Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Freedom of the seas
Sailing Date: July 2nd, 2006
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Okay I’m here to give you an insight into
the worlds largest cruise ship, the Freedom of the Seas, but with it being so
large where do I start? I guess the best bet is to start from the beginning.
The Freedom of the Seas sails around the Western Caribbean and stops at Cozumel in Mexico, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay in Jamaica (although after may 2007 I have heard it is stopping in Ochos Rios) and RCL’s own private island of Labadee Hispanola. From previous experience of the wonderful Voyager class ships my family decided that one week on the ship was not enough so we decided to book a back to back option (unfortunately this did put the price up quite drastically as they charged us for two sets of flights- not good RCL!) but we are glad that we did the 2 weeks as there is too much to do for just one week!
Overnight stay –
As we were traveling from the U.K to Miami as part of the holiday we got an overnight stay in the Hotel Intercontinental which overlooked the port of Miami. This was wonderful because as well as having time to check out the local shopping area (Bayside Marketplace) which had some great shops and lovely restaurants we also woke up early enough to see the ship coming in at about 5:30 in the morning. It was great to see the ship in its entirety before we boarded as it got us much more excited. The only annoying thing was that Freedom of the Seas departs Miami on Sundays which meant that the shops didn’t open until 11 and our pick up from the hotel wasn’t until half past 12, this meant that there was a lot of waiting around and we felt like we were losing part of our day by sitting doing nothing.
This was much better than our last trip on the Explorer so hats off to the staff. Prior to beginning our holiday we had filled in all the documents via a section on the website and created our set sail passes, this meant that when we reached the pier we could go to an express line where we were ready to board in less than 10 minutes. The only wait came from having to go to an extra area where we had to have fingerprints taken again as we were non-US citizens (however, the rest of our party, who joined a week later said they did not have to do this so perhaps it was a one off). I would also advise packing an extra carry on bag so that if you do get on the ship early and want to take a dip in the pool then you have your bathing suit with you and something to wear for dinner as sometimes you do not get your suitcases until after dinner.
Day at sea –
The day at sea is a great chance to explore the ship in depth and try out some of the on board activities (although I doubt you will have time to try them all). The ship is so large that there was always plenty of things going on, in fact the hardest thing was probably trying to manage time and decide what to do when (thank goodness for the lifesaver that is the cruise compass). The cruise compass is the ships daily news broadcast giving details of everything that is going on that day, where and when and is an essential item to carry around the ship. Alternatively if you are not up for trying out studio B ice rink, the rock climbing wall, the flow rider or anything that involves sports you could always just kick back and relax on a sun bed, after all you are on vacation!
The Flow rider –
This is a must do as it is the only one at sea and is amazing. It is an on board surf machine that allows you to learn how to surf although you mostly wipeout. There are dedicated sessions to attend depending on whether you want to boogie board or stand up surfing and the floor of the machine is soft rubber so if you do happen to wipeout there is nothing to hurt you. Be warned though when you wipe out the force of the water is fairly strong and it is advised that if you are a female to wear a t-shirt and some shorts or you might end up losing your dignity, trust me we saw it happen. Also it is a very popular attraction and on days at sea gets very busy so it is perhaps advised to try it on a day in port or something otherwise you are facing up to an hours wait before even getting a go and end up getting sunburned.
The pools –
This is a first again for RCL all the pools are fresh water, yes you heard no salt water in sight. This allows a much more enjoyable experience especially in the H20 zone which is the onboard water park. Great for kids and adults of all ages as it has cascading waterfalls and statues with interactive fountains, just a place to have fun and be silly. I was quite surprised as on a ship so big I expected the pools to be really busy on the days at sea but they never seamed over crowded and there was always a place to find a seat on one of the sun beds. Another thing not to be missed is the cantilevered whirlpools which give you spectacular views of the ocean as they hang out over the side of the ship.
The food on board was great as usual with so many places to chose from however we found ourselves always eating lunch in the Windjammer as there was such a large selection. We ate in Johnny Rockets once which made a change and was fun as well. Unfortunately we never ate in Chops Grille or Portofino but always ate in the main dining hall for dinner. The food was nice and the same sorts of things were served as on other RCL ships, however there was two special nights for Freedom, these were Surf night and Crown and anchor night, both of these were good especially the surf and turf with a twist and the deserts were lovely so no complaints there. There was also more entertainment from the staff on this ship than on others.
The entertainment on this ship was second to none and I’m sure that as Freedom is the world’s largest ship that RCL brought all their best singers and dancers on it, it certainly felt that way! The quality of the shows were amazing well and truly worth of Broadway. The two main production shows were Marquee- a salute to the Broadway shows, and Once upon a dream, which was a new twist to old but classic fairytales. They also linked up with a illusionist and created a fantastic magic show with a story. There were also the two parades that filled the streets of the Royal Promenade with all the crew taking part, and on top of that themed nights- my favorite being the 70’s street party closely followed by studio 84- 80’s reunion party! What can I say the entertainment was far better than on previous ships and in the evenings you were guaranteed some fun (especially the Quest- Adults only scavenger hunt game show- a must see!).
The ports of call –
The ports of call were lovely on this itinerary. We first stopped at Cozumel, a small island off of the main coast of Mexico, the island was nice to go for a wonder around the shops or you could get a taxi to the beach. We had to tender in as unfortunately the hurricane last year destroyed part of the pier and many of the buildings are still damaged. We booked a shore excursion to do the 4x4 caverns and beach tour on the mainland, this was an amazing tour and a once in a lifetime viewing, totally picturesque and worth seeing. The next port of call was Georgetown Grand Cayman, this was a lovely port, we spent the day shopping as we had had too much sun the day before but the 7 mile beach is a must see but the shops are also lovely and you can get some amazing jeweler buys and designer sunglasses at good prices. It was my favorite port to go shopping in. Another port of call was Montego Bay Jamaica, I couldn’t tell you much about this port as we booked a shore excursion to climb Dunn’s River Falls. This was an amazing excursion, if a little tough in parts but is something I will remember doing for a long time, you get a real sense of accomplishment when you climb the falls all the way up especially as at the beginning it looks a near impossible task. The only downfall was that as Freedom didn’t dock in Ochos Rios (like some other RCL ships do) we had to take a 2 nd coach journey there and back! The last port was my favorite; it is RCL’s private island of Labadee. It is beautiful a total paradise where time seams to stop, lush palm trees everywhere and lots of white sandy beaches with crystal blue seas and a fab view of the ship. It’s wonderful and there is no need to rush back to the ship for lunch as they serve it on the island for you!
In conclusion –
I have been on a several cruises now with a few different operators and I can safely say that Royal Caribbean is my favorite by far, and they have certainly done themselves proud with this ship. It has been my favorite holiday by far as there was so much variety of things to do and all at fabulous quality. It was so good I really did not want to leave and would love to go back again.