Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Freedom of the seas
Sailing Date: September 17th, 2006
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
As my husband and I arrived to the port I was dumbfounded at the sight of Freedom. The sheer size of her was enough to astound anyone. Our past cruise was on a ship a little over 800 feet in length and I thought that was big. We could only smile in anticipation of what was to come!! We had completed the "pre-board" online before the cruise which sped up our check in time once arriving at the port. This was great, as we didn't wait as long as I expected since she held 3600+ passengers but I must say that I was a little disappointed that where we boarded the ship, they didn't do the "Welcome Aboard" pictures. This is something that Royal Caribbean must change. (I am not sure why they didn't do this??) Anyhow, check in went smoothly.
Once aboard, we took our carry-ons to our room which was a balcony on the port side. Cabin number 8558 is just three decks below the solarium. Our room was plenty big enough, considering the amount of time spent there was very little. The bathroom was spacious enough to allow my husband and I to both brush our teeth at the same time. There is a couch in the cabins and they are nice, but enough can not be said about the beds! This was definitely the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on. The bedding is far from broken in and to say the least, I didn't move a muscle the first night when I slept. (Seriously!!) I awoke in the exact same position that I fell asleep in. Part of this may have been because I was so tired since my day had begun at 2:00am (our flight left Indianapolis at 6:00am) but the biggest part was just because the bed was wonderful.
After checking out our cabin, we went to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch. The food was terrific and there was plenty of variety. I felt that since the Windjammer and Jade Cafe's are actually one large dining area, RCCL should have allowed a large seating area. We spent several minutes walking around with our food trying to find a seat. (The cafes form a circle with Windjammer going around the left and Jade going around the right. They meet in the middle where the hamburgers and French fries are.)
The muster drill, although boring as they all are, went quickly. We were anxious to get to the front of the ship for the sail away. The weather was very warm with a light cloud cover. After we left the port, we walked around to view the beautiful ship. I have to say that I was so overwhelmed with the ship that we missed many of the activities that first evening.
Without boring you, I will say that there are many things that are not to be missed. The Ice Show is definitely something that you must get tickets for as early as possible. We got tickets for the Thursday evening show and when we realized that it was at 5pm and we had early seating for dinner, we tried to exchange them for the Wednesday evening show. That performance had no tickets remaining, so we were told that if we waited outside the doors, we might be lucky enough for there to be some empty seats. We did go to the doors to wait and found that someone had laid their tickets down on a table in the On-Air Club so we got to see the show. Very good!!
One show that I particularly enjoyed was the Magic Show. It started out with a very cool "sideshow" if you will, of four what I would call "human yo-yo's". They performed against an interactive backdrop that is so cool. You just definitely have to see it to understand. There was a "Battle of the Sexes" show. This was a family feud style show that pit men against women. Very entertaining with many laughs. The "Love and Marriage Show" is another that you must see. Three couples answer questions with the couple with the most correct answers winning a boatload (no pun intended!!) of gifts. This will replay on your TV and promises lots of laughs too.
Two of the things that Freedom is known widely for is the Rock Wall and of course, the first ever "Flow rider". I tried both and can brag that I did make it to the top of the rock wall but I must say that the Flow rider got the best of me. It is fun to try but I guess that you have to know what you are doing. I didn't even make it to my knees before I wiped out. Oh well, at least I give it a try. To both of these I say.........what the heck, you are there so you got to try them!
About Our Dining Experience
As I said earlier, we had early seating and were on the 3rd floor (top) of the Dining Room. This is the Galileo Dining Room. We were at a table for four (we traveled with another couple). The only thing that I felt RCCL should have done was to seat us with other folks instead of it just being us four. Baris was our Maitre D and he is great. On two of the evenings that I had sea food (Tiger Shrimp and Lobster) he came over and removed the meat from the shells for me. I joked with him when he removed the tail of lobster from the shell and said "You cut my meat for me, I am surprised that you don't feed me too!". With that, he picked up a bite of meat and fed me!! My husband got a cute picture of this.
Lorna was our Head Waitress and Graz was our Assistant Waiter. If any of you are blessed enough to have them, good for you. They are exceptional and very personable too. They do know your names and that is nice. If you like to have a little fun with your wait staff, sit in the same position for a couple of nights or until they memorize your usual drink order. Then, switch around. This is sure to bring smiles when they sit your drink in your "normal" spot, then realize that its not in the right spot. (We had so much fun!!) As far as the food in the main dining room, we all enjoyed everything we had through the week and I would highly recommend eating there every evening. My favorites were the lobster and the tiger shrimp. My husband ate the steaks when they were offered and they were always juicy and tender. Kudos to the chefs
Ports of Call
We had been to Cozumel on our last cruise and went snorkeling then. This time, we chose to just do some shopping and take our time. The store workers are very good about calling you into their shops but if you are firm, they will know that you don't want to purchase something they offer. Jewelry stores are very aggressive with shoppers. Again, just let them know that you are not interested.
Grand Cayman was beautiful and we visited Stingray City. Even with all the hype about Steve Irwins recent death by a stingray, no one seemed afraid. They were lots of people out on the sandbar where the excursion takes place. The water is about 4 feet deep and as warm as bathwater. As soon as the boat arrives, the rays come up. They are absolutely gorgeous creatures and very gentle. We learned that the larger ones are the females and the smaller ones (only about a foot or so around) are the males. Our guide (Pete) jokingly told the men that the males are "twice the men we are" since they have "two winkies"!!!! The guys laughed. The tour guides were very helpful and always reassured us about our safety. If you go on Freedom, please do not pass up this opportunity. Two thumbs way up!!!
In Jamaica and Labadee we mostly just shopped.
Labadee is more than I expected in natural beauty. Its very relaxing and is laid back. The rock formations around the water are spectacular. Lunch on the island was great. A word to the wise about shopping here in Haiti, be prepared to be firm when approached by the shop owners. After making a purchase that we might not have made otherwise, we learned to say no. (We did barter the price of the items we did buy, but they probably weren't items we would have bought had they not have "lured" us in.)
Shopping on board
Freedom offers many things for just about every taste when it comes to souvenirs. Clothing, key chains, jewelry, some toys, alcohol---you name it. One thing that I was pleasantly surprised about was the fact that they offered a Scrapbook Page Kit with RCCL stickers and also had a Scrapbook with a picture of Freedom on the cover. Please be advised that if you scrapbook, get a book early in the cruise. I waited too long and missed out on one. They are in limited number on the ship. For scrap bookers, this is a nice cruise as they also offer 3 workshops throughout the week with lots of free ideas and page kits.
The final evening we went down and watched the "Farewell Variety Show". Definitely a must-see. The comedian was great and the "Top Ten Stupid Questions Asked" are too funny. Makes you wonder how some people were smart enough to even make it to the ship!!!
Overall, the cruise was wonderful. I would recommend that anyone give Freedom of the Seas a try. There is so much to do and see. (One thing I didn't mention since I didn't have any children with us was the kids program. All I can say is that it must be great because there were 347 on the ship and I probably didn't see more that 50 of them!) We were so impressed with Royal Caribbean as a whole that we are planning on booking a 9 night cruise in the fall of 2008 on another RCCL ship.
Absolutely, without a doubt, one of the most wonderful vacations of my life. I fell in-love with my husband all over again, thanks to the cruise.