Carnival Freedom Dining
Carnival Freedom has four full-meal dining venues. The two main restaurants, Chic and Posh, are situated midship and aft, respectively. The sprawling two-story Freedom Restaurant on the Lido Deck handles breakfast and lunch buffet chores, and provides an alternative casual dining venue at dinnertime. The Sun King, named for Louis XIV, is Freedom's for-fee, upscale alternate nighttime steakhouse.
The Freedom Restaurant, with its repetitive use of the iconic Statue of Liberty, is an open and light space with beaucoup choices for all palates. Morning options begin with early bird Continental breakfasts, followed by typical buffet offerings augmented by several omelet stations. In the main buffet area there are several lines and plenty of room to maneuver with your tray. But guests requiring assistance carrying their food to their table will find availability limited at best. Indoor seating is available on the Lido Deck (Deck 9) and the mezzanine one deck above. Outdoor tables are plentiful around the central pool, or on the fantail surrounding the aft pool, which is topped by a closeable dome.
In addition to the standard lunchtime buffet choices, there is a deli window with made-to-order sandwiches; an Asian window with Japanese, Chinese and Thai choices that change daily; a grill that serves not only burgers and hot dogs, but also tasty steak sandwiches; and a 24/7 pizzeria. Our favorites were a stir fry section, where diners select and fill a bowl with their choice of ingredients and hand it over to a chef who wok-cooks with a choice of sauces, and the Fish & Chips Cafe, which serves Bouillabaisse, shellfish, ahi tuna appetizers, fried oyster sandwiches and grilled fish over green salad -- in addition to its namesake.
Hint: The cafe is tucked away in the corner of the Deck 10 upper level of the restaurant, and many passengers don't discover it till four or five days into the voyage. Our recommendation is to visit it early in the trip when there are no lines. Dinner is also served in the buffet nightly for those who want a casual meal, with selections similar to what's being served in the main dining rooms.
The two main dining rooms are virtually identical in decor. The lower levels of these rooms stretch the entire width of the ship and are open in the middle, allowing those not along the outer walls a quieter and less claustrophobic dining experience. We preferred dining on the upper level as it was less crowded and relatively more intimate. Both dining rooms have numerous banquettes accommodating parties of four, and an adequate number of tables for as many as 10. It should also be noted that Freedom also has a large number of tables for two, more than 30 by our count.
There are two traditional dinner seatings at 6 and 8:15 p.m., or passengers can opt for "Your Time Dining," which offers open seating in one restaurant from 5:45 to 9:30 p.m. for those signed up. Service is friendly, patient, professional and refreshing from a dining room staff that is becoming increasingly Eastern European in makeup. We found the food (salads, soups, mains, desserts) tasty, promptly and accurately served, and usually piping hot. Each dinner menu also included "healthy" courses, and vegetarian selections.
Sun King, located on Deck 10, and isolated from the rest of the ship's nighttime hullabaloo, serves the same fine steakhouse cuisine as its equivalents on other Carnival ships, but lacks an atmosphere of intimacy and refinement. With all the painted-on gold color and crystal chandeliers it feels a bit like dining in the Liberace Museum.
Decor aside, there are still two major attributes that make the Sun King a great diversion. First and foremost is the cuisine; nothing cutting-edge here but if dry-aged prime meat, quality seafood and a great wine list ring your chimes, enough said.
There is a $30 per-person charge to dine here. Reservations are required, but we found the room lightly booked. For those that want to play it safe, there is a signup desk in the lobby on embarkation day right at the end of the gangway. Dress code for the Sun King is "upscale casual" (no jeans, shorts, T-shirts, etc.).
Also available on all of Carnival's ships is The Chef's Table dining experience, which affords a dozen passengers a multicourse dinner with a master chef, a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley and its operations. This dining option usually takes place in a nontraditional venue, such as the galley or library, and it can be booked onboard at the information desk for a per-person cost of $75.
Other food options include free soft-serve ice cream and yogurt in the Freedom Restaurant, and either sushi or tapas served at cocktail hour at the Deck 5 Meiji Sushi Bar. Coffee drinks and pastries are available for a fee at the Viennese Cafe. There is Continental breakfast available during breakfast hours through room service, and there is a typical 24-hour menu of snacks, desserts and sandwiches. All room service is free of charge.