July 2014 - Freedom of the Seas to Caribbean - Western
This was our first RCCL cruise. After years of listening to everyone RAVE about RCCL, we decided to pay the extra money and go for it - after all this was to be our first BIG family blow out cruise. What can I say?
The Freedom was a very pretty boat - laid out very well and clean.
Embarkation at Port Canaveral was the worst I have had on any other cruise. (Disney, Princess, Celebrity, Carnival totaling 8)
Now, maybe this was because of the 300+ unaccompanied teenagers from Argentina, But the process was very slow and chaotic. We were told that RCCL is building a new terminal in Port Canaveral to alleviate the "chaos", as one employee told us.
Once we were on the boat, it was beautiful and for a sold out ship, it never really seemed crowded.
Here were our issues:
MY TIME DINING - Don't do it! To me, this means "eat when your ready". We didn't want to have to cut our activities short to rush off for dinner. We thought....... When your ready to eat, you goto the dining room - like a restaurant. NOPE! You have to call and make a reservation by 4:30 pm. If you didn't, it was a hour and a half to THREE hour wait time! ???? My children were hungry, so we were always told we could goto the Windjammer buffet - which we did most nights. Here is my problem..... We had to PREPAY gratuities. So we paid for dining room servers that we didn't use. I was the server for my children - breakfast, lunch and dinner. On night #6, I finally called guest services and complained that we had started calling for a reservation at 4:30 that day, with no answer. I sent my daughter at 5:15 to put our name on the list for 7:15 - nope...... sorry, no openings until 8:30. When I finally called the dining room concierge to explain we had Ice show reservations at this time (and mentioned the tipping concern) after a lot of convincing, he finally "worked us in" at 7:00. When we got to the dining room - it was EMPTY. We counted 8 tables that were occupied. The servers were lack luster, never smiled and questioned us as to who we were because they had never seen us all week and heard we were "worked in for dinner".
We prepaid gratuities and our room steward - although he was nice, never seemed to go above or beyond. One towel animal all week. Two days we didn't get service because our timing was off schedule. Now...... again, we were on the floor with dozens of non English speaking teenagers who DESTROYED their rooms every day! We would walk by the rooms while the doors were open to be cleaned and it was HORRIBLE! We felt bad for the employees!
My 9 and 13 year old daughters didn't want to goto the kids center because they didn't like the counselors - they said they "weren't fun".
My daughters wanted to ride the Flow Rider, but when I asked and employee they said it was $60 an hour.......... Uhhhhh???? So they didn't ride because after spending A LOT of money to get on the cruise - I couldn't afford $120 just to have them ride for an hour. Well, I guess that $60 was for "private lessons". No one ever explained that the Flow Rider was FREE. Staff must have been trying to sell services and made it seem like you had to pay to ride. Same thing with the rock climbing wall - a staff member told us it was $15 per climb?? Apparently that is free too? (I found this out after I got home and other RCCL cruisers told me it is all free on Allure and Oasis?)
Disembarkation - most slow and painful yet. Staff was knocking on our door at 06:30 - our disembarkation time was 08:30 - we sat in the lobby tired and exhausted until almost 10:15.
There were a lot of really good things about our cruise - mostly Labadee and excursions. The cruise was just "average" for us. We will give RCCL another try - maybe we just had bad luck??? The service staff just all seemed uninterested and "flat".
Oh, on a good note - my husband bought an unlimited alcohol package and he was treated like a king by bar staff! Rajiv is awesome, and Avon and the "Squeeze" bar staff made AWESOME drinks! Pool service was great.