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TA

Age: 30

Occupation:Finance

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Freedom

Sailing Date: 2010-05-2

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Warning!! This review is kind of on the long side.

I do want to start off by letting everyone know that this was my very first cruise so I have nothing to compare it to. I read many reviews before going on this cruise, and found them very helpful. As a result, I decided to write one in order to help others who are thinking of taking this cruise. We took the Carnival Freedom Western Caribbean. Ports of call were Key West, FL, Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. We found a Really good deal on some plane tickets so booked the cruise on our own thru Carnival vs. using a TA.

Pre-Cruise

We are both from Seattle, WA so flew into Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the Courtyard Ft. Lauderdale Airport and Cruise Port. This was a fantastic pre-cruise hotel because shuttle service to/from the airport and to the cruise port are included in the price. It is a really nice hotel that was really clean and spacious.

Embarkment Day

Once onboard, we immediately went to guest services to put some cash on my sign and sail card. Carnival works on a cashless system where they give you a sign and sail card that is linked to your credit card and it that kind of works as a credit card. Every time you purchase something onboard that is not included in the cost of the cruise, you have to present your sign in sail card. At the end of the trip, you can either resolve your balance by authorizing them to run the credit card that is linked to the card or you can give them cash.

I knew the room was going to be pretty small, but it was larger than I expected. Our room was a category 1A with portholes on the main deck. It had a convertible couch and 1 twin bed. What attracted us to this room was the price and the portholes. It was forward on the ship, so I wouldn't recommend it for those that are prone to sea sickness (because you can feel the ship moving at times) or for those that are light sleepers or late risers (because you can hear the anchor going down on port days). We were able to save a couple of hundred dollars by choosing this room.

Key West

Key West was our first port of call. Key West is a cute little island. We just walked in and out of shops and took pictures. Very fun and we got A LOT of exercise just walking around and enjoying all the sights.

Grand Cayman

Our second port of call was Grand Cayman. It was really nice to do our own thing there and we were able to see and learn a lot in a small group setting. Since we got back to the port a little early, we purchased a few souvenirs at the shops that were close by and hopped on a tender back to the ship.

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

This was the one place that we when researching we found the majority of the people saying that is it best to book an official shore excursion. Since we were first time cruisers and a little hesitate to book thru an independent company on our own, we did pay the extra money and booked an excursion thru Carnival. We did the Jeep Safari for about $100 which was a little pricey but worth it. Many people complain about the vendors in Jamaica. Even though it was kind of a weird experience having all those people begging you to buy their stuff, I just told the people "No" firmly and kept walking. I never felt unsafe.

Sea Days/Evenings Onboard

Sea Days were a lot of fun and relaxing. There was plenty to do, so you can be as active or lazy as you want. Some of the things I went to during the day were a cooking demonstration by the chefs that work in the Steak House, a talk in the fitness are about weight loss and detox, saw an the ice carving, watched the pool Olympics, played mini golf, etc. For night activities, I went to all the shows and musicals in the Victoriana lounge, a talent show, went to three comedy shows (the first comedian Allyn Ball was fantastic but the second one wasn't so great), karaoke, watched movies on the outdoor screen while sitting in the hot tub, etc. I do have to admit the pools were really small and crowded during the day.

The Ship

I read many reviews were people hated the ship decor, but I actually love it. The ship was also kept clean and I was surprised since so many people were onboard. Everywhere you turned, there were workers picking up garbage, cleaning glass, vacuuming or shampooing carpets, clearing tables, etc. The ship was very large and a little confusing to get around at first, but the more you walk around, the more you get the hang of it. Also as mentioned above, even with over 3,000 passengers, the ship never felt crowded.

Staff

The staff was really nice and did a fabulous job. Our room steward knew our names by the first day and cleaned our room twice a day. The must have a camera or something to be able to tell when people are coming and going out of their rooms, because he slipped in and out when we weren't around. He was never in our way and we were never in his. He did such a fabulous job by keeping the room clean, that we left him an extra tip in the room on top of the with the prepaid gratuity. The pool staff, buffet staff, dining room staff all did a fabulous job also and were always available if you needed something.

Food

We opted for Any Time Dining. It worked like a regular restaurant. You just show up to your assigned dining room between 5:45-9:30pm and are seated. We only had a wait one time which was on the 1st elegant night. That wait was more than reasonable and was only for about 15 minutes. We ate breakfast and lunch on the Lido deck everyday, but had dinner in the dining room almost every night except for the second Elegant night. After reading some reviews, I was concerned unnecessarily about water, so we did bring some bottled water onboard. However, the water on the ship was really good and tasted better than what I had at home.

Debarkment Day

Debarkment day was a breeze. The ship offered self assist debarkment, but we opted to set our luggage out the night before and let the Carnival staff get it off the ship for us. Even though the cruise information stated that we wouldn’t be back to Fort Lauderdale until 7:00am, we got back way before that, so they started letting the self assist people off the ship before 6:30am. We ate breakfast and then went to the lounge we were assigned to wait until our zone was called to get off the ship. When getting off the ship, there is a mass of luggage everywhere. It is harder to find your luggage in this room than it is to find it at the airport. Instead of your luggage being among 100-200 airline passengers, it is among a few thousand cruise line passengers luggage. Fortunately for me, although my luggage was black, I had placed a couple of ribbons and a bright green scarf on my luggage so was able to spot it right away.


A few pointers for fellow first time cruisers

1. Bring LOTS of small bills. They will come in handy because you will be handing out A LOT of tips. I found it easier to pay for everything in exact change and almost everything I bought was quoted in exact dollars.

2. It's good to plan ahead, but don't plan too much. Have some flexibility because once you get onboard you will probably find things to do that you never dreamed of doing.

3. I already mentioned the luggage thing. Unless you do self assisted, it is very important to make you luggage stand out or it can be more than a little overwhelming trying to find that luggage at the end of the cruise.

3. Don't over pack! Honestly you only need a few bathing suits and maybe 2 outfits for each day (one for daytime activities and a fresh pair of clothes for evening dinner and activities) and necessary toiletries.

4. Lastly, make the most of your vacation. Remember that at Carnival your tour guides can only do so much, but how much you enjoy your vacation is going to depend on you. I found that on the cruise you can do as little or as much as you want. Don't sweat the small stuff and just sit back, relax and enjoy the cruise.


Overall

Overall, I had a FABULOUS time definitely sail this ship and Carnival again without hesitation. Concerns I had from reading reviews and horrors stories ahead of time were unfounded for me. My friend and I already said we would do another one when we turned 35, but I will probably do one with another set of friends or family before then. I really can't think of any major complaints and made the most of my vacation. I enjoyed from the moment I step foot in the Fort Lauderdale Airport to the moment I was boarding the plane back home.


If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me at tak81288@gmail.com and I will answer them for you.

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