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209 Orlando (Port Canaveral) to Caribbean - Western Cruise Reviews

Christmas Cruise! Before we left, I know I looked and looked for information about a few things...you can find basic info anywhere....but Christmas specific was hard to come by! So quickly, a few things about me: traveled with my mom, ... Read More
Christmas Cruise! Before we left, I know I looked and looked for information about a few things...you can find basic info anywhere....but Christmas specific was hard to come by! So quickly, a few things about me: traveled with my mom, sister, my husband and our 3 kids, 8,13,15. Looking for family time, away from the crazy of day to day life! We are Christian, so we do celebrate Christmas. Having a believer in magic, and Santa...we were excited to hear he would make a visit Christmas morning...fun to watch him parade down the promenade, elves(adventure ocean staff) in tow to the tune in lounge. The line to see Santa was terribly long, and little bitty folks were overwhelmed by the excitement and the wait..about 45 min....waiting to see a fairly Caribbean santa! RCI, had gifts for every kid on the ship 17 yrs and under! Both my teens received RCI labeled "selfie sticks" and my 8 year old got RCI sunglasses. Nice gesture, but with the dreamworks tie in, I was surprised that it wasn't a plush shrek. There was caroling Christmas eve, lovely decorations and egg nog....but this was the bigggest disappointment of all....NO CHRISTMAS COOKIES! Well, they had hard, walmart sugar sprinkled cookies that totally blew! Lots of other yummy pastries, but no cookies for santa! :( We had a great time, loved being together and "unplugged" for the week. Hope this minor review helps folks looking for Christmas specific info for RCI. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
I have only ever been on Carnival cruises before. I was excited to try something new. I was very disappointed in this cruise. This was an old ship but I have cruised on old ships with Carnival before and never had these problems. There are ... Read More
I have only ever been on Carnival cruises before. I was excited to try something new. I was very disappointed in this cruise. This was an old ship but I have cruised on old ships with Carnival before and never had these problems. There are only 2 electrical outlets in the cabin. One simply did not work and one didn't have enough power to heat my curling/straightening appliances. I spoke with another girl who said her room was the same. Any girl with frizzy hair knows they don't want to have a hair situation for 7 nights straight on their vacation. But that's what I had. Our steward missed cleaning our room on a few occasions. He would take the extra pillows we grabbed from out of the closet and do who knows what with them so that we just couldn't have extra pillows. He replaced the water in the fridge once. I had to call room service or go upstairs anytime I wanted water. The staff in general wasn't as friendly as Carnival employees. The entire 4th floor where our cabin was smelled like sewage. We had to call twice because our toilet wouldn't flush. And we encountered the same problem the day we were leaving the ship. The food was only borderline ok. Stale bread. Service was terrible and waited long amounts of time in the Windows restaurant to receive food. On Christmas night, we waited over an hour for our entrees and finally gave up and left. We heard a rumor that this was the ship that does the training for new employees which makes a lot of sense. The only things I can say that were better than Carnival were that Norwegian does offer really good deals in terms of free beverage packages so I think that the other cruise lines better jump on board with that soon because even though this cruise wasn't the greatest, I will still prob pick Norwegian next time due to the value. I will just pick a different ship and hope for a better outcome! Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
This was my 6th cruise (3 with NCL, 2 with Princess, 1 with Viking), and my first with Royal. Our trip was a get-together of 4 friends, and 2 of us brought our wives. One of the wives refused to sail on anything but Royal, so that is how ... Read More
This was my 6th cruise (3 with NCL, 2 with Princess, 1 with Viking), and my first with Royal. Our trip was a get-together of 4 friends, and 2 of us brought our wives. One of the wives refused to sail on anything but Royal, so that is how we chose this sailing. Embarkation: everything was fast until we got checked in. Then we had to sit until our group number was called. Anyone that had sailed with Royal before was allowed to board immediately, so we were a little irritated that we got penalized for not sailing with them previously. On-board activities: there is a ton to do on this ship because it is so large. Rarely did we wait longer than 15 minutes for things such as mini-golf, rock climbing, or the flowrider. There was almost no live music anywhere on the ship, so we spent a lot of time sitting around waiting for shows or trivia to start. There's a ton of trivia, which entertained one or two people in our group, the rest of us were bored with it. The pools are heated to a very comfortable temperature so we spent a lot of time swimming. The night time entertainment consisted of an ice show, 2 different comedians, a couple broadway-style sing/dance shows, and a magic show. The ice show repeated 4 times, and although the performers are very talented, it got boring very quickly. The broadway shows were good and the performers had great voices. The comedians were bad, one did only New Jersey and italian jokes, the other talked about how complicated computers are and how he misses tuning black and white TVs. The magic show was absolutely terrible, the tricks were poorly done and tacky, and most of the show was playing videos or strobe lights. It really was the worst show I've seen. There was also the standard cruise ship game shows, and karaoke, but only on a couple of nights and it was too short. Dining: the food was great. We usually went to the buffet for breakfast and lunch, and the dining room for dinner. 2 of the nights were formal nights- a bit annoying because I had no desire to get dressed up, although they didn't seem to enforce any dress codes. We chose my-time dining, which ended up being a big problem. The second night the dining room was full and we had to eat in the buffet. We were told we had to make reservations every night with at least 24 hours notice or we would never get a table, so it was pointless to have my-time dining. We were seated at the same table each night with the same waiters, which was nice. Both of the waiters learned what we liked and often brought out extra entrees for us to try when they overheard us being unsure about what to chose. One of the nights my wife and I went to Chops (steakhouse), which was fantastic. For about $100, we each had 9oz filet mingons and a bottle of wine, which is far less than the meal would have cost ashore. Ports: our itinerary was Labadee (Haiti), Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Labadee was nice, although I felt bad for the locals working there. We were specifically told not to bring cash by the cruise director, but there are locals setting up chairs, working the bathrooms, and playing music for tips. I thankfully had a few singles on hand for the chair guy and one musician but I wish I had brought more. Jamaica had a nice port area to wander around in directly off the ship, but it would not be a good idea to leave the port unless you're on an excursion. Grand Cayman had a wonderful beach, but we did not have nearly enough time there. Cozumel had 5 other cruise ships already docked when we arrived. After finally getting through the port we discovered the taxi line that probably had at least an hour wait. We figured the resort we planned on going to was most likely full anyways so we just went back to the ship. Overall, I don't see anything that justifies the extra cost that Royal demands. Some may like the loyalty program, with member-only events, seating, boarding, etc, but I just found it unfair. I tried Royal once and I don't think I'd do it again unless the price drops. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
LOVE Freedom of the Seas!! I'm not one to do reviews but-------RCCL is the best. We were so spoiled and pampered, we didn't want to return home. Food was excellent, as was the service. Already have another cruise booked for ... Read More
LOVE Freedom of the Seas!! I'm not one to do reviews but-------RCCL is the best. We were so spoiled and pampered, we didn't want to return home. Food was excellent, as was the service. Already have another cruise booked for Dec. 4 2016 and already counting the days down. I've even got my clothes picked out. We ate in the main dining room at night and The Windjammer for breakfast and lunch. There is always a large selection of food even for the very picky eatters. Service is fast. The best bread pudding with vanilla sauce, I ate it every day. We also ate at Johnny Rockets and intend to eat there again in December. Best hamburgers and PRICES. Actually we are going on Oasis of the Seas and if it's even half as good as Freedom of the Seas I'll be satisfied. My niece went on Oasis and she only had high praises for it and was also spoiled and pampered. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
This was our first cruise and we were very excited to finally go on one. We embarked and thats where the excitement ended. We were charged a daily service charge, but never received any service. It was very disappointing to sit at the ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we were very excited to finally go on one. We embarked and thats where the excitement ended. We were charged a daily service charge, but never received any service. It was very disappointing to sit at the Raffles restaurant and never get any acknowledgement from any of the staff. I had to walk outside and stand in the bar line just to get a Pepsi that i am paying for with the drink package. The ship only has one pool for adults, and is crammed all the time. When we arrived in Ocho Rios, we were docked at what looked like some type of commercial abandoned mill. we had to pay 20 bucks just to get onto a shuttle to go to town which was 2 miles away. there was another NCL ship at the main dock, but they didnt have to pay any shuttle charges do to the fact they could just walk into town. No discounts, no refunds, no service! The guest service desk employees had no personality, and didnt smile and greet anyone. It seemed to me that if you had an issue, you were bugging them. We are very disappointed in our cruise experience. Food quality, service, smell of sewer, lack of customer service, and they way you are treated are the reasons we will not book on NCL again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
Ship> Beautiful. Classic. Shows> Makes Carnival look like 2 Point O, the Bands on Carnival told us that means they cut all the shows in Half and Expect them to work twice as hard. Do Not Miss> Rock n Roll, The World and ... Read More
Ship> Beautiful. Classic. Shows> Makes Carnival look like 2 Point O, the Bands on Carnival told us that means they cut all the shows in Half and Expect them to work twice as hard. Do Not Miss> Rock n Roll, The World and Elements. If you are too Old to stand up at the end and give them a standing applause,Maybe you should not have left the Home...you will get up after they leave anyway. Food> I Loved Shogun's and Teppanyaki. Wings 24/7, great dogs and Hamburgers at the Bier Garden Over the Front Pool. Get the Lobster at Shogun's, best ever. Over and Over I here folks saying "I'm not leaving a tip..... " well they are used to you guys, and that's why you get what you expect. We tip hundreds over the week, on top of the room charges, and get great service. We bring candy to also tip with, and had 50 Lbs. that we gave away to everyone, not just folks waiting on us. Take some boxes of candy to tip with, Pay it Forward. Make them happy and you'll be too. Talk to the crew make them your friends and you will bond and have a great time. They are your equals in life. Captain Peter> I think he had too much coffee, sailing at 19 knots to get to Ports very early, and my family was ill in flat Seas but High winds, 2nd time in 25 years of cruising, Last time was 30ft. Seas and trying to avoid a Hurricane. Peter will get better with "training" lol Cruise Director Gio, the best we've ever had. Tell him Ed and Sean say hello. The Quest show, do not miss. Room service 24/7> a great BLT late at nite is awesome. Bartenders> 5 Stars> Benji and Bong were great. Reggae Band on Deck> 5 stars> much better than DJ's on Carnival. Piano Bar> Great. Room Steward> 5 stars. Thanks Win. I could go on but you get the idea we had an awesome time. One crew member told me the average age on our cruise was 67 years old, that is including children and younger folks... My daughter who is 19 was very upset as to no friends to find. Did did find Zach on day four... It's always 5 O'Clock on the Ship. So says Jimmy Buffet. Ps- Our room was haunted, some folks pay extra for that! We had others in a room 8 doors away that told us the same thing about their cabin. Caspers coo with us. Safe Journeys everyone, please do not listen to folks that say they had a #1 rating on a ship, maybe they should take the Casino Boat Out of Canaveral.... lol Any Questions plase ask, our other review is on Message Boards under Eddeb: Spirit cruise> Nov. 28th> Dec. 5th, Any Questions? Safe journeys every one, Good luck to all in 2016. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
Don't know where to even begin, let me start by saying this was my second time on the Spirit. Our first experience was excellent, we had no reservations about going again and were excited to experience it for a second time. Boy were ... Read More
Don't know where to even begin, let me start by saying this was my second time on the Spirit. Our first experience was excellent, we had no reservations about going again and were excited to experience it for a second time. Boy were we in for a big surprise! It all started when we had to report on deck after boarding for the muster, I seriously can't count on both hands how many times they shuffled us and the couple with us around the deck! It was extremely unorganized and multiple people kept telling us to move here then someone would come along and push us back to another side then another person will come and put us back where the last person just moved us from and so on and so forth it became a huge joke amongst everybody that was in the group watching what was going on. I think most of us passengers knew more what was going on than the crew at that point. After the drill we headed directly to the bar on deck behind raffles. We were the first to arrive and sit at the bar and still could not get bar service! The bartenders looked very frazzled before people even started showing up, it took forever to get a drink even when I was sitting in the middle of the bar and told both bartenders several times I needed a drink when they were done and they just kept running circles around each other. There was no personal interaction with either bartender and as many times as I tried to get their attention so they knew I needed a drink, other people were having to order for me because I couldn't get waited on. The first thing I do when I get on ship is look for my own bartenders someone who will take care of me and will have fun on the job. Aside from pre paying my gratuities I had a $50 bill in my pocket waiting to find the right bartender and neither was worthy of even a dollar! It never did get any better over the course of the week, I can't believe there was not even any poolside bar service I have never seen anything like it in my life. The food was absolutely horrible, no matter what area, what time or what day we went. Based on our last experience on the Spirit, we were looking very forward to the fabulous food and service that came with it, what a huge disappointment. The buffet did not have the best of selections like last time, the food was cold, forget about getting cooked to order eggs in the morning unless you wanted to wait 40 minutes. We are not picky eaters either and we felt we couldn't even get a decent meal in the main dining areas. We did have good service one evening in the Garden and that was it, the rest was mediocre at best and one night in the Garden we got the worst food and worst service we've ever received in our lives! The server was borderline rude and very disinterested in being there and taking care of us. She was more concerned with what was going on around her and the rest of the dining room, which resulted in her not even taking our drink orders until we asked, after our food came in which every single order she had screwed up because she wasn't paying attention, then screwed up our drink order and then never came back again. Staff in general amongst the ship didn't seem to know much about what was going on nor have an understanding for anything you ask them. The tendering was absolutely horrible and very disorganized. My husband went to go get a ticket poolside at 6:30 a.m. to get off the ship. We did not have an excursion planned and when he got there the guy told him he was the first one to receive a ticket to get off the ship. However when it came time to tender to the island, it took almost 3 hours. We lost almost half of our time on the island because nobody knew what they were doing while trying to get us off the ship. Forget trying to get a good cup of coffee anywhere on the ship it was like mud from the buffet to the main restaurants to the Blue Lagoon. The cabin coffee was the best bet and was still just ok, however it was an inconvenience to get your dessert to go and have to go back to the room to make your own coffee. One night we went back and had no water when trying to fill our coffee pot. I called the front desk to let them know there was no running water in our room and she told me that there was an emergency and they had to shut the water off and hopefully they would have it fixed soon. Hearing there was an emergency when I'm in the middle of the ocean is not what I wanted to hear she could have said there was a plumbing issue or something... Not tell me there was an emergency! When we finally got running water again about an hour later, nasty, smelly black sludge kept filling our toilet. I think about every public bathroom throughout the ship that I went into had out of order signs and them and as the week progressed more and more restrooms were out of order! We went to the pool party at night and no one was there except a handful of staff and a couple of passengers. We were excited to party the night away and forget about the first half of the week and even that was a dud. We lost and went to the galaxy, and had a drink or two and thought when we went back to the pool it should be hopping by then... what a joke when we went back out a little later no one was there. Unlike our last booking on this ship, the bars were closed around the pool and there was no food being served, it is no wonder how do you have a pool party with no food or drink? The white hot party was a bust due to the weather they have since moved it out on the pool deck instead of inside the galaxy of stars. Why they moved it outside is beyond me they sell a crap load of t-shirts get their money and then have nothing going on due to inclement weather. All they want is money money money and give nothing in return. Very disappointed to see that they are now charging for room service also. We waited all week in anticipation for the big midnight chocolate buffet, that never happened! The only positive thing I have to say about the cruise was our room stewardess, she was very sweet and attentive and always had our room tended too, restocked, freshened up and a fresh towel animal waiting on our bed for us every evening. I was happy to give her everyone else's tips! :-) So disappointed in this ship on so many levels, I could go on and on but I wont. It really does not take much to satisfy or make us happy but I feel after all the money that was spent on this cruise, it was a huge disappointment and you couldn't pay me enough to go on it again! Everyone we talked to on the ship seemed to feel the same, way to go NCL! We set extra aside to put a deposit down on our next cruise while on board, you know that didn't happen!!! I know other cruise lines that would be more than happy to take our money and give us a great vacation. Please, if you choose to sail Norwegian do not go on the Spirit! Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
We took this cruise to and from Freeport... We were on the 11th floor, Marius and two other gentleman looked after all our needs boarding, leaving and in between.... the entertainment was good/great, geared more toward 60+ for the most ... Read More
We took this cruise to and from Freeport... We were on the 11th floor, Marius and two other gentleman looked after all our needs boarding, leaving and in between.... the entertainment was good/great, geared more toward 60+ for the most part with the free show in the shows in the theater, yet the were parts for a younger crowd, magician and musical dance acts.... the comedy show for a small fee was to much fun, but if you are an uptight individual, or afraid of being picked on, don't go as you ruin it for us!!!! The suite was awesome, the food around the clock was great!!! the service was amazing.... Leonard at the service desk was extremely helpful and friendly.... Lots to do if you are up for it... Decks are loaded with places to sit and enjoy, pools, hot tubs, bars and servers everywhere!!! I would advise to avoid the karaoke though, it is way too loud and wicked evil bad as you might suspect... Admiral room for dinner was a pleasure with Giovanni as our waiter.... Just an amazing worthwhile mini adventure, I would do it again and again if able.... Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
Just returned today from a 7-day cruise on the Valor; my wife and I are seasoned cruisers and have been on quite a few Carnival cruises as well as Royal Caribbean cruises and I must say that this was one of the best cruises we have ever ... Read More
Just returned today from a 7-day cruise on the Valor; my wife and I are seasoned cruisers and have been on quite a few Carnival cruises as well as Royal Caribbean cruises and I must say that this was one of the best cruises we have ever been on. I rate the cruises not on where the ship goes or the weather but rather on a few other factors as follows: 1. Service/staff 2. Ship up keep and cleanliness 3. Quality of the food 4. Entertainment 5. Overall "bang of the buck" 1. The staff on this ship is 2nd to none, every waiter, bus boy, room steward, bar tender etc was not only friendly, but also extremely eager to please. We last sailed on a Royal Caribbean ship and rarely saw a drink waiter on a day to day basis, but on this ship they were everywhere. 2. Although, a bit dated, this ship is well kept up as well as neat and clean. Our room steward Phillip was the best we have ever had and our room was cleaned and made up as soon as we left for the day. 3. The quality of the food, the service and the friendliness of the staff in the Washington Dining Room was 2nd to none. The food in the buffet was well...buffet food and about what could be expected. 4. The entertainment in the Ivanhoe Theater was great as was the band who played in the Casino; that along with the comedians in the "punchliner" theater kept us wanting more. 5. This ship is rated very high on this site by past guests as well as cruise experts and it's easy to see why it won the service award in 2013. I would say to anyone considering this ship, don't fret, you'll love every minute of it!!!! Lastly, when my wife and I first started cruising we tried to find out what the differences were between Royal Caribbean and Carnival and had a very difficult time finding out what each stands for. After cruising many times over the past few years on both lines for us it's Carnival ALL THE WAY!!!! Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
We went on a Caribbean cruise for our honeymoon. We had a balcony "bump" room which we loved! I have stayed in an interior, ocean view and now a balcony and when we cruise again I will be booking a balcony. So much more room. ... Read More
We went on a Caribbean cruise for our honeymoon. We had a balcony "bump" room which we loved! I have stayed in an interior, ocean view and now a balcony and when we cruise again I will be booking a balcony. So much more room. Even though you are in your room to shower and sleep, the extra space does wonders. Having the option of going out on your deck when you want is nice. We hung our wet clothes out there. The only thing I say Royal Caribbean needs to work on (this being my 4th cruise) is when you arrive on the ship they are serving lunch in the windjammer. IT IS PACKED!!! it happens every cruise. We got something small to hold us over to dinner but we had to sit on the other side of the boat on the pool lounge chairs to eat. Its a bummer but its one meal. We can survive. Royal Caribbean is an awesome company to cruise with! Like I said, this was my 4th cruise and they have all been with Royal Caribbean. The ship was AWESOME!! there was so much to do. I was disappointed because we only saw one show (the ice show) and that's it! We were busy with other activities on the ship we didn't get the chance to enjoy the shows. We spent most of our time on the sports deck with either competing in the activities to rock climbing or doing/watching the Flow Rider. I loved the Flow Rider. It was fun to watch everyone experience that. The cruise ports were nice, Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica, Georgetown Grand Cayman and Cozumel Mexico. The only downer we had was Falmouth. We did not enjoy ourselves at all. We went to Dunns River Falls because so many family members and friends recommended it. I am not sure if its the time we went or our group but it was awful. I felt like cattle being herded up the falls. It was crazy. Our bus had a leak so 2 people had their belongings soaked, we then ate lunch which was nice but we were never informed we would be making any stops so our cash was limited. Excursion title said "Dunns River Falls Transfer". It didn't say anything in the description of going for lunch or shopping.We went to this shopping place with one store with 5 other tour buses from our ship....can you say crammed!? We did NOT enjoy Falmouth.at all. We did castaway at malfini in Labadee Haiti which was amazing!! We snorkeled a ship wreck and reef in Grand Cayman. Our favorite excursion was XPLOR in Cozumel. I would do that again in a heartbeat. It was so much fun! Ziplining, rafting through caves, swimming through the caves and driving an amphibious vehicle. Adrenaline was pumping! We had a blast and cannot wait for 2017. We will be back on another royal Caribbean cruise :) Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Another wonderful cruise with Royal Caribbean. Departure was a breeze and the weather was perfect the entire time. First time on the Freedom and we had no complaints. Cabin was nice and clean, food is always good in the dining room, ... Read More
Another wonderful cruise with Royal Caribbean. Departure was a breeze and the weather was perfect the entire time. First time on the Freedom and we had no complaints. Cabin was nice and clean, food is always good in the dining room, although we did try the Brazilian restaurant and didn't really care for it. The Mexican restaurant on the other hand was superb with fantastic margaritas that are made tableside as was the guacamole. Service at all restaurants was excellent. Entertainment was good and we always look forward to the ice show. We would definitely go on the Freedom of the Seas again. I just joined cruise critic and it would take a while to comment on all my RCCL cruises. We have never had a bad experience with the cruise line and will continue to sail with them. Looking forward to our cruise on the Anthem which is booked for October of 2017. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
First off, I have never written a review before regarding a cruise, but this one was so good, I jus had to say something. This was our fifth cruise, so here we go. The day before we departed we discovered that we booked our balcony ... Read More
First off, I have never written a review before regarding a cruise, but this one was so good, I jus had to say something. This was our fifth cruise, so here we go. The day before we departed we discovered that we booked our balcony directly under the lido deck and we were pretty concerned that it would be too loud. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that it was a very quite room #8445. We would book this same room again. The food was outstanding and we are pretty selective trying to eat healthy. We ate at the Lincoln dinning room 5 nights and was worth it every time. Flavors, portion sizes, variety, it was all great. Our only disappointment were the deserts. They were ok, but nothing outstanding. When we ate in the buffet there were loads of great choices as well. We visited the pizza counter, burrito bar, and the deli, all more than once. The staff was wonderful, more playful than we have seen on other cruises. Their care and service was truly sincere. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Drive to the terminal. Parked right in the garage. We parked for free since we are an handicap van. Porters helped with luggage and wheelchair, parked car and was on our way. Check in and was at WindJammer with in 1/2 hr. Rooms were ready ... Read More
Drive to the terminal. Parked right in the garage. We parked for free since we are an handicap van. Porters helped with luggage and wheelchair, parked car and was on our way. Check in and was at WindJammer with in 1/2 hr. Rooms were ready by 1:30. Used the Premium Drink Package. Seems like the bartenders don't really like to work after they know you have the package or a package. Dinner seating was ok. Again no bar server to be found for drinks or wine. Then we started to find the drink we ordered the night before on the table the next night. I guess they were trying to save time. and works if you drink the same thing every night. If you like to try different wines or cocktails you have a problem. Actually had a hard time finding a wine menu. Dinner selections was ok, WindJammer food is ok I can always find something. Breakfast buffet was good. Show were ok. Love the pool bands and 70's nite. I really don't like the Promenade for the 70's show. It is very small and you can not really see. It was horrible to navigate thru the crowd with a wheelchair from show at one end of the ship to the other end for dinner .. Really missed the Crown and Anchor Return Cocktail party.. Apparently we were the first sailing that took away the welcome back party. The Battle of Sexes was funny. The shows were ok. Ice Skate show was ok too. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
My family and I were on the Valor from 8/22-8/29/15. This was our first time on this particular ship. We were in cabins 8343 & 8347. While the cabins were nice and centrally located, if you are a light sleeper you will want to be ... Read More
My family and I were on the Valor from 8/22-8/29/15. This was our first time on this particular ship. We were in cabins 8343 & 8347. While the cabins were nice and centrally located, if you are a light sleeper you will want to be cautious of these cabins. You are right near the elevators which means that you hear the "dinging" of the elevator all night. You are just under the lido deck so there is alot of traffic in the stairwell and the elevators. You also hear all of the walking and moving of deckchairs above you, especially at night when the crew is cleaning the deck. The staff was very friendly. Our cabin steward was attentive as were our dining staff. The food was good - not 5 star by any means but definitely good. The ship is a little broken up. You had to travel up and down to get across. It made you feel like you were missing a part of the boat (not literally). My husband and I did alot of walking around just to make sure we knew where everything was and to make sure that we were not missing any shops or entertainment areas. The ports-- well, lets just say that I can mark the Western Caribbean off my future travel spots. While Cozumel was very nice - we visited Isla Pasion, We found Belize and Costa Maya to be less than desirable. We did do an excursion in Hondorus - we swam with the dolphins! That was alot of fun. I would have liked to have seen more entertainment on board. We participated in the Quest game which was alot of fun. There were only two production shows for a 7 night cruise- one we had seen on other Carnival Ships (a tribute to the 80s music) and the other was the Carnival Legends Show (karaoke singing guests). I have been on other cruise lines where there was alot more entertainment going on. My husband and I participated in the slots tournament. It was fun but Carnival should really have first, second and third place winners -- not winner takes all. Overall we had a good cruise. Embarkation and Disembarkation went smoothly. Never really had a long wait to be seated for dinner. I will definitely travel Carnival again, just most likely not on the Valor or to the western caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
This was our first cruise and we chose Royal Caribbean because my husband's grandparents went on over 50 cruises and this was their favorite cruise line. We can see why!! We were on the Freedom and absolutely loved it. The ship was ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we chose Royal Caribbean because my husband's grandparents went on over 50 cruises and this was their favorite cruise line. We can see why!! We were on the Freedom and absolutely loved it. The ship was the perfect size. Our favorite spot was the solarium. We were almost always able to snag some seats in the shade (the pool chairs were really comfy), and we spent a lot of time there reading, drinking, and napping. The solarium was nice and quiet (the main pool was always pretty loud), so we enjoyed relaxing there. The solarium pool bar was right next to the pool so it was really convenient. The pool itself was a good size and had some underwater chairs and a table so you could easily sit in the pool with a drink and just enjoy yourself. We booked a balcony room, and we really enjoyed having the balcony and being able to sit outside at night. We will always book a room with a balcony - totally worth the money! We spent a lot of time at the pub (the live music they had was always a really nice way to end the day), and the drinks were great. The food was amazing, as per usual on Royal Caribbean. This being our first cruise, we tried out Sabra. We didn't like it - so we promptly cancelled the next specialty restaurant we had reserved. We ate the remainder of the nights in the main dining. The main dining is fantastic - we had a great server who informed us that we could order 3 or 4 main dishes and desserts if we wanted. We didn't realize you could do that, but it was great to try a few different dishes if we were unable to decided what we wanted to eat. Let's just say, I think I gained 20 pounds on the cruise haha. The food is always one of my favorite aspects. The entertainment was fantastic. We loved the shows - and we loved how we could look at the itinerary each day and just decide on a whim what we wanted to do. We really liked the Love and Marriage Game Show (always a classic). The service was also great. I can't say enough good things about the Freedom ship. We tried the Oasis on our next cruise and didn't like it...we'll be sticking with the Freedom class from now on! Perfect size and plenty of activities (even though my husband and I just laid by the pool 90% of the time we were on the ship). Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Well, I just got off the Valor and I have to say I was quite disappointed. The ship is in desperate need of a sandblasting! Paint over paint over paint. Paint splatter on deck chairs, windows, etc. If it wasn't painted it was ... Read More
Well, I just got off the Valor and I have to say I was quite disappointed. The ship is in desperate need of a sandblasting! Paint over paint over paint. Paint splatter on deck chairs, windows, etc. If it wasn't painted it was rusty! The pool is SO small, but there is an over abundance of deck chairs. There was even stacks of deck chairs being stored on the sports deck. Check in was a breeze. Don't take ANY bottled water with you. It's not allowed. You can bring cases of canned soda though. My cabin, 2398, was excruciatingly hot every night and it's right across from "the pantry". That's where room service comes from. And they start early and work late! Doors slamming all the time. My room steward was less than attentive. Some days we had our Fun Times, and some days I had to go to Guest Services to get one. Rosie's Restaurant (The Buffet) was gross and dirty! Food on the floor and in the window sills. Dust on everything and greasy floors. I especially loved the Bacon regulations. Only 2 pieces per plate and under chef attendance. Dinner in the dining room was pretty good. Service in there was excellent, too. Caught two of the comedy shows. They were funny and only 30 minutes. Shows were just ok. Nothing spectacular. Did a dive in movie, but with all the spots on the screen, (a few cells are out?) it wasn't amazing. And the hot tubs are between the screen and the chairs so if they are filled with screaming children, you can't hear the movie. They do offer blankets and popcorn, though, that was nice. Bar service was seriously lacking. Watch your toes on the upper decks around the pool. The wood planks are coming up and they HURT when the piggies hit them. Serenity is nice. Cushions on the chairs are nice and bar service here is much better. The band in the Shogun was great each night and the trivia between sets fun. Smoking at the Shogun bar was poorly filtered. When the elevator passes the 5th floor you can definitely tell because of the smoke smell. Speaking of elevators, they didn't work half the time. The center set was broken/off most of the time. If you buy anything liquid in a port, be prepared to pour it out before you get back on the ship. We purchased a bottle of water on our way back and had to dump it to get on the ship. If you bring your own water bottle, same thing. As a Gold VIFP, I am entitled to a bottle of water in my cabin. Well, that never arrived and the bottle of water they have in your cabin is NOT the free bottle, even though it's the same size. I mentioned this to Guest Services as I thought it was my free bottle and was charged $5 for it. They said I should asked for my free bottle and too bad I have to pay for the one I opened. Overall, this was the worst ship I've ever been on. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
For the last couple of years wanted to do a disney cruise, finally we did it. Amazing experience in every single detail. From the night show at the walt disney theater to the kids oceaneers club, the delicious dinner every night and the ... Read More
For the last couple of years wanted to do a disney cruise, finally we did it. Amazing experience in every single detail. From the night show at the walt disney theater to the kids oceaneers club, the delicious dinner every night and the excellent service from our servers Kadek and Valine every night. Room very clean, great down service from Valentino, each night a different towel made animal. Great buffet at cabanas.. And delicious mid afternoon treats at flo v 8 cafe.. So clean in every single part of the ship. They take precautions like giving sanitizing towels before entering the restaurants and the kids have to wash their hands in a very modern propulsion washer. They love to go every day. The princesses gathering just lovely, but you have to reserve as soon as you get onboard, it includes Elsa and Ana... The makeover at the bibidibobidi boutique just great, but alse reserve in advance. The pirate league makeover just fantastic as it is for boys and girls and adults also if you want to look pirate alike. Adults areas were great also, just needs a little more entertainment acts at night. The adults pool are nice, and all the pools are fresh water not salted.. Aqua duck was fun and sometimes crowded.. One day we made a 30 min wait line, but is so much fun. We will defintely go back to a disney cruise, maybe a little more expensive than others but worth it! Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Our large extensive family has done a vacation for the last 14 years - whoever can go joins, all are invited! There are 9 siblings (of the 7 still living 6 were in attendance!) We arrived in Florida from a variety of ways - some flew, ... Read More
Our large extensive family has done a vacation for the last 14 years - whoever can go joins, all are invited! There are 9 siblings (of the 7 still living 6 were in attendance!) We arrived in Florida from a variety of ways - some flew, others drove, one family lives in FL. My family of 5 (husband, wife, sons 21 and 23, and daughter 17) arrived at the port around 1:00 on Sunday. While there was a line to show passports and get our Sea Pass Cards and get through security it did continue to move... On board we were pleased to have missed the usual chaos of lunch in the Windjammer (cafeteria). We toured the ship, hugged some family members and got a few things settled before dinner. Drink packages - soda for my daughter was ordered in advance. Once on board we purchased a wine/beer package for my husband and a premium package for my 21 year old son. We ended the week (final two days) with a Royal Replenish package for teen daughter and two additional premium packages. While we are not big drinkers - the fun of trying new drinks, and enjoying icy cold beverages while at the pool was just fun. While expensive I do believe we got our money's worth overall. Our interior staterooms were just fine. We had adjoining rooms which was a plus for traveling as a family. Our Cabin Steward was attentive and left a variety of towel animals each night. I'm not one to sit out on a balcony so the additional cost would be a waste. Three must have items include nightlight, power strip, and over the door shoe caddy to keep all the little extras easily accessible for my family. A small portable fan is a plus for drying wet suits/shoes and just keeping the air moving in the cabin - it doubles for white noise as well. Our dinner service was excellent! Please check out breakfast and lunch in the main dining room too. They had large tables set up with fruit, granola, and hot breakfast items and for lunch a well stocked salad bar...all included. Food was delicious - lobster tails, steaks, and of course desserts to top it all off!! The performance team on board was great they did two shows with singing and dancing. One night they had Tony Tillman from "Rat Pack is Back" he was excellent, and one night was an illusionist. The ice show was spectacular. Our family just hung at the beach in Labadee, Haiti - you need aqua shoes!! In Falmouth we did the Chukka Zip Line at Rose Hall - fantastic!! It was the same cost as the zip line at Labadee but the different traverses and surprises up in the forest made it awesome! In Cozumel three of us went to San Gervasio Mayan Ruins then to the coast for lunch and a swim. In George Town Grand Caymen we went to the Royal Palm Hotel for a day pass. The cover charge was $2 and included bathrooms, showers, and ice water from a large cooler. The chairs ($8) and umbrellas ($15) were additional. We simply went down the beach a few feet and found shade under some large trees for free. The taxi to the hotel was $8 round trip per person. The fitness center had plenty of treadmills, ellipticals, weight machines and free weights. There were plenty of towels and containers with wipes to use following use. Common areas - bathrooms, pools, promenade, stairways, library, meeting rooms, bars were always spotless. I frequently saw workers cleaning, dusting, sweeping and being attentive to the physical condition of the ship. The night before departing we were given suitcase labels - there were 30+ stations so finding our bags was easy. We were assigned to depart at 8:30 and there was no big rush. Again a line that kept moving to return through customs - no biggie. Disembarkation was very smooth and efficient. Since we were such a large group we did have a meeting room on day one to meet and greet. We've already booked our cruise for next summer - I can't wait. Royal Caribbean out of San Juan! Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Great cruise wonderful entertainment . Once again Disney does it again not something that can be discrive you need to experience for yourself . Entertainment excellent ! Expectacular and the food fantastic loved the cabana buffet . You ... Read More
Great cruise wonderful entertainment . Once again Disney does it again not something that can be discrive you need to experience for yourself . Entertainment excellent ! Expectacular and the food fantastic loved the cabana buffet . You must go bring the kids the grandmother there is a lot of things to do for all ages . Loved it Fantastic Fantasy cruise ! Ready to go again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
This was our 3rd cruise with Royal Caribbean and by far the best. This was also our first cruise on a "large" ship and our first on Freedom. Long review but hopefully helpful to new Freedom of the Seas cruisers. First, we ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise with Royal Caribbean and by far the best. This was also our first cruise on a "large" ship and our first on Freedom. Long review but hopefully helpful to new Freedom of the Seas cruisers. First, we (family of four including 2 adult children) flew into Orlando the night before and used a "Fly, Shuttle, Sleep" package offered by Comfort Inn and Suites of Cocoa Beach. Highly recommend it as it took all of the fuss out of the trip. Very courteous and professional driver from TravelLynx met us just outside of baggage claim. After picking up another passenger, we headed to Cocoa Beach and the driver provided a nice "tourist guide" to the area and Cocoa Beach, pointing out various local restaurants within walking distance to the hotel. Total package with taxes was $375.42. It also included a pretty good buffett breakfast in the morning and a shuttle (different company whose name I didn't write down) for the 15 minute morning trip to the brand new, very efficient and spacious port terminal. The Hotel itself is 2 blocks from the ocean (our room had a partially obstructed view, but still good) and was perfect. It is a little dated and folks have complained of the musty smell, but to me, that's just the smell of a beach hotel. That said, the staff was great, the room was clean, the bed comfortable. What more do you need? The evening prior to departure we walked over to a placed named Brano's Italian Grill. Slight wait for a table but excellent service and the food was the good (get the red sauce rather than the meat sauce)...the appetizers were excellent. In the morning, embarkation couldn't have been smoother. We arrived around 9:30, the doors opened at 10:00. We were in the large waiting area, all checked in with our Sea Passes by 10:30. At 11:00 they began boarding. We're Gold level Crown and Anchor and were on board by 11:30. We began our discovery walk around Freedom....and she is amazing. Absolutely beautiful, well kept (clean) and has a terrific crew. We were intimidated by the size and number of guest as this was our first "large" ship and except for once (the '70s Disco Night on the promenade) it never felt crowded. We set sail around 4:30 pm and had a lovely "sail away". We had booked the Mystery Dinner Theater in one of the specialty restaurants (Giovanni's Table) and highly recommend it....once. The show was fine (it features the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers) and yes, it is a bit corny, but it was fun....and the food was excellent. Our table mates (12 at a table) were very nice so...good food, good humor, good company, and beautiful views. It's a great way to try a speciality restaurant, which we'd never done before. We ended up eating at all three speciality restaurants this trip due to some refunds and on-board credits we received from our travel agent. Sabor is "modern" Mexican...and was our favorite. We also ate at Chops and although it was good, it really wasn't that different than an upscale Chop House or Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Nice, but not really sure if it was worth the "upcharge" ($35/person). Sabor is worth it ($25/person). Right at 1 pm on embarkation day our rooms were ready and we received our luggage by 3 pm. We had 2 adjoining room on Deck 3 mid-ship. Perfect. The adjoining room gave us our own space but made it easy to talk to our sons, gave us the use of 2 bathrooms and really make the space seem large. Beds were comfortable. Ours had an egg-shell foam topper which is a little soft for me but my wife and kids slept great. Our steward, Livingston from Jamaica, was the best we've encountered. He really pampered us, always had time for a brief conversation and was about the most pleasant person I've met. He worked really hard and always had a smile (and bath towel animal) for us. These folks work 7 days a week for 7 months at a time. I don't think I could do that and he managed to keep such a positive attidue about everything. Food was good throughout. It is what it is when you're feeding 4,000 people. Service in the Main Dining Room was excellent though the staff did seem a bit rushed. We choose the fixed time dining becuase we want to interact with the same dining service team. They also do "My Time" on the upper two levels, but we never sat there. However, most mornings we did breakfast in the Main Dining Room as well and again, always had great service. Unlike our smaller ships, Freedom sets up a mini-buffet in the Main Dining Room, so it is similar to Windjammer, but you don't have to fight for a table (my only complaint about Windjammer). The Windjammer is the big buffet area, and again, the food is good but finding a seat can be frustrating as you walk laps with your very tasty meal growing cold. On embarkation day, we actually ate our burgers standing up. Most of my meals were good and a couple were excellent. Appetizers and deserts are always good. My wife had both lamb shank (one night) and rack of lamb cuts (a different night) and was impressed with both. They also had lobster tails one night and both my wife and son enjoyed those. The shows were good. Standard "off-Broadway" kind of things, but we enjoy those. The comedian the first night was so-so. The comedian the last night was very funny. We didn't stay up for either of the "Adults only" comedy shows. They had some featured performers and those were excellent (trapeze/silk rope/ballet kind of thing). The Ice Show is a must see. On Day 6 the show is at night and I think it gets pretty packed. Earlier in the week (Day 2?) they have 2 matinee shows and we had great seats for the 1 pm show. Pools were great. Hot tubs that extend out over the water were very cool. It does get very busy on the pool deck, and even in the Solarium, but it was never "packed". Our kids are young adults so I can't speak much to the youth programs, but they do have them for all ages and there were lots of organized activities for all ages. From what I saw, it looked like the kids on the programs were having a good time. At one point, the little guys (4-6 years old?) had a pirate parade right down the Promenade singing songs they'd learned while dressed like Pirates. Very cute. Our son took advantage of the climbing wall and flow rider. There are lines, but they actually move pretty quickly for both. We also played putt-putt golf and that was fun...it's only 9 holes but you can go round and round if you like and it was actually fairly challenging. Departure was equally easy. We carried off our luggage, so they called us away at 6:45. The line was fairly long but they were disembarking from two points (fore and aft) so the line moved very quicly. We were down at Customs and Immigration by 7 am and outside the terminal 20 minutes later. The TravelLynx company has a desk just under the parking garage. We checked in and were loaded 5 minutes later and on the road 15 minutes after that. Easy drive back to Orlando Airport and pretty quick trip to check-in, drop bags, clear TSA and have breakfast in the waiting area. Very well done by the Orlando team. Excursions. We did a bit of a blow-out on this trip as our sons are beginning their own lives and we suspect his may be our last "family" vacation for awhile. In Labadee, our sons were signed up for Jet Skis but that ended up being cancelled due to rough seas. We also rented a cabana. I highly recommend this though it is a bit expensive. Suite guests get one included with their suite. Everyone else has to book them on board the ship. I think the rate is somewhere between $175 and $255 depending on which beach/cabana you want. We had one over the water at Nellie Beach. It comes with 4 big bottles of water and floaty mats, 4 deluxe beach loungers. The deal at Cocoa Cay is even better, but that's a different review. The cabanas also have stewards and they do everything they can to make it a great day. We were delayed into Labadee due to a medical emergency the night before, but we still had a great time. In Jamaica, we did the Chukka Horseback Ride N Swim. They picked us up pierside for about a 45-minute bus ride to the "ranch". Our guide gave a great guided tour as we drove there in a small bus pointing out a number of interesting features and there are some impressive views. Once at the "ranch" we met our horseback guides, received our helmets and safety brief. They then had us line up and matched riders to horses. The horses are in great shape, well trained and clearly cared for. We then set out on about a 30-40 minute trail ride over fairly gentle terrain and along the coastline (beautiful views). There is a lead guide and 3-4 other guides, so each guide keeps an eye on 4-6 riders. Our gentleman was named Andre and not only was he a great rider, he was also very entertaining and personable. Safety AND fun are their watchwords. After getting back to the ranch, there is a short break (chance to order lunch) and then you move to the beach where you're put back on a horse wearing a special riding blanket. You have to wear a safety belt like those used for water skiing. Then you head out into the water. Wow. What an experience. The horses love it, it's absolutely beautiful and a real rush to feel their power in the water. We came back and had a beer and some jerked chicken (excellent) with rice and beans and then it was time to head back to the pier. If you do this excursion, bring cash. They have t-shirts and other items to sell. They have a small bar (beer and rum punch were $5 each) and the lunch plate was $10. You don't have to buy it, but if you want it (and you will) you'll need cash. Once back at the pier, we did the very touristy thing and had a couple of margaritas at Margaritaville ($12/drink). The whole shopping area there is lovely. In Grand Cayman, we did the Cayman Jeep Wrangler Adventure and Beach Snorkel. Again, a bus picks you up near the tender drop off (that by the way was a concern of mine that I shouldn't have had...they run every 15 minutes or so and carry 250+ people per trip). After a 15-minute bus ride, we arrived at the Tiki Beach Resort. There we met our guide, Mason, recieved our safety brief, got our Jeeps and headed out. We literally drove the length and breadth of Grand Cayman. I've not been to a more beautiful place. Absolutely loved it. If you're worried about driving on the left side of the road...don't be. After several stops (and yes, some of them are just picture spots or tourist traps) we headed back to the Tiki Beach Resort. What was nice was that there was no pressure at any of the tourist traps and Mason did a great job of telling the story of Grand Cayman. Once back at the Tiki Beach Resort, we received coupons for a beach chair, a rum punch, and an access ticket for everything else they had to offer (at an upcharge) which is alot. Our sons snorkled in the crystal clear water while my wife and I enjoyed a good local beer (Caybrew). After about 2 hours the buses come back and take everyone back to their ship. This was the only unorganized part of the trip as it got a little chaotic with multiple tour groups from 3 different ships all jostling around, but if you keep your wits about you and your ears open, it works out. I wouldn't recommend the Jeep tour a second time (but perfect for a first time to Grand Cayman), but I would recommend the Tiki Beach Resort day pass they offer through Royal Carribbean. In Cozumel we went to Chankanaab for the Dolphin Push/Pull/Swim and Manatee Encounter. Amazing. Noami, our guide, couldn't have been more helpful or more organized. She made everything run great from start to finish and the encounters with the dolphin (and the manatee) were truly once in a lifetime "must do" things. Chnakanaab itself is a Mexican National Park and I'd highly recommend it for a "beach break" day. Plenty to see and do there or if you don't want to spend more money, just take in the beautiful views and waters. I think that's long enough. Enjoy Freedom of the Seas in the Western Caribbean! Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
I’m writing a review of the Freedom of the Seas Western Caribbean cruise for May 24th – May 31st. This review will be different than most other reviews because it’s not going to be a travelogue or an opinion based review. I’m ... Read More
I’m writing a review of the Freedom of the Seas Western Caribbean cruise for May 24th – May 31st. This review will be different than most other reviews because it’s not going to be a travelogue or an opinion based review. I’m going to try to keep it mostly facts. I know that everyone has different opinions regarding different situations so I’m just going to report the facts and let you decide for yourself if you’d like or not like some aspect of this trip. (Except when talking about food because I don’t think there’s any way to talk about food without having an opinion!) I’m also going to organize it into different topics. That way if you’ve been on the Freedom thousands of times, you can skip the section about the ship. If you aren’t visiting the same ports, you can skip the sections about the ports. You get the idea! I’m hoping that my report will help new cruisers and maybe give some experienced cruisers some new ideas. Hope you enjoy reading! Background This section will give you an idea of who we are and how we ended up on this particular cruise. This is a big year for us because my husband and I both turned 40 and we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We’ve been saving up for the last few years to do a really big vacation with the kids. We have three boys ages 15, 12, and 10. We’re outdoorsy, adventurous people and a cruise was not something we’d really ever considered before. BUT my best friend’s family went on a Royal Caribbean Dreamworks cruise and her boys came back gushing about it to my boys. After that, our kids wouldn’t consider any other suggestions. Eventually my husband and I caved and decided we’d book a cruise. Since we don’t drink, don’t gamble, and have never spent any time sitting beside a pool, we needed a ship with LOTS of on-board activities and plenty of exotic ports. After looking at prices, we knew that we could either fly and take a shorter cruise or drive and take a longer cruise. A family vote decided that we would drive and take the longer cruise. We decided we wanted the 7-day Western Caribbean on the Navigator leaving from Galveston, TX. In September Royal Caribbean offered a special where Kids Sail Free. I called and got the pricing and that night the family decided that this was in fact what we wanted to do. So the next day I called again to book our cruise. To get the Kids Sail Free option, everyone had to be in the same cabin. The Navigator and Freedom only have two interior cabins that house up to 6 people. When I called to book it, ALL of the interior cabins on the Navigator were booked for the entire summer. On the Freedom, the May 24th sailing was the only week available. School ended on May 21st so we decided to go with that cruise. Everything was going smoothly until February. In February, it started snowing and snowing and snowing. School was cancelled over and over again. We used all our snow days and it still kept snowing!! We had 4 extra days that had to be made up at the end of the school year. With a high schooler who had to take final exams, skipping out of the last few days wasn’t going to be an option. In addition to worrying about the school days, I started having issues with our final payment. The high school marching band has a program called Scrip. You buy gift cards online and the participating companies donates a percentage of the gift card to the marching band. Royal Caribbean is one of the participating companies. After emailing them to confirm that I could use the Scrip gift card to pay, I purchased $2200 worth of gift cards and paid my final balance. When the deadline came, I started receiving phone calls and emails saying I hadn’t paid. I called customer service and they told me that it takes up to 30 days to process the gift cards. The representative said I might have to pay an additional $2200 and then once the gift cards were processed, they’d refund my money. I wasn’t interested in loaning Royal Caribbean my money, so I declined that option. They extended the deadline by a week and told me to wait and see if it would get processed in time. That week went by and still nothing happened with the gift cards. I called customer service again and spoke with a supervisor. He assured me that whatever was happening with the gift cards had nothing to do with me. It was between the Scrip company and Royal Caribbean. He put a note on my account stating the balance had been paid in full and assured me the trip wouldn’t be cancelled. It ended up taking 37 days for the gift cards to be credited to my account. A few days later the school announced that they were only adding one day to the end of the year and the remaining three days would be made up by adding time to the beginning and end of the school day. Now I could stop stressing and start actually planning our vacation! Before the Cruise Since we were driving, we came part way after school Friday night and finished the trip on Saturday. We choose to stay at the Comfort Inn and Suite in Cocoa Beach. We picked this hotel because it had suites that would provide beds for 5 people, a park and cruise package, decent reviews and was very close to the beach. This hotel far exceeded our expectations. As you entered the room there was a living room, then a small kitchenette, bathroom, and then the bedroom. Off the bedroom there was a balcony looking over the courtyard. The courtyard included a volleyball court, shuffleboard, ping pong, swimming pool, and hot tub. They gave us a buy one get one coupon for drinks so we bought some non-alcoholic drinks and enjoyed them while soaking in the hot tub after supper. Everything was in perfect condition, the staff was very friendly and explained the shuttle process in great detail, and the beach access was close and easy. For supper, we knew if we were in Florida on the beach, we wanted a seafood restaurant on the water. We decided on Grills, but they were crammed full. You could wait over an hour for an inside table or if you wanted to sit outside you had to find a table that was currently occupied and hover over it until the people were finished. So we walked down to Fishlips which was just a couple of buildings away. We were able to get an outside table overlooking the ocean right away. The menu included a wide variety of seafood options including entrees, sandwiches, salads, etc. The service was very quick and the prices were quite reasonable. There was also a live band playing. Embarkation We were on the 9:30 am shuttle and I had heard that breakfast at the hotel would get very busy right before the shuttle came. So we got up early and went to breakfast as soon as it opened. It was well laid out with two separate service lines, 6 different waffle makers, and lots of seating in a very large room. The selection was quite impressive with fruit, several different flavors of waffle, eggs, sausage, cereal, various pastries, several juices, milk, hot tea and coffee. We returned to the room to finish getting ready, pack up our suitcases, and move our van. The hotel owns several lots and we were instructed to park in a particular lot. That lot was already full, so they told us to just park wherever we could find a spot. We spent the time waiting for the shuttle by playing all the different sports offered in the courtyard. When 9:30 arrived, the bus came with a pull behind trailer. They loaded our luggage into the trailer and we got on the bus. After about a 10 min. drive we arrived at the terminal. The driver unloaded our luggage and made sure we had the right tags. Then the Royal Caribbean employees loaded our luggage onto racks and whisked them away. We got into a line and had to wait because the doors didn’t open until 10 am. By the time 10 am rolled around, the line behind us was quite long. We went through the metal detectors, got our picture taken, received our sea passes, and then went to waiting room. There we enjoyed some free lemonade and water while we waited. They started loading at 11:00 am and we were in the 11th group. We were onboard by 11:30 am. Sail Away We all took Dramamine when we first got on board, but that was the only time we ended up taking it all week. When we entered the ship, we split up and half of us got sandwiches at the Café Promenade and headed straight to the pool and half went to Windjammer and then the pool. Since we were among the first on board, the buffet was not crowded, but by noon it was getting very busy. There weren’t many people in the pool so we enjoyed the relative quiet. The rooms were open at 1:00 pm and we found our room by using the interactive boards next to the elevators. Those boards were very helpful all week to find out what events were happening and getting directions to get to different venues. The muster drill was at 4:00 pm and everyone had a designated area. We had to wait because there were several people who were not where they were supposed to be. The staff had to hunt them down and get them to the right location. At the muster drill people are crammed together in very tight lines and you will wait until everyone is accounted for. Our middle son got overheated and possibly a little seasick and thought he was going to throw up so we moved him to the front. Another lady was starting to have a panic attack from the close quarters so they took her to the front of the line to get in the fresh air. PLEASE go straight to the muster drill so everyone doesn’t have to wait on you to show up!! That evening after dinner and the welcome aboard show, we went to listen to live music at one of the lounges. There were several couples dancing. One couple in particular was very talented and was all over the dance floor doing amazing dance moves. All of a sudden the man stopped and then fell over backwards. We were the closest table and I’m CPR trained so I ran over there. He was having a heart attack, but was still breathing and had a weak pulse. I yelled for the medics. A young couple who were physician assistants came and started monitoring him while we waited. Our family ended up leaving to make room for the medical staff. They had to turn the boat around and head back to Port Canaveral. That evening the wind was strong, and they were running full steam to get him back to the port so the ship was really rocking. That was the only evening we experienced any rough seas. (On a side note, the captain did a great job keeping everyone informed about what was happening and provided updates on his condition) Labadee, Haiti Since we had to make an emergency trip back, we were late arriving at Labadee. As a result they provided dining options on the ship only instead of the beach buffet. This private island was our first experience with a tropical Caribbean Island. So that right there made it a memorable stop! The crystal clear turquoise water, exotic fish, palm trees, and beautiful landscape are exactly what you imagine a tropical paradise looking like. I will admit that when I found out it was fenced off and we wouldn’t get a chance to experience any real Haitian culture, I was disappointed. One of the things I was looking forward to on this route was seeing exotic ports with interesting cultures. This was not a location where we found that experience. We did not purchase any excursion options here. I had the Cultural Walking Tour booked until I read that it isn’t even a real village and the supposedly authentic artisans weren’t actually doing the crafts. We love roller coasters and zip-lining, but we can do that at home. And I didn’t see the point of paying for a cabana when you can use the loungers for free. We had purchased our own snorkeling equipment and used that plus some bread we’d snagged off the ship to lure lots of fish. Plus we brought floating mats from home that we used to float around in the ocean. There is a free trolley that runs the length of the island. We used that to go to Columbus Cove. It’s the farthest (and least crowded) beach on Labadee. It was sandy and was shallow for a few feet, but then there was a large underwater cliff where it dropped off to 30+ feet. Some people were trying to swim to the bottom, but they couldn’t. Probably not the best beach if you have very little children who aren’t strong swimmers. A beach attendant offered to get us chairs, and we requested that they be set up in the shade. We gave him his tip too early though. He set up 4 chairs, and then was going to get another. We gave him the tip before we received the fifth chair and it never came. So you might not want to tip until you have actually received your chairs! My husband struck up a conversation with another beach attendant and he told us that the rocky area in front of the inflatables was the best location for snorkeling. The attendant summed up Labadee quite well when he said “The only free things here are the shuttle and chairs.” We visited the artisan market which stretches on much further than I anticipated. My husband had all the money and I couldn’t find him anywhere. The salesmen are extremely pushy and will pester you as soon as you enter. My middle son said he felt like it was a bunch of sharks circling their prey or moths drawn to light. I personally thought it was fun, but you need to be willing to ignore them and walk away. I would have bought several items because the merchandise was pretty and very reasonably priced, but by the time I found my husband (and money) it was time to get back on the ship. This was our least favorite stop, but any day spent on a tropical island is a good day so it was still nice! Falmouth, Jamaica OH, DO I HAVE AN INTERESTING STORY FOR YOU ABOUT JAMAICA! We looked at the Royal Caribbean excursion offerings and didn’t see anything that appealed to us. We liked the idea of Dunn Falls, but didn’t want the huge crowds. So I started doing online research. I found a place called Turtle River Falls that includes a series of natural waterfalls, rainforest tour, an aviary where you can feed the birds while they land on your head and hands, and a swimming pool. I looked for a company that offered tours to Turtle River Falls. After emailing several, we picked the one with the best rates. The company had a website and tripadvisor review so I thought it seemed legit. But one day sitting at work, I had a very uncomfortable feeling about this excursion. (Thank you Holy Spirit!) I started looking into the company more and saw that they only had 1 tripadvisor review and that reviewer had only 1 review. That seemed a little fishy so I googled the owners name. The search brought back news articles that the police were searching for a man with this name for BEHEADING his wife!!! The Jamaican police had put a plea on Facebook to help find him. I contacted them and gave them the contact information I had for him and promptly cancelled the reservation!! We then found a tour operator named Patrice Bailey that offered the tour. She had numerous great tripadvisor reviews and we took it with her instead. So a word of warning – Make sure you do very detailed research of the tour company before you get in the van with them! My husband joked that there was only one review because he was the only one who returned with his head! When we arrived in Falmouth, we weren’t 100% certain on where to go. So we stopped and asked at the information desk. If you book an independent tour, you will walk down to the white tents for the Royal Caribbean excursions, then turn right. There will be a sign that says independent tours and another white tent. We told them Patrice Bailey and they directed us to her. She is a tour operator who contracts with certified drivers. She put us in a van and the driver offered us bottles of water or Red Stripe beer. Patrice came a few minutes later and asked if we could switch to a smaller van. Our new driver was Jeff. Jeff was a very responsible driver who shared a wealth of knowledge with us. We learned everything you could ever want to know about Jamaica including the school systems, the government, agriculture, politics, food culture, etc. He started out as a driver and ended up as a friend! Turtle River Falls was originally Enchanted Gardens and was opened in the 1980’s as a resort. It fell into disrepair and in 2012 it reopened as Turtle River Falls. The buildings are in pretty sad shape, but the grounds and the falls are absolutely breathtaking! There are 7 natural waterfalls with a set of stairs next to them. As you enter, you will pay $20 for adults and $10 for children 10 and under. There is a tour guide who will tell you the history of the property, show you some of the tropical plants, and lead you along the waterfalls. You can get in the waterfalls and climb up them, and crawl behind them into caves. After the waterfalls, they take you to the aviary. As we entered, a large red parrot was waiting and the tour guide took him on his arm. He put food into our hands and then lots of tropical birds came swooping in to land all over our hands, heads, shoulders, etc. He put the large red parrot on each person’s arm so you could hold him. Around your feet, little hens run around and there were even two itty bitty babies about the size of a marshmallow! In addition to visiting Turtle River Falls, we stopped at Scotchies for authentic Jamaican Jerk. It is an outdoor restaurant where they slow-cook the meat on pimento logs in the traditional way. We ordered chicken, pork, and sausage plus a variety of sides included bammy, roasted sweet potato, and festival (which is a fried sweet bread that is awesome!) We also requested to stop and buy some Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. We told him we wanted export quality, 100% pure Jamaican Blue and he knew just the spot to take us. It was a little roadside market where we got that and some other souvenirs at half the price they were at the port shops. He had told us about a church that was almost 300 years old. When we returned to the port I asked him if the church was close enough to walk to. He said he had time so he’d take us. Keep in mind, we had already paid and he had already returned us to the port and we were getting ready to get off the bus when he offered to do this for free! Unfortunately the church was closed for the day so we only got to see the outside. When we returned to the port we tried some patties (which are well worth buying!) and some Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (YUM!!) We felt Jamaica offered the most authentic cultural experience. You really feel like you’re visiting a different world here. Grand Cayman In case you didn’t know, this is the only stop where the ship doesn’t dock at a pier. You have to get on a boat called a tender and take that to the island. Our excursion tickets said it was the 10:30 am tour and the first tender left the boat at 8:30. We were on one of the first tenders. They will hold up to 350 people and there are several boats so it was a very smooth process. We selected the Dolphin Push and Pull Excursion through Royal Caribbean and for what it’s worth, I looked into booking this myself and it was actually cheaper through Royal. So don’t assume that booking the excursions privately always saves you money. We have always wanted to swim with the dolphins so this was a no brainer for us. When you enter the water, you will be instructed on how to do several different tasks. You will be pushed on a boogie board, hold on to the fins while the dolphin pulls you, shake “hands”, and kiss the dolphin. I had seen on other reviews that people were complaining that you couldn’t take photos. That’s not entirely true. You cannot take ANYTHING into the pool with you (watches, cameras, sunglasses, etc.) for the safety of the dolphins. You can however take photos from the side. This is a bucket-list, once-in-a-lifetime type experience for our family and was well worth every penny! The only disappointment was that I thought I had booked the excursion to visit both the dolphins and the turtle farm which was across the street. When we walked across the street the attendant told me we didn’t have the right wrist bands. When I went back to the Dolphin place, I talked to the tour guide there and she said I didn’t have the right wristband to include both locations. I only had the Dolphin excursion. When we returned to the boat, I went to the guest services table and asked them. They looked it up and said I had the Dolphin excursion only. We looked at the excursion options and prices that the ship offered and the price we paid was less than any of the excursions they had offered. So it appeared that booking online was cheaper, but I’d recommend printing out everything from your online excursion booking. Otherwise you might not be getting what you thought you’d booked. Also, the time I had booked online was 9:30 am, but our tickets were for 10:30 am. So make sure you check your tickets for the time you are supposed to arrive. Georgetown, Grand Cayman is what I would consider a typical touristy beach town. They only way you could tell you weren’t in Myrtle Beach, Pensacola, or Clearwater was because they drove on the other side of the road! Streets are crammed with bumper to bumper traffic, sidewalks are full of tourists, and there are more tourist shops than you could ever want to visit! Also I was surprised that the beach near the pier is all rock. You cannot get to a sand beach unless you walk a very long distance (we talked to a young couple on the ship who did this and they said it was very far!) or take a taxi or excursion. We had purchased our own snorkeling gear so we wanted to go snorkeling. Fortunately some of the best snorkeling is right by the boat on those rocky shores. Once you get to the main road, turn right and go to Eden Rock Dive Center. They will rent equipment ($14 for snorkel, mask, and fins) or you can use their entry ladder for free if you have your own equipment. (They request tips if you use their restrooms or shower). The reef is only a few feet from the shore and it is amazingly beautiful with thousands of fish! We had brought cereal boxes to feed the fish, but the staff requested that we not feed the fish so we didn’t disrupt their natural feeding habits. We respected that and didn’t use it for the fish (we ate it as a snack instead ) We didn’t need it anyway because there were all kinds of fish everywhere. We did some shopping, but the stores were crammed full and the prices were fairly high compared to Haiti and Jamaica. Grand Cayman was by far the most affluent and clean port we visited. Cozumel, Mexico The one excursion that we absolutely knew we had to book on a Caribbean cruise was snorkeling. None of us had ever been and it has been on my bucket list since I was a kid. So we looked at all of the snorkeling excursions at all of the ports and picked the Fury Catamaran and Beach Break. We selected this because of the boat ride, the beach activities and the fact that Cozumel is supposed to be one of the best locations on this cruise for snorkeling. Again, after researching prices between the Royal Caribbean excursion and a private party and finding the prices were comparable, we felt it was best to stick with the Royal Caribbean offer. That way there wasn’t any issue with getting back to the boat on time. We had the first time for the excursion and I would recommend that if it’s available because you will be the first boat to the beach and you get first choice of the best seats/beds/hammocks! We went straight from the ship to the catamaran and they handed out the snorkeling gear and life vests. They had free sodas and water as we headed to the snorkeling site. When we arrived at the reef they had us dip our masks in an anti-fog solution and told us to stick together as a group. The guide had a white buoy and we were instructed to follow him. I think he may have been feeding the fish because if you followed him, you saw tons of fish and if you didn’t, you didn’t see very many. It was not nearly as nice going in a large crowd as it had been snorkeling by ourselves in Grand Cayman, but the fish were plentiful and there were a lot of different species. We saw some big schools of fish congregating on the bottom and a giant fish longer than my leg with a mouthful of teeth! Someone said it was a Barracuda and it sure did look like the photos when I googled it! After 45 minutes we got back on board and they offered beer and margaritas in addition to the sodas. My husband enjoyed a beer and I tried the margaritas. I don’t like the taste of alcohol at all and these were very weak. In fact I had two and didn’t have any kind of a buzz even though I have absolutely no tolerance for alcohol. I thought they were very yummy, but people who like alcohol will probably be disappointed! The next stop was the beach. This was similar to Labadee, but everything was included. There were giant inflatable slides, trampolines, obstacle courses, etc., paddleboards, kayaks, and beach mats. Plus there were shaded beds, hammocks, and loungers. They did have burgers with potato salad for sale, but we opted to wait to eat real Mexican food when we returned. I don’t know prices or quality but I did overhear someone say it was the best potato salad they’d ever had. The drinks were included here, too. We stayed for 1 ½ hours here and there were other boats that arrived while we were there. The beach however did not get crowded. Another fun aspect of this location was that they set out food for the animals so there were birds and an iguana near the building. I could have stayed here for the rest of my life so this excursion seemed too short! When we returned we asked the boat captain the best restaurant near the port. He directed us to Ernestos. To get there you will go to the main road and turn left. There is a large three story, pyramid shaped, thatch roof building and Ernestos is a small hole-in-the-wall place across the street from that building. It was about what you’d pay for a sit down Mexican restaurant in America ($12-20 per plate) but the quality was beyond anything you can get here! Homemade chips and salsa, homemade tortilla shells, and fresh seafood! Cozumel is famous for it fresh seafood so we ordered shrimp nachos, Grouper fajitas, and fish tacos. After lunch we took a taxi to a chocolate factory. A friend visited Cozumel for vacation and discovered KaoKao chocolate. They hand grind the cocoa beans on site and it is only available in Cozumel. She had bought 5 chocolate bars, but was down to her last bar. When she found out we were going, she put in a request for more bars. So we had to stop and get some chocolate for her. The store has glass front windows where you can watch them making and wrapping the chocolates and free samples. One of the employees would describe the chocolate and give you a free sample. We tasted 80%, 70%, and 60% dark chocolates, milk chocolate, chocolate with coconut, chocolate with coffee, chocolate with chili pepper, white chocolate, dark chocolate sweetened with Splenda, dark chocolate sweetened with Stevia, chocolate covered cocoa beans, chocolate covered coffee beans, honey with cocoa, and honey with vanilla. We ended up having to use our debit card because we bought too much chocolate!! The taxi driver asked if we were interested in shopping and we told him yes. So he dropped us off at an outdoor market near the ship. We shopped and found some reasonably priced souvenirs. To get there from the port, you would cross the street and turn right. It is a couple of blocks down and extends to the left. We should have switched the order of our stops though because the chocolate was not holding up in the 90 degree temperatures. So we headed back to the ship a little early to put the chocolate away in the cooler. Freedom Of The Seas Since we had never even seen a cruise ship before our jaws dropped when we first saw the ship. Imagine a 14 story building towering above you. Now imagine it being a block long. Now imagine it floating on the water. That will give you a slight idea of just how massive this thing is. Inside the promenade is breathtaking, the art work is exquisite, the common areas are spotless, everything is made to impress. Everything was in working order and stylish. A couple of hints that we discovered during our trip. You can’t get from one end of the ship to the other end on decks 2 and 3. So instead of walking through the smoking casino, go outside on deck 4 to traverse from one end to the other. The starboard side of the ship has red carpet and the port side has blue. Look at the color of the carpet at your cabin to help you remember which direction to turn when you get off the elevator. In the public restrooms, there are two dots of colors on the lock. White is unlocked and red is locked. You can’t see under the doors and they shut on their own, so this will help you determine if a stall is occupied. Here is a little more information about each area that we frequented Pool: We visited the pool a lot during our trip. The kids especially liked the H2O Zone with the waterfalls and squirting features. It gets REALLY crowded on seas days from about 10:00 am -3:00 pm. So we would typically visit after supper when it was nearly empty. That was a great time to get in the cantilevered hot tubs too!! Solarium: This is the adults-only section so it was quiet. The cantilevered hot tubs were in this section and were very hot. You couldn’t stay in them long, but the view is incredible. Spa: I took the spa tour which was a total waste of time. The first day they had a special for $99/single $199 couple massages on the beach in Labadee. We signed up to get the couples massage, but since we were late arriving, they changed it to the on-board spa. The facilities are nice, but not nearly as fancy as I was expecting. It reminded me of just about any other spa I’ve visited. The couples massage was professional and my muscles were relaxed without being sore the next day. Library: This was a major disappointment. We love to read and were planning to spend time here, but as my younger son said, it was about the size of our stateroom and most of the shelves were empty! Chapel: We tried to visit here on the very first day and almost walked in on a wedding! The staff shooed us out and apologized. There was a sign saying that it was closed at the bottom of the stairs. But we hadn’t seen it, so we moved it in front of the stairs to prevent anyone else from making the same mistake. We ended up visiting it the next morning. My husband commented that he thought you’d be able to see out, which you couldn’t, but overall it was a nice quiet place to get away. We spent a few minutes in prayer for the man who’d had the heart attack and for a safe trip. The boys asked why there weren’t any church services and I wondered the same thing. Maybe we need to suggest that to the Royal Caribbean staff! Skating Rink: I was really disappointed in the hours for open skating! The first sea day they offered free skate and my husband took the two younger boys, but my older son wanted to do the flow rider. So I went with him. There weren’t any other open skate times the rest of the trip! So the two of us never got a chance to try this. We had signed the online waiver, but they had waivers there for people who hadn’t filled it out. They have you wear helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, long pants, and socks. So make sure you pack long pants and socks if you want to try this. The rink is small and they limit you to 30 min. but the boys had a good time. Rock Wall: This was my oldest son’s favorite feature. We were here many time during the trip. My son and husband both competed in the speed climb and my son won the second place medal. You must have completely dry clothes (no swim attire) and socks, but they provide special climbing shoes and harnesses. They even have an offer that if you can climb a certain colored “trail” up the wall, they will give you a free cruise. If you fail, you have to buy the attendant a free drink. (He’s never seen anyone accomplish this!) Flowrider: We all tried the Flowrider and some of us were more successful than others! We did both the boogie board and stand up and it was a blast watching both those who are really good and those who have major wipeouts. We attended the champion Flowrider competition which was lots of fun! If you are physically able, I’d recommend it just so you can say you tried! Golf Course: We finally tried this the final day and I wished we’d visited early. We had a great time competing against each other. It’s a small, yet challenging course. Deck 4: Most people don’t go to Deck 4 so it ended up being one of my favorite spots. We watched the sunrise and sunset here, read books during the afternoons on sea days, went for walks, and played shuffle board. The shuffleboard equipment is stored in containers mounted on the walls next to the shuffle board courts. It’s the closest deck to the water so you can hear the ocean. This is the deck to take to the helipad which is the very front of the ship. It was so windy my husband thought it would blow the glasses right off his face. Very exhilarating experience when you’re going full speed! Arcade: They offered a free session the first night on ship. The kids (and my husband) enjoyed the free play, but we never spent any money here on any other night. Promenade: We only used this as a way to get from one end of the ship to the other or to get a snack in the evenings. I never even entered any of the stores or bars here. It was really crowded at night and totally empty during the day. It was pretty and made the ship feel like a small city. Casino: We never spent any time here except for walking through it the first few days before we discovered you can bypass it by walking outside. Smoky, noisy but crowded so I guess there are plenty of people that enjoy it. Each day the steward leaves the Cruise Compass detailing some of the various activities that will be offered the next day. There is constantly something and most of the time there are 4-5 options. There is no way to do everything so you will need to look over the options and decide which items are the most important. We would look the night before and circle the items we wanted to attend. A watch is a good item to pack because there aren’t many clocks onboard and I never had my cell phone with me. Here is little more information about the shows and activities that we participated in: Ice Show: Our very favorite! They offered it 4 times so it wasn’t a problem to find seating. I had to practically drag the boys because they didn’t think they’d like it, but they did. Friendly Feud: This was a fun game show that we enjoyed. Exactly like the tv show except they get audience members to be the contestants so this is your chance to be a star! Meet and Mingle: The meet and mingle part was kind of lame, but the cabin crawl that one member had organized for afterwards was one of my favorite activities. Loved seeing how the upper crust lives! Love and Marriage Game Show: Absolutely hilarious! I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time! They pick the couple who has been married the longest, honeymooners, and one couple in between. The women leave and they ask the men questions. When the women return they ask them the same questions. Then they switch. Casey Pelter is the activities director and he is so quick witted he made all the shows so much fun! Trivia: We went three different times to trivia. You form teams from 2 -6 people and get an answer card. Every team answers as the host read the questions out loud. At the end you trade with a neighboring team and grade each other’s answers when the host tells you the correct answers. Winners will get something like a keychain or pen. 60 Seconds or Less: Just like the Minute to Win It tv show. It was a blast and my husband was one of the audience members selected. He received a gold medal for winning his bobblehead contest! They had 4 different challenges and they picked the participants from the audience members. As the host pointed out, this game is only fun as long as the participants and audience make it fun! And our participants and audience made it super fun! Opening Show: This featured a comedian and aerial acrobats. The aerial acrobats are amazing. The comedian was just so-so. He mumbled and was hard to understand sometimes. Magician: This was a high quality show. The magician is very charismatic and the tricks are pretty amazing. This was also a favorite of ours! Broadway Review: For this show the singers and dancers wear costumes and sing a song from one musical, then change sets and costumes and sing another song, then change and sing another song. We aren’t much into Broadway so we didn’t know very many of the songs. And without any storyline it became a bit boring for me. The singers and dancers are talented and the costumes and staging were impressive. Closing Show: The aerial acrobats were back and that was the main reason we wanted to see the closing show. There was a different comedian which we enjoyed more than the first one. They introduced the staff and there is a lot of cheering and clapping for all their hard work. Live Music: We attended a couple of the live music shows. The talent is amazing and I would recommend making an effort to check it out! In the Star Lounge they had a dance floor if you want to do some ballroom dancing to a live jazz band or rock out with Kronos. Dreamworks Parade: I stood on a little platform next to the elevator on Deck 6 to watch. If you have little kids, it was quite the performance, but it’s very crowded!! Poolside Activities: Zumba: I participated in this a couple of times and it is a fun class to get you up and moving. Simple enough for beginners, but challenging enough to get you sweating. Belly Flop Competition: Don’t volunteer, but do go and watch these poor men put themselves through immense pain! Sexiest Man Competition: I was at the pool when this started and Sonny from North Carolina stole the show!! It wouldn’t have been nearly as funny without him, so I don’t know if I’d recommend seeking this out. But if you just happened to be there, it can be entertaining. WARNING: The following is opinion based only, not based on facts  Our favorite features/areas on the ship were: Rock wall, Flow Rider, H2O Zone, Outside on Deck 4, the attentive and friendly staff, and the wide variety of lounges. Our least favorite features/areas on the ship were: Casino, library, the tiny showers, and the stench that came from the toilet! Our top 10 favorite activities on the ship were: 1. Ice show 2. Audience participation games (trivia, friendly feud, 60 seconds or less, etc.) 3. Magician 4. Watching sunrises/sunsets on Deck 4 5. Rock Wall competitions 6. Flow Rider competition 7. Aerial Acrobats 8. Cabin Crawl (this has to be organized by the Roll Call on Cruise Critic) 9. Couples Massage 10. Musicians Our least favorite aspect of the ship were: • The singers/dancers (not because they aren’t talented, just because that’s not something we’re interested in) • Spa Tour • The insane watch sale where you can’t get through the promenade! Food Okay this section is strictly opinion based because I don’t think there is any way to talk about food without having an opinion about whether it tasted good to you. The food on the ship was beyond my wildest dreams! I have never eaten such delicious, exotic, perfectly created dishes in my life! There may have been one or two things that weren’t fabulous, but there were so many options that if you don’t like, don’t eat it. Just get something else. Main Dining Room – We opted for My Time Dining because we didn’t want to have to be back on the ship in time for the 5:30 pm seating, but we usually eat much earlier than 8:00 pm. We enjoyed that flexibility and arranged reservations when we first boarded so we didn’t have to wait. Two evenings we called and rescheduled our reservations for a later time because there were other activities we wanted to attend. I requested a table for 5 because, even though we wouldn’t have minded getting to know other people, I was worried that some certain types of people would not be too thrilled eating with three boys. I had told them when I booked the trip that we were celebrating our 20th anniversary and they arranged a special dessert for us during the second formal night complete with candles and singing. We ate in the dining room the first two nights and then decided to try the buffet on Tuesday. We arrived on the boat late on Wednesday and were exhausted after Jamaica so we went for the buffet that night also. When we came back for the second formal night our waiter was afraid that we hadn’t been happy with the service. He had been fairly busy the first two night we were there, but this night we were his only table. So he cater to our every whim. He asked my middle son if he liked beef. I said the only beef he likes is hamburger. So the waiter brought him a burger and fries the next two night. The assistant waitress was one of our favorites. She was so sweet and kind. She remembered our drink orders and would go get extra savory bites for us because she claimed we were the only ones who liked them. We really enjoyed getting to know the dining room staff and spent a lot of time learning about their countries, families, and what it was like working on the cruise ship. Even though this list could go on and on, I’ll limit it to our top 10 favorites from the dinners at Main Dining Room: 1. Chocolate Sensation 2. Lamb Shank 3. Shrimp Ravioli 4. Lobster Tails (during 2nd formal night) 5. Key Lime Pie 6. Crème Brule 7. Grilled Salmon 8. Jaffa Cake 9. The Soups 10. The baskets of breads! The only things we had from the Main Dining Room for dinner that weren’t absolutely fabulous were: “Iced Tea” (I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not iced tea!), Seafood Spaghetti (we think they may have accidently brought the linguini instead, but I’m not 100% certain), and the lobster bisque (our waiter warned us that it was very fishy, but we ordered it anyway) Main Dining Room Lunch and Breakfast – We ate here for lunch one day and I enjoyed the Tutti Salad, but we felt the options at the buffet were just too awesome to pass up. So we ate the buffet, Café Promenade or Sorrentos for lunch the other days. We ate breakfast here two days and we LOVED the chocolate breakfast!! Especially the chocolate banana bread and the chocolate milkshakes! The Eggs Benedict and Huevos Rancheros were also favorites on the non-chocolate breakfast day. Windjammer Buffet – With three boys who eat A LOT, we tend to like buffets. I found this buffet to be absolutely the best buffet ever! The choices were limitless and offered a huge variety for all tastes. There was a variety of typical American food and choices that were more global. I especially loved the make your own crepe station at dinner. Just a few examples of the offereings are meat carving stations at all three meals, fresh fruits, cheeses and breads, a huge variety of salads and toppings, soups, hot vegetables and sides, a sundae bar, and table upon table of desserts. Jade – This is basically just another section of the Windjammer Buffet. My family LOVES sushi and we were quite excited to know that there was sushi available every evening. We were slightly disappointed with it, though. There wasn’t any actual seafood inside the rolls. It was mainly carrots, cucumbers, avocado, etc. An Asian family in line behind me referred to it as “fake sushi”. The main dishes were excellent though. I barely made to the other buffets because my plate was always full from Jade! Promenade Café – The café here ended up being one of our favorite spots. We’d stop in and grab a cup of coffee or tea and a sweet almost every evening. We also packed up sandwiches to take to Grand Cayman with us. I took Ziploc bags and a collapsible cooler to tote them ashore. (You can’t do this on Cozumel because they have dogs that sniff your bags and you have to throw away any food). Sorrentos – This is the pizza place that’s included in the price of the cruise. The boys had pizza several times, but I didn’t get around to trying it until the last day. IT WAS SO GOOD! I was disappointed I hadn’t discovered it earlier!! I had a rustic pizza with a crispy crust and fresh arugula and tomatoes on top. Soft-Serve Ice Cream- Free ice cream all day long!! It was good, creamy and cold on those hot afternoons. Is it the very best soft serve I’ve ever had? No. Did that stop us from eating it often? No!! Room Service – We’ve never in our lives ordered room service anywhere and wanted to order it just because we could. We ordered breakfast the first day but it was cold and disappointing. The boys ordered pizza one night as a late night snack. With the other awesome selections elsewhere, we didn’t use it as much I would have thought. Our top 10 favorite foods that weren’t in the Main Dining Room were: 1. Cookies - Mudslide, Coconut Macaroons, Chocolate Chip, they were all super delicious! They offered many varieties so we had cookies every day! 2. Seafood Sandwich from Café Promenade 3. Cheesecake Lollipops from Café Promenade 4. Sorrentos Pizza 5. Create your own crepe station 6. Sandwich spreads (salmon, tuna, and hummus) 7. Fresh Fruit! (Pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, honey dew, grapes, apples, oranges, pears, kiwi, etc.) 8. Ethnic choice from Jade especially Kari Ayam (a chicken curry dish) and Chicken Tandoori 9. Banana pancakes with caramel sauce 10. Cold salads (they offered different salads each night and I would fill a plate with all the different options.) I was going to list the things we didn’t like, but I can’t think of anything worth mentioning! There were a couple of things that didn’t suit our tastes, but nothing that wasn’t prepared properly. Packing We are middle income, Midwesterners and our normal attire is casual. My husband and I both have jobs where we wear jeans most days and we rarely wear dress clothes (even our church is extremely casual). I didn’t want to over-pack, but wanted to make sure we had everything we needed. For excursions and wearing around the boat, I packed what we would normally wear on a day-to-day basis. For dinner we took fancier clothes than we would wear on a normal basis. I was surprised at how fancy people dressed every night. Not just the formal nights. Most evenings, women wore nice dresses (not just cotton sundresses), jewelry, and nice shoes. For the evening entertainment, some people would change into nice slacks. If you really want to skip the formal attire all together, you won’t be the only one wearing t-shirt and shorts to the shows, but you will be in the minority. I did not see anyone in the main dining room who was dressed casually. I wish I had packed warmer clothes for the evenings. I mainly had spaghetti strapped sundresses and the dining room and Arcadia Theater were extremely chilly! I didn’t have the right colored sweaters to layer over all my dresses. So NEXT time, I’ll make sure I have color coordinated layers for all my dresses. I also wish I had packed more in-between outfits. I didn’t have any slacks or capris. After dinner, I didn’t want to wear my formal gown all evening, but people were dressed very nicely in the evenings so shorts and t-shirts looked a little out of place. You will change clothes often. As an example, the first day, I started in exercise clothes to watch the sunrise, eat breakfast and go to the Zumba class, then I changed into a swimsuit and cover up, then at lunch I changed into a nicer shorts outfit, then I dressed in my formal gown for dinner, then I changed back into the nice shorts outfit for the evening show. You can wear the same thing more than once because you won’t have it on very long, but make sure you pack plenty! For those of you who are uber-organized like me, here’s my packing list to help get you started. For my husband and three boys: 2 nice shorts to wear on ship 2 polo or button down shirts to match nice shorts and slacks 5 casual shorts for excursions (exercise or jean) 5 t-shirts 1 set of workout clothes (shirt and shorts) 1 pair of long pants for ice skating 7 underwear 4 pairs of regular socks 1 pair of dress socks same color as dress shoes PJ’s 2 swimming trunks 1 swim shirt Baseball cap Sunglasses Light weight jacket Dress shoes that match your suit Strap-on water shoes Flip-flops Tennis shoes Suit Tie 1 long sleeve button down shirt to wear with tie 1 white undershirt 1 pair dress slacks Belt Here’s what I packed for me: 3 swimming suits 2 cover ups 3 sundresses Formal gown 5 pairs of shorts 5 shirts 1 pair of long pants 1 set of work-out clothes Socks Lightweight sweater Rain jacket 7 sets of undergarments PJ’s Sunhat Sunglasses Jewelry Toiletry Items: CAMERA!! Band-Aids Antibiotic ointment Aspirin Cold medicine Benadryl Seasickness medication Rash ointment Deodorant Toothbrushes Toothpaste Sunscreen Bug spray Make up Face soap Face lotion Shampoo/Conditioner Hair Products Contact stuff Glasses Cellphone/ipod chargers Dry erase board and marker – Great for keeping track of older kids! Extension cord for chargers Over the door hooks Magnets Ziplocs – various sizes – We used these to take sandwiches when we went on shore. Insulated tote – We used this to keep the sandwiches cool. Ask the steward for ice. Small Umbrella Binoculars Small air spray Snorkeling Gear – Highly recommend these at Labadee and Grand Cayman! Inflatable beach floats –Cheaper than renting them at Labadee and I just threw them away when we finished. Things I didn’t use: binoculars, over the door hooks, extension cord, umbrella, magnets, and bug spray. Things I wished I’d packed: long slacks and nice shirts for evenings and more sweaters for layering. Whenever I travel I like to pack things that I won’t miss, then I leave it behind. That way I won’t have to haul as much stuff home, don’t have as much laundry when I get back, and have room for all our souvenirs. I would not advocate wearing anything holey, dirty, offensive, or out of style. You are on a ship with moderately to extremely wealthy people. But since I’m never going to see any of these people again, I don’t think it has to be a fashion show either. Some examples to help you understand what I mean: I packed (and left) a pair of jean shorts and khaki shorts that had to be ironed before you could wear them (I hate ironing so I was happy to get rid of them!), a brand new outfit that was a gift and I just didn’t care for the color, a couple of shirts that were too low-cut for my taste, and old undergarments. There wasn’t really anything wrong with any of the clothes, but they tended to get disregarded when I was deciding what to wear, so I knew I wouldn’t miss them. The only things I packed to leave behind were the casual outfits that I wore for excursions and working out. Since I figured I’d spend most of my time in a swimsuit and cover up, I did buy new swim suits for the whole family, swim shirts for the boys, and a couple of cover ups. I also bought a new formal gown, and a couple of new sundresses. Disembarkation We had a lot of luggage to haul so we set it out the night before. I didn’t want to fight the crowds while wheeling that many suitcases. We took our time leaving the ship that morning. We didn’t have to catch a plane or be anywhere at any certain time. We had a leisurely breakfast at the Windjammer and then went back to the room to get ready and double check that we had everything. We were assigned the 9:30 slot which was the next to last slot. We started that way about 9:15 am and waited in the Café Promenade. They were running about 30 min. behind so we didn’t actually leave until closer to 10:00 am. They called all the last groups together and we were one of the last to leave. We had to stand in line for over an hour to get through customs. I had drank a coffee, hot tea, and a glass of water while we waited and there are NO bathrooms available (I asked!) We actually saw one poor lady who had peed her pants while waiting. So make sure you don’t drink too much while you’re waiting to leave!! Once we were outside, we asked about the shuttle and they directed us to the waiting area. There were more people waiting than there were benches and we had just stood for an hour in line so it seemed like a long wait for the shuttle. There were other people from other hotels so we had to stop and drop them off before we got to our hotel. By the time we got back and loaded our luggage, it was 12:00 pm before we left Cocoa Beach. One that I found humorous was after getting off the ship, our standards for quality of food, friendliness of service, and cleanliness were so high that we HATED the restaurants and hotel on the way home! We kept comparing them to how wonderful it was on the ship and you will never find any place on land that comes anywhere close to the ship!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
My 20 year old daughter just returned from a relaxing cruise on Freedom of the Seas. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves. We booked this cruise just about two months before the sail date. I traveled from Atlanta, picked up my college-aged ... Read More
My 20 year old daughter just returned from a relaxing cruise on Freedom of the Seas. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves. We booked this cruise just about two months before the sail date. I traveled from Atlanta, picked up my college-aged daughter in Statesboro, GA and the we traveled to Port Canaveral. We stayed at Radisson Resort at the Port. I will review this hotel on Trip Advisor, but suffice it to say, everything was fine. It's a bit busy and the room smelled a bit damp (typical Florida motel smell,) but we were comfortable enough. We used the hotel's Park and Shuttle service and it was extremely efficient. There were plenty of shuttles available and we were loaded upon the shuttle immediately. After a very short drive, we arrived at the Port. Embarkation - As we received a complimentary upgrade to a Junior Suite, we were escorted to the Suite Guests check-in area, where there was no waiting. In fact, we encountered no lines at all during check-in. We were walking on the ship no more than 10 minutes after entering the building! Cabin - We were in Cabin 1706, an aft-facing Junior Suite on the 10th deck. It was lovely - large with many storage areas, including a small walk-in closet. The balcony was huge and included two loungers, two chairs and a dining table. Our only beef with this cabin was that it never received sun or a breeze. We didn't spend a great deal of time on the balcony, other than to eat breakfast there two mornings. Dining - this is an area in which we were very disappointed. The Windjammer Cafe was almost always quite crowded. It was stressful to walk in to the place as we first had to search and search for a place at which to sit. The food was fine - just that. The menu tended to stay the same from day to day. However, we only ate dinner there once. Perhaps there is a greater variety in the evening. MDR - another disappointment. Our service was adequate, I'll say that. Food was bought out quickly (almost too quickly,) but wasn't always hot. We unfortunately had a table close to the waiter station, so were treated to a constant and loud show of rolling trolleys, clattering dish cleaning, etc. It was kind of unappetizing to see plates being scraped ten feet from our table. Also, we noticed that multiple dishes were brought out at the same time and simply left covered on the waiter station until the next course was offered. If we knew that our second course was going to be brought out at the same time as our first, we would have ordered them separately. The food seem to progress from okay to terrible by the last day of the cruise. The last night, we received "French Onion Soup," which was so bad that we could only laugh. The broth contained no pieces of onion that we could discern, the "bread" appeared to be a very small square of toasted sandwich bread. No cheese was visible, but we think that a small piece of cheese may have been placed on the toast. I say "may" because by the time the soup arrived at our table, it had sunk under the broth. I really wish I had taken a photo of this pitiful soup. It was the saddest thing I have ever seen offered in a restaurant. Beverage service was also lacking in the MDR (but excellent at all of the other bars on the ship.) I had the Premium Beverage package which entitles me to unlimited drinks. Unfortunately, it was quite difficult to receive more than one glass of wine during the entire dining time. Drinks were never offered - I had to get my server's attention and order an additional glass. Typically, the second glass of wine arrived just in time for the dessert to arrive. Excursions - we enjoyed all of our excursions and I will post more information on those specific pages. Entertainment - we went to the late night comedy show. Meh. Disembarkation - again, extremely efficient. Our disembarkation time was 7:45 am and we were off the ship by 7:50am. Summary - would we cruise on RCCL again? I suppose. We were happy with everything with the exception of dining. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
WE chose this particular cruise because of our great experience on 4 other carnival cruises and it went to new ports for us. The ship was not as well maintained as we expected, the food was not as good and wait staff was very ... Read More
WE chose this particular cruise because of our great experience on 4 other carnival cruises and it went to new ports for us. The ship was not as well maintained as we expected, the food was not as good and wait staff was very disappointing to the point I spoke to a matre`d for the only time in 12 cruises. first night at diner the waiter introduced himself and disappeared, the rest of the diner was handled by the 3rd in line. we didn't get drinks and never offered desert - waiting over an hour for the meal. - the nights after that only were marginally better after speaking to the matre`d as the waiter was then overly sweet but still not great at taking care of our table. wishing we would have requested to move sections looking back. the ship had gone thru a major refit and I could not see where any improvements were made (must have been in suites or other areas not visited) the ship is not easy to get around, if you leave the comedy club (which we loved on the 2 splendor cruises) you had to go up decks to go around the club to get to the same deck on the ship. This is the only bad experience we have had with Carnival and are gold members - and have vowed never to go on the sunshine again. This review is a year later and I am still disappointed haven taken 3 more cruises now on other lines. I am sure we will travel at some point with Carnival again when the disappointment from this one wears off a little. We have taken several cruises from new york as it is closest but will not be using the port until the Sunshine is moved somewhere else Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
When they did the redo of this ship they added to many cabins. Not enough space for all the people to enjoy things. Can't find a seat at any of the pools unless you get up at the crack of dawn. We only saw two shoes because the lounge ... Read More
When they did the redo of this ship they added to many cabins. Not enough space for all the people to enjoy things. Can't find a seat at any of the pools unless you get up at the crack of dawn. We only saw two shoes because the lounge is to small for the amount of people on the ship, they will close the door when it gets . We even tried cong 45 minutes early and a line was backed up and we still did not get in. The food in the lido market place was the same every other day and we could never find a seat to sit at. The food service in the main dining area was so slow we stopped going after the 2nd night. This ship lacked entertainment big time. My husband and I found ourselves bored in our cabin to much. There is only so much you can spend in the casino. The best part of this ship is getting of to the ports and getting off to go home! DO NOT be like us and ignore the negative comments of this ship, spend the extra money and go on Royal Caribbean so you won't feel like you were ripped off. This was my 3rd and last cruise with Carnival, now I see why they are so cheap. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015

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