What a wonderful ship!
Disclaimer – Internet service was provided compliments of Royal Caribbean during this cruise so that I could blog from the ship.
April 2018 was our second time on Freedom of the Seas, the first time was a bit over two years ago. I’m going to review her as if it were the first time. You’ll find my first review in my Ship and Port review page. Some facts about Freedom of the Seas are that she’s 185 feet wide and 1,112 Feet long. She has 1,891 total staterooms, holds 4,515 guests and 1,360 international crew. Her maiden voyage was on May 11, 2006 and her Godmother is Katherine Louise Calder. She was built in Finland and is registered in the Bahamas. She has 15 decks (14 guest decks) and 14 passenger elevators. She has a Flowrider surf simulator, a rock climbing wall, a nine hole miniature golf course, and an ice skating rink. There is a sports court with basketball hoops, three pools, 6 whirlpools, and outdoor movie screen, a video arcade, a library, a computer room, a spa and gym, and a medical center. For kids and teens it has a nursery, Adventure Ocean, the Living Room, and the Fuel Teen Disco. There are 1,014 Oceanview staterooms, 757 Interior staterooms and 168 Promenade View staterooms, plus suites. All in all, an impressive ship with more than enough to do to keep anyone busy…or you can just relax and enjoy if that’s your thing.
We embarked out at the terminal in Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale). This was our first time there and I was not really impressed with Port Everglades, at least with terminal 29. I haven’t been in the rest of the terminals so I can’t speak for them. Port Canaveral and the Port of Miami are much better organized ports. I really did not understand Port Everglades, it is a top Cruise Port but definitely not high tech. I’d compare her to the Charleston Terminal. First you go into the terminal and are directed to a line. And instead of having an electronic board to show where the next person should go, you have a man holding up a paddle. It really didn’t take all that long to check in though. However, we were not given a boarding number like you would normally get at a terminal. After you check in there is a very small waiting area. We were told that it would take 15 – 20 minutes to start boarding, but all of the seats were filled. So we stood there for at least that long before they started boarding the priority passengers. But instead of using a loudspeaker or the TV’s that were scattered through the terminal to tell everyone who was boarding, there was a poor lady trying to yell and be heard above the noise of the crowd. I don’t know, maybe they had a computer glitch or something else going on. They did not explain. Eventually all of the priority passengers left, and then it was the Crown and Anchor Gold card members. But…. Instead of letting those who had been standing there board, we were supposed to wait for all of those sitting down. And the people with seats couldn’t figure out how to get out of the area and around all of the people standing. We didn’t wait, we figured that we could be on the ship by the time they get things organized. And we were. After we left the bottom floor of the terminal to board, we got up the escalator and saw tons of seating and also drinks on the second floor of the terminal, which there were not on the first floor. I do not understand why we were not allowed to wait up there. Anyway, after that we boarded the ship on the muster deck (deck 4), and walked into Freedom of the Seas.
We had been on Oasis of the Seas in December, so this time Freedom didn’t have quite as much wow factor as last time, but she still is a beautiful ship. In my opinion, from our two times on her, she’s the smoothest sailing ship I’ve ever sailed on. I didn’t even need Dramamine during the cruise. Our first stop on day one was the Windjammer Buffet to find a seat and grab some lunch. Most of the days when we ate at the Windjammer we went off to the left and found a little area without as many tables or traffic by the windows. It’s right behind the drink station area. Oh, and the host at the entrance will insist that you use Purel before you enter. We didn’t hear of any sickness on the ship, so it must work. You’ll find Purel everywhere. Here are my views of the ship:
Voom basic internet was provided to me by Royal Caribbean, and I found to be it very good. I could use it on my phone, or on the computers in the Computer room on Deck 8. The computer room on deck 8 was never crowded, and I had no problems finding a computer. I had no problems getting my blog written or published. One thing….move the mouse every now or then while you’re typing or the internet will close suddenly on you, making you lose what you were doing. Frustrating when you’ve just written half a blog and lost it.
Muster Drill (Deck 4)
We had the muster drill at around 4:00 pm the first day, even before we set sail at 5:30 pm. I prefer it when you can have your muster drill in a lounge or restaurant, but we had this one outside on Deck 4. We learned before not to be the first to the muster drill so we didn’t end up in the back of a pile of people. This one went pretty well and was over fairly quickly and painlessly. Hint, the muster deck area on deck 4 is a great place to sit outside and get away from people while you’re cruising. There are plenty of chairs, and if you walk to the very back of the ship, it’s really private. One side of the deck is for smokers, and the other side is for non-smokers. It’s a great place to catch the sunset also. Another good place is the helipad. It’s located on the bow of the ship. Go on deck four and walk all the way forward. Go up the stairs and go forward. There are a few benches there. It’s great for sailaways also. We even saw a couple of Peregrine Falcons migrating and staying close to the ship.
The Complimentary dining options on Freedom of the Seas are the three level main dining room (MDR), the Windjammer Café, Sorrento’s, and Café Promenade. Specialty restaurants (for a fee) are Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table, Savor Modern Mexican, Johnny Rockets, and Ben & Jerry’s. There are 10 bars/lounges.
We found most of the food on Freedom of the Seas surprisingly good. We didn’t dine at any of the specialty restaurants. I just see no need to spend extra money when the rest of the complimentary dining options are so good. We used the Windjammer for all breakfasts and most lunches. I found the food to be very good. I especially liked that the chefs were constantly making eggs over easy at breakfast so that you didn’t have to special order them. The bacon and potatoes were good. I had a hard time finding Raisin Bran cereal, I only saw it out one day in the entire six days. I’m not sure why. They have servers bringing out juices and coffee. Our morning coffee guy was Ronnie, and we really enjoyed talking to him. Hope he’s doing well.
The Windjammer also had good food at lunch. Nothing spectacular, but it tasted good. I enjoy the strawberry flavored water that they always have at the drink station. You can also get iced tea or ice water. And always coffee. They have good salads and fruit. Different entrees each day, I don’t really remember anything special, but nothing was bad. Plenty of desserts and cookies. And I need to say that we loved the Windjammer on Freedom way better than we did on Oasis. Freedom’s is much more organized, and it’s way easier to find a table. We really hated using the Windjammer on Oasis. And the waiters are much more helpful on Freedom, bringing drinks as you need them, and cleaning the tables promptly. Great staff! I have to say that Ronnie was my favorite.
I had pizza (complimentary) at Sorrento’s one evening. I got the Hawaiian Pizza, but I really did not like it. Too thin with too little sauce and too little toppings. I remember Sorrento’s last time as having good pizza, so I don’t know what happened. I saw a number of whole slices of pizza in the trash can. It is a nice place to go and have a seat and relax though and you can get some desserts and coffee or tea there. We didn’t use it much.
I liked the Promenade Café. Everything is complimentary except the specialty coffees that they sell out front. I enjoyed being able to go and have a cup of peppermint or other flavored tea. They have creamers and also honey if you like that in your tea. They have most sweeteners except for Stevia, so if you want that, bring your own like I did. They have sandwiches and desserts also. I didn’t try the sandwiches but they do have a good assortment. And they have Carnival Ranger (Coconut) cookies! Plus other assorted desserts like chocolate tarts. My favorite was the gluten free chocolate mousse. Yum. I went there more than once and got a couple of them to take back to my balcony. It’s a really nice place to sit down on one of the sofas with a cup of coffee or tea and watch everyone go by. And you can get to go cups with sleeves and lids if you want to bring it back to your cabin.
We went to the Main Dining room once for lunch our last sea day. It’s in the Leonardo room on deck 3 and is complimentary. It is such a beautiful dining room. Take some time to look around. We both got the buffet that day. I had the jerk chicken which was delicious, potatoes, and some delicious fried vegetables. They also have a menu that you can order from, or a station where they make up a fresh salad for you. And there is always plenty of bread at the table. There were so many desserts that one older man was flabbergasted at the selection and was so overwhelmed that he could not pick. They had a large three layer cake for our last day at sea, and also many more types of cake. Lunch in the main dining room is definitely recommended at least one sea day, which is the only time they serve it.
Also, we were in the Galileo Dining room for dinner in our My Time Dining. It’s the top deck of the Main Dining Room on the fifth floor. I recommend that you go online and make reservations for the times you want to dine if you have My Time Dining. We went at 5:30 each night, and got to sit at the same table every night. The hostess got to know us and just sent us on our way to our table. Most of our dinners were delicious. Breads are once again plentiful. There is plenty to choose from. Try something new. My husband loves the escargot. And remember that you can get what you want, and as much as you want. If you want two appetizers, go for it! The only appetizer that I had that was just so-so was the Coconut Shrimp. Didn’t taste the coconut, and needs a pineapple or some sort of tropical sauce to dip, and more of it. My favorite appetizer was the crab cakes. For the entrées, I didn’t think the turkey dinner was all that good. The turkey itself was good with the gravy, but didn’t like the dressing and the mashed sweet potatoes didn’t taste like sweet potatoes. Also, the Duck a l’orange had too much of a layer of fat under the skin. Maybe duck is always like that, but I don’t like fat. The actual meat and sauce was good, but not much of it. I wasn’t fond of my last night’s dessert either. I can’t pronounce or spell it, but it was sugar free, and was a cream puff with vanilla ice cream. The ice cream was okay, I didn’t eat the cream puff. Other than that, I enjoyed everything. The Prime Rib was particularly good. I didn’t have the lobster tails, but a couple people said they were too fishy. The New York Strip Steak was delicious and cooked to perfection. Everyone at our table seemed to enjoy most of their food. The Royal Chocolate cake is really good. They have something similar to the chocolate melting cake, but I didn’t think that was as good. Complimentary drinks are ice water, iced tea, coffee, and hot tea. They do have flavored tea, and the mint is particularly good. The waiters on Royal Caribbean don’t dance like they do on Carnival. They may have had a last night song, but we didn’t stay long enough for it. The only disappointment was that they were supposed to celebrate our 40th anniversary on night two, but they didn’t.
We had a Deluxe Balcony Cabin on deck 9, cabin 9240. The Deluxe Balcony Cabin is the smaller balcony cabin on Freedom, but it’s still plenty big. It’s comparable to a Carnival Balcony cabin in size, but the balcony is about twice as big as Carnival’s balconies. The balcony had two chairs and a table. I’d love if they’d put a lounge chair in there. There is plenty of room to store your luggage and items. The luggage should be unpacked, and then put under the bed to get it out of the way. The AC worked well. The vanity mirror has shelves on each side with mirrored doors for your makeup and small items. The vanity also has a light and a chair. There are two plugs near it. There is a small flat screen TV that swivels. Our bed was right by the balcony door, so you could relax on your bed and watch the ocean. The balcony has a divider on each side with frosted glass. You can see shadows on the other side, but not the people. The front of the balcony under the railing is clear glass so you can see through to the ocean. The beds can be made into two twin beds if you want, and are very comfortable. The pillows are also comfortable. My husband needed a wedge put under his side of the bed so that his acid reflux wouldn’t act up, and they did have one. Just ask your steward. There was a sofa in the room, but it did not convert to a convertible bed. There was also a coffee table, but it was kind of in the way. We pushed it close to the sofa to stop from tripping over it. There is a small empty refrigerator that you can store drinks in. We brought an eight pack of Gatorade that we put in it, and also a carton of milk from breakfast. The bathroom is small but usable. There is a toilet, a sink with a large mirror, and a shower with a shower door. The shower is small. I love the shower door though because the water doesn’t end up all over the floor of the bathroom. There is citrusy shampoo, but not liquid body wash. There is a bar of soap. The mirror has little shelves with a mirrored door on one side for your toiletries. We did like our cabin. Our Steward was Alan and this was his first time out. He did a great job, and made towel animals every night. I like that Royal Caribbean is still making up the rooms morning and evening. No robe in the room. The room was quiet.
We don’t gamble but we did walk through the Casino Royale quite a few times. It’s a beautiful Casino with plenty of slot machines and gaming tables. My only problem with it is that you have to walk through it to get from the lounge area to the photograph area, and it’s way too smoky. Wish there really was a way to clear smoke out, but even though there is a non-smoking section, the smell of smoke is everywhere. But everyone seemed to be having fun. I heard that someone won a huge jackpot while we were there. It didn’t seem to be overly crowded. It was lively. And there are some lovely sculptures in the entryway. Love the imagination!
The photo area is on the other side of the casino on Deck 4. As on most ships, photos are in categories according to where and when they were taken. I didn’t get one good photo of me. I had told the girl in the MDR that I thought that I’d blinked, but she didn’t take a second one. And I did blink. So, I didn’t buy a photo, normally I’d try to get at least one. I wish that they’d go the way that Oasis of the Seas has, and put each person’s photo in their own file box so that no one else could see them. Then you find your file and look at your photos in private.
I didn’t really see an adult’s only solarium area on the ship. The solarium was there, but there were no adult only signs up. There is plenty of shade in the solarium area if you just want to grab a chair and read or nap. People do save chairs for long periods of time though. Didn’t see a lot of kids there, but they do have to pass right through the area on the way to the other pools and the Windjammer. One side of the deck is smoking, so we were careful to stay on the non-smoking side, we could not smell smoke from that side. There is a large whirlpool on each side in the solarium that looks out over the ocean. There are also a few smaller whirlpools by the pools. There are pools for adults, and an H2O Zone pool area for children. Looked like fun. I saw a small pool area for babies and toddlers. There are lifeguards. There are also life jackets for children. There is a frozen custard machine by the pools.
I love the Royal Promenade. I still remember how awed I was the first time I saw her. After going on smaller ships for so long, I was amazed that a ship could be so big. You’ll find shopping, eating, music, and lounges on the Promenade, plus entertainment like the Dreamworks parade. This is where you’ll meet the Captain, and the kids will meet their favorite Dreamworks characters. It can get kind of crowded during certain hours.
It took forever to get our luggage the first day on the ship. We kept seeing people getting their luggage, but ours was nowhere to be seen. I was starting to get nervous. I thought that maybe it was because we had checked in an 8 pack of Gatorade. 5:20 came and no luggage yet. We went to dinner, came back, and still no luggage. Finally, at after 6:30 pm, one piece arrived. Then a little while later the other piece and the Gatorade arrived. Everyone was complaining that the luggage was way too late. Make sure that you pack anything important, like medications, in your carry-on, and carry it on, don’t check it in. Thankfully we had done that. But I didn’t have a toothbrush or a change of clothing with me.
I think that I enjoyed every bit of entertainment on the Freedom. We mostly stuck to the main shows in the Arcadia Theater. You don’t have to make reservations for the theater ahead of time, and we always saw empty seats in the balcony. The shows that stand out to me was the comedian on night one. He was hilarious. The Marquee Broadway song show was wonderful, and so was the Once Upon a Time show. I did recognized some of the sets in Once Upon a Time, so they must have used them in one of the shows last time we were on Freedom. The ventriloquist the second to last night was the best of all. He was hilarious! I remember seeing him on TV years ago and I remembered his ventriloquist puppet. I saw some of the Dreamworks characters, but we never did see a parade. Not sure if they had one or not. We don’t really do the lounges, but we did see a band in the lounge above the Arcadia that was pretty good. We did have a picture taken with the Captain, Captain Toni, but he didn’t say anything to us. The picture didn’t come out well, but I did get one of him with my camera. The Cruise Director, Drew Divine, was pretty good. We didn’t see him a lot though, just before each show.
At the beginning of this cruise, I wasn’t sure just how good the customer service on the ship was. I was told that I’d have complimentary internet so that I could blog daily from the ship. When I was on Oasis, I was given the access code when I checked in. That wasn’t the case with Freedom but the Port Everglades was so unorganized. We decided to run to the Customer Service desk and see if I could get the code, and while we were there we were going to ask about the Wine and Chocolate covered Strawberries that we were promised when we booked because of a glitch in our booking. We talked to a gentleman who could find nothing in our file about any of that. He got another person to help him look, but basically it was “sorry, I can’t find it and there’s nothing we can do for you.” We weren’t exactly happy campers at that point. I decided to call my media rep before we left Fort Lauderdale about the internet. It was a Sunday, but I left her a message and then I emailed Royal Caribbean’s customer service email about the rest. Before that night was over I had two messages on my phone about the internet access code. And a bottle of champagne. I actually thought that was nice, and I was good with it. A few nights later we came into our room and there was another bottle of champagne. Wow. Then the next night another bottle with the chocolate covered strawberries. I have to admit that I half expected to see the Captain sitting in the room the last night of the cruise after that. So, Royal Caribbean went above and beyond when they messed up. Royal Caribbean knows how to fix things and I was impressed with their customer service. However, booking customer service was obviously lacking when we booked our cruise. We were promised things, but the booking agent obviously did not notate what he had promised to us. We felt that he had promised things just to get us to book.
When we got our disembarkation tags the second to the last night of the cruise, the number was 15. We didn’t want to self-disembark, but we had to leave the ship before that because we were driving to visit family. My husband ran to the customer service desk, and they changed them for number 3. That was much better. We started packing on our last sea day. We always bring compression bags, put our dirty clothes in them, and squeeze the air out. That way more will fit into our luggage. We kept what we needed for the next morning, and put our luggage in the hall at around 10:30 pm. The next morning we got up by 7 am, got dressed quickly, and ran to the Windjammer for one last breakfast. By then they had called our number to disembark so we ran back to the room, grabbed our backpacks, made sure that we got everything out of the room, and headed to the fourth floor to disembark. Disembarking was pretty quick. We did end up having to wait behind a long line of VIP people, but one of them was finally kind enough to let us in. We found our first piece of luggage quickly in the terminal, but the second piece was way in back, and had the handle torn off. We should have put in a claim, but we just wanted out of there because we had a long drive ahead of us. Not real fond of Port Everglades though. Hopefully we will be able to fix it. After that we found the Park n Go shuttle and headed for our car. And now it’s time to dream about my next cruise.