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Carnival Freedom

Itinerary

The now-trendy resort town of Galveston is located on a barrier island just two miles off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. It's not just well-known for its 32-mile-long beach shaped by wind and waves, but also for its charming Victorian architecture scattered throughout the downtown historic districts.

Once one of the wealthiest cities in Texas and the "Wall Street of the South," Galveston was nearly swept away by a devastating hurricane in 1900, which killed more than 6,000 people. In 2008, Hurricane Ike made a direct hit, damaging 75 percent of the city's homes and causing more than $3.2 billion in damage. But, the city's 17-foot seawall (a must for strolling), which was built after the 1900 storm, held up to Ike, preventing total devastation, and the waterfront town of Galveston has once again returned to its former glory.

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  • Day 2

Although Cozumel is Mexico's largest Caribbean island (and its most populated), it wasn't until the 1960's that this once-sleepy fishing village became a tourist attraction in its own right, following a documentary in which Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the most beautiful areas in the world for scuba diving. These days, Cozumel is a major cruise port that welcomes more than one million cruise passengers each year and as many as eight ships per day. But even with all this progress, Cozumel has held onto its non-touristy side; only one-third of the island has been developed, leaving large stretches of pristine jungle and sandy beaches basically untouched.

Yes, it's true: There's much more to Cozumel than duty-free shopping. (That being said, Cozumel offers darn good deals on jewelry, Mexican handicrafts, T-shirts and other souvenirs, mostly in the main town of San Miguel.) This small island, measuring just 28 miles long and 10 miles wide, lies off the coast of the country's Yucatan peninsula and offers incredibly diverse options for water sports-lovers, partly because of its proximity to spectacular coral reefs. Along with snorkeling, beach bumming and boating, scuba diving is one of the biggest draws to this sunny destination.

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Bordering on Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean, Belize is the second smallest country in Central America (after El Salvador), with an area of approximately 9,000 square miles that includes numerous small islands -- known as cayes -- off the coast. More than half of the mainland is covered with dense forests, and at its longest point Belize is 176 miles long while its greatest width is 88 miles. Long a strong advocate of environmental protection, the government has set aside approximately 20 percent of its land as nature reserves.

Belize has been attracting steadily increasing numbers of U.S. visitors as it has become better known as a reasonably priced destination offering some of the best diving in the Caribbean. It also continues to increase in popularity as a cruise destination and is often included as one of the ports of call on Western Caribbean itineraries.

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Imagine a place where lobster is a common lunch fare, traffic lights don't exist and you can hail a taxi on the water. Welcome to Roatan, the largest of the Bay Islands, 30 miles north of Honduras. Almost 40 miles long and just 2.5 miles at its widest point, the remote island boasts white-sand beaches, pristine bays and spectacular coral reefs.

Roatan is a true melting pot. Its 50,000 people are a mix of Spanish, British, Paya Indian and African, the result of a stormy history that includes conquistadors, pirates and slave traders. In the mid-17th century, the Spanish relocated the Paya Indians in an unsuccessful attempt to rid the island of British pirates. In the late-18th century, the island was repopulated when British troops deported thousands of Black Caribs who had sided with the French during a battle over St. Vincent. Another group of immigrants arrived from the Caymans in the 1830s.

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  • Day 6
  • Day 7

The now-trendy resort town of Galveston is located on a barrier island just two miles off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. It's not just well-known for its 32-mile-long beach shaped by wind and waves, but also for its charming Victorian architecture scattered throughout the downtown historic districts.

Once one of the wealthiest cities in Texas and the "Wall Street of the South," Galveston was nearly swept away by a devastating hurricane in 1900, which killed more than 6,000 people. In 2008, Hurricane Ike made a direct hit, damaging 75 percent of the city's homes and causing more than $3.2 billion in damage. But, the city's 17-foot seawall (a must for strolling), which was built after the 1900 storm, held up to Ike, preventing total devastation, and the waterfront town of Galveston has once again returned to its former glory.

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Cruise Critic Editor Rating:
4.5
1,199 reviews
Why Choose Carnival Freedom?

Pro

Free dining options and age-appropriate activities, including Seuss-themed events

Con

Layout forces passengers to climb stairs to access other main areas of the ship on the same deck

Bottom Line

Tremendous value to passengers and families, with fun-for-all-ages atmosphere

Carnival Freedom Overview

Carnival Freedom is a major step on a trajectory that is quickly hurtling Carnival Cruise Lines into the atmosphere for family-friendly, multigenerational cruising. The line has always offered value, but within the past decade or so, it has set its focus on families. That's not to say Freedom doesn't offer adults the chance to live it up. Freedom underwent a major refurbishment in spring 2014, bringing with it the line's Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades. The RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar on the Lido Deck offer more tropical tipples than ever before, and spaces like Alchemy Bar add a hint of sophistication to the ol' cruise watering holes. Most of the changes, though, cater to families and the kid in all of us.

Freedom is the first ship with Camp Ocean, replacing Camp Carnival as the onboard children's program, and the first ship with Bookville, a reading room and play space that anchors the Seuss at Sea experience onboard. It's also the first ship with four full PlayList Productions shows at just 30 minutes each, which rotate throughout the cruise. While Camp Ocean has upgraded the kids' space, an arts and crafts room is included to encourage participation from parents in their children's daily activities. Seuss at Sea welcomes kids of all ages (meaning adults, as well) to march and let loose in a parade, become reacquainted with "The Cat in the Hat" and test their taste buds with culinary creations ripped from the pages of Dr. Seuss' books. Getting everyone involved in the action is part of the plan and also part of the charm.

A number of other branded experiences enhance life onboard. Once the plain Sports Bar, now EA Sports Bar, action is on every wall with sports games, video games of sports games, and sports memorabilia that comes to life. "Hasbro, the Game Show" takes the board games everyone knows and loves and plays them out on the stage with members of the audience chosen through sheer enthusiasm and answers to trivia questions. Apart from the bizarre (and loud) "commercial breaks" showcasing old Hasbro advertisements, the action is infectious.

Onboard dining -- something trending toward specialty, for-fee options industry-wide -- has remained largely free of charge on Carnival Freedom, and we never felt like we were deprived of choice. Apart from the buffet and the main dining room, there are burgers and burritos with enough toppings to have a different experience every day of your cruise. Even within the buffet, themed counters (Mongolian, Fish & Chips, the Deli) are like stepping foot inside tiny, specialized eateries. The quality does not suffer, in spite of its being free.

With all the changes brought by the retrofit, some spaces still need work. A few lounges lack true identities, the library is gorgeous but out of place, Spa Carnival needs a "wow" factor to keep up, and there's a giant skylight dome overtaking valuable court space on the sports deck. That's when we remember that Freedom isn't a new ship; it's a ship with fresh and exciting concepts that are well executed. It's an appetizing taste of what's to come for the line, and it challenges you not to have a good time onboard.

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Cruise Reviews

Sail Date: December 2017
My husband and I chose this cruise to experience our first New Years Eve on a ship and to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We also enjoyed our itinerary (Cozumel, Belize, and Roatan) as we have never been to Belize before. Overall we ... Read More
My husband and I chose this cruise to experience our first New Years Eve on a ship and to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We also enjoyed our itinerary (Cozumel, Belize, and Roatan) as we have never been to Belize before. Overall we enjoyed our little vacation and had a great time, however there are some things that stick out. We had a window cabin 1351 on deck 1. Though the bed was neatly fixed with seemingly clean sheets we were surprised at how unclean the rest of the cabin was. The remote control for the TV, door knobs, cabinets, refrigerator door handle and bathroom faucet were sticky with finger prints. The mirror/vanity area and window was extremely dusty. After a thorough wipe down with our clorox wipes we were shocked at how filthy the place really was. The napkins were practically black with dirt. Despite all this we enjoyed having our room steward as he was very friendly and polite. The ship itself is not exactly user friendly, but during this 7 day cruise we got accustomed to the layout eventually. We enjoyed the food and service from the Main Dining Room, food on the lido deck was good, albeit bland. The entertainment was "okay"...talented singers, but the off pitch tunes made me feel like I was watching a grade school play as opposed to Carnival entertainment. It felt very apparent with the crowd as well as my husband and I sat on the balcony and we could see several people getting up to leave mid song. The comedy shows were hilarious and entertaining. We enjoyed our excursions for all of our port stops. In Cozumel we opted for a Carnival excursion to Xplor park and had a fantastic time. In Belize we woke up early to ensure we get the 1st tender boat out as we had a private tour booked through Shore Excursioneer. From the cruise port, we took a taxi to Belize Municipal Airport and from there took a short flight to San Pedro. Gorgeous place. Had a snorkeling tour waiting for us. The snorkeling was top notch but would not recommend to novice snorkelers/swimmers as the sea was pretty rough. We caught the 2pm flight back the Belize City and arrived back to the ship around 3pm, the ship docked out at 5pm so we had plenty of time! For Roatan we had our own private tour planned as well. We chose to go through Victor Bodden tours, excellent experience. We went to a monkey sanctuary and luckily got there before the rest of the cruise crowd (they arrived as we were leaving) and then a private snorkeling tour. The waves were rough as well but we felt completely safe because our guide was in the water with us and made sure we were okay. We got back to the cruise port around 12pm so we had tons of time to do other things and explore. Saving the worst for last...our spa experience was less than to be expected. We booked a couples Swedish massage before our cruise. First off the room they put us in was partially divided and tiny. Getting undressed and prepped for our massage was cumbersome because the room was so cramped. Now for the massage itself, it was absolutely terrible. I hate to admit it, but though this was the most I've paid for a massage this was without a doubt the worst. My masseuse, MaryJoe, was friendly but unfortunately gave zero pressure and in the end I felt covered with oil and awkward as I'd just received a full body rub down as opposed to an actual massage. Everything felt haphazardly done and near the end when it was time for my scalp massage MaryJoe just awkwardly placed her fingers on my scalp (again, no pressure) and quietly carried a conversation with the other masseuse in another language. This made the experience incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. When it was finished I felt completely confused but before I could gather a coherent thought about this terrible experience my husband and I were bombarded with several sales pitches and quickly ushered out. This awful experience made me certain that I will not be opting a spa treatment on any other Carnival cruise in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2017
We chose this cruise because it sailed out of Galveston. Overall it was a disappointment. The food in the dining rooms and the buffet was not as good as on Princess or NCL. The highlight of the cruise was the Punchliners Comedy club, ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it sailed out of Galveston. Overall it was a disappointment. The food in the dining rooms and the buffet was not as good as on Princess or NCL. The highlight of the cruise was the Punchliners Comedy club, esp. the early pg shows, not the later adult ones. Other than that, entertainment on the cruise was not great. Most of the onboard activities were designed to try to sell you something and very few were of special interest. Animal towel folding and the special cooking demo were about the best we could find. We were happy with our 7th deck (Empress) stateroom, midship. Most activities were either 2 decks up or 2 decks down from our cabin. And with cabins both above and below noise was not an issue. We would probably not sail with Carnival again if we can find a similar itinerary with another cruise line, even if the price is higher. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2017
We initially were looking at a Norwegian Cruise out of Los Angeles for the Christmas break but ended up choosing the Freedom because of the Ports of Call. We are divers and the three stops on the ships schedule are our favorite dive ... Read More
We initially were looking at a Norwegian Cruise out of Los Angeles for the Christmas break but ended up choosing the Freedom because of the Ports of Call. We are divers and the three stops on the ships schedule are our favorite dive locations, so we thought that we would like to see some of the activities that we never see when we are on a dive vacation. in hindsight, we probably should have taken the cruise out of LA. not that the ports of call didnt' live up to expectations... more so the Carnival Freedom. As first time cruisers we didn't really know what to expect but everyone we had talked to told us the food would be the best we have ever eaten, the entertainment was professional and Broadway caliber. Hmmmm, not so from our experience on the Freedom. The Food, Buffet - average at best and by day three everything tasted the same. Chic Restaurant - Good Service, Ok food (awesome cake desert) Posh Restaurant - Good Service, only had breakfast but was good (nice break from the buffet) had the banana cream pie... yuk, made with gelatin. Guy's burgers - soggy, greasy, messy (fries were really good) I don't think Guy would be happy with the quality, but that is just my opinion Deli - Ok food, my wife had a really good sandwich but mine was a sloppy tasteless mess. Seafood Shack - worst fish and chips ever, lobster roll consisted of a scoop of ??? on top of a dry bun. Pizza - didn't try it cause i saw lots of full pizza's left on tables almost untouched. Had to be a reason. Sushi - Same reason as the pizza Steak House - AAAAWWWWEEEEsome. worth every penny. The Entertainment Victorian Theatre - Lame, not so professional performance Comedy - way too raw, ended up walking out Atrium - spend most of our time there cause the performers were very good Casino - tried to avoid but very hard to do so as the smoke permeated throughout the ship. Century - unfortunately is outside the casino so didn't spend a lot of time there but the entertainer seems ok when we ran past the haze of smoke. Red Frog - Had a great time with the guitar player one night (only downside was when a group of teenagers decided to come in and play on the game tables and had no regard for the performer. We found out that the adults only signage on the Serenity were suggestions only and the Carnival staff didn't really enforce the issue. Embarkation - went without a flaw Excursions - appeared to be very poor planning by the ship staff, only one gate open and the wait to get off was way too long. Debarkation - can't really blame the ship on this one (i don't think) but does it always take 4 1/2 hours to get off a ship? Communication Help Desk - would have been nice if someone actually understood English, just got blank looks and were told mis truths. i don't think they were lying but they just didn't know things that they should. Excursion staff - we were led to believe that there would be lots of people to ask questions about how to get off the boat, all we had was the same three staff on all 3 excursions and they weren't very helpful At this point i would say that cruising is NOT in our future plans, from what we are told by our friends and family, we picked the wrong Cruise Line, and wrong ship. We spent a lot of money on this trip to be disappointed so i doubt if we will take the chance on another one. Some would say that will be our loss but...... Read Less