Everything We Hoped For: Freedom of the Seas Cruise Review by Fisherbob

Freedom of the Seas 5
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Everything We Hoped For

Sail Date: May 2011
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Port Canaveral (Orlando)
We are a family of four (husband, wife, 15 year old son and 11 year old daughter) who sailed on the Freedom of the Seas on May 29 for the Western Caribbean, with stops in Labadee, Falmouth, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. The kids have wanted to sail on Freedom of the Seas since seeing the Samantha Brown episode on TV. We chose this ship because of the size and variety of things to do, as well as the convenience for us-- we live 15 minutes away from Port Canaveral. Embarkation went smoothly and we were having our first beer by noon (5:00 somewhere in England).

I chose the rooms on the Internet and booked them online. It was about the same price to have two rooms on deck 9 -- two of us in a balcony cabin and two of us in an interior cabin across the hall -- as it was to have four of us in one balcony cabin, so we went with the two rooms. If you have a family of four definitely check that option out if you are sailing during the summer when the 3rd and 4th person prices get jacked More up. I stayed in the interior room with my son and the girls got the balcony, naturally. The difference between the two rooms is night and day (literally), and I know people say all the time "the room doesn't matter; you don't spend much time in it anyway", but I didn't like waking up every day not knowing if it was light or dark outside. We were on deck 9 near the aft elevators and stairs, which was very convenient for a trip up two decks to the pool or Windjammer, and it was an easy trip down the stairs to the Promenade, etc. A word about the stairs and elevators - I've seen others' comments about waits for elevators, etc. I blame that on the cruisers, not the ship. I saw seemingly able-bodied people wait to get on the elevator to go up a single floor. If you can get around OK, leave the elevator for those who need it if you just have a floor or two to go.

Fellow Cruisers: The elevator thing is my only gripe about my fellow cruisers. I was a little scared about who'd I be sharing the ship with after experiencing a couple 3-day Carnival cruises but found our shipmates to be a great mix of folks who were out to have a nice vacation, just like us. The ship does a good job of keeping the reins on the tweens and teens, with an enforced 1:00 am curfew and also just by setting the expectation that they'll behave. I was really happy to see the smokers using the designated areas and using the ashtrays. Also, a great thing about cruising is that almost no one is using their cell phones!

The ship's facilities and cleanliness exceeded expectations. As others have said, the ship never felt crowded. There was plenty of deck space for laying out as long as you don't need to be right by the main pool. No matter where we sat waiters would come by to take drink orders.

We enjoyed the entertainment on the ship. The CD Graham was so funny that pretty much anything he said had me in stitches. If you are a fan of "British" humor, don't miss his morning show on the TV! Even Captain Rob was LOL funny. I didn't think I'd like the skating show but I did. The 70s night street party was a lot of fun,and even the Dreamworks Parade was OK. Our 15 year old was a frequent visitor on the Flowrider. The dads had to try it too but us old guys need to watch out, because a man at the dinner table next to us was miserable throughout the week because of a spill he took.

Food and drink: we ate our share. We had breakfast and lunch most days in the Windjammer and dinner every night in the dining room. The whole wait staff was excellent. Even the Windjammer had waiters who would bring you drinks and refill your coffee as needed. Our dining room waiter definitely earned his tips, from hurrying up our service so we could get to a show to clipping the curtains shut with his name tag when the sun was glaring in our faces. The assistant waiter was on his first cruise and should be OK by the time you get on board, bless his heart. We all got the Coke packages which we got a lot of use out of. The mugs we got are actually kinda cool and usable once back on shore. Anyplace with a tap would fill them up, or you could self-serve on the pool deck 11 up until about 10 p.m., which is handy while you're sunbathing, watching a movie or game on the big screen, or if you happen to have some rum that needs company for an evening cocktail on your balcony. We got lots of pizza and olives from Sorrento's. In the evening part of the Windjammer became an Asian self-serve restaurant and had sushi. We didn't eat anywhere that cost extra, save for a couple cupcakes on the Promenade. The beers were about $4.85 each including tip and mixed drinks were about $6. The bartenders were very generous with their pours, to the point where my wife had to ask for more mixer a couple of times. But that's a good thing!

Ports: Labadee was interesting to walk around and we did not do any excursions. You can explore as long as you stay within the area-- no opportunities that I know of to hike through the surrounding hills. The zip line looks awesome and at a lower price I would have been all over it.

Falmouth: We did a Chukka River Tubing excursion through the ship because my wife refused to just stay on board. I'm glad we did it and it was a good adventure. We didn't wander around the city at all, but other people did.

Grand Cayman: Wife and daughter did stingray city through the ship, and the son and I did a one-tank shore dive through the ship. We dove in Devil's grotto and had a memorable experience. I wish we had more time here - I want to go back to Grand Cayman and stay there!

Cozumel: Booked a cab trip based on info I found through this site and had a nice trip around the island.

Embarkation: no sweat.

Summary: We looked forward to this trip for a long time and it was all we expected and more. Bigger may not always be better, but smaller is always smaller. Less

Published 06/17/11

Cabin review: E1 Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony

Our interior cabin on deck 9 near the aft stairs must have been next to some generator room because there was something running all the time. We didn't mind the rumbling though. The bathrooms are tiny. There are actually a couple channels on TV so it's possible to keep up to date with what's going on in the world if you need to.

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Port and Shore Excursions

We booked an excursion through the ship for the Chukka River Tubing Adventure. It was $79 each, and I'd say worth the money. There were about 15 of us who did this excursion. You start with a 30 minute ride up to the mountains to the starting point at the Good Hope Estate, which is interesting in itself. Other tours go here for ziplining and ATV rides. The real adventure for us was the trip in the truck down the hill to the river-- a recent shower had the road muddy and the truck sliding around. Each clump of rafts has a guide, which I was happy for because he kept us in the flow of the river and out of the trees, as well as provided commentary on where we were going. The water was decently fast moving had some fun whitewater in places. The excursion gave us some adventure and also got us out in to the countryside to see at least part of the somewhat real Jamaica. The Good Hope estate area is pretty, clean and comfortable. They rent lockers for $5 each, which are just big enough to fit a backpack in. There is a gift shop as well as a lunch stand where you can get a Red Stripe, meat patty, or some jerk chicken. While drying off you can roam around the area and look at the old plantation ruins which are interesting. There were not any vendors around that area- just one shop. We didn't wander in to Falmouth itself. There were vendors set up across the street from the gate to the port.

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We liked Grand Cayman so much that we want to go back by plane for a vacation. The town is right there at the pier and has many high-end stores. It's a nice change after having to continually say "no thank you" to vendors in Haiti and Jamaica. My wife and kids did some shopping, buying watches and a bamboo shirt. The highlight of my trip was going to the Guy Harvey store and getting to meet the man himself! We walked upstairs and he was sitting right there doing a painting. He would sign whatever you wanted for no extra charge, so I got a print of his Old Man and the Sea for $25 and now it's a signed print. He was very personable and really seemed to appreaciate the folks coming to visit him, even noticing my son's UCF shirt and remarking that he's just completed a painting for the school. Beware of the prices at restaurants and stores around town-- they are probably listed in Cayman dollars, which means that $15 sandwich will end up costing you about $20 US. My son and I did a one-tank shore dive booked through the ship. There were only two other people signed up, and the only reason they were there is that the two-tank boat dives had all been booked. We got a ride to Don Foster's dive shop and dove right out the back door. Because there were only four of us our guide swam us about 50 yards down the shore to dive Devil's Grotto. We swam through holes in the reef with sunbeams shining down through holes in the roof, and emerged in to a school of tarpon and jacks. It was just like you see in the dive mags! We were down for 50 minutes, and then were given a ride back to town, although it's close enough to walk if you wanted to.

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