Just off the Freedom - how typical was my experience?

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#1
Arkansas
290 Posts
Joined May 2011
So my dear husband and I just got off the Freedom two days ago - we sailed the 02/24/18 7-day itinerary to Cozumel, Belize and Isla Roatan for our 10-year anniversary. We have the most amazing time and getting back to real life is proving very, very hard....cruising is such a fantastic way of unplugging and removing yourself from everyday stress.

With all that said - it has been seven years since our last cruise, and I was wondering how typical our experience was on the Freedom. While the vast majority of our trip was utterly magical, some aspects of it caused me to wonder.

Seven years ago, we took our first cruise. It was on the Elation. We sailed out of New Orleans on a 5-day itinerary to Progreso and Cozumel, Mexico. We loved every minute of it and - even although we were 'just' staying on an oceanview room on Main Deck - really felt like VIPs with the treatment Carnival gave us. Everything was easy, the staff were amazingly friendly, dinnertime was quick and efficient, the shows were fabulous, etc. etc.

This time on the Freedom, things felt different. I would say that the #1 difference I saw was the massive hordes of people - literally EVERYWHERE. Lines for MDR, lines for the photo walls, lines for the bar, lines for drinks, lines for Lido buffet, lines for Pizza Pirate, lines for Guest Services, lines for shops and shows, lines for Seaday Brunch that extended out the door, into the elevator section and down the stairs.....you get the message. The most painful of those were the lines for the MDR. We picked Your Time Dining and were assigned to the first-floor in the Chic dining room. The dining room did not open until 5:45PM (on the dot - never a minute before), and by 5:20PM the lines for the MDR were *literally* spilling out of the MDR corridor, into the atrium, past the atrium bar, all along to Guest Services and beyond. On at least half of the nights I had to kick off my footwear and stand barefoot because my feet were killing me so much from waiting in line for ~30 minutes or more each night so that we could get to eat before 7PM (which we consider VERY late). One night, after getting back from a full-day shore excursion, we went to dinner at around 7PM - and actually had to be handed a buzzer to wait for an available table. Eventually, at around 7:35PM when we couldn't stand it any more, we just went and stood right at the Maitre'D's station and - through the confusion - were given a table anyways.

Additionally, only once in the entire cruise were we seated at the same table in the same area with the same waiter. Every other night it was somewhere and someone different. The waitstaff were incredibly hard-working, but also quite difficult to understand (and I am practically bi-lingual and a dual-citizen of two different countries). They seemed more intent on fooling around and enjoying jokes with you rather than accurately serving you.

On the second formal night, our entrees came out before our appetizers, and sat on a pedestal under their plastic covers for what I would consider an unacceptable amount of time (~20 mins) while our waiter rushed our appetizers out to us somewhat chaotically. When we finally did get our entrees, medium-rare and medium-well steaks were given to the wrong people. Throughout the course of the cruise, I ordered the warm chocolate melting cake three times at dinner; once it was overcooked and there was no 'melting' aspect to it, the second time it was undercooked and more like warm chocolate soup, and the third time it was about right. Also, portions seemed desperately small for both appetizers and entrees. The prawn cocktail consisted of two pieces of lettuce leaves, some shaved carrot and three prawns. Entrees came with TINY amounts of the sides they were supposed to have - so if you didn't order extra sides you were pretty much left hungry.

The MDR in general on the Freedom seemed very chaotic and not at all accustomed to the number of diners that were normally present on a cruise. I know that when you have literally thousands of people to serve on any given night that things will get missed and mistakes will be made - but why am I left feeling this way after this cruise but not our Elation cruise seven years ago?

The shows and entertainment on the Freedom seemed a little lacking also. On our last cruise, we were frequently regaled by a truly fantastic Caribbean steel drum band who were almost always on Lido playing their hearts out. On the Freedom, Lido was simply taken over by dance music and a random slideshow on the big screen of scenes that looked like they were from places such as Arizona (?) and Alaska (?). I did find a steel drum player (can't really call him a band as it was just one guy) playing in the atrium one night - I got mildly excited when I saw him advertised on the Fun Times, but when we went to see him we discovered that all he was playing were covers of pop/rock/country songs. So that was a real bummer.

Speaking of country music - do people in Texas like it more than people in Louisiana? Because our entire cruise we could barely avoid various bands at various locations churning out various renditions of country music.....which we personally find vile and stomach-churning. There were literally ZERO outlets that offered Caribbean-inspired music or what I would consider ethnic/traditional music relating to our ports of call.

There were the other signs of cut-backs that some have mentioned (Lido buffet is pretty basic, nothing special, and the lack of little goodies/thin mints etc. on your pillow at night, the room steward doing the very minimum) but I guess in retrospect the main things that bothered me were the long lines for everything (literally had to wait in line for pizza at midnight.....almost not even worth it), and their attendant affect on the MDR situation. We did learn during our cruise that the Posh MDR was much, MUCH closer to the galley than the Chic MDR.........so I guess if we cruise again on a ship this size we should ask our travel agent/Personal Vacation Planner what stateroom and what dining time selection we should make in order to be assigned to the MDR closest to the galley, perhaps? Seems a bit ridiculous, but......

So what do y'all think? Was my experience on the Freedom last week a very standard experience that I will simply get flamed for? Or do some of my issues take you by surprise also? Is it simply a symptom of sailing on a ship much larger than the Elation, and much newer (hence more crammed cabins, less airy public spaces) than the Elation? If so, I think I will endeavor to sail Fantasy-class again in future. At least there's one stationed in Mobile, AL.....which is equidistant to Galveston AND New Orleans from where we live. I am just taken aback by the huge differences I noticed even with the same cruise line. Suppose if we could afford it, something like Cunard or Princess or RSS might suit us best.

Mind you........seven years. I WAS in my late-20s/early 30s and now I'm in my late-30s. Crankiness, maybe?

Apologetically yours,

Trin
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#2
Ontario, CA (The one WITH the Palm Trees!)
24,166 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
Portion sizes are fine. We’ve gotten used to super-sized portion in the States. You can always order several things.

Crowds depend on the time of year and makeup of the passengers. We sail West Coast on the same ships. Some cruises we’ve had with like you had and other cruises we never had to wait. To avoid any wait, choose early dining. Early dining starts as early as 5:45 and you’ll have no wait at all for a table.


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#3
Arkansas
290 Posts
Joined May 2011
Originally posted by SadieN
Portion sizes are fine. We’ve gotten used to super-sized portion in the States. You can always order several things.

Crowds depend on the time of year and makeup of the passengers. We sail West Coast on the same ships. Some cruises we’ve had with like you had and other cruises we never had to wait. To avoid any wait, choose early dining. Early dining starts as early as 5:45 and you’ll have no wait at all for a table.


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In retrospect, I think you are right about the portions. I was much less Americanized on our last cruise.....I need to get my head straightened.

So you recommend Early Dining and showing up at 5:15PM over just choosing Your Time Dining and showing up at 5:15PM? Is there a significant difference?? Because we showed for dinner at around 5:15PM - 5:30PM every night and the lines were already out of hand by then!

Trin
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#4
florida
40 Posts
Joined Nov 2014
My time or any time dining dues have advantages if you can handle different tables , waiters and dining times through ouyour cruise.

If 7 PM is late for dinner then a solution is opt for set dining early seating ,pick table size and hope that wait staff lives up to your expectations.
The trade off of larger ship to mid size is the entertainment options that are offered.

Even with the crowds there is NO bad cruise in my book

89 days till sail date NCL Gem
#5
Arkansas
290 Posts
Joined May 2011
Originally posted by atsea64

Even with the crowds there is NO bad cruise in my book

89 days till sail date NCL Gem
Oh man - ain't THAT the truth!!! I am more just trying to feel out how normal our experience was so that future cruises will be successful!! :-)

Have a fabulous time on the Gem!!
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#6
Maine
420 Posts
Joined Aug 2016
Just an FYI - You can request to have the same table/servers every night with YTD.

Sounds like you were on a cruise that everyone wanted to eat early.
#7
1,714 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
I think your experience now on the Freedom is very typical. I started cruising about 12 years ago and the experience has gone significantly downhill due to Carnival asking their employees to do more now than is reasonably possible. Your experience will be better on smaller ships with fewer people, but only in that the crowding will be less and waits shorter. The experience we had years ago appears to be lost.
#8
Kennett Square, PA, USA
2,350 Posts
Joined Dec 2000
Originally posted by Trin1103
In retrospect, I think you are right about the portions. I was much less Americanized on our last cruise.....I need to get my head straightened.

So you recommend Early Dining and showing up at 5:15PM over just choosing Your Time Dining and showing up at 5:15PM? Is there a significant difference?? Because we showed for dinner at around 5:15PM - 5:30PM every night and the lines were already out of hand by then!

Trin
The advantage of early/late dining is you have a same table, same staff, and same time each evening. When dining room opens each evening....you just walk to your table (after the 1st night).... completely bypass any lines. No need to stop by front desk on way in. Takes away the uncertainties and inconsistencies each night. But it also doesn't give you YTD type freedom and you are set to the same time
#9
Denton, Tx.
91 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
I was on the same cruise as you and I wish I could tell you it was an abnormal sailing. I can't speak to your dining experience as we always do the early 6 PM seating and love it and did not experience what you did with anytime dining. Unfortunately as far as the lines go, I found them much better than what I experienced on the Freedom in December 2016. The problem with the midnight pizza is that is about when the last comedy show is ending and the lines are always on the long side. They did move fast for us so I was actually pleased with the pizza lines. The music on lido is now the same as what you experienced and I too miss the old setup.

As for the stewards we talked about them a little amongst our group on this trip. I barely remember seeing him the whole week but we never wanted for anything so I was pleased but some others were a little let down as on previous cruises they seemed to be more available.

The overall general entertainment seemed a little lacking. I'm not sure if it was because of this being a premier cruise or what but I compared our fun times to ones for a cruise about a year ago with the same itinerary and ours had a lot less trivia and other activities.

All that being said, it was still my favorite of our 8 cruises. Probably more to do with the group of people with us and our amazing catamaran excursion in Roatan than the actual cruise itself.
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#11
48 Posts
Joined Feb 2018
Trin -

Thank you for sharing, great job and very objective. I too have found the lines on the bigger ships are a real turnoff. The best kept secret in the Carnival Fleet is the Fantasy/Spirit class ships....Multiple cruises on multiple ships and NEVER a line for anything. My reasoning for that is even tho the ships get bigger, Carnival is not increasing the size of say the comedy venues. Dream class and Vista class hold 3500 - 4000 passengers whereas the Fantasy/Spirit only carry 2000 passengers. So essentially you have twice as many people for the same comedy show or buffet. Go to the Lido deck on a Dream class ship. Bars are 3 deep and not a lounger to be found. Fantasy class, u walk up to any bar at any time of day, never a line. The experience on the smaller/older ships is so much better IMO. As far as MDR dining times, you seem to be a perfect candidate for early seating. Skip the YTD and just go with early and you shouldnt have an issue
#12
Leander TX
1,904 Posts
Joined Nov 2009
First point- I haven't sailed on Freedom so my experience is different... but I've done YTD the last 6 cruises and eat in the MDR almost every night. In all of those experiences I never waited more than 5 minutes to be seated except once- I was given a pager and waited about 15 mins.

Most of the time we're going to dinner around 6.

So perhaps you will find a different experience on a different ship!

As for portion sizes, as someone else mentioned, I order multiples- often to share with my hubby. I've never left the MDR hungry!
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#13
Southern California
1,145 Posts
Joined May 2008
Hi,
We also sailed on the Freedom with the OP. The lines didn't bug us as much as the constant additional charges.
I already posted my review of the Premium WiFi Plan that I bought for the Freedom. Just a huge waste of $$$$!!
BINGO dauber was an additional $2??? That's crazy! We don't play BINGO in the real world though, maybe that's standard procedure?
I'm really tired, so no more examples for tonight.
Bobbi
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