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Freedom of the Seas
Royal Caribbean Gives Passengers Even MORE Freedom to "Get Out There"

by Linda Coffman

May 2006, Miami, FloridaDid you know? Freedom of the Seas can carry more passengers than the first four ships that made up Royal Caribbean's entire fleet in the 1970s. 

With that in mind, set aside the clichés you've read about Freedom of the Seas... for instance, "Voyager-class on steroids." As I would discover, she's much more than that. Times have changed in the cruise industry and Freedom of the Seas is leading the wave of choice into the future. As much resort as cruise ship, it barely matters where she sails, but we were on our way to Coco Cay and, hopefully, leaving rainy weather behind in Miami...

Part OneGetting There
As part of Freedom of the Seas' introduction, Royal Caribbean invited top travel partners, Diamond-plus past passengers, and members of the media to sail on an introductory three-night cruise. I've been asked numerous times what a preview cruise is like, so come along as I board the world's largest cruise ship to take part in a "Royal Family Event."

For a while I wondered when, or even if, I would arrive at the Port of Miami. A thunderstorm moved into the area while my plane was making its final approach. As a result, it circled the airport for an hour. Instead of arriving at the pier during a peak embarkation period, it was 2:30pm when I entered the terminal to find only one couple ahead of me in line. That was easy and I was on board in short order. I highly recommend not rushing to the pier before noon. For a leisurely embarkation with far less stress, plan to arrive mid-afternoon. Trust me, you'll still find plenty of food in the Windjammer Cafe.

Hint: Avoid flight cancellations, delays, and 'missing the boat' by arriving in Miami a day before any cruise. Then relax until the late-morning to noontime embarkation rush has past.

Before looking around, I headed to my stateroom on Deck 6 to settle in. For a three-night cruise, even one with a formal night, a rolling carry-on bag and garment or tote bag should be sufficient for almost anyone. I was encouraged that finding my stateroom was such a breeze on this big ship, so after unpacking, which seldom takes me long,  I headed out to explore.

Getting Around
While similar in layout, Freedom of the Seas is 1,112 feet long, versus Voyager-class ships at 1,020, a whopping 92 additional feet. Both ship classes are long, really long. However, where the real difference is felt is in the width. Freedom of the Seas is 185 feet wide, merely 27 feet wider than the Voyager ships, but that additional width gives Freedom's interiors a more spacious look and feel and standard balconies that are some of the deepest I've come across on a mainstream ship.

Adventure Ocean

The teens-only Living Room

With a handy pocket-sized deck plan in hand, I made my way around effortlessly. "Street" signs in the Royal Promenade are a big help. The rain had stopped, but it was still drizzling outside so it seemed like a good idea to stay inside and the ShipShape Fitness Center and Freedom Day Spa were my first stops. Services in the spa are operated by Steiner and I noticed a few new offerings. In addition to getting your hair done for formal night, you can have your teeth whitened, cure seasickness with acupuncture, and have a micro dermabrasion facial.

The boxing ring is the attention-grabber in the fitness center, but don't expect to put on the gloves and begin sparring immediately. Classes and personal training sessions are available for a fee. Don't overlook the wide array of exercise machines and the area devoted to fitness classes, both complimentary and for a fee. 

My own personal workout while aboard consisted of using the stairs and walking, so I headed for the children's and teen's facilities, hoping to see them before they were off-limits to adults. Our "Royal Families" brought several hundred children with them for this sailing. 

Divided into age-appropriate zones, there are areas to play, create colorful artwork, and use computers. The teens-only hang outs are particularly appealing with televisions, a coffee bar, games, computers, and even their own private sundeck. For young cruisers, these are some of the most impressive facilities I've visited. The video arcade is huge and kids of all ages were enjoying the games as I passed through. For family dining fun, Johnny Rocket's diner is conveniently located nearby.

Formal Dining Rooms

Down to Business
From there it was time to grab my life vest and attend the muster drill. After sailaway, the next order of business (this is a business trip, after all) was to freshen up and attend a media get-together in the two-level Crypt disco. Decorated in the style of a medieval castle, I faced the Crypt's "glass" staircase with some trepidation. To me, it was the only scary aspect of the decor. 

It's always a pleasure to meet up with colleagues and share impressions, gossip, and have a bit of fun. We were all seated after the party at adjoining tables for dinner in the three deck main dining room. What an exquisite space! Each deck is named for a scientist (Galileo, Leonardo, and Isaac) and is decorated in richly hued fabricsreds and blues for the most partfeaturing different color combinations on each level with slightly varying furniture and lighting styles.

My choices included escargot, lobster bisque, Caesar salad, filet, and a heavenly Grand Marnier soufflé. The beef was offered medium-rare to well-done, which gave me pause as I prefer it really, really rare. However, it wasn't overcooked, even for me and I was quite impressed with what was a considerable step up in Royal Caribbean dining.

A late night show in the Arcadia Theater followed dinner. Once Upon a Time, described as a "fairytale with a fun pop music twist," was a creative combination of fairytale scenes and familiar tunes. My favorite was Sleeping Beauty set to "Mr. Sandman."

The show capped the end of a long day and I hoped for some of Mr. Sandman's magic for a good night's sleep. I also hoped for some sunshine tomorrow because Freedom of the Seas would be anchoring off our only port of call—Coco Cay.

More--> Freedom of the Seas, Part 2
                 Freedom of the Seas, Part 3
                            Freedom of the Seas, Part 4           

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