Exploring the Newly-Revitalized Carnival Freedom
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Monday, February 16, 2015
It’s a blustery day here in the Gulf of Mexico aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom as we spend a Fun Day at Sea en-route to our first port of call of Costa Maya, Mexico. Spending a day at sea is my favorite thing to do. I love ports and destinations – don’t get me wrong – but a day at sea allows me to do one thing: talk about the ship.
Carnival Freedom was built in 2007 at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyards near Venice. At 952 feet in length, she carries 2,974 guests at double occupancy, with up to 3,700 possible if all third and fourth berths are filled – which can happen. They’re served by roughly 1,160 crewmembers, all of whom do a fantastic job at making guests feel at home. My stateroom steward has my name memorized, as do the two ladies at the Viennese Café Coffee Bar on Deck 5. Everyone else says hello, good evening, and how are you?
The last of Carnival’s Conquest-class ships, her interiors were designed by Carnival’s longtime interior designer, Joe Farcus – a man not known for subtlety in his work. To that extent, Carnival Freedom is a very busy ship with lots of contrasting textures, shapes and colours. Browns and coppers are utilised throughout, punctuated by the burgundy “space ship” accents that run along the ceilings and that form the majority of the soaring atrium known as “The Millennium.”
Personally, I prefer the cool, subtly Caribbean décor of the Carnival Breeze to the dark and busy patterns of the Carnival Freedom – but that’s just my personal taste. And while I may not be in love with the décor scheme, there are some really beautiful rooms onboard that I tend to gravitate to.
Take, for example, the Habana Bar on Deck 4, with its great lighting, faux shutters, and cigar-based tables that recall a tropical Cuba. Or the Swingtime Bar, with its leather chairs, large dance floor, and old-world stylings. Even the Freedom Restaurant – the equivalent of the Lido Buffet – on Deck 9 is surprisingly attractive.
One of my absolute favorite places onboard is The Centuries Promenade, a window-lined seating area that runs for the better part of the length of the starboard side of Deck 5, terminating near the bow of the ship at the upper level of the Millennium Atrium. Here, you can kick back and relax with a coffee, drink or a book (or both!), watch the world go by outside while the people walk by inside, or take in the live music that fills the corridor each and every evening.
Carnival Freedom does have some very cool things going for her, and the more time I spend aboard her, the more she’s growing on me.
Last year, Carnival put Carnival Freedom through a major refurbishment program as part of their FunShip 2.0 enhancements. They also took the time to add some new features that are entirely unique to Carnival Freedom, creating what would become the second-most expensive refit Carnival has ever undertaken outside of the conversion of Carnival Destiny to Carnival Sunshine.
The list of venues added to Carnival Freedom last year is substantial. Both Guy’s Burger Joint and the BlueIguana Cantina were added to Deck 9 near the Midship Pool, along with the Redfrog Rum Bar.
Speaking of Club O2, this is the perfect time to talk about one of Carnival Freedom’s most exclusive features: she is the only ship in the fleet, currently, to feature Carnival’s new Seuss at Sea programme, along with new Camp Ocean children’s facilities that have been built from the ground up.
Located on Deck 12 all the way forward, Camp Ocean is Carnival’s revitalised youth program. Divided into three easy groups, it offers specially-designed entertainment and educational services for kids aged 2 to 11:
- Penguins: Ages 2 to 5.
- Stingrays: Ages 6 to 8.
- Sharks: Ages 9 to 11.
What’s really cool is that Carnival offers a full Voyage Programme sheet for each Camp that showcases the events and activities that will be available for kids enrolled in the program throughout the cruise. For example, there’s Seuss-a-palooza Story Time hosted by Cruise Director Jen Baxter in the Victoriana Lounge tomorrow at 11:15 a.m.; scavenger hunts, Ocean Olympics, special Kids-Only Dinners, and Night Owls – special evening programs with games, movies and board games that are offered each night of the voyage between 10:00 p.m. and 01:00 a.m.
Carnival’s Youth Staff are all accredited professionals that have had thorough criminal background checks and CPR and First Aid Certification. Most importantly, they also love their jobs, and were visibly excited about the new programs offered here on Carnival Freedom, a ship that is truly pioneering kid’s programs across the fleet.
When I started cruising as a teenager of 15, most cruise lines had a single kids program. It was called, ‘Amuse Yourself’ and it featured just one activity: ‘Wandering the Ship.’ If you were lucky, you managed to run into the other kids – the Lost Souls – that were constantly trying to find a place to hang out that wasn’t a bar or the casino.
Looking at the dedicated kids and teenager’s facilities here onboard Carnival Freedom really reminded me of just how far cruising has come over the past few decades. My real favorite addition to Carnival Freedom, though, is the first-ever Bookville – a Dr. Seuss-inspired place space and reading room for children stocked with Theodore Geisel’s acclaimed children’s books. Anything that encourages kids to read is a total win.
While the kids are up in Camp Ocean, Mom and Dad might want to head down to Deck 5, where the newly-added Alchemy Bar and Redfrog Pub await. Redfrog, of course, serves up Carnival’s very own brand of beer of the same name. Amber in colour, it’s delicious and reasonably priced at under $6 per pint.
Alchemy, on the other hand, focuses exclusively on the art of mixing cocktails and martinis. It’s one of Carnival’s many FunShip 2.0 enhancements, and provides a nice anchor for the end of the Deck 5 Centuries Promenade. It takes up the space formerly occupied by the Nouveau Wine Bar and expands on it, serving as a nice staging area for the International Lounge where Carnival’s irresistibly funny Punchliner Comedy Club acts are held each evening.
Also new: the mega-candy emporium that is Cherry on Top; a redesigned Cloud 9 Spa; and – get ready – vastly improved internet access. It’s not just fast; it’s blazingly fast. I try not to mention other ships in my write-ups, but I will now: this is what internet on the much-vaunted Quantum of the Seas should have been. I have no idea what technical changes Carnival made to Carnival Freedom’s bandwidth, but it’s left Royal Caribbean in the dust. Pricing plans are so reasonable you’ll think there’s a typo:
- Social Plan: select websites only (Facebook, twitter etc) $5/day; $25 per cruise (yes, per cruise!)
- Value Plan: all websites, no Skype: $16/day; $60 per cruise.
- Premium: up to three times faster; supports Skype. $25/day; $99 per cruise.
Plans are in the works to retrofit other Carnival ships with the same type of internet access immediately, as Carnival Freedom was the “test ship” for this new WiFi Everywhere program.
Finally, a look at some of the key personnel aboard Carnival Freedom for her first sailing from Galveston:
- Captain: Agostino Fazio
- Chief Engineer: Alessandro Mattera
- Hotel Director: Stewart Howard
- Entertainment Director: Ryan M. McQuarrie
- Cruise Director: Jen Baxter
As our first day at sea comes to a close here onboard Carnival Freedom, there’s so much more to tell about this innovative ship. Fortunately, we have a few more days to do so, beginning tomorrow in our first port of call of Costa Maya, Mexico.
Until then, I’ll take Carnival’s advice, straight from the Fun Times Daily Program, and enjoy ‘A Relaxing Day at Sea & [a] Cruise Elegant Evening.”
Our full journey:
Carnival Freedom, Western Caribbean
|February 14, 2015||Galveston, Texas||Embark Carnival Freedom in Galveston; pre-cruise event for Operation Homefront.||Overnight in Galveston|
|February 15||Galveston, Texas||Overnight||4:00 PM|
|February 16||Fun Day At Sea|
|February 17||Costa Maya, Mexico||1:00 PM||8:00 PM|
|February 18||Cozumel, Mexico||8:00 AM||4:00 PM|
|February 19||Progresso, Yucatan, Mexico||9:00 AM||5:00 PM|
|February 20||Fun Day At Sea|
|February 21||Galveston, Texas||8:00 AM||Disembarkation|