Great Ship, Great Staff, Great Vacation!: Carnival Freedom Cruise Review by Staplerman

Carnival Freedom 5
Member Since 2010
78 Forum Posts

Overall Member Rating

Great Ship, Great Staff, Great Vacation!

Sail Date: May 2012
Destination: Southern Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
My wife won this cruise as an incentive with a company she works for. We are experienced cruisers who have started taking our son along with us so he can gain a broader perspective on the world outside the US (not to mention have some fun!). We picked this cruise itinerary because it was a rare opportunity to visit the southern Caribbean while debarking from a US port.

We have sailed with Celebrity, Carnival and Princess and like each line for different reasons. In this instance, we were not disappointed. Carnival typically delivers a very consistent, predictable cruise experience (staff, activities, food, etc.) and we appreciate that when our son is traveling with us. Now, let me get to what really matters: the review!

Arrival: I flew in the night before and stayed with friends. Met my wife and son at the airport and took a taxi to pier. Nice and easy.

Debarkation: VERY smooth, we were through the terminal and in our stateroom within 60 minutes. More Carnival made checking in fun, the staff in the terminal were cracking jokes and having a great time. One gentleman had a portable speaker slung over his shoulder connected to an iPod playing island music. My son got a kick out of this.

The Ship: Again, very predictable in terms of overall decor and layout which is a good thing. We didn't find it to be gaudy, offensive or annoying. The Freedom was in need of some sanding in paint in certain places (our balcony included), but hey: she's made of steel and you're gonna see some rust even though the crew tries their level best to stay ahead of it. Speaking of the crew, many of them would hear your name once and remember it the entire cruise. Very impressive!

We loved the tiered layout of the pool deck better than that of any ship we've ever sailed upon. We never felt crowded and jammed into that area like on so many other ships where the pool deck is an afterthought. A larger pool below and a smaller pool above near the waterslide helped keep crowds to a minimum. Drink servers on deck were very polite and we found a great one (Benedictus, or "Benny"). He waited on us all week and was fabulous.

On the other hand, Carnival needs to revisit the design of their Lido deck buffet and dining areas. This has been typical on all Carnival ships we've sailed upon. Long lines were routine, especially at the Deli and Mongolian Grill station where we spent 45 minutes once waiting for the food to be grilled. The best way to avoid this is to eat breakfast early and lunch either very early or very late, go to the Main Dining Room or hit the other buffts that are sort of out-of-the-way (like Tandoor or Fish & Chips, which were very good). Plus, we encountered a higher concentration of gluttonous guests on this cruise that insisted on getting 3-5 of everything on the buffet, making the lines even slower. Folks, seriously? I have never seen so much piggishness on any other cruise, very sad.

We also dined at the Sun King steakhouse twice during our cruise and it was excellent. Spend the 30 bucks each and go; you'll be glad you did.

Our Cabin: Cabin Number 7367, a typical balcony cabin on a large cruise ship. Upon unpacking we found a sock and a golf umbrella under the bed, and there was a significant amount of dust in the cabin. We aren't sticklers, but it seemed the cabin could've been cleaned a little better. Bathroom, though was very clean and smelled faintly of bleach. And that's good. NOW...what's bad about this particular cabin: it was right across from the cabin stewards' water closets and we heard noise at all times day and night. Our lights went our four times the first day because they were working on something right outside our door, but each time we notified Savoy (super room steward) and they were fixed promptly. Fortunately this wasn't too much of an issue, but I figured you'd want to know.

When my son and I became sick, the cabin stewards did everything in their power to make things easier for my wife. They actually came in and cleaned up after my son one time (for which I will eternally be grateful to them) and kept us in good supply of towels, red bags, etc. Take the time and slip these guys an extra $20; they more than earn it for all the things they do for you!

Shows: We only saw the comedians and the Beatles show, both of which were good. We found the comedians' "family-friendly" shows to be much better than the R-rated shows. My son loved the comedians, one of his favorite parts of the trip. Speaking of kids, because this is the end of the busy season for cruise lines we only had 160 children/teens on the Freedom during our sailing. Take note if you want a lower concentration of young'uns on the ship during your trip. I cannot give much information on Camp Carnival as my son didn't participate but each time we saw the younger groups on deck the staff members and kids seemed very engaged and happy.

Overall: A great experience, wonderful ports, super staff and good food. It is rare to find an 8-day Southern Caribbean cruise that goes weekend-to-weekend, and this one will be hard to beat. Less

Published 05/14/12

Cabin review: 8B7367 Balcony

Hallway was very noisy as it was across from the room stewards water closets and service areas. Balcony was nice and room was typical size for that category.

Read All Balcony (8B) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

Island Tour

This was our first trip to Aruba, so we wanted to tour the island and get a good look at everything. Based on past Cruise Critic recommendations, I emailed Sonny Binns several months ago and booked his tour. All of our expectations for this trip were completely exceeded! Sonny did an outstanding job and his passion for his home island of Aruba shines through during the tour. We were in an air-conditioned 10-passenger van and were treated warmly from the time we met him in the terminal until we left him. Sonny truly went out of his way to point out items of interest and make everyone feel at home during the excursion. Aruba was not what we expected; in some places it actually looked like the southwestern United States but everywhere was very beautiful. The southern beaches are gorgeous, northern shore is windswept and rocky. We ate dinner at Iguana Joes right across from the ship and the food was excellent. Aruba was fantastic and we will definitely go back. If you want a great tour, book with Sonny and you won't be disappointed.

Cave Tour

Caves were amazing, this was my son's favorite part of the trip to Curacao. Runaway slaves actually hid in these caves and it was cool to see where they had lit fires in the caves for light and warmth. Our spelunking guide (Edsel) was very friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the history of the caves and the science behind their formation. Keep in mind that these caves are made of coral stone which absorbs heat and even at 9am it was very muggy and warm in them but definitely worth the time and $10 admission fee.

Island Tour

As we debarked the ship in Willemstad, we found a group of fellow cruisers with a local tour guide. They needed 3 more people before the tour could begin, so we joined up with them. Our tour guide was a local named Hubert and he was very fun to be around. He made a point to get to the caves early on before the crowds got there and for that we basically had the caves all to ourselves (7 of us in our group). This was great because my wife is very claustrophobic and doesn't do well in cramped quarters. After that he took us to scenic points to take photos and then downtown as he narrated the long and colorful history of Curacao. He dropped us off downtown and we did some shopping, then headed back to the ship.

Grand Turk had the most beautiful water we've ever seen in the Caribbean. We snorkeled/sunbathed right in front of the ship. We saw tons of fish, there was a giant school of Palometa that constantly swam around us while we were in the water. We went to Margaritaville for about 2 hours and hung out, VERY nice pool area with swim-up bar and lots of chairs. Prices for food/drinks were outrageous, though ($9 for a lukewarm bottle of beer). Shops in the port area were built by Carnival, still filling up with merchants but my wife found some great jewelry and T-shirts. Great place to relax!
Read 1692 Grand Turk Reviews

We missed La Romana as a result of my son and myself getting the norovirus (bummer!)

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Member Since 2010
78 Forum Posts
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