Carnival Freedom -- Western Caribbean Cruise
Day 1, Saturday: Embarkation
We had driven out to Galveston staying one night in Houston to visit family, then another night in Galveston, so on Saturday all we had to do was get up and drive to our reserved parking space at the appointed time. We did just that, arriving early enought to get Boarding Group 2, and soon we were walking up the ramp to the ship. Our first stop was for lunch and Ron headed directly to Guy's Burgers. I went for the salad bar and we met up in the dining room. At 1:30pm all rooms were ready so we headed down to our balcony room on Deck 6. We dropped off our carryon bags, then headed out to explore the ship. The layout is basically the same as our last cruise on the Magic although the Freedom seems much smaller. The Lido deck was on 9 instead of 10 but not much else changed. The EA Sports was located at the Casino but more separated than on the Magic so we sat there watching games on the big screens (really like that) while Ron got his first beer and I got a Diet Coke. At just after 4:30pm the announcement came that the Muster Drill would be starting soon so we went back to our room to see where we were to go. It had been very chilly and windy in Galveston, so the Muster Drill was just that COLD! as we all stood on an outer deck area next to the life boats. Luckily it was over after about 20 minutes and we returned to our room to dress for dinner and discovered our bags had been delivered. Yeah!
After we unpacked, we dressed for dinner and headed down to Deck 3, Chic Dining Room, your time dining. A line was already forming at the door but it went quickly once 5:45pm hit. For dinner Ron ordered the strip steak and the salmon appetizer. I ordered the corn chowder appetizer and the Indian Vegetarian entree. I was a bit disappointed by the Indian entree - it was a bit bland. I was expecting something more authentic like I had at the Tandoor Grill onboard the Magic last Oct. The rice was fine, the side bowl of lentils, bowl of peas in gravy, and bowl of potatoes were all okay, just not what I call Indian food. For dessert Ron got the Tiramisu and I got the strawberry cake which was the low sugar option. After dinner we went to the Victoriana Theatre for the "Welcome Show". Jen, our tour director for the week, was host and introduced several of the acts which would be appearing in the various venues onboard, as well as both of the Comedians who gave us a PG-13 sample of their acts. Once the show was over, we wandered back down to EA Sports Bar to check basketball scores and grab drinks. Jen was leading a "Pub Crawl" around the ship and dozens of people were following her. When we saw the group gathering just outside of the bar, we went out and joined them. What fun! Jen would go to each of the venues, introduce the acts appearing there, and then lead the group in a line dance or some other activity. We followed along with the group through several of the locations, then returned to our room for the night.
The Freedom bounced and banged through the night as we cut through the Gulf of Mexico. It was not a smooth ride probably due to the weather front still stirring out there. We dressed and headed up to Deck 9, Lido buffet, for breakfast quite early. Many guests had spent that first night partying so the buffet area was not too busy yet. Ron brought his water bottle with us and filled it at the drink station... then promptly forgot it as we left. We went up to the Track and walked 6 laps but the ship was still bumping around and the wind was whipping aggressively. It was rather chilly from the wind so we went back downstairs to our room. We logged onto our laptop and ordered the $60 unlimited Internet package. After checking e-mail and a few social media sites, we relaxed in the room... then realized Ron had lost his waterbottle. Customer Service had a long line, most people wanting to change rooms or add money to their onboard acct, etc. but Ron waited and asked about the Lost and Found. No water bottle had been turned in.
Lunch was served in all the restaurants starting at noon, so we headed back up to the Lido Deck to check out the menus. We walked around and around trying to figure out where the Fish-N-Chips bar was located then finally found it upstairs just above the back buffet (look for the stairs by the Statue of Liberty statue). The Comfort food buffet was serving fish and chips as well as salads and various other items which looked good to both of us so we ate there. Ron went back up to the Fish-N-Chips bar and grabbed a ceviche and thought it was excellent. Afterwards, we started walking the decks indoors, checking out the shops on Deck 5. By mid-afternoon we were both hungry for a snack so we ventured up to the Lido to see if there was anything still out but all the food was gone from lunch. The Pizza bar and Guy's were the only places open serving food. Neither of us was really hungry for a full meal but we did want a snack, so Ron grabbed a burger and fries from Guys and we split it. Perfect. We also grabbed me a Diet coke and Ron a beer at the pool bar. EA Sports was showing pro-basketball games on their tv so we sat and watched awhile. Most of the guests on the ships sailing from Galveston are Texas natives so of course rooting for Houston Rockets. The bar was full and people were into the game!
Dinner - Formal Night! We dressed up for dinner, then headed down at 5:30pm. As expected a line was formed and wrapped around the lobby. Ron ordered the kale & port tart appetizer with Spaghetti Carbonara for his main course. I ordered a kale salad for appetizer, the grilled salmon for main course. My salad was downright nasty tasting and gritty from the toasted breadcrumbs all over it. Yuck. That was the first thing on either cruise I have been served that was horrible. My salmon was excellent though. For dessert Ron got the creme brulee and I got a coffee cream cake hoping to kill the fishy taste in my mouth. As soon as we finished dinner, we went back to the room to change clothes and headed to the Victoriana Theatre for the Playlist Productions Show. Tonight at 8pm was "80s to the Max". It was fantastic! I had read so many mixed reviews about the new show formats but we LOVED it. The 8 performers are all singers and dancers and the sets move and a huge video screen changes in the background changes and moves... very current and fun. The music was perfect and everyone (the theatre was packed) was singing along to every song. It was really awesome! The show was over at 9pm which was way too soon! At 10pm the Adult Comedy Show was scheduled to start so we made sure to arrive 20 minutes early to get a seat. As expected, that place was already packed but we did grab seats close to the stage. The comic, Jim Brick, was rude, crude, vulgar, and histerical. It was a great show, in other words.
Ron decided to hit the gym before breakfast so he headed up at 6:30am. At 7am I left to go to breakfast figuring he would not be done and showered for awhile. I grabbed by usual oatmeal and hard boiled eggs, sat and ate, then returned to the room as he arrived. He showered then we both went back to the Lido. Ron grabbed a breakfast burrito at the Blue Iguana bar and I sat with him while he ate. After eating we did our usual ship walk, floor by floor, stopping at the stores to window shop. For lunch we had the Comfort food buffet again, Caribbean food was the feature. The jerk chicken, confetti rice, seafood fritters, and vegetarian sweet potato salad were all excellent. The fried plantains were a bit under ripe, but otherwise it was a great meal. The other buffet had typical roast beef sliced for you, various chicken and pork dishes, hot and cold veggies, salad.. all the usual stuff. Dinner was cruise casual tonight so we didn't have to dress up, yeah! I ordered the minestrone soup and mojito chicken for my entree. Ron ordered the proscuitto appetizer and spaghetti with Italian meatsauce. For dessert I went light with a fruit plate and Ron went heavy with the Chocolate Melty Cake. We stopped by the Victoriana and watched part of the night's show "Motown Heart & Soul" which was also very good, but headed straight to bed afterwards. We had a big shore excursion planned for the following day!
We arrived in Jamaica waters right on time, however, we did not go into the dock area. The boat sat out in the harbor for awhile and everyone gathered on the deck balconies. Jen, the cruise director came over the intercom and announced that it was very windy outside and the ship was having problems getting into the harbor. Hmmmmm. Suddenly the boat turned as if going back out to sea, and we all thought maybe this was going to be a bad day. Then the ship reversed and started backing into the harbor. We docked an hour late. After rushing down to stand in line, we left the ship and rushed to the dock buildings where Tour Operators were stationed. We looked for our sign and finally found one that said "Extreme Zipline". Several dozen people were there already and soon we were led to a large bus.
OUr bus driver was very funny and gave us a tour as we drove through Montego Bay then up inland towards the Chukka property. It took around 40 minutes to get there and all the way, the bus driver gave us Jamaican phrases to learn and repeat. It was fun. We arrived and were broken up into groups, purchased locks for the lockers to store our personal belongings, then off to be geared up. Our group was to be led by Jon and his assistant Roy. Both were so much fun, kept us laughing, and always emphasized safety. It was a BLAST! We had never done a zipline before but would definitely do it again. These guys were great and kept everyone from being scared. The last line was over 1000' long and very high up, over 200' above the ground and a river. Wow!!!
After the last line, we had about a mile hike back down to the starting point. We then took off gear and could go inside the building to view photos taken by guides at the beginning run. Since we had arrived an hour late, our bus driver was already there waiting for us. We hurried, bought a quick bite to eat, then hopped on the bus. The driver asked how many people wanted to go back to the ship and how many wanted to go to Margaritaville. He offered to wait for us and return us to the ship in plenty of time for $5 extra per person. We all liked that idea. He dropped us off and parked next to the Burger King giving us an hour to shop and visit Margaritaville right on the water.
We left Margaritaville with an hour to spare but traffic in town was horrible. It took almost 30 minutes to get to the ship even though we could see it just on the other side of town. We were dropped at Montego Bay cruise port and a shuttle bus took us back to the cargo dock. We boarded and went straight to our room to change for dinner. Ron ordered the escargot appetizer and salad, penne mariscos, and cheesecake. I ordered pumpkin soup, grilled chicken, and chocolate panna cotta. Everything was excellent. We returned to the room soon after dinner to pack dive gear for the next day as well as download the video of the zipline. What a great day!
Cayman is a tender port and when we arrived there were already several ships sitting in the harbor. Not long after the ship stopped we saw tender boats heading out. We had an early excursion, at 7:30am, so we were waiting in line early for the first tender. With all our dive gear, we boarded the tender along with 200 people. Guess we didn't need to be standing in line so early afterall!
Ashore, we found the sign for 2-tank Certified Dive, and were instructed to stand under a tent to wait for everyone. After about 30 minutes, all the divers had arrived and we boarded a small bus for the quick trip to the Don Foster dive shop nearby. At the dive shop, we were led indoors to fill out paperwork and to have our C-cards verified. Then we were given about 10 minutes to shop, use restrooms, and board the boat. Onboard we were divided into 2 groups, each to be led by a Divemaster. At the first dive site, EAgle's Nest, we were all briefed and one by one the divers entered the water and did a weight check. The first group then all descended and the second group started. It took longer than I like, there bobbing at the surface for all the divers to get ready, but finally we descended on the line to the reef. I had ear problems right off the bat, but after a couple of minutes I made it down to the rest of the group. As we cruised the reef wall, I noticed a small turtle eating. I signaled Ron to see, and the DM also who tried to let everyone know... none of the other divers were paying attention though. LOL I got some pretty good video of him. We also saw a small nurse shark and a free-swimming green moray.
After 40 minutes we headed back up after our safety stop. The boat then moved to the next spot, the Oro Verde wreck. Group 1 was in the water and then Group 2. It was a nice scattered wreck, but not much fishlife. After 40 minutes we started up. A small turtle was also surfacing, so I got a bit of footage of him as well as all the garden eels on the sand. Okay dive.
We were back at the dock, then rushed to board our bus back to the cruise terminal area. Since it was lunchtime, we stopped at a few stores to grab a few t-shirts then the little bar at the dock. Ron ordered a beer and I got a diet soda and we shared some conch fritters.
We then got on the next tender and were onboard the Freedom in plenty of time. Dinner was Elegant night again so we showered and changed, then rushed down to get in line. Ron ordered the stuffed mushrooms, tenderloin steak with braised shortribs, and orange souffle for dessert. I had the salad, shrimp in broth and chocolate cake. Ron's food was excellent, mine was just okay.
Our plans for Cozumel had changed during the week. We had originally planned to scuba dive there but since we have done that so many times (see all our trip reports) we decided earlier in the week to opt for something different. We booked the 'Underground river with 5th avenue shopping' excursion over on the Mainland. This would require an early departure on the ferry and our tickets instructed us to meet in the Victoriana theatre onboard at 9:45am. We were then all led down to exit the ship. On the pier we found the line for our tour and were given stickers for our shirts. Then we were all loaded on the ferry. Once we arrived in Playa del Carmen we located the tour guide, Roberto, who led us to the bus. After a 30 minute bus ride we arrived at our destination, Chak-Tun Cenote.
Roberto had everyone go change to swimsuits then led us to where we would leave our personal items. He then gave us a great introduction to his people, the Mayans, who lived in this area and explained a bit about the cenotes. We then headed down a trail to the first cavern.
After about 30 minutes in the cavern, we were led to another area where Roberto continued his discussion about Mayan people, why the cenotes are sacred, and how the language of the Mayans relates to the current names in the Yucatan. We then went down into the next cenote. This one was down a long path which was narrow at points, or very short causing us to all semi-crawl to get in. Then it opened up into a beautiful area with a hole in the ceiling and plants growning down into the space. Quite beautiful!
At several points Roberto had us stand up, when the water was shallow enough, and he gave us more information about the formation of the caverns. After about an hour in the cavern, we were led to a sit down lunch served in another cave. Food was fantastic, as was the atmosphere!
We then all changed clothes and boarded the bus back to Playa del Carmen to shop on 5th Avenue. We had an hour left before the ferry so we went off to shop for another carved Mayan mask for our collection. After haggling with one shop owned we moved on to another shop, stopping for a beer and soda along the way. Luckily, we found a great mask for a great price just in time to meet with out guide, Roberto, to get our ferry ticket. The ferry arrived back at the dock about 10 minutes past our required boarding time but since we booked through CArnival, no worries. The ship was still there. Off we went to dress for dinner.
Dinner was already being served when we arrived down at the Chic, but the place was not busy yet as everyone onboard was in the same situation. The ship did not pull away from the dock at 6pm as scheduled, it was closer to 7pm (I guess several of the Mainland excursions ran late). Ron ordered salad and seared tuna appetizers, ziti with ham and cheese, with a sundae for dessert. I ordered tortilla soup, lemon tilapia with baked potato, and coconut lime cake. Everything was very, very good this time! After dinner, we went to the Victoriana to catch the night's show, Getaway Island. The show was good but probably our least favorite of the week. There was just too much Beach Boys and not enough Jimmy Buffet music. I am sure many people loved it, we just liked it.
Our last day onboard... boo. Up at 6:30am we headed up to the Lido buffet for breakfast. The ship was rocking and rolling again.... rough seas in the Gulf of Mexico. Wow. It was quite difficult to walk in a straight line down a hallway. We also saw they had barf bags next to each of the elevators. Wow, they were expecting a bad day. We ate breakfast then back down to our room to start packing and relax. For lunch I wanted the buffet salad bar again, Ron wanted a last time at Guy's Burgers. We each got what we wanted, and noticed that the Chocolate Buffet was being put out... ohh my. Last cruise we both over did it so this time we both decided to only get 1 or two things. The best vegetarian option I had all week was on the buffet today, broccoli salad with tofu. It was excellent. I wish there were more vegetarian options beside just potato or salads. As we walked around the ship getting our laps indoors, we saw lots of green people! They had blocked some of the doors to outside decks saying it was unsafe and looking out, I totally agree. On Deck 4 we saw water splashing up from the ocean, and on the Lido deck they drained the pool as it was splashing out all over the deck area. Wow, that was rough. For dinner Ron ordered the beef carpacio appetizer, a shrimp coctail, and a salad. His main course was prime rib, dessert was bread pudding. I ordered shrimp coctain, pumpkin squash pie, and a baked apple dessert. We did a walk around this evening, and the seas had calmed down considerably. The night's show was called the "Farewell Show" and it had no real theme, just a chance for each of the eight performers to sing solos. It was a great show, some had better voices than we realized! Afterwards, we went back to the room to finish packing and to put our luggage outside the door for pickup.
We ate a nice breakfast, then soon enough we headed down to debark. We arrived back at our parking space and on the road before 11am.
ALL the photos from the trip: 2015 Carnival Freedom