Day 5 – Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel  Briefly; Freed By Carnival Freedom

A Tale of Two Carnivals: Carnival Liberty, left, and Carnival Freedom, right, docked in Cozumel, Mexico on Wednesday, February 18, 2015. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
A Tale of Two Carnivals: Carnival Liberty, left, and Carnival Freedom, right, docked in Cozumel, Mexico on Wednesday, February 18, 2015. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The strange weather that has followed Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom throughout our Western Caribbean itinerary from Galveston shows no signs of letting up. Last night, guests were advised that our arrival and departure time for our port of call in Cozumel, Mexico today would be changing.

Rather than arriving at 8:00 a.m. and staying until 4:00 p.m., we would now be arriving at 7:00 a.m. and departing at 3:00 p.m. in order to avoid an expected storm front with high winds later this afternoon. Fortunately, none of the 55 different shore excursions scheduled for today were cancelled, though a few had to be modified ever so slightly to reflect the ship’s earlier departure time.

Carnival Freedom at her berth in Cozumel today. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Carnival Freedom at her berth in Cozumel today. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

I’ve been to Cozumel once before, in January of 2009. And it’s an okay little town; if anything, it suffers from a bad case of Touristas: the place is just jam-packed with cruise ship visitors and resort guests. Even today, we’re joined by Carnival Liberty, Carnival Elation, Vision of the Seas, and another Carnival Fantasy-class ship that is too far away to see.

I disembarked Carnival Freedom around ten this morning with every intention of taking a taxi into town…and after taking some photos of the ship, I went back onboard.

There is a small manufactured "port" near the cruise piers...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
There is a small manufactured “port” near the cruise piers…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
..that plays to every Mexican stereotype. But, people love it, so who am I to say? Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
..that plays to every Mexican stereotype. But, people love it, so who am I to say? Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Caribbean Blue. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Caribbean Blue. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The port area was like running the gauntlet; nothing but duty-free beers, cologne, liquor, cigarettes and pills, and thousands of people clambering all over themselves to get to it.

Yet, at the end of the pier is the Carnival Freedom looking all resplendent in the Caribbean sun. Resplendent, and very deserted.

Heading back to Carnival Freedom. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Heading back to Carnival Freedom. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

If you’ve never tried staying onboard during a port of call, it’s worth giving it a whirl. Maybe 100 people stayed onboard, and I found it relaxing and just what the doctor ordered.

Now, obviously don’t stay onboard if you’ve never been to the port before, or if you’re docked somewhere jaw-dropping like Venice. Otherwise…it’s a great day to hit the spa!

Even the lido buffet is wonderfully deserted on port days. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Even the lido buffet is wonderfully deserted on port days. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Since I’m back onboard, this is a great time to talk a little more about the real star of this cruise: the Carnival Freedom. I realize I’ve barely covered my stateroom, so let’s have a peek there first!

My Category 8C Balcony Stateroom. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
My Category 8C Balcony Stateroom. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

My stateroom is a Category 8C Balcony Stateroom located on a Deck 7. By and large, all the balcony staterooms aboard Carnival Freedom are identical; sub-categories are differentiated only by their physical location on the ship.

These rooms feature a queen-sized bed that can be split into two twins if required, along with a large couch sitting area, a table, a vanity that doubles as a desk, three closets, a mini-bar, flat-panel television, a bathroom and of course a private balcony.

The stateroom is well-designed and laid-out...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The stateroom is well-designed and laid-out…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...I'm not a fan of the pink accents. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…but I’m not a fan of the pink accents. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The room is comfortable and well-designed, though I will admit to not being a fan of the pink accents that surround the lighting, or the sorbet-coloured couch.

Just when you do become acclimated to the South Beach Pink, you open the bathroom door and Bam! You’re in a sea of teals and greens.

The bathroom of my Category 8C Balcony Stateroom features a toilet, shower...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The bathroom of my Category 8C Balcony Stateroom features a toilet, shower…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Despite the wildly-contrasting colours, the bathroom is also well designed, with plenty of shelving (arranged in a ‘his-and-hers’ style) for toiletries. Yes, the shower has the dreaded curtain, but the shower itself is of a decent size. No curtain problems to report!

If there is a drawback to the room, it’s that power outlets are few and far between. In fact, just a single North American and European outlets are available, located by the desk. Even though Carnival Freedom was built in 2007, it’s a bit slim even for that time period.

...and rather spacious vanity. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…and rather spacious vanity. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

But, like Holland America, the beds on Carnival are some of the best out there: cozy and comfortable. Great pillows, too, even across all categories.

I also realized today how much I genuinely like Carnival. Sure, they’re no luxury line, but I am consistently surprised by their product. You see, like many people, I had avoided Carnival for a long time. I’d heard the party-hard horror stories. I saw the bizarre interior design. And I felt it wasn’t for me.

The upper decks of Carnival Liberty, left, and Carnival Freedom, right. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The upper decks of Carnival Liberty, left, and Carnival Freedom, right. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

My perceptions started chipping away in 2011, when I toured the Carnival Splendor in Long Beach. I found a ship that was really well designed and surprisingly welcoming. Four years later, I set out on Carnival Breeze and had an amazing time.

Now, on Carnival cruise number two, I’ve found that my overall experience was no fluke: Carnival just does a really got mainstream cruise.

Five things that have consistently surprised me about the line:

Better-than-Average Food

Can you believe Carnival doesn't charge for the burritos at the BlueIguana Cantina? I can't. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Can you believe Carnival doesn’t charge for the burritos at the BlueIguana Cantina? I can’t. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

From the main ding room to the buffet, Carnival’s culinary offerings are of a much higher quality than is expect. Their menus aren’t particularly adventurous, but the ingredients are quality. Bonus points for the fish, which has been excellent all week. That there is no charge for Guy’s Burger Joint or the BlueIguana Cantina is just astonishing.

Diverse Entertainment

Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The kids will love Seuss-at-Sea, and Mom and Dad will laugh themselves hoarse at the Punchliner Comedy Club, which I am convinced offers the best adult and family-friendly comedy shows at sea. A bevvy if production shows and big screen movies on deck round out the mix.

Live Music

Let's have some fun! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Let’s have some fun! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

I never expected Carnival to have much live music, but they do. On this trip, I also learned they tailor it to fit their audience. Since we’re sailing out of Texas, expect plenty of Country and Western music. Here’s the catch: it’s actually good!

Great Service

Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Nearly all the crew onboard Carnival’s ships will address you by name after just one or two encounters. Even the girl that works the Viennese Cafe knows not only my name, but my morning drink. So I walk up to the bar and say good morning, and she prepares me fresh, tall latte. Some lines talk about service; Carnival delivers.

Quiet Spaces

Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Can you escape the Fun Ship Madness? You betcha. For the ultimate escape, head up to Serenity, Carnival’s adults-only haven out on Decks 11 and 12.

With winds picking up, we slowly maneuver away from Carnival Liberty and Cozumel. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
With winds picking up, we slowly maneuver away from Carnival Liberty and Cozumel. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The view from my balcony this evening as we depart Cozumel, Mexico. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The view from my balcony this evening as we depart Cozumel, Mexico. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Tonight, it seems more like we’re taking the Carnival Freedom across the Atlantic. The weather outside is cold and stormy, and we’re plowing through swells as we speak. They’re not huge by worldwide standards, but they sure are uncharacteristic for the normally-sedate Caribbean.

And yet, the fun continues here onboard the Carnival Freedom – a true Fun Ship, no matter what the weather!

Heading towards Progreso, Mexico this evening on an unusually stormy Caribbean sea. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Heading towards Progreso, Mexico this evening on an unusually stormy Caribbean sea. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Our full journey:

Carnival Freedom, Western Caribbean

DATEPORTARRIVEDEPART
February 14, 2015Galveston, TexasEmbark Carnival Freedom in Galveston; pre-cruise event for Operation Homefront. Overnight in Galveston
February 15Galveston, TexasOvernight4:00 PM
February 16Fun Day At Sea
February 17Costa Maya, Mexico1:00 PM8:00 PM
February 18Cozumel, Mexico8:00 AM4:00 PM
February 19Progresso, Yucatan, Mexico9:00 AM5:00 PM
February 20Fun Day At Sea
February 21Galveston, Texas8:00 AMDisembarkation
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