The “better late than never, here it is for what it’s worth” Carnival Freedom review

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#1
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
The “better late than never, here it is for what it’s worth” Review!
● ≈ Carnival Freedom ≈ ●
June 10 – 16, 2012

First things first. I’ve been sitting on this review since our cruise. I wrote 99% percent of it right after the cruise and uploaded all my cruise pictures to Webshots so I could link them here. Yeah, Webshots … as in “no longer there” Webshots … as in “all my pictures are gone!” Webshots. Oiy. I was so irritated that I set this aside, and honestly, forgot about it since football season was quickly upon us and both my sons play and my husband (DH = Dear Husband) coaches the youngest for his last year of peewee football. Then the holidays came … and went … and then we booked our next cruise aboard RCCL’s Allure of the Seas! Woohoo! Further, I’m tired of my mom (DM = Dear Mother) and my sister (DS = Dear Sister) asking me when I’m gonna finish that darned review. Actually, to be honest, they quit asking a few months ago. So, this will be a surprise for them! So, back at it I go, and I’ve spent the last three days uploading all the photos to Photobucket! I took it a bit further and uploaded videos to YouTube as well. Mind as well throw it all at ya’! Yesterday was the first day of spring, and today it’s crazy cold in Ohio (woke up to a dusting of snow). I’m ready to think about the cruise and the sun, the sand, the stingray, and the surf!

So, without further delay … here’s my “better late than never, here it is for what it’s worth” review of Carnival Freedom, June 10-16, 2012. As Ryan Seacrest would say, “HERE WE GO!”

The Reviewer: Michelle ~ 42 … wife to David, mom of 2 boys (now 11 1/2 and 14 [almost 15] yrs old) … our 4th cruise, 3rd on Carnival; boys' second cruise.


The Clan: Me, DH, our 2 sons (DS1, DS2), DM and her friend (BFF), and my DS, her husband (David #2—aka BIL = Brother-in-Law), and her 2 boys (19 and 16 yrs old – DN1, DN2) … you get the acronyms, right?

Side note: My stepdad very unexpectedly passed away in January 2009; my DM and he had been married since I was 5 and he raised me and my three sisters. This was my mom’s first cruise since his passing. Cruising was “their” thing with over a dozen cruises under their belts. Their last cruise together was for their anniversary in November 2008 and it was literally right before his stroke … as in, they had been home for less than 24 hours, and their luggage was still in their living room. Long story short, he suffered a stroke, went through intensive rehab, learned how to talk and walk again, and then we were devastated the day after Christmas when we found out he had terminal cancer. The stroke was caused by the tumor in his brain that had ruptured. He/we didn’t know he had metastatic melanoma. Up until his “stroke”, he was very healthy and strong … taking care of their in-ground pool, redecorating their bathroom and kitchen, mowing the lawn, etc. We had even went to Disney World with them in June (just a few months before). He was a retired Pepsi-Cola driver and was in the sun 365 days a year. He had had a few moles removed but the dermatologist swore “she got it all.” He never left the hospital during his three-month ordeal, and he passed away in the hospital with over 21 people surrounding him with love. So folks, get those crazy looking moles checked, wear your sunscreen, and know your skin cancer ABCD’s (asymmetry, border, color, diameter)! I’m gonna grab a tissue and be right back!
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)

#2
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
So, back to the cruise review! I promise the rest is all good stuff … well, except for one thing … but certainly not as bad as the above!

I love remembering the cruise, but I hate posting these pictures of myself … I’ve lost almost 20 pounds since January and I’m not that big anymore! But, this is what our group looked like in June:


My family is on the left, my DS's family in the middle, and our DM and her BFF on the right.

This was the first cruise for my mom’s BFF and my DS and her family! Cruise virgins! Woohoo!

The itinerary: Travel to Fort Lauderdale via Air Tran from Columbus, OH (about an hour from home) on Sat., June 9th … stay at the Hampton Inn North Airport-Cruiseport. Sail on Sun., June 10th – June 16th … fly home from Ft. Lauderdale to Columbus …

{rubbing hands together …} Okay … here goes nothing!

Confession #1: I’ve never done one of these reviews before. Please be nice. Pretty please? This review covers pre-vacation prep, day of travel/overnight stay in FLL, the cruise, and excursions.

Confession #2: I will probably not cover everything you want to know, and at this point, I may not even REMEMBER, but feel free to ask me questions!

Confession #3: I STILL don’t really know my way around that darned ship!

Confession #4: Balcony Club? … No Comment!

Confession #5: Food porn? Oh yeah, baby! I’m sure people around me (including my family!) were wondering what in the “h-e-double hockey sticks” I was doing taking pictures of everybody’s food!

Confession #6: I love grammar. I am a grammar nerd. I’m THAT person that proofreads everything. In my line of work, one of the things I’m assigned to do is proofread our citywide newsletter that goes out to over 25,000 residents. I’m the last stop before the printer. (Yikes! ) I also type. A lot. I will try to make this review error free for your reading pleasure! I can’t promise there won’t be any typos though … (feel free to point them out to me and I’ll correct them … deal?)

Confession #7: I’m a little wordy. I’ll apologize now. If you don’t like “fluff,” then you won’t like my review. You mind as well skip it! If you continue, then consider yourself warned!

FunTimes: I have all the FunTimes for each day of the cruise. I’ll post them in sequential order with the days of cruise … don't forget to study them! Don't do what I did and see things I wanted to do after I got home!

MDR Dinner Menus: I don’t know how current they are, but I found them helpful. Click this link.

Up next: Pre-Cruise Prep!
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)

#3
Brunswick, Georgia
87 Posts
Joined Mar 2013
Originally posted by jhnsnfamily
The “better late than never, here it is for what it’s worth” Review!



● ≈ Carnival Freedom ≈ ●



June 10 – 16, 2012


First things first. I’ve been sitting on this review since our cruise. I wrote 99% percent of it right after the cruise and uploaded all my cruise pictures to Webshots so I could link them here. Yeah, Webshots … as in “no longer there” Webshots … as in “all my pictures are gone!” Webshots. Oiy. I was so irritated that I set this aside, and honestly, forgot about it since football season was quickly upon us and both my sons play and my husband (DH = Dear Husband) coaches the youngest for his last year of peewee football. Then the holidays came … and went … and then we booked our next cruise aboard RCCL’s Allure of the Seas! Woohoo! Further, I’m tired of my mom (DM = Dear Mother) and my sister (DS = Dear Sister) asking me when I’m gonna finish that darned review. Actually, to be honest, they quit asking a few months ago. So, this will be a surprise for them! So, back at it I go, and I’ve spent the last three days uploading all the photos to Photobucket! I took it a bit further and uploaded videos to YouTube as well. Mind as well throw it all at ya’! Yesterday was the first day of spring, and today it’s crazy cold in Ohio (woke up to a dusting of snow). I’m ready to think about the cruise and the sun, the sand, the stingray, and the surf!

So, without further delay … here’s my “better late than never, here it is for what it’s worth” review of Carnival Freedom, June 10-16, 2012. As Ryan Seacrest would say, “HERE WE GO!”

The Reviewer: Michelle ~ 42 … wife to David, mom of 2 boys (now 11 1/2 and 14 [almost 15] yrs old) … our 4th cruise, 3rd on Carnival; boys' second cruise.


The Clan: Me, DH, our 2 sons (DS1, DS2), DM and her friend (BFF), and my DS, her husband (David #2—aka BIL = Brother-in-Law), and her 2 boys (19 and 16 yrs old – DN1, DN2) … you get the acronyms, right?

Side note: My stepdad very unexpectedly passed away in January 2009; my DM and he had been married since I was 5 and he raised me and my three sisters. This was my mom’s first cruise since his passing. Cruising was “their” thing with over a dozen cruises under their belts. Their last cruise together was for their anniversary in November 2008 and it was literally right before his stroke … as in, they had been home for less than 24 hours, and their luggage was still in their living room. Long story short, he suffered a stroke, went through intensive rehab, learned how to talk and walk again, and then we were devastated the day after Christmas when we found out he had terminal cancer. The stroke was caused by the tumor in his brain that had ruptured. He/we didn’t know he had metastatic melanoma. Up until his “stroke”, he was very healthy and strong … taking care of their in-ground pool, redecorating their bathroom and kitchen, mowing the lawn, etc. We had even went to Disney World with them in June (just a few months before). He was a retired Pepsi-Cola driver and was in the sun 365 days a year. He had had a few moles removed but the dermatologist swore “she got it all.” He never left the hospital during his three-month ordeal, and he passed away in the hospital with over 21 people surrounding him with love. So folks, get those crazy looking moles checked, wear your sunscreen, and know your skin cancer ABCD’s (asymmetry, border, color, diameter)! I’m gonna grab a tissue and be right back!

I'm sorry for your loss, Michelle. I look forward to your review. My huband and I are renewing our vows on the Freedom next month, and will have family with us, including a first time cruiser. I have heard wonderful things about the Freedom. Hoping they are all true.
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#4
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
THE. BEST. CRUISE. PURCHASE. EVER.: A Lifeproof case for my iPhone www dot lifeproof dot com … brand new from their website they are $79.99 … I got one used on eBay for $49 … they are waterproof! Yes, when I got it, I was A NERVOUS WRECK to actually submerge my iPhone into our pool! But it worked! I took it into the ocean in Grand Cayman and up the falls in Jamaica! Got some great shots … check for them later!

Booking the cruise: We booked through a travel agent a year before the cruise. My mom has been on many cruises (she’s actually lost count, but she’s up in the teens) … so we used her agent. Everything was handled electronically. A deposit of $250 per person was due upon booking, with the final balance due three months prior to sailing. We received our confirmations via email, and we used the booking numbers to log on to Carnival’s website to book excursions, bon voyage items, etc. (The cookies I ordered for the boys’ cabin were YUMMY! There were several different varieties, and they snacked on them all week. The strawberries I ordered for our cabin were just okay … for the price, I should have just went down to the Viennese Café and purchased a few for $1.25 each – they were much bigger down there also! We only got four strawberries along with four chocolate bar thingies. No pictures … sorry!)

We booked two cabins … one balcony (7347) and one interior (7349) on the Empress deck, which was on the starboard side (right) of the ship. Great cabins … only cabins above and below us, which is good. You never want to book a cabin with the lido deck, dance bar, or dining room above you as this would be VERY noisy, even after hours because the crew move chairs to clean, etc. Because our boys were younger, I had to book myself with my youngest son in the inside cabin, and my husband with our older son in the balcony cabin. However, our cabin steward (Savoy) was VERY accommodating and had no problem with the boys bunking together and the adults bunking together. We went down to guest services and got two additional room keys …


One for me to get into the balcony cabin, and one for my older son so he could get into his interior cabin ...

Booking the flight: We booked our flight on our own with Airtran from Columbus, Ohio to Ft. Lauderdale. We got an excellent rate … highly recommend going to www dot airfarewatchdog dot com. You can put in the “to” and “from” airports and the dates you want to travel, and the program will email you daily, weekly, etc. (whatever you select) on the rates. We got an email on Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, about one-way flights to and from CMH to FLL for $97 each way, non-stop! My husband called me at work and I jumped on the phone and called my mom and my sister … we booked our flights all at the same time and all got on the same flights. Once we selected our seats (this is an additional charge) and tax was added, the total was $901.60 for the four of us. We didn’t realize when we booked the flights that AirTran charges $20 for each checked bag and we checked three bags each way. So, that was an additional $120, but I still think we got a great deal for non-stop flights …
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)

#5
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by jessiesgirl2013
I'm sorry for your loss, Michelle. I look forward to your review. My huband and I are renewing our vows on the Freedom next month, and will have family with us, including a first time cruiser. I have heard wonderful things about the Freedom. Hoping they are all true.
Thank you so much jessiesgirl2013! That's so funny that that is your screen name ... my husband is a drummer in an 80's band and that's one of their songs! The Freedom is a beautiful ship with lots to do. You won't be disappointed! Congrats on your renewal of vows! How exciting! How many years for you?
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)

#6
PA
42 Posts
Joined Feb 2013
I love reviews and yours seems well thought out already so I am saving this one. So sorry for your loss- you had this pregnant lady bawling like a big baby in the first sentence. Whew. I just lost my grandfather to cancer a month ago so its definitely fresh in my heart how hard it is to go through that. I hope your mom had a wonderful cruise, even though it is definitely a new feeling.
#7
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
A few weeks to a few days before leaving … Booking the excursions, etc.: After a thorough review of all the options (on our own vs. thru Carnival), we decided to just walk off the ship in Key West and explore on foot. In Grand Cayman, we booked an excursion on May 16th through Native Ways Watersports (per an excellent excursion review from a fellow Cruise Critic member) – we did this via their website and email confirmation, and for Jamaica, we booked Carnival's “Cool Runnings Sail and Dunn’s River Falls” excursion – I purchased this excursion the Friday before we sailed through the Carnival website and paid by credit card and received an email confirmation. I also booked a “Sail away” via www dot portevergladeswebcam dot com. I never received confirmation back from him, but he must have received it, because we got our minute of camera time! More on all this later once I break the cruise down by days …

The week before leaving:
  • DM, DS, and I went for our mani/pedis! We got the gel nails that last forever! (Really, they lasted forever! I had to file/buff the stuff off my nails after we got home!)
  • Finalized my cruise packing list and finished purchasing all needed items.
  • Went to the bank and got all the money for the trip (this will be important later … )
  • Confirmed with the dog kennel our dog’s reservation. (Golden Retriever named Izzy ... she's been a great addition to our family and we love her so much. We've had her since she was 4.6 pounds and 6 weeks old. She'll be five years old this year!)
  • Had the boys try on their “elegant night” attire … made decisions on what we were all wearing and color schemes. Black … red … white … pretty basic, but that’s our school district colors and my oldest already had dress up clothes for when he needed to dress up for school before football and track meet game days. And Lord knows I have plenty of black dresses. (Note, I did not say “little” black dresses. Ahem! That is changing! )
  • Confirmed with hubby’s parents about watching the house/checking on the pool (they live a convenient [sometimes inconvenient ... nah ... I'm kidding!] mile around the corner).
  • Emailed Carnival to ask questions about my husband’s C-Pap machine, the availability of an extension cord, distilled water for the C-Pap, and a fan. We got an email the very next day. They said if we have an extension cord, we should bring it and pack it in with the machine. Otherwise, they may confiscate an extension cord if packed in our checked luggage. If we got one on the ship, we’d have to pay a deposit for it (I think it was $25), which we’d get back when we returned it, but it was “first come, first served”. We ended up bringing our own, putting it in with the machine, and nobody asked any questions. They said we could order a gallon of distilled water from Room Service for $3, which we didn’t end up needing. My husband’s machine has a large water reservoir that doesn’t leak and he filled it before leaving home. Regarding the fan, they said we could bring a battery powered one, or we could request one on the ship. Again, first come, first served.
Day before leaving: Confirmed everything via Carnival’s website. Printed the Carnival boarding passes and luggage tags. Printed boarding passes from Airtran’s website. Pre-purchased two checked bags … (I was being optimistic that I would only need two!). Put everything along with the other “just gotta have’s” in my “cruise binder” … flight, cruise, hotel, excursion confirmations, etc. Cleaned the house and finished getting everything ready to pack, took the dog to the kennel, and downloaded books to my Nook. Stayed up til 3:30 a.m. ironing clothes … DON’T DO IT, FOLKS! The crap still gets wrinkled!!! I took a tip from a frequent traveler and divided all our clothes among all our bags … a little of each of our clothes in each bag. That way if one bag got lost along the way, we’d all still have clothes. I also stuffed the dress shoes with socks so they wouldn’t get flattened. For the boys, I put two shirts with each pair of shorts. I knew they’d be running around and getting sweaty (and I was right) … they went through almost all their shirts (and I even did two loads of laundry mid-week of the cruise … more on that later!). Hindsight being 20/20 … I thought I was packing light, but I still packed way too much stuff for my hubby and me and apparently not enough for the boys!!

Up next: The day we leave! Yay!
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)

#9
Brunswick, Georgia
87 Posts
Joined Mar 2013
Originally posted by jhnsnfamily
Thank you so much jessiesgirl2013! That's so funny that that is your screen name ... my husband is a drummer in an 80's band and that's one of their songs! The Freedom is a beautiful ship with lots to do. You won't be disappointed! Congrats on your renewal of vows! How exciting! How many years for you?

LOL..guess you can tell that I'm a big Rick Springfield fan. It's our 20th anniversary, we are very excited.
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#10
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by jjh5351
I love reviews and yours seems well thought out already so I am saving this one. So sorry for your loss- you had this pregnant lady bawling like a big baby in the first sentence. Whew. I just lost my grandfather to cancer a month ago so its definitely fresh in my heart how hard it is to go through that. I hope your mom had a wonderful cruise, even though it is definitely a new feeling.
Thanks for your comments! I'm sorry I made you cry jjh5351! Those pregnancy hormones are a *you know what* aren't they! I don't like to preach about skin cancer, but if it saves one life, I'll say it! So sorry for your loss as well. Cancer is a beast. We MUST find a cure. It's crazy how fast it took over. He was only 66. My mom is doing okay. We had a great time, but of course, I'm sure she had her private moments of missing him that we didn't see.
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)

#11
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by boaterette
May I have more please? Loving your review. Sorry to hear about your Dad. That is always tough.
Getting there boaterette! I have it all typed out (24 pages in Word! Gah!) ... just have to cut/paste and add pictures, links, etc. Stay tuned!

Thanks for your comments about my dad. We still miss him so much.
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)

#12
PA
42 Posts
Joined Feb 2013
Originally posted by jhnsnfamily
Thanks for your comments! I'm sorry I made you cry jjh5351! Those pregnancy hormones are a *you know what* aren't they! I don't like to preach about skin cancer, but if it saves one life, I'll say it! So sorry for your loss as well. Cancer is a beast. We MUST find a cure. It's crazy how fast it took over. He was only 66. My mom is doing okay. We had a great time, but of course, I'm sure she had her private moments of missing him that we didn't see.
Haha you're telling me. I cry at the drop of a hat. Husband and I are cruising April 8 (SURPRISE pregnancy, obviously... Haha!) and we've packed lots and lots of sunscreen. My grandpa sounds just like your stepdad- super active, he was up on roofs (he's a contractor) the day he was diagnosed, and stayed on them until the nausea was too bad. Gotta keep those good memories I'm looking forward to the rest of your review. We're flying Jetblue out of Buffalo- but we may consider AirTran out of Ohio sometime. We're in Erie, PA so Columbus is a hike, but not too bad for cheap airfare!
#13
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Day we leave! Woooohooooo! Hubby is a firefighter/paramedic and didn’t get off work until 7 a.m. (works 24-hr shifts) … so, it’s good that we found a direct flight to FLL that left later in the day. He had time to come home, take a shower, and load the luggage in the truck (it has a cap on the back). Then we were off to pick up my mother (15 minutes away) and her friend (she lives right across the street from her). After we picked them up, we headed to my sister’s house (5 minutes away), loaded up her family’s luggage, they jumped in their vehicle, and we were off! We stopped at Cracker Barrel for breakfast (cuz we know they don't serve gravy and biscuits on cruise ships!) … we left at 10 a.m. … arrived at the Hilliard Cracker Barrel at 10:45 a.m. We got a table right away, ordered right away, ate, and we were outta there within an hour and off to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

We parked in long-term parking and hauled our mountain of luggage to one of the waiting areas to be picked up by a shuttle. The shuttles are frequent … we only waited about 5 minutes. The driver dropped us off at the Airtran terminal and we got checked in quickly. They weighed all our checked bags … I am GOOD if I say so myself! Ours were 38 lbs (garment bag), 48 lbs., and 49.8 lbs. We paid for the third checked bag and we were off to go through security. They ran my backpack through the scanner a few times … I forgot about the $18 in quarters I had packed in there for the laundry on the ship! OOPS! We still made it to the gate in PLENTY of time … Our flight left at 2:35 p.m.

Wheeeeeee! The flight was uneventful … see how uneventful it was …


(A woman with a camera cannot be trusted!)

Uneventful on a flight is always a good thing … soon we were flying over the ocean … we even saw a few cruise ships from up in the plane!



Here’s another cool picture as we descended into Ft. Lauderdale



Once we landed, I snapped a few pics (I love airports with palm trees inside!) and the boys headed to collect our checked bags.

Tall family to the left ......... short family to the right!


While they were on baggage patrol, I called the Hampton to inquire about the shuttle. We had made reservations back in January for the Hampton Inn Ft. Lauderdale Airport North Cruise Port mostly because the rate was relatively cheap ($125/night) and the reservations came with free shuttles from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the cruise terminal the next morning. It also came with a free hot breakfast. The gal at the hotel said to call back when we had collected our luggage. O-kayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Five minutes later, we had collected all our luggage and I called back.

She said, “Who are you flying with?”

I said, “AirTran.”

She said, “Okay, go outside and turn right. The driver will be there in a few minutes. Look for a white van with pink flamingos on top.”

Seriously. Pink flamingos.

So, I relayed the message to the rest of the clan, and we migrated thru the doors and turned right … which is where we parked ourselves. And waited. Don’t stand here:



The group was getting kinda antsy because the driver wasn’t showing up. And then we saw it! The white van with the oh-so-tacky, can’t-be-missed pink flamingos on top!



We saw it coming … and … we saw it going. What? Wait!!! After much grumbling, it was ‘suggested’ that I call the hotel again. I had already called 2x. I dialed the number and gave my phone to my mom. Apparently, we hadn’t gone far enough right. So, again, we collected our baggage and migrated farther down … long story short (is this a long story?), we had to eventually flag that darned guy down! The other people waiting were irritated that we arrived at the “proper” pick up location last and got picked up first. But, the guy had our name to confirm that’s who he was there to pick up, so we didn’t argue with them or with him! Adios!

Next up … the hotel and night before we sail!
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)

#14
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
If you are curious and may have never flown, here's a short video of our landing in Ft. Lauderdale:

Click HERE for YouTube video! I figure, if I'm taping, NOTHING WILL HAPPEN! And it didn't!
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)

#15
75 Posts
Joined Aug 2010
  • Went to the bank and got all the money for the trip (this will be important later … )
I just wanted to ask about this really quick as we leave in 2 days....did you need a lot of cash for some reason? We were planning on bringing some, but figured if we needed more we could always use our credit card....and we already have our sign and sail cards hooked to the credit card.

Really looking forward to the rest of your review!!
Thank you
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#16
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
The hotel was just that … no bells and whistles … the room was a standard room with two queen beds and a bathroom. It had a standard small, rectangular swimming pool. My mother’s room was much larger and we figured out it’s because it was a handicap room (she’s not handicapped … she just lucked out and got a larger room!). She even had a little kitchen area outside of the bathroom. In my room, the coffee pot and ice bucket/cups were in the bathroom. Bleck. I don’t know why, but I think that’s just gross. Sharticles on my coffee cup and coffee pot. Yucky. Yes, I sound like I am three … but it is … it’s yucky.

When we checked in, the gal asked about when we’d like the shuttle to pick us up in the morning. She gave us two choices: 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. I knew 10 a.m. was early to get to the cruise terminal … we thought about it and decided we didn’t want to stand outside in the heat for possibly up to a few hours, so we choose 1 p.m. We had also received voice mails on Friday from Carnival telling us to arrive at the terminal between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. for an easy embarkation. So, we went with it … 1 p.m. it was! (Hindsight being 20/20 … next time we will leave the hotel and get to the ship ASAP!)

We asked the front desk folks about local eateries, and they recommended a place on the water (boat dock) called Rendezvous (www dot therendezvousbarandgrill dot com). You can find the menu and pictures on the website. They even had a menu for us to peruse … we decided to go for it and asked about transportation. She said the hotel shuttle guy would be happy to take us there free of charge. Oh goodie … we get to ride in the pink flamingo van again! (Of course, we tipped him to and from … for our family of four, we tipped him $5 each way.)

The food was okay … basically, hit or miss … either really good or nasty. It seemed to take forever to actually get our food (about 45 minutes). My mom was disappointed; she ordered the seafood special and was told it was one thing (fried shrimp and fried fish), and when our server brought our food, it was something completely different (shrimp scampi and bacon wrapped scallops). She didn’t send it back because we were all starving. At this point, it was going on 9 p.m. and we hadn’t eaten since the Cracker Barrel for breakfast. The scallops were not good (I tried one) – the bacon was still raw and rubbery. My husband ordered the blackened chicken … I tried it, and I thought it was VERY spicy. I ordered the coconut shrimp appetizer (should have ordered the dinner darn it!), which was delish, and a baby spinach salad, which was nasty (I love spinach salads, but the dressing was awful). My sons both ordered the seafood pasta, which they LOVED. My BIL ordered the signature fish poboy sandwich and fries, which looked delish and he said it was very good (which says a lot because he’s an excellent cook with a refined palate!).

We sat outside and the guy playing music on the back deck was VERY LOUD. Once he started playing, we could barely talk to one another without shouting. After not getting much sleep and a long day of traveling and fighting with luggage (and sometimes each other!), it was not very relaxing. I’d say if you were in a different frame of mind, it’d be the place to be! When we were done eating and had settled our tab, we called the hotel to let them know we were ready for pickup and the driver was there within 10 minutes. Turns out my mother’s BFF left her $50 VISA gift card behind (her dinner was only about $20 so there was still a balance on the card). Somehow, the restaurant figured out who we were and called the hotel and tracked her down. (Maybe they saw our mode of transportation! LOL) The shuttle guy had no problems taking her back to the restaurant to pick up her card. That was pretty cool, and we were so glad that worked out for her! Bonus points!

Here's a quick picture of us after dinner. The singer was literally just out of the frame to the right behind where we were sitting.


Day 1/Embarkation (June 10): At the hotel: We got up and got ready and headed down to breakfast at 9 a.m. IT WAS A ZOO! Luggage everywhere, people everywhere … longgggggggggg line for the food … very few places to sit. The good news was, during the time we stood in line for food, some people finished up and were on their way, so we found a place to sit, not all together, but with a group of 10, that would have been impossible. (Besides, we had six fun-filled days of togetherness ahead of us, so we were good!) The food was your average hotel fare … scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt, pastries, toast/English muffins/bagels with a toaster to toast them, a waffle maker with waffle mix and hot syrup, hot oatmeal with a selection of toppings, fresh fruit (cut up and also whole bananas, apples, and oranges), a variety of cold cereals, milk (including skim and 2%), juices, coffees, and teas. Basically, if you couldn’t find something to eat, you’re just too picky!

We finished eating and had some time to kill so we walked across the access way (not even really a street) to Odd Lots. Found some last minute purchases there to include some packing tape for our Carnival bag tags … debated on buying a case of water there and decided against it. We just didn’t want another thing to lug around. Found water shoes for the family for $5 a pair (for Dunn's River Falls). Score! I also found a nifty little red padded holder for my Nook for only $8. Double score! After shopping, we headed back up to the room to finish packing. That’s when I got my cruise binder out and taped up our Carnival bag tags (to make them more durable) and attached them to our bags.



By noon, we were ready to check out, but with all the people and luggage still downstairs in the lobby, my DM called to see if we could stay in our rooms … the lady at the desk said we could stay until 12:30 p.m., which worked out great because the shuttle was scheduled for 1 p.m. In the meantime, my DS1 hunted down (or stalked the people that were leaving … don’t know … didn’t see a thing!) and found a luggage cart. Yeah! Brownie points for the boy! At 12:30, we headed to the lobby with all our luggage in tow. IT WAS STILL PACKED! So, we found a place to land and waited. And waited. And waited … 1 p.m. came and went, and we were getting antsy so we started asking questions. We didn’t want to miss the ship! Hands on heart! GASP!

I should also mention that RCCL's Allure of the Seas was leaving that day also, and there were a lot people at our hotel waiting to get to that ship.

Turns out (at least this is what we were told), there was a backup at the cruise terminal … passengers were late getting off the Freedom and the next round of passengers started showing up. The passengers parked in the long term parking hadn’t left yet, and the newly arriving passengers couldn’t find a place to park. All this resulted in a terrible traffic backup, and our shuttles were right in the middle of it. It was taking them 45 minutes round trip to go from the hotel to the terminal and back even though it’s only 5 minutes away.

We finally hear our group’s name and we got on the shuttle at 2 p.m. and by then, the traffic was MUCH clearer.

Up next: THE SHIP, THE SHIP! I SEE THE SHIP!
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)

#17
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by jdl71115
  • Went to the bank and got all the money for the trip (this will be important later … )
I just wanted to ask about this really quick as we leave in 2 days....did you need a lot of cash for some reason? We were planning on bringing some, but figured if we needed more we could always use our credit card....and we already have our sign and sail cards hooked to the credit card.

Really looking forward to the rest of your review!!
Thank you
Okay, I'll spill the beans just for you since you are leaving in 2 days! Our CC was hacked while we were in Ft. Lauderdale. We believe it was someone from the hotel, as this is the only card we have and it was the card we used to book the hotel, which we had paid for many months before. When we checked out that morning, the bill they slipped under the door said we owed ZERO. Long story short, whoever hacked us waited until the next day (when they knew we were long gone and on a ship in the ocean) to make changes to our account ... like everything (name, my birth date, address, email address, mother's maiden name, EVERYTHING!). Things were going fine on the cruise and our use of the sail-n-sign was fine also ... and then it wasn't. After about an hour at Guest Services and about 30 minutes on the phone with Capital One, THEY CLOSED OUR ACCOUNT. Like I said, that's the only CC we have. So, the cash we brought got put on our account and they let my DM attach her credit card to our SnS account just in case we went over the cash balance. We got lucky in that we had already paid for at least one of our excursions beforehand and we aren't big drinkers ... so, we did okay. We went over about $175 from the cash we brought and paid my DM when we got home. We ate at the steakhouse one night on the ship, which is extra PP, and my BIL put this on his SnS account and we paid him back when we got home also. I hope you don't ever have to worry about something like this! I'm just glad Capital One is on top of things and they only got away with $50!
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)

#18
75 Posts
Joined Aug 2010
Originally posted by jhnsnfamily
Okay, I'll spill the beans just for you since you are leaving in 2 days! Our CC was hacked while we were in Ft. Lauderdale. We believe it was someone from the hotel, as this is the only card we have and it was the card we used to book the hotel, which we had paid for many months before. When we checked out that morning, the bill they slipped under the door said we owed ZERO. Long story short, whoever hacked us waited until the next day (when they knew we were long gone and on a ship in the ocean) to make changes to our account ... like everything (name, my birth date, address, email address, mother's maiden name, EVERYTHING!). Things were going fine on the cruise and our use of the sail-n-sign was fine also ... and then it wasn't. After about an hour at Guest Services and about 30 minutes on the phone with Capital One, THEY CLOSED OUR ACCOUNT. Like I said, that's the only CC we have. So, the cash we brought got put on our account and they let my DM attach her credit card to our SnS account just in case we went over the cash balance. We got lucky in that we had already paid for at least one of our excursions beforehand and we aren't big drinkers ... so, we did okay. We went over about $175 from the cash we brought and paid my DM when we got home. We ate at the steakhouse one night on the ship, which is extra PP, and my BIL put this on his SnS account and we paid him back when we got home also. I hope you don't ever have to worry about something like this! I'm just glad Capital One is on top of things and they only got away with $50!

That is TERRIBLE, I'm sooooo sorry that happened to you. Your right, thank Goodness you had cash. What a mess to have to worry about while on vacation!
Thank you though for the response and for spilling the beans early!
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#19
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
We spotted the Royal Caribbean ship first ... that is one GIGANTIC ship! I can't wait to be on her next year!!!



and then our ship as we drove right up to the “drop zone”.



Once we unloaded all the luggage and tipped the driver, we handed off all our “checked bags” to the Carnival luggage people (and also tipped them! Bring lots of singles!) and we walked right into the building and had to stand in line for about five minutes to have our passports checked and to get through security. After a quick stop at the bathroom, we got into another line to get our sail-n-sign cards and finish checking in. This line took a bit longer … maybe 15 - 20 minutes. I did notice the VIP line separate from where we were. After that, we got a group picture taken (let the picture taking begin!) … and we were walking the gangway onto the ship! We made it! Woooooohoooooo! (Exhale …………)

Pictures are blurry, but here they are!






NOTE: Your sail-n-sign card does NOT have your cabin number on it! You have to memorize it! Argh!

We asked the first Carnival employee we saw if the rooms were ready … and they were! So we headed straight there to drop off all the crap we carried on ourselves. As soon as our cabin steward introduced himself to us, we asked about the fan. I thought for sure there would be no way in heck there’d be any left since we got on the ship so late. Savoy said he’d check, but he couldn’t promise anything. Fingers crossed! We went to everyone’s cabins, did the ooh’s and aah’s, took some pics ...


then went up to the Freedom restaurant to grab a bite to eat. Uhhhhhhhhhhhh … too late! They were closing the buffet in anticipation of the muster drill. Darn it! Soooo close! Almost close enough to grab a roll! We decided to head back to our cabins to wait on the luggage. Surprise! They were already there. Double surprise! We had a fan!



It was nice and loud too! We didn't hear a thing in the hallway ... no drunk people ... no kids running to and fro ... it was nice! We sleep with a fan at home, which I know is a really bad habit, but I’m (we're) addicted to the noise. I also didn’t know how easy it would be to control the air temperature in the cabin, so I erred on the side of needing a fan for that. (We got lucky and our cabin stayed nice and cool the whole week. If the sun was too strong, we just pulled the curtains to block it out, which helped a lot!)

We attended the required safety briefing, which was no joke. They take it seriously, as they should. Expect numerous Carnival employees to be stationed everywhere, near the stairwells, directing you to your muster station (the letter of your station is on your sail-n-sign card). Where we were, we were instructed to form a line, shoulder to shoulder. We ended up four layers deep. After about 30 minutes of standing there for the drill, they will release areas by letters. No, you don’t have to wear your life vests (although, in the past, this did make for an awesome picture taking opportunity!).

Now off to the sail away! I grabbed the Ohio State towel (Go Bucks! O-H ….. anyone? Who is paying attention???) and our clan was off to Deck 7/forward for the sail away! I knew our cabins were on the side of the ship (starboard) that were away from the webcam, so I told the guy we’d be in the front of the ship waving said Ohio State towel. The majority of our rooms were on Deck 7, so we headed to the end of the hall and TA DA! There was a door to the “secret” deck. While we were waiting, DH and BIL went down to get us some drinks … that’s when they learned that if you purchase one of their “signature” drinks … Long Island Iced Tea, Margaritas, etc., you can take your receipts to the casino and get a $5 chip for each drink! What a deal! DH and BIL were all over that the rest of the trip … and, their Long Islands are STRONG.

Back to the sail away … As I said earlier, I scheduled a sail-away with www dot portevergladeswebcam dot com. I never heard back from him, but he must have gotten the message! He zooms in on us at around the 28 second mark! We talked to several family members during the sail away and they saw us on the camera! We were worried because we were sailing about an hour late, but they waited and saw us. At the 1:40 mark you can see my husband on his cell phone talking with his parents! They said the video was blurry (it got clearer towards the end), but we got some face time for about a minute and a half! It was pretty cool to share that moment with those that weren’t traveling with us. Click HERE for the video.
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)

#20
Springfield, Ohio
277 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Here's "yours truly" ... DH and me (me with a blue hawaiian ... mmmmmm ... and DH with his long island)


DS and her family (DN2's shirt said "Ship Happens" ... I loved it!!)


DM and her BFF (sorry for all the white space ... it's actually part of the picture!)


The boys


My sis, my momma, and me


Grandma with just a few of her grandkids
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Michelle

Carnival Sensation (Honeymoon-May 1995)
Carnival Fascination (1997) before kids
Caribbean Princess (April 2007) -- Kids' first cruise ages 6 1/2 and oldest turned 9 on the ship!
Carnival Freedom (June 10, 2012) -- Kids' second cruise! Ages 11 1/2 and 14 (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW! LOTS OF PICS!)