to Holiday Inn Express Cocoa Beach. Shuttle with Cruise Critic discount was $68 plus tip for four people. HI Express is in a great location by Publix grocery. Bought last minute supplies and two cases of water for cruise. Walked to beach (2 - 3 blocks) and had lovely dinner at a restaurant on the pier. Rooms at HIE were clean and the staff was friendly.
Day one - set sail! Shuttle to pier on Sunday through hotel was $6 pp. At pier by 10:30, and on ship by 11:00. We had priority boarding (I'm only Platinum, but they let us all board together). Not a crowd at that time, so I'm not sure how much the priority boarding really helped, though. All lines moved quickly. We had put luggage tags on our cases of water, but pier staff made us carry it on. That was a pain, because we could not get into our rooms until 1:00 PM. Luckily we found a gentleman selling soda packages who was willing to store our water under his table until we could get into the cabin. Next time I'll take a suitcase for the water. We had lunch in the Windjammer, and it was beginning to get crowded when we left. Got to our rooms by 1:00 pm and met our awesome cabin steward, Darrell, who opened our balcony partition and took great care of us all week. Dinner the first night was good, and servers were excellent, but our table location was the last table by the kitchen for the 8:00 seating. We asked for, and were switched to, a balcony table on deck four for the remainder of the cruise. We had very rough seas the first night, and some of our party did not feel too well. Bonine to the rescue and an early night.
Day two - Coco Cay. Throughout the cruise we chose to have breakfast delivered to our staterooms each morning. We always tip the staff $2-$4 depending on the amount of food ordered. Love waking up to having breakfast in bed, or on the balcony if the weather is good. The day began as overcast and windy, but the sun was out by noon. Most excursions were cancelled, but our 11:30 Eco Adventur Tour went on as scheduled. We had a delightful time. We held starfish, land crab and conch. John was a great tour guide and Brady was a great driver. We had a late lunch in the Windjammer and a snooze by the solarium pool, then earned second place in the trivia contest in the Schooner Bar. Drinks on our balcony as we departed Coco Cay. Formal night, and dinner was good. The menu had scallops instead of escargot, but they were delicious.
Day three - at sea. We signed up for the cupcake making class $22 pp), and had a great time. We made hamburger cupcakes and they turned out so well (will post review with pix on the boards). Played trivia again, then went to the awesome ice show. Tonight's entertainment was Spectrum, a Motown review quartet. They were very good. A shout out to RCCL - before the Spectrum show began we had a medical emergency in the Arcadia Theatre. The medical staff responded immediately and professionally. There were physicians in the row in front of us who went to assist, and they were impressed with the ship's medical staff. The gentleman in question had an apparent heart attack, but was stabilized and transferred to a St. Thomas hospital when we docked the next morning. The crowd in the theatre behaved respectfully as well. We had a wonderful dinner in Portofino. We went to the casino after dinner, then turned in for the evening.
Day four - St Thomas. We spent a few minutes in the shops before boarding our ship-sponsored excursion - a champagne catamaran sail to St. John. The catamaran and crew were awesome. We went to Honeymoon beach in St. John, with about an hour to snorkel or walk the beach. The trip back include much rum and champagne punch. Since our dinner time was not until 8:00 pm, we ventured up to the Windjammer for pre-dinner sushi, which was very good. This became our evening cocktail hour ritual for the remainder of the cruise. Unfortunately, we found the dinner in MDR was disappointing, so we were glad we'd had the sushi earlier.
Day five - St. Martin. Took a cab (a nice van) shared with four others ($6 pp plus tip), to Kakao on Orient beach. Love it here. It is away from the party side, and the chairs and umbrellas are spaced apart from each other so that all have a lovely view. It is more expensive (two chairs + one umbrella for $20), but it was worth it to us. We had great rum punch and some of the best calamari ever, delivered to us on the beach. We all had beach-side massages, which were very reasonable and very good. On the cab ride back to Phillipsburg our van overheated, but we waited less than a minute for a "rescue" van. These guys are in constant contact via phone or radio. They really do a good job. Spent a little time shopping in Phillipsburg, had a wonderful guava berry colada, then headed back to the ship in time for 80's trivia. Sushi again for snack in Windjammer before dinner. Went to Platinum/Emerald reception - free drinks and an interesting Q&A with the captain and hotel director. Tonight's dinner was Italian, and again it was just okay. We are not picky eaters, but we were all disappointed with our selections. However, our wait staff was wonderful as usual. We went to the British Rock Revolution in the Promenade, but it was also just okay. Seemed a little forced. I think the crowd enjoyed the 70's show more.
Day six - at sea. We had a lazy morning. I finally checked in via email with my daughter in college. I usually try to avoid email while on a cruise. We took it easy this day, reading books by the pool and napping during the day. We had lunch at Johnny rockets. It's worth it once for the experience, but honestly I don't really think the food is that awesome. The staff is amazing though. My niece (33) climbed the rock wall like a spider! Once again we had sushi in WJ as pre dinner appetizer. Went to the production show, Once Apon a Time. It is not to be missed. Wonderful performances by all. Tonight's formal dinner was good, and CD Graham Seymour's adult comedy show in the theatre was fun.
Day seven - at sea. Relaxing lazy morning. Great lunch in the MDR (Tutti salad bar is awesome). Watched the crew vs. guests dodge-ball tourney. As it was St. Patrick's Day, we were obliged to have a green beer! Played trivia again in Schooner Bar. This was the only day we encountered teenagers joyriding on the elevators. Watched Flow-rider "Best of the Best" show, which was amazing. Went to an interesting C&A Q&A with performers from production shows and ice shows. Shopped for items in the Britto gallery. Sushi again before dinner. Tonight's dinner was very good, and we reluctantly said goodbye to our waitstaff and bar staff. We turned in early, as we had an early excursion to NASA booked in the morning.
Day eight - disembarkation. As we had a NASA tour booked through RCCL, we met in Pharaoh's Palace at 6:45. We were off the ship by 7:30. The NASA tour was good, but the tour guide, Karen, was somewhat annoying. She held us as a captive audience and threatened to leave us if we didn't stay with her. We were not allowed to read plaques or other interesting information, as as she preferred to do all the talking. Several in the group complained under their breath. I had done the tour before, and had the unlucky experience of having her in 2010. The first time I thought she might be new, but this time I realized it was just her personality. I did purposely hang back to help an elderly couple from the UK stay up with the tour. They seemed grateful. Overall, NASA is a great place to visit, but I believe I would do it on my own in the future. We arrived at Orlando airport at 3:00 PM for our 4:50 flight to DFW. We had a smooth flight home.
Overall, we had a great time on Freedom. She is a beautiful ship, and the staff is excellent. You can do as little or as much as you want. We thoroughly enjoyed our week, and are hoping to plan another cruise for next year!