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 $200 per 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.