This past week, I was presented the opportunity by Carnival Cruise Lines to come aboard for a sailing to see what is new and improved so I can share about Carnival with my clients. My clients have always expressed their appreciation for my honesty, so I’m going to present my opinion here on my experience sailing the Carnival Freedom. In this post I’m going to talk about the cruise and then in a post to follow, the ports of call.
In October of 2010, I sailed with a group of friends on Carnival on a similar itinerary. When I arrived on board the Freedom last week, I learned that it was the exact same layout of the ship we sailed prior. The rooms were outdated and the decor conflicting with the Freedom / Americana theme, but I learned by a video on their TV station that this ship was being renovated in May, which is much needed. I also learned that the newly renovated ships have wonderful aspects (full water parks, for example!) and this week Carnival just launched a partnership with Dr. Seuss! I wished I was sailing a newer ship, but since I wasn’t, I am reviewing based on my experience on this ship and my past Carnival cruises.
I stand firm on my assessment of Carnival in that it is the Fun Ship cruise. This cruise line is a great option for groups who have a wide range of price points and want to vacation together. It is also great for people who are looking to party and have fun during their days on board. The newer ships have many more amenities for families and children. The outdoor water park with water slides that have races and finish lines, for example, looked outstanding!!
We learned over and over again though that the cruise line does not spend much time on attention to detail. We were most disappointed by the wait staff in the dining room. They seemed always angry and distracted as if serving us was a chore and not one they wanted to be doing. This is very contrary to other cruises we’ve sailed, and a big disappointment because the dinners are usually the most fun! Also, the WiFi was not compatible to our Samsung phones which put a dent in our plans to video chat with family from the ship.
Their staff spends most time up-selling photography, drinks and excursions. It was EXCESSIVELY PUSHY and something to be prepared for. The BEST up-sell though was their steak house. It was so affordable (only $35/per person) and one of the BEST steak dinner’s we’ve had (and those of you who know me, I enjoy a great meal!) I wanted to take foodie photos but the restaurant was so elegant that I felt rude doing so. This meal was five courses and I could barely get through them all. They were delicious and the price was an absolute steal. I wish we made reservations for the steak house for two nights, but it was a great way to end our trip!
Here are my favorite aspects of the Carnival Freedom:
- The entertainment is much better then our prior Carnival sailings! The Comedy Club continues to be the best entertainment on the ship. Their dance/singing shows were plenty and they even took the performance into the lobby, interacting and dancing with the guests. The ship even made it snow on the evening of our last day at sea. It was a nice touch! We also loved the outdoor theater at the pool deck. When our excursion got rained out on the morning we were in Grand Cayman, we enjoyed shopping at the original Guy Harvey (one of our favorites!) and then headed back to the ship in time for the clouds/rain to clear. We enjoyed an awesome day watching movies and concerts in the sun.
- There are a lot of places to enjoy the sun on the pool deck without having to be near the DJ or the outdoor theater. The Serenity Deck was beautiful and adults-only. They have updated, padded furniture, clam shells, and two whirlpools located at the highest point of the ship providing a spectacular view! The FWD part of the ship also featured a quieter pool area featured here:
- The food on the ship was great. We opted at first for the 6 PM dining but, even though we requested a table for two, the request wasn’t honored so we got bumped to the 8:15 PM seating where we obtained a table for two. This was late for us to eat, but we still enjoyed the meal. It also taught me that those clients who want a table for two have a better chance of getting it on the later dining seating. The staff did put on some fun shows that are a great addition (and always a surprise for me!) to the meal:
- The buffet was very good as well. People always say to me “I don’t cruise b/c I don’t eat that much!” Just because the “bad” food is available doesn’t mean you have to eat it!! Not only did I enjoy an egg white omelette in the morning and veggie burger in the afternoon, but I ran (I mean please, who doesn’t want an ocean breeze on their 5K!?) on the top deck of the ship which is a running track. I even participated in some health and wellness seminars they had on board. It’s about self control and I find that it to be even easier to eat healthy on vacation because all of the fruits, veggies and whole grains I could want were available to me. My hubby, who is not as nutty about what he eats, LOVED beyond LOVED the addition of an Indian cuisine option at the buffet. He enjoyed it every day!
- This was the first cruise that I had a balcony room. It was spectacular! The dolphins were literally jumping in every port next to our balcony!! If the seas weren’t so rough on the last few days, we would have spent much more time enjoying cocktails and coffee out there. I especially loved that the balcony door and cabin window spanned the wall next to our bed, so when we pulled back the curtains in the morning it was the most spectacular view of the ocean. An Ocean View room is a MUST! If you don’t pay the minimal cost to upgrade, I say your missing out!
- The Havanna Bar is the best kept secret on these ships. They used to be a cigar bar but because of their location outside of the dining rooms, smoking is no longer permitted. They are an awesome, quiet retreat though to have a drink and enjoy some jazz or latin music in the evenings.
- One of my favorite things about Carnival is all of the partnerships I learned they have, #1 being St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Upon boarding, we were provided the opportunity to donate and on the ship we participated in an afternoon party where for a donation of $10 you get to Groove For St. Jude. It was truly wonderful! They also have the new partnership I mentioned with Dr. Seuss coming on board as well as Guy Fiere who is featured on their newer ships.