[*]This was a real dream cruise of the Greek Isles and Turkey and Carnival did a great job.
Carnival Freedom Cruise April 19, 2007
Took KLM from JFK to Amsterdam, then to Rome
KLM service was inconsistent. The flight crew was excellent, extremely professional, and very helpful. The ground crew, on the other hand was very efficient at ignoring waiting passengers. I know this is not the norm for KLM ground crew but it was the flavor of the day. The waiting passengers were astounded by their poor treatment.
We arrived in Rome at approximately 1:10 PM. We took care of some personal business before we headed to the Carnival representative. Unfortunately, no Carnival representative was in the area where we exited after picking up our luggage and taking care of our business. We had to track them down at the next terminal. The Carnival representative that we finally met made up for the petty annoyance by being apologetic and courteous.
We boarded the shuttle at the Rome airport at 2:45 and departed at 3:00 PM, after acquiring a full load of passengers. We arrived in the port town of Civitavecchia at 4:00 PM. We entered the terminal at about 4:15 PM and we on board by 4:30 PM after the souvenir pictures were taken. We went immediately to our cabin and showered and proceeded to the Lido deck for a meal.
We then went to the maitre d', Ken, for a table change which proved to be no problem. Then it was time to take a nap and get ready for the "Boat Drill."
The design of the interior of the Freedom was very somber compared to some of the other ships. It had lots of brown and beiges throughout. Sailing was very smooth without any excessive vibration. There were times we didn't know we were moving. It was a very enjoyable experience to sail the Carnival Freedom. Disembarkation was the smoothest that I have ever experienced. Because we had sailed on the Conquest class ships before, it was very easy to get around. The secret is to know which levels go straight across the ship without interruption. That is level 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. The other decks are blocked by the Chic Restaurant. Carnival was aware of everyone's departure time so numbers were called as the transportation for the airport for ones particular departure arrived. We literally walked right off the ship, picked up our luggage, gave it to the shore crew to place on the bus, boarded the bus and were on our way to the airport. We got to the airport at about 11:00 AM for a 2:05 flight.
The cabin had its ample Conquest class spaciousness with three closets, two of them for hanging clothes and one with shelving. There was ample room under the bed for the luggage. The designer of the ship figured out a way to install a shower for bigger people to shower without having the shower curtain attach to the body. Additionally, our cabin, 1253, a connecting cabin with a door to the next cabin, was on the Riviera Deck. I could occasionally hear heavy coughing through the door. Other than that there were no disturbances.
Just when I thought we were not going to see any crew members from past cruises, in pops Ida of Bali, a former assistant steward who is now a cabin steward. Her able assistants were Ronald from the Philippines and Somchit from Thailand.
The Carnival Freedom has five dining venues, two main dining rooms, the Chic dining room and the Posh dining room, which was our dining room, the Sun King Restaurant, which is the specialty restaurant that charges $30 per person, the casual Freedom Restaurant on the Lido Deck, and the Fish and Chips Restaurant hidden on Deck 10. On the Lido Deck there are also the Oriental and Deli concessions as well as the 24 hour Pizzeria and ice cream machines.
Our maitre d', Ken, turned out to be quite an entertaining maitre d'. He had a legitimate voice and serenaded the diners every evening. The waiters and assistant waiters also did their thing on the entertainment side as well as the service side.
My travel mate said that the Tilapia was very good. I would say the vegetarian Indian dish was good. The highlight of the meal was the dessert. The hot melted chocolate mousse cake and the vanilla crÃƒÂ¨me brule were absolutely decadently scrumptious.
Our waiter was Ketut of Bali, Indonesia and the assistant waiter, Chawang of Thailand. The two of them were very efficient and kept us entertained with conversation while we waited for our meals. Our bar waitress was Melina of the Czech Republic who was absolutely delightful. We even made friends with a young assistant waitress, Ausanee, who worked on both the Lido Deck and the Posh Dining Room. The Posh Restaurant's hostess Anna Lucia was extremely gracious and came over to greet us several times. It turns out that she was the restaurant waitress on my very first cruise on the Carnival Destiny.
The Cruise Director was the legendary John Heald who was the C.D. on our Carnival Liberty cruise. He was in his usual wonderful form.
0n formal night the show in the main lounge was a spectacular presentation of Beatles songs with singing, dancing and sensational costumes. The two Carnival vocalists were phenomenal.
The next night there was an extremely funny Scottish juggler/comedian by the name of Goronwy Thom who utilized members of the audience as assistants for his act. A special treat was having Bob Dickenson, President and CE0 of Carnival, sit right behind us in the Victoriana Lounge.
Monday night we had Penny Mathisen, a very fine singer with a legitimate voice who really thrilled the audience while performing show tunes and operatic warhorses.
On Tuesday we were entertained by Russ Stevens, a pure and entertaining magician.
The singers and dancers returned on Wednesday night and the late seating dinner guests got to go to the show before dinner. That change helped late seating guests enjoy the show without feeling sleepy after a long day.
The program for that evening was with singers Louise Eddens, Lawrence Neals and the Carnival Dancers performing in "Jump, Jive and Wail." New Yorker Lawrence Neals was a real treat because we are neighbors. He did an outstanding job and represented New York well.
That same night there was a Carnival Legends Competition but not enough participants in all of the categories to put on the show. About three people, including me, sang "My Way." I am proud to say that I won the solid gold plastic Carnival ship on a stick.
"The Amazing Fingers of Chris Watkins" with the Freedom Orchestra performed on Thursday. Chrls Watkins is a very gifted violinist who played popular and classical pieces to the delight of the audience.
One of the entertainment highlights was the guest talent night with John Heald as host. Four very talented passenger singers performed and a hilarious skit was put on by four other passenger volunteers with the audience creating the sound effects for the skit. I won't describe it because I would ruin the surprise for future cruisers.
Saturday night, the second formal night, had singers Louise Eddens and Lawrence Neal back with the Carnival dancers performing in my favorite performance of the cruise in "The Big Easy." It was a huge productions number dedicated to the people of New Orleans affected by the flood. The production utilized the musical genres that New Orleans was and is known for. The Freedom pulled out all the stops when it came to costumes. There finally was a huge colorful Mardi Gras parade.
Ports of Call:
Took Jet Foil to the Isle of Capri @ $30 per person round trip and then took the funicular to Ana Capri for 2.60 Euro round trip. The ship's excursion fare was $149 per person. The ticket counter and terminal for the jet foil is right outside the cruise ship terminal to the first main street and to the left, before crossing the street.
In the Isle of Capri one can take the tram or funicular to Ana Capri, the main town at the top of a hill. Look for souvenir bottles of a wonderful lemon liqueur. You're not able to take some huge lemons the size of grapefruits, grown on the Isle of Capri. There's also a shoppers heaven in Ana Capri, albeit the exchange rate for Euros is very high. Things can get a little pricey, but if you search hard enough you can pick up some reasonably priced souvenirs. There are several restaurants if you like to eat ashore, but expect to pay dearly.
The next port of call was Rhodes, Greece. In Rhodes one has the opportunity to visit Old Rhodes Town on your own or buy a shore excursion that provides a very informative guide. Old Rhodes Town is right outside the pier and a short walk to the right. One can find a number of reasonably priced souvenirs as well as the more expensive items like silk rugs and throws. They also have a variety of olive soap.
We chose to visit the Palace of the Knights which only cost $6 per person. The palace houses a museum that contains a number of ancient artifacts and an opportunity to tour the Palace of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem.
Other guests chose to go to Lindos which offers views of the harbor where the statue of Colossus of Rhodes is believed to have stood towering over the harbor and a view of the acropolis at Lindos.
The next day we docked in Izmir, Turkey. There were several tours that included Ancient Ephesus; however, there is also a tour of Izmir. There's even a Family Fun tour that includes the Train Museum.
We chose the House of the Virgin Mary and Ancient Ephesus. It was one of the most impressive shore excursions I have ever taken. It seemed hundreds of the passengers chose to do the same because the line for the house was short for me but long for the groups that came after. The experience at the House of the Virgin Mary turned out to be a personal pilgrimage. Visitors are also permitted to drink spring water that flows under the house. For me it was a spiritual experience.
Ancient Ephesus was one of the best ruins excavations that I have ever seen even though it was very crowded. It seemed that every single person on the ship ended up in Ephesus. It was difficult to get a photo op or clean photo because of the crowds. Despite that, the ancient ruins are quite impressive. There is even a massive theater where St. Paul attempted to preach to the Ephesians. I climbed the steps of the theater as far as the public was allowed to go. 0f course I also stood on the lower stage area. The ancient city of Ephesus was a huge bustling city with massive temples, arenas, libraries, and shops.
The tour guide, Yusef, was very informative and offered great insight into the history of the area.
On Tuesday we docked in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul turned out to be a very beautiful city although it gets very busy and has traffic jams during rush hour. If you venture on your own make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship. We chose to do the Panoramic Istanbul, Europe and Asia. Panoramic means you get driven to the Asian side of Istanbul and have Turkish tea, coffee or a soft drink before crossing back over the Phosphorous River to head for the old section and European side of Istanbul. There you will pass the Blue Mosque and the Hagila Sophia, an ancient cathedral turned into a Mosque. Even though you cannot get out and enter either structure on the panoramic tour, it is an easy walk from where you are left by the tour bus near the Grand Bazaar.
Turkey is a very beautiful, clean and safe country. It is 98% Muslim but definitely has a separation of church and state. The people are friendly but can be very aggressive when trying to make sales. Don't be afraid. Some passengers complained about the hard sales tactics of the Turkish merchants. I was not phased one bit having been properly trained to counter attack in the Caribbean .with low offer of my own. If you're not interested just say no thanks and move on, keep walking.
Do your research before buying big ticket items like handmade silk or wool rugs.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great surprise to me that I loved being in Turkey so much.
0n Thursday we were back in Greece and docked in Piraeus for points in Athens. We decided to explore Athens on our own and took a moderate walk to the Metro station and took an .80 Euro ride on the No. 1 train to the Monia Station and transferred to the No. 2 train to the Acropolis Station. The entrance to the Acropolis is a short block and a half from the station. The admission for several attractions, including the Acropolis that contains the Parthenon is only $12 per person. Don't be intimidated by how high up The Acropolis looks. It's actually an easy walk with only a few feet of a steep climb. The rest is a slow steady climb with a slight incline. Wear shoes with gripping bottoms because the marble walkway is very slippery. The plateau can be very dusty so you'll definitely have to clean your shoes afterwards. You'll also have some wonderful views of Athens. We also visited the ancient Olympic Stadium and a shopping and restaurant area called the Plaka. We made our way back to the ship at about 3:00 PM for a boarding call at 4:30 PM.
Traffic in Athens gets really congested during the afternoon. Watch out for motorcycles. We saw three auto accidents in one day in Athens, one involved a motorcycle.
Friday we chose to stay near the port in Katakolon, Greece. Katakolon offered some beautiful photo ops of the ship and excursions to Ancient Olympia and Village or Museum or Traditional Folkloric Dance.
Saturday we were at sea once again and relaxed on the ship.
We docked in Livorno on Sunday and chose to travel to Florence on our own. The ship provided a courtesy shuttle to the city center where we boarded the No. 1 bus that took us on a 15 minute ride to the train station. We paid 12.20 euros per person for the train ticket to Florence. The ride was about 1 hour and 20 minutes. In Florence there are a variety of things to do, such as museum visits, a trip to the historic and beautiful Duomo, crossing the famous Ponte Vecchio, a bridge with shops that occupy the entire span of the old bridge, and of course shopping. Because of limited time, we chose to do a panoramic tour of the city. The lines to the museums were too long for the time that we arrived. We wanted to make our way to the Ponte Vecchio since we had never crossed it before. As luck would have it, our route had us pass the Duomo, where we took some photo ops and also passed some of the art museums that contained finished and unfinished works by Michelangelo. The lines for the museums were extremely long and we decided to plan a visit on a return trip when we had more time. We made our way to the Ponte Vecchio and passed a number of interesting shops and street artists drawing the scenes of the river and the Ponte Vecchio. We crossed the Ponte Vecchio to the other side while window shopping the shops that occupied the old bridge. At one time meat was sold on the bridge and the affluent residents changed that because of the stench that came from the bridge. Gold and silver shops took the place of the meat markets. We made our back to the railroad and back to the ship.
On Monday we docked in Civitavecchia for an overnight stay on the ship and chose to travel to Rome on our own. The ship provided a courtesy shuttle to the port entrance and then there was a 10 minute walk to the train. There seemed to be plenty of taxis at the entrance as well as taxis at the train station. Civitavecchia seemed to be a lot bigger then I remember, perhaps because the ship was docked closer to the city this time. We paid 9 euros per person for the train ticket to Rome. On the way to Rome we noticed that there is a train stop for St. Peter's Basilica. We proceeded to go to the city center where we could catch the Metro to the Colosseo station which leaves you right in front of the Coliseum. The old adage states that Rome was not built in a day and doing everything in Rome will take many more days than one. We decided to do some things in Rome that we had not done before. We decided to go to the Coliseum and go in this time. The Coliseum was an impressive structure, inside and out with a very interesting history. After the Coliseum we took the Metro to the Spanish Steps, the Spagna station which leaves you right next to the Spanish steps. There is an elevator at the Metro station for those who prefer to start their journey from the top of the Spanish Steps. We climbed up. To the right of the Spanish steps looking up is a house that Keats stayed in. From the same station and directly across the Spanish Steps is the Via Condotti, a famous street with exclusive name brand shops. We did some window shopping and made our way to the Metro to go to the Vatican. We took the A line to the B line and got off at the Ottaviano station. We arrived too late to go into the sanctuary, however we made it in time to join the line to view the crypt underneath the sanctuary. Therefore if you want to go inside the Basilica itself, you should do it in the morning. If you're on a cruise and are interested in St. Peter's Basilica, do that first and then work your way to the sites in Rome that stay open later. After the St. Peter's visit we went back to the metro and took it to the train station for our ride back to Civitavecchia.
It was such a great idea for the ship to dock in Civitavecchia over night because it gave passengers the opportunity to explore Rome or Civitavecchia.
Fr. Wayne Campbell of Oakland, CA and Fr. Walter Andrew of Bridgeport, CT celebrated Mass on Sunday morning in the Victoriana Lounge. It was the first time that l I was able to attend Sunday Mass on a Carnival ship. It was fortunate because the first mass in Rhodes started when we were arriving and the last mass started when we were leaving Rhodes. The next week there was a Saturday vigil at 5:00 PM. Keep in mind that the Mass is not regularly scheduled.