This was a six-day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to the Western Caribbean ports of Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. (See our pictorial from the cruise).
It is a pleasure to return to a ship that has provided a superior cruise experience in the past and find that it is still operating in top form. (See our prior review). Freedom of the Seas provides the classic version of the Royal Caribbean experience and does it very well.
The first time that I was on Freedom of the Seas was when she came to New York just before entering regular service. Freedom was then the biggest passenger ship in the world, just nudging out Queen Mary 2. People marveled that such a big ship could maneuver into the piers in Manhattan.
Freedom is still within the top 20 largest cruise ships. However, with the likes of Harmony of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, the public no longer perceives Freedom as a big ship. In fact, I heard several passengers say that they booked a cruise on Freedom because they preferred a small ship. Thus, at this stage in the evolution of the cruise industry, Freedom of the Seas can be said to combine the advantages of a large ship with the perception of a more intimate ship.
One of the advantages of a large ship is that they are generally more stable than a smaller ship. Freedom demonstrated this during this cruise sailing through a Caribbean storm with no perceptible pitching or rolling. This bad weather occurred at the end of the cruise and when we returned to Fort Lauderdale, I shifted to a smaller ship and once again ventured out into the same storm that afternoon. The impact of the weather was much more apparent on the smaller ship than it had been on Freedom.
As a large ship, Freedom has the space to offer passengers numerous activities. These include production shows both in the theater and on the ice rink, visiting comedians, dance parties, parades in the Royal Promenade with various cartoon characters and various sports activities. However, passengers are not required to participate in any of these activities. The ship is large enough that you can find a deck chair in a relatively unpopulated area, read a book, paint a picture or just watch the sea pass by.
In general, the programming on Freedom is geared toward an active holiday. With the exception of the Quantum class ships, Royal Caribbean is not big on cultural enrichment programming. Thus, there were no lectures by outside presenters or classes by outside experts. However, Freedom provides the traditional Royal Caribbean style of shows and activities very professionally thus making them enjoyable to a wide audience.
Freedom also has the space to provide a range of dining options. On this cruise, I dined in the main dining room at a large table during the late seating. The food was good and the service could not have been better.
Breakfast and lunch (sea days) are open seating in the main dining room. Freedom still maintains the tradition of having a dedicated section for guests who are Diamond level and above for these meals. Some of the other Royal Caribbean ships have dispensed with this practice in favor of a buffet set-up in the Diamond and/or Concierge Lounge. However, as the experience on Freedom demonstrates, such buffets are no substitute. On Freedom, you have waiter service and the waiters come to know you and anticipate your needs and desires. Plus, you have the option of sharing a table with other people who have a common interest in Royal Caribbean cruising.
Freedom has several alternative specialty restaurants. Of these, Chops Grille is probably the most popular and it is indeed a good steak house. However, the venue that continues to impress me the most is Sabor. Even on a cruise that included two ports in Mexico, the best Mexican food was at Sabor. The freshly-made guacamole is unsurpassed and can be adjusted to the level of spiciness that you prefer. Service was excellent on both of my visits to this venue.
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Cruise ship review - - Royal Caribbean International - - Freedom of the Seas - - Caribbean