Line: Royal Caribbean
Built: June 2006
Class: Freedom class (along with Liberty of the Seas and Independence of the Seas)
Itinerary: Summers and winters in the Eastern and Western Caribbean
Kids of all ages.
Cruisers looking for an intimate experience or off-the-beaten-path ports.
- The FlowRider simulator allows you to try your hand at surfing.
- A partnership with DreamWorks means characters from “Shrek,” “Madagascar,” and “Kung Fu Panda” visit.
- “Swim-up” movies by the pool let you cool off and be entertained at the same time.
Freedom of the Seas launched in June 2006 as the world’s biggest cruise ship but was dwarfed by Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s massive 5,400-passenger floating city, just three years later. A makeover in 2011, incorporating some Oasis features, has kept Freedom fresh.
Its revitalization, part of a fleetwide program, included a new nursery, touch-screen LCD maps, a huge video screen over the pool, a cupcake shop, and roaming DreamWorks® characters. All the original favorites — including the rock-climbing wall and ice skating rink — are still here.
Freedom reinforces its commitment to families through its many different stateroom configurations. There are four main types of cabins — inside, ocean view, balcony, and suite — but within these categories, more than 30 types of cabins give passengers plenty of choices for space and configuration.
As part of the 2011 refurbishment, all cabins got a facelift, with bright (picture teal and peach) colors. Freedom of the Seas' rooms feel more modern now — gone are the shower curtains that stick to you — and they have in-room Wi-Fi as well as new flat-screen televisions with plenty of channels and interactive programming that lets you order shore excursions from your room.
That said, the interior and promenade-view staterooms are undeniably small, measuring 150 square feet and 160 square feet, respectively, with shower-only bathrooms. Family interiors are double the size and sleep up to six with two twin beds that convert into a queen plus a sofa or a Pullman bed.
Activities and Entertainment
As always, Royal Caribbean offers plenty of sporty entertainment choices, from the rock-climbing wall, mini-golf course, and jogging track, to the now-famous FlowRider simulator. Kids will love the water park, with its pool, waterfall, and sculpture fountains.
On Freedom of the Seas, you’ll see characters a lot: They wander the ship during the week, posing for pictures with kids. (My 4-year-old was over the moon when we found characters singing poolside.) You’ll also see them in the Arcadia Theater, which seats more than 1,300 guests and features 3-D movies.
In case it seems Royal Caribbean is just for kids, don’t worry: There’s plenty for adults to do. Boleros, the hip Latin lounge found on many Royal Caribbean ships, draws crowds with live music, merengue, and a mean mojito. If you want alone time, head to the Champagne Bar, or to the Viking Crown Lounge, where you can hear live jazz. Plus, the spectacular kids program means you can leave yours in good hands and have some time to yourself.
Tip: Be sure to stake your claim on the Royal Promenade — the Main Street-type thoroughfare — for the weekly parade that includes stilt walkers and dragon dancers. (I usually hate parades, and I found it completely irresistible.)
It’s the big name brands that stand out on Freedom of the Seas, including Ben & Jerry’s and Johnny Rockets — where kids line up for burgers and fries well before noon — but there are a variety of other options onboard, too.
Chops Grille – This steakhouse, with its wood paneling and velvet seating, comes with a $30 surcharge, but it’s a romantic alternative to the dining room. Starters include tuna tartare and crab cakes, but you’ll want to order a steak for your entree.
Portofino – This Italian trattoria — a steal with just a $20 surcharge — serves a delightful caprese salad and fried calamari, as well as pasta and seafood.
Sorrento’s – One of our favorite midday snack spots, it serves a good selection of pizzas, delicious antipasti, and pressed panini, too.
Cupcake Cupboard – This vintage-style shop offers decorating classes for kids, but make sure you reserve in advance. (We booked on the second day and secured the last spot.)
Tip: Sure, the three-floor dining room — which offers two sittings — is pretty much what you would expect. A bonus: “My Time Dining” allows you to change your reservation daily.
The room service menu here may not be long, but delivery is fast — under 30 minutes. At breakfast time, you can order omelets without the long hike to the dining room.