Staff and Crew Make Freedom of the Seas a Special Experience!
Freedom of the Seas Cruise Review to Caribbean - Western
Sail Date: August 31, 2014
Ship: Freedom of the Seas
Cabin Type: Balcony
Cabin Number: 1236
Traveled As: Singles/Friends
Reviewed: 2 years ago
Freedom of the Seas was my second-ever cruise, following up my maiden voyage on Oasis in April of 2014. As far as my cruising life goes I am still in my infancy, you could say, but Royal Caribbean once again provided an amazing product and has certainly convinced me to come back for more!
ON BOARD EXPERIENCE: Some of my comments in this arena will already be out of date, as Freedom went through an extensive dry dock in January 2015 that changed a few things around. Regardless, Freedom is a beautiful ship! Embarkation at Port Canaveral was swift - we arrived early and, once check-in began, went straight from the curb to the counter to the ship very quickly. First impressions upon stepping aboard were wow! Everything shines, gleams, and gives off a very luxe feel. Getting beyond the superb physical appearance of the ship gets us to the real stars of this cruise, the staff and crew! They clearly love working here and were instrumental in making this a truly special experience for my friends and I. We had no less than three places on this ship where we were welcomed like old friends by the staff. The Bull & Bear pub on the promenade was the first. I truly regret that I cannot remember the woman's name, but every time we walked up and down the promenade we were greeted with a smile and a wave (and a cold beer!). Next was Boleros, the Latin-themed bar and dance area on the 4th deck. Here we found our true home for the cruise. "Boozy Suzie" and Danielle took care of us like we had known them for years. We would laugh, joke, and simply order "the usual" and within a minute they would have it in front of us! It quickly became our go-to spot every night, to have a drink while talking about our day with them and listening to some live Latin dance music. Last, but certainly not least, was the Main Dining Room. Our waitress Rose and her assistance Joseph were, without doubt, the best servers I have had in my life. Rose always welcomed us with a big smile, a "what did you do today?" and a few recommendations from tonight's menu. You know you've had great service when you are truly saddened to bid them goodbye on your last night. While I realize it is these peoples' jobs to make guests feel welcome and happy, the level to which they went in achieving this goal was simply extraordinary.
Outside of this, the public spaces on Freedom are okay. The pool does get crowded on sea days. The mini golf course was fun, if a little unimaginative, and the flow-rider is situated in a great spot with bleachers on either side. There are ping pong tables, but it was frequently too windy to play a real game. The promenade is great, as is the afore-mentioned Bull & Bear pub. Sorrentos was conveniently located right by the forward elevators which was very convenient to our cabins. Vintages looked nice, though we only went in once and it was quite empty. The casino was large and had a great variety of slot machines. One feature which we very much enjoyed was the night club, The Crypt. It was a great late-night spot to go if you are into the club vibe. Unfortunately, it was removed during Freedom's dry dock. One of the best spots on the ship, hands down, was the helipad. It is technically on Deck 5, but you have to access it from Deck 4. Go to the outside promenade deck (the one where the lifeboats are and where you do the muster drill) and walk all the way forward. You will find a rather big stair case. Go up, keep walking forward and you will wind up at the helipad. This is THE spot for sail away from Port Canaveral and frankly any sail away. It is also special at night. The wind is blowing and, since all the lights are behind you, there is a special view of the open ocean ahead.
DINING: As I already mentioned, the Main Dining Room service was impeccable. The food was great. I am not the biggest seafood fan and though I felt that a lot of the daily specials were seafood-based, I could always find something to order. Freedom's specialty restaurants were, to my mind, the only real shortcoming I can think of. On the first night of the cruise we took part in the Mystery Dinner Theater. It starts in the Olive or Twist (Viking Crown) Lounge for Part 1, then makes its way down to Portofino for the actual dinner portion of the show. Unfortunately for us, we were seated at a table very much cut off from the rest of the show. Portofino is split into two rooms, the first containing the entrance, a smaller dining space, and an open pass-through to the kitchen. The second room is larger and all dining tables. We were in the latter (the only table in this section in fact), and the whole show took place in the former. It was hard to hear any of the performance and frankly the physical distance between us and the action took us right out of the mood. It was a big miss. Royal Caribbean, don't over-book this event! The menu for the Mystery Dinner is pre-set, so I cannot comment on Portofino's own menu, though it has now been replaced by Giovanni's Table anyway. We dined at Chops Grille for a special event (my one-year anniversary to my partner) and we all came away very underwhelmed by this one as well. Chops on Oasis of the Seas was superb, but something was just missing on Freedom here. The restaurant was for the most part empty, and the service was a little slow and lackluster.
CABIN: We stayed in a standard balcony cabin on Deck 10, #1236 and our friends in the connected room, #1238. Deck 10 is shared by the ship's bridge and officer's quarters, which due to the separation and fewer passenger cabins might have made it a little quieter in my opinion. The room was in great shape and, since we had the connecting cabin as well, we were able to open the door in between and have our own little mini-suite. Our stateroom attendant John also opened the partition between the two balconies, so we had a double balcony. I highly recommend this trick if you are traveling in multiple staterooms. Another nice perk is that a lot of the rooms on Deck 10 are suites. This means, I understand, that the stateroom attendants are the cream of the crop.
PORTS OF CALL: Freedom's Western Caribbean itinerary sails to Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico. In Labadee we booked a private cabana (over the water). I highly recommend doing this! It is great for groups, especially. You have your own private area to stash your stuff, an attendant to bring drinks, and are steps from the water. Additionally we did the Dragon's Breath Flight Line. It was a little pricey at $100 per person, but WOW! This is a must-do. The views are incredible and the whole experience was great. After a brief training run down a smaller line, you are loaded into a truck and actually go outside of RCI's Labadee compound briefly in order to make it up to the start of the zip line. We actually appreciated getting to see this interaction between the "real" island and Labadee. Locals were gathered at the gate, attempting to get a day pass to come in and work, sell their crafts, etc. It made us realize that Labadee can be a great resource for the locals, to come and work, earn some money, etc. We were in the truck the whole time and we never felt unsafe or anything like that.
In Falmouth, we did not have any excursions or trips planned. We had some fore-warning that the area around Falmouth port was not very well developed and can frankly be a bit sketchy. We got off the ship to walk around the port area, which is quite nice. It has plenty of little souvenir shops and a Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. The real star of Falmouth port, though, are the local vendors. There are many tents and stalls set up for the locals to come in and set up their work. The woodwork was truly amazing! We appreciated just being able to walk through the stalls and look at the fine work. True works of art! I wish now that I would have bought a piece or two.
Grand Cayman was the only tender port of this trip. That means that the ship cannot dock at a pier, but must anchor offshore and have small tender boats shuttle people to and from shore. We went to Seven Mile Beach for the day, specifically to Calico Jack's restaurant area. If you do not book a specific excursion, once you get off the tender you can just walk over to the taxi area and ask to be taken over to Seven Mile Beach. We did not know specifically where to ask them to take us (it really is a seven mile beach!) but we ended up at Calico Jack's and liked it. You can rent chairs and umbrellas for the day and they also offer various water sports and activities like banana boat rides, jet skis, wind surfing, etc. There is a bar run by a few American ex-pats and the food was good as well.
In Cozumel we pre-booked a day pass at Nachi Cocom beach club. I HIGHLY recommend this place! For about $65pp for the day, you get a private palapa with loungers on the beach, access to their pool, and unlimited food and drink (including alcohol)! Similar to Grand Cayman, there are jet skis, banana boat rides, etc. offered. It was very peaceful and the surroundings are just perfect. We really appreciated that we had our own area with chairs and shade prepared for our arrival. The only catch is that transportation is not included, but there is a taxi stand right at the pier once you get off the ship. Nachi Cocom will also call a cab for you when you tell them you are ready to go.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
If you are sailing Freedom you MUST stop by Boleros and get a drink with "Boozy Suzie", Danielle, and Roger the bartender. Stay in the evening for the live Latin music. SOOKIE SOOKIE! If you are doing my-time dining, try asking the maitre d' to be seated with Rose. You will not regret it!