Freedom of the Seas review
Mediocre Experience – Won’t be cruising RCCL again anytime soon (after 9 cruises, 3 with RCCL).
We were on the same ship July 2009 – what a fabulous experience!! Delicious food, fantastic service, ... Read More
Freedom of the Seas review
Mediocre Experience – Won’t be cruising RCCL again anytime soon (after 9 cruises, 3 with RCCL).
We were on the same ship July 2009 – what a fabulous experience!! Delicious food, fantastic service, outstanding entertainment, fun activities. There were 10 in our group, and a good time was had by all. This time, it was the exact opposite experience. While there were a few things that were excellent (details below), overall we were very disappointed.
Quick and easy. Arrived at the terminal at 12:30; on board in less than 10 min. Hint: use Uber in San Juan; ¼ the price of taxi’s. Yes, they can go to the cruise piers.
What a mess! No organization whatsoever. We did self-assist (carried all of our bags); had no idea where to go when we walked off the ship – bizarre twisting long lines of people in the middle of the terminal; staff yelling at you to get in line, but no clear lines marked. Exact opposite of embarkation. 30 min from walking off ship to getting into a taxi.
TAXI TO/FROM SAN JUAN AIRPORT:
Getting a taxi was a fantastic experience!! Run by PR authorities. Quick, simple, they tell you exactly how much $$ to your destination before you get into taxi, and hand you a piece of paper with fare written down! I travel extensively around the USA and Europe, and this is RARELY seen. Love it; wish more cities did this.
Balcony. Fine. Clean. Bathroom showing age (mirror glazing chipped off in several places).
Had room in center of “the hump” (aft, port side, room 8638); it is a COMPLETE myth that these cabins have a larger room or larger balcony – NOT TRUE. Never met our cabin attendant (in 8 previous cruises, we met the cabin attendance the first 5 min we were in the room!); he kept our room clean, but I have zero idea what he looked like.
I do not understand the complaints about soft beds – our bed was very sturdy – certainly not soft or hard – somewhere in the middle. When we got back home, we realized our brand new Tempurpedic extra firm mattress was 10x harder than our bed on Freedom.
1. Main dining room: mediocre food. Service was OK (Diana was smiling and friendly, but we rarely saw her after we ordered; saw the maitre’d more times than we saw our server).
I love food – all food! – but everything we had in the main dining room (breakfast & dinner) was just so-so. If I had been served ANY of Freedom’s food at a restaurant in my local city, I would never return to that restaurant – it was that bad/bland/mediocre. My husband (who will eat ANYTHING and never complains) felt the same way, as did the couple that went with us, and two other couples we shared a table with – none of us were happy with any of the food (appetizers, soups, salads, main courses and desserts). Every night, one of the couples at our table demanded a different entrée after taking a bite of what they ordered – it was THAT bad.
RCCL no longer has themed nights in the Main Dining Room (remember Italian night, French night Caribbean night, etc?). While the menu changes only slightly each night (only two new items on the menu each night), everything else is the same EVERY NIGHT. UGH! And lobster night – that is now a joke: it was the next-to-last night; my lobster tail was less than 3 oz (I got 3 tiny bites out of it); if you want a second lobster tail, it will cost you $29.95(!) (remember the days when they brought around extra lobster tails and practically threw them at you – those days are GONE, my friends).
None of the desserts were worth the calories – and this is coming from someone with a serious sweet tooth; I took 1 bite of my dessert each night, then pushed it away.
2. Windjammer buffet: 98% of the food was mediocre. What did they do right? Super crisp bacon on the breakfast buffet, and the best fried chicken I’ve ever had (this, coming from a properly raised Southern woman), served at lunch on a sea day.
3. Chops Grill: We ate here the first night, and the last night.
Everything the first night was excellent – all of the food (except the desserts) and the service. The steaks and salmon were cooked to perfection (nice crisp seared exterior, and the perfect medium-rare interior). All of the sides were excellent (asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, mashed potatoes). The desserts were disappointing – the key lime meringue pie was bitter (this is what happens when bottled lime juice is used, as opposed to freshly squeezed limes), and the red velvet cake was bone-dry (i.e., overbaked).
The last night, everything (except the steak, which was again cooked to perfection) was dreadful. The salmon was overcooked, dry and no seared crust; the lobster bisque was burnt; the crab cakes were made with the fake “sea legs” (RCCL – SERIOUSLY?!? I would expect this crap from my local Red Lobster, not a specialty dining venue that cost me $35 pp); the asparagus was undercooked; the truffled French fries had zero truffles on them; the red velvet cake was still bone-dry (I have no idea why my friends insisted on having it again, after complaining about it all week); and the chocolate lava cake was overbaked (hence, no lava). Just awful! If we had been served the last night’s meal on the first night, we would not have returned.
4. Giovanni’s Table: Hit and (mostly) miss. I’ve spent the last 10 years travelling through Italy extensively, so I know how real Italian food should taste.
Terrible service – sat at our table for 20 min before the waiter arrived (and we were there at 6:30 when they opened; so they can’t use “we were busy” as an excuse).
The Spaghetti Bolognese was outstanding – the best I’ve ever had; I’d kill for their recipe (it was THAT good).
The Linguini Carbonara was a joke – almost no sauce (bone-dry) and maybe a ½ piece of bacon in the entire bowl.
The Gorgonzola Gnocchi had maybe a teaspoon of gorgonzola cheese in the sauce – so it was very bland.
Thank goodness the Tiramisu was excellent! However, the dark chocolate cake had zero flavour (just enough cocoa powder added to give it a dark color, but not enough to give it even a hint of chocolate flavour) and was bone-dry (i.e., yet another piece of cake that was overbaked).
My husband took the All Access tour. During the tour, the group went through the Galley and was told that all RCCL cooks (I don’t dare call them chefs because that would most definitely be an insult to chefs everywhere) must have at least 3-years experience at a 5-star restaurant before being considered for a job with RCCL. HAHAHAHAHA – what a joke. That is either a whopper of a lie told by the RCCL staffer giving the tour, or being a dish washer qualifies as the “3-years experience at a 5-star restaurant” … RCCL food does NOT – I repeat, NOT – reflect anything resembling 5-star cuisine.
5. Room Service: we absolutely REFUSE to pay the $7.95 room service fee (the only exclusion is coffee and/or continental breakfast), so we ordered coffee and steamed milk to be delivered to our room every morning; we enjoyed the coffee on our balcony; then went down to the main dining room for breakfast (Windjammer is INSANE for breakfast). One morning, the coffee wasn’t delivered; when we left to head out for breakfast, the room service order form was still handing on our door – no excuse for Room Service not getting it – the deadline is 2am and we put the form out at 10:15pm. What I REALLY didn’t appreciate about Room Service? The attendant who brought our coffee (someone different each morning) would linger in the room for an extra 15-20 secs, like they were waiting for me to hand them a tip – sorry, RCCL now forces me to pay a gratuity per day – get your tip from them!!!!!
There is no Izumi on board the Freedom (yet it is listed on the ship’s web site).
There is no Starbucks on board the Freedom (again, as listed on the web site). No problem – this saved me at least $40 over the week.
We’re the type of nerds that enjoy the trivia games; 3-4 of those each day.
There was an ‘action comedian’ in the main theatre one night – we went with the expectation that it would be a cheesy act, but big surprise – he was HILARIOUS and very good at what he does.
RCCL now shows movies around the pool at night; decent selection, and great weather for doing this.
‘Game shows’ (Love & Marriage, Finish The Lyrics, Lip Sync Battle, etc) were lots of fun.
The big disappointment – anything involving the Royal Caribbean dancers, singers and ‘orchestra’; the two female lead singers were constantly trying to out-sing one another, but in the process they only embarrassed themselves by sounding cheesy and pitchy. The first night’s show was a Broadway revue – so-so; the last night’s “Once Upon A Time” show was so awful, we walked out after the first song (we just couldn’t take the screeching of the singing voices). Basically, it was like watching a re-run of “The Solid Gold Dancers” (if you’re old enough to get this reference, you now understand just how bad it really was). Back in 2009, everything that went on in the Arcadia Theater was outstanding … once again, RCCL disappoints.
As always, the ship charges way too much and you get way too little.
On Curacao, we walked around a bit (sorry, but all Caribbean islands look the same; we naively hoped the Southern Caribbean would be different), and then decided to hire a local driver for a 2-hour island tour - $20pp. He did a great job. One of our stops (for about 10 min) was Cabana Beach … trust me – if you’re reading this review, and one of your stops is Curacoa, skip everything else on the island and have a taxi take you directly to Cabana Beach – it is so beautiful. Cost $3.50 pp to get on the beach; there are many, many thatched umbrellas and chairs, warm water, soft sand, and several bars and restaurants. If we had seen Cabana Beach at 9am, rather than 2:30pm – we would have stayed all day.
On Aruba, the men booked the JetLev excursion for the morning. Look it up on YouTube. They really enjoyed it, although both agreed the $189 price tag was too steep for a 15 min session. This took place on Palm Beach. I read so many great things about Palm Beach before we left, but was underwhelmed when we got there; it’s about a 3-mile stretch of nothing but one hotel chain after another. Looks just like any other beach strip in the USA (Virginia Beach, Miami, Ocean City) – meh! In the afternoon, we did the undersea submarine; it was OK, but certainly not worth $66pp.
On St Kitts, I booked a private 4-hour full island tour with Beulah, who owns Welcome Tours (you can find her on TripAdvisor and at tourstkittsandnevis.com). She was delightful to deal with via e-mail, and even more delightful in person. She met us when we got off the ship, turned us over to one of her drivers (Moschina) and we had a FANTASTIC day. It was the four in our group, plus another couple from another ship. We were having so much fun, the tour ended up being nearly 6 hours, yet we were only charged the originally agreed amount of $46pp. Beulah, Moschina and Welcome Tours is highly recommended.
On St Thomas, we booked the shore excursion through the ship to go snorkelling on St John’s (this was our 4th time on St Thomas). The $44pp was actually worth it – nice boat ride to St John’s, snorkel equipment included, a bus driver who gave us a mini-tour on the way to our beach (even letting us get out and take photos along the way); it was so nice to get way from the hordes of rude passengers on the ship. We had about 2 ½ hours at the beach – perfect amount of time for us.
Passengers: Unfortunately, RCCL is now catering to the lowest common denominator. A good portion of the passengers were rude, pushy and loud. My husband is the easiest going person I know; in 28 years together, I’ve only heard him raise his voice twice … he raised his voice a third time during our cruise on Freedom. One night in the Arcadia Theater, a group of women (7 or 8) sat in the row behind us and talked NON-STOP. After about 20 min of this, my husband turned around the yelled at them to “shut up or get out”. Imagine my shock … but he WAS absolutely justified!! I travel a lot for business (average of one week per month, for the last 20 years), and sadly this is happening more and more everywhere. People are so inconsiderate of one another and of their environment. I am growing tired of spending my hard-earned money to vacation with “the masses”. Some of the reviews of this ship on this web site stated problems with the Puerto Rican passengers – it’s not just the Puerto Ricans folks; I saw passengers of all shapes, sizes, sexes, and nationalities who were rude and disrespectful.
So will we book another RCCL cruise? Not at this time. One of our dinner mates (main dining room) summed it up perfectly: Royal Caribbean’s prices have remained basically the same over the last 10 years … but the quality of what you get has been drastically reduced. Nailed it! We had a long talk on the way home, and we’ve decided that we’ll take a chance on an upscale cruise line for our next cruise. Probably Viking – they don’t allow anyone under 19 years of age on their cruises; all rooms are balconies; with the exception of hard liquor and spa treatments – everything is inclusive (water, soft drinks, beer & wine at lunch and dinner, specialty restaurants, wifi, even one shore excursion at each por)t. By the time you look at how much you spend to upgrade to a balcony, the occasional glass of beer (hubby) or wine (me), specialty restaurants, and shore excursions – we can cruise on Viking for only a few dollars more. I really don’t plan to return to RCCL unless I read many, many, many rave reviews … good luck with that, RCCL. Bye-bye (said in my best David Spade flight attendant voice). Read Less