RCI's Freedom of the Seas - Apr 12th - April 19th 2009 - Western Caribbean
Hub - Steve (50) Me - Di (55) Our Son Nic (12)
This was our 1st Ever Cruise!!!
So we went with a completely open mind - although I did do a huge amount of ... Read More
RCI's Freedom of the Seas - Apr 12th - April 19th 2009 - Western Caribbean
Hub - Steve (50) Me - Di (55) Our Son Nic (12)
This was our 1st Ever Cruise!!!
So we went with a completely open mind - although I did do a huge amount of reading as many CC posts and threads as I could before we went, which were extremely helpful with planning and packing !!!
We didn't book any excursions at any of the Ports because we didn't know how we were going to feel, so we thought it best to "suck it & see!"............
Being from the UK, we flew from London Gatwick (LGW) with Virgin Atlantic into Orlando (MCO), collected our Hire Car from the Dollar desk and as we are Disney Vacation Club Members and have been since 1994, we stay at Disney's Old Key West Resort (our Home Resort which is always wonderful) for 3 nights before driving down to Miami Airport on Sun 12th to drop off the hire car at the Dollar desk.
They took us around to the Cruise Port and Freedom of the Seas was the first Ship we saw! - What a beautiful site, all the Cruise Ships lined up with FOS at the back, then Carnival Valor, then another Carnival, then NCL Pearl & NCL Jewel - we were so excited to see them all. We dropped our luggage off at the Pier and we were approached by one of the porters who told us to "just leave your bags with me and walk through that door". We then walked into the Check-in area at 11:30am where the check-in process seemed very organized although the grumpy check-in lady who dealt with us, would have cracked her face if she had smiled - in our opinion....!!! We had ticked the OPTION B on the Charge Account paper "I choose to have my credit card issuer convert my onboard charges to the currency of my card in lieu of participating in the Royal Caribbean International Currency Conversion Program" - This was subsequently ignored by RCI when we got our final Sea Account on the morning of disembarkation, but more of this later on...**
Day 1 - As we walked onboard (greeted every few yards by RCI Crew) and saw the inside of Freedom for the first time - it was a definite WOW moment for all 3 of us !!!!
We were completely gobsmacked and unprepared for how beautiful and plush Freedom was! We made our way up to Windjammer, found a table and had some lunch, the buffet was excellent! We know we are going to love this restaurant...
Then at 1pm the announcement came that the staterooms were open, so we went up to Deck 9 and found ours - #9220 D1 Balcony Stateroom on Deck 9. We were really pleased with the look, size & storage space in the stateroom and the Balcony which gave us fabulous views to the front via the curved glass window, as well as out to the side ... We hung up our first night Dinner clothes which we had in our hand luggage, worked out how to use the safe to lock away passports etc... and set off to explore the ship and take loads of photos and video before it was full of people...
We went to have a look around the Teen Area of Fuel, the Living Room & the Arcade. Nic was VERY impressed because as he is 12 he was told that he can "come & go as he pleases!" joining whichever activities he wants and leaving when he wants... We didn't make the pre-arranged "Pre-Sailaway Cruise Critic Meet" at the Pool Bar on Deck 11 as we were still exploring the Ship until just before Sailaway.
We rushed back to our balcony for Sailaway and watched all the ships go off in front of us in a line ! What a Fab sight ! We passed the NCL Pearl which was still docked and we all waved and whooped at each other as we passed and they sounded their horn ! After sailaway Nic disappeared off to the Teen Area and we arranged to meet back at our room @ 5pm to dress for Dinner at 6pm. It was a good job I was told by CC members to carry our Dinner clothes in our hand luggage as our cases didn't subsequently arrive until about 8:30pm!
We had opted for Main Seating for Dinner and found our table #246, quite easily. Our lovely waiter Conrad and his Assistant May came to introduce themselves and we also met our tablemates, Geoff, Julie and their 14 yr old Son David, all Canadians but now living in Columbus, Ohio. Perfect! another boy for Nic to chat to! Our Waiter, Conrad and his assistant May were lovely and looked after us very well. After Dinner, the boys disappeared off into the "Teen Area" and we did some more exploring whilst trying to walk off our lovely Dinner of Steak followed by a superb Fruity cheesecake... it's a huge ship and there was so much to see !!! We enjoyed a Bud sitting outside the Bull & Bear Pub on Royal Promenade and watched the Parade - Fabulous - our Cruise Director Richard Spacey (a fellow Brit) is a Hoot !!! We arranged to meet Nic, our Son at 10:30pm in Cafe Promenade where we just couldn't resist taking coffee, hot chocolate and a piece of their excellent apple/cinnamon cake back to our room to eat before bed. We loved that we could tune into Channel 19 on our TV and see the constantly updated route map, and also the live cameras on the front and rear of the ship, it was so much fun sitting in our room watching everyone riding the Flowrider at the back of the Ship... We ordered breakfast from Room Service and finally went to bed just after 12! Couldn't feel any movement or hear any noise so drifted off to a peaceful sleep.....
This was a "Cruising at Sea" day, and as our lovely breakfast arrived around 7:30 consisting of juice, coffee, eggs, bacon, sausages, a healthy fruit plate and then not-quite-so-healthy pastries! we really enjoyed eating this out on our balcony....
After breakfast Nic disappeared off to meet his new friends including David, Connor, & AJ in the Teen Area where they joined in with the Quizzes, the Scavenger Hunt, Shot some hoops, played Dodgeball and enjoyed 1 hour's FREE use of all the machines in the Arcade !! We did some more exploring of the Ship especially the shops in the Royal Promenade!! We met Nic in the Windjammer (briefly) for lunch and then spent a leisurely couple of hours sitting on the Balcony reading - This is definitely the life !!!
Tonight was our first "Formal Dinner" - sooooo looking forward to it !!! This is the first time that Nic has worn a suit and my heart lurched when I saw him all ready to go and looking sooooooo grown up !!! Our Dinner was wonderful, the Filet of Beef was superb and the Souffle with Grand Marnier a fitting end to a fabulous meal !! Conrad (our Waiter) seems to enjoy mimicking my very English Midlands Accent, so I agreed to teach him a new "word of the day" Yesterday's was "Lovely" and today's was a good old 'Black Country' word "Bostin"... Conrad had a bit of trouble with the pronunciation at first, but got it in the end !!!
After Dinner Nic went to get changed out of his suit and into his jeans ready for the "Teen Only" night in the Ice Skating Rink. We went with him to sign the waiver and ended up staying to watch him having fun on the ice with his new friends !!! We only managed to stay up until 10pm tonight as we were all very tired - could be all the lovely food methinks !
I woke up just before 6am to the beautiful view of the mountains of Haiti!! We arrived at RCI's own port of Labadee on the north-western side of Haiti around 7am and after breakfast in the Windjammer, we grabbed our rucksack and made our way down to Deck 1 on the Starboard side at the back to board the Tender Boat that would take us across to Labadee...
Labadee was very hot and the guys in the pink shirts in the Haitian Market were very pushy, one even grabbed Nic's arm and put a beaded necklace around his neck, Nic was a bit worried by this so we took him over to the Dragon's Breath Beach to watch the Zipliners.
We each found a Hammock under the Palm trees and watched the clusters of green coconuts above, hoping that none would fall on us !!! After another stroll along the Beach we had a lovely BBQ lunch of Ribs, Chicken, Hot Dogs & Burgers with Potato Salad & Rice and loads of big chunks of fresh Pineapple, 4 different sorts of Melon, Apples, Oranges, Grapes and loads of different sorts of cakes and pastries & cookies all washed down with Fruit Punch !!! RCI does seem to like to feed their Customers well !!! After lunch we tried to walk off some of the food but then gave up and had another gentle swing in the hammocks again instead !!!
We got on the Tender to go back to the Ship around 3pm and headed back to our balcony to watch Sail-away from Labadee - What a beautiful place !!!
Dinner in Leonardo's MDR tonight was a fabulous Filet of Top Sirloin which just melted in your mouth.
After Dinner Nic had a "Teen Pool Party" followed by a "Teen Only" session on the Flowrider, both of which we thoroughly enjoyed watching !! This was Nic's first ever go on the Flowrider and he did really well managing to stay on for a few minutes - He loved it, so much so, that we booked a Private 1 hr lesson for him for tomorrow night (Weds) for 6:15pm... After this we watched the "Dancing in the Street" Party in the Royal Promenade and collapsed into bed at 11:30pm - really tired !!!
We arrived at the Port of Ocho Rios, Jamaica at about 9am, and after Breakfast in the Windjammer (we just love this restaurant!) we headed down to Deck 1 to walk off the Ship as this was a "docked destination".
Steve and I have been to Mexico once before in 1992, but only to Tijuana, so we expected the local to be a little pushy.
However when we came out of the dock area through the security gate we were not prepared for the number of local men - mainly Taxi Drivers - who wouldn't take "No Thank You" from us... There was also a number of local men selling all sorts of stuff, copied DVD's, copied Perfume and some other sorts of locally grown "Stuff"......???
Nic was very frightened by them as some walked along side us and continued to talk at us, even though we kept on saying "No Thank You"..... So we quickly made our way up to the Hard Rock Cafe shop and the Harley Davidson shop and then called at a couple of the small 'shopping malls' near to the Ship...
Nic was very uncomfortable and uneasy with the atmosphere and with all the local men standing around in groups and when they kept on talking at us, so at 12:30 we went back through the security gate (where they checked our SeaPass cards) and made our way back onto the Ship and up to the Windjammer for some lunch...
In retrospect - maybe we should have gone on an organized excursion......
We spent a couple of hours lazing poolside whilst Nic met up with his friends and at 2:20pm we wnt to watch them all on the Flowrider...
At 4pm we strolled over to the Cafe Promenade for an afternoon treat of Tea and a Cinnamon Bun. We then returned to sit on our Balcony and listened to the sounds of Reggae Music coming from the Beach & Resort below...
We watched 'Sailaway from Jamaica' from our balcony at 5pm - we agreed that we probably wouldn't rush to come back again - maybe we have done this place an unjustice...
At 6:15pm we took Nic up to the Flowrider for his Private Lesson - which he absolutely loved !!! We then had another great Dinner in the Windjammer (I had previously called in at the MDR and told them we wouldn't be using our table for tonight's Main Seating so as our tablemates wouldn't be kept waiting...) and afterwards made our way down to Studio B - The Ice Rink for he FreedomIce.com Ice Show which was Fantastic !!!
We called back at the Cafe Promenade after the Ice Show to collect Coffee and Hot Chocolate before going to bed around 10:30 ish after ordering Breakfast from the Room Service Menu...
Today we arrived at Georgetown, Grand Cayman which is a 'Tendered' port and looks very flat (no mountains). Unfortunately our Room Service Breakfast didn't arrive, and when I rang Room Service they said they had no record of our order - so someone must have removed it from the outside of our door overnight !!!
No problem, we just went to our favorite Windjammer for breakfast and afterwards made our way down to Deck 1 to board the Tender boat.
We really like Grand Cayman, it was lovely and clean, beautiful buildings and they drive on the left just like we do in the UK !!!
There were no groups of locals hanging around anywhere, so Nic was much happier and we all felt completely at ease here...
We had a good look around the lovely shops and found the prices to be about the same as Orlando for Perfume and jewelry...
Nic had is name embroidered onto a Cayman Islands baseball cap, and he bought a couple for his friends back home.
We got back onto the Tender about 1:30pm ish and spent the rest of the afternoon Poolside watching Nic with his friends....
Tonight was our 2nd "Formal" Evening so we got ready early and went down to have our photographs professionally taken (as we had missed this on our 1st Formal night) on Deck 5 on the Royal Promenade.
We had a lovely Dinner in Leonardo's of Salmon for Main Course and a Dessert Sampler for afters - what a clever idea 3 small samples of 3 desserts on one plate !!!
Nic went to get changed out of his suit before meeting his friends in the Living Room and Fuel..
We strolled along the Royal Promenade and ordered a gold neck chain for Nic and they gave us a bracelet in the same chain FOC !!!
We then went to the Arcadia Theatre to watch the "Once Upon a Time" Production Show which was excellent !!!
We had arranged to meet Nic at the Cafe Promenade at 11:30pm and tonight we were all so tired that none of us wanted our usual 'Bedtime drink and snack' .......This cruising lark does seem to make us really tired - or could it be all the lovely food ???
We ordered Breakfast for tomorrow from our TV - how cool is that ???
Our lovely Breakfast arrived at 8am and we ate it whilst arriving into Cozumel, Mexico and watching the gorgeous 'Flying Fish' from our Balcony!!! WOW how fantastic to experience this sight !! They leap up out of the ocean and skim across the top of it before diving back underneath !!! Never seen anything like this before !!!
We went up onto Deck 12 at the front to film along the coast of Cozumel, Nic asked if he could stay onboard because they were having a "Crew Hunt" today in the Teen Area - he is having such a great time with his friends that we agreed to this and arranged to meet him in the Windjammer at 1pm for lunch...
Steve & I spent a couple of hours in the shops around the dockside in Cozumel before returning back to the Ship, and spent the rest of the afternoon Poolside...
We watched 'Sailaway from Cozumel' from up on Deck 12 at 6:30pm before having a pizza in Sorrento's and then picking up some bargains at the "Royal Promenade Sale", mainly RCI Logo merchandise, t-shirts etc... We had a Bud outside the Bull & Bear Pub, did some people-watching before returning to our Stateroom to watch the Departure Video on Channel 27, as requested by Richard Spacey our Cruise Director, and then to bed.....
Today was our last day and was a "Cruising at Sea" day - good job really as we didn't wake up till 8:30am !!!
After Breakfast in the Windjammer, Nic went off again to meet his friends and we had a wander around the "Clothes Sale" on Deck 11 Poolside. We spent most of today relaxing by the Pool, then sitting out on our Balcony - just watching the sea is wonderful !!.
We had a sandwich & coffee for lunch from Cafe Promenade, collected our "Formal Night" photograph from Deck 2 before returning to our Stateroom to get ready for our Farewell Dinner in the MDR.
The Waiters all sang and paraded around the Dining Room, and after we had said Goodbye to Conrad & May and our Tablemates, all 3 of us went to watch the "Farewell Production Show" which was just wonderful !!!
Nic had his photograph taken with Richard Spacey our wonderful Cruise Director (hope he will be on Oasis next year !) and we returned to our Stateroom with some drinks and apple/cinnamon cake and watched a movie on our TV. We ordered a wake-up call for 5:30am (because we wanted to film our arrival back into Miami), before putting our luggage outside our Stateroom as directed...
I woke up a 4:30am, went out onto the Balcony and saw the lights of Miami !!! So I sat outside and filmed our arrival back into Miami Cruise Port...
I am still amazed at how this huge Ship can be so gracefully maneuvered into her required position.....
We had our last Breakfast in the Windjammer and then returned to our Stateroom to wait for our color tag - Light Blue 2 - to be called..
We were called at 8:30am, so we made our way down to Deck 2 and just before we left the Ship, we saw Bernt (Nic's Flowrider Instructor) and we were happy to hear that she might be on the Oasis next year !!!
It took us just about half-an-hour to leave the Ship, go through Passport Control, collect our Luggage and get to the Pick-up Point for the Dollar Rental Shuttle to be taken back to Miami Airport to collect our Dodge Magnum hire car.
It took us about 3 hours to drive back up to WDW and again we stayed at Disney's Old Key West Resort for 4 nights before flying out of Orlando and back to the UK on Thursday evening (23rd)
We have had the Best Holiday ever on board Freedom of the Seas !!!
The Ship is Beautiful, the Service everywhere was excellent (I would just like to give a Special Mention to all the wonderful Crew in the Windjammer because every single time we went in, they just all made us feel so welcome and the food was wonderful every time we ate in there- and we ate in there a lot !!!!!)
As First Time Cruisers we really didn't know what to expect from a Cruise - But Freedom of the Seas and Her Wonderful Crew simply Blew Us Away !!!!!
For us, being onboard Freedom of the Seas WAS our Holiday - the Ports of Call were secondary.....
Thank You Freedom and All Your Crew - You Were SENSATIONAL !!!!!!!!!**Only 1 Complaint...Everything was FAB - except we only have 1 Complaint...... When we boarded we CLEARLY authorized and marked on the form for "my Credit Card company to convert my onboard charges to GB Pounds in lieu of participating in the RCI currency conversion program" (as advised by kind CC Members prior to our cruise...) However at 06:30 on the morning of our disembarkation, this had been completely ignored and our printed SeaPass account stated the following... "You have elected to have Royal Caribbean convert your onboard charges to the currency of your credit card. Your statement reflects the charge as it will appear on your credit card statement - 1 USD = .6998 GBP........" I was understandably upset by this and went straight down to the Customer Relations Desk on Deck 5 and was told (by Santiago Lomello - Guest Services Officer) that they couldn't do anything about it and that my best course of action was to call my credit card company and tell them to reject the charge from RCI and to then accept it only in $'s !!! We then got off the ship, drove back up to Orlando to our timeshare and called our credit card company in the UK who told us that by law now, they are not allowed to reject any credit card charges and that the payment has already gone through ! they also told us that if we have given anyone our credit card number, then we have authorized any charges to it.... we explained - but to no avail.....So we then called Royal Caribbean International Head Office in Miami, but was told that they couldn't help us as our booking had been made through our Travel Agent with RCI UK Office and we had to call them.....So yesterday (Fri 24th) after we arrived back home in the UK, I telephoned Royal Caribbean in the UK and spoke to CHRIS who was most apologetic and helpful and agreed with me that RCI had made a mistake in ignoring my written authorization at Miami Cruise Port at embarkation ! He then did a quick calculation and worked out the difference in overcharge on my card to what it should have been and said he will send me a cheque for the difference within 10-14 days - This was EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE !!!!!!!The Cheque arrived yesterday (Sat 9th May)................ Read Less