RCCL – Freedom of the Seas Review
Itinerary – comments:
Day 1 . After arriving at Port Canaveral we parked in the parking lot adjacent to the cruise terminal. It's easy to find parking so do not be worried about that. We arrived to be greeted with a sizeable slow moving line. This was not Royal Caribbean's fault, but that of disorganized port security people. The port security lady was very impolite when she found out that I did not have all of my set sail paperwork. Ooops! Make sure that you have your set sail pass paperwork and passport ready to go!
Day 2. Cocoa Cay . – There were plenty of chairs. I was warned to get off the ship early to get a chair. We'll have about 1000 to choose from. If another ship is docked I can see how this would be a problem, but not if you are the only boat there. I liked all of the beaches especially Barefoot beach where you can walk far out into the water. Bring your license if you and your kids want to do a jet ski. The snorkeling was very good. I saw a barracuda, sting ray, gar fish, blow fish, and yellow fish (?). The slide was fun for the kids and you can book that there on the island, just like the water park offshore. I would also suggest taking bottled water or a snack as there is not really a place to buy many things. I liked Cocoa Cay a lot. I very nice stop.
Day 3 . Sea day
Day 4. St. Thomas – We took an excursion to St. John to Trunk Bay to snorkel. The snorkeling is excellent and so is the scenery. It seemed as though the trip goes too fast as only 1 h hours is spent at trunk bay. There are two tours booked at Trunk bay. We had an excursion in the afternoon and met the Carnival people heading back. IF you get the afternoon excursion beware that they close the snack shop early – like at 3 pm in the afternoon. I'm not sure why, it's not like it was getting dark.
I also have been to Megan's bay on a previous trip. Megan's bay has a beautiful beach also, but with not much in the way of snorkeling. Regardless if you go to Trunk bay or Megan's bay or a different venue, this is an excellent good port with lots to do and see.
Day 5 . St. Martin – St. Maarten / St. Martin is one island divided into two countries – Dutch and French. You can take a water taxi just off of the boat at Phillipsburg for $ 6 all day. It will take you for a 5 minute ride to the shops and beach in town. There will be people trying to sell you things but they do not badger you if you say no thanks. We rented the jet skis. That were $ 55 for 35 minutes. We starting walking by and got them for $ 50 and two "free" chairs. Do not agree to the first price and see what you can bargain for.
I did not go to Oriental Beach as many do. There is the possibility of seeing nudity from where RCCL goes to the beach, but I do not think it's common. I just did not hear many people talking about it. I liked St. Martin a lot too. I did not care for the people trying to see you stuff as soon as I got off the water taxi, but it was definitely not as bad as what you would encounter in Jamaica.
Day 6 . Sea day
Day 7. Sea day
Day 8 Disembarking.
My overall experience was very good. I was surprised that the Freedom did not seem too much bigger than the Mariner of the Seas. The staff was excellent. We were taken well care of by the dining staff and room staff. I also felt that the entertainers on the ship also were quite talented. The shows appeared slow and were not generally memorable though. I would like to see shows with more pep. I would also like to see shows changed more often. I have actually sailed on the Mariner of the Seas where the shows were the same a year apart. Cruise lines need to pay attention to the return customer!
The putt – putt golf course was pretty, but built with little imagination. There is almost no way to get a hole in one. The flow rider was a hit. Time was divided up between surfing and knee boarding. There were a few experts, but most had fun while learning. There was also time for private lessons; in my opinion too much time. Up to 5-6 hours a day was devoted to those who would pay extra for lessons.
Cruising is great fun. There are a lot of hidden costs though. Be careful, Royal Caribbean adds in tips automatically for everything ….. even drinks. If you're not careful you can easily double tip. Even on the islands tip boxes are everywhere .. Take a handful of ones and some fives explicitly for this purpose. When you take a cruise it will cost more than you planned, especially if you drink alcohol!
I would also recommend not booking a flight too close to disembarking time. My cruise was diverted because someone was ill. It put the Freedom back in port about six hours late. Not only did it create a log jam on disembarking, it created a bunch on angry folks who missed flights. Word to the wise, get travel insurance.
Another suggestion to Royal Caribbean: the pictures are expensive. I would suggest somehow being able to put the pictures in a digital format so that people can touch up a few blemishes. There were several pictures that I would have purchased it one or two blemishes could have been touched up on my computer at home. I also belive that more pictures would be sold too.
I noticed that the same movies were played over which could have been easily varied. Also, the ice cream dispenser on pool deck created log jams every day. Could not there be a better place for it? Why was it shut down at I believe 8 pm? It should be one of the "open late" venues.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience very much. I believe that RCLL and other cruise lines need to work harder to please the repeat cruiser. I would also suggest shaking up the itineraries a little. How about changing one of the stops instead of the same stops?