My husband and I are seasoned cruisers. We sailed the Freedom of the Seas on November 25, 2018 as our 28th cruise, RCCL's 13th cruise. We had been on the Freedom twice before and enjoyed the ship. This last cruise, though, was a bit disappointing. Here are some of my comments and I'm happy to answer any questions:
1. We were in Stateroom 7346 (a hump). The hump cabins are identified as premium cabins that are bigger. Yes, the cabin was bigger but not for space to be used. The room was basically the same size as a regular balcony cabin up to the curtains by the patio door. However, there was a bit of additional space past the curtains, but had no function. The balcony was not any bigger. My first thought was it would have been smarter to make the balcony bigger by going all the way to the curtain like other balcony cabins. Instead, there was a little more space between the curtain and door so you can stand between them to look out but it did not add to the useable space of the cabin. Also, we took cold showers all week because the hot water was pretty much non-existent during the whole cruise. We had ants on the balcony that we had never experienced before. I can understand with all the fruity drinks that are probably spilled but we never had ants before. The cabin also never really got cold, especially at night. I was sweating at night. Usually I am freezing because my husband cranks the air. Not this time.
2. The cruise consisted of 90-95% of Puerto Ricans. It affected the traffic line to the port as the majority of the passengers did not need shuttle or taxi but were being picked up by family members, meaning more cars in line. We sat if traffic for a good 15 minutes since there is only one lane in to the port. Most of the entertainment and food were geared toward the Puerto Rican passengers, who took full advantage of taking over the ship. We had smokers on the balcony and in the cabins, which we smelled in the hallways. The majority of the passengers traveled in packs, which caused significant back ups, etc. since they seemed to stop in public areas and just congregate. They were loud, and I mean loud. It didn't appear that Puerto Ricans speak in low tones. Just normal conversations seemed like a bunch of yelling. We definitely felt like outsiders and spent a lot of time in our cabin or on our balcony to get away from the loudness. We did, however, get the chance to enjoy the pools/hot tubs in the morning of port days since a lot of the other passengers were either sleeping off their wild night before or were off the ship. The food at the Windjammer was geared toward the Puerto Rican passengers, except for the "American" section of burgers/fries/hot dogs. A lot of the passengers did not go to the dining room but ate all meals at the Windjammer, meaning it was quite busy and messy. Multiple tables pushed together for big parties.
We witnessed the Puerto Rican passengers that brought their own musical instruments on the cruise. In several ports, they played their instruments with a caravan of chanting Puerto Ricans for the rest of the ship to enjoy (or not enjoy which ever you prefer). We took a couple of videos and will post it as soon as I can figure that out. There were many that brought their own radios and would play their music rather loudly for the rest of the passengers to enjoy (or not enjoy). I couldn't tell you how many sat in public areas with videos or songs loaded on their phones playing them for the rest of the passengers to hear. With all of the other music on the ship geared toward Puerto Rican music, I really didn't want to hear it while trying to read my book or napping at the solarium.
We have sailed out of San Juan 4 times before this cruise and never experienced this many Puerto Rican passengers. Those cruises occurred pre-hurricane. The cruise line must be offering them some great deals for that many local passengers to be on the ship. It was quite obvious to me that many of them are taking advantage of the 3rd/4th free in a cabin and that the locals have sailed numerous times on the ship. They were well prepared for Caribbean night, as well as 70's night, by the costumes that were worn. From talking to the taxi drivers and some locals while on land, they have recovered pretty well from last year's hurricane. Obviously, the locals have the finances to enjoy a cruise vacation and all the extras (internet, drinks, shopping) despite their government claiming the country is in shambles and that they need continued financial resources from the US. We only noticed a few things that would indicate damage from a hurricane. I don't know if the make up the ship's passengers is due to the lack of mainland American wanting to travel to Puerto Rico to catch a cruise or some other reason but I don't think we will be sailing out of San Juan any time soon. On a side note, we did see a lot of people removing tips from their portfolio, which is a shame because we saw the crew members working extremely hard to clean up messes that were left by these large parties.
3. The food variety in the Windjammer was lacking. The food was geared toward Puerto Rican food (like rice & beans, tacos, etc) and what the cruise line would consider American food. We were a bit disappointed in that regard. It also appeared that the majority of the passengers preferred to eat in the Windjammer, leaving the dining room at less than full capacity and the Windjammer quite crowded. On the port day, we did enjoy the tutti salad bar, as well as pasta station and sushi station in the main dining room. That was our favorite meal, even though we ate at Giovanni's and Chop (which were fine).
4. Although Royal Caribbean was our cruise line of choice, we have cruised on many of the other cruise lines. We are reconsidering our thought process on whether we will be looking at Royal Caribbean as our first choice. We are getting quite tired of the constant barrage of sales tactics. Almost all activities on the Cruise Compass are geared toward spending money. The wait staff inquired many times for beverage packages or specialty dining packages. I like to enjoy myself on a cruise and not be harassed to spend my money. I can do that pretty well on my own. However, we have a tendency to be defiant against spending money because we are being constantly asked to do so. Also, we are noticing more similarities to Carnival than a more upscale or classy experience.
5. The normal internet is SLOW, SLOW, SLOW, which is unacceptable these days. It took me a half an hour just to log into my e-mails to do a little work. They sell the surf and stream, but we have no need to stream. I'm not sure if the stream was slow as well but the surf was just brutal. Couldn't get much of anything done on the internet.
Hope my thoughts are helpful to others who are considering the Freedom.