Freedom of the Seas
Cruise in Review
Ship: MS Freedom of the Seas
Line: Royal Caribbean Intl.
Port: Miami, Florida: Berth 10
Day 1: Miami, FL
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: Labadee, Haiti
Day 4: Ochos Rios, Jamaica
Day 5: Georgetown, Grand Cayman
Day 6: Cozumel, Mexico
Day 7: At Sea
Day 8: Miami, Florida
The Trip Down: Miami isn’t my normal embarkation port, so naturally I looked forward to the opportunity to experience an uncommon port. The trip to Miami from my home base in Charleston, SC was about 11 hours after taking out the time we spent at various retail establishments and eating lunch. We did, however, break the trip up into 2 days, stopping in Vero Beach on the first day and then continuing into Miami on embarkation day. Miami, the cultural melting pot by the sea, is one of my favorite ports! Not only is it in the center of all the action of downtown Miami, but its MASSIVE!
The Port: On our date of embarkation, Sunday November 23, 2008, there were 5 ships in port: Freedom of the Seas, Carnival Valor, another Carnival, a Norwegian and a Celebrity. I was too taken aback by the thought of the next 7 days to really pay attention to the other ships. The port of Miami is relevantly easy to find and to get to, certainly more so than its nearby companion: Port Everglades. Upon arriving in front of the Freedom’s dedicated embark station, we were greeted by a rather friendly member of the Miami-Dade Police who ushered us directly into the luggage area, sped up the porters getting our luggage and then stopped 4 lanes of traffic to let us pull out and into the garage….Service at its finest. As we pulled into the garage at around 10:20am we watched as the last few stragglers made their way to their cars from the previous cruise, exhausted but excited. We grabbed the carry-on and headed towards the entrance to the terminal which was fairly close to where we parked. We made our way though the checkpoints and directly to the front of the line and to the desk in a matter of minutes. My family and I gathered our SeaPasses and proceeded to priority embarkation where….as if it were planned they began boarding as soon as we walked in! Total time from pulling up to stepping onto deck 4 Starboard Aft: 17 minutes.
The Ship: My initial impression of the massive Freedom of the Seas, was of course one of awe. Though I’ve been on the ship before, it was my first opportunity to sail as an “average joe” guest onboard and the ship promised to hold an amazing 7 nights. The Freedom of the Seas is certainly RCI’s pride and joy and for good reason. With over 15 bars and lounges, multiple nightclubs, a 3 tier theatre, 10 dining options at any given time, the most expansive pool deck at sea and of course the infamous FlowRider, Freedom of the Seas is setting a whole new standard for the cruise lines of this century. Upon stepping foot on the deck, cares and concerns are washed away much like the passive sand in the morning tide. Overall, Freedom has so much to offer guests that it may seem intimidating at first, and 7 nights may seem like such a short amount of time to spend on this modern marvel. Fear not, in this upcoming review, Its my intention to take you all over the Freedom, inside and out, and share my experience with you as though you were there with me!
Public Areas/Bars & Lounges/Dining:
Freedom plays host to literally TONS of unique food, beverage, and lounging opportunities.
The Screening Room: Located on Deck 2 Forward, the screening room is the premier venue for the relaxed traveler. At any time of the day or night, one can expect the Screening Room to be playing a first run movie or an interesting RCI documentary. The Screening Room also wins the CruiseKing award for “Most Out of the Way Makeout Venue”!
Schooner Bar- Located on Deck 4, Forward, Starboard, The Schooner Bar serves up your favorite beverages with a nautical flair. The Schooner Bar also plays host to a variety of cruise-long and evening activities such as evening piano requests as well as trivia on port afternoons and sea days.
Boleros- Located on Deck 4, Aft, Boleros Latin Lounge is THE place to be after 8! This spicy lounge outside the casino serves up the perfect Mojito….I mean sprite
If the bar isn’t the place for you, Fear Not, a live Latin band plays nightly so put on your dancing shoes and hit the hard wood for a little salsa or merengue.
The Formal Dining Rooms: Located on Decks 3,4,and 5: This is where 2 meals, nightly, are prepared to feed nearly 4000 guests. The menu is scrumptious and the service is impeccable!
The Champagne Bar- Located on Deck 5 at the back of the Royal Promenade, this quiet recessed bar is a calm alternative to some of the bars onboard and offers all your favorite mixed cocktails as well as a variety of fine champagnes.
The Royal Promenade- The central nervous system of Freedom of the Seas, this ENORMOUS mall-like venue is the place where its always happening….whatever IT is! Parades, Dinner Parties and 70s dance nights all claim the Promenade as their home as well as the multiple venues that line the simulated cobblestone street.
Café Promenade- Located at the far end of the Promenade, this coffee and sandwich café is open 24 hours with a variety to tempt anyone’s taste buds. The cases enclose multiple different kinds of sweets, cookies, finger sandwiches and brownies (I personally lived off of the Apple Cinnamon Crunch and Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies for 7 nights). The bar is stocked as well!
Get Out There!- This boutique, located across from Café Promenade is where you can pick up all your resort wear and gear. Get Out There offers not only RCI’s products but also some from major brands such as Roxy and Quiksilver.
A Clean Shave- Feeling Scruffy? Stop in any day of the week for “a clean shave” or a haircut by one of the Freedom of the Seas professional barbers. Outside of the shop is a shoe shining stand which is open 5-8 on formal nights only.
RCI Logo Store- This is where you can purchase anything and everything that has a Royal Caribbean Logo stamped on it…..except for ship models (which pissed me off because I really wanted my Freedom model) But the selection is huge and the t-shirts are never ending.
General Store- The General Store on the Royal Promenade is the Walmart of the Seas…..well one can wish. The general store stocks convenience items, snacks, tobacco products and of course liquor.
Vintages- This very-relaxed California-style wine bar has the best selection on the high seas! Whether you’d like a bottle, glass or even a free sample, vintages can please your tastes with an onboard inventory of over $1,000,000 in aged wines and a cellar master whose recommendation is worth its weight in gold.
Bull & Bear Pub- When stepping into the Bull and Bear, its like stepping right into Ireland. A solo guitarist is on your left playing requests all night as guests drink their cares away and sing or slur along!
The Port and Shopping Desk- It’s a tiny little kiosk across from the pub but they made such a big deal out of it on the ship (as though it were a huge office) that I felt it deserved an honorable mention.
Jewelry and Perfume- Also across from the Bull and Bear is the Jewelry and Perfumery boutique…not my specialty, but it looks cool with lots of glass and whatnot!
Fashion Boutique- Located at the front end, port side of the promenade, the fashion boutique if the go-to source for your evening wear be it formal or resort casual. With a wide selection of men and women’s resort wear, ties and accessories, this nook of the ship is pure class!
Sorrento’s Pizzeria- Ahh yes, my 2nd home for 7 nights! Sorrentos is constantly baking something good. They offer salads, antipasta, freshly baked breads, pizzas, side items and Italian desserts until 3am every morning. Security tends to hang out down here with the teens after 1am.
Crown and Anchor Society (Loyalty Ambassador)- Located on deck 6, aft, this is not only a location where you can register to become a member of the Crown and Anchor Society loyalty club, but also offers comfy seating with an excellent view down on the Royal Promenade.
Library- Located on deck 7, aft, the library holds a rather large collection of books and other print materials. It also has oversized couches and chairs for lounging and getting lost at sea in a novel.
Royal Caribbean Online- Located directly above the library, this location is the place to get connected! Internet fees start at $.65 per minute or there are packages available for reduced rates. Teens should note that on Freedom of the Seas, there are 2 teen internet café’s located in Fuel and The Living Room, which offer reduced rates on internet access. Unlike other ships, I found the speed of these computers to be equivalent to those located in Royal Caribbean Online.
Concierge Club- Deck 10 Aft: Open to Crown and Anchor members 18 and up, this is a relaxing destination where one can get away from the other 3,000+ guests onboard and savor the experience of being a repeat cruiser.
Windjammer Café, Jade, and The Plaza Bar- All 3 of these dining establishments are located on deck 11 at the back of the ship and are the “casual alternative” to dining in the formal restaurant. The Windjammer Café is a traditional buffet that serves everything under the sun. From ethnic dishes, to good old American Cheeseburgers, they have something for everyone almost all the time. Jade, also located in the windjammer complex, serves foods with an Asian twist and while they mimic traditional American takes on Asian cuisine, don’t expect the food to taste like the China Wok take out your used to. The plaza bar is….well a bar.
Chops Grille- Located just inside and to the right of the windjammer marketplace, Chops grill is one of 2 alternative, fine dining, restaurants onboard Freedom of the Seas. As with the Voyager and other Freedom Class (as well as select smaller ships) they really do offer the best steak on the high seas. On this sailing, I had the pleasure of having dinner with the captain one night in Chops and it was an excellent experience as always. I prefer the Filet Mignon, Medium with the green peppercorn sauce…Is it bad when you have your entire order memorized before going into the restaurant on a ship…..idk….idc it was excellent food to be had in a quiet relaxing atmosphere.
Portofino- Italian at its finest. Portofino serves up new-age Italian dishes in fine style. Located across the plaza from Chops Grille, they are open nightly (reservations required) and serve some of the best penne on the ocean (amongst other things of course)!
Sprinkles- Located on the Pool Deck (11) on the starboard side (right when facing forward), is sprinkles. They claim its an ice cream parlor….but it’s really just a stand that has the traditional frozen yogurt and ice cream…..surprisingly there were no sprinkles
Squeeze- Located on the Port Side of the ship, right outside of the doors leading to the pools, is Squeeze. This bright citrus-colored shop serves fresh squeezed citrus drinks as well as sports mixes and smoothies. I really liked this concept but I think it would have probably done better business, had it been positioned on Deck 12/13 which is where all of the sports activities are located. Good drinks though.
Pool Bar/Solarium Bar- Deck 11 mid-ship- both of these back-to-back drink stops serve a variety of daily specials in alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions as well as sodas, specialty cocktails and 3 kinds of water!
Fuel/The Living Room Bars- Located on Deck 12, aft, these two bars “supposedly” offer mocktails and coke products to teens ages 12-17, however neither were open at all during my cruise vacation.
Johnny Rockets- The Johnny Rockets on Freedom of the Seas is by far the best I’ve had to date. Theyre serving up burgers and shakes like it was the 50s again. With a jukebox at nearly every table, you can settle down with cold double malt, while the waiters perform their dances to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance”.
Wipe Out Bar- Located on Deck 13, next to the Flowrider®, this nautical bar serves everything on the rocks…just like you after an experience on Flowrider®.
Olive or Twist/Viking Crown Lounge/The Diamond Club- these 3 unique clubs are perched on deck 14, hundreds of feet above the ocean below. With breathtaking views all times of the day and night, your sure to find something you like. Live jazz bands and musicians play nightly and are prepared to take your request. The bar is stocked and they pour a mean martini, yes with an olive as well.
7 Hearts Card Room/Cloud Nine- Located on Deck 14, mid-ship, these two rooms are far from the bustling promenade, but they’re a family friendly location stocked to the brim with cards, board games and family classics like chess and checkers. This is often, also where the aqua-tots program for children under 18 months is held with their parents.
Skylight Chapel- Located on deck 15, at the very top of the ship, this is as close to reaching the heavens as possible on Freedom of the Seas. Sabbath services as well as non-denominational services are held here. The captain also officiates over 100 weddings a year in the chapel onboard Freedom of the seas.
Entertainment Venues & Other
The Screening Room- See Screening Room in the Public Spaces Section
The Arcadia Theatre- Located on decks 3 and 4 forward, this majestic masterpiece of a venue is the place to be each night for showtime. The theatre plays host to headline comedy and variety acts, production musicals, info-sessions, win-a-cruise bingo and The Love and Marriage Game Show!
The Crypt- Located on decks 3 and 4, the Crypt is where its happening after dark for everyone 18 and up. Deck 3 is the main dance floor, the DJ booth, one of 2 bars and a variety of cozy corners for getting to know your fellow passengers. Deck 4 has more seating, another bar and a balcony over the dancefloor which is armed with a $30,000 light show and an EXTREMELY powerful EAW sound system. The Crypt is easily comparable to many of south beach’s exclusive nightclubs.
Studio B- Located on Deck 3 mid-ship (accessible from the aft stairs/elevators), Studio B is a high-tech TV stage by day and with the flick of a switch, the hardwood floors roll back to reveal an ice rink at sea! At night, studio B hosts FreedomIce.com, a spectacular ice show for the whole family with stunning acrobatics and to think its all on a ship! Studio B is also a family nightclub on night 5 for 80s night with your cruise director and his staff. On night 6, head down for The Quest, the wildest game show on the seas and….it really is wild. Center Ice takes place throughout the cruise and lets guests take a spin at skating on the high seas!
On Air- something new to the freedom class of ships is On Air, which I consider, the “lobby” to studio B. This cozy club seats less than 100 but has a decked out stage with flat screens and a KJ (Karaoke DJ) whose taking requests nightly. This really does provide some interesting entertainment as you watch your fellow guests make fools of themselves…that was absolutely dreadful!
Art Gallery- Located on Deck 3, aft, the art gallery allows guests to preview works by Picasso, DaVinci and a host of other artists. Art auctions take place periodically (usually sea days) and offer near priceless works for a….fraction of the price
Deck 4- Schooner Bar/Crypt/Boleros: see previous mentioning
Casino Royale- Located on deck 4 at the heart of the ship, count to 21, but no further, check out the Caribbean studs and pull a few spins on the wheel of fortune slots. Slot/Blackjack and Poker tourneys take place on each cruise. Who knows you could be the next big winner.
Photo Gallery- I thought they had some cool ideas here with automatic photo booths that pull up all of your portraits simply by swiping your seapass card. The seapass is king! Print photos are also on display nightly as well as during the day when at sea. There are HUNDREDS of photo opportunities throughout your cruise vacation and there’s no cost involved in getting a picture taken, only if you decide you want to purchase the picture.
Royal Promenade- Deck 5: The promenade has more than shops and food! Its an entertainment venue in its self. If you look around you’ll notice the dozens of professional moving-head lights and mirror balls. On the first/2nd day and on the final sea day the promenade hosts parades. A welcome aboard parade that’s pretty standard on all ships and a finale one called “Freedom Circus on the Seas”.
Pharaoh’s Palace- Located on deck 5 at the front of the ship, this lively nightclub brings in live bands each night and is a great place to relax if you’re not up the heart-stopping levels in The Crypt.
Freedom Fitness Center- Located at the front of the ship- this fitness center has everything from free weights, weight training, cardio, spinning and yoga as well as a boxing ring! Put on your gloves and get in shape while enjoying a view over 100’ above the ocean.
Solarium & Cantilevered Whirlpools- A staple in the Freedom of the Seas image, the solarium is just as breathtaking in the day as it is at night. This one of a kind space brings a new meaning to the word tranquil. With the light sound of water trickling out of the fountains on the bridge crossing the roman-bath style pool, and the comfortable cushions under your head as you bask in the sun or the cool breezy shade there’s no wonder why so many people fall asleep! The whirlpools have amazing views of the oceans and are almost always vacant! This area is reserved for guests 16 and up only.
Main Pool/Hottub/Sports Pool- The main pool is open to families, teens and grandparents alike while the sports pool is open for laps whenever there isn’t a sports activity going on. Volleyball, Golf, Marco Polo, who knows what all they do in this place! There are also 3 hot tubs in this area open 24/7.
H2O Zone- This area is located at the back portion of the open deck and is open to all but is really for kids. This area also holds a first to RCI’s ships- a swim-diaper friendly pool for kids who aren’t ready for the big leagues. Filled with geysers, spray cannons and obstacles this area not only provides hours of fun, but it also gives off a cool lightshow at night.
Freedom Day Spa- Located on deck 12, come here to get pampered ! Check out in-port specials on facials, massages and other treatments. The spa offers treatments to include: pedicure, manicure, facials, massages, teeth whitening, stone massages, alpha-capsule relaxation and hair appointments.
Jogging Track- Located on Deck 12 around the pool deck with walking and running lanes.
Fuel/The Living Room/The Back Deck- These areas are reserved for teens 12-17…when 12 became a teenager I don’t know but whatever. The Living Room is a chill spot for teens with a bar, couches, tables, gumdrop chairs and an internet café all situated around a 42” plasma TV showing music videos and first run movies. Fuel is the teen nightclub and it ROCKS. Activities such as Scratch Academy, Dusk and Warehouse also take place in here. The back deck is the farthest open deck on the ship and has its own sound system and light show for night parties under the stars. This also has stairs that lead to….
Flowrider®- located on deck 13 at the back of the ship, this wave simulator is what makes Freedom of the Seas what it is. Up to 2 people at a time can boogie board, knee surf or stand surf or catch a pro-show throughout the cruise. As for waivers- RCI has come up with another idea that I give them props for. Instead of punching the *hit out your seapass all cruise long, they now have a wristband that when 1 waiver is signed, and the band is issued, it grants you access to The Wall, Center Ice and Flowrider®
Freedom Fairways- 9-hole mini golf course open every day, all day and all night. Balls and Putters are available near the sports desk and can be acquired all the time.
Basketball Court- This is a full sized, almost regulation court that has not only basketball, but also volleyball and soccer tournaments throughout the cruise. Balls are always available and its open 24/7
Other: Ping Pong Tables and Shuffle Board Courts are located both on decks 13 as well as on the open decks on 4.
Other Notes And Comments:
Junior Cruiser Curfew- Royal Caribbean has imposed a curfew for all guests sailing ages 17 and under. They must be accompanied by a parent or guardian over 21 in all public areas after 1am unless participating in an Adventure Ocean activity.
Coke®Sticker Program- For $4 per day (child under 17) and $6 per day adult you can enjoy unlimited coke products (Coke®,Diet Coke®, and Sprite®). I highly recommend taking advantage of this if you are a soda drinker even a bit, given that a single coke goes for 1.75-2.00+. Juice, Water and Some Coffees are provided free.
Room Service- with the exception of bar items (sodas included as the coke sticker does not apply to room service) all room service items are free, and room service is 24/7 all nights. So take advantage of it!
Stateroom TV-Check out your TV as it has your cruise compass in digital form, as well as the ships GPS position, time, and a view of the front of the ship, promenade and Flowrider® via live streaming camera. Theres also a link to check your seapass bill and rent movies.
No Deck Patrol- Freedom of the Seas does not have deck patrol like the other ships do. Theres a couple of them but their sole purpose is fixing deck chairs, so you only need to watch out for security guards.
Deck Party- Usually night 4 of the cruise, theres a deck party with your
Guest Scratch DJ on the pool deck with a full buffet in the solarium. Join the cruise directors staff on the dance floor for linedances, competitions and family fun under the stars.
Teen Private Pool Party W/ Celebrity Guest DJ- Teens have a new kind of pool party on Freedom of the seas. No longer do we have boring pool parties listening to cheap recordings of fake Caribbean music. Nope, on our cruise Celebrity Guest DJ Major Taylor from the Scratch DJ Academy was on deck, literally spinning and scratching until 1am.
Dusk/Warehouse parties- disappointing to say the least. Freedom didn’t live up to expectations here with minimal work in decorating and no blacklights for dusk.
Teen Night in The Crypt- Yes teens get their own night in the adult nightclub, and its kickass. Night 6 of the cruise the adults party in the solarium w/ Major Taylor in “20” royal Caribbean’s south beach nightclub and teens get deck 3 of the crypt to themselves.
Part 2 will be up next and soon. Its been hard to find time to sit and write but i'm getting there. Leave comments below. I'll also be adding pictures and videos as well.