We just got back last night from the Freedom OTS, which sailed on 9/11/11/ from Port Canaveral on the Eastern Cruise. As stated in another post, we had been on Liberty last September, so we didn't expect to be surprised with anything VERY different, and we were right. She is a very nice ship, well decorated and a great bunch of people throughout the ship in all phases of service.
Embarcation was a little strange, in that it seemed that everyone had to get seated in the terminal before we got on the ship. I believe that this was due to it being 9/11, and they took their time clearing the ship through customs,but everyone got onboard and started a great time. This is the first cruise where the Captain was an American, Captain Rob Hempstead, who's favorite joke was "inches", as in the Atlantic basin is 16,645 feet and 2 inches!! Nice man with a dry, quiet sense of humor. The CD was Graham Seymour, who kept everyone busy with his projects and things to do, and his great accent.
First stop was Coco Cay, where we were tendered in to the bay. I didn't know it was possible to cram 3000 deck chairs into such a small beach! It needs work. I WAS impressed in that it is the first beach area we've been to where water shoes were not needed; it has a sandy bottom. The people who paid to snorkle got to do so in the swimming area, so they got to see losts of sand and feet! Back to the ship after two hours......
We skirted the edge of Irene (I believe her name was) going from Coco Cay to St Thomas; beautiful lightening show and a little wind (65 knots over the bow) with some rain; Freedom didn't even seem to know the seas were a little choppy.
St. Thomas was very warm and sunny, but the shops were a little out of our price range. Did get a few nice silky-type shirts tho for a good price, and a few other small items for the Grandkids, then back to the ship. St. Maarten was the next stop, and we went to Mahu beach to watch the planes land over the beach-however, the beach is gone, taken by the last hurricane to pass over the island, but Sunset Beach Club is still there, and the planes kept coming!! Also found a Harley Davidson dealership there and stopped in to buy a t-shirt-darn shipping costs are amazing, but understandable. LOVE the concept of a "round-out" intersection, but there isn't enough money in the world that would get me to ride my Harley, or even drive a car there-the cop in me would have a fit.......
We had a Jr. Suite, 9584, and our steward was Arnet Ashton (call me "Double A") who did a great job, and quickly helped getting a couple of MINOR problems with the room fixed. (Balcony door sticked, and the concept of COLD water from the sink and tub was way beyond the ship's ability) The only thing I noticed about the ship's care was the need for the balcony hand rails to be re-varnished outside the cabins on all decks. I'm sure they're going to get to it-I remember we had to stay off our balcony on Mariner one afternoon while the varnish dried.
Overall, the ship and cruise was fantastic, and only about 186 more days until our Voyager cruise over Spring break of March, 2012.