Normally when booking my holibobs, a cruise ship holiday is never really on the agenda. That was until my best friend of 14 years invited me on to the ship she’s been performing on; Royal Caribbean’s Freedom Of The Seas. How could I say no? I packed my suitcase, hopped on a plane to Orlando and thus began my first cruising experience.
Obviously I knew the ship would be huge, but it’s not until you’re standing below it that you realise how huge. With almost 2000 staterooms, Freedom of The Seas is one of Royal’s biggest ships. They even have a main street with shops and bars in the middle of the ship; some times on board I’d catch myself and think ‘How is this thing staying afloat?!’ but I had to stop else I’d freak myself out.
I was on the Western Caribbean route; Cape Canaveral (Orlando) – Labadee (Haiti) – Falmouth (Jamaica) – Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands) – Cozumel (Mexico) then back to Orlando. And each stop was as beautiful as the last (though I think my favourite port was Mexico!)
My experience was pretty awesome. I had a large stateroom on the 3rd level; it had a huge porthole which I would sit in at night in a movie like fashion and watch the waves crash on the side of the ship. It was very soothing and hypnotic (though I wouldn’t recommend it if the thought of open water terrifies you!).
Things To Do
On my trip we had only had 2 full sea days, which I thought would be days I’d be totally bored during. Oh how wrong I was! There was so much to do on the ship that I probably did less than a quarter of the activities. There was rock climbing, mini golf, surf simulator, basketball, ice skating, a spa, gym and pool… and that’s just the start! The promenade is filled with various shops, bars and cafes and throughout the day and evening there’s always stuff going on such as a games night, art auction or stand up comedy. The ship even has a casino?! And a cinema on the pool deck in the evening! I did find it was quite a family orientated itinerary, with special kids pools and events and the cast of DreamWorks on board for meet and greets.
Food & Drink
Royal is an American company and I still can’t get my head around American portion sizing. Like, triple the size of what we Brits are used to. There is also constant access to free food, I think I put on a full stone in just a week from all the eating! Most dining experiences are free and you have a large range of options depending what you fancied. If you wanted a chilled, easy evening then The Windjammer on the top deck was the best bet. It consisted of the largest buffet I’ve ever seen, offering all sorts from sushi, to pizza, to fish and chips to… well anything you can think of really! If you wanted to dress up and enjoy a three course meal, served to you by friendly waiters then you’d head to The Dining Room (I say three course but really it ended up being five course as the menu was so good we had to try everything!).
They also have 3 specialty restaurants which are extra at a fixed price. Sabor (Mexican),
Giovannis (Italian) and Chops Grille (Steak etc) which were all simply divine. Sabor was my favourite, especially the guacamole and salsa dips they make for you according to your liking right in front of you. There wasn’t one evening that I didn’t waddle to bed with an extremely full and satisfied tummy!
There’s also a Starbucks concession (which was great for me and my Soy Cappuccino addiction) and a Ben & Jerry’s!
Also, I definitely recommend a night in with Room Service; you are on holiday after all!
In terms of drinks it is possible to buy a drinks package, which if you’re planning on drinking a lot (be it just soft drinks or alcohol) I would recommend getting. I didn’t and my bill increased quite substantially simply from cocktail and wine purchasing! I’d suggest going to Vintages and cracking open a beautiful bottle of wine (or 2…or 3…).
I was totally blown away by the entertainment (and I’m not just saying this in a bias way because my friend was performing in the shows! Although, I was so proud that I shed a tear after each performance). Over the course of the week there were 3 evenings of shows, each night consisted of 2 performances of the show, each 45 minutes long. The singers were incredible and the standing of dancing matched that of anything you would see on a West End stage! Marquee was my favourite, a compilation of broadway songs, but it was closely followed by Once Upon A Time, which was the telling of fairytales to modern songs – enjoyable for adults as well as children!
Freedom Of The Seas is also the only ship that has an Ice Rink on board. I’ve never seen an Ice Show before and I think I was more excited than all of the kids put together – it was incredible. With many of their skaters coming from Olympic Ice Skating teams, the standard was unbeatable – and can you imagine, it’s hard enough to perform on ice, let alone on a moving ship?? Admittedly, I was struck with a jolt of fear every time a trick was executed (yes, they were back flipping in SKATES!).
Excursions and Recommendations
As I’m sure you can imagine, each excursion is pretty expensive, so picking one or two is probably the best bet. The ship has so many activities on board that some people don’t even get off at the ports, but since I was there, I figured I’d better make the most of my visits!
- Turtle Farm In Grand Cayman
These creatures are absolutely stunning. At the farm, you are taught all about the turtles (giant and small!). There are interaction opportunities as well as chances to snorkel and observe in the sea-water lagoon. The farm is home to over 11,000 Green Sea Turtles ranging from 6 ounces to a whopping 600 pound each!
- Swimming With Dolphins in Cozumel!
I got to fulfil my childhood dream in Mexico and interact with these smart animals. It was such a surreal experience and I loved every second! I also got to feed lettuce to the manatees! Furthermore, the park where the dolphin interactions was held was great! The white sandy beaches had hammocks hanging from palm trees and floating mats in the sea to sunbathe on, it was really idyllic. They also offered tequila tastings, I’ve always hated tequila until this trip, where I discovered chocolate flavoured tequila – my new fave thing!
I had such an amazing week and coming home was extremely difficult (f.y.i – book an early flight as they off load you from the ship and off to the airport very early in the morning, I made this mistake thinking I could hang with my friend at the port but no suck luck and I ended up with 8 hours to kill at the airport!). One thing I will say is that it doesn’t come under the budget holiday bracket. I was fortunate enough to receive discount but I would definitely need to save for another trip. If you’re gonna do it, go all inclusive and be prepared to spend extra!
This is just my experience of the cruise and I understand nowhere near as detailed as you may need it to be, so for more comprehensive information head to Cruise Critic where every question you could possibly have will be answered!
Click here to get an idea of what’s to come with my future travels and what made me do it!