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Old November 18th, 2007, 01:10 AM
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Default Day 1 on the ship

Onboard the Freedom
After leaving the hotel this morning I drove Mrs. Kuki and the luggage to the Port of Miami (about a 3 minute ride from the Holiday Inn); dropped she and the baggage off with the porters at Terminal E, and went off to return the rental car at the Hertz desk at the Marriott Hotel, close by on Biscayne Blvd. Hertz has no shuttle from that location, but it’s a convenient drop off point. An $8 taxi ride and I was back at the pier meeting Mrs. Kuki, since the porters hadn’t delivered her to the cabin, and we were ready to begin the embarkation process.
It’s been a year or so since we sailed from Miami, and all the construction areas I recall from our last visit seem to be done, and access was easy. I believe Terminal E is a new terminal, and the physical set up is different than I remember. The security (the X ray machines for hand luggage, and the metal detectors are immediately adjacent to the entrance of the building. There is a separate line to security for VIP passengers. We’re Platinum level (10 cruises or more) within Carnival’s repeaters club, so we are entitled to VIP embarkation. I mentioned it to the pier-side staff managing the entrance and they directed us to the appropriate line. Once through security, we were directed to the separate VIP check in lounge. Not all ports have the VIP lounge, but the one in Terminal E is very nice. A number of agents seated at desks checked us in. All of our documentation and registration was done in advance online, so all that was left was to give them a credit card to cover our “Sail & Sign Account?. I asked for volunteers in the lounge, but no one jumped in with a credit card so we had to use our own.
Once we were given our “sail and spend? card (which also acts as our cabin door key) we were asked to take a seat in the nicely furnished lounge until the ship was ready to board. After a short wait those in the lounge were escorted to the gangway… it was about 11:40 A.M. We were amongst the first dozen or so onboard – Welcome to Freedom!
If you’ve sailed any Carnival ships you know to expect a “Farcusian Experience?. Everything I’d been reading about the ship in advance regarding its décor had led me to expect an over the top Joe Farcus design. My first experience entering the Atrium was… “gee, this isn’t so bad!? As the next week goes on, and I get a better feel for the ship I’ll comment more on décor, but it’s interesting to note how all the reading about the ship beforehand had left me with such wild expectations that the real experience couldn’t match the imagined one. With the exception of some oft used wall treatments that look a bit like off colored bark, for lack of more descriptive words on my part, there are many areas of the ship I quite like, and I promise to talk more about them during the cruise.

Cabins were not available until 1 P.M. so we headed straight up to Lido Deck (Deck 9) to try out the buffet. I actually went directly to the deli window and doubled up on grilled Reuben sandwiches which were excellent! As we relaxed in the pool area several more members of the CruiseMates group stumbled across us. With my picture in my avatar being up on the site somewhere over 15,000 times I guess that makes me fairly easy to recognize. By 2 P.M. we headed to our cabin, a standard balcony cabin forward on Deck 8. Carnival has excellent sized cabins, and aside from the comfy new Carnival beds and bedding, cabins on the Freedom feature new flat screen televisions. More details on the cabins will follow in later reports throughout the week.
At 8 P.M. we headed to dinner in the Posh Dining Room, located at the stern of the ship, on Decks 3 &4. Our assigned table is 319, on Deck 3 on the starboard side. On my various cruises I’ve had some interesting locations for dinner table assignments, but this one has to be about the strangest. We have a table for 6, along a window on the starboard side. However, on the opposite side to our table, across a narrow walkway is a wall. This area, with a stretch of 4 or 5 tables, is so narrow that it is totally isolated from the rest of the Dining Room. It’s a bit like we’re in a diner car on an antique train rather than anything like being on a ship. Only with the marble and tile wall so close, it also made me feel as though we were dining in a washroom. Whoever designed this portion of the dining room should be made to sit there for a week. They certainly wouldn’t do it again! With 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, and too many experiences in a vast array of restaurants and on ships to count, I can honestly say I’ve yet to see a similar seating arrangement before.
When dinner was done I was going to speak with the Maitre ‘d, but he was not at his station, by the entrance, but I’ll have a chat with him tomorrow, though, with a full Thanksgiving sailing I’m not sure if we’ll have any success being moved. Frankly no paying customers should be seated in this area.
To make matters worse, when we walked in our tablemates were already seated, and some were wearing their dinner napkins on their shoulders. The room was freezing cold. We joking ordered blankets when we ordered dinner, but got rather blank looks from the wait staff. I even asked them what they had done wrong to get this section of the dining room. Our table’s decided if the frigid conditions continue we’re going to be bringing the lovely duvets from the cabin to dinner with us.
On the up side, our cruisemates tablemates are great fun, and while staving off the cold, we enjoyed a good meal, with great company, while we joked about the washroom location and the Alaska like temperatures. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll be able to report back about an improvement in at least some of this situation.
Sadly, I’m still having some camera issues, even with my backup. I am hoping by tomorrow I can have things figured out and start posting some pictures to go along with the text.
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