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Just Back from Freedom Maiden Voyage

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We just returned from the Freedom maiden voyage today, and I thought I’d post some comments and observations (b/c I’m too lazy to do a full-blown review). :) I’ve only read a few inaugural comments that were posted by others while we were at sea, so my apologies if I repeat anything.

To provide some perspective, this was my 37th cruise with RCI. There were 9 of us altogether, celebrating 1 high school graduation, 3 birthdays and Father’s Day. We also had the benefit of sailing on the 2 day Mother’s Day pre-inaugural out of Bayonne.

So before I start nit-picking, let me say right off the bat that RCI should be very pleased with the maiden voyage. The ship and crew were 100% ready to go. Everything was in working order and spotless. There were no major glitches or disasters (or even minor ones, for that matter). I think it’s important to take a step back and realize that on a ship of this magnitude, with everything that could go wrong, nothing did, and RCI delivered. Props to them. We were all very glad we went, very pleased with the value of our cruise vacation, and overall had a great time.

Here’s a random rundown of key cruise events, activities, facts and observations:

+ Embarkation was a breeze. We got on at 2pm and the place was dead. Walked right up to the counter and boarded in 5 minutes. No shocker here, given Miami’s experience with Voyager class ships, but it was very nice to start off on the right foot.

+ There were about 3600 pax on board, so the ship was not full (as many folks reported it would not be prior to the sailing). 1800 were repeat guests. Supposedly, 800 were Diamond, but that # seems high to me. There were 74 D+.

+ RCI upgraded us to a lovely Junior Suite - 9544 – port side, right by the forward elevators. Awesome location and an overall terrific room. Thank you RCI! Our stateroom attendant was Pande and he did a great job. The new beds / bedding make all the difference in getting a restful night’s sleep.

+ Mustering was at 445pm and sailaway was around 515 – 530pm. Main dining on night 1 was at 615pm (thereafter 6pm). Late seating was 9pm the first night and 830 thereafter.

+ We had main dining on Deck 4. Lorinda was our waiter and Efrio was our assistant waiter. Service was competent. Efrio fell ill for 2 days – always hate it when that happens :eek: – but returned seemingly no worse for wear. Overall, the food was good. Nothing stellar, nothing horrible.

+ We were invited to dine with the Captain on the first formal night, but had to decline, b/c we already had plans with our group to celebrate the aforementioned occasions.

+ There is no Caribbean night. It is replaced by Surf night, with the most tragic menu ever. Make plans for Chops or Portofino. Day 4 / GC.

+ With so many Diamond members on board, evening cocktail hour – normally held it the Diamond Club - was held in the Pharoah’s Palace, starting at 5:30pm, rather than the standard 5pm. You were required to show your Sea Pass to land-based staff , who were on board helping out, in order to gain entry. As usual, drinks cannot be removed from the lounger. They offered the same general selection of liquors and snacks.

+ The D Club was staffed by the assistant loyalty ambassador. She did a nice job, but I really felt something lacking in the service; the personal touch was missing. I think it all boils down to the sheer # of repeat guests on board and the newness of the process.

+ Tender tickets are required to go ashore for the 3 applicable stops. Tix are given out in Boleros and the Schooner Bar on deck 4. An announcement is made once tix are no longer required. D and D+ can get priority tender tix from the concierge.

+ We got off the ship in Cozumel and GC. No problems tendering, particularly in Cozumel. The process was speedy and well managed. I’m sure RCI put extra effort and resources into making this a success to avoid a PR nightmare, and hopefully they will continue to do so.

+ Adam Goldstein, RCI president, joined the ship in Cozumel.

+ Lots more folks than usual chose to stay on board in Labadee. It was hotter than I ever remember it being there.

+ Internet was the same speed as other ships – so in other words – slow. I had the best luck in the mornings on port days when no one was on.

+ Early guesses for things that will be changed / removed on Liberty: Squeeze juice bar, A Clean Shave (Deck 5), Boxing Ring (Deck 11).

+ I got great drinks and service from Minnie and Vinnie in the Schooner Bar.

+ The mini golf course, despite its shrunken size, is still entertaining and challenging.

+ The entertainment was good, but a bit of a disappointment. I was really hoping for at least some C or D list headliners.

+ The ice show is tired. Maybe I’ve just sailed on too many Voyager class ships, but it’s the same old combo of time-period music (60s, 70s) and nationalities (Asian, African, etc), with some gimmicky act in the middle. Someone really needs to put a fresh pair of eyes on this and inject some creativity. Go back to focusing on the skating as opposed to the showmanship and costume changes.

+ Both the Stanley Cup and NBA finals were broadcast via satellite.

+ There was no horseracing.

+ I thought there were many more announcements than usual, and that they were longer than usual.

+ The revolving doors leading from the Windjammer (deck 11) to the pool area have a nasty way to stopping in progress and momentarily trapping people passing through. The port side door broke and was inoperative for a day or so.

+ All pax received a Freedom maiden voyager certificate / photo album. C&A members also received a picture frame and buttons with the names of various venues around the ship.

+ Bingo jackpot was round $12,000.

+ The new deck chairs are very comfortable and plentiful.

+ Movies shown include Cinderella Man, The Perfect Man, Must Love Dogs. I’m forgetting a few.

+ Debarkation was a breeze as well. We did express and walked off at about 640am. The ship actually docks around 5am. I obviously can’t comment on how the effort went overall.

Here is a brief assessment of crowds / lines in various venues:

+ Windjammer. Really difficult to navigate and get a seat at peak times. This will only worsen when the ship is full.

+ Royal Promenade. Again, difficult to navigate at peak times (after shows and during events). All of the cross-selling stations really get in the way.

+ Photo area / Casino. Forget this area in the evenings. Heavy congestion.

+ Pools and Pool deck. IMO, the pool deck was crowded, but not as badly as I expected. I would equate it with the standard Voyager class set-up. The H2O Z and Flowrider do seem to help disperse crowds. It’s really tough to get a chair right at the pool area, but there’s plenty of seating on Deck 12 both forward and aft. The 2 main pools were full, but no more so than on a Voyager class ship.

+ Solarium. Generally crowded. Plan ahead and save those chairs. =) I did see pool attendants expel a few underage pax from the Solarium.

+ Gym. Standard rush in the mornings, but the huge size of the facility helps mitigate the crowd factor.

+ Flowrider. Nowhere near as crowded as I thought it would be.

+ Dining room. There are areas that are very tight, making it uncomfortable to sit and impossible for the staff to navigate.

+ Café P/ Sorrentos / Ben and Jerry’s. All of the locales handled crowds better than I expected. Never had to wait for more than a handful of folks ahead of me.

+ Arcadia Theatre. For main seating shows, the theatre was often completely full, which I have never seen on an Eagle class ship. Maybe it’s b/c the shows are all new, of the maiden voyage factor motivated more people to go than usual, or b/c there are just so many more people on board. Get there early.

+ Elevators. I didn’t find waits to be bad, but I only take an elevator when I have to go up more than 5 flights.

Overall Opinions

When I disembarked Freedom in May, I was very impressed with the ship and thought it went beyond the Voyager class experience. After 7 days of sailing, I’m going to back off of that assessment a bit and agree a bit more with some of the comments made by fellow poster Caviargal. Freedom is simply a glorified Eagle class ship, and it is too big for my taste – and I love big ships. Comments I’ve read here about the “shopping mall experience” really resonated with me for the first time. The Solarium is unfortunately really undersized.

The ship is beautiful, and innovative in spots, but bottom line, if you’ve done VY, EX, AV, NV or MR, you’ve done Freedom. The clear and obvious target audience is families. With the advent of H2O Z and Flowrider, I think they could stay on all 7 days and have a great time. But I do not think this ship will continue to have a big draw for experienced cruisers, particularly Diamond & D+.

I would sail on Freedom again, but only for the right price & itinerary. I would be very concerned about the cruising experience once she is up to full capacity, and I cannot fathom what Genesis will be like. I would also not cancel a cruise booked on Eagle class to see Freedom; IMO, it’s just not worth it.

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Patrick thanks for your thoughts on this ship. I more than likely will pass on this ship and her sisters. The Voyager class is large enough for me. The only time that I might think about cruising with this class ship would be the non peak times.

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Patrick, when you said you were too lazy to give a full review I assumed your post would be short....lol.... but no...it was not short and it was informative for your self proclaimed non full blown report. Nice Job!

 

We'll get to put your obsevations to use in a few weeks when we cruise Freedom.

I am expecting everything in the ship to more or less resemble what we have cruised on before ( Explorer & Navigator ) People have expressed their concerns about crowds on those ships so I suppose some will share that opinion for Freedom. As busy as a Voyager class pool deck can be, I felt crowded more on Serenade's pool deck than on Explorer or Navigator.

 

In any event, I'm sure we'll manage.....lol..........

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To help with the WJ crowds, are they going to open up the dining room for lunch on the nonsea days?

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Whats eagle class?

 

Eagle Class was Voyager Class before it became Voyager. Kinda like a 'working title'. Once they picked a name, it became the Voyager Class. Much like Freedom Class was 'Ultra Voyager' before Freedom. Some still seem to refer to it as Eagle.

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Thanks for the review. It was very detailed. :) I have been on Explorer of the Seas (2001), Navigator of the Seas (2003), and Mariner of the Seas (2004). Last year, I went on Carnival Valor. This year is Freedom of the Seas. I supose I will find my way around easy since I've been on 3 voyager class ships. ;)

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Thanks for the review of Freedom! I'm booked for the 01/07/07 cruise, and have been wondering what the first impressions would be. I may be lucky in that this will be my first RCI cruise, so I have nothing to compare it to.

 

Thanks again!

 

Cruising Greek

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what an awsome review. we will be sailing on july 9th. i can't wait. did you say to eat at either restaurant on the 4th day? was the normal menu at dinner the best night to miss? do you hear anyone talking about the deep sea fishing in mexico? was the 2 hour ride to the falls worth it or were people wishing they would have picked another excursion? thanks for all you help

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what an awsome review. we will be sailing on july 9th. i can't wait. did you say to eat at either restaurant on the 4th day? was the normal menu at dinner the best night to miss? do you hear anyone talking about the deep sea fishing in mexico? was the 2 hour ride to the falls worth it or were people wishing they would have picked another excursion? thanks for all you help

 

Have fun on your sailing! I recommend going to an alternative restaurant on Day 4 b/c the dining room menu is a little weak. Can't help you with fishing in mexico - sorry. I would not waste the time riding to dunns river in a bus. wait til you sail there on another cruise.

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Patrick,

 

GREAT review! Not at all lazy, very concise and to the point. Did you do any excursions on Cozumel, and if so, did they have a special ferry vs tender for those groups? Did you by chance have any dining rm menus to share? Glad to hear they were monitoring the underage group in the Solaruim since it sounds like it can get pretty full with adults. My son is 18, and I would never have dreamed of letting him or his sisters go in the Solarium till they were of age--they knew it was an adult privilege that they would experience soon enough.

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Thanks, Patrick. I avoid malls at all cost. I think I'll also be avoiding the Freedom and Liberty.

 

I remember reading how you were gung-ho on the Freedom. Funny how "the real thing" changed your perspective. ;)

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Thanks, Patrick. I avoid malls at all cost. I think I'll also be avoiding the Freedom and Liberty.

 

I remember reading how you were gung-ho on the Freedom. Funny how "the real thing" changed your perspective. ;)

 

Well, the entire 7 days (as opposed to the 2 day pre-inaugural) was enlightening. I'm not down on the ship; it's just not my first choice. I'm glad I went into it with a positive attitude and actually tried it before deciding whether it was for me or not. :)

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what an awsome review. we will be sailing on july 9th. i can't wait. did you say to eat at either restaurant on the 4th day? was the normal menu at dinner the best night to miss? do you hear anyone talking about the deep sea fishing in mexico? was the 2 hour ride to the falls worth it or were people wishing they would have picked another excursion? thanks for all you help

 

Zoe, My husband went deep sea fishing in Mexico and managed to catch a couple of tuna. There were 4 people on the boat and I believe between the them they caught several tuna and a couple dorato. He usually tries to go fishing on at least one of the shore days and this is the first times he's actually caught a fish, needless to say he was thrilled.

 

d

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d

i'm glad he caught some fish. i booked this for my 10 year old and husband. do you know if it's catch and release? i bet my husband will want to ship the fish he catches home. my daughter and i are swimming with the dolphins. any feedback on that excursion?

thanks

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I wonder why they don't do the horse racing anymore? I would think the revenue from that would be wonderful.

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I wonder why they don't do the horse racing anymore? I would think the revenue from that would be wonderful.

 

I agree with you. I read somewhere that Ken Rush thought it was tired. No idea whether that's true or not.

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I agree with you. I read somewhere that Ken Rush though it was tired. No idea whether that's true or not.

 

Booooo!! I made $1200 bucks last time on NOS-I LOVE the races!!

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maybe its up to each individual cruise director?? hope so, we are on the liberty next year and really enjoy the races!!!

 

What they do need is new questions for the newlywed game. The last 3 cruises had the exact same questions--it does get old for repeat cruisers.

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maybe its up to each individual cruise director?? hope so, we are on the liberty next year and really enjoy the races!!!

 

I agree. I think its up to the CD.

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We just returned from the Freedom maiden voyage today, and I thought I’d post some comments and observations (b/c I’m too lazy to do a full-blown review). :) I’ve only read a few inaugural comments that were posted by others while we were at sea, so my apologies if I repeat anything.

 

To provide some perspective, this was my 37th cruise with RCI. There were 9 of us altogether, celebrating 1 high school graduation, 3 birthdays and Father’s Day. We also had the benefit of sailing on the 2 day Mother’s Day pre-inaugural out of Bayonne.

 

So before I start nit-picking, let me say right off the bat that RCI should be very pleased with the maiden voyage. The ship and crew were 100% ready to go. Everything was in working order and spotless. There were no major glitches or disasters (or even minor ones, for that matter). I think it’s important to take a step back and realize that on a ship of this magnitude, with everything that could go wrong, nothing did, and RCI delivered. Props to them. We were all very glad we went, very pleased with the value of our cruise vacation, and overall had a great time.

 

Here’s a random rundown of key cruise events, activities, facts and observations:

 

+ Embarkation was a breeze. We got on at 2pm and the place was dead. Walked right up to the counter and boarded in 5 minutes. No shocker here, given Miami’s experience with Voyager class ships, but it was very nice to start off on the right foot.

 

+ There were about 3600 pax on board, so the ship was not full (as many folks reported it would not be prior to the sailing). 1800 were repeat guests. Supposedly, 800 were Diamond, but that # seems high to me. There were 74 D+.

 

+ RCI upgraded us to a lovely Junior Suite - 9544 – port side, right by the forward elevators. Awesome location and an overall terrific room. Thank you RCI! Our stateroom attendant was Pande and he did a great job. The new beds / bedding make all the difference in getting a restful night’s sleep.

 

+ Mustering was at 445pm and sailaway was around 515 – 530pm. Main dining on night 1 was at 615pm (thereafter 6pm). Late seating was 9pm the first night and 830 thereafter.

 

+ We had main dining on Deck 4. Lorinda was our waiter and Efrio was our assistant waiter. Service was competent. Efrio fell ill for 2 days – always hate it when that happens :eek: – but returned seemingly no worse for wear. Overall, the food was good. Nothing stellar, nothing horrible.

 

+ We were invited to dine with the Captain on the first formal night, but had to decline, b/c we already had plans with our group to celebrate the aforementioned occasions.

 

+ There is no Caribbean night. It is replaced by Surf night, with the most tragic menu ever. Make plans for Chops or Portofino. Day 4 / GC.

 

+ With so many Diamond members on board, evening cocktail hour – normally held it the Diamond Club - was held in the Pharoah’s Palace, starting at 5:30pm, rather than the standard 5pm. You were required to show your Sea Pass to land-based staff , who were on board helping out, in order to gain entry. As usual, drinks cannot be removed from the lounger. They offered the same general selection of liquors and snacks.

 

+ The D Club was staffed by the assistant loyalty ambassador. She did a nice job, but I really felt something lacking in the service; the personal touch was missing. I think it all boils down to the sheer # of repeat guests on board and the newness of the process.

 

+ Tender tickets are required to go ashore for the 3 applicable stops. Tix are given out in Boleros and the Schooner Bar on deck 4. An announcement is made once tix are no longer required. D and D+ can get priority tender tix from the concierge.

 

+ We got off the ship in Cozumel and GC. No problems tendering, particularly in Cozumel. The process was speedy and well managed. I’m sure RCI put extra effort and resources into making this a success to avoid a PR nightmare, and hopefully they will continue to do so.

 

+ Adam Goldstein, RCI president, joined the ship in Cozumel.

 

+ Lots more folks than usual chose to stay on board in Labadee. It was hotter than I ever remember it being there.

 

+ Internet was the same speed as other ships – so in other words – slow. I had the best luck in the mornings on port days when no one was on.

 

+ Early guesses for things that will be changed / removed on Liberty: Squeeze juice bar, A Clean Shave (Deck 5), Boxing Ring (Deck 11).

 

+ I got great drinks and service from Minnie and Vinnie in the Schooner Bar.

 

+ The mini golf course, despite its shrunken size, is still entertaining and challenging.

 

+ The entertainment was good, but a bit of a disappointment. I was really hoping for at least some C or D list headliners.

 

+ The ice show is tired. Maybe I’ve just sailed on too many Voyager class ships, but it’s the same old combo of time-period music (60s, 70s) and nationalities (Asian, African, etc), with some gimmicky act in the middle. Someone really needs to put a fresh pair of eyes on this and inject some creativity. Go back to focusing on the skating as opposed to the showmanship and costume changes.

 

+ Both the Stanley Cup and NBA finals were broadcast via satellite.

 

+ There was no horseracing.

 

+ I thought there were many more announcements than usual, and that they were longer than usual.

 

+ The revolving doors leading from the Windjammer (deck 11) to the pool area have a nasty way to stopping in progress and momentarily trapping people passing through. The port side door broke and was inoperative for a day or so.

 

+ All pax received a Freedom maiden voyager certificate / photo album. C&A members also received a picture frame and buttons with the names of various venues around the ship.

 

+ Bingo jackpot was round $12,000.

 

+ The new deck chairs are very comfortable and plentiful.

 

+ Movies shown include Cinderella Man, The Perfect Man, Must Love Dogs. I’m forgetting a few.

 

+ Debarkation was a breeze as well. We did express and walked off at about 640am. The ship actually docks around 5am. I obviously can’t comment on how the effort went overall.

 

 

Here is a brief assessment of crowds / lines in various venues:

 

+ Windjammer. Really difficult to navigate and get a seat at peak times. This will only worsen when the ship is full.

 

+ Royal Promenade. Again, difficult to navigate at peak times (after shows and during events). All of the cross-selling stations really get in the way.

 

+ Photo area / Casino. Forget this area in the evenings. Heavy congestion.

 

+ Pools and Pool deck. IMO, the pool deck was crowded, but not as badly as I expected. I would equate it with the standard Voyager class set-up. The H2O Z and Flowrider do seem to help disperse crowds. It’s really tough to get a chair right at the pool area, but there’s plenty of seating on Deck 12 both forward and aft. The 2 main pools were full, but no more so than on a Voyager class ship.

 

+ Solarium. Generally crowded. Plan ahead and save those chairs. =) I did see pool attendants expel a few underage pax from the Solarium.

 

+ Gym. Standard rush in the mornings, but the huge size of the facility helps mitigate the crowd factor.

 

+ Flowrider. Nowhere near as crowded as I thought it would be.

 

+ Dining room. There are areas that are very tight, making it uncomfortable to sit and impossible for the staff to navigate.

 

+ Café P/ Sorrentos / Ben and Jerry’s. All of the locales handled crowds better than I expected. Never had to wait for more than a handful of folks ahead of me.

 

+ Arcadia Theatre. For main seating shows, the theatre was often completely full, which I have never seen on an Eagle class ship. Maybe it’s b/c the shows are all new, of the maiden voyage factor motivated more people to go than usual, or b/c there are just so many more people on board. Get there early.

 

+ Elevators. I didn’t find waits to be bad, but I only take an elevator when I have to go up more than 5 flights.

 

 

Overall Opinions

 

When I disembarked Freedom in May, I was very impressed with the ship and thought it went beyond the Voyager class experience. After 7 days of sailing, I’m going to back off of that assessment a bit and agree a bit more with some of the comments made by fellow poster Caviargal. Freedom is simply a glorified Eagle class ship, and it is too big for my taste – and I love big ships. Comments I’ve read here about the “shopping mall experience” really resonated with me for the first time. The Solarium is unfortunately really undersized.

 

The ship is beautiful, and innovative in spots, but bottom line, if you’ve done VY, EX, AV, NV or MR, you’ve done Freedom. The clear and obvious target audience is families. With the advent of H2O Z and Flowrider, I think they could stay on all 7 days and have a great time. But I do not think this ship will continue to have a big draw for experienced cruisers, particularly Diamond & D+.

 

I would sail on Freedom again, but only for the right price & itinerary. I would be very concerned about the cruising experience once she is up to full capacity, and I cannot fathom what Genesis will be like. I would also not cancel a cruise booked on Eagle class to see Freedom; IMO, it’s just not worth it.

 

Thanks for the great update. Everything you have stated is exactly what my fears have been for this ship. We are going in Oct, cant wait to see if we decide to not do Liberty in 2007. We are not going to book it until we experience Freedom just for some of the reasons you posted. Thanks for the frank and truthful thoughts.:o

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