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After a series of inaugural short sailings from New York, Freedom of the Seas was scheduled for a series of two-day and one day sailings from Boston before heading to Miami later in the week.
Flying into Boston Logan airport we were met by the RCCL representative and directed to shuttle buses starting at 10:15am. We arrived at the Black Falcon Terminal, were issued numbers and provided seating until our group number was called for check in. The lines moved quickly with plenty of check-in staff. Our bags were x-rayed and we pulled our own wheeled luggage aboard. We were in our cabin before 11:30.
We were assigned cabin 6453, an inside category L cabin, 152 sq ft. The new upgraded bedding on Freedom of the Seas is sensational! The only problem is that when the new, larger beds are made up as a queen, you cannot walk around to the side of the bed. It is that tight. Oceanview and above should be alright, as the cabins are larger. The cabin had two Pullman bunks in the ceiling, and for four people there would be inadequate storage. There was one closet which did have three shelves and the safe. The vanity had 6 small drawers, and there were small storage areas behind the mirror but the spaces were too small to be of much use. There was a small refrigerator even in this small inside cabin. The bathroom was not large, but the shower had a solid revolving door which kept the floor dry. No toiletries are provided except soap. All cabins feature flat screen TV?s with a variety of programming, movies, CNN and ESPN.
After lunch in the Windjammer Caf?, we spent several hours touring and photographing the ship. It was my second time on a Voyager class ship, and it made getting around easier, knowing where to look for things, as the layout is similar across the class, just larger on Freedom. The weather was rainy most of the weekend, in port and at sea, but we headed topside in a short break in the rain to see the Flowrider. Staff in wetsuits were demonstrating boogie boarding and short boarding. The rockwall is immense, and in addition to the basic, high wall, there is also a free standing column. The wall/column face the sports court, a nearly full sized basketball court. The H2O Zone provides ample space for children to play in the water fountains. We did note that the spa pool is outdoors. There is no pool area covered and available for use in case of rainy weather. Johnny Rockets Diner is popular, but was reported by other passengers to have a 1 hr 45 min wait. The Fuel and Teen and Arcade areas are also near Johnny Rockets, with a large number of very elaborate arcade games, and areas for teens to hang out. Adventure Ocean area for younger children is in the same area. Miniature golf and the golf simulator are on the same area aft.
The signature Viking Crown lounge is above, overlooking the pools, and contains a bar called Olive or Twist, and a musical performance area. With only two bartenders it was understaffed when crowded. Except for the main dining rooms, dining areas are all in the same area, on Deck 11, the pool deck. Windjammer Caf? offers burger mania, pasta, and general hot buffet items, as well as dessert islands. At breakfast they offer omelets and eggs to order. The beverages are dispensed by staff, so passengers are not helping themselves to coffee, tea, ice water, and iced tea or juices. They are pre-poured by the staff. Forward of the Windjammer is a section called Jade, featuring cafeteria lines for salads and Asian foods. Portofino, the specialty Italian restaurant, and Chops, the specialty seafood and steaks restaurant, are located on the starboard and port side, respectively, forward of the other areas. Each have many window tables, and are subdivided into two seating areas to provide a more intimate feeling than in a large restaurant.
The next area we visited was the Promenade, which runs nearly the entire length of Deck 5. On the forward end is Pharaoh?s Palace, which features a rock and roll band in a club atmosphere. The Promenade can best be described as a large indoor mall, featuring among other things the fashion, logo, jewelry and fragrance and general stores. Features include Sorrento?s Italian deli with pizza until 3am, sandwiches, and Italian deli items. The Bull and Bear Pub features a dart room and a guitar entertainer at night, and Vintages is a wine bar which offers wines by the glass as well as wine flights. Both offer seating inside and outside on the Promenade. Ben and Jerry?s ice cream is a popular shop and is next door to A Clean Shave, an old fashioned barber shop. Caf? Promenade offers Seattle?s Finest coffees and tables inside and on the Promenade itself to ?people watch?. At the after end is the Purser?s Desk/Guest Relations, and across the way is the cozy Champagne Bar.
The main dining rooms are at the aft end of decks 3, 4, and 5. It is actually one huge dining room with three levels and the center open with a huge crystal chandelier. Deck 3 is Leonardo Dining Room, and has a red upholstery theme. Deck 4 is Isaac (Newton) dining room with a blue theme, and Deck 5 is Galileo dining room with a white theme. We ate in Galileo?s both nights with members of our group. Service is good. The food was good, not excellent, as was presentation, likely the consequence of serving 4,000 people. Beef tenderloin was offered both nights, no lobster. The menu had 4 selections to choose from among the appetizers, salads, soups, and entrees. Dessert the first night offered a cr?me Brule which came with no caramelized crust. Cherries Jubilee were among the offerings the second night. Each also offered low-fat items. Always available were Caesar salad, salmon, and sirloin steak.
Deck 4 contains the RCCL trademark Schooner Bar, which is really too small for the crowd the evening entertainer attracts. Overflow crowd actually blocks the passage way. The entrance to the two deck disco, The Crypt, is located here. A white d?cor with black light gives it atmosphere. The casino is mid ships. It is large with many tables and slots, but narrow aisles and a bar in the middle make is a bit crowded to navigate. Aft of the casino is the photo gallery and Boleros, a bar which features Latin music, a small dance floor, and Latin drinks, such as Mojitos.
Forward on Decks 2 and 3 is located the Arcadia Theatre. Seating on the main floor is excellent with great sight lines. The balconies feature some columns which do block the view for some seats. The sailing featured two shows: "Once Upon a Time" and "Marquee". Both were two of the best shows I've ever seen on board a ship. The six talented singers were Broadway quality, in my opinion. From deck 3 aft you enter Studio B, the location of an auditorium sized conference center where the ice rink is located, on deck 2. For conferences the ice is covered with flooring. The ice show was spectacular, with a Russian couple doing more instant, magical, on-ice costume changes than I could count. Deck 3 also features On Air Club, a karaoke club.
Despite the large number of passengers, near 4,000, it never seemed crowded to me, we had no trouble finding seating in Windjammer, and check-in/debarkation went smoothly. The ship will begin 7 night Western Caribbean sailings from Miami this month, visiting Labadee, Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. When her sister ship, Liberty of the Seas, joins the fleet in April 2007, the two ships will alternate Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings.
A final note for those who might consider a cruise from Boston: We had about a 4 ? hour wait between arriving back at Logan Airport and our afternoon flight home. Asking at the MassPort information desk, we were advised we could catch a free shuttle bus, 33, outside on the second island which takes us to the station for the Blue Line elevated/subway train. Ticket machines accept cash or debit/credit cards and the fare is $1.25 per person. We boarded the Inbound train, rode two stations to the Aquarium stop, and walked about 2 blocks to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. These are festival marketplaces with shops and food stalls, especially featuring ?chowda?. After lunch and viewing street performers, we took the train back and the free shuttle to the airport for our check-in for the flight.