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

by Linda Coffman

H2O Zone "Water Park"
Main Pool/Sports Pool
Solarium, designated Adults-Only

Part Four—The Freedom to Get Your Feet Wet
I should come as no surprise that Freedom of the Seas has an expansive—make that vast—lido deck devoted to swimming, sunning, and relaxation. According to Chairman & CEO Richard Fain, " Freedom of the Seas' combined pool area is 43% larger than on Voyager-class ships."

The H2O Zone is particularly attractive for children and their parents. Full of bright and whimsical 'family' figures—including a puppy—it's a fun place for kids to beat the heat beneath a waterfall, fountain sprays, and in the lazy-river feature. Parents can either join in or watch the kids from adjacent shaded hot tubs or a convenient deck chair.

Designed to attract older passengers, the main pool is long enough for swimming laps and has a designated sports area where events such as water volleyball, water golf, and 'synchronized' swimming are planned. A dance floor is situated between the pool areas for late-night deck parties.

For sheer relaxation, the jungle-themed Solarium pool is adults-only (only passengers over 18, please). Adjacent are hammocks and two hot tubs cantilevered twelve feet beyond the ship's sides.

Suites Fit for Heads of State & Royalty
Approximately a third of Royal Caribbean passengers travel together as families and the percentage is growing as big ships with family-friendly features are added to the fleet. Freedom of the Seas has many standard staterooms that sleep three and four occupants, as well as sixteen larger family staterooms and four family suites that have separate bedrooms and balconies.

Presidential Suite

Royal Suite

The ultimate family accommodation is the Presidential Suite. At 1,215 square feet with an 810 square foot balcony, it has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a spacious living and dining room. While it sleeps fourteen (including lower beds, upper berths, and a sofa-bed), a minimum of eight passengers are required to book it.

The big question in terms of size and number of occupants is, is it really big enough for fourteen? If you are a close-knit family or one that has at least six small children, then yes. It's really ideal for eight adults. The aft-facing balcony is huge, even taking into consideration the area consumed by the hot tub. One drawback is the view... a metal overhang obstructs the view to the sea. You can still see the ship's wake in the distance, but not by looking straight down. A plus is that it would be difficult to fall far from the railing.

The Royal Suite doesn't have that problematic obstructed view. Located at the ship's side, it's a posh 1,406 square feet inside with a 377 square foot balcony (including a hot tub). I loved the living and dining room with wet bar and grand piano and the bedroom with sitting area and walk-in closet. Even more, I loved the bathroom with its separate water closet, stylish glass sinks, Jacuzzi-style tub, a small built-in "sofa," and the piece de resistance—a multi-jet shower large enough for two.

Freedom to Do Your Own Thing
Typical cruise passengers fall into several categories. Some jump into activities and don't want to miss a thing. Others don't even check the daily schedule, preferring to relax and unwind. Still others combine the two lifestyles. I fall into that third category and add a twist—I enjoy meeting and chatting with fellow passengers to find out what they are thinking. During lulls in activity, I did just that on Freedom of the Seas. I discovered the overwhelming opinion of frequent past passengers that I met is that they return to Royal Caribbean ships year after year because of the service. Aside from that, they also are satisfied because they know what to expect in terms of activities and features.

Aside from rock climbing and poolside sunning, in this age of American Idol, performing is all the rage. Freedom of the Seas' new On Air Club satisfies passengers' inner idol by providing a venue with an up to the minute sound system, professional lighting, and even the capability to record a spur of the moment music video. If listening is your thing, the Schooner Bar is the ship's piano bar and a lively late night spot. "Sidewalk" seating outside the bars on the Royal Promenade is prime people watching territory.

The Art of Freedom
It stands to reason that the world's largest cruise ship contains the largest and most diverse art collection at sea. Art is a matter of personal preference and if you see something that doesn't appeal to you, just keep walking and you're sure to come upon another piece that captures your attention. I was captivated by a chromed bronze bulldog statue on the Royal Promenade and, overhead, the figure of a woman "diving" from the ceiling. Use your imagination and the diver appears to be surrounded by the teeth of an enormous sea creature, perhaps a whale. The illusion is furthered by "ribs" that span the ceiling. That's what I saw, although your vision might be more creative. Don't overlook wall niches, murals, and other art pieces on the stairway landings.

High Tech: What Works & What Doesn't
Weak satellite signals seemed to plague Internet connections on and off. My experience was poor; however, at a different time on the same day, a colleague got lightening fast connectivity with a WiFi capable laptop. Cellular service at sea, using Cingular/Sprint and T-Mobile phones, was reported as good. My Alltel cell phone didn't find a signal.

Overall, Is Biggest Too Big?
My personal opinion is no. Royal Caribbean's experience with Voyager-class ships has proven invaluable and the ease with which they handled the introduction of Freedom of the Seas is apparent.

Longer and wider naturally means more space and that's a good thing in several areas, particularly in terms of width. Private balconies are deeper and that translates into more personal space. And the Royal Promenade is wider, which is a big comfort factor in an area that has no view of the sea whatsoever. My overall feeling was of being in a village square, as unlike a suburban mall as possible. Most surprising was the intimate feel of the lounges. There are a lot of them and only the popular Schooner Bar was crowded—word circulated fast that it was the liveliest place to be due to the late night adult sing-along with talented pianist Matt Yee. While the Royal Family Event cruise was not full to capacity, I encountered only a few short lines.

Freedom of the Seas departs Miami every Sunday, sailing one week cruises to the Western Caribbean.

The bottom line is... get out there and bring the family! You won't be disappointed.

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

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