Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Carnival Freedom- 8 day Southern

Carnival Freedom
‘Exotic Southern Caribbean’
18-27 Oct.

The Pirate Flag and Island Girl cruise
Sailing from Ft. Lauderdale to: Turks and Cacaos (Grand Turk), La Romana (Dominican Republic), Curacao, and Aruba.

Friday, 18 October
Dayton to Cincinnati

We drove to the Cincinnati Airport in Hebron, Kentucky to spend the night. We had a direct flight from CVG to Ft Lauderdale the next morning. This was a direct flight no connections, yeah! The cost of the flight and the ‘no connection’, and free parking made it worth the one hour drive and hotel cost. Patti and I both got off work early today (12:30 pm) and we left home about 3:15 pm.

Traffic sucked in the city (no surprise) and we finally crossed the river and got to the Cincinnati/Northern KY airport about 5:30 pm. We stayed at the Marriott about two miles from the Delta terminal. We had a stay and fly option with parking included. We had a great king room. The rate was about $110.

Checked in and went to the hotel bar and left the cruise suitcases in the car. We had drinks and appetizers in the bar. The appetizers were filling and we never ordered an entrée.

Back to the room, set the alarm for 7 am and called it an early night.

Day 1
Saturday, 19 October
Travel/Embarkation day- Fort Lauderdale

Awake at 6 am. Showered and packed up the few items we had out back into our hotel bag. The airport shuttle was running every 15 minutes. He dropped us off at the Delta terminal. We were actually able to check ourselves in at the kiosk. I state ‘actually’ not because the technology is new, only that our ability to use it has got better.

We were pre-check approved by TSA (not sure why) so we went through an express security line. We had a rushed breakfast at Max and Erma’s for about 10 bucks each. The gate area was crowded. Six gates share a seating area big enough to handle two flights. We took off on time at 9:30 and had a 2:20 minute flight to Fort Lauderdale. The taxi line was moving very slow due to some airport construction but we had plenty of time. We got our cab and drove the 3.5 miles to the cruise terminal. Fare with tip was about 16 dollars.

Most cruises we have been on will board early. This one did not. I had received an email before leaving asking us to not arrive before 1:30 pm. We got there about 12:45. We stood in line for about 30 minutes before they began security. Before the cruise we had considered paying the 45 dollars for the ‘faster to the fun’ boarding express pass. I am glad we didn’t because it looked it would have only saved about 20 minutes of line time.

Inserted the sail and sign cards into the card checker and heard those wonderful dings and walked up the ramp. First stop- the lobby bar. The Carnival Freedom was a sister ship to the Conquest we had sailed on in January. The main difference is that the Freedom did not have the 2.0 upgrades. The only bad part- No Guy’s burgers. The good part- more live music.

After finishing our drink we got some lunch at the buffet. We went to our cabin- 8304 on Veranda deck. We were docked next to the Oasis of the Seas. After lunch another drink on Lido deck. We sat and watched a drunk girl dancing in front of us. But, who can’t say that about Lido deck on the first day. Party on.

Muster drill at 3:30. It went pretty quick this cruise.

Back to the room balcony for sail away I noticed we did not have an ice bucket let alone ice. I pushed the button on the phone for the room steward. No answer and I was transferred to guest services. They said I needed to call room service. I called room service and they said I needed to call the room steward. I asked for another ‘new’ person I could try calling (sarcasm intended). They must have detected some slight irritation in my voice. A few minutes later we had a bucket of ice.

I had brought my pirate flag and got it out in preparation for sail away. Patti (my island girl) and I stood at the railing on our balcony. As you exit the port there are many locals and tourists who watch and wave as you go buy. My island girl and I held up the pirate flag.

We stayed on the balcony till we were several miles out to sea. We went to the Lido bar for a drink. We had late seating for dinner- 8:15. This cruise Patti and I wanted a table for two. We had Posh dining room (aft). We were originally assigned to a table for 4 but I went to see the Maitre D and got the table change. The best time to request a table change is 15 minutes after the early 6pm seating starts.

Patti asked our waiter for an iceberg lettuce salad (not on the menu). He had one made up and had one for her every night we ate in the dining room. Crème brulee for desert! The highlight always, for day one. After dinner we went back to the room to unpack and settle in. We did not do any shows or late night activities. We are not ones to highlight the activities in the Fun Times. We take it as it comes.

We had preloaded some cruise cash t our account and I had the guarantee rate and also had credit from that. We are drinking for ‘free’ for about half the cruise.

Day 2
Sunday 20, October
Sea day
We were up early and watched the sun rise from the balcony. I went up to Lido and got us a couple of cups of coffee. We went to the buffet for breakfast then to lido to use the hot tubs. The hot tubs were hot and the pool was just right. After awhile we went up one deck to Panorama and set overlooking Lido in a shady area behind the DJ station. This became our spot for the duration of the cruise whenever we went to Lido.

Late in the morning they had the hairy chest/sexy man contest. It was fun to watch. We had burgers for lunch from the Lido grill (missed those Guy’s Burgers) then back to the room. I read my Kindle on the balcony and Patti took a 1 hour nap. We checked out the sports bar it was packed with NFL fans so we went down to the lobby for a drink and met Inda. She was by far the best bartender we have had on any cruise.

Tonight was elegant night one, aka Lobster night. Patti wore a purple and black dress she ordered from China and I went classic black with my Tux. There were more people dressed up than I was expecting.

Bar service in the dining room was very slow. It took us 35 minutes to even place a drink order. The bar waiter for our area parked himself at a table where a couple was ordering wine. When he finally came over I asked him to check in with us a little quicker from now on.

I had my usual double order of lobster, Patti had prime rib. We were to full for the cherries jubilee. We had a few cups of decaff and then went back to the room and watched some TV.

There was a full moon over the ocean reflecting nicely on the water.

Day 3
Grand Turk

Slept in till 7 am. Our port call in Grand Turk was from 7am till 2 pm. We had our coffee on the balcony. Patti suggested room service for the coffee for the rest of the cruise and that was a great idea. It usually came a little earlier than we asked but no big deal. We had some cereal and fruit on Lido than headed out about 8:30.

We decided to explore the complex at the pier. We poked around a shop then went over to the Margaritaville complex. It has a very nice pool. We walked around it and then settled in at the swim up (wade ups allowed) pool bar. We never left. We were there from 9:00 am till 12:30. We intended to have a drink then grab a couple of beach chairs.

I was drinking Landshark beer topped off with a splash of lime flavored tequila. Patti was drinking tropical drinks called 'Incommunicado' that had at least 3 different types of alcohol. We ordered some volcano nachos. We were having a great time! The pool area got busier as fellow cruisers came in. There was a live DJ, and lots of drinking and line dancing in the pool. We did a lot of socializing with fellow cruisers. I found out it is acceptable to also chair dance from your bar stool. If you fall off at least you are in the water. Our bartender was ‘Junior’ and he was awesome. Warning- Margaritaville is not cheap (none of them are) but it is a lot of fun and I would recommend it.

After 3 ½ hours of drinking we headed back to the ship. We were not staggering… much. But we did take a nice long pre-dinner nap. We woke up, read on the balcony and watched the stars come out.

Dinner in the Posh dining room. The bar waiter never came to see us.

Day 4
Tuesday, 22 October
La Romana, Dominican Republic

Hey, I like this room service coffee. We watched as the ship came into port. We ended up turning around and backing in. We saw lots of jellyfish. There were local dancers putting on a show as we docked. I used a tray I had hidden under the bed from room service to go fix a few plates from the breakfast buffet and bring them back to the room. We were not in a rush to go ashore.

Just hung out on the balcony and read for awhile. It was about 90, in the 40’s back home in Ohio. We decided to go walk around the port area. This was a waste of time. There is really nothing to see. It did rain extremely heavy and we sat under a tin roof and tried an island beer ‘Presidente”. Other than the rain/tin roof part of it was disappointing. Others that took a taxi into town were also disappointed. Probably the best plan for La Romana is to book a tour or stay on the ship.

When the rain slowed we walked back to the ship. There was a crew member handing out hand towels to dry off with. I thought this was a nice gesture. We went down to the lobby bar and had a few pre-dinner drinks. Inda was a great bartender. She greeted us by name every time we came. The band ‘Music Boardwalk was playing. They are extremely talented and we were able to listen to them several times during the cruise.

We hade dinner in the Posh dining room. I loved the Thai soup. The bar waiter never showed.

Day 5
Wednesday, 23 October

A very lazy morning. We skipped breakfast and ordered some room service sandwiches for brunch. Patti got a ham and cheese and I got a BLT extra bacon. Hung out at our favorite spot on Lido then tried out the Mongolian BBQ for lunch. Yes, there is a line, but it moves quickly and is worth the wait.

We booked an excursion through Carnival for the ‘Beach Break’ trip. We were in port from 2 pm till 11 pm. We were off the ship and in line by 2:15. It was hot, but eventually our guide led us to our 1960s style brightly painted ex-school bus. We had a city tour with some of the highlights being the brightly colored buildings, floating pedestrian bridge, and colonial style buildings. The tour guide also advised us we were getting to pass a Curacao 'time share'. It was an above ground New Orleans style cemetery. When you are interred you get five years than they dig up the bones, bag them and give them to relatives. True.

We left the main town and passed a lake with wild flamingos. I got some decent pics of some babies near the road. The tour took about an hour and we arrived at Blue Bay Beach. We had a three and a half hour visit. We got lounge chairs under a thatched open air frame. I walked over to the beach bar and got an Amstel Bright beer (considered a local beer on this Dutch island) and Patti had a tropical drink with authentic Blue Curacao liquor. Both drinks were very good. On my way back to the chairs Patti motioned for me to stop walking. There was a 3 foot iguana walking towards me. He looked like he owned the beach so I gave way. We got a few pics of him.

We walked out into the water. The beach was nice and sandy but underwater it was mostly rocky. Water temp was mid to upper 80s. We enjoyed the view, swam some more and relaxed as the sun went down while reading our kindles. The excursion included free snorkeling but I was happy to just chill.

The trip back to the boat was quicker- about 20 minutes. We arrived as it was getting dark. It was cool seeing the boat all lit up. What I find odd is the shops close at 6 pm. It was Wednesday and the ship was in port for another 5 hours. In seems like they lost out on a lot of tourist money.

Back on the ship and to the lobby bar we went. Inda would always make up something special for Patti. Tonight it was a BBC… a Bailey’s banana colada. I tried a drink and it was very good.

We went back to the room to shower and change for dinner. I gave it 40 minutes at dinner- no bar waiter. I went to the Maître D station to see what could be done. He was at a function. They got me the upstairs supervisor. He was not too concerned and told me to just ask our food waiter. We were not happy with that response and left.

Patti suggested that I go back and let them know that out waiter was great and that he was not the issue. When we had tried to order with him he gladly took the order but still had to give it to the bar waiter who was still at his favorite table. When I went back I got the downstairs supervisor who was in charge of our area. She was definitely concerned and promised it would be addressed.

Day 6
Thursday, 24 October

We decided to make this a 'ship day' and stay on the boat and enjoy the fact that most of our fellow guests went ashore. We try and do this once a cruise. We had a nice breakfast of omelets in the buffet. A lady from Georgia asked to sit at our table. We had a great conversation. She was in her late 60s and she was on the cruise with her husband who was a judge. He wasn’t feeling well so she was on her own for breakfast. It did not take long for us to feel like we were life long friends and neighbors.

We went to Panorama deck and spent the day in our spot behind the DJ/Band station. Patti was drinking CC and sprite and I was drinking Bud light. For lunch Patti had sides from the Lido grill and I had Fish, Oysters, and calamari from the fish and chips place further aft on Panorama.

‘Music Boardwalk’ was playing for the last time. Their contract was up in two days and this was the last day they were going to play. They are such an awesome band. I requested ‘Freebird”. Their version was just as good as Skynyrd. People walking by literally stopped till they finished. They usually only did one hour sets. But since today was the end of their contract they kept playing. They did not want to stop. They sent away a DJ who was supposed to take over away and played for 3 hours with just a few breaks.

As the sun began to set we went to the railing and watched it go down. We went back to the room and sat on the balcony as it slowly turned to dusk. We were both talking about lost family members and were feeling a little melancholy about it. Right in the middle of this conversation a large hawk (possibly an Osprey?) swooped right by our deck. By now the ship was about 60 miles from Aruba. I am sure this is well within the range of many sea birds. What we found more than coincidental though, was the timing of our fly by. To us, it was almost like we were being told, “Hey we’re ok.”

We went to the buffet for dinner tonight. We had some really good roast turkey.

Day 7
Friday, 25 October
Sea day- A day of Rainbows

We had a great start to the day with our coffee and Danish. We saw flying fish flee the ship. I was surprised by how much air time some fish were able to get. As the sun came up a little higher we saw rainbows actually in the water as the sun light refracted n the waves. We also saw bits and pieces of rainbows in the clouds as the sun interacted with the moisture.

I made some egg and bacon sandwiches up at the buffet and we ate in our room. They had a very good guava/orange/fruit juice.

Time to go to our deck spot. We hung out in the pool and watched the morning show on the big screen starring the cruise director. Today we had a DJ playing country for most of the morning. We went back to the room to change out of our swim suits and had Italian at the buffet for lunch.

We dressed for elegant night number two. Patti wore a sage colored dress she had also ordered from China and I wore my tux with a sage bow tie and cummerbund. We went to get some formal pictures taken then we went down to the lobby for pre-dinner drinks and again Inda took very good care of us.

The staff was very happy to see us back in the dining room. The headwaiter thanked us for returning. He offered us complimentary drinks. I tried to refuse them- we never wanted anything for fore free. He insisted, and we accepted. Literally within seconds the bar waiter was over to see us. He apologized profusely over what had happened. He explained that the table he was at (the bottle wine couple) would monopolize his time.

I felt he was very sincere and we accepted his apology. The issue was behind us. Although he did keep trying to give us free drinks till the end of the cruise. One free drink was sufficient and we paid for the rest. For the next two nights he spent lots of time talking to us. I think he was trying very hard to make up for the incident. The main entrée tonight was chateaubriand. It was possible the best I have ever had. We were again very full but we were able to pick at our baked Alaska which is tough to pass up.

Day 8
Saturday, 26 October
Sea day- 2 vs. 10

Our last full day of the cruise. We woke up to a short rain storm. It passed and we sat on the balcony and our discussion was why we have two sets of luggage zone tags. We were given tags for zones 2 (early flight) and also for zone 10 (which probably were the tags applicable to our 12:30 pm flight).

We watched the video on TV covering debarkation. Nothing new from past cruises. We went to the breakfast buffet then down to the lobby. I had a Mocachino and Patti had tomato juice. We were in the lobby for a few hours. We did a trivia game then we went back to our caffeine and juice.

About two hours later a member of the entertainment staff came into the lobby and set up for men vs. women trivia. He asked for all the men on one side and the women on the other. Patti and I were not participating, we were drinking our juice and by then I had a red beer (tomato juice, beer, Tabasco). Anyway, he told Patti she needed to move to the other side of the lobby. She ignored him (again, we were not playing trivia). He got a little louder and he restated his demand. It became deathly quiet. All talking in the lobby stopped. The hum of the ships engines… the bells of the slots machines from 2 decks up… the muffled music from the DJ on Lido… all could be heard. After a short pause, Patti said, “LISTEN I HAVE BEEN SITTING HERE FOR TWO HOURS! I’M NOT PLAYING YOUR GAME AND I’M NOT MOVING.” If that guy would have backed off any quicker he would have been in the theater. You go girl.

All day long we noticed there were about 60-70 people lined up for guest services. I just found that odd. The line lasted well past dinner. We went to Pixels and made our photo choices then went to the gift shop for the two for $20 dollar t-shirt special.

Back to the room for a nap followed by reading on the balcony. Pre-dinner drinks with Inda- almost didn’t make it to dinner. She made Patti a watermelon martini layered with, hell I don’t know with what, but I think Patti has the recipe. But anyway, we had to pull ourselves away to leave for dinner.

We went back to the Posh dining room for dinner and the bar waiter was to us very quickly. We had a nice chat with him. Again, we had put it all behind us.

Finally back to the room to pack. We had not packed anything yet but we had it all ready to go in about an hour and placed our bags in the hall. With the zone 2 tags. What the hell, if we some extra time at the airport we will get something to eat.

Day 9
Sunday, 27 October
Ft Lauderdale, disembark

Patti and I both had a rough night sleeping. Not unusual, for a travel day. Our 7 am order for coffee came at 6:30. A hint to get up and get our asses moving? We had our coffee on the balcony for he last time. We were now further north so it was still mostly dark. There were 5 ships in port. We were next to the Allure (RCCL) and a Norwegian boat.

We were asked to leave the room by 8:30. We went to deck 4 and watched those who were doing self assist leave the boat. It seemed like it was half the ship. Self assist took about an hour. They called zones one and two about 9:30 and we shuffled our way out.

The final ‘ding dings’ as our sail and sign cards were swiped. We found our bags and I waved over a porter. He stayed with us for the 30- minutes it took to go through customs. We then followed him over to the cab line and we had a cab waiting. About 10 minutes latter we were being dropped of curbside at the Delta terminal. We did curbside check in. He took our bags, payment for bags, and printed our boarding passes.

It took another 30 minutes to go through security. By now it was 10:45. We got some spaghetti and meatballs for an early lunch. Out 11:43 flight started boarding about 11:15. we left the gate only a minute or two late. We could again see the Carnival Freedom as we taxied out. Two hours 5 minutes later we were back in Cincinnati.

All our bags made it, no damage this cruise. We needed a ride back to our car at the Marriott. An easy to use touch screen next to the baggage claim area made that very simple to call the hotel. We had a shuttle for the 2 mile trip in less than 10 minutes. Sixty five miles later we were home.

Inda our bartender in the Lobby Bar
The band ‘Music Boardwalk’
Gede our Main dining room waiter
Mongolian Grill

OK/as expected:
Fish and chips
Main buffet (all meals)

Room steward: He would speak to me but ignored Patti.
Bar service in the main dining room
Port call at La Romana (unless you are on a tour don’t bother getting off the boat)



  2. Post script- I did find out what the longs were on the last few days. Apparently there was a special price for booking a cruise a year out. It seems that if you booked then you got about half off.