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Does Elon Musk's Starlink internet make this the best cruise ship to work remotely right now?

In:
14 Jul 2022

When you think of working remotely, a cruise ship may not be the first setting that pops into your head. However, with the latest technology updates on certain ships, maybe it should be.

Freedom of the Seas sailing away from Miami

The FCC recently approved the use of Space X’s Starlink service on cruise ships. A few weeks ago, we cruised on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas to put Starlink to the test.

In our review, we noticed that the Wi-Fi speeds were better than any other at-sea internet we’ve used before, making it the best option we’ve used to stay connected while cruising.

It's not clear if Royal Caribbean will continue to offer Starlink, or if/when it will be added to other ships. For as long as they do offer it however, it opens the door for remote workers to efficiently work from a cruise ship.

Freedom of the Seas offers 3 and 4 night cruises to the Bahamas, leaving from Miami, and offers plenty of space for those needing to get some work done. These shorter weekend cruises are the perfect way to try out a cruise for the first time, or a new ship. It also provides a great opportunity to try working remotely from a new location.

For our sailing, our option to purchase internet was the same as the Voom packages, offering Surf & Stream, and Surf packages.

We recommend purchasing the Surf & Stream internet package if you’ll be using any video conferencing while working. If you only need to check your email or use a chat system, like Slack or Google Chat, the Surf option should work well. 

When looking for somewhere quiet to take meetings or focus, the best place we found to work was the Library / Card Room. This smaller room often goes unnoticed by other cruisers, meaning you’ll often find yourself a quiet room with few other people.

Some of our other favorite spots to work from were the Star Lounge, Viking Crown Lounge, and the outside seating areas on Decks 4 & 12. While most of these spaces don’t have activities during the day, we recommend checking the cruise planner prior to settling in to be sure you won’t have any surprise disruptions while you work. 

With the addition of Starlink, most of the ship had strong connectivity, and was much more reliable than we had ever experienced before.

Our interior stateroom did have some buffering when logging onto a video call (primarily due to our cabin being further from a wifi hub), but we were able to load, stream and surf without issue. 

One of the biggest frustrations on other ships we've experiences is trying to use the internet while sailing between ports of call. With the other at-sea internet offerings, it would take minutes for a single web page to load, and we didn't even consider trying to stream any videos.

Starlink gave us the ability to bypass these struggles, and ensure that we were connected regardless of where the ship was located.

With the ability of being able to work and connect seamlessly during the day, enjoy all of the activities in the evening, and wake up somewhere new every morning, Freedom of the Seas may just be the best place to work remotely now. 

I tried Elon Musk's Starlink internet on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

In:
28 Jun 2022

I went on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas to put the SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet to the test. 

Starlink towers on Freedom of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's Wi-Fi speeds have been hit or miss, depending on the ship. Even ships with the higher speeds (typically new ships), it was still slower than our internet at home.

For those of us that don't completely disconnect on cruises, it is often frustrating to get websites and videos to load, and even connect with friends and family at home. I considered it a cost of cruising, as being on a ship in the middle of the sea doesn't give you many options.

That is, until now.  

Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean Group filed with the Federal Communications Commission, disclosing a partnership with SpaceX Services, Inc. While certain airline carriers, including Hawaiian Airlines, have worked out deals to offer Starlink to their passengers, Royal Caribbean is the first cruise liner to file the request. At the time of filing, Starlink was not approved for use on moving vehicles, and the filing called on the FCC to speed up the process.

Around the same time of the filing, passengers started noticing that the Freedom of the Seas was outfitted with Starlink satellite dishes, and quietly testing the service for those onboard.

Hoping that Starlink would still be actively testing, I booked a weekend cruise on Freedom to try it for myself. 

My goal was to test the Wi-Fi speeds on board, while sailing and at Perfect Day at CocoCay. There was no indication that Starlink would still be offered by the time I got onboard, as it can be pulled down at any time during its testing. It also isn't clear if or when other ships will get this service. 

For this sailing, we purchased both the Voom Surf and Voom Surf & Stream internet packages to test. Royal Caribbean’s Voom service is boasted as the fastest internet at sea, being 6x faster than other internet at sea.

On embarkation day, we headed to the Royal Promenade on deck 5 to start the testing process. Using two laptops, my husband John tested the Surf & Stream while I tested the Surf speed.

Once we started the speed test, it showed that we were connected to SpaceX Starlink, meaning that the Starlink trial onboard Freedom was still active.

It was instantly clear that this internet service was above and beyond what Voom typically offered.

The Surf package showed a download speed of 9.01 Mbps and upload speed of 20.34 Mbps. The Surf & Stream gave a download speed of 77.03 Mbps and upload speed of 15.72 Mbps.

On both devices, we tried watching YouTube videos and Netflix shows to see how they would work. Both packages allowed us to instantly start watching the videos, with no lag or buffering time. 

Shortly after these tests, John moved to the Star Lounge to take a Zoom call using the Surf & Stream service. The zoom call connected easily, and there was no buffering or freezing for his video and audio.

Later that afternoon, he moved to our stateroom to take another Zoom call, but realized that the service in our interior stateroom (7121) was taking longer to connect, and buffering his video. He ended up moving back down to deck 5 to finish the call.

Being in an interior stateroom, between plenty of metal walls, we weren’t surprised that the quality wasn’t as clear as it is in the open areas that have minimal Wi-Fi signal interference.

After he wrapped up his calls, the ship began to sail away, while we waited to see how the service held up once we were farther from port.

That evening, about 3 hours after we set sail, we tried the tests again, from inside our stateroom. This time Surf gave us a download speed of 2.85 Mbps and upload speeds of 3.74 and Surf & Stream gave us a download speed of 19.9 Mbps and upload speed of 5.42 Mbps.

While the Surf & Stream speeds were higher, we found that we were both able to stream shows on either package, with just a slight loading time for the Surf package.

The next morning we docked in Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal’s private island in the Bahamas. We were excited to test the speeds while on the island, which includes wifi access if you purchased a package on the ship.

To our surprise, the service remained strong even on the south side of the island, with Surf showing download speeds of 19.93 Mbps and upload speeds of 8.19 Mbps, while Surf & Stream showed download speeds of 52.50 Mbps and upload speeds of 10.10 Mbps.

Later that day while sailing between CocoCay and Nassau, we tried using Facetime on each package to see how the video and audio quality would be. We were happy to see that both were crystal clear on each end.

On other cruises while using Royal’s Voom service, the video would cut in and out, become blurry, and the audio would lag, making it a frustrating experience for everyone involved.

On the last day of our cruise, we decided to take our test up a notch and live stream on the Royal Caribbean Blog TikTok account for both the International Belly Flop competition and the Battle of the Sexes game show. Both events were able to stream without interruptions or buffering. 

Overall, Starlink has blown my cruising Wi-Fi expectations out of the water.

While we did notice that the service slowed in our interior room, we were still able to stream shows and use the internet much faster than the typical Voom packages we’ve experienced in the past.

We were particularly impressed with the Surf package, which to our surprise allowed us to stream almost as well as the Surf & Stream package. That may or may not remain a feature if Starlink gets approved for general use on cruise ships.

While many people continue to work remotely, if adopted permanently Starlink will be a great solution for working from a cruise, or just stay connected while out at sea. 

The only downside to the Starlink service on Royal Caribbean that we found will be having to adjust our Wi-Fi expectations when sailing on other ships without Starlink.

Freedom of the Seas Guide & Review

In:
31 May 2022

If you’re looking for a fun-filled weekend cruise getaway, look no further than Freedom of the Seas, which was recently amplified to add the latest and greatest of Royal Caribbean’s activities and amenities onboard. Sailing 3 and 4-night cruises to the Bahamas, Freedom of the Seas makes for a perfect mini-vacation.

Freedom of the Seas name

If you’re considering booking a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, be sure to read this planning and overview guide so you are fully prepared for your upcoming cruise vacation.

Freedom of the Seas Overview

Freedom of the Seas in front of Rocks

Freedom of the Seas is the first ship in Royal Caribbean’s Freedom Class. Freedom Class cruise ships were once the largest cruise ships in the world, and despite no longer having that title, they are still considered big vessels with no shortage of things to do onboard.

Freedom of the Seas was completed in 2006, but was amplified in early 2020 through Royal Caribbean’s Royal Amplified program. Her amplification added many new features to the ship including water slides and a revamped pool deck.

Read more: Freedom of the Seas completes $116 million Royal Amplification

Measuring 156,271 in gross tonnage, 1,111 feet long, and 185 feet wide, Freedom of the Seas is no small ship. She has a capacity of nearly 4000 guests at double capacity, 14 guest-accessible decks, and 1,963 staterooms.

The ship has a promenade-style layout, with thoroughfares on decks 4 and 5 that run through the ship, complete with dining, entertainment, bars, lounges, guest-service areas, and retail stores. These decks, along with the outdoor space on the pool deck, tend to be the main hubs of activity onboard.

Freedom of the Seas Pool deck

The pool deck on Freedom of the Seas offers a classic Caribbean cruise experience. Sunny skies, warm temperatures, and reggae music bring a party vibe to every sailing.

There are two main pools on the pool deck and several jacuzzis open to guests of all ages (excluding children in diapers). Outside of the main pools is a full-sized Splashaway Bay aqua park for kids, which features slides, dump buckets, water sprayers, a baby splash pad, and a shallow pool.

The adults-only Solarium is also located on the Freedom of the Seas pool deck. The Solarium is open to guests aged 16 and older. Unlike on some other ships, the Freedom of the Seas Solarium is not enclosed, so the pool is in direct sunlight. There are plenty of seating areas and jacuzzis located within the shade, however, and the pool chairs in the Solarium are padded, making for an extra comfy place to relax.

Freedom of the Seas’ pool deck was upgraded to a Caribbean resort-style design during her amplification in 2020. Colorful decor dots the deck, including in-pool lounge chairs that are perfect for the warmest of days.

Part of the Caribbean pool deck design was the addition of The Lime & Coconut bar, where guests can enjoy a variety of signature cocktails including the Watermelon Rita and Rum Runner. The Lime & Coconut spans 3 decks on the ship, creating a fun party atmosphere onboard.

Casitas are also available on the pool deck of Freedom of the Seas. These are private, covered daybeds available for reservation at an extra cost. Outside of casitas, the pool deck has a variety of seating, from pool chairs to comfy loungers. Suite guests can also enjoy a private seating area on Deck 12.

If you’re hungry while on the pool deck, be sure to try El Loco Fresh, Royal Caribbean’s grab-and-go Mexican restaurant located adjacent to Splashaway Bay. Unlimited, complimentary soft serve ice cream is available as well.

Freedom of the Seas dining

Freedom of the Seas may no longer be the biggest ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, but she has plenty of restaurants and lounges to enjoy. Whether you choose to eat exclusively at complimentary dining venues or splurge on specialty dining, you won’t go hungry during a Freedom of the Seas cruise.

Complimentary dining venues on Freedom of the Seas:

  • Main Dining Room, the main restaurant on any Royal Caribbean ship, offering a classic sit-down dining experience in a 3-story venue
  • Windjammer Marketplace, a buffet open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a variety of both American and international cuisines
  • El Loco Fresh, a grab-and-go Mexican-style restaurant with burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and tacos
  • Cafe Promenade, a small cafe offering specialty coffees and teas along with small grab-and-go items like muffins and sandwiches
  • Sorrento’s, offering unlimited pizza all day and night

Specialty dining venues on Freedom of the Seas:

  • Chops Grille, Royal Caribbean’s signature steakhouse
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, an Italian restaurant with pizzas and fresh pasta
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, the best spot for Japanese cuisine onboard
  • Playmakers, a sports bar serving up classic American bar food like wings and nachos
  • Johnny Rockets, a 1950s style American restaurant with milkshakes, burgers, and fries
  • Chef’s Table, an intimate group dining experience where each course is paired with wine
  • Ben & Jerry’s, serving scoops of ice cream, sundaes, and milkshakes

Deciding whether to eat at complimentary or specialty dining venues ultimately depends on your preferences and budget. Many passengers opt to only eat at complimentary venues, having most meals at either El Loco Fresh, the Windjammer, or Main Dining Room. Both venues will offer a wide range of cuisines and rotating menus, so it’s unlikely you’ll get bored with the complimentary options on Freedom of the Seas.

If you’re looking to enhance your dining experience while onboard, though, consider trying out specialty dining. Specialty restaurants are more specialized in one type of cuisine and tend to provide the highest-quality menu items on the ship.

Read more: How to know if you should buy a Royal Caribbean dining package

If you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion, specialty dining venues can be a great choice. Restaurants like Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, Izumi, and Chops Grille offer a more private, exclusive dining experience than complimentary venues.

Freedom of the Seas bars & lounges

A Royal Caribbean cruise is synonymous with sipping a tropical cocktail on the pool deck, and there’s no shortage of places to grab a drink onboard Freedom of the Seas.

The following bars and lounges can be found onboard:

  • Schooner Bar
  • Boleros
  • Solarium Bar
  • The Lime & Coconut
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Casino bar
  • Star Lounge
  • Bull & Bear Pub
  • Vintages
  • R Bar
  • The Plaza Bar (Windjammer)
  • Viking Crown Lounge
  • Diamond Club
  • Suite Lounge

Each lounge has its own atmosphere, with venues like Vintages offering a relaxed atmosphere perfect for enjoying a glass of wine. Venues like Boleros are more lively, offering live music and dancing in the evening.

The Viking Crown Lounge offers some of the best views on Freedom of the Seas, with a 180 degree view of the pool deck and ocean. If you’re looking for a place to relax and get away from the crowds during the day or night, this can be a great spot.

Things to do on Freedom of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas offers a wonderful cruising experience for all ages and interest levels due to the wide range of activities available onboard. While there have always been plenty of activities to keep guests busy, the 2020 amplification added several more of Royal Caribbean’s signature activities to enhance the cruise experience.

The Perfect Storm water slides can be found on the sports deck of Freedom of the Seas, which are a set of two racing water slides: the Cyclone and Typhoon. The slides twist and turn (even jetting off the side of the ship) and they are a popular activity for kids and adults alike.

The FlowRider, rock climbing wall, and basketball court are also found on the sports deck, and mini golf is located at the forward section of the pool deck. Inside the ship guests can enjoy ice skating and Battle for Planet Z Laser Tag. All of these signature activities are complimentary for passengers.

If surfing simulators and water slides aren’t your cup of tea, there’s a wide range of other activities onboard as well. Fitness classes, dance classes, table tennis, scrapbooking, karaoke, outdoor movies, trivia, and the casino are sure to make for a fun day at sea.

Adventure Ocean

If you’re traveling with children on Freedom of the Seas, you’ll likely want to enroll them in Adventure Ocean, Royal Caribbean’s childcare program for ages 6 months to 17 years.

Freedom of the Seas follows Royal Caribbean’s updated Adventure Ocean programming, which is focused on giving kids more freedom and flexibility in choosing activities that they are interested in doing. Craft stations, dodgeball, video games, books, science experiments, and more are available to kids throughout the day.

Adventure Ocean is broken into four age groups, with each group having their own programming and rooms suitable to the age range:

  • AO Babies (6-36 months)
  • AO Juniors (3-5 years old)
  • AO Kids (6-12 years old)
  • Teens (13-17 years old)

In addition to an indoor hangout spot, teens also have access to Social 033, a private outdoor space with lounge chairs and a selfie station. Parents may also opt to bring their children to Play Place, an indoor playground, but as this space is unsupervised parents must be with their children at all times.

Adventure Ocean is mostly complimentary, with the exception of AO Babies and childcare after 10PM. An arcade is also located in Adventure Ocean and open to guests of all ages, although it comes at an extra cost.

Entertainment

There are two main entertainment venues on Freedom of the Seas: the Royal Theater and the Studio B ice skating rink.

While Freedom of the Seas may not have a Broadway show like the other Freedom Class ships, she still offers plenty to enjoy in the Royal Theater. Once Upon A Time, a Royal Caribbean Original Production, brings the rarely told stories of fairy tales to the stage through music and dance. The other signature show, Marquee, brings Broadway spectacles on stage, from shows like La Cage Aux Folles to choreography by Bob Fosse.

In Studio B, guests can enjoy FreedomIce.com, an ice skating show which features disco music and showcases the importance of freedom throughout time. Projection mapping and set design transforms the rink into a scene from the 1970s as Royal Caribbean’s professional ice cast dance, jump, and twist their way around the ice.

Outside of signature production shows, a variety of other entertainment can be found on Freedom of the Seas, including live music, karaoke, and game shows.

Wellness & Relaxation

Freedom of the Seas may be packed with activities, entertainment, and excitement, but she offers plenty of ways to get away from the hustle and bustle.

Like all Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Freedom of the Seas has the Vitality Spa & Fitness Center, where you can enjoy a variety of spa treatments and fitness facilities. The fitness center offers cardio and strength equipment at no extra charge, although fitness classes like yoga and spinning are available for an extra cost.

Massages, facials, and salon treatments are available to book on Freedom of the Seas, which you can purchase before your cruise or once onboard. Port days often have better discounts available than sea days, so be sure to ask about any onboard specials in the spa.

If you’ve sailed on other Freedom or Voyager Class ships, you may be accustomed to having access to steam rooms and saunas in the fitness center’s locker rooms. Following her amplification, Freedom of the Seas no longer has steam or sauna facilities available, although there are still lockers and bathrooms in the fitness center.

If you’re looking for a quiet space to relax onboard, whether to read a book, watch the ocean, or take a walk, head to the outdoor Promenade deck on deck 4. Unlike on newer Royal Caribbean ships where much of the Promenade deck view is blocked by lifeboats, the Promenade deck on Freedom of the Seas offers unparalleled, expansive views of the ocean.

This can be an excellent spot to take a morning walk or watch the sunset. You can also access the helicopter pad from the Promenade deck, which is one of the best places onboard to watch sailaway or relax with an ocean view.

Freedom of the Seas also has a Library/Card room where you can truly escape to some peace and quiet by reading a book or playing cards and board games.

Freedom of the Seas staterooms

When it comes to picking a cruise ship cabin, there’s a lot to consider. All cabins on Freedom of the Seas include basic amenities like a bed, shower, vanity, television, telephone, chair or couch, closet, nightstands, and cooler. Staterooms can differ widely, however, in size and layout.

Because Freedom of the Seas tends to only sail short cruises, it’s unlikely you’ll be spending much time in your stateroom. Between visiting ports and trying out all the fun activities onboard, your cabin might end up being a place you visit only when you need to sleep or shower.

Nonetheless, it’s important to know which stateroom categories are available on Freedom of the Seas to ensure you book the cabin that fits your budget and preferences best.

Interior

Interior cabins are the most basic of staterooms, offering no window, balcony, or natural light. While basic, they offer an excellent value while still providing a comfy place to rest your head at night. Interior cabins can be a nice choice for those who want to plan a budget cruise, would rather save money on a stateroom to splurge on extras like a drink or dining package, or who don’t plan on spending much time in their cabin.

Oceanview

Oceanview cabins are a step up from an interior cabin as they come with a small porthole that looks out to the ocean. Oceanview cabins on Freedom of the Seas can be found in a variety of locations, from those on the side of the ship to cabins overlooking the helicopter pad.

Interior Promenade

The Promenade on Freedom of the Seas is always a hub of activity throughout the cruise. Dotted along the Promenade are interior promenade staterooms. Unlike a regular interior stateroom that offers no window, promenade view rooms have a window looking down into the Royal Promenade.

Balcony

Balcony staterooms are the quintessential cabin for a cruise vacation, offering a private, outdoor space to enjoy ocean views. Balcony rooms may cost more than interior and oceanview cabins, but still tend to come at an affordable price.

Suites

If you’re looking to treat yourself during your Freedom of the Seas cruise, consider booking a suite. A variety of suites are available, from Owner’s Suites to 1 or 2-bedroom Grand Suites.

A new suite stateroom added to Freedom of the Seas during the recent amplification was the Panoramic Suite. These are suites with wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows of the ocean. While they do not have a balcony, they offer plenty of sunlight and views to enjoy.

Aside from a bigger stateroom, suites come with nice perks, including concierge service, Suite Lounge access, upgraded toiletries, and priority embarkation.

Have you cruised on Freedom of the Seas? What were your favorite activities, dining venues, and entertainment options onboard? Let us know!

I'm back from a short cruise: Why a Freedom of the Seas cruise is great

In:
10 May 2022

Just a few days ago I disembarked from a short, 3-night Bahamas cruise on Freedom of the Seas. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I boarded, but I quickly found out that a short cruise has a totally different atmosphere than a longer cruise, bringing a party vibe and jam-packed schedule of fun to the cruise experience… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

This was my first "weekend cruise" and, while short, it provided an excellent weekend getaway on one of Royal Caribbean's most recently updated cruise ships. Freedom of the Seas sails from Miami, Florida biweekly to offer 3 and 4-night cruises to the Bahamas.

While some people may prefer a 7-night cruise or longer, I found plenty of benefits to booking a shorter cruise and ultimately had an amazing weekend onboard. Let’s take a look at why sailing to the Bahamas on Freedom of the Seas is a great option for a cruise vacation.

Fun port days

While for many cruise passengers the ship is considered the destination, I still prefer a port-intensive cruise itinerary. Being able to explore new cultures and countries is my favorite aspect of cruising.

Some 7-night cruises may only include 3 port days with 3 days at sea. Nearly every short cruise on Freedom of the Seas, however, has 2 port days, so you have the opportunity to explore multiple ports in a shorter time frame.

My 3-night cruise visited Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay. In Nassau I was able to visit Pearl Island and spend the day swimming in crystal clear water, kayaking, and enjoying fruity cocktails under the sun. Coupled with a short walk around downtown Nassau and visit to a historic fort, there was no shortage of activities to discover during my day in port.

Plus, a huge benefit of sailing on Freedom of the Seas is that nearly every itinerary includes a stop at Royal Caribbean’s private destination of Perfect Day at CocoCay. Whether you decide to go down the waterslides at Thrill Waterpark, treat yourself to a day at the Coco Beach Club, or simply sunbathe in a beach chair, you're guaranteed to have an excellent beach day.

Additionally, as CocoCay is a private destination, all Royal Caribbean drink packages work on the island, giving passengers more bang for their buck while on shore.

If you’re concerned about having too busy of an itinerary, consider booking the 4-night Freedom of the Seas cruise. While it runs mid-week (Monday to Friday) instead of on the weekend, the itinerary will include one sea day which you can use to further explore the ship and relax onboard.

Lively atmosphere

Shorter cruises tend to have a higher-energy atmosphere when compared to longer cruises, and can often be considered a "party cruise".

On a Freedom of the Seas cruise, especially a 3-night cruise from Friday to Monday, expect a party atmosphere onboard. In fact, it was the liveliest cruise I've had to date and I really enjoyed it! The pool deck was always busy with people dancing, drinking, and sunbathing. Onboard activities like karaoke were more crowded than I've ever seen before, with guests cheering on the participants and belting out their favorite tunes.

The passenger demographics were quite different from what I've experienced on other sailings. In general, the demographics skewed younger. Bachelor parties, wedding guests, and friend groups seemed to be more common than retirees and long-time cruisers.

Whereas cruising on brand new ships like Odyssey of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas seemed to attract those who were loyal Royal Caribbean cruise fans, most guests on Freedom of the Seas seemed to be onboard just to have fun with less consideration of the specific ship or cruise line.

If you're looking for a little peace and quiet, though, you'll still be able to find that onboard. During my cruise I found that the ship was relatively empty in the morning due to late-night partying during the evening!

What does Freedom of the Seas offer?

Freedom of the Seas is a Freedom Class cruise ship which first debuted in 2006, but was recently amplified in early 2020 through the Royal Amplified program.

The ship's amplification added a variety of Royal Caribbean's latest and greatest features onboard. If you cruised on Freedom of the Seas prior to 2020 and are considering cruising on the ship again, you'll be impressed with the following new additions:

  • Perfect Storm water slides
  • Caribbean resort-style pool deck
  • The Lime & Coconut bar
  • Giovanni's Italian Kitchen
  • Updated Adventure Ocean programming
  • Splashaway Bay kids aqua park
  • El Loco Fresh
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade

These new additions makes Freedom of the Seas a fantastic ship choice for anyone, with activities catering to guests of all ages and cruising styles.

Freedom of the Seas also has Royal Caribbean's updated Adventure Ocean programming, offering free childcare for children aged 3-17 onboard. For those with kids aged 6-36 months, nursery care is available at an extra cost.

The updated Adventure Ocean programming has a more relaxed atmosphere than the original children's programming, allowing kids to freely choose activities that are of interest to them. From arts & crafts to science labs, video games, reading, and dodgeball, kids are sure to have a great experience in Adventure Ocean.

Lower cost

If you’re looking for a short weekend getaway, a cruise on Freedom of the Seas can offer a wonderful value. Whereas when booking a hotel on land you must pay extra for food, activities, and transportation, this is all included in your cruise fare on Freedom of the Seas.

Current pricing for a 3-night cruise for 2 adults on Freedom of the Seas runs as low as $652 for an interior room and $896 for a balcony room. Even those looking at the 4-night cruise will encounter fair prices, with interior and balcony rooms for 2 adults as low as $728 and $972 respectively. 

Additionally, those interested in booking a drink package will only have to pay for 3 or 4 days as opposed to a full week, making the drink package more affordable with less risk of getting tired of drinking as the days go on.

As far as shore excursions, one of the days will stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay, where it is easy to enjoy an entire day on the island without paying for anything extra.

Short cruise or long cruise?

Choosing between a short or long cruise will come down to your schedule limitations, budget, and preference.

A clear benefit of a shorter cruise is that less PTO time is required to cruise, meaning it can fit into nearly anyone’s work schedule. Parents will not have to worry about their children missing an entire week of school, either, if booking the 3-night cruise over the weekend.

Shorter cruises also offer just the right length of time for everything to be “new” onboard the ship. You won’t find yourself repeating activities or lounging around in the same spaces many times, as every day brings a chance to try a new restaurant and experience onboard.

A major benefit of taking a longer cruise, though, is that your plane and hotel cost remain the same regardless of cruise length. Spending $300 on airfare to your departure port and $250 on a hotel the night before your cruise can quickly make a short cruise much more expensive per day. If these costs are “spread out” over a 7-night cruise, however, the cost per day is not nearly as high.

In addition, a longer cruise has more time to travel to destinations further away from Florida. Whereas Freedom of the Seas tends to only visit Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay, which are relatively close to Miami, a 7-night cruise may visit destinations like Mexico, St. Thomas, and Puerto Rico.

Which do I prefer? Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend I spent on Freedom of the Seas and found that a 3-night cruise is a nice length for a mini-vacation. If I had to book a Freedom of the Seas cruise again, I would probably choose the 4-night sailing so I would have more time to spend onboard the ship, but the 3-night cruise will fit most passengers' schedules better as it is on the weekend.

While I tend to prefer the more exotic destinations that can be visited on a longer cruise, the atmosphere and energy around the ship on my Freedom of the Seas cruise was one of the best I’ve experienced on a cruise yet and it led to a wonderful weekend getaway.

How Royal Caribbean reimagined its signature Italian restaurant

In:
23 Aug 2021

Italian cuisine is among the most popular kind of cuisines on land or sea, and Royal Caribbean has relaunched one of its most popular specialty restaurants with an all-new menu that features fresh new choices.

Two of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships now offer Giovanni's Italian Kitchen, which is a refresh of Royal Caribbean's Italian specialty restaurant.

Just like how Royal Caribbean looks to evolve and enhance its cruise ships with new things to do, the Food and Beverage team saw an opportunity to improve on Giovanni's Table.

Royal Caribbean Vice President Food & Beverage, Linken D'Souza, said his team looked at how to amplify this particular restaurant, "it was about bringing something fresh, new, but also something that's traditional to our guests."

"We decided to make them younger and fresher and a little bit more contemporary."

"Giovanni's Italian Kitchen came out of that, and it was this opportunity to to introduce some new things, but also keep the favorites that's guests had."

The first thing the team did was not only look at the existing Giovanni's Table menu, but they actually went back to the Italian restaurant concept that has since been retired from the fleet, Portofinos, to identify what did guests like and not like about each of these experiences.

One missing piece they saw was hand-tossed fresh pizza, and immediately they looked at how to bring that option to cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean worked with Renato Viola, who is one of Italy’s best Master Pizza Chefs in the world. 

Before the shutdown, crew members went to Chef Viola's restaurant to spend a week learning how to stretch and perfectly treat the dough, as well as make the recipe.

Royal Caribbean started out with 42 different pizza recipes just to figure out the right dough to use, and then worked on picking out the perfect San Marzano sauce.  The sauce has no added sugar, and relies on a simple recipe of San Marzano tomatoes, water and herbs.

Mr. D'Souza says they are using the highest quality cheese you can get for pizza, and then added hand selected meats and greens to top it all off.

"My inspiration of that quality of pizza was I want to have a pizza that rivals what you would get in Naples."

Mr. D'Souza went as far to say he believes it is the best pizza at sea right now, "We said let's go out and figure out how to make the best and without bragging, I do believe it is the best pizza at sea."

On top of that, Royal Caribbean installed an electric oven that can heat up to 900 degrees, which is essentially the highest temperatures permissible on a ship.

The result? Chef Viola told Mr. D'Souza the pizza is as good as a pizza in his restaurant. Mr. D'Souza thinks that while it's not quite at that level, it is excellent and very good.

The first Giovanni's Italian Kitchen launched on Freedom of the Seas just before the cruise industry shutdown due to the global health crisis, but that ship is sailing again.  In addition, Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar is onboard Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, Odyssey of the Seas.

Giovanni's on Odyssey is an extension of the new restaurant concept, with Giovanni's taking over what used to be the Vintages bar area on other Quantum Class ships and offering a smaller bar menu there, such as fried lasagna bites. These small plates are meant to go really well with a glass of wine.

Mr. D'Souza said they focused a lot on the main menu at the restaurant, "we spend a lot of time really developing American Italian favorites and then going a little bit nontraditional."

Top 3 Giovanni's Italian Kitchen must-try's

Holy Cheesus seven cheese pizza

What should you not-miss when you dine at Giovanni's Italian Kitchen?

I asked Mr. D'Souza for his list of the top three recommendations for anyone trying out the restaurant.

  1. Holy Cheesus seven cheese pizza
  2. Steak Muffuletta
  3. Chocolate raviolis

Calamari & Polenta appetizer

Mr. D'Souza added if someone considers themselves an adventurous eater to try the Calamari & Polenta appetizer and the Truffle & Eggs pizza, which offers a traditional fried egg recipe commonly found in Europe.

"In Europe, you see fried egg on pizza quite often. There's actually restaurants in every pizza they said we'll do a fried egg on it."

Photo tour of new Junior Suite on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas

In:
10 Jul 2021

Junior Suites are a popular room category for the blend of extra space and not over-the-top pricing it affords guests, and on Freedom of the Seas, they added a few new rooms during her refurbishment.

I am a big fan of any new stateroom added during a refurbishment, because these new staterooms are new construction, and they generally get more storage space and a fresher look than rooms that have been part of the ship since the vessel launched.

During Royal Caribbean's recent upgrades as part of the Royal Amplification, new staterooms have been added to ships in places that did not have cabins.  Sure, it adds a little more revenue for the cruise line, but it also offers new cabin choices for guests.

On my Freedom of the Seas cruise in 2021, I booked one of the new staterooms on deck 11, to the left of the Vitality Spa in the forward area of the ship. The nice thing about this location is it is directly adjacent to the Solarium, which makes it very convenient to get to your room from the pool deck.

I stayed in stateroom 1152, which is a Category J3 Junior Suite which can accommodate up to 4 guests.

Despite the name "suite" in the room category, a Junior Suite is more like an extra large balcony than a true suite, but it does offer a lot more living space than you will get in a standard balcony room.

The stateroom measures 299 square feet of living space.

Walking into the room, you can quickly get a sense of the space and notice the fresh look the room has since it is new construction.

The first thing I noticed is just how much storage space there is in this cabin.

Like all Junior Suite rooms, there is a large closet where you can store clothes, hang up garments, and probably stash anything bulky.  

In addition to the closet, there is another full-size closet in the middle of the room, with drawers, dressers, and enough storage space for probably two weeks onboard.

I've noticed with Royal Caribbean's newer cruise ships much more storage space, and that trend has carried forward with its new construction cabins as well.

Another welcome trend is many more outlets, including USB outlets.  The desk area has both.

The bed is a Royal King, which could be converted into two twin beds if need be, along with a large sofa. 

According to Royal Caribbean the sofa can convert into a double bed, although I did not try it out.

Pro tip, there is a USB charger on the side of the phone next to the bed.

The bathroom looks similar to a balcony bathroom, although it has a full tub instead of a stand up shower.

Being a Junior Suite, your balcony is also extra large and it has a nice enclosed space to enjoy.  I prefer this set up because it means there is shade on the balcony during certain times of the day.

The balcony is indeed quite large, with enough space for two lounge chairs, a table, and two chairs. It measures 65 square feet.

You might notice the window washing equipment that was blocking part of the window.  This is a trade off of these new rooms being in a new location.  The washer unit is not always there, but it seemed to be stationed there when not in use.

Personally, I did not mind it since the balcony is wide enough to have most of it unobstructed, although I do not spend that much time on my balcony (especially on a short 3-night sailing).

Frequently asked questions about cruising on Freedom of the Seas from Florida

In:
05 Jul 2021

With Freedom of the Seas sailing from the United States, the state of enthusiasm for cruising's return is matched only by the amount of questions people have about what it is like to be onboard.

I shared my first look at what it is like to cruise on Freedom of the Seas, but I wanted to answer as many questions as possible from RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers on our Facebook page.

Keep in mind the protocols and requirements for cruises on Freedom from Miami in July may be different for other months and/or ships.

Do they still have the buffet?

Yes, the Windjammer Buffet is open for breakfast and lunch (not for dinner until they start allowing more guests onboard).

There are two major differences to the Windjammer:

  1. The staff serves you the food
  2. A crew member scans your SeaPass card when you come in because there is a limit to how many people can be in the Windjammer. If they reached that limit, they would turn guests away until it changes. Alternatively, you could make a reservation.
    1. So far, reservations have not been necessary with the small amount of guests on this sailing.

What are the rules for Adventure Ocean? Reservations? How many hours do you get per child?

There is limited capacity for every Adventure Ocean session, which means parents need to sign up their kids for a time slot.

Unlike on Adventure of the Seas where they give you hours to use, on Freedom, parents get a 4 sessions per sailing to book once onboard. The idea is to give everyone an equal opportunity to get time for their child.

Kids must wear masks while in Adventure Ocean.

How are they distinguishing being the vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers?

Vaccinated guests are given a wristband to wear around the ship, while unvaccinated guests have no wristband and get a hole punched in their SeaPass card.

You can read about how someone that is vaccinated can volunteer to disclose they are vaccinated.

If you have an unvaccinated child under 12 with you can they come with us into the vaccinated areas if all the adults are vaccinated?

No, since they are unvaccinated, you would have to follow the unvaccinated rules for designated venues that are off limits to unvaccinated guests.

Of course, when the child(ren) is not with you, you could go to any vaccinated space.

What percentage of the time are passengers forced to wear masks. 

Indoors, all guests (vaccinated or not) wear masks in public areas unless they are:

  1. In their stateroom
  2. Fully vaccinated and in a designated vaccinated area
  3. Sitting and actively eating or drinking

No guests have to wear a mask outdoors, such as on the pool deck.

For a vaccinated passenger, that basically means you are wearing a mask when walking around inside.  In practice, when you get to where you are going (restaurant, lounge, other venue), you can usually remove your mask.

Are the crew still wearing masks?

Yes.

We have been assigned a 1:00 check-in for a Jr Suite. Can we arrive early and go to the lounge, or do we need to stick to the 1:00 sharp check-in time?

They are still being very strict about the check-in times and enforcing them in order to ensure the terminal does not get overcrowded.

Per Royal Caribbean, there are no pre-arrival lounges to use, so plan to arrive at your designated check-in time.

Does the stateroom attendant still come in twice a day? If so, do they wear gloves and change them out?

Yes, there is still daily stateroom service and turndown service each evening.

I don't believe they are wearing gloves, but crew members practice a great deal of personal hygiene, including rigorous hand sanitization.

Do you "feel" the differences, pre-Covid vs. now?

The major differences that I feel are the lack of crowds due to limited capacity, and face mask requirements.

Overall, the cruise experience retains that fun feel it had before things shutdown, which means it still feels like you are on a cruise. The core elements are all still there.

Just like on land, there are some adjustments we have all made to adhere to new health requirements.

Since my wife doesn't drink alcohol can she give me her 4 Diamond drinks?

Yes, you just need your wife's SeaPass card to do that.  

Can unvaccinated children under 12 eat in specialty dining with vaccinated adults?

Yes, but with two exceptions:

  • Chef's Table
  • Izumi Hibachi

Do you think the Windjammer will re-open for dinner? 

Yes, Royal Caribbean executives have said it will re-open for dinner once there are more passengers onboard.

It is not quite clear yet what threshold the limited capacity onboard would have to reach, but it seems to be at least 50% occupancy.

Do they have extra masks when you go inside?

There are not masks available to pick up as you walk inside the ship from an outside area, but Royal Caribbean does have disposable masks they give you in your room on the first day.

It is primarily your responsibility to pack enough masks for your sailing.

Do you still leave cash tips at bars or are they attempting to be cashless?

Cash tips are still permitted.

How are they monitoring the masks?

Crew members will politely remind guests to put on or fix their mask if they notice a passenger not wearing one. Quite often it is a case of forgetting to put the mask back on after being outdoors.

Are the lounge chairs around the pool spaced further apart?

Yes, to some extent they are spaced a bit further apart than before. It looks like they don't mind chairs within a traveling party to be together, but other groups to have some space.

Can the WOW bands be used on Freedom of the Seas?

No, Royal Caribbean did not extend WOW band support to Freedom.

A look around the big changes on Freedom of the Seas

In:
03 Jul 2021

The last Royal Caribbean cruise ship to get upgrades as part of the Royal Amplified program, and I got a chance to check out the changes firsthand.

Right before the cruise industry shutdown, Freedom of the Seas received a $116 million upgrade with new features and amenities.

Freedom had just one sailing with guests before everything shutdown, so most of the changes were not highlighted very much. 

With Freedom of the Seas being the first cruise ship from Royal Caribbean to restart sailings in the United States, we have a chance to look at all the changes.

Whenever a cruise ship gets an upgrade, the pool deck always gets the most noticeable changes because of how prominent and popular these new offerings are.

Royal Caribbean added the Perfect Storm duo of high-speed water slides to the back of the ship.

Not only did the waterslides get added, but the entire pool deck was revamped with a resort-style Caribbean poolscape.

This concept was first rolled out on Navigator and Oasis of the Seas, and it updates the look and feel of the pool deck.

The Lime and Coconut is a major part of the pool deck,with a multi-deck lounge and bar scene to enjoy.

The H2O Zone was also replaced with Splashway Bay aquapark.

Boleros is not new to Freedom of the Seas, but the look has been updated.

Right next door is a massive Playmakers space, which where the old photo gallery area.

Having been to many Playmakers locations, this one is enormous, with ample seating, and likely more televisions than people.

There are also a lot of new dining venues on Freedom of the Seas, including the cruise line’s first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, and El Loco Fresh.

Here are some other photos from around Freedom to enjoy.

Freedom of the Seas is offering 3-night weekend and 4-night weekday summer cruises from Miami.

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval for Freedom of the Seas to sail

In:
29 Jun 2021

Royal Caribbean International's first cruises back in the United States are officially a go.

Freedom of the Seas received a Conditional Sailing Certificate from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to offer revenue cruises with paying passengers.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley shared the good news, just days before Freedom is scheduled to return to service.

"This is exciting progress," Mr. Bayley said in a social media post. "We look forward to welcoming our guests onboard."

When she sails, Freedom of the Seas will be the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to return to service in the United States.

Freedom’s first revenue sailing will celebrate Fourth of July weekend, July 2-5, departing from Miami and visiting Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island destination, in The Bahamas. 

Freedom of the Seas completed her test cruise last weekend, which was a 3 day, 2 night simulated voyage to Perfect Day at Coco Cay.

Test cruises are part of the Conditional Sail Order (CSO) that the CDC implemented as a way for cruise ships to resume operations.

Since Royal Caribbean will not require at least 95% of its cruise passengers to be fully vaccinated, test cruises are needed to demonstrate to the CDC that the onboard health protocols work.

All of the crew members will be fully vaccinated on Freedom of the Seas, and any unvaccinated guests (mainly children, according to the cruise line) will be subject to additional testing requirements and specific health protocols. 

Some of the protocols for unvaccinated guests include being limited from accessing certain venues onboard, as well as being required to get travel insurance for sailings beginning in August.

Here is a list of the full health protocols for Freedom of the Seas sailings from Miami.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com will aboard the first sailing of Freedom of the Seas next week to share what the first Royal Caribbean International sailing from the United States in 15 months is like for passengers.

Here’s which parts of the cruise ship will be off limits to unvaccinated passengers on Royal Caribbean’s first cruise back

In:
28 Jun 2021

When Royal Caribbean restarts sailing on its first cruise ship back in service, a few areas of the ship will be unavailable to unvaccinated passengers.

Freedom of the Seas will sail from Miami on July 2, and Royal Caribbean has updated its website with a list of places on the ship that are available to vaccinated or unvaccinated passengers.

Royal Caribbean says all cruise companies sailing from U.S. ports are guided by CDC regulations which currently govern many aspects of cruise ship operations. 

Guests who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will have full access to venues onboard, and won't need to wear a mask at vaccinated-only venues. 

This list of areas unavailable to unvaccinated passengers applies to Freedom of the Seas from Miami in July 2021 only. Royal Caribbean has not announced a list of venues similar to this list for other ships yet.

Unvaccinated guests have access to the turquoise colored boxes and not to the white boxes. 

Your SeaPass card will be required to access lounges, shows and dining venues.

Vaccinated guests will receive a wristband and those who are unvaccinated (or choose not to disclose if they are) will have a hole punched in their SeaPass card.

The concept of areas specifically for those vaccinated is not new, as the cruise line previously announced such plans.

According to its website, Royal Caribbean says it thinks most guests will be vaccinated, and primarily children will make up the majority of unvaccinated passengers.

"On your sailing, most guests (and all our crew) will be vaccinated and those that aren’t are primarily children."

"Travel parties with vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, such as parents with kids, should stick to those venues marked unvaccinated, when together."

It is important to remember the protocols will likely change often with changes to onboard rules throughout the summer and fall.

Volunteering to show vaccination status

Due to Florida law, Royal Caribbean cannot ask if a passenger is vaccinated or not, so it is up to the passenger to inform the cruise line if they are vaccinated.

For guests sailing on the July 2nd Freedom of the Seas cruise, an email was sent to allow them to submit their vaccination status.

Unvaccinated guests 16 years of age and older will need to undergo an RT-PCR test administered by an accredited laboratory of the guest’s choice, and taken within three days of sailing.

Royal Caribbean will require documentation of a negative result for this test prior to embarkation. All costs for this test are the unvaccinated guest’s responsibility.

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