As is our custom, we flew into Fort Lauderdale a day before the cruise, to relax and acclimatize ourselves to the weather. Unfortunately, Mother Nature chose to rain on our arrival, and we had to stand for an hour waiting for the hotel shuttle.
We chose to stay at the Rodeway Inn and Suites Airport, as our last stay there was quite pleasant. Other than the wait for the shuttle, this stay was also nice.
The Hotel has a nice pool area, which we were unable to use due to the heavy rain all that afternoon, as well as the next morning.
We did however, enjoy the Sports Bar/Restaurant on the premises for a delicious late lunch, and an even more delicious late supper. I love their Philly Cheesesteak and Steak Fries!
Embarkation Day, Saturday May 23
The last time we stayed here, there were 8 ships in port on Embarkation Day; this time, there was only our ship.
The morning shuttle bus was not very full, as opposed to the many shuttles and organized chaos of our last trip!
Arriving at the port in Fort Lauderdale around 11:30 a.m. in the pouring rain, it almost seemed deserted compared to last time.
Hardly any parked cars, and only a few buses, and not very many passengers. Of course, that changed once we got in line, and soon the line snaked down the outside of the building.
After a fairly quick and efficient boarding process, we were onboard around 12:30 p.m.
They say 1st impressions are all-important, and I must say here that my 1st impression of the Carnival Freedom was that it was overwhelmingly gawdy!
From the many and ever-changing coloured lights surrounding the atrium, to the mixture of colours, textures, fabrics, patterns, panels, floors, surfaces, carpets, it was just over-the-top and gave a distinct feeling of claustrophobia.
We were to discover this was true of the rest of the ship, due to the strange lay-out and passenger-flow problems, exacerbated by the odd placement of poles and pillars in main throughways all over the ship.
However, we weren't about to hang around gawking at the colour schemes, we had more important business to take care of - lunch!
Our first Lido Buffet meal was excellent, and proved to be a good sign of the meals we were to enjoy the whole week.
After checking out our cabin on Verandah Deck, at the very back, starboard side, we found it to be very large and roomy.
It was called a Premium Balcony cabin, and in addition to the large Queen size bed, seating area, vanity and storage drawers, 3 large closets, and a good sized bathroom, there was also a lot of (wasted) space, but comfortable to move around in. There was also a larger than normal balcony (not quite the wrap around, which was next to us), but roomy enough for 2 chairs and a table, with room to spare.
Following the inevitable Muster Drill, which was long and boring and extremely hot and humid on the outside deck, we headed up to Lido Deck in hopes of a fun Sail Away party, but alas, the weather was not to cooperate once again.
It poured rain during our sail away, so we made do with a couple of Sail Away drinks and some people-watching.
Our dinner assignment for this cruise was late seating, 8:15 p.m. in the Chic Dining Room, which, amusingly, our Maitre 'D continually pronounced "Chick" rather than "Sheek". He also referred to the Posh Dining Room as "Poesh".
Pronunciation notwithstanding, the Chic Dining Room proved to be the best place to be on the ship! In 14 cruises, 7 of which were Carnival ships, we had never enjoyed our evening meals as much as we did on the Freedom!
I decided to start the week with a lovely light Tilapia, served with a side of the most delicious Mac 'n Cheese I'd ever tasted. James enjoyed a wonderful Pasta plate, and we both had a to-die-for Creme Brule for dessert.
We were very impressed with our first dining room meal, with both the food and the service, and were not to be disappointed for the rest of the week.
Following our wonderful dinner, we were pretty tired, but dragged ourselves to the Victoriana Theatre for the customary "Welcome Aboard Show", which, if nothing else, at least gave promise that the shows later in the week would be performed by some very talented singers and dancers.
We were just a touch disappointed to return to our cabin and find no towel animal or chocolate mint for the first night of the cruise. They did appear during the week, but not on the first and last nights.
We went to bed looking forward to a week of fun ahead, and especially, a Sea Day tomorrow!