Freedom of the Seas is the Flag Ship of Royal Caribbean
International (RCI) and the world's largest cruise ship. We waited
with great anticipation for Oct. 15, 2006 to roll around for our
first cruise on the Freedom --- on board this Dream Vacation Ship.
We enjoyed the RCI Voyager Class Ships so much (Voyager of the
Seas, 1999; Explorer of the Seas, 2000; Adventure of the Seas,
2001; Navigator of the Seas, 2002; and Mariner of the Seas, 2003;
that we looked forward to this newer larger ship, with so many
amenities for her passengers. We just had to see it for
Now, just one week after our cruise, we feel that one week is
not enough to see and experience all of the Freedom of the Seas;
maybe a back to back cruise would be better so that on debarkation
day one wouldn't feel too much was missed. She is designed in the
Voyager style, only on a grander scale. RCI is right to stay with a
winning design. The magnificent three level Dining Rooms, with the
huge crystal chandelier, the rich warm naval colors of navy blue,
and gold are both serious and elegant. The Royal Promenade with its
village atmosphere is a lovely place to spend a few hours
strolling, shopping or seated at a cafe` drinking espresso or tea
with scones or Italian cookies from Sorrento's. We met many new
friends from all over the world: England, Ireland, Scotland,
Germany, France and Italy, on this marvelous Promenade.
Needless to say, we had a wonderful cruise again with Commander
Captain Erik Tengelsen, whom we met last January on the Voyager.
This brilliant Master followed in his seafaring Norwegian family's
tradition and now commands on the most magnificent cruise ship in
EMBARKATION On Sunday Oct. 15, 2006, the Port of Miami was
easily accessed, no traffic, simple roads off I-95 to Pier G. We
dropped off our luggage and were in the terminal in five minutes.
Wheelchairs were let in the doors, and after a five minute wait, we
took an elevator to the second floor where checkin occurred. At the
Crown & Anchor Diamond window, we were processed in five
minutes, but had to wait for security clearance about thirty
minutes. We were through security in about 15 minutes. In slightly
over an hour we were on board and in our stateroom. A bit longer
than smaller ships, but understandable since 3,817 passengers were
boarding. We had wheelchair assistance all the way to our
THE SHIP This massive vacation resort cost $800 million and was
built in Finland at Aker Finnyards (Kvaerner Masa yards combined
with Aker Finnyards in 2005). The Freedom is 158,000 gross tonnage,
with maximum passenger capacity of 4,375 and a crew of 1,365 on 15
passenger decks. She came into service in May 2006; her length is
1,112 ft. and her beam is 184 ft. Her average speed is 21.6 knots.
The main engines are 6 Wartsila 12V46C with output of 75,600 KW.
Propulsion is by 3 Azipods with output of 42,000 KW. There are 4
bow thrusters with 3,300 KW. She is registered in the Bahamas.
The theme of this ship is Earth, Air, Fire and Water and is seen
repeated throughout in myriad ways, on the Promenade a larger than
life diving woman "Down Under" by David Mach (Britain) is seen as
from the bottom of a pool. This is only one combination of Air and
Water presented. In the Crypt the stained glass windows have
combined Air and Water again and Fire and Earth handsomely.
In addition to all of the innovations introduced in the Voyagers
class ships, the Freedom offers a few other innovative features:
The amazing FlowRider surf pool, the H2O Zone water park, a boxing
ring, a barber shop and two cantilevered, semi circular whirlpools
suspended out over the seas. There are 22 bars and many other
beautifully decorated public areas including the fabulous Royal
On this cruise there were 2,500 Crown & Anchor members,
there were 780 Diamond members and 160 Diamond members. About 2/3
of the passengers were C&A Society members, which meant that
the Concierge Club was too small in size to accommodate all of the
Diamond members, thus complimentary drinks were served every
evening in the Pharaoh's Lounge.
Deck 2 has the lower level of the Arcadia Theatre forward and
the Screening Room where we saw the movies "Casanova" and "March of
the Penguins." Towards midship is the Conference Center, then
Studio B with Centre Ice Rink and staterooms in categories H and
Deck 3 forward is the Arcadia Theatre, with its beautiful
curtain of 13 stunning female "Lyric Musicians" appliquéd on
black velvet and sewed with thousands of glass jewels and bugle
beads, and hundreds of sequins in five different colors. RCI
brochure states that it took 150 yards of material and 846 man
hours to complete the curtain, which weighs 325 pounds. It is a
stunning, magical design by Linda Carmichael.
Next, there is the lower level of the Crypt with its wonderful
stain glass windows representing Fire & Earth and Air &
Water by Harry Cardross. Then there is the Forward Centrum, and
Studio B with its spectacular Ice Shows, then the On Air Club, the
Art Gallery and all the way aft the Leonardo Dining Room. In the
aft centrum, looking up, there are Harald Vlugt's "Stop & Go"
traffic lights converted to chandeliers in bronze, and very eye
Deck 4 forward has the balcony of the Arcadia Theatre, which has
red and gold seats, white sconces, and only six columns; thus, most
seats have an excellent view of the stage. Next is the Centrum and
the Schooner Bar with its nautical theme: a lovely replica of the
Swedish sailing ship the "Kalmar Nyckel" which made round trip
crossings of the Atlantic Ocean in the early 1600s, and established
a Swedish Colony which was to become Wilmington, Delaware. Next is
the entrance to the upper level of the Crypt and midship is the
Casino Royale. The Roaring twenties atmosphere is created with
larger than life "Silk Stockings and Bootlegged Booze." Next is the
Photo Gallery of all pictures taken during the cruise.
Then, there is the Boleros Lounge with "The Tequila Sunrise"
collection of art work in glass of exotic colors: green, orange and
grenadine. Mixed media of blown glass and hand glazed aluminum by
Arts in Architecture (USA). The live music of the wonderful Trio
Sol y Arena heightens the whole effect. Finally all the way aft is
the Isaac (Newton) Dining Room.
Deck 5 forward is the Pharaoh's Palace Lounge whose entrance is
flanked by a series of larger than life Pharaoh statues. The murals
on the walls are "Views of the Nile" by Clarissa Parrish. Novidi of
France did all of the statues based on museum reproductions. Next
is the Connoisseur Club (Cigars and Brandy). The scent of fine
tobacco and leather are redolent here. Then there is the forward
Centrum from where begins the Royal Promenade, the heart of the
Freedom. Sorrento Pizza (Pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and marvelous
Italian Cookies) is great any time. Ask John Xavier, he is so kind
and helpful. Here are the Fashion Boutiques, Bull & Bear Pub,
Perfume Shop, Vintages Wine Shop, Logo Souvenir Shop, Gift and
Jewelry Shop, General Store, Ben & Jerry Ice Cream, Cafe`
Promenade, "A Clean Shave" barber shop with shoe shine stand, "Get
Out There," a sportswear store and Vincent's favorite a beautiful
dark blue Morgan Spider. Finally, there is the aft Centrum where
the Guest Relations and Tour Desks are located.
A beautiful glass bridge leads to the Galileo Dining Room. Larry
Kirkland's designs for the Centrum and Promenade are always unique,
and this one is dazzling: He has placed the four elements on
lighted columns of varying heights, each one has a gilded angel
modeled on the mythic "Vittoria Alata" (Winged Victory), which is
part of the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument in Piazza Venezia, Rome,
Deck 6 has all staterooms and the Business Services.
Deck 7 has all staterooms and the Library.
Deck 8 has all staterooms and RCI On Line Access.
Decks 9 & 10 are all staterooms. But, by the forward
elevators are three copies of F-16 and F-18 fighter planes which
the artist Antonio Riello has decorated with scenes taken from
frescoes found throughout Italy. He "...transforms our ethical
perceptions..." of these war planes by seducing us with Tiepolo
Decks 11, 12 and 13 are all public areas.
Deck 11 forward is the Fitness Club. Then there is the Solarium
Pool (with perfect temperature) and the two huge whirlpools
semicircular in shape cantilevered on both side of the ship. In
this area is a huge parrot of ceramic and bronze tiles in hot red
and yellow colors and many other exotic birds like South American
toucans, etc. Lonngren's "Sun Boat" is a very interesting concept.
Midship is the Pool Bar, The Main Pool Zone, whirlpools, Sports
Pool and the H2O Zone. Aft is the Jade Restaurant, Windjammer
Buffet Cafe`, Chops and Portofino's. The latter two are upscale
restaurants, by reservation only. Make a reservation early,
preferably the first day or you may not get one
Deck 12 forward is the Day Spa, the Sky Bar and the Jogging
Track. Deck 12 aft is for younger cruisers: Challenger Arcade,
Adventure Ocean, Fuel Teen Disco, and Johnny Rockets with its
succulent hamburgers and milk shakes (a '50s hamburger joint).
Deck 13 has the Sky Light Chapel and the Sports Complex; Rock
Climbing Wall, Basket Ball court, Golf Simulator, Freedom Fairways,
the FlowRider (the only surfing on the high seas).
Deck 14 has the Viking Crown Lounge, The Diamond Club, Olive or
Twist Bar, Cloud Nine and Seven Hearts a card room.
This is a very Sketchy overview of a very large, beautiful ship
which deserves much more. Go see for yourself. It is fascinating
and laid out like the rest of the Voyager Class ships, but it is so
much roomier and offers many more activities than any other ship on
the seas. Yes, it is monumental!
CABIN Cabin #7624 is wheelchair accessible and like all cabins
on board a prefab module. It has beige walls of light oak or birch
wood cabinetry. Teal, green and gold drapes and sofa. When entering
on the left there is a mirrored wall and a triple armoire, the
first section is shelves and a personal safe, next there are wooden
hangers and more shelves. There is a console TV, a mini
refrigerator, and a lighted vanity/desk with several drawers. There
are two upholstered chairs, a couch and a coffee table. When
entering on the right is the huge bath with safety rails all
around. The shower has a fold up seat and is 4 ft. x 6 ft. The
corner mirrored medicine cabinet has ample storage space. There is
a queen size bed with monogrammed linens, a teal suede head board,
two night stands with reading lights. Two pictures of beautiful
full Blown white roses (one front view and the other from the back
or calyx of the flower). The far wall is all glass with a glass
door leading to the large balcony with two chairs, a chaise lounge
and a table. Cabin Steward Donald was excellent in every way
The Best Beds at Sea Award goes to RCI for their innovative
approach for solving the crater or mountain created when joining
two twin beds. They have installed new style bed frames, upgraded
mattresses, duvets, towels and linens. Custom designed pillow tops
are folded in half when used on twin beds, and opened and placed
one on top of the other to create a gap free queen size bed.
Excellent! The linens feature the Crown and Anchor Logo and a very
FOOD & SERVICE Hotel Director Bernd Weidacher has the
Freedom of the Seas running perfectly; it must be the fact that Mr.
Weidacher worked in Austria, England and Switzerland and the
Freedom runs like a fine Swiss time piece. Food and Beverage
Manager is Michael Ochmann, whom we first met during our cruise on
the Norwegian Dream, March 2002, in South America when we traveled
around Cape Horn, and again last January on the Voyager. We had a
grand time reminiscing about Captain Rolf Sandvik of the Norwegian
Dream. This trip we met Jayne Colella Loyalty Ambassador &
Cruise Sales Manager. She was very personable and had a wealth of
information on future cruises. The service is tip top.
Most cruisers really notice service in the Dining Rooms. We
dined in the Isaac (Newton) Room on Deck 4. The other two Dining
rooms are named the Leonardo (Da Vinci) and the Galileo (Galilei).
This is a magnificent Complex on three levels. At one end there is
a graceful curving staircase with a bandstand and a huge mural of
acrylic on canvas of these three remarkable men of the "Age of
Discovery and Invention" by Barry Rowe (British). The best view of
these elegant rooms is from the Captain's table. We dined with
Capt. Tengelsen on the second formal night. It was a meal we won't
soon forget. Especially the dessert, which was an almond brittle
tulip filled with wild berries and cream.
Each night in Isaac's we dined with our friends from Cincinnati,
Salvatore and Maria, and were wonderfully served by our waitress
Omanda and her assistant Karen. They were friendly and efficient
and always anticipating our needs. Food at the Buffet in the
Windjammer Cafe` was quite good and the many stations helped in
keeping the lines short. The Buffet servers were very helpful,
assisting with trays and drinks. There are two Specialty
Restaurants, the Chops Grille and the Portofino. We chose Chops
Grille with its fantastic Veal Chop and sides of spinach,
asparagus, mushrooms and unique salads. Alas, they no longer serve
the terrific NE Clam Chowder, now they serve Lobster Bisque.
Desserts are still grand: Tiramisu and Mississippi Mud Pie ---
Chocolate to die for. Manager Adina Chis and our two waitresses
Galina and Genoevva (all from Romania) were very professional and
excellent. There was a wonderful selection of T-bone, Filet of
Beef, Veal or Pork Chops, Lamb Filet or Halibut fish. They start
off with a hot loaf of bread with pimento butter and shrimp
appetizers and Crab cakes. The decor is dark Mahogany walls with
lotus blossoms and water lilies of white and maroon. There were
circles of Mahogany on the ceiling, an open kitchen and lovely
silverware. In the main dining rooms the menus were more than
adequate. There were nice alternative selections, pastas, and
vegetarian options daily. We thoroughly enjoyed our eating
On the Royal Promenade there are several eating areas. We
especially enjoyed Sorrento's with its nostalgic walls of pictures
of Italian Singers, Actors and Sports figures. Chef and server John
Xavier was a terrific waiter too. One of our friends does not eat
cheese, so he made her a special sauce and tomato pizza. He was so
kind that after the first time, he knew exactly what she wanted as
soon as he saw her. John has a great memory and is eager to please.
We did not tender on Labadee, Haiti, RCI's private island
resort, but a wonderful Barbecue was enjoyed by our traveling
companions Salvatore and Maria. There are many areas for swimming
and water sports, and the Artisan Market and the Flea Market where
some interesting wood carved pieces can be bought at very
ENTERTAINMENT Ken Rush is Cruise Director; we saw him many times
on RCI. He's fast on his feet and great with funny banter. He
hosted a newly wed game where some answers echoed during the whole
cruise "Size Forty Long." There were several excellent shows in the
Arcadia Theatre: The Comedian Al Katz led the audience in riotous
laughter, and Jimmy and Anna did marvelous dancing and acrobatics
on silk cloths --- just magical. Many shows were recorded and shown
on stateroom TV (channel 41). The best show is the ice skating in
Studio B, "Freedom-Ice.Com." The international cast, with special
Guest Stars Oxana and Adam, was superb and got standing ovations.
RCI clowns did comic routines before the shows and they were
wizards with jump ropes. The show "Marquee" honored Broadway
Vincent felt that ABBA Cadabra was the best concert aboard.
Their repertoire had many of his favorites songs. They also
received standing ovations. Another comedian was Troy Thirdgill who
had a running joke about having to do his laundry, because what he
had left conjured up hilarious mental pictures. The magic of Drew
Thomas is the best at sea: levitation, disappearance, translocation
and the "Now You See It..." tricks. Apart from the shows this ship
offers, there is more on board fun than in any other ship: Daily
Trivia, Royal Promenade Parades, Dancing in the streets, Bingo,
Casino Games, and sports activities like rock climbing, basketball,
ice skating and surfing on the FlowRider high above the ocean.
There is a golf simulator and a Mini Golf Course. All the amazing
array of activities are listed in the Daily Planner Cruise Compass.
No chance to be bored here --- the children's and teen's programs
are top notch! This is a "rave review" and the Freedom deserves
PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Miami, Florida, USA Sail Away at 4:00pm Day
2. At Sea Day 3. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 7:00am Depart 4:00pm
Cozumel has some of the finest scuba diving and snorkeling
opportunities. The water is clear and beautiful in color. It has
the best shopping opportunities in the Caribbean. Day 4.
Georgetown, Grand Caymans Arrive 7:00am Depart 5:30pm The Bubble
Sub, once known as SeaMobile, is the most unique underwater
adventure; 360 degree of unobstructed view of the reef from inside
a glass bubble (www.bubblesub.com). Day 5. Montego Bay, Jamaica
Arrive 7:00am Depart 4:00pm There are some tours which include the
Dunn's River Falls, but the duration is between 6 and 7 hours, due
to the long bus drive to Ocho Rios. Some local tours are the
Essence of Montego (4 hrs.), Helmet Diving (3 hrs.) and Horseback
Ride N' Swim (3 hrs.). Day 6. Labadee, Haiti Arrive 9:00am Depart
5:00pm Here there are nice beaches for swimming and sun bathing
with lots of water sports, such as Parasailing and Waverunners.
Enjoy a great picnic on the beach with plenty BBQ and drinks. There
is a good Artisan Market and a Flea Market where one can buy carved
wood pieces, pottery and artifacts for bargain prices. Day 7. At
Sea Day 8. Miami, Florida, USA Arrive 7:00am Debarkation begins at
CONCLUSION This was a Crown & Anchor Society Member Cruise
with a significant number of "Frequent Floaters" from "Cruise
Critic". It was also our 31st cruise on RCI ships and a great one
for us. We enjoyed some of the best entertainment at sea, from ice
skating to theater production shows, concerts and live music
throughout the ship. It was continuous fun all week long. Although
at times the long lines and crowded areas (i.e., the long wait for
the ice skating show in front of Studio B), did irritate some
cruisers, including us. Guess, this is a trade off for the hectic
vacation on the largest cruise ship afloat versus more relaxing
cruises on smaller ships. However, we like to enjoy them all: the
small, the medium, the large and the enormous ships.
Next we'll be cruising the Southern Caribbean on the Carnival
Legend, Nov. 8th, the Eastern Caribbean on the Norwegian Jewel,
Nov. 26th and the Western Caribbean on the Queen Mary II, Dec. 9th.