We booked this cruise to celebrate our granddaughter's 21st birthday. My wife and I had previously sailed on Freedom of the Seas in a Grand Suite. We’ve also cruise with our granddaughter 10 years ago on the Disney Wonder. We prefer suites for the size and amenities. We chose an Owner’s Suite for the extra room and small price difference over the Grand Suite.
We flew into Houston Hobby airport on Saturday before the cruise. We rented a car and stayed at the Springhill Suites by Marriott on NASA Parkway, near Kemah. We arrive early that morning and spent the day visiting Space Center Houston that day, and Kemah Boardwalk that evening. We enjoyed both and thought they were a good value. I highly recommend the Springhill Suites. It was nice, clean and safe. On Sunday morning, we took highway 147 south through Kemah to I-45, to Galveston. It was an easy drive, with little traffic once out of Kemah.
The cruise terminal at Galveston is a mess, but with help from Cruise Critic, I was able to navigate is easily. Because of our pre and post-cruise activities, we decided to rent a car and park it at the port. We chose Galveston Park-N-Cruise based on location, price and recommendations from other CC members. It was a good choice and worked out well. Driving into the terminal to drop luggage will take some time. There’s a lot of cross traffic to deal with – both automobile and pedestrian. Patience, studying maps, and reading the CC posts about it will make it easier. It was about an hour from the time we arrived in Galveston to the time we stepped onto deck 4 of the ship. It would have been a bit longer if we did not have access the suite check-in line.
We found Navigator to be nicely familiar to Freedom. Even though it’s been two years since its dry dock refurb, its looks great. Like anything out in the salt air of the ocean, and being used by thousands of people every day for years, there are always going to be a few blown bulbs, some chipped paint, and weathered wood, but these things were minimal and greatly overshadowed by all the wonderful décor. The ship never felt crowded, though the elevators always seemed to be just a bit slow and just bit too full.
We found the crew to be awesome! Even our worst encounter with a crew member was far better than the typical customer service interactions we get in retail stores, hotels, and restaurants on shore. We saw many smiling friendly faces ready to help. We really liked the food. I have no complaints about it at all. Of course not every dish was wonderful, but nothing was terrible, and much of it was very good. The ambiance in the MDR and specialty restaurants is wonderful and the service was the best. We went in expecting the quality and service of a typical chain store casual dining restaurant and we were pleasantly surprised.
We spent a lot of time relaxing. The only shows we saw were the ice dancing performance in Studio B and the comedian’s family show. Both were great. We enjoyed the pool deck activities, though mostly we were just spectators. We did the galley tour brunch on Friday. It’s $30 per person, and I believe well worth it. Over a two hour time, we had champagne and mimosas, heard stories from several top officers in food and beverage, toured the galley on MDR deck 4, and then had a buffet of samples from the specialty restaurants. We also participated in the Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle and had a great time. If nothing else, go for the swag!
The only excursion we did was the Chukka Zip Line in Rose Hall Jamaica. I highly recommend it. The ride to the zip line is an adventure in itself. Everyone from the drivers to the guides were great. This I a lot of fun and does not require any special skills, just slight sense of adventure. It’s well worth the price and I felt completely safe the entire time. Just understand that for about an hour of zip lining, you’ll spend almost 4 hours traveling, waiting around, getting your harness on, and being trained. Just enjoy being on vacation, take in the scenery, and relax and you’ll have a great time.
Overall, this was a great cruise. I have no complaints. Of course I could offer some things that would have made the cruise better, but these are all minor details. The staff was great, the food was great, the ship was enjoyable, and even our fellow passengers were mostly courteous and friendly. I’d do this all over again without hesitation.
We were in stateroom 1328. It’s on the starboard side, on the aft arc of “the hump”. The room was in great condition, other than a few minor issues. The cabinet door over the fridge was loose, and the closet doors didn’t quite fit just right. But these are very minor issues, and easily fixed. This room is right off the aft stair/elevator lobby and just below Giovanni’s Table. Neither was a problem- we heard absolutely no noise at all – not from above, not from the hall, or even from the adjacent staterooms. The location was incredibly convenient with the pool, Windjammer, Chops and Giovanni’s right up one flight of stairs, and the concierge lounge down one flight.
The bed is indicated as a queen size, but it’s larger than that. A standard queen is 60” by 90”, but this one is 72” by 80”, so really closer to a king. The sofa folds to a second queen bed. It’s not a hide-a-bed, but more like a futon. The stateroom attendant puts a foam topper on it to make it a bit softer for the guest(s) sleeping there.
We like to sleep with it very cold, and the AC just needed to get it a little bit colder, but didn’t. The room has only two 120v outlets, located in the vanity area next to the bed. There are no outlets anywhere near the living room area, except under the TV, which is really more in the bedroom. There is also an outlet in the bathroom, but it’s only for razors, though we were able to plug a small fan into it. They need an outlet over in the dining/bar area. Or maybe near the sofa. We had two tabletop fans we used on the nightstands, and I used an extension cord to plug those in.
The balcony is huge, and has a great, panoramic view to the aft of the ship from the hump. There are two chaise longues and a small bistro table with two chairs. The balcony is about 30 feet wide, but maybe 30 inches deep. It’s large enough to enjoy, but not large enough for a party. The glass balcony panels are always wet from rain and/or sea spray. They also block a lot of air, so unless it’s windy, the balcony can be a bit stuffy. Still, you have a great view so enjoy it!
Overall, I’d book this room again. If it were just the two of us, a Grand Suite would suffice. The bathroom in the Grand Suite actually seems large, as it doesn’t have the shower or bidet. In my opinion, the bidet is a waste of space. The shower is nice, but a bit small. I’m 6’2” and about 235lbs. I was fine in the shower, but washing my legs and feet was a bit of a challenge. We never used the whirlpool tub, but it looked large. We really enjoyed the room and it was a very good size for the tree of us.
Space Center Houston was a fun experience and a good value. We enjoyed the exhibits, movies and the tour of the training facility.View All 4 Space Center Houston Reviews
This is a great place for kids to enjoy some boardwalk amusements rides and to have a good meal. It's safe, fun and clean.
This was great! The Chukka staff was excellent and made it a lot of fun. The trip there and back was as much an adventure as the zip lines. Be patient - the drive to get there take two buses and over an hour. You'll also spend some time getting into the harness, being trained, and waiting on the 4WD truck to take you to the zip lines. Relax and enjoy the scenery! The guides are very safety conscious, but also want you to have fun. Worth every penny!View All 74 Ziplining Reviews
A nice, clean port with great shopping. We enjoyed Margaritaville.
We hired a taxi driver to take us around the island. He stopped at a tequileria, several beach areas, and Mayan ruins at an early settlement. We paid $80+ tip for the 2.5 hour trip. We got a great tour and experienced a lot of local flavor.