Nelson H Torres/Luz N Torres
953 Whetstone Place
Rockledge, Florida 32955
321-684-1402 or 321-684-1401
February 23, 2016
We have cruise a total of eight times (RCCL 4, Celebrity 3 and Princess 1). We love cruising and getting proper information regarding package deals on board and proper accommodations are extremely important to us. We have always had either a balcony or a window and when we retired we were upgraded to the Royal Suite accommodation with the Celebrity Ship. What a treat!
We booked with Freedom of the Seas Voyage 27504 through our AAA Agent for the exclusive theme group Rocky and the Rollers event sailing February 14, 2016 for an eight day cruise. We invited two more couples to join us on this special cruise. How excited we were%u2026
We had had a chance to stay in all different room accommodations so we selected the so call Central Park which is the lookout to shops below. We were informed that the rooms were spacious and would meet our needs so we packed all different outfits for the events (lots of luggage’s (6)). Our room number was 7297 and when we entered we were in for asurprise. The room was very small and the shower was extremely small%u2026what disappointment so we went down to Customer Relation Services with the hope of changing rooms to a more specious accommodation.
First disappointment, we had luggage’s everywhere in that tiny room%u2026we had to make it work%u2026the ship was fully booked%u2026we thank Joanna B. Lopez Senior Guest Service Officer for her assistance and to our surprise later on she had a bottle of Reserve St Martin Cabernet Sauvignon Wine delivered to our room. We love Royal Caribbean as this was our very first exposure to cruising when we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary many moons ago and we are planning within 3 years to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary on a cruise along with friends/family if God permits.
While on the cruise ship on February 16, 2016 we were approached by one of the crew members on deck (11) informing us of special Beverage package deals that seems too good to be true so we listen%u2026He gave us a light copy of the Beverage Package deals and stated that the Ultimate deal would cost us $59.00 USD which included several deals and the gratuity charge of 18% would be added to the bill one time deal. My wife does not drink alcohol%u2026so for just $59.00 for me was a bargain. Around the 18 of February we were watching the Rocky and the Rollers perform so I ordered a drink and the server delivered the drink and the Sea Pass Card. To my surprise when I went to my state room the (Sea Pass Card) did not work and then I noticed that the server gave me the wrong card. I immediately went to Guess Relations Services and reported what had transpired and I received a new Sea Pass Card. She did check to see if any additional transactions were made%u2026according to her there were no further transaction made so I turned in the wrong Sea Pass card and received a new one. Anyone can make an error%u2026so I moved on. The Stateroom as well as the dining room staff was just fantastic and very caring.
On the day before departure I received a telephone call from our friends (Wayne Kee) (Couple) and then later from (Thomas Cutti) (Couple) indicating that they received a big bill for the Beverage Package deals and them along with me we were very angry so I informed them to go to the Guess Relation Desk and resolve the issue.
Guess Relation Desk took out a Clear sheet with the heading below the Beverage Packages Deal indicating all packages offering read per person per day. To us this was a deception on the part of Royal Caribbean staff selling a package deal not fully explaining and nothing showing on the page given the true facts and the enormous cost on us. Again, our copy of the Beverage Packages was extremely light and not showing anything about per day per person%u2026We are not highly drinkers that drink gallons of liquor daily (night and day).
I received the invoice the night before departure off the ship and we were so upset that we were charged such high amount of money which cannot compare or even match the alcohol intake. Amount charged for liquor was $487.34. Even if you charge for this so call alcohol intake from 2/16/16 – 2/20/16 is only 5 days which the amount showing is overcharged and consumption of alcohol was very little.
The following day once we returned home we checked our USAA account and found more charges applied on the account of $70.97 dated 2/21/16 for what I don’t know and on 2/20/16 a charge for $2.00 again%u2026and on 2/21/16 a charge for $3.11 Category Transportation (what transportation?)%u2026
We have never had any problems regarding any on board charges with our (7) cruises before%u2026The misrepresentation and the carefree usage of the our Sea Pass card in the Freedom of the Sea has put a soar dent in the trust and reliability that makes us not want to cruise again and possibly settle for an all-inclusive resort%u2026
Disappointed Cruise Guests – Nelson H Torres/Luz N Torres/Wayne and Susie Kee/Thomas and Migdalia Cutti%u2026and many other cruise guests%u2026
Nelson H. Torres
Luz N. Torres
We scheduled a cruise on the Freedom of The Sea out of Cape Canaveral Dec. 6, 2015 & were quite happy with the overall trip.
Our staterooms were very adequate & orderly, however no hair conditioner or body lotion were offered in the room, this is different than on other cruises.
The buffet was not all that good for breakfast or lunch (carved meats were tough & poor selection of food) compared to other cruises we've been on. The high light of the experience was the dining room. We took the MyTime dining & were totally happy with the experience. Our waiter was Jovanny Orallo & waitress Maria De Jesus. The two of them made up for any imperfections in the cruise. They are absolutely the best we've encountered in any restaurant we've dined at. The food was superb, tasty & very appealing. Our team of waiter & waitress accommodated our every need & made sure we got a taste of everything they suggested, even if we didn't order it, they made sure we tried it. What a treat to be pampered by such professionals.
The entertainment was superb, very smokey in the casino which was a big turnoffto the 4 of us. I would sale again on the Freedom of the Seas if I knew they were there to serve us. We elected to dine each night at their table to enjoy the very best service could offer.
We sailed the Eastern Caribbean 2 years ago and this was the largest, best entertainment, best food, we've had on any cruise. I don't have any complaints at all. We sailed on Carnival, and 4 other RCCL ships before this cruise, and then Disney with the family, and I recently got back from Carnival's Fantasy out of Charleston. I've enjoyed every cruise! But, for the first time, we've decided to go back on the Freedom of the Seas and do the Western Caribbean next month. We loved the Promenade Stateroom to people watch and see what was happening on the Promenade. We spend very little time in any cabin on any ship, but the Promenade cabin was greatly enjoyed by my wife. So when picking out a cruise, I want to make sure she's happy, because as we all know, when someone isn't happy, that someone can make you unhappy!
My wife, Ginny, and I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas to the Eastern Caribbean in December. We sailed on the Freedom of the Seas to the Western Caribbean in September, a back-to-back cruise with two months in between. We live only 40 minutes drive from Port Canaveral so getting to the port is very easy.WESTERN vs. EASTERN CARIBBEAN
We like both itineraries but sailing to the Caribbean is mostly about the ship for us therefore we prefer the Eastern Caribbean on the Freedom because the Eastern itinerary has three sea days versus two for the Western. The Western “private island”, Labadee, is more picturesque than the Eastern’s Coco Cay. The Mayan ruins are a special excursion on the Western. We shop so we like St. Thomas and St Maarten on the Eastern although Grand Cayman is also very nice. Sea days make the difference for us because we enjoy the ship’s amenities, more of which are available on sea days.EMBARKATION
Port Canaveral is an excellent cruise ship port! It is easy to navigate, easy to park, clean and safe. Getting on the ship takes about 15 to 20 minutes fromparking the car to clearing security, checking in, and boarding. Lines are amazingly short for a ship the size of the Freedom of the Seas. Checking in on-line is a must because security checks the “set sail” passes at the first step in the process. Parking is $15 per day in a multi-story parking garage next to the very modern terminal. We usually sail with friends so we split the cost plus it is a huge convenience to have your car immediately available when you disembark.THE SHIP
You have to experience it to understand just how grand and unique it actually is. It is now the second largest cruise ship sailing but “big” is not a good descriptor. The centerpiece for us is the Royal Promenade on deck 5 with its Café Promenade, Shops of several types, barber shop, Sorrento’s pizza, Bull and Bear Pub, Vintages Wine Bar, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and much more. Coffee in the early morning at the café Promenade is a great way to start the day. A Murphy’s Stout at the Pub is also nice in the afternoon. The Royal Promenade was decorated for Christmas on our cruise which was very pretty.
Decks 3 ,4, and 5 hold the leisurely attractions like the dining rooms, ice rink, Royal promenade, casino, photo center, lounges, show room, and much more. Decks 11-13 hold the action venues like the pools, rock climbing, flow rider, spa, basketball, golf and a lot more. The Windjammer Café, specialty restaurants, and Jade are on deck 11.
If you want to be close to the internet café book a cabin on deck 8. The library is on deck 7.STAFF
The Royal Caribbean people in every venue were very friendly, always trying to accommodate and please. It is a special treat to hear about their adventures, families and experiences. They can offer a lot of assistance if you need any.FOOD
The food options rage from the Café promenade with its coffee, pastries and sandwiches through the main dining rooms to Pizza at Sorrentos, the steakhouse, Italian themed specialty restaurant, the buffet, the Brasserie lunches and ice cream specialties. The quality, selection and presentations are very good. The Windjammer and Jade on deck 11 serve buffet style breakfasts, lunches and dinners with a large selection. It pays to look around before you make selections the first time or two. You will miss something you really like if you don’t. Fresh vegetables and fruits, oriental pizza, and English bacon are all there along with a large display of other foods. Seating is seldom a concern. Most guests eat in the buffet on embarkation day at lunch time so it can get crowded.
We enjoyed "Sprinkles" self serve ice cream on the pool deck and scones in the café as special treats during the day.ENTERTAINMENT
The highlight for us is the ice show. We have seen a few of the Royal Caribbean ice shows and they are all great. You do need tickets because the seating is somewhat limited. No cost for the tickets. The theater and lounges have live entertainment and there is something for everyone starting in the evening and going until the late hours. The cruise director and staff schedule activities on the ship all day long, especially on sea days. Then there is the Casino Royale on deck 4, a fun casino with slots and table games.BARS AND LOUNGES
There are twenty of them scattered from deck 3 to deck 11. Most are themed. Several have dancing to live music. The “Olive or Twist” on deck 14 has great music and a terrific view. We like the Schooner Bar on deck 4 where we gather when we have a large group that wants to gather. The Pub is great for people watching on the Royal Promenade.DISEMBARKATION
It is as easy to get off as it is to get on. You can pretty much schedule your time to get off by requesting the proper color bag tags. Starting at 6:00 AM with express departure you carry off your own bags to a later time where colored tags determine your time so the ship stays on schedule. It took us 35 minutes from the time our color was called to depart the ship, clear customs, retrieve our bags and be in our van. Bags are put on carousels, very similar to airports, so you need to be timely when your color is called.SUMMARY
Great ship. Great experience. Great staff. We believe bigger is better and the ships just get better and better. We will return in May for our third Freedom of the Seas experience.
As promised here are our impressions of our very first Royal Caribbean Cruise aboard the Freedom Of The Seas 11-16-2008 to 11-23-2008 Eastern Caribbean.
Embarkation as well as debarkation at the port of Miami were by far the fastest we have ever experienced and frankly, we were left stunned by the speed and efficiency. It was explained that Royal has begun to debark all passengers who have U.S. citizenship papers from the bow (front) of the ship and any foreigners debark from the aft (rear). The ship had approximately 4,000 guests on our voyage. 1500 were U.S. citizens the remaining 2500 were international passengers. This resulted in zero waiting time for us. We literally walked off the ship, gathered our bags as they arrived and walked out to the street showing our ID along the way. Maybe we were lucky -- but it was unbelievably fast!
It should be noted that we had always sailed on Carnival prior to this cruise. We always were quite satisfied on our Carnival cruises. Our friends Rob and Liz asked us to let them know when we returned, if Royal Caribbean was worth the extra $200per passenger. Our first words to them upon returning were "Book your next cruise on Freedom Of The Seas."
What a magnificent ship. Freedom Of The Seas is truly something to behold. Everywhere you look the detail of design is evident and the entire ship provides a feast for the eyes. It is a stunningly beautiful vessel and I can't help but implore anyone who enjoys cruising to experience this ship. We would sit at Boleros in the afternoon, enjoying a lovely mango mojito (Mike's favorite drink onboard) and admire all of the details that went into the décor all around us. There is no comparison between FOS and anything Carnival has when it comes to décor, nothing at all.
(Boleros was also the spot where each night our 18 month old grandson Henry would be dancing it up with all the pretty girls onboard!)
Food This was probably where Royal and Carnival share the closest comparisons. Most dishes onboard were quite good but some were rather poor. The steak served on the last night of the cruise was horrid. It was tough and flavorless which was probably why they served it covered in some type of sauce. On the other hand, many dishes were very delicious like the Chilean sea bass -- wow! That was excellent. For those caught up in the controversy, lobster was indeed served in the main dining room. Almost every dessert was exceptional.
Sorrento's was always a culinary delight and we will miss Michelle and Reyna. They were just wonderful people who always found time to chat with us and make our experience there so very special.
We came away very pleased with the quality of the food overall.
Portofino: The service was exceptional. The food however, was average to below average.
Mikes dish "Saltimbocca" was pretty good and tasty, and well prepared. Suzanne ordered the Spiedino Di Mare.
The presentation was stunning but that's where it ended. In Suz's words, "The lobster was salty and bland, the scallops were a tasteless glob of nothing, the shrimp were average and the salmon was fishy."
Once again, the desserts were astonishing, but the lack of quality regarding the entrées left us unimpressed.
Cabin The cabins were a bit small but once we got used to our quarters, we were comfortable. The bed was the BEST!
The shower was wonderful. Our cabin steward "Hilton" was always friendly and did a magnificent job. We always looked forward to seeing him each morning. He got an additional tip! We had 2 items in our cabin that required maintenance. Our TV would go on by itself 2 minutes after we shut it off. One phone call and minutes later there was a knock at the door and the problem was diagnosed and fixed. The only other problem was a flickering wall lamp. One call and moments later, maintenance was there to fix it. Lovely!
Entertainment The entertainment onboard was spectacular -- far better than anything we have witnessed on Carnival.
The quality of the production shows truly showed the dedication and talent of the staff involved.
And then there is Richard Spacey. This man made every cruise director we've ever had before him utterly forgettable. I certainly hope that Royal Caribbean appreciates what they have in Richard Spacey. He can make a doorknob seem exciting!
The Quest: This was everything and more that we'd been led to believe it would be. We laughed until it hurt. Once again, I have to wonder if it would have been half as good with anyone other than Richard Spacey running the show.
Freedom Ice.com: This was spectacular -- dazzling -- inspirational and, at times so nostalgic that I was choked up and my eyes began to well (the whole 60's segment really brought back some beautiful memories).
Conclusion All in all my good friends, our first Royal Caribbean cruise began a new era for us, and closed an era for Carnival. You've been just great Carnival, but it's time to move on! As I said in another online post, Royal Caribbean provides a degree of elegance that doesn't exist within the Carnival experience. We are now of the age where we can appreciate that difference. Our cruise on Freedom Of The Seas was easily our very best cruise experience to date. We hardily recommend this beautiful ship to everyone.
I cruised the Western Caribbean and was disappointed in a lot of ways. The food was mediocre as compared to other cruises I've taken on other lines.
I left my phone on the ship and it was found shortly after I disembarked. We verified they had the phone by calling it and they assured me it would be sent to the Miami office and then to my home. Three weeks later no one seems to know where the phone might be - although it was last in the possession of one of the ship's employees.
Immediately upon leaving the ship I and other travel companions became sick with what I can only believe was the "flu" that seems to spread on ships. This was reported but no one seemed to care.
I should add the nightly entertainment was fantastic but there were too many kids.
We just recently returned from a Western Caribbean cruise on the Freedom of the Sea. This was the fifth cruise we have taken on a Royal Caribbean voyager ship. These ships are huge with over 4,200 passengers & 1,500 crew members. My wife & I love the Promenade Mall located on deck five, that runs through the center of the ship. We love to sit, enjoy a coffee or tea and people watch everyone passing by all day & night.
We have pro’s & con’s on cruising this Royal Caribbean ship.
On the brighter side, we thought our dining experience on [deck four] was outstanding. Our waiter along with the assistant waiter gave us the best service we ever had on any of our 10 total cruises. They were very friendly & informing us of dining venues for the next day also. I mean as far as drink refills, before our drinks were half completed, we had another one in front of us. In addition, the menu choices were good along with the fine deserts.
I must admit, this time around, we had issues also. First of all, since the first day wegot on board we had trouble with the TV in our stateroom. It took two days to get a new remote and that didn’t solve the issue, but at least were able to change TV channels. We had messages on our TV which we could not view. We complained to our stateroom attendant almost every day, but no fix. I called maintenance almost every day to rectify issues with viewing the interactive TV. I felt like we were getting the run around. To be honest, we never did get to view any our messages and I got tired of asking how to retrieve them.
We were shocked also on this cruise those two nights our towels were left on the bathroom floor when we got back in our cabin after dinner or replaced with new ones. One night I called housekeeping at 10:30 PM and they told me to look under the bed for clean towels. I almost thought he was joking, but he was serious.
Another issue was with our cruise reservation. Clearly stated on our reservation with AAA North Penn travel center was we were to receive a bottle of champagne upon arrival. After a couple days passed, I went to the guest relations desk and they told me that our room number was not listed for that promotion and all it showed was $50 on board credit. How could this be??
As far as the guest relations desk, I stood in line for 30 minutes to get one of my questions answered. There were five people at the desk when I first arrived, but then after waiting, it dwindled down to just one person. I have no idea where everyone went. Many people in line were getting very impatient. Management really needs to look over the amount of people left to help and oversee how many people go on break at the same time. I wasted 30 minutes of my time standing in line that I could have been enjoying on the ship.
Dining in the Windjammer [buffet] on this ship was horrible. The food selections were far below par from everyone one of our past Royal Caribbean Cruises. The chicken selections for lunch & dinner [mostly dark meat] were terrible. We did enjoy the carved turkey station, which we saw only one day. The carved beef was dry & very tough, not a good cut of meat. My wife & I tried to avoid this buffet area whenever we could. The dining room for lunch is only open for lunch when at sea. We feel management needs to reconsider and allow the lunch dining room stay opened every day, even if it’s just the great salad choices that are offered by chefs upon entering dining room.
As far as the entertainment, we were very disappointed. There were only two production shows with the Royal Caribbean singers & dancers which were outstanding. Then three nights they had two comedians & an illusionist. But, one night they had a rock bank in which did not fit in with the age group of the ship, [if I were to guess 50 years of age]. I mean as the Rock band started to perform, rows of people were leaving during the performance every couple minutes. It was quite obvious that show did not fit in with the age group on board. We were very disappointed in Royal Caribbean for scheduling them to perform on this ship; it was a wasted night of entertainment. We never saw that many people leaving any show ever. I’m sure the band felt insulted by the number of people walking out during their performance.
My wife & I always thought Royal Caribbean Cruise lines were a step above other cruise lines till this cruise.
My wife, Ginny , and I enjoyed our fifth cruise on the Freedom of the Seas. The ship is very well maintained so it looks pretty much like it did during its introductory year. That’s an excellent testament to the cruise line management and staff! A new menu, being introduced on the Freedom, deserves a special note for this cruise! It was very good.
Embarkation: We live about 40 minutes from Port Canaveral so getting to the port is easy. Parking at the port is very convenient but a little pricey at $120 for the week. The multistory parking garage is across the street from terminal 10 which means a 5 minutes or less walk to the terminal. There are three entrances, one for platinum level and above members and two for all other passengers. Entries are covered which is nice. We arrived about 11:15 am and were on the ship and in the Windjammer café in 20 minutes. There was some construction outside the terminal which caused some confusion.
We were in our cabin at 1:00 pm, and our bags arrived later before the safety drill.
Dining: We use "My Time" diningwhen we travel by ourselves. The dining room opens at 5:30 pm which works for us early birds. The menu was a special attraction on this cruise because it was new. Apparently it is being debuted on the Freedom. The choices were different from those we experienced previously and those we tried were excellent. The previous menu items were also excellent, by the way.
The main courses we tried included seafood spaghetti, horseradish crushed filet of salmon, pan fried filet of barramundi, filet of beef tenderloin, shrimp gyoza, pan seared filet of sole, tiger shrimp, grilled t-bone steak, lobster (larger than previous) & shrimp, Thai chicken breast, cod filet, chicken cordon bleu, and roasted turkey. There were a dozen or so selections for every main course that included meat, fish and pasta.
Desserts seemed to be especially nice and included frozen strawberry soufflé, cherries jubilee, pies, cakes and ice cream. Soups included the chilled fruit soups which are among our favorites. Watermelon pudding was new and tasty!
The Windjammer food for breakfast was excellent as always. They present a large selection of eggs, bread, meat, fruit and pastries. Lunch had a selection just as good. We always enjoy the Brasserie 30 lunch on cruising/sea days which is served in the dining room. Selecting your own ingredients for a large salad is a treat.
Ports: We did the Eastern Caribbean which includes Coco Cay, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. St Thomas and St. Maarten both have shopping at the pier as well as downtown. We sail to the Caribbean principally for the ship experience, having been to the ports before and tried several of the excursions.
Staff and Crew: Excellent! Everyone was very accommodative, pleasant and seemed to be enjoying themselves even though many of them, including the room stewards, waiters and waitresses work very long hours every day seven days of the week.
Disembarkation: Getting off the Freedom was as easy as getting on. We signed up to get off at 7:30 am, received our green 3 bag tags, and put our bags in the hallway Saturday evening. We went to our waiting room (the dining room) and our number three was called about 7:30 am. We were in our car at 7:50 am and home before 8:30 am. That is pretty normal for disembarkation from a Royal Caribbean ship.
I just sailed on my eighth cruise. I've been on Royal Caribbean, Disney, Carnival, and Norwegian. My best experience was on RC and now my worst experience was on RC Freedom of the Seas. I expected excellent service from this company especially since it was from a freedom class ship. I was very disappointed when I went to the dining room and received the mediocre service. The service was slow and had a lack of a personal touch. I felt like another mouth being fed and not a valuable customer. I heard from others on the ship that felt the same. I hope this was just a bad experience and not the new norm for Royal Caribbean.
We are a family of 4. DH and I are in our early forties and we have a daughter who is 5 and a son who is 4.
I'll try to position this as a critical review of the Royal FOTS with (where applicable) comparisons to recent sailings on Carnival Dream and HAL Eurodam.
Obviously this is based on my personal experience ... your mileage may vary and probably will.
Activities There were an abundance of activities on board ~ almost too many. Granted you don't have to do everything, but we found ourselves rushing from activity to activity and had to miss some due to scheduling conflicts between dinner and night shows. I would not say that it was a relaxing holiday but it was an enjoyable one.
I was happy to see that Royal had some family activities (family disco, family karaoke, family wii etc.). I would have been nice if those activities were also printed in the Adventure ocean compass too.
If I had to make any recommendations to Royal it would be to give more thought to scheduling of events and how those conflict with dinner times and kid's clubtimes.
They can't please everyone though, and I recognize this.
Adventure Ocean My kids were in the 3 to 5 AO club. This was the BIGGEST disappointment of the whole trip.
Perhaps my kids are just mature, but I found the kid's club to be very juvenile. I was really disappointed with the counsellors who appeared to be more babysitters than anything else. They mostly had very heavy accents which my kids found difficult to understand. Not one of them appeared to be enthusiastic, happy, or to love their jobs. On more than one occasion, I appeared to pick up/drop off my kids only to find a counsellor yelling at a child (fortunately not my child!). Despite the events that were posted in the compass, almost every time I arrived, the counsellors were reading a book and children were being lectured to sit quietly and listen. Now, I will admit that my kids came home with small crafts/coloured items, so they were definitely doing other things, but reading a book seemed to be the most frequent activity.
My kids did not LOVE the kid's club and I do not blame them one bit. In comparison to other kid's clubs (Club HAL and Camp Carnival), I found the general decor of the kids clubs to be depressing and not happy or stimulating. My kids went reluctantly only on the assurance that we were not going to leave them for a long time. I felt guilty every time I dropped my kids off. I will note that the counsellors (Chop Suey for example) in the next age group were much better.
In comparison, earlier this year we sailed HAL, and based on our experience, Club HAL was way better, which is surprising for a cruiseline that does not target young families. The counsellors were happy and energetic and very obviously loved their jobs. By day 2, they were greeting children and parents by first name. Yes, it is a smaller ship with fewer young families, but I would guess that they had about 40 kids participating in kid's club.
Most of the parents I spoke to in the waiting area seemed to share my sentiments about Adventure Ocean.
I'll also comment on the "Fisher Price" loot bag the kids received at the end of the cruise. OMG, my kids (4 and 6) outgrew Fisher Price a long time ago. Granted it was better than nothing, but I found the loot bag way too juvenile. When the kids left Club HAL, they received yellow nylon backbag bags, filled with all their crafts, chocolates, pencils, and lots of HAL giveaways. HAL was waaaayyyyy more generous with the give aways at every event and not just the final lootbag.
Service Service was surprisingly good. We had the best Head Waiter we've ever had on a ship. We usually gripe about tipping the Head Waiter, but we actually tipped this guy a little extra. He came to speak with us every night to make sure we were happy and was really good at facilitating our character breakfasts and other requests. Our server (Colleen) was excellent. DH thought she was the best server we'd ever had (my vote goes to Yunis on Eurodam). However, with open seating for breakfast and dinner, the service was less than stellar. The breakfast and lunch waitstaff generally seemed grumpy. On one occasion, we had a breakfast waiter who was always grumpy when dealing with us (and no – we are not grumpy people) .... yet he had one of his dinner families seated right next to us ... and as he turned to deal with them, he would always put on his happy face/voice. IT was clear to us, that his gratuity was not based on how he dealt with us ... and so he certainly was not giving his best efforts for us. We give the overall edge for service to HAL. We had great service on HAL, everywhere by everyone.
Nut Allergies Like most ships, Royal does a horrible job with allergies, specifically peanut allergies. For example, last year when we sailed on Grandeur,, I had an allergic reaction to the Apple Parcels which are offered on a sea day lunch menu. I alerted the wait staff on Grandeur and followed up with a complaint to Royal to advise them that the description on the menu should indicate the presence of nuts in the dessert. No action was taken and the Apple parcels still appear on the menu with no flag as to the item containing almonds. DH ordered one for our son for dessert, and fortunately, I stopped him. My son has tree nut and peanut allergies.
The entire chocolate breakfast (served at both character breakfasts) was OFF LIMITS for him. When the waiter dropped the plate of baked goods on the table, he said, "not for anyone with nut allergies" and then I called him back to elaborate. He then sent the Head Wait who explained that Royal Chocolate product has "may contain nuts" on the label, so they consider EVERY chocolate item to contain nuts. If that is the case, this should be stated on the menu. Also, on the first night after we advised both our waiter and the Head waiter of my son's nut allergies, neither advised us of this "all chocolates contain nuts" warning. I know it is just Royal protecting their own butt. It would have been nice if I knew the entire chocolate menu contained or could contain nuts, and then I would not have read those items to him. Unfortunately, it was only after I got my son all excited about the chocolate banana bread, that I had to tell him that he could not have it. My little guy is a TROUPER though and does an amazing job of being told that he can't eat something because of his peanut allergies. Now, we generally, don't follow the "may contain" as my son has a consumption allergy so we generally just specifically avoid anything that expressly contains nuts. Nevertheless, we erred on the side of caution. I offer this as a "heads up" for any families sailing with Nut Allergic children. Next time, I'm bringing chocolate chips from home so my son can enjoy chocolate chip pancakes. But I would think it would not be toooo much effort for Royal to source and reserve some nut-free chocolate for those patrons that specifically request it.
Characters The kids loved the parades and the characters. I wish there were more though. From Shrek, we had Shrek, Fiona and Puss N Boots. From Madagascar, we had Alex, Gloria, and King Julian. My kids LOVE the penguins, and sadly they were not there (except in the video shown at the sail away party OR the inflatable ones in the dreamworks parade). (Despite seeing them on the FOTS videos on you tube). After booking the Kung Fu Panda package (more on this later).... we were surprised to see only 1 character – Po. That was a bit of a letdown. I know some of the characters were small (but I can't help but think Disney would have found a way to do it). I would think that they could have at least had Tigress. We were also looking forward to seeing Hiccup and Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon, but they had just left for Oasis. I told my daughter that Hiccup and Astrid got married and they went on another cruise on their honeymoon, and she was happy with this explanation ;-)
I can't understand why they don't have all costumes on all ships. The only other thing was that we saw a photo op with Shrek and stood in line to meet him. Just as we got to the front of the line, they subbed out Shrek with Puss n Boots. My kids were really disappointed especially my son who was scared of Puss n Boots.
Kung Fu Panda Package (Pandamonium) I think we were on the last sailing of the Pandamonium Package ... but I will offer this for anyone who buys a similar package in the future. Our package was to contain 2 soda packages, 2 cupcakes, 1 photo, and 1 exclusive meet and greet, and 1 pets at sea stuffed animal. Having asked here about people who'd booked the Pandamonium Package, I had read about others who had trouble getting Royal to follow-through on the package; some waiting as long as mid-cruise before it was sorted out. So, I was determined to act quickly, and started asking about my coupons as soon as we boarded. Of course, we had problems too.
The "botch-up" might be rooted in the fact that we booked the Pandamonium Package on our initial cabin and then subsequently upgraded to a new cabin a few weeks prior to sailing. Our TA assured me (pre- and post trip) that she had verified with Royal that we would not lose the panda package with our upgrade. As luck would have it, the panda package did not make it to our reservation. On the first day, I had to really chase down our coupons, which we finally did receive just before midnight on the first day. Sonja at Guest Relations was excellent and took a personal interest in our plight.
We also missed the exclusive meet and greet with Po. It was supposed to happen on Day 5 at 5PM and while I knew this on Day 1, we forgot by Day 5. Invitations like those that are issued for the Meet & Greet would have been a nice and well-appreciated reminder.
Despite getting and using our coupons, we still got billed for everything that should have been included for free with our package. On the debarkation day, DH had to stand in line to get credited for all those charges. When Royal does credits, they have to contact the "head' of that department to do the credit. When we left the ship, we had still not been credited for the pet at sea (stuffed animal), as that needed to be done by the kid's club manager, and she was still asleep.
Dining Room (BLD) We generally prefer to have all our meals in the MDR. Breakfast service was horribly slow. They now have a "breakfast buffet" self-service in the MDR. I think Royal wants to push people towards self-selection for breakfast. By the end of the cruise, we were eating breakfast in the Windjammer. The service was comparable and the food was a lot faster.
We were really disappointed by the food quality. Having just come off HAL, I think HAL food was better. The options on the kid's menu were great, and my kids were always pleased. Presentation for our meals was lacking (okay, food does not have to look good to taste good). But I found the food to be mediocre at best. The food wasn't bad per se; but we were certainly not wowed. Perhaps our tastes are becoming more discriminating as we age and we are just harder to please, not sure. I know DH generally orders 2 to 3 desserts if there is something he really likes, he will ask for more. There was not a single dessert that wowed him on this cruise.
I finally tried the vidallia onion tart that everyone raves about. It was not to my liking, but I'm not a fan of anything quiche-y or too egg-y. I was very disappointed that I did not get to finally try the lab shank. I'd been salivating over this ever since a table-mate ordered it on Grandeur last fall. Unfortunately, the lab shanks did not make it to the dock in time and we sailed without them (seriously.). So, the menu item was subbed with beef tenderloin, which although not terribly flavourfull was cooked perfectly. I found the ship did a very good job of cooking steaks to order. I could not get medium-rare on Carnival as it was supposedly against their policy (or it was against my waiters' policy). I found if anything, Royal errs on the side of rare, but I will definitely take an under-cooked steak over an over-cooked one.
Wind-Jammer: The food was "okay". We're not huge pork eaters, and I found some days, there were mostly pork options. I thought this was poor-planning on Royal's part. I would assume that a fair number of passengers do not eat pork for religious reasons, and I found the pork-heavy menus somewhat exclusionary.
At breakfast, I found the "number" system for the omelettes, somewhat chaotic. I thought Carnival did a much better job with the buffet options on Carnival Dream especially their omelette station. They also had the noodle and pasta stations for lunch which were excellent options when one could not dine at the MDR.
Cupcake Cupboard I was very disappointed with the cupcakes. I expected stellar cupcakes. Having taken the Michael's cake decorating classes, I could churn out cupcakes of comparable decorating quality. But the cake/icing quality was really poor. They were extremely sweet and the cupcakes were lacking in any flavour. My kids each took a bite of theirs and didn't want any more (and they love cupcakes!). Good thing they were free! I'm just an average home baker, but I'd bet I could outsell the Cupcake Cupboard in a bake sale.
Lakeland Airport/Niagara International We generally fly Southwest out of BUF to MCO or FLL (depending on the cruise). This flight we flew Direct Air out of Niagara Falls, NY to Lakeland, Florida. The flight was a lot cheaper so I cannot complain about that. However, we were nickel and dimed ... had to pay for every checked bag (hence numerous people trying to stuff their too large carryons into the overhead bins). Also, no free soft drinks or snacks. But in the end, it was still cheaper. This was our first time flying out of a regional airport. I have to say that the lack of hustle/bustle was nice. Unfortunately, TSA had too much time on their hands and checked (should I say ransacked?) every bag. We had 4/4 bags checked on the way in and 4/4 bags checked on the way out. In all my flights out of BUF/MCO/FLL, I've only ever had 1 bagged randomly checked. TSA left many of my outer pockets open/unzipped and things were falling out as our bags were retrieved from the carousel. They also went through our stuff, and took things (like liquids) out of the poly bags, without re-zipping the bags. They even opened a bottle of pain meds without properly re-sealing the bottle, and the pills went everywhere. I was NOT happy about this. For this reason alone, I'd be more inclined to fly out of a major airport next time.
Despite the above, we did have an amazing holiday. As we continue to evaluate all the cruiselines trying to pick which one is right for us ....we're trying to be critical in our assessment .... I've mainly posted my criticisms here to benefit others who use the same criteria to judge a cruise.
I'm not 100% sure that we would sale Freedom again .... but if we did, these experiences will qualify our expectations. Given that I found a $25 casino chip in my dryer .... I'm pretty sure I'll be sailing Royal again in order to redeem it! Besides, we made Platinum this cruise, so that is a good thing!
Like I said above, this reflects our experience, and the experiences of others may vary. I'd be happy to answer any questions. You can find me here mostly on the Chit Chat board at Cruisemates or PM me through this site.