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

by Linda Coffman

Part Three—Sunshine At Sea
I was humming "where's the sunshine?" from the previous night's Age of Aquarius ice show segment when the sun popped out—a good beginning to our sea day on Freedom of the Seas. 

And how better for a coffee lover to start the day than with a Seattle's Best Experience? While my palate isn't highly developed when it comes to identifying different tastes, the various coffee blends were enough to jump start my brain. A good thing, because next on the schedule was a Meet & Greet with Adam Goldstein, President of Royal Caribbean International.

Ben & Jerry's Cows

My burning question was suggested to me the previous afternoon by a Diamond-plus passenger... her concern was that people would take the elegantly embroidered sheets as a 'souvenir.' So, I asked if Royal Caribbean was planning to offer them for sale. Happily, the answer is yes—retail capability is in the planning stages. Goldstein also shared that the upscale bedding has been well received, not only meeting consumer desire, but adding to guest comfort as well.

One aspect of the Freedom of the Seas design/decor that caused initial consternation was the positioning of two cows atop the Ben & Jerry's marquee. When shipboard operations personnel realized their posteriors were aimed at the bay window of an atrium-view stateroom, they suggested the occupants should be offered free ice cream treats during their cruise. And, thus was born the Ben & Jerry's "Sweet"—the only stateroom like it at sea.

Hint: For unlimited Cherry Garcia ice cream, stateroom 6305 is the Ben & Jerry's "sweet."

With the introduction of Freedom of the Seas to Miami, Goldstein explained that other large ships in the fleet were free to venture further afield, offering the diverse, worldwide itineraries that research shows are important to passengers.

Of importance to passengers as well is the efficiency of getting on and off the ship. In docking ports, Goldstein indicated the operation was pretty smooth and we'd experienced the ease of tendering ashore the previous day. The congestion challenges are not ship specific and obviously Royal Caribbean has them well in hand according to their high consumer ratings in that regard.

All in all, Goldstein reported that Royal Caribbean "delivers on their brand promise," by not only launching new vessels, but, additionally, by revitalizing the fleet to upgrade features on a continuous basis.

View From the Bridge
A special treat was announced during our media question and answer meeting—the group was invited to tour the bridge. As expected, the world's largest cruise ship has a huge area devoted to navigation and safety. Captain Carlos Pedercini (at right), from Argentina, explained that Freedom of the Seas is powered through the water by an azipod system with one fixed pod in the middle and two outside pods that move. The latest in technology makes operating his vessel easier and safer, according to the master. 

I don't begin to claim I understand how things work on a cruise ship bridge, but it was pretty impressive when Captain Pedercini demonstrated how the little joystick located on the enclosed bridge wing could be used to dock the ship.

Travel writers can only go so long without eating, so I headed from the bridge to Sorrento's Pizza for a couple slices and a tall beer... a perfect lunch combination. Opinions varied, but I liked the thick cheese and pepperoni pizza.

The Greatest Show At Sea...
The "Baby Elephant Walk" kicked off one of the most charming events on board, the Freedom Circus at Sea.

Festooned with banners, the Royal Promenade came alive with Big Top thrills for children and adults alike... the circus parade, trapeze act, clowns, and even a bearded lady. It was dazzling and fun, but I couldn't spend the entire afternoon inside because...

Surf's Up!
The afternoon's highlight could have been called Hanging Ten with the Top Surfer Dude. Sometimes I just have to see something to be convinced that it's as exciting as promised. The Flowrider® surf-simulator is just such a feature. At 32 feet wide by 40 feet long, and perfectly safe for even us non-swimmers, it appears to be way more fun that I imagined.

Chairman & CEO Richard Fain leads the Freedom Surf Challenge

Mind you, I was just a spectator, but I would definitely have attempted to surf the Flowrider® if only there had been more time. There's no reason to not try riding a boogie boardnearly everyone was wiping out, except one little boy who seemed to be the perfect size and weight to go with the flow for several minutes. It was even fun to watch from the shaded bleachers.

Wipe outs were common, that is, until Royal Caribbean's Chairman & CEO Richard Fain set the board pretty high during the Chairman's Surf at Sea Contest. Travel agents responded by rising to the challenge and giving him a wild ride. Personally, I thought the Chairman was The Dude, but he's obviously had a lot of practice (and some coaching, don't you think?). All in fun... the contest was rigged in favor of the underdog travel agents. I admit, though, they exhibited some winning surfing style.

Business of the Day—Dinner & Another Show
Although my preview cruise was short and couldn't possibly contain all the activities one would normally find aboard Freedom of the Seas, our Royal Caribbean hosts managed to squeeze as many of them into the schedule as possible. For instance, this evening was Formal Night and we dined in Portofino, the Italian-specialty restaurant. I overdid it a bit on the risotto, ordering it as an appetizer with tiger shrimp and again as a side dish with my veal entree. I polished off every bit. 

Dessert was almost too pretty to eatminiature servings of four sweets artfully arranged—trust me, I managed to leave nothing on that plate either.

The after-dinner show was one I looked forward to all day. How often do you see Blood, Sweat & Tears these days? Not often enough in my opinion. They aren't cutting edge anymore, but the horns and jazzy under-tones brought a new dimension to rock in their heyday and they haven't missed a beat. Also appearing with the band, Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night, performed that group's greatest hits. Those of us who attended were blown away by each group's timeless sound and the stage presence of the lead singers.

Out To Sea
So, where's the water? In the next segment of my Cruise Diary I'll wrap it up by sharing the most playful pool afloat and other impressions.

More--> Freedom of the Seas, Part 4

Back to--> Freedom of the Seas, Part 1
                     Freedom of the Seas, Part 2
                     Freedom of the Seas, Part 3

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