Freedom For Thanksgiving: Carnival Freedom Cruise Review by jbergman

Carnival Freedom 4

Overall Member Rating

Freedom For Thanksgiving

Sail Date: November 2008
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Embarkation - landed at airport at 12:15 and had our luggage at baggage claim by 12:30. We bought our tickets through Carnival and we waited 30 minutes inside before they transferred us outside. The first bus was full so we waited 30 minutes for another bus to arrive. The transfer which should have taken 10 minutes took over 30 minutes because we had to wait for other buses to unload. Security was disorganized and took 40 minutes. The part of the building they do security is very small and we were all squeezed in there like sardines. Once we got through security, we went in to the HUGE part of the building and it took less than 15 minutes to check in (hmmm, maybe switch the security and check-in areas around?). We were on the ship shortly after 2:30 and headed to our room 2404. It is below the gallery but in general wasn't too noisy. The room was ready and we dropped off our stuff and headed for lunch. This was probably the most frustrating part of our trip. There were 3,500 people More trying to eat all at once. We could not find a place to sit, they ran out of plates and silverware, lemonade, etc. Life boat drill next. Dinner in Posh restaurant was good that night and we did the Camp Carnival session to do the paperwork. They give you a big clunky cell phone you have to carry around for anyone 5 and under and they would ask quite often to see it throughout the week to make sure you had it. Too tired for any entertainment but the comedian that night was Diane Ford.

Day 2 - walked on the track in the morning and laid out. The sky was overcast most of the day. Our kids hung out in Camp Carnival most of the day. Dinner in Posh was good again. We caught the main show which was "Big Easy" which was o.k. We did keep the kids in Camp Carnival late so we could catch Diane Ford's Rated R show @ 10:30 p.m. She was good. We were happy to see Carnival make these shows earlier as they often are not until mid-night.

Day 3 - arrive in Cozumel and beautiful and sunny. Breakfast lines were very long. Hindsight we wished we had done room service this morning. We made our own reservation at Dolphin Discovery prior to sailing. Me and my 9 year-old did the dolphin swim and my husband and 5 year-old son did the dolphin encounter. The reservation was for 11 a.m. and I wasn't even thinking that the ship's time would be one hour later. Good thing we caught that so our reservation was really noon ship time. We took a taxi to Chankanaab Park. The taxi would be free if we had paid for four individuals but since my 5 year-old was free, we had to pay our own taxi which was $10 one way. When we arrived, my 9 year-old and I rented gear and snorkeled first and saw some great fish and also a sting ray. The cost of the dolphin discovery for the four of us was $375 (youngest free). The waves were strong so it was hard for my husband to balance him and my 5 year-old at same time. My older son and I loved swimming with the dolphins. We got to do the dorsal fin and toe push. I was amazed how easy it was to do. There was a large lady in our group and those two dolphins even got her up in the air. You can take cameras with you so be sure to have a waterproof one with you for great shots. We got wrist bands for free drinks at Senior Frogs or Carlos and Charlie's. We took a taxi in to town cost $10 and headed to Senior Frogs. I was at the SF in Playa six months ago and it was pretty tame. After we sat down, we realized this was not going to be very kid friendly. We ate and drank quickly and dashed out to avoid having our kids see too much more drinking. Carlos & Charlie's down stairs would have been the tamer option. We shopped in town and bought tequila that was $5-$10 cheaper a bottle then it was when we had just been in Playa six months earlier. We also bought vanilla and took taxi back to ship, $8 ride back. Dinner in Posh again. That evening we caught the magician Puck. He was good right up until he did the "swallow the razor" act. Thank goodness Camp Carnival kids did not attend that night.

Day 4 - it was a day at sea. There was note in Capers saying you could do laundry for $15 a bag. Our cabin steward knew nothing about it but I showed him the paper. We did two very stuffed bags of laundry for a total of $30. Since we only packed four days of clothes, we were counting on this offer that we had seen on our last cruise. We had breakfast on Lido and walked on the track. It started to rain and pretty much did not let up all day. Kids were in Camp Carnival the entire day except afternoon because they made teddy bears and my kids have enough stuffed animals. The rain let up in the afternoon and we played basketball and putt put as a family. Dinner in Posh followed by comedian/juggler Michael James who was good.

Day 5 - arrived in Limon, Costa Rica. It was overcast and rained off an on. We booked our sloth sanctuary excursion through cruise line because I had read the Limon wasn't that nice. We were smart and ate an early breakfast to avoid the long lines on the Lido and got off the ship for our 11:30 tour. Nice bus took us to sanctuary. Tour guide was excellent. Upon arrival we watched short video and had your picture taken next to a sloth. We then walked through the rain forest and got some great pictures of flowers and a blue crab. You could hear cars driving on the road next to us so it might not be as authentic as you would want it to be. Next we did a canoe ride and saw a caiman (like an alligator), several birds, sloths in trees, and a lizard. Next they gave us a plate of fruit and we got to see the baby sloths. I bought coffee and nuts and a few other souvenirs. The bus took us back to the boat. It was raining when we got back. We stopped at the market right across the street and bought salsa and a billfold. Coffee would have been cheaper at the market vs. the sloth sanctuary. We did not have bug spray on in the rain forest. Might have been good to have some as my son did get bit by a mosquito on his ear. Quite surprisingly no one else had any bites but the owner claimed no one needed any repellant. I would say pack it. Dinner again in Posh and caught show "Jump, Jive & Wail" which was good.

Day 6 - arrived in Colon, Panama. Booked Panama Canal tour through cruise ship. Did room service breakfast card night before for 6:15. Even tough Capers said room service could be delayed by one hour, it arrived at 6:20. All tours leaving for excursions before 10 a.m. had to meet in the Victoriana Lounge at 6:45. They made us sit in lounge until 7:30. Bus driver said it would take 1 hour 20 minutes to get to Pacific side but it was more like 2 hours. It was very misty and humid out but bus was nice and new. The drive was gross - lots of litter along the side of the road and dogs running wild but glad my sons got to see it. We got to the ferry that took us through the canal, it was already packed. We got inside seats on the 3rd deck. The cruise director warned in his excursion talk that lunch served this day might not be that good and boat might be crowded but eventually people would get bored with the locks and move inside. WRONG. The food was quite good: kabobs, spicy cut up hot dogs, fruit, banana muffins, pasta, potato squares, and free sodas (equivalent of Shasta in the states) and water. Beers were $2 each. There was a local lady on board selling souvenirs and snacks. We did by a map of the canal for $5 and you could get your picture up front of the boat next to the locks for $10. As for people moving, forget it. If they did, they would leave their stuff on their chairs and go walk around the ferry. The ferry was way too crowded. There had to be 300+ people on it and we were crammed in like sardines. Because my sons had a hard time seeing what was going on since we were shoved in the middle seats, they got bored quickly. We found out that the rainy season in Panama is April - December. We were very disappointed that Carnival would pick this itinerary when they know it is the rainy season. Definitely do your homework before you take a cruise as the cruise line certainly isn't looking out for you. The excursion cost $800 so I am definitely going to write Carnival for a refund (yeah, that will do me a lot of good but it is the principle of the matter). It finally started raining and people squeezed up under the covered middle section of the boat. Although we got soaked, it was our only chance to get a view of the canal. They are widening the canal so ships like Freedom can sail through it come 2015. My advice would be to wait until then and do the Panama Canal from the privacy of your balcony. The bus ride back probably took 1 hour and 15 minutes. Thanksgiving dinner in Posh and then caught show. Cruise director Todd Wittmer did his Top Ten funniest questions they have ever been asked and comedian Michael Panzeca did an act. Both were excellent.

Day 7 - day at sea and finally some sun. They finally publicized the laundry promotion for $15 a bag so we did another bag of laundry. We had breakfast on the Lido, walked on the track, and laid out and read. We had pizza and fish/chips for lunch. A quick cloud burst cleared the deck but it quickly got sunny again and we got great deck chairs to watch some college football on the outdoor theatre. We are originally from Nebraska so we got to see the Huskers take on Colorado. It was awesome! Dinner in Posh. Show that night was "Ticket To Ride" a tribute to Beatles and it was excellent. Caught Rated R show of Michael Panzeca at 10:30. It was standing room only so get there early. Again very good.

Day 8 - a very sunny day at sea. We had breakfast on the Lido, walked on the deck, laid out at the adult pool. There was a disembarkation show this day but we did not attend as we knew they always play it on TV which they did so do not waste your time going. We had the pizza and grill for lunch and then took the boys swimming and did the water slide in the afternoon. This was one complaint I had was that Carnival had security guards monitoring the adult pool (to make sure kids were not in it) and they had a guard watching the pool under the theatre but they did not have one down by the slides. Our 5 year-old went down the slide several times and I stood at the bottom to wait for him. There were four boys about 11 or 12 at the bottom and they would splash the kids as they were coming down the slide. I told them to stop three times. They would walk away for a minute and then be right back splashing again. Even though the pool next to the slide says "kids must swim with adults," apparently no parents were present for these rotten boys. Finally I yelled "I am not going to tell you boys again" and I think they got the hint that I was about to explode. We went to the Camp Carnival talent show and then I played chess with my son on Lido until dinner again in Posh. We put kids in Camp Carnival and took walk on deck. Came back to the room and packed.

Disembarkation - we had breakfast in the dinning room and did not have to wait. If you get off the ship unassisted you could do so at 7:30 a.m. We had a late flight so we were in no hurry. We got off the ship about 10:30. This actually worked out well because our luggage was about the last of it sitting there so super easy to find. Took only 15 minutes to go through customs. We found the bus to transfer us to airport which took only 15 minutes. Our flight wasn't until 3:30 and American only lets you check in 4 hours in advance so we had to kill 30 minutes outside before we checked in. We had lunch at Chili's to kill more time. We didn't realize that the Fort Lauderdale airport does not let you go to your gate until 2 hours before you flight. We would have stayed longer in Chili's had we known that. Flight to Atlanta and then back to Wichita was on time. Our son threw up on the car ride home from the airport. Not sure if anyone else got sick. I stayed home with him one day from school and he actually felt pretty good by lunch time so not certain what bug he picked up but it only lasted 12 hours.

Overall the trip was good. Camp Carnival staff was excellent. This was our 7th cruise and probably the best room steward (Jose) and wait staff (Prasit & Arnold) we have ever had. Cruise Director was good and entertainment was definitely above average. Food overall was good but went down hill as the week went on. They ran out of lemons and oatmeal by the middle of the cruise. Usually do the spa but didn't do it this trip - massage was over $160-$180 so just too much for my blood although I noticed they really started to discount quite heavily towards end of the cruise. Costa Rica excursion was good but it too was the rainy season like Panama (however Costa Rica sounds like it is always the rainy season) so again just very disappointed that Carnival would pick this itinerary at this time of the year. We have done Carnival the last two times now so we may try another cruise line (one Carnival does not own) just for a change for next year. Less

Published 12/07/08

Cabin review: 2404

Back of ship, close to elevators but under gallery so noisy up until 11 p.m.

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