I recently disembarked a 7 night sailing from Puerto Rico on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. During this cruise, we visited St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados. Just for reference, I’ve been on almost 20 cruises with various different cruise lines and this was my second time sailing with Royal Caribbean. I traveled with a group of 17 people.
This was my first time sailing from the Panamerican cruise port in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We picked up a taxi from our hotel that was across the street (Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino) and arrived at the pier by 11:15am. Once you get to the port, you need to drop off your luggage in the area designated for the deck your cabin is on. After that, you can head inside, go through security, straight on line for check-in and SetSail Pass pick up, take your welcome aboard picture and head straight onto the ship. It literally went exactly that way. There was no stopping in between or anything. Like I mentioned, we were dropped off at 11:15am and were onboard the ship at 11:30am. The process was easy and so smooth.
During our cruise, we selected the traditional early seating dining (6:00pm) and were assigned Galileo’s Dining Room on Deck 5. We ate here every night of the cruise and I thought the food tasted very good. Sometimes it was a bit fancy, but I would order things plain or without certain things and the staff was only too happy to meet my request. Our wait staff, Danisha and Pavlo, were awesome! They were always one step ahead getting our drinks and bread. Pavlo was actually in Windjammer in the morning and was amazing there as well. Whenever he would see us, he would start getting the drinks he knew we wanted or helped us find seats. Speaking of the Windjammer, this is where we had both breakfast and lunch everyday. The food here was good. They had some items that were the same everyday with a few newer items mixed in, but the food always tasted good. Some other places we visited during the cruise were Sorrento’s, Promenade Cafe and Ben & Jerry’s. The pizza at Sorrento’s was fine. I am a bad judge since I am a New Yorker and slightly bias. Promenade Cafe had great specialty coffees and it was the only place onboard where I could find chocolate chip cookies! Ben & Jerry’s required a slight up charge but had a multitude of options such as cups, waffle cones and sugar cones. For a minimal fee, I think it was totally worth it to say I had Ben & Jerry’s on a cruise ship!
I purchased 3 packages for our cruise prior to sailing. The packages were the Deluxe Beverage Package, the VOOM Surf & Stream Package and the All Digital Photo Package.
The Deluxe Beverage Package includes alcoholic beverages such as mixed drinks, glasses of wine and beers plus specialty coffee and bottled water. I personally highly recommend purchasing it prior to your cruise as the Cruise Planner sometimes has some great deals on it and you won’t have to pay full price. Given all the package offers, I believe it is definitely worth it and makes your cruise easier. If you have the package, there is no need to sign every time and keep track of receipts.
The VOOM Surf & Stream Package is the internet package on board Freedom of the Seas. During my last sailing on Anthem of the Seas, I purchased the same package as well and thought it was quicker on that ship. I still believe it’s worth it and that you should get it, but keep in mind if you've been on newer ships, it might be slower on Freedom.
The All Digital Photo Package allows you to receive all of your pictures from the cruise digitally. On Freedom of the Seas, you have to make sure all of your photos are linked to your account and 4-7 days after the cruise you will receive a link with the photos for download. Given the price of each picture is around $20, if you take 10 photos you’ve made the package worth it. Keep in mind this package is a good $50-$100 more on board the ship than on the Cruise Planner so if you are considering purchasing it, then do it prior to your cruise.
Entertainment & Activities:
As always Royal Caribbean delivers in the entertainment department. The two main stage shows, Marquee and Once Upon a Time, featured amazing singers and actors. Another treat on this ship is the ice show, Freedom-Ice.com, which was an ice skating show. It was excellent and the fact that these people can ice skate on a moving ship while doing different tricks seriously amazes me. Entertainment on other nights included a magician, a comedian and an acapella group, MO5AIC, which was awesome.
In terms of other events, there was RED, which is described as a high performance nightclub experience, a silent disco, a 70’s party and a caribbean party. Spearheading these parties and events was our super energetic cruise director, Katie. Whether she was leading off The Crazy Quest, a hilarious and fun adult game show, or was dressed as a Police Officer from the Village People, she was always around.
Like most ships, there were always tons of bars and lounges to hang out. While I didn’t utilize these facilities, Freedom of the Seas also has a FlowRider and Rock Climbing Wall as well as an opportunity to ice skate at the rink, Studio B.
Ports of Call:
Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Our first stop was Philipsburg, St. Maarten. Since I was there a few years ago, we kind of relaxed for the day and spent it at the area in front of the cruise port. St. Maarten has some great places to shop and pick up souvenirs so if you aren’t into touring or doing anything crazy, the port is a great area to hang out.
Basse-terre, St. Kitts & Nevis
Next up was Basse-terre, St. Kitts and Nevis. Once again, we didn’t want to do anything too crazy here so we kind of kept the day casual and walked around the cruise port. Now, I do want to mention, St. Kitts can get kind of crazy when you get off the ship with people trying to sell you tours. Once you get into the area of the stores, you should be ok, but the walk from the welcome building to the stores consists of lots of people shouting and pestering you to take their tour.
St. John, Antigua
To add a bit of variety into our week, we decided to visit a beach in Antigua. After doing some research onboard, we decided to visit Dickenson Bay in Antigua. It was relatively easy and cheap to pick up a cab once we disembarked the ship. The cab ride was also pretty quick, maybe a 15 minute drive. The beach is beautiful and located right next to Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa (which looks beautiful). While there are some people on the beach selling items, if you tell them you aren’t interested they don’t persist. You are able to purchase chairs and umbrellas here, which was good. The water was absolutely beautiful and I really enjoyed spending the day at this beach.
Castries, St. Lucia:
St. Lucia impressed from the minute I opened my balcony. The scenery was just beautiful. Even though we only spent the day in the shopping area by the ship, I think it would be a great island to explore. It offered some beautiful scenery and was clean.
For our final port of call, we decided to do an Island Tour through Royal Caribbean. The tour was called Barbados Highlights and we stopped at 3 main areas: Gun Hill Signal Station, Bathsheba Beach and Farley Hill National Park. Our tour guide was great and was very knowledgeable about every location we went to.
Our cabin this year was a Junior Suite located on deck 9. The room was a great size for 3 adults for a week. The sofa pulled out into a full size bed which was a nice size. The highlight of our stateroom was our Room Steward, Randy Cato. If you have Randy as your room steward, you are one lucky person. He is the best. Aside from the fact that he kept the room immaculate, he was always waiting to greet us in the hall, whether it was morning or night and always there with a smile. You knew when Randy was around because you could hear him in the hallway saying hello to everyone he could. I can’t say enough good things about him.
As always, Royal Caribbean provided a wonderful vacation onboard Freedom of the Seas for my family and me. The ports were wonderful, the crew was amazing as was the entertainment and the ship, which made the experience awesome! If I had the chance again, I would definitely sail from San Juan on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
Cabin 9594, which is located on deck 9 and is a Junior Suite, is extremely spacious. There is a walk-in closet and tons of space to store suitcases and other items. The beds were a little hard but not terrible and were fine for the week. Our room steward Randy was awesome and kept the room spotless. I would definitely recommend this room for families as there is plenty of room for everyone.
I've been to San Juan, PR before and as always absolutely loved it. We got there the day before the ship departed and stayed at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, which is a 5 minute cab ride across the street from the ship. The night we got to PR, we took a cab to Old San Juan (which was about $15) and ate at Barrachina, which was absolutely delicious. The island is beautiful and is a great place to depart from.
I have been to St. Maarten before so we decided to stay close to the ship and visit the shops near the ship. As always, they have some great stores and items.
Once again, we did some shopping and walking around at the port in St. Kitts. There are a lot of people trying to sell tours and get you to go on their excursions. Other than that, they had some nice stores and it was nice to walk around a new island.
In Antigua, we went to the beach, Dickenson Bay Beach, which is right next to the Sandals Grand Antigua Resort. It was a quick and cheap ($3 per person) taxi ride. The beach and area is beautiful. There are a few people trying to sell tours on this beach but once you say no thank you, they leave you alone. I would suggest checking out this beach.
In St. Lucia, we did not take a tour. The view of St. Lucia from the ship if you are port side is absolutely beautiful. We walked around the port shops, which are extremely clean and beautiful. The next time I visit I definitely think I will be taking an island tour to discover what else this beautiful island has to offer.
We booked the Barbados Highlights tour for our day in Bridgetown. The tour stopped in 3 different locations: Gun Hill Signal Station, Bathsheba Beach and Farley Hill National Park. The tour was great as it was my first time in Barbados and I was able to see the whole island. Our tour guide was also very informative and nice. He was with the tour company, Foster & Ince and provided a great tour for us.View All 149 Island Tour Reviews