Seven years ago I was privileged to sail on the inaugural Carnival Freedom cruise to the Caribbean. I remember thinking it was so massive and full of extravagant at-sea activities. By today’s standards, it is not the largest ship on the water, but thanks to an extreme makeover and two weeks in dry dock, it is once again among the elite cruise ships sporting innovative technology, fabulous repurposed spaces and kids programs second to none!
Two weeks seems like a tiny bit of time. In fact, I can hardly paint a bathroom in that amount of time. But, non-stop, round-the-clock teams can transform a mega cruiseliner in that time frame and leave vacationers speechless. This spring Carnival added its Fun Ship 2.0 Initiative to the Freedom including: Guy’s Burger Joint; RedFrog Rum Bar; BlueIguana Tequila Bar; BlueIguana Cantina; EA SPORTS Bar; Alchemy Bar; Hasbro, The Game Show; and The Punchliner Comedy Club.
Freedom received so many wonderful additions that it is impossible to cover them all, and for that reason, I have compiled a list of my favorites. Below are nine reasons (in no specific order) to plan a family vacation onboard the beautiful Carnival Freedom ship!
1. Carnival’s partnership with Seuss Enterprises created the new Seuss at Sea program for families. Carnival Freedom is the first ship to feature Bookville, a dedicated Seuss-themed play space featuring iconic décor, colors, shapes and funky furniture inspired by the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. Bookville is the perfect place for families to relax and read beloved Dr. Seuss books or enjoy family-fun activities such as arts and crafts, toys and Dr. Seuss-inspired games.
2. The revamped kid’s club area has transitioned from Camp Carnival to Camp Ocean and brings with it redesigned areas that are age-specific and appropriately named penguins, stingrays and sharks! The kid’s love it! From dance floors to space for arts and crafts and even video games, Camp Ocean is created for fun and exciting times at sea.
3. Seuss-a-palooza Character Parade and Story Time is an awesome opportunity for families to don parade props and noise makers, and march along the ship’s promenade chanting “Dr. Seuss is on the loose!” Oh, and did I mention that Cat and the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and Sam will be joining the parade as well? The parade will conclude in one of the ship’s theater rooms with children sitting on the stage and parents in the audience. The ship’s cruise director will lead an interactive dramatic reading of Cat and the Hat that is not to be missed!
4. Admittedly, I had concerns about whether or not Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with Cat and the Hat and Friends could hold a candle to other character breakfasts I have attended throughout the years with my children. My reasons? Well, for starters, it is only a $5/per person upcharge and most of these type events I have attended have been anywhere from $29.99 – $59.99, so I assumed the price reflected the value that I should expect. I was WRONG!! This is by far one of the best values at sea for families and an event not to be missed! When you arrive (you must have a reservation) you will be blown away by an amazing Cat in the Hat ice sculpture surrounded by themed colors and life-size cutouts of other characters.
The tablescapes are completely over-the-top with pops of blue and red that resonate with Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, and the characters (Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 and Sam) eagerly await meet and greets with the kids (old and young alike)!
And then there’s the menu…oh the menu! The cutest stinkin’ thing you have ever seen! The laminated book-like menu tells of its offerings in poetic format reminiscent of the author himself! I won’t take away the surprises, but I will remind you to be sure and reserve a table for this event as soon as you arrive onboard, as you do not want to miss this extravaganza!
5. Cherry on Top is a brilliantly displayed candy store with lots of color and choices for candy by the ounce or pre-bagged sweet treats and other indulgences.
6. Guy’s Burger Joint is a poolside venue celebrating Food Network’s Guy Fieri, his bodacious California roots and down-to-earth comfort food. Guy’s delicious burgers are hand-formed and receive high marks from guests onboard consistently. Guy’s thumbprint is all over the eatery with coastal maps and his personal signature on the dining tables. This place is definitely a hit!
7. The shows! Playlist Productions builds upon Carnival’s reputation for high-quality entertainment by combining live performances, spectacular staging and special effects in an effort to create fantastic musical revues. Nice job!
8. Carnival added lots of new bars on the Freedom, and while the RedFrog Rum Bar (and the Pub) is high on that list, I love the EA SPORTS Bar, a sports enthusiasts paradise where guests can find scores on the real-time 24/7 sports ticker, see the latest big-time sporting events and play the latest EA SPORTS games on a 16-screen video wall!
9. The addition of the adults-only Serenity deck is my favorite daytime spot onboard. This 21 and older designated area is a sanctuary filled with cushioned lounge chairs, pillowed clam shell-like retreats from the sun, hammocks and hot tubs. It’s private for adults and offers its own bar and ambiance.
My husband Larry is most often my travel partner and his favorites are sometimes different from mine. This ship is no different! His favorite lunchtime eatery is the Mongolian Wok where guests pick their meat and veggies and have them stirred up in yummy sauces. He also enjoys the BlueIguana Cantina with wonderful burritos filled with favorite meats and veggies…and they have wonderful sliced watermelon perfect for a hot day!
Additionally, Larry tries to visit the workout facility at least every other day when we sail and he found this one to be updated nicely with state-of-the-art equipment and free weights. He also reminded me that the ports of call from Fort Lauderdale are particularly inviting and should not be overlooked. We visited Grand Turk, La Romana (Dominican Republic), Curacao and Aruba…favorite islands for both of us! Something we can agree on!
For more information on Carnival ships, itineraries or to book a cruise, visit http://www.carnival.com or call your favorite travel agent.