Sail Date: December 01, 2009 Ship: Freedom of the Seas Cabin Type: Suite Traveled As: Couple Reviewed: 8 years ago
Best place to see all the reviews of RCI ships is www.cruisecritic.com which also provides reviews of almost all ports and ships, as well.
Freedom of the Seas launched in May 2006 as the world's biggest cruise ship. The vessel introduced a new class of ship for Royal Caribbean, measuring just shy of 155,000 tons with a double occupancy capacity of 3,634 passengers (siblings Liberty and Independence of the Seas debuted in May 2007 and 2008, respectively). It surpassed Cunard's gargantuan Queen Mary 2 by 7,000 tons and carried 1,014 more passengers. (Of course, the Freedom-class ships have since been, er, belittled by Oasis of the Seas, the massive 225,282-ton, 5,400 passenger beast that debuted in fall 2009.)
Besides its size, Freedom of the Seas also made waves in other ways. It was the first ship to feature a surf simulator, a regulation-sized boxing ring, an interactive water park for kids and even a barbershop. Yet in many ways, Freedom was merely an evolution, not a revolution, of the Voyager class that made its own headlines when it launched with biggest-at-sea status back in 1999. The layout is nearly identical and the promenade is back, as is the rock-climbing wall, the ice-skating rink, Johnny Rockets, the Promenade Cafe, Ben & Jerry's, etc. It is almost as if Voyager of the Seas was simply super-sized, and beefed up with innovative spaces and concepts.
We were also amazed by how personal the service was in general, despite the number of passengers. The two bartenders who worked every night at Boleros, Royal Caribbean's Latin-themed bar, remembered our names and our poisons, and on the last night swapped heartfelt goodbyes and hugs with numerous passengers who had imbibed there throughout the week. When our cabin steward noticed us coming down the hallway, he'd pop his key in the door and hold it open for us -- a nice gesture, particularly when we were coming back from shore with tote bags and purchases.
Size does matter, and in Freedom's case it is a plus, not a negative -- especially for families, first-timers and fans of Voyager-class ships that are ready for the next "big" thing.
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
Since our cruise, Royal Caribbean has launched its flexible My Time Dining program on Freedom of the Seas. For dinner, passengers can choose between assigned early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) dining, or opt for flexible dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis. But on this voyage, the three-deck-high dining room (Leonardo, Isaac and Galileo) only offered traditional, assigned-seating dinings during two sittings -- at 6:30 p.m. and at 8:30. I think the second 8:30 seating is better than the mytime. You get to know new people much better because you see them every evening which makes it more fun. Mytime dining you mostly see new faces every evening at different tables (depending which table is available when you arrive), or several empty seats with nobody to talk with if that timing so happens.
5 out of 5
Afternoon activities include the ubiquitous pool games and trivia contests; Vintages wine bar hosts several tasting sessions throughout the week (we attended one that was $15, and much more intimate than the dining room variety; we were part of a 12-person group). Al fresco bars include the Pool Bar, Sky Bar and Wipe Out! bar, and the drink of the day in a souvenir glass will run you $5.95; Casino Royale is open whenever the ship is at sea, and features slot machines in a range of denominations, table games and a bar; this area can get pretty smoky at night -- if you are sensitive to cigarettes, you may not want to pass through.
The main Arcadia Theater seats more than 1,300 guests over two levels and is the venue for nighttime productions; on our sailing, shows included "Once Upon a Time," a beautifully done Broadway-style fairy tale; a concert featuring the Nelson brothers and the popular newlywed contest, which was side splittingly funny as always (how can you not laugh)
5 out of 5
Freedom of the Seas is the best ship for families in the Royal Caribbean fleet, and a leader industry wide. The H2O Zone is a huge success -- the kids love it, and it keeps them out of adult whirlpools. There were a ton of kids on our Thanksgiving week cruise (1,029 to be exact!), but the ones we did see on the decks were well behaved. We have to give credit to the youth staff for keeping them occupied with age-appropriate activities.
Children are broken into five separate age groups that get not only their own activities but also their own private rooms. The Adventure Ocean Program includes several different groups: Aquanauts (3 - 5) might color and play games while Explorers (6 - 8) learn to make their own candies or kites; Voyagers (9 - 11) might take a backstage tour of the Arcadia Theater or participate in sports activities. Navigators (12 - 14) and older teens (15 - 17) can attend parties at Fuel, the teens-only club; hang out in the Living Room, a posh teen lounge...
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Can't find the words how excellent they are at all times. (unless you're one of those CAVE people?)
5 out of 5
Always pleasently suprised
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
In a nut-shell: Go for the biggest and balcony cabin. If on the top deck, find out what is directly above you, i.e., pool, or gym, etc. Why, the pool is open late or all night (noise) while the gym closes early (got the idea?)
There are four main types of staterooms -- inside, oceanview, balcony and suite -- but within each are different configurations, including roomier options for families in all categories at different price points. There are 1,817 staterooms; 842 have private balconies and 172 have promenade views. All staterooms are equipped with keypad-operated safes, hair dryers, Wi-Fi Internet access, mini-fridges and flat-screen televisions featuring a range of channels (ESPN, CNN, Cartoon Network) as well as interactive programming (order shore excursions and room service, or check your portfolio).
Interior and promenade-view staterooms are on the small side, measuring 152 square ft. and 149 square ft. respectively; bathrooms are shower-only.
Pros: We never had enough time to do everything on board while in port or while cruising. The A Traveler from Hartford Ct who had an inside cabin must have been sleeping while in port.
Cons: "CAVE" people... Citizens Against Virtually Everything... I'm sure you've met a few from time to time.
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