by Neil Shea
April 12, 2008
It was our first cruise with Carnival Lines (Carnival Freedom) and I must admit, we were a little apprehensive due to reputation as a party ship for younger crowd, however the price was attractive (7 day with balcony, hotel night prior to embarkation, air both ways, all tax and port charges -- $3200.00 for both of us) so we decided to take the plunge. We are a middle age couple and we travelled with another couple in our age group and none of us were first time cruisers.
I give Carnival A+ for organization as everything went quite smoothly from our departure from Canada to the overnight at a very nice Hilton in Miami to embarkation and disembarkation. Transfers were quite smooth without a hitch and Carnival reps were always around to help. They seemed to be everywhere.
I won't go into the layout of the ship as the décor on most of these ships is much the same and this isn't something that concerns us in any regard. As long as it is as advertized/clean (and it was), we are happy.
The entertainment was good, although we are not into it that much. Of particular note were the two stage productions in the Victoria room -- Tribute to the Beatles and Swing Nite, both superb. The Piano Bar was a haunt of ours, really good singer. There is a good size casino but we were not into that and there were other bars, but we didn't frequent them so can't comment. There was a place for online access in the corner of the Havana room, but I thought it was quite a bit much for access (if you want to communicate, email, etc.) 0.75 cents per minute and it was slow, slow connection speed.
On the subject of food -- well, there was plenty of it, and everything was there -- believe me, judging by the size of some people as I never saw so many overweight/obese people in my life. We ate our evening dinner at the "Chic," although I wouldn't class it as bad, it was certainly inconsistent to say the least, a couple of superb meals followed by not so good (overcooked/cold/soggy and the like). Our two waiters (male & female) looked after us well though and were quite courteous/friendly -- actually we found out later in the cruise they were an "item" and it was nice to see how they worked.
Interesting thing was the mixture of people. Everything from infants, young families, twenty something year old rep up single males watching the young swimsuit clad members of the opposite gender. We didn't witness any inappropriate behavior/language/drunkenness from the 20 whatever year olds. Also the children were well behaved (we heard there were 800 onboard) and were not in your face type of thing and running around.
All in all for us, it was a pleasant experience. Carnival seemed to have something for everybody. There was a Captain's meet and greet formal cocktail get together (free cocktails and wine) followed by dinner -- which was a good meal I might add.
Our route was Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios for the ports of call. Grand Cayman was the best. The others we didn't care for that much, plenty of local hustling for your bucks -- and that turned us off.
Finally, watch where you eat. In Cozumel we ate at a spot on the waterfront -- got the bathroom "runs" (three of us) and took us out of circulation for a day. So be careful there. Frankly we should have known better.
There was certainly "value added" on our Carnival Cruise aboard the Carnival Freedom and we would do it again.