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Southern Caribbean from San Juan??


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I asked this question on another post, but thought I might get more responses making a whole new thread.  We have never been on a cruise and are going to take one next summer (June 2020) for our 25th wedding anniversary.  We are considering one leaving from San Juan as our first.  However, the reviews form Cruisecritic are AWFUL.  Like seriously giving us pause.  They talk about horrible food, very rude passengers and over-crowding.  We want a wonderful anniversary trip, and don't want to feel like we wasted our opportunity to get away and the money we will spend.  The itinerary looks amazing, but I don't want to fight my way through throngs of people (who the critics say are loud, and party all of the time??), for mediocre food.  Any thoughts?   AND, if not this cruise destination, which one would you recommend for a wonderful anniversary?  TIA!!

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I'm sure that I commented on the other thread as well but I just need to reiterate what I said! We have cruised out of San Juan 12 times (see signature) and have 4 more booked in the future (including

While I've never been on Freedom, I have been on both of her sister ships.  Here's my take on negative reviews:  ignore them!  You can find any of the same complaints on any land or cruise vacations. 

I agree.... It's not that people don't have issues with royal, but there is kinder dialogue here!  Jane

Sorry, misread the question. I've been on freedom (you can see the itinerary and dates below). I said on another post that the food was great, variety, flavour and for the MDR, dining experience. Throughout my entire cruise (where I was out of my cabin all the time) I didn't encounter any rude passengers and over crowding isn't a problem. Even peak times for lunch at the windjammer on my sea day, they all communicated and seated us almost immediately and food was fresh and would come out all the time. When they tried to seat us, they used walkie talkies and me and my family found it quite clever but amusing 😊

 

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While I've never been on Freedom, I have been on both of her sister ships.  Here's my take on negative reviews:  ignore them!  You can find any of the same complaints on any land or cruise vacations.  Remember, there are always more people willing to write a negative review than a positive review. 

1.  Food is very subjective.  Are you a foodie?  If so, then you may want to skip the MDR and eat at specialty restaurants.  I think of the MDR as above average wedding type food as they are serving a thousand people at the same time.  My family is fine with it.  We've had some very good dishes and some just ok dishes but never anything horrible.  If you don't like what they bring, just ask for something else.  The wait staff really works to help you.  Windjammer isn't my favorite (not a fan of buffets in general) but its fine.  It can be crowded during peak times but since there are only 2 of you, it won't be a huge deal to find a table.

2.  Very rude passengers.  You can find them at any time on both land and cruise vacations.  I haven't found anyone super rude but there are many people who think they are special.

3.  Over-crowding.  I've never found the Freedom class or any RC ship to feel generally overcrowded.  There are crowded times (after muster drill, after shows) but if you are ok to use the stairs, it isn't a big deal.  

The blog is taking a group cruise on Freedom over NYE so there are many people here willing to sail on Freedom.  Looking at Freedom's schedule, Freedom would have been recently renovated under the Amp program by when you sail.  Now is a good time to book as other ships that have been Amped have gone up in price once it was published what would be done to the ship.

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I have been on freedom twice and loved it.  I've also been on vision, adventure, majesty and allure... All of which also got horrible comments on them at various times.  I will not bash the other site, but people often complain to just rile people up, or are super critical.  I agree with all of @melski94's comments above.  I might say some of the food is good, some great, and some awful and you might have a totally different opinion.  Go on the trip with an open mind and you can't go wrong. Also I agree that I really haven't ever felt crowded on the ships with the exception of chair hogs on sea days and muster drills! 

My husband and I took our first cruise together out of San Juan.  It was a wonderful place to explore together before the cruise. The southern Caribbean was an amazing place to travel...I had a great time and can't wait to get back.  

So I really suggest going for it.  I just started cruising in 2015 and my husband was so nervous he wouldn't like it.  We will now be on our 3rd cruise together this summer celebrating our 29th anniversary!  Still want to get back to southern Caribbean... So many ports I want to see!  Let us know if you have any specific questions we can answer!  Jane

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First cruise was out of San Juan on freedom, one word to descibe it...fantastic. 

Yeah it can be lively at times but there are enough areas that you can chill and relax

Food was great 

With regards rude passengers doesnt matter where you go you find people are rude. 

Now im scottish and we HATE parting with our money....rumour has it that the Grand Canyon was created by a scotsman who dropped 25c in a ditch, so if it was that bad i wouldnt have booked my next cruise back on freedom out of san juan for my wifes 50th in June 2020

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We cruise out of San Juan every year, albeit in winter months and have been of Freedom a number of times as well as her sister Liberty (this is actually our favorite class of ship).

what others have already pointed out about food and possible rude passengers I agree with.  Food is subjective but certainly eatable and like stated if the meal you choose isn't to your liking ask for something else and as we cruise we find our favorites that we have each time it is offered, can you get some not prepared right, even when you know you like the dish, sure it can happen, let them know they will try to make you happy.

Rude people, on occasion, but they are everywhere, no mater where you go.  More than else where, I sure don't think so, anyway I won't let them ruin my day.

Positives for San Juan cruises, is the Southern Caribbean has the absolute best islands, ones you generally can't get to on a 7 day cruise leaving from a US port

I'd say give San Juan a try odds are pretty good you'll like it

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We've done three or four cruises (5 maybe?) out of San Juan. I love going to the southern Caribbean. I will go again as soon as the stars align. I haven't been able to find cheap airfare to go to aBonaire so it will to be another cruise so I can stare across the lagoon there and not go diving. I haven't been on that ship, but I wouldn't hesitate. I like to go out of San Juan since you are already in the Caribbean.

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31 minutes ago, pezgirl said:

We will be on the freedom out of San Juan leaving July 28th. We just booked it. We were supposed to go to Punta Cana but decided to cancel. We are very excited. We are leaving one kid at summer camp and one with grandparents. We are just looking forward to some time by ourselves with lots of new friend#. 😀

UPDATE us on how it goes!!  

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7 minutes ago, Atlantix2000 said:

In my opinion, Cruise Critic seems to be the domain of the eternal complainers.  Before my first cruise, I found it useful for searching and finding lots of information.  Now I prefer this site where I can get the same in a much more positive atmosphere.

I agree.... It's not that people don't have issues with royal, but there is kinder dialogue here!  Jane

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I am not a cruise fanatic by any stretch of the imagination so I do it mainly for my wife who loves it. And, I can say I always have a good time on a cruise. I always get a balcony or above so when I get tired of the crowds I can retreat to my balcony and read a book, watch the ocean go by (look for the flying fish) or just meditate. I have been on the sister ship of Freedom, Independence of the Seas, and liked it so much I booked it again for winter 2021.  Plenty to do to keep me occupied at all times.

If you are the type of person that lets little things get to you then there is plenty to complain about on a cruise, or any vacation for that matter; but, if you have a pretty good disposition you will have fun. My wife can have fun anywhere; doesn't matter which itinerary, she is going to have fun.  I am the one who looks at the itinerary and thinks about where I want to go and can be more of a pain about it.  The mere mention of the word cruise to my wife and I get, what, cruise, when...never where.

You will have fun and memorable so don't let the little things get to you - food is good - plenty of variety, and I love the shows. I didn't think I would but there are fantastic. 

 

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I'm sure that I commented on the other thread as well but I just need to reiterate what I said! We have cruised out of San Juan 12 times (see signature) and have 4 more booked in the future (including back to back cruises). We absolutely love leaving from San Juan because you don't have to wait for the weather to "warm up" in January like you might have to if you left from Florida. The ports from San Juan are just amazing! We usually stay 1 or 2 days beforehand in San Juan because it's an amazing place itself! You really won't be disappointed. There are always going to be people out there who complain but honestly, you can't rely on their opinion because they just hate life in general (lol). Freedom is a wonderful ship (our favorite class) and there is always something to do! If you have any more questions, let me know!  

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We Sailed the Southern Caribbean on Freedom just this past January and we absolutely loved it. Like @lauraodonnell86 said, it's great to start out with the warm weather and have it throughout. There are a lot of great ports available on southern Caribbean itineraries, too.

Like has been said here previously, negative reviews will abound because those who are looking to complain seem to be more apt to log on and grind an axe than those who simply enjoyed themselves. Keep in mind that some personalities seem to NEED to complain. Case in point; after a 50's style revue show on Grandeur, a "gentleman" on the way out actually was complaining that one of the dancers real hair was a "faux hawk". ("Nobody in the 50's had a Mohawk!")

The Freedom is a great ship and, yes, while there will be some crowding here and there, it's really only noticeable at traditional MDR times and filing in and out of shows/events.

We liked sailing out of San Juan so much that our next cruise will depart from there in January 2020 (Different ship, though. Vision OTS)

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20 minutes ago, lauraodonnell86 said:

I'm sure that I commented on the other thread as well but I just need to reiterate what I said! We have cruised out of San Juan 12 times (see signature) and have 4 more booked in the future (including back to back cruises). We absolutely love leaving from San Juan because you don't have to wait for the weather to "warm up" in January like you might have to if you left from Florida. The ports from San Juan are just amazing! We usually stay 1 or 2 days beforehand in San Juan because it's an amazing place itself! You really won't be disappointed. There are always going to be people out there who complain but honestly, you can't rely on their opinion because they just hate life in general (lol). Freedom is a wonderful ship (our favorite class) and there is always something to do! If you have any more questions, let me know!  

Thank-you so much!  This is such great information.  Making us excited and I think we will likely book it!

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39 minutes ago, lauraodonnell86 said:

I'm sure that I commented on the other thread as well but I just need to reiterate what I said! We have cruised out of San Juan 12 times (see signature) and have 4 more booked in the future (including back to back cruises). We absolutely love leaving from San Juan because you don't have to wait for the weather to "warm up" in January like you might have to if you left from Florida. The ports from San Juan are just amazing! We usually stay 1 or 2 days beforehand in San Juan because it's an amazing place itself! You really won't be disappointed. There are always going to be people out there who complain but honestly, you can't rely on their opinion because they just hate life in general (lol). Freedom is a wonderful ship (our favorite class) and there is always something to do! If you have any more questions, let me know!  

Any recommendations on where to stay the night before in San Juan and places to eat? Thanks. 

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I agree with everyone on here, I was just on Freedom last October and will be on a B2B on her next year in June to celebrate our 40th, the ship will be AMPED by then so I will be excited to see any improvements made. 

Crowds are crowds but they aren't everyplace, as said, mostly after Muster, a show lets out or the MDR lets out, so if you don't need to be in those areas, avoid them. Muster you have to be there.

The only advise I can give you of the demographics of the ship is that it is based out of Puerto Rico, so if the ship is not selling out they will make it available to the local population to try and sail with a full ship. The Puerto Rico people have a more laid back attitude and tend to enjoy themselves more than us staunch Americans, they will have little festive get togethers that can get loud, but it is all in fun (Think of a soccer match). There also may be a Quinceanera celebrated on board, so you will see the 15YR in their party dress looking like little Princesses with their extended families. One of the cruises we were on there was a minimum of 3 of these on board during the week we were on in June.

San Juan is a beautiful city rich in history, you cannot beat the Southern Caribbean islands, they are some of my Wife's and I most favorite islands.

If at all possible go down a day or so early to enjoy the town.

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@pezgirl , If you want to be close to Old San Juan which is really close to the cruise port, there is a Sheraton Old San Juan, further away but still relatively close is Candado Beach area, I stayed in a Marriott which has direct beach access and was beautiful and was about a 15 minute taxi ride to the port. Others on here have stayed at a Airbnb in old San Juan and really liked it.

I have not had a bad restaurant in San Juan, just pick a place to stay and then start looking at restaurants that are close.

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We stayed at the Intercontinental and it was very convenient to both the airport and the cruise port. 

I don’t know the name of it, but there’s a small joint located right on the beach next to the IC. We weren’t able to eat there as a family (flight delayed 3 hours so we had to settle for Burger King for our cranky/sleepy kids) but my husband goes there every time he overnights in SJU. 

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We stayed out near the beach with a hotel the cruise ship did as an sdd on.  I think it was a double tree...we got the cookies!  Anyway there was an Argentinian steakhouse that we ate at that was the find of the entire trip.  I just don't remember it's name!  I liked staying at condido beach rather than old Town because we did a couple days and we could do both beach and walking/touristy stuff in old Town.  Jane

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23 hours ago, pezgirl said:

Any recommendations on where to stay the night before in San Juan and places to eat? Thanks. 

Depending on how much you want to spend, we have stayed at Hampton Inn & Suites San Juan and also Embassy Suites Hotel & Casino which are both about a 5 minute walk to Isla Verde Beach! Both hotels have a nice pool area and are walking distance to several restaurants in the area.

If you are willing to spend a bit more, we stayed at San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino last year (on points from my hubby's work) and it was absolutely wonderful. It is directly on the beach and also has a great pool area. The area around this hotel is very fun to walk around and there are tons of great restaurants and little outdoor sitting areas to have a drink. It's in the Condado area.

I would recommend all 3 hotels! I know there are others on this board who will also have good recommendations! Good luck in your search!  

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