Freedom, which launched in June 2006, represented a new class of ship for Royal Caribbean, measuring just under 155,000 tons with a double occupancy capacity of 3,634 passengers. Freedom of the Seas is the first ship to feature a surf park, a regulation-sized boxing ring, an interactive water park for kids and even a barbershop.
Freedom of the Seas is an evolution of the Voyager class that made headlines when it launched with biggest at sea status back in 1999. The layout is nearly identical and the promenade is back, as is the rock climbing wall, the ice skating rink, Johnny Rockets, the Promenade Cafe, Ben & Jerry’s, etc.
The main hub that runs throughout the ship is the Royal Promenade, a Main Street USA type where you can visit the purser’s or excursions desk, grab a drink or a snack, people watch, or shop. At A Clean Shave, men can get a haircut, shave or shoe shine, and all of the ship’s galleries and stores are located here. The general store sells incidentals, duty-free liquor and edible foods. There’s a gift shop as well, selling logo items, T-shirts, Christmas ornaments, key chains etc. You can also buy workout wear at the Get Out There Store.
A library with a view of the Promenade through floor to ceiling glass windows contains three walls of bookshelves and several comfortable leather chairs. Above the library is Royal Caribbean Online, the ship’s Internet cafe. There is a per minute charge, but if you buy packages you can pay as little as 37 cents a minute. The same rates apply to Wi-Fi, which is available in cabins and in various public area “hot spots.” Cloud Nine, next to the Seven Hearts card and game room near the Viking Crown Lounge, can be used for private meetings or parties; the Skylight Chapel one deck up is the spot for onboard weddings.
There are four main types of staterooms Inside, Oceanview, Balcony and Suite, but each are different configurations, including roomier options for families in all categories at different price points. There are 1,817 staterooms; 842 have private balconies and 172 have promenade views. All staterooms are equipped with keypad-operated safes, hair dryers, Wi-Fi Internet access, mini-fridges and flat-screen televisions featuring a range of channels as well as interactive programming.
Interior and Promenade-view staterooms measure 152 square ft. and 149 square ft. respectively; bathrooms are shower-only with sliding doors. Pumps in the shower are preloaded with shower gel and shampoo. Family interiors are nearly double in size (300 square ft.), and sleep up to six with two twin beds that convert into a queen plus a sofa and/or Pullman.
Oceanview cabins are larger (these range from 161 to 200 square ft.); family oceanview staterooms are 293 square ft., with a sitting area, two twin beds that convert into a queen, and a sofa and/or Pullman . Before moving into suite territory, there are two balcony options: Deluxe at 177 square ft. (balcony 74 square ft.) and Superior at 189 square ft. (balcony 68 square ft.). Balcony furniture is comprised with a small table and two loungers (metal with mesh covering) — much nicer than the plastic ones many other balconies on other ships have.
Space and amenities increase as you ascend up the suite scale. Some Junior Suites (287 square ft., balcony 101 square ft.) and Grand Suites (387 square ft., balcony 126 square ft.) have tubs; walk-in closets are standard in both. The Owner’s Suites (614 square ft., balcony 209 square ft.) add a private sitting area separate from the bedroom; the one Royal Suite (1,406 square ft., balcony 377 square ft.) also features a whirlpool marble tub and shower, entertainment center, king-sized bed, baby grand piano, and a private hot tub on the balcony. Grand, Owner’s and Royal Suite guests have access to a concierge who can assist with specialty restaurant reservations, spa treatments and the like, and the Concierge Club lounge, where pre-dinner canapes and cocktails are complimentary. Four Royal Family Suites (610 square ft, balcony 234 square ft.) accommodate up to eight and feature a living area with a double sofa bed, two bedrooms with two twin beds that convert to a queen (one also features third and fourth bunks), a verandah with teak furniture and two bathrooms with showers (one with tub).
The new Presidential Family Suite (1,215 square ft., balcony 810 square ft.) is the grandest of family-friendly accommodations onboard, and exclusive to this class of ship. The suite can accommodate up to 14 guests and consists of two master bedrooms with private baths, and two additional bedrooms each with two Pullman beds and two twin beds that convert to a queen. There are two additional shower-only bathrooms. The huge private balcony is outfitted with a hot tub, teak dining table and chairs, and padded teak loungers.
All cabins feature Royal Caribbean’s stylish, comfortable new bedding, a huge improvement from the past. There are pillows and shams, and duvets with cotton blend covers. Custom pillow tops are doubled over when placed atop twin beds, but when the beds are in the queen configuration they are unfolded across both plush mattresses to eliminate the dreaded gap.
Royal Caribbean currently has a flexible My Time Dining Program on Freedom of the Seas. For dinner, passengers can choose between assigned early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) dining, or opt for flexible dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis.
Lunch and breakfast are served in the dining room open seating. Windjammer Cafe, Freedom’s lido buffet, is excellent as well. It is set up like a food court, with one long self-service line of hot and cold items, plus stations toward the back for salads, pizza, fresh sandwiches, carved meats, petite desserts, etc. In the morning, an omelet station fixes made-to-order eggs. A poolside grill offers up burgers, hot dogs and grilled chicken at lunchtime; Sprinkles self-service ice cream machine is open on the lido from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Squeeze is a juice bar that also blends up energy drinks ranging in price, just choose your fruit (banana, strawberry) and your “power” option (fat burning, protein rich).
A casual buffet dinner is served at Windjammer as well; menu options generally mirror what’s being served in the main dining room. If you crave a more gourmet experience, be sure to take advantage of Freedom’s two specialty restaurants: Portofino is an Italian trattoria, and Chops Grille, a steakhouse-style eatery. Portofino offers caprese salad, fried calamari and carpaccio among its appetizers, with pasta, seafood and veal dishes rounding out the menu. At Chops, expect tuna tartare and crab cakes among the starters, several cuts of steak, plus other grilled meats and fish like lamb loin and halibut. A cover charge applies for each but is worth the experience.
Johnny Rockets is identical in layout to those on Voyager-class ships, and serves the same burgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese, chili, tuna sandwiches, onion rings and fries. There’s a cover charge for dine-in or take-out, and drinks are charged separately.
Cafe Promenade is open around the clock with complimentary pastries and sandwiches, coffee and tea (the adjacent Seattle ‘s Best coffee bar offers for-fee cappuccinos, lattes, etc.). New to Freedom, on the opposite end of the Promenade, is Sorrento ‘s, an all-day pizzeria. In addition to a variety of pizzas that switch up daily, there’s a front counter where you can choose any combination of seafood salad, grilled Italian veggies, marinated mozzarella or feta cheese, hunks of bread, artichokes, olives, etc. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream bar is available to satisfy your sweet tooth with the waffle cones made fresh.
Room service is available 24 hours. You can order breakfast in via a doorknob hang card; Royal Caribbean still offers hot items and even omelets on its room service breakfast menu, as well as Continental food from cereal to fruit plates.
Afternoon activities include pool games and trivia contests; Vintages wine bar hosts several tasting sessions throughout the week. Al fresco bars include the Pool Bar, Sky Bar and Wipe Out! Bar. Casino Royale is open whenever the ship is at sea, and features slot machines in a range of denominations, table games and a bar. The main Arcadia Theater seats more than 1,300 guests over two levels and is the venue for night time productions. Late night comedians and magicians fill out the roster; Pharaoh’s Palace is a secondary show lounge for musical combos and private parties. The ice rink at Studio B also doubles as a secondary show lounge. There are free skate hours listed on board in the daily activities compass. Freedom-Ice.com, the professional ice show, is one of the best show at sea offered on any ship. Tickets are free, but they need to be obtained in advance; check the daily compass for details once on board.
Boleros, a hip Latin lounge that Royal Caribbean has begun installing on its ships is a popular after hours bar at sea. This venue draws major crowds with live music and merengue dancing.
Nightly music is found in other areas of the ship as well. A guitarist/soloist performs rock tunes in the Bull & Bear Pub, and a pianist packs Royal Caribbean’s nautical-themed Schooner Bar, taking requests until the wee hours. If you’d like to do the singing yourself, swing by the On Air bar outside Studio B; there are open-mic hours as well as private booths. The big screen here is the place to catch sporting events, as well. For late night dancing, there’s the two-deck Crypt nightclub, whose decor features bar stools shaped like headstones. One can also have a pre dinner drink at the Champagne Bar, or a nightcap at Royal Caribbean’s signature top of the ship Viking Crown Lounge.
There are two main pools on the lido, one for swimming and one for sports, and surrounded by three comfortably sized Jacuzzis. Towards the aft, children get a colorful water park, H2O Zone, complete with a kids-only pool, a cascading waterfall, sculpture fountains and ground geysers that spray water. The Solarium pool area is where you’ll find peaceful hammocks and two whirlpools that hang over the side of the ship; wide panels of glass give an incredible view of the ocean you’re dangling above.
Royal Caribbean favorites like the rock-climbing wall and mini-golf course are also here, and there’s a sports court, shuffleboard, Ping-Pong and a jogging/walking track. The main attraction is the FlowRider, the first surf park at sea. A three-inch sheet of water flows up the 32-ft.-wide by 40-ft.-long incline to create a wave-like reverse waterfall. There are designated hours each day for stand up surfing and boogie boarding. There’s no signup sheet; however, passengers (and guardians for those under the age of 18) must sign a waiver every day to obtain the wristband needed to give the waves a try. The ship offers one on one private FlowRider lessons or in groups.
The Shipshape Fitness Center encompasses the entire forward area of the lido, and is packed with free weights, stationary bikes, treadmills and elliptical machines. Within the fitness center is another first on Freedom of the Seas, and the industry: a boxing ring. The boxing program is intended to promote physical conditioning. A Personal one hour sessions and group workouts are available. Additional fitness classes are offered with some free (stretching, aerobics), and others levying a fee (yoga, Pilates).
One deck up is the full-service Freedom Day Spa, operated by London ‘s Steiner Leisure. The treatments run from simple wraps and massages to acupuncture and teeth whitening.
Freedom of the Seas is the best ship for families in the Royal Caribbean fleet, and a leader industry wide. Children are broken into five separate age groups that get not only their own activities but also their own private rooms. The Adventure Ocean Program includes several different groups: Aquanauts (3 – 5) color and play games while Explorers (6 – 8) learn to make their own candies or kites; Voyagers (9 – 11) might take a backstage tour of the Arcadia Theater or participate in sports activities. Navigators (12 – 14) and older teens (15 – 17) can attend parties at Fuel, the teens-only club; hang out in the Living Room, a posh teen lounge, or chill on the Back Deck, a private outdoor area for teens. Challenger’s Arcade offers modern games like Dance Dance Revolution as well as classics like Ms. Pac Man; there are also racecar games and three air hockey tables.
There are no supervised programs for children younger than 3 or non-potty-trained children. However, special Royal Babies (6 – 18 months) and Royal Tots (18 – 36 months) programs — offered in conjunction with Fisher-Price and Royal Caribbean’s youth staff — are scheduled throughout the cruise for parents to attend with their little ones. Babysitting for children age 1 and older is offered as a group activity; with a fee. In-stateroom sitting is offered when personnel is available; parents or guardians must reserve this service at the Purser’s Desk 24 hours in advance.
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