Just The Facts
Ship: Carnival Freedom
Ship Captain (5/10 cruise): Rosario Arena
Ship Captain (5/18 cruise):
Cruise Director: Skip Lyons
Ports (5/10 cruise): Ft. Lauderdale, St. Martin,
Ports (5/18 cruise): Ft. Lauderdale, Key West,
I have never sailed the Carnival Freedom and she has just come from dry dock getting most of the Carnival 2.0 updates so this is a perfect time, especially since they have just announced that she will be moving to my local homeport of Galveston, Texas next year. I’m anxious to experience the new Carnival Freedom. I am doing a B2B cruise beginning with an 8 day followed by a 6 day cruise. I will review both cruises in this one review. These are my 42nd and 43rd Carnival Cruises and 89th and 90th cruises overall. I am cruising as a solo taking advantage of a zero single supplement promotion by Carnival. I do know some guests and crew on board.
Day One—Saturday--Travel--Fort Lauderdale Embarkation
I left the ranch at 4:06 am for the drive to Waco Regional Airport arriving at 5:00 am for my 6:00 am flight. I like this small airport with free parking and very easy check-in. We were boarded by 5:50 am and on our way to Dallas for the 8:45 AA flight to Miami. I was moved to a exit row so had plenty of leg room on the Miami flight. We arrived about 12:30 (EST) and after claiming my bag went to the Carnival kiosk and was checked in for my cruise by 1:15. Most arrivals were for the Carnival Breeze sailing from Port of Miami today. I had purchased a Carnival transfer since I was at the Miami airport (not the closer Ft. Lauderdale) and actually had a bus to myself arriving at the port about 2:30 pm. Boarding was a breeze as I was behind the crowds and had checked-in at the airport so I was in the lobby entry before 3:00 pm. I was quite hungry so I dropped my carry-on bag at my cabin and went straight to the Comfort Kitchen. It was Italian theme day at the Lido buffet so I had a nice selection and sliced Roast Beef from the carving station. It was good. I had an ice creme for dessert as I briefly walked around to find the locations of two of my favorites: Mongolian Grill and Guy’s Burgers. Both were getting brisk business. I returned to my cabin to change into cooler clothes and my luggage had arrived. The extra VIP tape on your Priority luggage tags really work. I now just took the opportunity to unpack and set up my cabin especially since ‘Safety Drill’ was to be held about 3:45 pm. I was soon unpacked, met my cabin steward, and had a much needed nap until sail away. The movement of the ship awoke me once we had left the port so I enjoyed watching the Florida coast getting smaller from my balcony. I prepared for dinner and went for what I thought was early cocktails at the Alchemy Bar. Soon after I was served my Quick Fix cocktail people began leaving for dinner…I discovered I was an hour off the time as I was still on Central Time. My snooze was longer than I thought and our sail away was late, after 6:00 pm local time. All was well as I made it to dinner in the Posh Dining Room (MDR). For dinner I ordered the Linguini with Italian Sausage, Bell Peppers & Mushrooms (entree as a starter), Cream of Sun Ripened Tomatoes (Soup), the Sweet & Sour Shrimp entree, and two desserts: the Creme Brulee and Black Forest Gateau. All were very good. The Welcome Show was at 10:00 pm in the Victoriana Theater, but knowing I could watch it later on cabin TV, I retired to the cabin to make notes and rest.
Day Two—Sunday--Fun Day at Sea
Smooth seas and partly cloudy skies this morning and I enjoyed my 9 hours of restful sleep. About 9:00 am I went down to MDR for the Sea-Day Brunch. I ordered the featured Steak & Eggs and they were very good this morning. My cabin is located just below the lido beverage area so it is very easy to get juices, tea, and lemonade as needed so I filled my large ‘travel mug’ with guava juice and set about to explore the new features of the ship.
She has the same basic lay out as all the Conquest class ships and the new Red Frog Rum Bar and Blue Cantina on lido deck look great. What was the old cigar bar on deck 4 is now the Habana Bar, the new Red Frog Pub is in the old O2 and gaming area on lido…a great location and much better use of space. The Cherry on Top is expanded in it’s lido location. Every new feature looks very nice so far. I went to Guest Services (GS) to get a hole punched in my Sail & Sign (S&S) card and asked if I could borrow a iPhone charger cable from Lost&Found. Jade from GS actually went to her cabin and loaned me her extra. Service above and beyond, thank you Jade. While down in the lobby I sat in on the music trivia they were doing at the Lobby Bar and discovered Toppy the bartender from all my recent Sunshine cruises was the bartender. Another feature that I discovered they did when reconfiguring the Promenade deck for the Red Frog was add a direct passage to the midship elevators. Now you don’t have to pass through the Casino Bar and the smoking area to get to them. As I’ve never sailed the Freedom perhaps it was always there, but it’s not there on most Carnival ships. A smart decision either way. I had a very nice Guy’s hamburger for a late lunch on Lido deck. It was perfect. This afternoon I saw my friend Daniel the bartender who took such good care of us on the Carnival Sunshine, always great to see friends. Is it a bad thing that I know the ‘top’ bartenders in the fleet? I had cabin time in the afternoon and watched a movie on cabin TV. They delivered some sweets to the cabin that were a great snack as I prepared for the Captains Elegant Night. Alchemy Bar was first stop for a couple of cocktails and then dinner. I ordered The White Stuffed Mushrooms, Roasted Pumpkin Soup, Spaghetti Carbonara (as starter), the Choice Prime Rib, Lobster, and Cherries Jubilee. After dinner I went to the Victoriana Theater to see the Playlist Production of Getaway Island. This is a great show featuring the music of Jimmy Buffet, the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, and others. Not only is the eight member cast incorporated, but the Cruise Director, Toppy my bartender, and the solo guitarist from the Red Frog Pub (RFP). A very enjoyable show. BTW—they had the first row reserved for Diamond Guests. Sweet, although I sat in row two. The ship was hopping late, the Disco, Alchemy, and music from the TheSea6 all busy.
Day Three--Monday—Fun Day at Sea
A little rolling during the night and another day of partly cloudy skies. I went to the MDR again for the Sea Day Buffet and had a Bloody Mary cocktail, Fruit Plate, and the Steak & Eggs. I had a very nice cabin/balcony day today enjoying the nice weather, reading, & relaxing. I did go up to get a nice Mongolian Grill for lunch. Captain Arena and his staff hosted a nice cocktail party for Diamond guests at 5:15 in Scott’s Piano Bar. They served very nice h’orderves and complementary cocktails There were quite a few Diamond Guests, about 20, and key department heads. I had never met Skip the CD so that was nice. Following I went to the Alchemy Bar and enjoyed the evening until time for dinner. Great fun. Dinner was good, we had Chicken drumettes for the table and I ordered: Penne Mariscos (as starter), French Onion Soup, Braised Short Ribs entree, and Fruit Plate for dessert. After a great social evening & dinner I retired to the cabin to rest for the port day following.
Day Four—Tuesday—St. Martin, Netherland Antilles
Very nice weather and seas. We arrived at St. Martin on schedule by 9:00 am. I went up to Lido to get a very nice omelette from the omelette station for breakfast. It was great. I took my time leaving the ship this morning and debarked about 10:30 am. My knee was hurting so I took the water taxi ($7 pp) into central Phillipsburg. I found a store that sold electronics and purchased an iPhone cable then went to the local McDonald’s to drink a diet coke and use their very fast Wifi. Then I went to Pirates Paradise a beach bar located on the beach promenade. They had a nice set up where I could charge my computer and they had Wifi. Presidente beer was $3 a bottle and I had a great view of the beach and harbor. I saw some friends at Woody’s bar (better prices on beer) then took the water taxi back to the ship about 4:30 pm. First stop was Guy’s Burgers for fries and cheeseburger then to the cabin to clean up and watch the sail away from St. Martin. Lovely Day. No aperitif this evening it was straight to dinner, I ordered The tom KaY Gai, Faralle Pasta with Turkey (as a starter), Pork Chop and Bitter & Blanc for dessert. Other entree options were: Assorted Seafood Newburg Style, Baised Lamb, Fillet of Atlantic Salmon, and Black Bean & Vegetable Enchiladas.
Day Five—Wednesday—St. Thomas, USVI
Good weather and smooth seas overnight, but cloudy with some showers. I slept very well and we were docked when I awoke about 9:00 am. I relaxed and watched the activity from my balcony then went up to the Lido to get another nice omelet breakfast. About 10:45-ish I went down to get a shuttle into downtown Charlotte Amalie ($4). I had not been to downtown Charlotte Amalie in years and it’s pretty much the same with great shops located in the restored Old Warehouse area. Lot’s of Jewelry stores and tourist shoppes. I looked around the various stores and soon came across Creque’s Alley of Momma and Poppa’s fame. There is a very nice bar there now, the Side Street Pub, with Wifi and nice cocktails, including a Painkiller. I stayed for a while at Side Street Pub then did some shopping before going back to the ship about 3:00 pm. Upon return a Guy’s Burger really tasted good at this point. I returned to the cabin to clean up and enjoyed a really nice sunset and sail away from the harbor. Later it was off to the Alchemy Bar for cocktails followed by dinner. Tonight I ordered: two Shrimp Cocktails, Potage Saint Germain (Pea Soup), Green Garden Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, Grilled NY Sirloin Steak, Fruit Plate, and Bread Pudding Cake for dessert. Friends went to see the feature show: Comedy & Magic with TC Tahoe and said it was very entertaining. I retired after dinner.
Day Six—Thursday--San Juan, Puerto Rico
Smooth seas overnight, and a hot and humid day. I had a good nights sleep and we were already docked when I awoke a little after 8:00 am. I’m in no rush today and went to the MDR for a nice breakfast ordering: Melon, Eggs Benedict, Bacon, Tomato Juice, and hot Milk. The ship docks right in Old San Juan (OSJ) and I left the ship about 10:00 and although with a bad knee walked up to Fortelezza Street looking at a few shops and stopping at a small park along the way…then down to the Barrachina Restaurant for one of their famous Pina Coladas. It was actually better than I remembered from previous visits. I then went to El Convento the luxury boutique hotel in OSJ located across from the Cathedral to hopefully use their Wifi, have a cocktail, and see this site located in what was a 17th century convent. There are some beautiful architectural details in this lovely building that was a convent for over 250 years. I went to the patio bar and ordered a Ginger Mojito and the excellent staff made sure I could get access to the Wifi, even booting their router so I could get connected, I did and it was super fast. Great drinks, fast wifi, a cool breeze, and beautiful location…I’m staying for awhile. I still have some business from my just completed Festival I could finish online and I could update email, etc. perfect. This also allowed me time to sample one of Puerto Rico’s craft beers: Magna. Luis the bartender provided great service and after some discussion about the history of Pina Coladas’ at Barrachina and the original island resort, I had to sample one from El Convento. It was an excellent Pina Colada served in a tall glass, somewhat creamy, with a floater. Although it was now downhill all the way back to the pier I took the easy way and took a taxi back to the pier and was back onboard about 3:00 pm. Once back at the cabin I called room service for a couple of BLT’s (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato). Carnival has excellent BLT’s and I order them every cruise. They were served within a few minutes, another reason to like Guy’s Burgers as the room service delivery on port days is greatly improved since so many now eat at Guy’s. We sailed early, about 4:15pm and I watched us sail out of the harbor and around El Morrow castle. I was lucky to have balcony on the starboard side of the ship. I returned the iPhone cable to Jade at Guest Services on the way to the 4:30 Past Guest party in the Victoriana Theater. Skip did a good job, it was the usual party with a film and some banter. My server was good, I did not go lacking. Following I did some people watching on the Promenade deck before going to the Alchemy Bar for a ‘special spritzer style cocktail’ by Adri. So good I had another as well as several other folks at the bar. It was now time for dinner, tonight I had especially ordered Onion Rings, Wild Mushroom Cream Soup, Lasagna Bolognese (as starter), Petite Filet Mignon and Short Rib of Beef combination, and Butter Pecan Ice Creme for dessert. During dessert we were joined by Lance Montalto the Comedian who just boarded the ship in San Juan. Always good to see friends. The Love & Marriage Show featuring Skip was the entertainment tonight.
Day Seven--Friday--Fun Day at Sea
Smooth seas overnight and nice partly cloudy weather as we slowly sailed north. I had a fruit plate for breakfast as I have plans for brunch. I spoke to Guest Services (GS) about the next cruise then talked with the future cruise representative on Promenade deck about some potential future bookings. At 11:30 I met a group of friends including comedian Lance Montalto for brunch. Great fun and the food was good, I had the Fiery Tomato Soup (spicy), Steak & Eggs, and Fruit Plate. This was a great cabin/balcony day. I actually had a two hour nap and did some reading on the balcony this afternoon. At 5:00 I went up for a Guy’s burger, I got one just off the grill hot so ate it ‘as is’ or a Plain Jane with no condiments…very tasty. I received a call from GS and I’ll be getting an upgrade on next weeks cruise, a balcony on deck six, just one cabin over and two decks down from current location…Woo Hoo. I went to the Alchemy for an aperitif on this our second ‘Elegant Night’. Most passengers are not near as ‘dressy’ on the second night. For dinner I ordered: Escargot, Pasta (as starter), Three Shrimp Cocktails, Chateaubriand, with Cheesecake and Baked Alaska for dessert. It was good although I thought the Chateaubriand was tough. Lance joined us for dessert again. Tonights feature entertainment was a Magician, but I went to the Alchemy Bar for a Deal Closer then went to see Seth Gibson in Scott’s Piano Bar. All of my MDR table went to the Punchliner Club for the late 11:45 pm show to see Lance Montalto’s second show this evening. New material and very funny as usual.