By now, I'm sure most people have heard about the new world's largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas. Whether you've read about it, seen it on the news, or seen it featured on the Today Show, it's hard not to be impressed by its size and features. This past Memorial Day, we had the opportunity to experience the Freedom of the Seas for ourselves for a two night cruise.
You get an immediate feeling for how big the ship is driving into the Port of Miami, the Freedom's new home port. She towers above all the other ships docked there, and dwarfed the Majesty of the Seas, which was docked in front of the Freedom. The Majesty, at 74,000 tons, is not even close in size to the 160,000 ton Freedom.
After we boarded, we made our way to our stateroom. It was spacious and comfortable with its new bedding including a pillow top mattress, and soft pillows. All rooms on the Freedom not only have premium bedding, but all have flat screen televisions, a programmable safe, mini bar with refrigerator, and ample storage space.
After dropping off our bags, we went to the Windjammer Café for a buffet lunch. At the entrance to the Windjammer, is the Jade buffet restaurant, which offers Asian food. In the Windjammer, the food choices are countless. It is made up of various stations serving everything from hot dogs and burgers to pastas, salads, fish, and deserts. Located on deck eleven, it offers wonderful views of wherever the ship happens to be. When we finished lunch, we began to explore the ship.
What does the Freedom have to offer? The answer is what doesn't it have? The Freedom is a destination unto itself. One of the main attractions, which most people have heard of, is the Flowrider. Flowrider allows you to surf or boogie board on the ship. It pumps about 35,000 gallons of water per minute up a trampoline-like surface, which creates a water speed of about 25 mph. All guests wishing to use the Flowrider are required to sign a waiver, and then wait in one of two lines for their turn. As cool as Flowrider is, I'd be curious to know how long of a wait there will be to use it when there are over 4,000 passengers on the ship.
Just forward of Flowrider is a nine-hole miniature golf course, a full-size basketball/volley ball court, ping-pong tables, and Royal Caribbean's signature rock climbing wall. One the Freedom though, the rock climbing wall is more extensive with an additional rock column you can climb.
The main pool area is huge, and the Solarium, the adults' only pool, is peaceful. Once per cruise the Solarium pool area will be transformed at night to "20", an outdoor open-air dance club. Off to either side of the Solarium are two Jacuzzis, which hang over the side of the ship 112 feet above the water. Since they are surrounded on the outside by glass windows, it gives an interesting perspective to be able to look at the Freedom as if you were alongside it, rather than on it.
A new feature on the Freedom is the H2O Zone, an interactive water park. It has a good number of odd animal-like shape fountains painted blue and red, water cannons, a round current pool, and a water wall flowing into a full-size pool. Kids and adults alike will love this area.
There are different club facilities for all different age groups of kids as well as a full arcade with the latest games and air hockey tables.
The Freedom has many lounges to choose from. Up top, on deck 14, like on all Royal Caribbean ships is the Viking Crown Lounge, a circular, glass enclosed lounge. From here, you get an overview of the length of the Freedom. We couldn't believe the endless line of blue deck chairs below us!
The entertainment on board is really top notch. The ice show on the Freedom's rink was first class and the two Broadway-style shows we saw in the theatre were beyond excellent.
The dance club (adults only), The Crypt, is a two level, medieval themed, party lounge. The Freedom also has a state of the art karaoke bar, a champagne bar, and Boleros, a Latin music lounge.
The Royal Promenade Deck on deck five, is set up like a city street with a Pizzeria, pubs, shops, Ben and Jerry's, and an old time barber shop where men can get a trim or a hot shave. There also is a gourmet coffee shop featuring Seattle's Best coffee.
The three level dining room is elegant, although we thought the tables seemed a little close together.
Without trying to sound to clichéd, the Freedom has even more to offer than I've already described. I think that it makes for a good choice more so for a family vacation than for others. Good advice would be to pick your stateroom carefully and try to locate yourself closer to an elevator. It is a BIG ship!
Lisa Vivirito is owner of Diamond Travel in Vero Beach. Call her at 772-567-8481 or 800-795-1986. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org