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mpcaruth

Freedom PHOTO Trip Review to ARUBA, GRAND TURK, DR, & CURACAO

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We took our annual family cruise in January aboard the lovely Carnival Freedom. We are a family of four, with two kids ages 10 and 12. This cruise had the best itinerary yet: Grand Turk, La Romana, Curacao, and Aruba! I booked the 8-day cruise specifically for the itinerary, as we had already sailed the Freedom in 2011. By doing a repeat cruise on the Freedom, we did miss the new ship excitement upon boarding. The theater shows and activities on the ship were nearly the same from 2 years ago.

 

With that said, I plan to make this review photo-intensive, concentrating more on the port of calls. I will also include photos and highlights of the ship. The ship and activities really haven’t changed since my 2011 Freedom cruise to Panama (see link to that review in my signature). I will also try to include some of my money saving tips for the cruise, as I know there are other CC members who are on a budget, or just prefer not to waste money.

 

Let’s get started:

 

We started the long drive from Virginia, where are yard was covered white with snow, and headed south to Fort Lauderdale on Thursday afternoon. We spent the first night near Savannah, GA, and I used my Choice Privileges credit card points to redeem a free night stay. (Sign up for a credit and get free bonus points). We always drive, and though the trip is about 14 hours, it seems more convenient than flying: no worries about cancelled flights due to weather, no luggage restrictions, we are on our schedule, and much cheaper for a family of four.

 

We arrived in Florida on Friday afternoon and stopped directly at the Sawgrass Recreation Park for our first Everglades airboat ride. My daughter had studied about the Everglades in school the month before, and she really wanted to see it for herself. The park has an animal exhibit area, which we visited prior to the 30-minute airboat ride.

 

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We watched the keeper feed the hawk a mouse:

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To be continued:

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EVERGLADES CONTINUED:

 

 

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Notice the Ospry on the left carrying a fish:

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To be continued...

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I'm looking forward to the rest of your review.... DW and I are booked for this same Itinerary on April 6.... I can hardly contain myself, the waiting is driving me crazy.... Like you we have been on Freedom before, so the ship is not a big deal for us, the ports sure are though!

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After the tour we headed back to Fort Lauderdale to our hotel. I had landed a great deal through Hotwire on a 4-star hotel for $69. The hotel was the Fort Lauderdale Westin. I had tried to find deals through Hotwire weeks in advanced, but found nothing less than $160 for 4-star, until 2 days before the stay. So, if you can wait until the last minute to book, you can snag a real great deal. We had no problem canceling our booked hotel and switching to our Hotwire hotel. It was a very nice hotel, not on the beach, but very nice nonetheless. Here’s a picture of the kids playing in the pool:

 

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Picture taken with cell phone from our hotel room:

 

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Saturday morning before the cruise we ventured down to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. What a great walkable area! There were many cafes and shops with a nice beach access. I had not researched this before the trip, and we just happened to stumble upon it driving around looking for breakfast. Here’s a cell phone picture of my daughter trying to push over a palm tree.

 

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Up next, the Carnival Freedom.

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I am subscribing to your review. We leave on the Freedom 4 weeks from today.....super excited to see more of your pictures :)

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The Carnival Freedom is a very nice Conquest Class ship. Disappointedly, it has NOT gone through the Funship 2.0 upgrades yet. I really enjoyed the lunch options everyday to include: deli, pizza, burgers, buffet line, dining room, Mongolian Wok, Fish and Chips, and my favorite Tandoor (Indian choices). We had My Time Dining, and it appears this is increasingly becoming the popular choice. We actually had to wait approximately 10 minutes each night to be seated.

 

Entertainment consists of the typical singing/dancing shows in the theater, including Ticket to Ride. We chose not to see any of these shows this time. We make numerous appearances to the Punchliners Comedy Club (love this about Carnival!!!), and we attended a variety act and the hypnotist show. The hypnotist show always provides loads of laughter.

 

Since, I had cruise the Freedom before, I did not take as many photos of the ship as I typically do. But here are some:

 

 

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Women's locker room:

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Hot Tub in the spa:

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To date this is also my most absolute favourite cruise, we did it on the Miracle, but it may be topped by our Valor cruise in January :D

 

Thanks for the review and the pictures!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE pictures. Even though I wont be at these ports or on this ship, it still helps pass the time (which is going v e r y s l o w l y !!)

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On of my favorite features of the Conquest class ships is the pool set-up. There is a quiet aft pool for adults only. The main pool is below the outside theater screen, amongst the daytime music and activities (party zone). Then, there is my favorite pool, the midship pool which is on a higher deck than the main pool. This mid-ship pool is perfect for kids, as it is located at the end of the waterslide. There were typically deck chairs available in this area too. Please be warned: the hot tub adjacent to the mid-ship pool may be overrun with children. I think this worked out well, as I didn't notice children in the other hot tubs.

 

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Free Throw competition:

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Family cookie decorating (Camp Carnival activity):

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Edited by mpcaruth

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The Carnival Freedom is a very nice Conquest Class ship. Disappointedly, it has NOT gone through the Funship 2.0 upgrades yet. I really enjoyed the lunch options everyday to include: deli, pizza, burgers, buffet line, dining room, Mongolian Wok, Fish and Chips, and my favorite Tandoor (Indian choices). We had My Time Dining, and it appears this is increasingly becoming the popular choice. We actually had to wait approximately 10 minutes each night to be seated.

 

Entertainment consists of the typical singing/dancing shows in the theater, including Ticket to Ride. We chose not to see any of these shows this time. We make numerous appearances to the Punchliners Comedy Club (love this about Carnival!!!), and we attended a variety act and the hypnotist show. The hypnotist show always provides loads of laughter.

 

Since, I had cruise the Freedom before, I did not take as many photos of the ship as I typically do. But here are some:

 

 

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Women's locker room:

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Hot Tub in the spa:

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Is the spa hot tub open to all? Any idea what the hours are? Thanks for the pics, we're sailing on the Freedom in 2 weeks!!

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Thank you for posting your review! We sail in June on the Freedom, and our kids are near your kids' ages, so it's nice getting that perspective as well. Keep up the good work, and great pictures too!

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Is the spa hot tub open to all? Any idea what the hours are? Thanks for the pics, we're sailing on the Freedom in 2 weeks!!

 

Yes this hot tub is open to everyone. It's almost a secret. I rarely see anyone here. You have to go through the locker room and choose an unmarked door leading to this hot tub. One door leads to the gym and the other to this area.

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Grand Turk

 

Sadly, we didn’t have much port time here; 8:30 to 1:30. We got off the ship around 9:00 and headed to the Margaritaville pool. The pool was gorgeous, but COLD! It may not have been any colder that the beach, but there were very few sober people in the pool. My son had wanted to do the Flow Rider, but there is a minimum 5 persn requirement before they start it up. The cost is $40 for 1.5 hours of ride time.

 

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We ended up not waiting for the next Flow Rider group, and went to the beach to try some snorkeling and look for conch shells. We easily found chairs on the beach on the left (facing the ship). It was rocky here at the water line, but there was a small area without rocks to go into the water. We only saw a few fish, but this gave the kids a chance to practice snorkeling.

 

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I must have had a dirty camera lens, as all my pictures from this camera had a smudge in the middle left.

 

To be continued…

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Grand Turk Continued:

 

The guys lay in a chaise and took a nap on the beach under the shade of the palms, while we girls took a walk up the beach to collect conch shells. The walk up the beach required traversing over rocks and dunes. It was only about a quarter of a mile walk and was very pleasant. There were hundreds of conch shells washed up on shore. My daughter had a hard time narrowing it down to her favorite two to carry back on the ship.

 

Pictures from our walk along the beach:

 

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Next up, my personal favorite port of this trip, La Romana – Seavis Eco Tour to Saona Island.

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Thanks for the review. Will be on the Freedom in April - doing a different route though. Thanks for the info about the "hidden" hot tub. Will be sure to check it out.

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Great review so far, we are doing the same cruise in May on the freedom, looking forward to the rest and money saver ideas

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I am taking this same cruise on the Breeze in 13 days! Can't wait to hear your review about Seavis.. My hubby and I are booked for that too!

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Exited to find this review with lots of pictures! We're doing the same itinerary in May and also doing the Seavis tour. Looking forward to the rest! :D

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La Romana – Dominican Republic

 

The anticipated Seavis Saono Special Tour gets a 5/5 rating from this family!

 

This is the second time we have been to the Dominican Republic. Yes, the country is very poor, but it has a lot to offer. The last time we visited, we were on the northern side of the county and stopped on a Royal Caribbean ship in Samana. We took an ATV excursion through the interior land to a waterfall and later to the most beautiful secluded beach. I enjoyed interacting with the local children and tipped them often and handed out toys from my backpack as we rode through rural neighborhoods. Samana was the highlight of that previous cruise. So, when people say that ships should not stop in Dominican Republic, I say, get out and take an adventure! We are one family who always gets off the ship.

 

Did you know that Trip Advisor rated Bayahibe Beach as number 7 in the “Top 10 Beach Destinations in the Caribbean”? We decided to go with Seavis’ “Saono Special” tour instead of our second choice, Bayahibe Beach. The tour was AMAZING, and ranks as one of the best tours we have ever done.

 

 

Seavis had sent perfect instructions for where to meet for the excursion. We walked up the hill from the dock and were immediately greeted by the tour guide arranging the taxis to Seavis. The ride to the Seavis hut was around 30 minutes, or so. When we arrived at Seavis, we paid our fees and were assigned a tour guide, Carlos. This outfit is very professional and organized! Now, the local vendors trying to sell us souvenirs were assertive and irritating.

 

 

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Getting on the speedboats for our adventure to Saono Island:

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To be continued…

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Geez, as I post these pictures I can really see where my point and shoot camera lens needed cleaning. Ugghhh! My advice to other cruisers: take a lens cleaning kits and clean often.

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Can't wait to see more of this tour. We are leaving on the Breeze on the Feb. 16 and are looking at doing this tour. Can't wait to hear more about it !!!

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Seavis Saono Special Tour Continued:

 

The power boat ride to the island was GORGEOUS! We stopped twice along the way. The first stop was next to some caves to discuss the Taino Indians.

 

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To be continued...

Edited by mpcaruth

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Seavis Saona Special Tour Continued:

 

 

 

The second stop was at the mangroves where we received information on the natural marine life and habitat.

 

 

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And our third, but not final destination was the magnificent Saona Island.

 

A few other boats beat us here:

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A barbeque lunch was served in the shade of this hut. The meal consisted of Caribbean styled chicken, pork, potatoes, rice, and bread. My daughter and I loved the food, and thought it was better than most of the meals on the ship. My picky son found enough to eat to keep him from getting hungry. I should not forget to mention that I enjoyed many rum and cokes, included with the excursion. I regret that I did not get any photos of the food layout for this review. Sorry.

 

 

 

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Edited by mpcaruth

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Seavis Saona Special Tour Continued:

 

We were at the island for nearly an hour before the lunch was ready, so we took advantage of the snorkeling equipment. Carlos suggested that the best snorkeling could be found near the old pier columns. We saw lots of fish, some a little too big for my daughter’s comfort. She talked the entire time though the snorkel, and her comments were quite humoring.

 

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To be continued….

Edited by mpcaruth

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Seavis Saona Special Tour Continued:

 

 

Various pictures from Saona Island:

 

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We will be sailing on the Freedom in March. Although we are doing an 8 night cruise, it will be to different stops. Sailing with me are my 2 DS (9 and 13). If you still have the Camp Carnival and Circle C schedules, could you post them? We've been on other cruises with Carnival, but I want to see if anything has changed with what Camp Carnival and Circle C offers.

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Seavis Saona Special Tour Continued:

 

 

Seavis arranges a photographer to go with every tour boat. Silvie was assigned to our boat and she took pictures along the way. I was not interested in receiving her services, since I had brought two of my own cameras… until she showed my husband some of the candid photos she had taken of us on her laptop. Well, my husband came and got me to take a look and I was sold. For $40 I could get the entire CD of photos, plus she would do a family shoot on the beach. Also on the CD are lots of photos of the speedboat ride to the island and pictures of the island itself. I include this in my review in case others decide they do not want to risk taking a camera, they can pay $40 and have a CD full of personalized memories.

 

Here are some of her photos:

 

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To be continued with a stop to see the starfish...

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We will be sailing on the Freedom in March. Although we are doing an 8 night cruise, it will be to different stops. Sailing with me are my 2 DS (9 and 13). If you still have the Camp Carnival and Circle C schedules, could you post them? We've been on other cruises with Carnival, but I want to see if anything has changed with what Camp Carnival and Circle C offers.

 

I do have both schedules. It may take a couple of days before I can scan them and post. My son is very shy and did not attend many Circle C events, but my daughter visited Camp Carnival every sea day. One activity that the Freedom lacks from other Carnival ship is Laser Tag. We really missed it on this ship, as it make a great family activity.

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Seavis Saona Special Tour Continued:

 

Well, this review of Seavis is taking much longer than I had anticipated. I just have so many photos to share!

 

There was only one stop heading back to Bayahibe, the sandbar to see the starfish. When we first stopped, we did not see any starfish. It was fun having to walk around searching for them, almost like hunting for Easter eggs.

 

 

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Searching for her first starfish:

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Carlos educated everyone on starfish and emphasized not to bring them out of the water for more than a few seconds.

 

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My daughter found a really small one and shared it with another little girl:

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To be continued…

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Seavis Saona Special Tour Continued:

 

 

This is my last post of the Seavis excursion. It was so much fun, and educational. I try to make every family vacation fun and educational, and this fit perfectly.

 

My husband found another starfish:

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Carlos was a great guide. He really made the trip fun for the kids, as shown below splashing my son. When Carlos told me he was from Barcelona, I immediately asked if he had run with the bulls. Yes, he had numerous times, but he has calmed down now and spends time guiding excursions and scuba diving in the Dominican Republic.

 

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The taxis dropped us off at the dock with nearly an hour before ship departure. So, I had a little time to shop for souvenirs, though there was nothing special near the dock. Fortunately, I had bought a Taino-style oil painting while on Saona Island for my souvenir collection. My daughter also got a hand made necklace while at Saona.

 

Here’s a picture of the local boys playing baseball near the cruise dock. I wonder if the next Sammy Sosa is here?

 

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Goodbye DR. Next up: Curacao

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Op,

Your pictures are just beautiful and your family is magnificent. I am looking forward to your other pics. I have been to the Dominican Republic on cruises and have never left the port, but now I wish I had.

 

Keep up your review. We may just go on Freedom based on your review. Thanks so much.

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Very nice review. You have a very good looking family. I am looking at this itinerary for my next cruise, so I am watching your review closely. Thanks for sharing.

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The tour with Seavis in La Romana was one of my favorites too. Loved Carlos our guide and the beauty of the island. Thanks for sharing the starfish pics. My camera died when we got there and I missed all the starfish pics.

 

While at the starfish another giest and I decided toswim to shore......its a lot firther than it looks. But the sand in the water near the shore was like quicksand. As you stood, you sank to your hip bone. Very funny after having the "celebration drink and cake" with the starfish

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The tour with Seavis in La Romana was one of my favorites too. Loved Carlos our guide and the beauty of the island. Thanks for sharing the starfish pics. My camera died when we got there and I missed all the starfish pics.

 

While at the starfish another giest and I decided toswim to shore......its a lot firther than it looks. But the sand in the water near the shore was like quicksand. As you stood, you sank to your hip bone. Very funny after having the "celebration drink and cake" with the starfish

 

Cool story about the quick sand. It makes you wonder what sea critters are lurking under the sand. I had forgotten to tell everyone that more rum, cake, and fresh pineapple were available at the starfish stop.

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Very nice review. You have a very good looking family. I am looking at this itinerary for my next cruise, so I am watching your review closely. Thanks for sharing.

 

Thank you! I think you will really enjoy this itinerary. Aruba is amazing! Currently the Freedom offers three different itineraries, which are all outside of the typical ports for all the cruise lines. If I were retired, I can just see myself taking all three back to make for a 21-day cruise. I don't know about you, but I get tired of Nassau, St. Thomas, St. Martin, and Cozumel.

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