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  1. Playmakers and Giovannis were the specialty restaurants open for lunch on embarkation day. Playmakers was the only one open for lunch on day 2 and 3. As far as disembarkation, I believe express walk off started at 07:30.
  2. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! I am a planner too, thats why I always try to include things like compasses in my reviews. I scour the boards looking for info prior to a sailing. Forgive me for asking but what exactly do you need? The compass for Day 3 was posted at the beginning of Day 3. Our sailing itinerary was Day 1 Miami, Day 2 Coco Cay, Day 3 Nassau, Day 4 Disembark.
  3. Actually I was surprised it didn't entail opening our luggage at all. Everything was x-rayed. I assume if there was something in question that they would've opened up our bags.
  4. Final thoughts: I had really missed cruising. It was literally the one vacation that we wanted to return to and couldn't wait to get back on a ship. We've been following all the protocol changes, new protocols, CDC rules etc...in real time. I was a bit nervous about protocols lessening the experience and cruising not being the same as it was but I am pleased to say that the worrying was for nothing. Royal Caribbean has done an amazing job developing protocols that work, were not overbearing and did not take away from the experience at all. Cruising felt almost exactly the same with the exception of a few entertainment offerings being missing and the energy of the ship being a little flat. Everyone cruising seemed to be having a great time, we certainly did and you could tell how happy the crew was to be back sailing as well. If the protocols have to stay in place for awhile but the experience doesn't change, I would have no problem sailing again. We have 2 future cruises booked and we hope we get to sail both of them! If you're thinking of going, you should!
  5. That was not the case in any of the restaurants or bars we were in. More similar to on land when there were mask mandates. Wear masks to tables and then remove for your meal.
  6. Day 4: Disembarkation Day ☹️ I will say we played this one better than previous sailings. We typically try and milk every ounce of fun out of a cruise, especially a short one and sometimes that results in a late night, even on the last night. This cruise we made it till about 11:00 on our last night which made the morning much easier. We woke up and got ready to depart. I had asked Nichole if she thought she could make it back to MIL without having breakfast and she reminded me of the hour ride so we headed to the windjammer for breakfast. Another good experience, same operation as the day before. One thing I noted, unlike other sailings, the plaza bar was operating as a full bar! People were still able to order drinks other than coffee, even on disembarkation day. I am guessing that is a new thing. We finished up breakfast, headed to the room to grab our bags (we always carry off ourselves) and off we went. We scanned off the ship and were welcomed back to Miami. We got into the customs area where we were randomly selected to participate in routine bag search. The customs officers were friendly and had us on our way pretty quick. We were able to grab an Uber pretty easily and headed back to MIL. Until we meet again Freedom! Next Up: Final Thoughts
  7. Day 3 Continued: We headed to Studio B for the Ice Show, FreedomIce.com. This show was the mixed vaccine status show. Most of the shows were vaccine only but this one show was for everyone. When we entered Studio B we were informed that since it was an everyone event, masks needed to be worn at all times unless taking a sip of a drink. Also, because it was an everyone show, every other row was blocked. I know I sound like a broken record but I will say again, I am a big believer that one persons opinion or review is just that. Everyone has different tastes about what they enjoy or think is good. The skaters of this show were very talented and did a lot of complex routines but the show had no plot and was very disjointed. It was still entertaining but I had a hard time following the story if there actually was one. The show on the Navigator is much better. The talent was there for both shows but the story, show, music and production were much better on the Navigator. Just my opinion. Definitely check it out for yourself! After the show, we headed up to Giovani's for dinner. Srdjan welcomed us in and joked with us how he won and stole us away from Izumi! We started again with love from the kitchen garlic knots and Srdjan suggested a wine, which I can't name. The wine was good though and we both enjoyed it. Srdjan worked hard to keep the wine glasses full throughout the meal but we kept him busy. This meal, Srdjan suggested the meatball giante and because her caprese was so good the other night, Nichole got that again. The meatball was so good! I had to keep myself from eating all of it! Nicholes caprese didn't disappoint either! The buratta was so soft and delicious and the basaltic glaze and pesto complimented it so well. For our entrees I ordered the oven baked lasagne and Nichole had linguine con vongole. Nichole substituted the clams for shrimp and said that it was delicious! All the pasta is made fresh at Giovani's and it appeared that you can't go wrong with any of them. I got pictures of both but the Lasagne didn't photograph well. Here is Nichole's Linguine. We finished up our main courses and then it was time for dessert! The meal 2 nights prior we didn't even look at the menu and just took suggestions, after looking at the menu, we saw so many things we wanted to try that we asked Srdjan if he could do a dessert plank! He told us it wasn't a problem at all and brought out a sampler of everything! We paired dessert with a pair of limoncello martinis and Srdjan also brought the limoncello shots as well! The meal was another wonderful experience! The food was amazing but the service from Srdjan was what really made the night. It was perfect mix of attentiveness but also joking and friendly. We talked with him about family and he told us about his as well. Such a genuine person! We said see ya soon as we hoped to see him again when we return in November and thanked him repeatedly for a great experience. After dinner we headed down to...you guessed it...Schooner Bar. We stayed at dinner so long that we missed out on a lot of the evening entertainment. The best thing to do was go have a few drinks and listen to the very talent piano man Andy C. We got to the Schooner Bar and there were people enjoying the evening and singing along but as I had mentioned before, the energy was quite different than the usual last night on previous sailings. We chatted with Lambert the bar tender some, had a few drinks and bid him farewell. We headed to bed to get ready for the dreaded disembarkation day.
  8. Day 3 Continued: The solarium was really starting to get busy and I think it was a result of most things ashore being closed. We heard others talking about their excursions which did require masks the entire time except while they were seated on the beach. As we were lounging in the solarium, we heard the Edge signaling it was departing so I went up to grab a picture of her turning around to depart. It amazes me how these giants move around! After watching the Edge depart, I headed back down to the solarium and Nichole and I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging until it was our turn to leave! We grab a few beverages and headed down to take advantage of our rare balcony experience for one more sail away! When we got to the room, our awesome stateroom attendant Ronald had another masterpiece waiting for us. Unfortunately what was accompanying that masterpiece was the reminder that our short adventure was already about to come to an end! We'd been away so long, we didn't want to leave! We enjoyed our drinks on the balcony until we decided it was time to get ready for our last night! The plan was the ice show, dinner at Giovani's with Srdjan and then see where the night takes us.
  9. Day 3 continued: All the pools were off to a slow start. I wasn't sure if it had to do with capacity, people being ashore or if everyone was just sleeping in. I grabbed a few pics of the kids areas too which were impressive! There she is again. The bar/lounge on the side looks awesome! I thought it was supposed to go up and down but it stayed where it was the whole time. We found prime seating in the solarium and the rest of the morning was filled with lounging, reading and naps by Nichole and a few drinks (not telling how many) at the solarium bar. Just before lunch I noticed that the solarium had gotten busier and the solarium bar was slammed all morning. I don't believe I've ever seen the solarium busy like that on a port day. Just before lunch, Nichole and I headed to the perfect storm water slides to check them out. These were a new addition during the recent amplification. The slides were fun! We went down a few times with just a little waiting. The 2 slides are set up that you can race the other slide. The flow rider was operational too and there was little to no line over there as well. We either timed it right or the limited capacity allows for some great slide and flow rider access. We headed back to the Windjammer for lunch and had another good experience. While at the Windjammer we talked with a group that had gotten off the ship and went into Nassau. They said essentially everything is closed and there wasn't much to do so they came back to the ship. After lunch we headed back to the pool for more relaxation and......beverages.
  10. Day 3. Nassau: When we awoke, we were already docked in Nassau. We've been to Nassau on many cruises and done a few excursions but we usually use Nassau as a ship day, especially for these short 3 day sailings. When we headed out on to the balcony, I was surprised to see another ship there with us! It was a great feeling to see another ship! It was Celebrity Edge. Nichole and I laughed because we had just talked about trying Celebrity and that ship in particular. I kept telling her that it was a sign and now the next sailing we book needs to be the Edge. Apparently it wasn't too big of a sign though because the Edge is heading back to the Med. Not positive exactly when but I know its before next spring which is when we were thinking of trying her out. The plan for the morning was to catch a quick workout, have breakfast and head to the pool. I headed to the fitness center and Nichole decided to run the outdoor track. I really liked the fitness center on Freedom. Many of the newer ships have buried the fitness center on lower floors but it is still on 11 on Freedom with panoramic floor to ceiling windows to catch a great view when working out. After about an hour workout, we headed to the windjammer for breakfast. We didn't know exactly what to expect with the Windjammer and the new protocols but we couldn't not check it out, especially if I planned on reviewing the cruise. I can say that we were pleased with the set up of the Windjammer for both of our day 3 breakfast and lunches. In fact, I wouldn't mind if this was the protocol going forward! When you enter the Windjammer, they scan your sea pass (contact tracing is my guess) and then everyone is to wash and sanitize hands. It's no longer a request or suggestion. On our sailing, they would not let you into that are unless you washed and sanitized. We then entered the Windjammer where a crew member hands you a plate and a napkin/silverware roll. You then proceed to all the stations and are served by a crew member behind the station. (like a carving station but for everything) There were a few things you could grab on your own but for the most part you were served. Then you found a table and sat/ate as normal. Tables were blocked to promote distancing but finding a table wasn't an issue at all. As I said, we didn't mind the new concept at all. There wasn't nearly the amount of chaos as usual and you knew for sure, other guests were not touching utensils with dirty hands or worse, touching food and putting it back. The crew was great, the served with a smile and even asked if you had enough or would like more. We finished lunch and then we headed back to the room to change and head to the pool.
  11. Day 2 Continued: Once we got back on the ship we grabbed a drink and headed to our balcony for sail away. We ended up sitting there for a long time and we weren't leaving, we found out later that we were missing passengers. I've been on ships where people are late returning but being late coming back from Coco Cay...that surprised me. We eventually got everyone on board and set sail. We got ready for the night and headed down to Schooner bar for a drink before the 7:30pm show. We had reservations at Chops for 8:30 which we were originally upset about but then we decided that it would work perfectly to catch the 7:30 show before dinner. We made it to the theatre and were informed deck 3 and 4 were vaccinated zones. Once we checked in and sanitized our hands, we were allowed to remove our masks. We grabbed a great seat center stage about 8-10 rows back and waited for the show. The show on Freedom is Once Upon a Time. Just before the show the cruise director, informed us that the this show was one of the first large production shows at sea. When the Freedom debuted it was the worlds biggest ship and to go with an impressive feat like that, Royal Caribbean wanted a grand show to headline in the theatre. Since then, a large production has become a staple for many cruise lines and their ships. Being big Disney fans, it's always interesting to see what direction a production like this could take. Essentially the idea is for the show to pick up where the stories we all know and love leave off. I am a big believer that one persons opinion or review is just that. Everyone has different tastes about what they enjoy or think is good. I thought the cast of this show was very talented but it just didn't make much sense to me. The production itself was great but it didn't really seem to have a plot and was tough to follow. You definitely should see for yourself but now that I've seen it, I can spend time elsewhere when we return to Freedom. Once the show let out, we headed to Chops. When we got to Chops, we were seated right away and then we figured out why reservations were so hard. As most of you know, Chops is the most popular specialty dining and when we tried to get an 8pm reservation for night 2, the closest we could get was 5:30 or 8:30. We couldn't figure out why but when we got to Chops, half the tables are blocked to promote for social distancing. We were seated right away and our server Lady came over and introduced herself. Actually, Lady came over and tried to take our order but immediately realized we hadn't been there long. She seemed a bit frazzled and we were worried because we've had bad experiences at Chops before. We noted other tables getting a bit of a more formal experience from their servers and we were concerned this might be deja vu. We were pleasantly surprised though and Lady turned out to be a great server! We both started with the Caesar salad (no picture. Next review I will definitely need to do a better job at the food pics) Nichole order the filet and I ordered the NY strip. For sides we ordered the handmade tater tots and double asparagus. We attempted to get spinach but Lady informed us they were all out. The steaks were good and cooked to perfection. The sides were delicious as well! In addition to our meal we both ordered glasses of Andrew Peace Cabernet and after a few glasses of that, we were informed by Lady that they had run out...I don't think I've ever heard that before on one of these ships. Lady suggested Concha y Toro Cabernet from Chile and we were blown away. Nichole was literally chugging her Andrew Peace to get some of the Concha y Toro. As we were enjoying dinner, Srdjan appeared! He came over from Giovani's to see if we were having a good day and enjoying dinner. He briefly chatted, wished us goodnight and that he would see us the next evening for dinner. We ordered the Key Lime Meringue pie for dessert and accompanied that with espresso martinis of course! The pie was delicious although you could've told me it was lemon meringue and I would've believed you. We finished up dinner and headed down to schooner bar for drinks and the piano man! I bet you're wondering, man they spend a lot of time in Schooner bar. Definitely true this sailing but not always. We do really enjoy their cocktail list and since we started drinking bourbon, Schooner was even more appealing. Not that you couldn't get bourbon other places on the ship but the Old Fashioned here was made much differently. The reason we kept coming back to Schooner traces back to this past year when everything was locked down and sailing seemed so far away. I said to Nichole "I just want to sit a Schooner and listen to the piano man for the night" when vowed when we made it back, we'd do that! Well the piano man on this sailing Andy was pretty talented. Good drinks, good talent, how could we not spend time there?! As with everything else this sailing, the crowd wasn't as big as usual but those that were there were having a great time and enjoying their time! We stayed at schooner for a few rounds and then thought we'd head to "RED the nightclub experience" to check it out and see how the DJ was doing. I heard the DJ (Big T) playing on embarkation day and had high hopes for him on this sailing. He was talent and his music choices were more similar to mine (house, dance and party music) than any other previous ship DJ I've seen. Understanding that it's a mixed crowd and the DJ needs to play the favorites (more like a wedding DJ) while on the ship, after hearing him on embarkation, I figured his programing for the "nightclub experience" would be similar to or exceed his performance at the pool. Unfortunately RED was a letdown again. One of these times, RED is going to be a crazy "real nightclub experience" but I am going to miss it because every time we go check it out, it is a let down so we won't be there. Being big Vegas fans, we've been to some crazy nightclubs and I have never heard or seen any of these hit nightclubs play all the line dances in succession. I understand the mixed crowd of a cruise ship and playing to the crowd but I think this experience should be advertised as something else. Those that enjoy nightclubs will have a certain expectation and be disappointed. Just my opinion. I will say this particular RED had the more people on the dance floor than most of the others and we've popped into RED on every sailing we've been on. We didn't stay too long at RED and went back to the room where we greeted by this guy!
  12. Day 2 Continued: We headed down to the lower deck to exit the ship. A I mentioned previously, it felt kind of strange with the lack of people heading off the ship at that time. We usually get off the ship early so its never been real busy but this was more quiet than usual. One advantage to knowing capacity was limited, was that we didn't feel the need to "rush" to get the chairs or location we wanted. We knew we'd have free rein. We've done the Oasis Lagoon on the past few stops, so we decided this time that we would split the day. Half of the day would be beach time, we'd have lunch and spend the 2nd half of the day at the lagoon. We headed to the beach section between the marina and Coco Beach Cabanas. The floating bar has been relocated to this location from South Beach. From what I understand, South Beach is currently being used for crew until capacities are increased. As we headed there, we saw this cool sand sculpture! The bridge from the dock area to the chill island area always offers 2 things. First, a great view of relaxing Harbor Beach and second, a great vantage point to grab a pic of whatever vessel brought you to your perfect day! We always walk past Harbor Beach and think "man, that looks nice" but just never end up there! We made it to "Coco Beach" and found a couple of loungers. We got out there around 9am and the beach was really quiet. Maybe only 10-20 people on the beach at that point. It did fill in quite a bit as the morning went on. The floating Tikki bar was dead for a good portion of the morning but just like the beach, as the morning progressed. The bar became a popular place! We swam out and grabbed a few rounds of cocktails before we headed to lunch. Just before lunch we headed to the Oasis Lagoon to grab a spot for the afternoon. There were people there but nothing like I had seen in the past. We had no problem finding a prime spot. We headed to Chill grill for lunch. Lunch was the same as before. Burgers, Chicken, Hot dogs, Taco station, Sandwich station, salad station, dessert. Nothing was missing, the only difference is that it is served to you now as opposed to self service. We finished up lunch and headed back to the lagoon. It all depends on what you're looking for but we like the lagoon in the afternoon because the party seems to get much more lively as the day goes on and the people watching is not to be missed. The DJ had music going from 10:30-4:30 and even though crowds were much thinner, the crowd (including us) was all living it up and having a great time. I really enjoy the swim up bar in the lagoon and the bartenders work their tails off all day. We bumped into our bartenders Alexandru, Ethel and Lambert and they were having a great time with dancing and chatting with the guests as they worked the bar. Alexandru was hilarious! He didn't stop dancing the entire time and he said he couldn't help it. We ended up staying at the lagoon till about 3:30. The party was a little more chill than usual but wasn't lame either. We decided we wanted a little more beach time. Knowing that we never end up there, we headed to Harbor Beach. Harbor Beach was quiet. I think it was us and a few other families there! We ended up staying there till 4:30 and then we headed back to the ship to get cleaned up for the evening.
  13. Day 2. A very perfect day at coco cay! We were really excited to be returning to Coco Cay and I was happy because this was initially supposed to be on day 3 but it was moved to day 2 to accommodate the Adventure being there. Coco cay is unmatched in terms of private islands and I didn't want it the last day because then it feels like, "what a great day! Time to go home..." This way we still had another day before it was back to reality. As we usually do when we have a coco cay stop, we planned on getting off early...(as soon as possible) to start enjoying the island! We planned on having breakfast on the balcony which was a nice treat because as I mentioned, we don't usually have one. Another great benefit was being able to watch our arrival from our room. I think our style of cruising and feelings about balconies may be changing. We put the form out the night before and breakfast was set to be delivered between 7:00 and 7:30. I went up to the plaza bar for some fresh squeezed orange juice while Nichole waited. I got back and breakfast still wasn't there...Room service called at 7:15 and said breakfast was coming but at 7:40 it still hadn't arrived. We just waited and eventually it showed up. Due to protocol, the server was not allowed to enter the room. He was really apologetic and we understood. We took the trays and carried them to the balcony! Our view during breakfast! One thing I forgot to mention that we found on day 1 was how much Royal has done to level up their app and the use of your personal device while on board. Now I typically like to unplug so I had mixed feelings about this but It really does make things easier. Dinner reservations, show reservations, muster drill, setting up your disembarkation and even ordering towels for the pool or excursion the next day can be done from your phone or device. We finished up breakfast and quickly got ready to get out to the island! As we headed down, I snapped a picture of the hallways to illustrate the occupancy. Usually you'll see someone in the halls, I can recall maybe only 1 or 2 times that I saw someone in the hallway the entire sailing.
  14. I forgot to post the day 1 Compass for those interested in seeing what's going on around the boat.
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