Age: Baby Boomer
Number of Cruises: Lots
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Freedom of the seas
Sailing Date: May13th, 2006
Itinerary: Inaugural Cruise to Nowhere
I was helping my wife Joanie with groups of 200 and 100 cruise professionals back-to-back on inaugural sailings of the Freedom of the Seas. We flew to Newark, New Jersey and spent the evening in the Liberty Marriott Hotel before making our way out to meet the ship. Inaugurals are always tons of fun, but these were very special. From the moment we arrived at Bayonne and the cruise terminal, there was an air of excitement and anticipation. The Freedom was coming down from New York where the Today Show was broadcast for her. We spent the afternoon in the terminal with many of the group members and when the Freedom of the Seas arrived at the terminal, everyone was outside enjoying the moment.
Part of the NACTA Family Reunion
A Surf Park, more fun on deck 13; H2OZone, a kid's water park that will entertain children for the entire cruise; a Professional Boxing Ring; a Professional Karaoke Nightclub; Cantilevered Jacuzzis that hang of the ocean 11 decks below; a Profession Photo Studio; a whole new Royal Promenade with a barber shop and dozens of new stores and features. a complete lounge strictly for Diamond Members; the Largest Professional Rock Climbing Wall that includes a chimney and 11 different routes to the top; Extensive Wi-Fi and Cell Phone Access throughout the ship; Flat Screen TVs in every cabin and lots more. You won't believe it!
Think Voyager Class on steroids. This review is a pictorial of the Freedom of the Seas. I did it this way so you can see the diversity of activities the ship offers and get a feel for the ship itself. You could actually sail on the Freedom of the Seas and never get off the ship and have the best cruise of your life. The Freedom of the Seas truly has no competition and is unique onto itself. The Freedom of the Seas is destination enough to warrant taking the cruise. Any ports that you might visit are just an added bonus to the experience. If you are comparison-shopping for a cruise, here is how to tell if you should pick this ship. The Freedom of the Seas is, without question, the best choice if you fit any of the following profiles.
The Freedom of the Seas
Families or Family Reunions: Do yourself a favor and don’t even think about another ship. There is such an assorted amount of activities and entertainment on the Freedom of the Seas, that there is lots to do for everyone. I saw families bonding everywhere. I only regret that the Freedom class ships didn’t exist when our son was younger. I just don't think there could be a better choice for family reunions.
Honeymooners and Destination Weddings: Royal Caribbean has many amenities for honeymooners that make this an excellent choice. The ship is large and diverse enough to satisfy anyone’s tastes, but it also offers a level of privacy that honeymooners sometimes do not get on smaller ships. For small destination weddings, the Freedom and Voyager class ships cannot be beat.
Business Meetings: For the same reason this is the best choice for family reunions, it would be the best choice for meetings. There are so many team-building opportunities on the Freedom that it is almost unbelievable. The Conference Center is state of the art (as good as you would find in any hotel or resort) and the idea that many of the usually variable costs are controlled, makes the Freedom of the Seas an incredible meeting venue.
Groups and Friends Traveling Together: If you belong to a group of some sort or travel with other couples, the Freedom of the Seas offers enough different opportunities for activities and entertainment, that everyone will be pleased. Having the group come together for meetings and meals, shore excursions and cocktail parties while pursuing individual tastes, makes for a happy cruise.
About the only folks I wouldn’t recommend the Freedom of the Seas as the best choice would be those that prefer smaller, more intimate ships and singles traveling by themselves. Because of the number of passengers, number of entertainment venues and overall size of the ship, it would much more difficult to make a connection with other singles. However, Royal Caribbean does an excellent job of offering single's events, so it just might be my observation rather than a matter of fact.
One thing is guaranteed. You will be in awe of this ship and remember your cruise for a good long time.
The The Freedom of the Seas is the first Freedom class ship and there are more coming. At 160,000 gross tons, she is massive. She is also well evolved, as every detail in her construction and décor is simply beautiful. The attention to detail (in the flooring, walls, ceilings, wall coverings and art work) is simply awe-inspiring. Everywhere you look you are treated to visually stimulating design. For this reason I have included a good number of pictures so you can begin the visual experience with this review before you get on the ship.
Cabin 1670, Deck 10, Portside Aft Junior Suite
Joanie and I were located in cabin 1670 that was a Junior Suite on deck 10. It was ample enough to be very comfortable and we completely enjoyed the cabin. It had a very comfortable queen sized bed with excellent bedding. There were two nightstands with individual reading lights that were quite effective. There was a large sitting area and coffee table. Across from the bed area was a large desk area with 2 110v outlets (American) and 2 110v outlets (European). This proved to be an excellent feature. There is a flat screen television with a substantial amount of programming, a safe and ample storage for clothing items and miscellaneous items.
There was a refrigerator directly under the television that easily held glasses of wine and would have been great for cooling bottles of wine, as well, A huge walk-in closet lines the cabin entrance way and offers a good amount of storage for hanging clothes, as well as shoe and miscellaneous storage in the shelves on the left hand side.
The Bathroom in the Junior Suite
The bathroom was well-designed and offered ample storage for toiletries and other items. The shower/bath offered excellent temperature and water flow controls and I very much liked the huge bathtub that easily accommodated my 6' 0" body.Exploring the Freedom of the Seas
The best way to explore the Freedom is to start at the very top and work our way to the bottom, so that is how I will conduct the visual tour. So, if you will join me for a ride up the aft elevator to deck 14 and then walk up the stairwell to deck 15, this is where we will begin.
The Intimate Skylight Chapel Deck 15
Up the stairway from the Viking Crown Lounge, one finds the intimate Skylight Chapel. It gets its name from the stained glass skylight that resides over the pulpit. This is a gorgeous chapel and would be a great place for a small wedding or vow renewal.
Olive or Twist in the Viking Crown Lounge Deck 14
The main venue here is the Olive or Twist in Royal Caribbean's signature Viking Crown Lounge and it offers music, dancing and a good number of places to hang out and enjoy a cocktail. We spent the sail-a-way watching the fireworks show on the initial sail out of the port here and enjoyed the huge views. It has an awesome view of the ship's fabulous H2OZone.
The Diamond Club
In the rear of the Viking Crown Lounge there is a dedicated lounge for Crown and Anchor Diamond and Diamond Plus members. This is certainly a major benefit of attaining Diamond status with Royal Caribbean.
Seven Hearts Card Room
The Seven Hearts Card Room is located on the port side of the Viking Crown Lounge and is a wonderful spot to relax with friends playing cards.
The Miniature Golf Course
When I hear someone say ”I don’t know, I think I might get bored on a cruise” I think of the Freedoms deck 13, as to why everyone would love this deck. First let’s go all the way aft to the golf course. The Freedom offers a wonderful miniature golf course). You can simply grab a putter and a golf ball and play all you want. It is expansive and a downright fun course.
Billed as a surfing venue, the FlowRider is more akin to wake boarding or water skiing. When turned on, the FlowRider generates a large volume of water that rushes up the face of the FlowRider's surface and over the top of the crest into a small pool. The surface is made of soft plastic, so falling on it does not hurt. One rides either a Boogie Board or a small (finless) skim board for tons of fun.
Adjacent to the FlowRider is a bar known as Wipe Out. There is also a logo store and the office for the FlowRider where one schedules time to use it. Forward of the FlowRider complex is the golf simulator. It was not open on this cruise, but everyone that uses it on other Voyager class ships loves it.
The Basket and Sports Ball Court
The Freedom of the Sea's Rock Climbing Wall
Here is another major improvement that has been made on the Freedom of the Seas. This rock climbing wall is the largest in the fleet at 43 feet tall and 44 feet wide.
The "Chimney" on the Rock Climbing Wall
What the aft section of deck 13 is to sports minded passengers, the aft section of deck 12 is to children. The Freedom of the Seas offers children the most diverse opportunity to have fun of any cruise ship in existence.
Royal Caribbean's Signature Johnny Rockets Restaurant
Starting with the popular Johnny Rockets Restaurant that serves burgers, fries, malts and more, deck 12 is designed to keep kids happy.
The Interior of Johnny Rockets on the Freedom of the Seas
While there is a nominal charge to dine at Johnny Rockets, kids love the food and atmosphere and can dine here by themselves without any hassle.
The Living Room
There are five separate age groups, each with their own rooms and attractions. The Living Room is a great place for teenagers to hang out. In addition to the Living Room, there is Fuel, a teens Club with dancing, Adventure Ocean for the younger ones and plenty of other venues.
The Freedom of the Sea's video arcade complex is impressive. This picture shows only the entrance to a large room with a large assortment of games. This was very popular with the kids on board. The entire aft complex on deck 12 is a kid's dream come true.
The Freedom of the Seas Jogging Track
The deck 12 jogging track does not penetrate the children's area but still offers a healthy track for walking or jogging. This is very popular in the morning.
The Sky Bar
The Sky Bar resides in the center of the jogging track and is a great place for a refreshment out of doors. Looking over the pool area, it is also a great place to watch the pool games and other pool-side activities.
The Freedom Beauty Salon
The Freedom's “Freedom Day Spa” resides in the forward section. The Freedom Day Spa offers a full beauty salon and complete spa services.Deck 11
Deck 11 is the first deck that traverses the entire length of the ship and offers an abundance of leisure activities. By taking the stairwell down from deck 12 in the ShipShape Spa, we can access the fitness center.
ShipShape Fitness Center
Freedom of the Seas Cardiovascular Machines
There is also an excellent collection of cardio machines with excellent views of the ocean.
The Aerobics Room of the ShipShape Fitness Center
The Freedom of the Seas had a very good aerobics program and the classes were heavily attended.
The ShipShape Fitness Center Boxing Ring
Just in case you want to duke it out with someone or would like to take boxing lessons, The Freedom of the Seas offers a professional quality boxing ring.
Heading aft, one enters the Solarium. This is truly an excellent area, as the pool was open to the sunlight the entire trip while the surrounding lounge chairs were covered and offered protection from the sun.
The Solarium Jacuzzi's
Wow! The solarium Jacuzzis are cantilevered so that they extend about 12 feet beyond the side of the ship. We spent an afternoon here and had a wonderful time enjoying the views and the companionship of friends.
The Cantilevered Jacuzzis
This kind of extra feature is what makes the Freedom of the Seas a most remarkable ship. There is a bar located inside the Solarium, as well.
The Freedom of the Seas Pool Complex Panorama
The pool area just doesn’t seem large enough for a ship this size, yet it was never so crowded that I couldn’t find a lounge chair. The Freedom has an interesting towel policy, as you are issued two beach/pool towels in your cabin at the beginning of the cruise, but are charged $20 if you lose one. While I am sure the ship is trying to control costs from laundering and replacing towels, the result is that very few folks leave them on deck chairs when they depart. For this reason, it always seemed easy to locate an available lounge. Further, virtually all of the children preferred the H2OZone to the main pool. When you read about it, you will see why.
The Pool Bar
This has become a signature bar with Royal Caribbean. The Pool Bar is always active and a great place to relax and enjoy an adult beverage.
The H2OZone Panorama
Aft of the main pool area is another complete water park complex known as the H2OZone. This area was designed for kids and is one of the most unbelievable features on the Freedom.
Another View of H20Zone
Think of the H20Zone as a water park for children. There are waterfalls to stand under, water fountains to fiddle with and Jacuzzis just for kids.
Some of the Various Water Features in H20Zone
H20Zone is hugely popular with the kids and it serves two purposes. First, it gives children the dream water park that will entertain them for an entire cruise and second, it relieves the pressure on the main pool area from kids jumping into the Jacuzzis, running around on the decks and splashing about in the pools. It is a net gain for everyone. Now adults have their own venue in the Solarium (no one under 18 years of age allowed) and the kids have their own. The pool area is relieved from the pressure of kids that feel too old for the kid's pools and slides on the Voyager class vessels.
The Entrance to the Windjammer Cafe
Aft of the H20Zone area is one of the main dining venues on the Freedom of the Seas, the Windjammer Cafe. One enters the area through the main entrance to the Windjammer Cafe, but will be presented with the entrance to the alternative restaurant on board the Freedom, the Portofino Restaurant on the starboard side of the entrance to the Windjammer and Chops Grille is on the port..
Chops Grille Elegant Dining Area
Both Portofino and Chops Grille Restaurants require a reservation and there is a nominal $20.00 service fee associated with dining in the intimate and luxurious surroundings.
The Windjammer Cafe
The Windjammer Café is Royal Caribbean’s signature buffet. This is the main buffet area of the Navigator. The Windjammer is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers numerous selections. It is a major buffet with lots of different areas so you will want to explore it before settling into a line to start picking your dishes for your meal. The salad bar is excellent, as is Jade, the Asian buffet and there are always healthy choices offered at each meal. In the aft section of the Windjammer buffet is an omelet station that then becomes a pasta station for lunch. There are always waiters on hand if you want a cocktail or glass of wine.
Deck 10 is entirely made up of passenger cabins and suites Deck 9
With the exception of the Concierge Club, deck 9 is made up of passenger cabins. The Concierge Club actually wears two different hats.
The Concierge Club Entrance
By day, it is where folks staying in suites at the Concierge level can make reservations for various things and use the concierge to help make their cruise more enjoyable. In the morning and the evening, it turns into a lounge where breakfast or cocktails and other beverages, along with hot appetizers are served to those in the concierge level suites, as well as Diamond loyalty members.
Royal Caribbean On-Line
With the exception of “Royal Caribbean Online”, the Freedom of the Sea’s Internet Café, the balance of deck 8 is made up of passenger cabins. Royal Caribbean has made great strides in improving their Internet Cafe services and operating speed. What was once a major negative for Royal Caribbean, their Internet access is a huge positive and reason to select Royal Caribbean should you need to have reasonably price fast access while on a cruise. II used the wi-fi access, which was widely available throughout the ship (including our cabin) and had no problems whatsoever. Connection speeds varied somewhat but were always acceptable to downright fast. I would give the overall Internet access service on the Freedom an 8 or a 9 based on the value proposition that was offered. It is now far superior to other mass-market lines. Congratulations Royal Caribbean!
The Freedom of the Seas Library Deck 7
With the exception of the library, deck 7 is made up of all passenger cabins. The library offers a good selection of books, but is smaller than one would expect on a ship of this size. Deck 6
The Loyalty Ambassador's Office
Once again, deck 6 features primarily passenger cabins. However, here is where you will find the Loyalty Ambassador and the ability to sign up for Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society. I would highly recommend that you do sign up, as the benefits are excellent. The Freedom of the Sea’s Business Service Center is located adjacent to the Loyalty Ambassador’s office as well..
The Royal Promenade Deck 5
Oh boy! This is the deck that you will remember from this cruise (well, I am sure you will remember everything about this cruise). When you first see the Royal Promenade, it is simply breathtaking. It is difficult to believe that you are on a ship.
Three Stories of Wonderful Restaurants
Starting with the Galileo Dining Room at the very aft end of the ship. You realize that this is something special. The three-story dining room complex carries a different name for each restaurant on every deck to make it easier for folks to remember where their restaurant is. The dining room is simply breath-taking and while large, because of the way it is partitioned into small areas, is quite intimate.
The Champagne Bar
Moving forward past the elevator banks, you enter the main part of the Royal Promenade. On your left is the popular Champagne Bar. This was one of my favorites, as they also have an excellent wine list to go with the Champagne that they serve.
Guest Relations Desk and Explorations Tour Desk
On the right and in front of the Champagne Bar, is the Centrum and on the starboard side you will find Guest Relations and the Tour Desk.
The Royal Promenade
There are several shops and bars along the Royal Promenade and they are is the center of much activity. On of my favorites was Vintages Wine Bar and the Bull & Bear Pub. They were fun and intimate and always popular. The shops on the Freedom of the Seas are incredible and the Royal Promenade is much larger than on the Voyager class ships. Here is a look at just some of the shops.
Vintages Wine Bar
Vintages Wine Bar offers select wines from around the world by the glass. It is an excellent venue for meeting friends for an adult beverage.
A Clean Shave Barber Shop
That's right. There is an old fashioned active barber shop for guys that want to get a shave or haircut.
How About an Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shop?
Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream shop was a very popular stop day and night.
Featuring Seattle's Best coffee drinks, Cafe Promenade was the "go-to" place in the morning and late evening. Great lattes, by the way.
Sorrento's Pizza Shop
Everyone enjoyed a quick slice of pizza at Sorrento's Pizza.
Just One of the Many Shops Selling Products on the Royal Promenade
There are a ton of shops selling everything from perfume to logo items to formal wear and so on. You will love the Royal Promenade.
The Beautiful Entrance to the Pharaoh's Palace
Leaving the Royal Promenade, you enter the Pharaoh's Palace. This is one of the main entertainment venues and is always active.
The Pharaoh's Palace
We had our group cocktail parties here in the Pharaoh's Palace and it was quite enjoyable. There is a good amount of space to accommodate a lot of people, yet we didn't have to use a mic to address the groups because the acoustics were so good.
The Bar in Pharaoh's Palace
The bar in Pharaoh's Palace was a great place to take in the action.
The Connoisseur Cigar Club
The Connoisseur Cigar Club resides just outside of the entrance to the Pharaoh's Palace and has that “club” feeling for those that want to enjoy a glass of brandy and their favorite cigar.
The Arcadia Theater
Heading down the forward stairwell we arrive at the upper entrance to the Arcadia Theater. This is the main showroom on the Freedom of the Seas and it is beautiful indeed. You can enter the theater from two different decks, but I found this was the best way to enter the showroom. Just aft of the Arcadia Theater is the Schooner Bar.
The Schooner Bar
The Schooner Bar is the signature bar for the Royal Caribbean fleet and this particular one is superb. We met here one evening and had a great time. There is always a pianist/singer here entertaining everyone and the mood is fun and jovial with sing-a-longs after dinner.
A Lounge Area in the Schooner Bar
The Crypt's Entrance from Deck 4
The Casino Royale
Moving aft from the Schooner Bar one enters the Casino Royale. This is a huge casino with lots of gaming space. There are a ton of slot machines and other games that were always quite busy. Many folks actually walked off the ship with a positive cash flow from gambling.
The Casino Royal Gaming Tables
The tables were also quite busy every time I walked through the casino.
The Portrait Studio in the Photo Gallery
Just aft of the Casino Royale is the Photo Gallery. Included in the Photo Gallery is a unique photo studio designed to take personal portraits of passengers. These were very well received. The photography staff on the Freedom that took our group photos was professional and "can do" oriented. As you can imagine, shooting a group of 200 people has its challenges.
Boleros was one of the most popular lounges on our cruise. They had a very talented group playing Latin and Salsa music that got everyone up dancing.
The Three Levels of the Restaurant
Issac's Restaurant is aft on deck 4 and is as beautiful as the other two floors of this magnificent dining venue.
The Entrance to the Leanardo's Restaurant on Deck 3
The lowest floor of the restaurant complex, Leanardo's Restaurant resides in the aft section of deck 3. As you can see, arriving at the restaurant is just as breath-taking as dining in it. Outside of the restaurant (where the photo gallery is on the Voyager class shipps) is an art studio and the ship's communications center.
On Air Karaoke Nightclub
Wow! If you like karaoke, you will love On Air.
On Air's Interior
On Air is a night club exclusively designed for karaoke. It is large, well equipped and a karaoke singer's dream come true. You will love it.
Sudio B is the Freedom of the Seas Ice Skating ring that passengers can use when it is available and also houses one of the best shows that you will ever see on any ship. Do not miss the Ice Skating Show when you cruise on the Freedom! It is simply awesome.
In order to move forward on the ship, you will need to go up to deck 4 and go forward to the forward Centrum and then descend back down to deck 3. If your destination is the ship’s disco, the Crypt, you can enter it on the upper floor through the tunneled entrance (pictured above). Once back down to deck 3, you will see the main entrance to the Crypt. This is a really excellent disco. There is a great sound system, plenty of seats and great service. Forward, you will find the forward entrance to the Arcadia Theater.Deck 2
Deck 2 is primarily all passenger cabins with the exception of the the Conference Center. We held our meetings in one of the break-out rooms of the Conference center
Holding Our Meeting in the Conference Center
The Conference Center is awesome. It has several break-out rooms (I counted 5) that are excellent for groups of 3 to 40. They also can be combined into two large rooms that could house a very good sized meeting (we had well over 100 in our meeting).
The Conference Center's Screening Room
They offer all of the techno stuff one could possibly want for presentations and they are set up for professional level meetings.
The Freedom of the Seas is in a class all its own. With no competition, don't miss the opportunity to cruise on this magnificent ship. She is absolutely wonderful.