We joined our close friends (group of 13) on this Birthday celebration cruise. 3 in our party were celebrating birthdays. We flew in to San Juan a few days early and stayed at the Sheraton in Old San Juan. It was an amazing hotel. A little pricey, but the location was well worth it. The bar in the hotel has great food and drinks. You will likely have to wait to check in as rooms are not available until after 4pm, but they will take your bags so you can spend some time in the bar. they have great wraps in the bar. On Sunday, The staff at the hotel got us a taxi right away to go to the Pan American Pier to get on the Freedom of the Seas. we shared a van taxi with others going to the same pier, so it was pretty inexpensive.
We arrived at the port at 1130 and there was absolutely NO LINE! You have to drop your bags off with porters on one side and walk over to the check in area. Not a big deal because there was hardly anyone there. We were checked in and on the ship within 15 minutes! crazy fast!
Once on board, they were trying to direct everyone to the Windjammer buffet for lunch, we instead when to Deck 5 (Promenade) and got pizza at Sorrento's and our first drinks at the Bull and Bear Bar. Huge shoutout to Simona in the bar.. she really gave us excellent service.
During the first day, dining room staff are making rounds convincing people to sign up for specialty restaurant dining. We signed up for Chops and Giovannis. I liked Giovannis better as we are not big Steak eaters. Both were good, but it was $134 to do both, plus gratuity. Beware if you order the whole lobster... it comes in the shell but the lobster meat was removed, chopped up and mixed with some kind of sauce. not what I was expecting for another $21 on top of everything.
We got the beverage package and it was worth every penny. The bar staff and dining room staff are very attentive and bring you drinks constantly. We tipped cash often ($5, $10 here and there) and it payed off in excellent service. The ship has the self serve soda machines and you get a cup as part of your package that has some kind of sensor in it. when you put it up to the machine, it allows you to choose from soooo many drinks, plus water, sparking water, etc. I can only drink clear diet soda so it worked great. Another tip, ask for water with your drinks, you will never run short of bottled water. There are always team members offering water when you exit the ship for excursions as well.
Our dining room staff was amazing, especially Inengha ( I am sure I messed up the spelling), but he was so very attentive and did an outstanding job! The food in the dining room was good, I would say definitely better than Carnival or Princess. The food was hot and there were so many choices. The food in the Windjammer was good as well, not the typical buffet fair. They actually had fried eggs available without having to order them special. I typically do not like buffets but there was always something to eat. We ate breakfast in the main dining room two times and it was fabulous each time. They even had a bartender in the dining room and at the Windjammer making drinks (excellent mimosas!) Between the buffet, the dining room, and the pizza, if you go hungry, it is your own fault.
Our room steward Froi was OUTSTANDING!!! He fulfilled our every request... I have found if you tip throughout the week, you get really good service. He is very skilled at towel animals too. I liked the room being serviced 2x a day. on Carnival, you have to pick either morning or evening service.
We did the Bottomless Mimosas Galley tour and brunch on our sea day. it was awesome... the food was great... the tour was a lot of walking and standing, and you will get hot in the 3 kitchens you tour. but we were rewarded with a great brunch, and more mimosas than I could count!
You have to make time to go to Vintages wine bar. Royal has done a great job of staffing the wine bar with true sommeliers... these three gentleman really know their stuff. We did two wine tastings and they were very informative and the wine was excellent!
We did excursions in St Maarteen, Barbados, and St. Kitts. every port we were docked so it was great to get on and off. The Barbados pier is very large and the walk is far but they have transportation to get people to and from.
We didn't go to most shows, but I heard they were excellent. we did do the "Crazy Quest"... an adult scavenger hunt... it was pretty raunchy and hilarious. definitely adults only. There were a lot of activities on the Promenade, but beware if you have a room that has a widow out to the promenade...you will hear the loud music and parties. 3 in our party had these rooms, the rooms were very nice, and large, but you will hear the noise from the promenade... and don't forget to close your curtains.
I have read many reviews that complain about the locals from Puerto Rico on this cruise, but I have to say, I found everyone to be extremely friendly and pleasant. Every announcement was in English and again in Spanish. There were not many children on this cruise that I saw. Overall it was a fantastic time!
At the end we chose to do self debarkation with all of our luggage due to an early flight. it was so very easy and fast. We were off the ship by 0730 and on our way to the airport. a taxi ride from the pier to the airport is about $30 plus a tip.
Our balcony was great! we spent a lot of time out there. As I mentioned our room steward Froi was amazing and we never wanted for anything. The bed (I belive all of them) are extremely hard/firm. I wish I had asked for an egg crate. I did not sleep well and had a lot of body aches due to the bed. Others in our pary complained about this as well. Even though we were the last cruise prior to dry dock, maintenance was responsive to an issue with our door lock and the rooms were kept so very clean! I was so very impressed with this team of folks!
We spent time in Old San Juan, what a quaint town. we had some great food and drink prior to our cruise.
We booked an excursion through a private company. We rented offroad vehicles and drove around the island... it was a lot of fun.
Went to Cambriolla beach club... it was very nice, nice restaurant, bar, restrooms. we only had about 2 hours at the beach before our ride was taking us back. you get beach chairs with the fee, but you have to pay $10 for an umbrella. overall it was very nice.View All 171 Beach Reviews
Stayed on the ship and chilled
We walked through the shopping area at the port... this was by far the prettiest island to me.
We took the Coast to Coast scenic tour. You are on an enclosed tour bus with airconditioning. We had a great tour guide (Agatha) and made three stops at an old church (St John Parish), the beach, and The Highlands (resort type area). it was a great low energy way to see the island. The tour was about 4 hours long.View All 149 Island Tour Reviews