Carnival Freedom Review
Like other Carnival ships, the Freedom is a big, bustling vessel that will appeal to a fun-loving crowd on a budget.
Editor's Note: In April 2014 Freedom was taken into dry dock for an extensive overhaul to add a number of new features as part of Carnival's Fun Ship 2.0 upgrade program. Among them, Guy's Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina, RedFrog Rum Bar, RedFrog Pub, EA Sports Bar, Alchemy Bar, Playlist Productions, The Warehouse and Hasbro, The Game Show. Freedom will also be Carnival's first ship to debut Bookville, the new Dr. Seuss-inspired kids program that will be rolling out to the fleet, one ship at a time. We'll take a look at Bookville in a future ship review, but you can preview Freedom's other additions in our review of Carnival Sunshine here.
Unveiled in 2007, the Carnival Freedom is one of Carnival's newest ships. Currently based year-round in Fort Lauderdale, the 2,974-passenger vessel was the last of the line's five Conquest Class ships, and it sails a variety of six-, seven- and eight-night itineraries to the Caribbean, including some Southern Caribbean itineraries that include stops in Curacao and Aruba.
The Freedom was the first Carnival ship with an adults-only Serenity deck-top area, something still only available on a handful of Carnival ships. Designed as a quiet zone away from children, the adult-only area, alas, is located very close to the ship's Camp Carnival children's area, so it is not quite as quiet as you may hope.
The Freedom offers two main restaurants, one that provides traditional fixed seatings at two times (early and late) and one that operates on Carnival's more flexible "My Time Dining" system. There also is a buffet eatery situated between the two main pools that is open much of the day, with two sets of grills on either side that run all day and night. For a little extra money and a reservation, you also have the option of dining in the ship's signature restaurant, the Sun King Steakhouse.
In addition to pools, the top areas of the Carnival Freedom feature a Sports Deck with a basketball court and a miniature golf course as well as bars galore. There also are extensive children's programs on this ship, with several areas and activities broken down by age group.
Like other Carnival ships, the Carnival Freedom is a big, bustling vessel that will appeal to a spirited, fun-loving crowd — particularly those on a budget. A luxury ship, it isn’t, but the fifth of Carnival’s Conquest Class series offers a lot of value for the money, with most activities, shows and meals included in the basic fare.
We found the food to be good but not great, although for a few extra greenbacks the ship’s signature, extra-charge Steakhouse proved to be a winner.
Among our biggest complaints about the Freedom was that it felt a bit too crowded at times. The ship’s pools, in particular, were uncomfortably crowded on both sea and port days during our voyage. No one wants to cram into a constantly splashing body of water; there is nothing relaxing about that. In addition, while the ship’s staff was friendly, they sometimes appeared overworked, and we found the service from our room steward and dinner attendants slow at times.
That said, there was a lot to like about the Carnival Freedom. One thing that really grabbed our attention was how spacious the rooms were for a mass-market cruise ship. Usually we expect to be rolled into a sardine can-like space when aboard a ship, but there was space to breathe in the Freedom’s cabins. Even the inside cabins exceeded our expectations.
The Carnival Freedom can be really fun and lively. It’s a great ship for solo travelers, even though there are — surprisingly to us — not many singles events. The bar culture and layout make the situation optimal for meeting other adventure seeking voyagers.
The Freedom also is an ideal ship for families. Kid clubs such as Camp Carnival and Club O2, and activities such as the grand water slide, will keep children of all ages happy, while the adult-only Serenity deck will give their parents a chance to actually relax while on vacation.
All together, we enjoyed our stay aboard the Freedom with a few caveats. The rooms were well worth the price, the bar culture was hopping, but the food was not as gourmet as Carnival claims, and you may be fighting for space at some of the topside activities.
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