When it launched, Carnival Freedom represented a major step on a trajectory that hurtled Carnival Cruise Lines toward its current position as a family-friendly, multigenerational cruise line. Carnival has always offered value, but within the past decade or so, it has set its focus on families. That's not to say the Carnival Freedom ship doesn't offer adults the chance to live it up, however.
Belonging to the Conquest class, Carnival Freedom is a mid-sized ship with a maximum capacity of 2,980 guests. Its deck plans are well designed and keep most cabins and public spaces on separate levels, allowing for less foot traffic on cabin decks.
That said, the fact that some decks pack in multiple dining, drinking and entertainment options means that staterooms located directly below or above are subject to noise. In particular, light sleepers may find that most cabins to avoid on Carnival Freedom are located on decks 2 (Main), 6 (Upper) and 8 (Verandah). Regarding the best deck on Carnival Freedom, it largely depends on personal preference: while the Riviera Deck (deck 1) is a good pick for light sleepers who suffer from seasickness – especially towards the middle or the aft of the ship – The Verandah and Lido decks (8 and 9, respectively) may be a better option for those who want to be in the heart of the action.
Carnival Freedom was refurbished in spring 2019, bringing with it the line's Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades. Its deck plans changed quite a bit, with the addition of a great waterpark with a 203-foot-long slide, a few retail shops and an aerobics studio in the gym. The mini-golf course was also relocated to Deck 11. The RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar on the Lido Deck offer more tropical tipples than ever before, and spaces like Alchemy Bar add a hint of sophistication to the ol' cruise watering holes.
With all the changes brought by the retrofit, some spaces still need work. A few lounges lack true identities, the library is gorgeous but out of place, Spa Carnival needs a "wow" factor to keep up, and there's a giant skylight dome overtaking valuable court space on the sports deck. That's when we remember that Freedom isn't a new ship; it's a ship with fresh and exciting concepts that are well executed. It's an appetizing taste of what's to come for the line, and it challenges you not to have a good time onboard.
Carnival Freedom dining has remained largely free of charge, and we never felt like we were deprived of choice. Apart from the buffet and the main dining room, there are burgers and burritos with enough toppings to have a different experience every day of your cruise. Even within the buffet, themed counters are like stepping foot inside tiny, specialized eateries. The quality does not suffer, in spite of its being free.
Freedom was the first ship with Camp Ocean, replacing Camp Carnival as the onboard children's program, and the first ship with Bookville, a reading room and play space that anchors the Seuss at Sea experience onboard. It was also the first ship with four full PlayList Productions shows at just 30 minutes each, which rotate throughout the cruise. While Camp Ocean has upgraded the kids' space, an arts and crafts room is included to encourage participation from parents in their children's daily activities. Seuss at Sea welcomes kids of all ages (meaning adults, as well) to march and let loose in a parade, become reacquainted with "The Cat in the Hat" and test their taste buds with culinary creations ripped from the pages of Dr. Seuss' books. Getting everyone involved in the action is part of the plan and also part of the charm.
A number of other branded experiences enhance life onboard. Once the plain Sports Bar, now EA Sports Bar, action is on every wall with sports games, video games of sports games, and sports memorabilia that comes to life. "Hasbro, the Game Show" takes the board games everyone knows and loves and plays them out on the stage with members of the audience chosen through sheer enthusiasm and answers to trivia questions. Apart from the bizarre (and loud) "commercial breaks" showcasing old Hasbro advertisements, the action is infectious.
While Carnival Breeze sails to the Caribbean and Carnival Freedom offers itineraries to the eastern Caribbean and Alaska, it is common for travelers to not only decide by itinerary or price but also by ship – and these two are particularly similar in the Carnival Cruise Line, despite Breeze being part of the Dream class.
Entertainment, dining, activities and atmosphere are almost the same on both ships, and both have adult-only areas and lots of family-friendly options. In addition, Carnival Breeze holds almost 24% more passengers than Freedom without being that much bigger. To us, the main difference between both ships is the spa – Breeze features Cloud 9 Spa, which is much nicer and more modern than Freedom’s.
Two main dining rooms, the buffet and select other eateries
Some room service menu options
All theater and comedy shows
Use of the water park, mini-golf and other outdoor activities
Most daily activities unless noted below
Use of the gym, but not most classes
Gratuities (amounts vary by cabin type)
Automatic beverage (18 percent) and spa tips (15 percent)
Most room service deliveries, plus tip
All drinks beyond water, tea (including ice tea), coffee and select juices in the buffet
Activities including, but not limited to the arcade games and bingo
Freedom attracts all ages, and groups containing up to four generations can be found among the young couples, retired couples and smaller families onboard. The passenger mix varies, but North Americans (including a solid number of Floridians) dominate the onboard demographic. Passengers 41 to 50 years old tend to compose the largest percentage of passengers.
The Carnival Freedom dress code ranges from laid back during the day to dressy at night. The ship sails Caribbean (and Alaska) itineraries, and the daytime dress onboard reflects that with a casual, poolside atmosphere. Cover-ups, shirts and flip-flops are required for the indoor Freedom Restaurant on the Lido Deck, but the rule doesn't seem to be strictly enforced.
The main dining room requires that men wear shirts with sleeves, and at night, wardrobes are typically turned up a notch to include khakis and collared or button-down shirts for men, and blouses or sundresses for women. Depending on the length of the itinerary, there could be one to two formal nights aboard Carnival Freedom. Fashion runs the spectrum from cocktail dresses and pressed slacks to full evening gowns and tuxedos; pack according to your comfort level, but be aware it does get dressy.
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