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I Scored a Free $1200 Room on a Royal Caribbean Cruise by Gambling in the Casino. It saved me over $1200 and is the best last-minute deal around

27 Mar 2024

Cruise prices are on the rise, and that makes free cruise offers through the ship's casino much more enticing than ever before.

Free cruise from Royal Caribbean's casino

Royal Caribbean has its own loyalty program tied to gambling in its casinos. Similar to land casinos, the more you play, the better benefits you get.

I never paid much attention to the casino offers and its perks because I only casually gambled on my cruises and wasn't aware of how lucrative the program can be. The more I cruised, the more I became aware of what it offered, and I was intrigued.

Read more: How to get free cruises through the casino

Slot machines

Let's stop here and remind everyone gambling is very addictive and is not for everyone. Know your limits, and you could easily spend much more in gambling losses than what you could get on a cruise. There is definitely a bigger picture to consider.

You can earn free cruise offers based on how much you gamble during a sailing, and if things go moderately right, you could come home with a free cruiser offer.

How I got a room just by playing in the casino

Promenade cabin

On my spring break cruise in March, I had some good fortune in the casino and won enough money at the beginning of the cruise to budget my gambling for the remainder of the sailing.

Usually I'll play $100-200 on any given day in the casino, primarily in the evening after dinner and nightly entertainment on the ship. But on this cruise, my early win allowed me to play a bit more since I had a cushion.

In short, you can earn one point for every few dollars you wager (not wins or losses, just how much you play). 

Casino point milestones

At the casino host desk, there is a sheet that lists how many points during that sailing you need to reach certain reward thresholds. The lowest milestone is 1200 points, where you can get an inside stateroom for free and just pay taxes and port fees.

If you get more points, you can qualify for better cabins and/or more free play to go with it.

NextCruise office

I got my 1200 points, and then booked an open cruise booking with NextCruise, which is a requirement to get your free room.  Once I got home, I called Casino Royale and booked my cruise based on the available sailings that qualify.

Read more: 4 common mistakes people make when booking another cruise onboard their ship

You can't use the free cabin offer on any cruise. There are a list of blacked out sailings, and it's no surprise they are over holidays.

Freedom of the Seas at CocoCay

I found an  offer on Freedom of the Seas in May, and went ahead and booked it. I opted for an inside guarantee cabin, because I would get an additional $25 in free play at the casino if I went with that instead of picking a room.

I then checked how much my room would have cost if I paid cash for it that same day, and it was $1499.29.

Freedom of the Seas booking if I paid cash

I paid $204.29 for my free room, which was just the port fees and taxes.  Meaning, I saved $1295 on the booking.

Of course, I'd have to refer back to how much I gambled on my cruise to get it, and in this case, I came out ahead because of my windfall that buoyed my play.  That's not always going to be case.

Room price
My total for the room

The counter-argument when someone says "you're paying for the room, it's just in gambling losses" is while true, some people are going to gamble anyway in the casino.  It's one thing to go out of your way to gamble, but some people play enough whether there's a free room offer or not.

By offering cruises to further entice play, someone could continue to cruise and save a lot of money on their cruise fare.

Of course, luck isn't always on your side. I've been on cruises where it seems like the you cannot win anything, and losses can mount quickly.  It's entirely possible to lose thousands of dollars and come home with just an inside cabin on a weekend cruise to show for it. It's important to keep this in mind when playing, and be realistic about your play.

The best last-minute deal on the market

Royal Promenade

In addition to winning a cruise based on your play, Royal Caribbean will periodically send offers select members to entice them to come sail again and play in the casino.

It's not uncommon to get online, email, or even printed letters with an offer of a free or reduced fare cruise. Often, these are for sailings coming up in the next few months.

With regular fares being so much more expensive, it's impressive how lucrative these casino offers can be even for just casual play.

Casino entrance

An added bonus to relying on casino bookings is you can cruise more, which helps catapult you up the Crown and Anchor Society membership tier ladder faster.

In my situation, I found my Freedom of the Seas sailing to be a steal. I paid money to gamble that I probably would have done even if there was no free cruise offer, and I came away with a bonus sailing.

While you should expect gambling losses, I still think the Casino Royale offers are the best deal you can get on a cruise these days, especially on a close-in sailing.

It's certainly not an option for everyone, but those that have a stomach for casual gambling might find the best Royal Caribbean cruise deals coming through the casino.

Freedom of the Seas vs Liberty of the Seas

21 Dec 2023

Royal Caribbean's Freedom Class cruise ships are an excellent balance of fun things to do onboard and value. They're big enough to include lots of activities, but they don't come with the price tag of newer cruise ships.

Freedom of the Seas aerial drone

Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas are two ships within this category of Royal Caribbean cruise ship that appeal to families looking to get a good value for their vacation dollar.

Read moreWhat I liked (and disliked) about my Liberty of the Seas cruise

I often get questions on how to choose between the two ships, and what you should know about the similarities and differences each has. They're quite similar, but there's just enough variations to make one a better choice over the other depending on your preferences.

It's important to note that Freedom of the Seas received a major upgrade in 2020, while Liberty of the Seas' scheduled upgrade in 2021 was postponed and has yet to happen.  This is going to be a recurring theme in comparing these two ships.

Liberty of the Seas received some updates in 2016, which gave her an edge versus Freedom until its 2020 refurbishment.

Here's a look at Liberty of the Seas vs Freedom of the Seas so you can understand what stands out about each.

Ship size

Technically, Liberty of the Seas is one foot longer than Freedom of the Seas, but you really shouldn't factor that in at all.

Freedom Class cruise ships are 1,111 feet long and they were both the largest cruise ships in the world at the time of their debut.  They've since been eclipsed by larger ships, but they still offer that "big ship" experience many cruisers look for in any vessel.

Here's a look at Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas statistics:

 Freedom of the SeasLiberty of the Seas
Gross Tonnage156,271154,407
(double occupancy)
Crew members1,3651,360


Freedom of the Seas sailing away

Both cruise ships have just under 4,000 passengers, but Freedom of the Seas has a higher guest count because of her upgrades in 2020.

The ship layout is exactly the same, with a Royal Promenade in the middle of the ship, ice skating rink, surf simulator, and water slides. Both ships are 15 decks high.


Playmakers on Freedom of the Seas

The choices in dining venues diverge a bit between the two cruise ships, as you'll find certain restaurants on each ship.

Here's a breakdown of the complimentary dining venues on both Freedom and Liberty of the Seas.

RestaurantFreedom of the SeasLiberty of the Seas
Cafe Promenade✔️✔️
El Loco Fresh✔️
Sorrento's Pizza✔️✔️
Sprinkles Ice Cream✔️✔️
Main Dining Room✔️✔️
Cafe Promenade✔️✔️


The primary difference is that Freedom of the Seas has El Loco Fresh, which is a casual Mexican restaurant on the pool deck.

You'll find nachos, burritos, quesadillas, and chips along with a toppings bar at El Loco Fresh.

Freedom of the Seas has another advantage with its specialty dining offerings, as it has newer venues.

RestaurantFreedom of the SeasLiberty of the Seas
Room Service✔️✔️
Chef's Table✔️✔️
Chops Grille✔️✔️
Johnny Rockets✔️✔️
Ice Cream Parlor✔️✔️
Cupcake Cupboard✔️
Giovanni's Table✔️
Giovanni's Italian Kitchen✔️
Izumi Hibachi & Sushi✔️
Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade✔️

In my opinion, the specialty restaurant choices on Freedom of the Seas are superior because it has a greater variety of popular restaurants.

Both ships have an Italian restaurant, but Giovanni's Italian Kitchen is the updated version with a newer menu and more choices, including pizza.


Izumi hibachi is one of the most popular restaurants on any Royal Caribbean ship, as its teppanyaki tables often sells out every voyage.

Playmakers is super popular with cruisers because it offers a true sports bar experience, along with excellent bar food to go with it.


Hot tub

Because Freedom of the Seas got amplified in 2020, she has a few more bar choices.

At the pool, there's the Lime and Coconut. This is a vibrant multi-deck venue that has a wider selection of drinks and seating choices than you'll find at the pool bars on Liberty of the Seas.

Freedom of the Seas also has Playmakers Sports Bar, which is conveniently located on deck four between the atrium and casino. It replaced what is the photo gallery on Liberty of the Seas.

Playmakers on Freedom of the Seas

Playmakers is a fun spot to catch your favorite sporting event, with dozens of big screen televisions and lots of seating. It also has a great a la carte priced menu you can order from, so you have bar food for the game.

If you're on Liberty of the Seas and want to watch sporting events, they have the On Air club.  It doubles as a karaoke bar and de-facto sports bar because it has a few televisions that can show sporting events.  But it's not nearly as expansive as Playmakers, nor does it have food.

The rest of the bar choices is largely similar between the two ships.

Cabins and suites

Panoramic suite

You will find plenty of the core four cruise ship room categories on both Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, such as inside, oceanview, balcony, and suite cabins.

There are Promenade View cabins on both ships, which have a bay window that looks into the Royal Promenade rather than outside.  While there's no natural light with these rooms, it's great for people watching and offers a bit more space than a conventional interior room.

There are two very popular types of cabins that quickly sell out on most sailings.

Balcony room

A balcony located on the ship's "hump" can be found on either ship.  This refers to the rooms that are located on the outwards part of the ship deck plan, right around the middle.

The reason why these rooms are desirable is because their balcony space tends to be larger than other balcony cabins without a higher price.

Speaking of balconies, the other room type worth looking at is an aft balcony.

Aft balcony

Located on the back of the ship, these balcony rooms face the ship's wake and their balcony space can be enormous.

Aft balcony rooms on the lower decks have the most balcony square footage, and it's like having a suite balcony.

Both ships also have family oceanview cabins at the front of the ship, which have bunk beds and an extra bathroom. They may not have a balcony, but they're great choices for families on a budget.

Freedom of the Seas bow

The suite offerings on Freedom and Liberty are more or less the same, but there is one important distinction.  

The cabins are similar, but the suite sun deck choices are different. Freedom of the Seas received the Lime & Coconut bar, which took up the space that used to be reserved for suite guests. Liberty of the Seas still has reserved chairs right in the middle of the pool deck for suite guests only.

Suite Lounge door entrance

The suite lounge has a newer look on Freedom of the Seas.


Saturday night fever

Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas have the same entertainment venues, but the show line-ups are different.

Liberty of the Seas has a full Broadway show onboard, while Freedom of the Seas does not.  Guests can enjoy Saturday Night Fever, which is shown in its entirety as you would see it in a theater on land.  The show is complimentary.


In the theater on Freedom of the Seas, you'll find musical acts and dance production shows, but nothing with as much plot and familiar music as what Liberty has.

Both ships have an ice skating rink, where you can see ice skating shows at no additional cost.

Schooner Bar on Mariner of the Seas

At the bars and lounges on both ships, there is live music each day. The pool deck has a live band as well as a DJ.  In the evening, the Schooner Bar has a piano player and the English pub has a guitarist.  There are other live musical acts at Boleros and other venues.

Pools & slides

Freedom of the Seas bow

Liberty of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas both have multiple pools and whirlpool hot tubs to enjoy, but the aesthetics of both differ along with the top-deck attractions.

Both ships have a common set of activities onboard:

Freedom of the Seas' pool deck has a Caribbean vibe to it, while Liberty has the traditional Royal Caribbean pool deck look.

Freedom of the Seas amplified slides

More importantly are the water slides. Both ships have a pair of Perfect Storm racer waterslides, but Liberty of the Seas has a big difference.

In addition to the duo of water slides, Liberty has "Tidal Wave", which is a boomerang style slide where two guests ride in a raft that goes up a near vertical wall to provide a moment of weightlessness before sliding back down.

Read moreThe best cruise itineraries for every type of traveler

Bottom line

Is Freedom of the Seas or Liberty of the Seas better for you? It really depends on which features are the most important, as well as the itinerary.

The biggest difference between the ships are the dining choices and pool deck experiences. The newer restaurants on Freedom of the Seas represent some of the best concepts the line has come up with in recent years.  That isn't to say the specialty dining on Liberty of the Seas is sub-par by any means.

The itineraries offered might be the most compelling factor to select one over the other.

Freedom of the Seas aerial at CocoCay

Freedom of the Seas sails from South Florida year-round and offers cruises to Royal Caribbean's private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay. In summer 2024, Freedom will start offering longer Caribbean cruises.

Liberty of the Seas mixes up her itineraries, and moves between Florida cruises in the winter, and the Northeast United States in the summer.  Liberty visits Canada, New England, and Bermuda, along with longer sailings to the Bahamas.

The two sister ships are quite similar, and you really have to dig into the details to find a good reason to select one over the other.

I took my second cruise ever, and changed 7 things this time around

19 Oct 2023

I learned a few things from my first cruise, and decided to change a few things for my second cruise ever.

Calista on Freedom of the Seas

Having learned through both research and personal experience, I was now armed with important tips on how to have the best experience possible. 

And I was ready for more: I went ahead and planned a second cruise on Freedom of the Seas for a 3-night sailing traveling from Miami, Florida, to Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas.

Read more: Freedom of the Seas cruise review

Freedom of the Seas aerial at CocoCay

And this time, I had even more to look forward to: the fun I knew I would have and my newfound wisdom from my maiden voyage. 

In this post, I’ll share the most valuable lessons I took away from my first cruise and applied to my second cruise. 

From packing essentials to must-see shows, these are the top 7 things I changed this time around.

Read more: 11 things I wish I knew before setting foot on a cruise ship

1. Took a shorter cruise


The most fundamental difference about my second cruise was the difference in length.

My first cruise was a 7-night sailing, while my second one was only a weekend cruise spanning three nights.

I had found 7 nights a little too long for me: I felt claustrophobic by day 5 and realized that there was no way to escape the ocean. 

Freedom of the Seas in 2023

However, a 7-night cruise did allow for plenty of time to explore the ship and experience countless events and 4 shows.

Additionally, our Wonder of the Seas cruise had time for 3 full port days, allowing me to experience 3 new destinations. 

In contrast, my Freedom of the Seas cruise was only 3 nights. We stopped at just 2 ports, had fewer events to go on, and only attended 2 shows. 


Although it was a smaller ship, and there was less of it to explore, I wished I had more time to attend events and shows onboard. 

Where my first cruise had dragged a little long, my second one flew by in a flash. I think my sweet spot would be somewhere in between 3 and 7 days, such as a 5-night sailing. 

2. I went to the casino


On my first cruise, I felt a little nervous about trying out the casino. I walked through it a few times but stopped myself from actually participating.

But on my second, I went ahead, got some quarters, and tried out a few slot machines.

Not only was it an activity of its own, but the casino was also full of other cruisers. Once I started playing, I was able to make conversation with them.

With the fewer bonding events offered on this cruise, I was glad I took the chance to try a new activity and meet other cruisers.

3. I attended the Crazy Quest game show


I don’t know how I missed it on my first cruise, but I wasn’t going to miss the Quest game show again!

This adults-only scavenger hunt is famous (or perhaps infamous) among Royal Caribbean cruisers for its wild antics. 

My girlfriend and I attended together, and we had a blast.  The game show host split the entire room into teams, with team captains, and hilarity ensured. I was shocked at just how crazy the show got, but I’m glad I got to experience it this time around.

For those who haven’t been before, the Quest game show is a must-see. 

And if you’re introverted like me, don’t worry—you’re not required to participate. 

Everyone on stage is doing so out of their own free will. 

Read more: 50 things everyone should do on a Royal Caribbean cruise at least once

4. I ate at the Main Dining Room less


While I enjoyed the complimentary food offerings in the Main Dining Room, I didn’t always enjoy how formal it was.

On my second cruise, I chose not to eat in the Main Dining Room as frequently. Out of the 9 meals we had on the 3-day cruise, I only ate at the Main Dining Room once.

On that night, I recognized the menu from my previous cruise. The food, again, was quality, but it was nothing new to me.

Menu from Wonder of the Seas

And we did find that it was a very formal, multiple-course meal. My girlfriend commented that it was a little too formal for her, as well.

We preferred to go to the Windjammer for the majority of our meals for a quicker and more independent meal option. 

5. I didn’t bring my laptop

On my Wonder of the Seas cruise, I regretted bringing my laptop.

It took up unnecessary space. I only bought Wi-Fi for one device, and the TV in our cabin was a Smart TV, so I could stream shows directly from my phone.

I left it behind when I sailed on Freedom of the Seas

This time, the cabin’s TV was not a smart TV, so I didn’t have a larger scene to watch shows on.

We decided to go to movie nights hosted on the ship’s pool deck instead, enjoying a drink in the hot tub at sunset.

Given that it was a shorter cruise and I had less downtime, I didn’t miss access to personalized TV on a large screen. And ultimately, I was grateful for the extra packing space I had by leaving behind my laptop.

6. I packed a wider variety of clothes

On my first cruise, I made the mistake of packing cute dresses and swimsuits. 

I prepared with the mindset of a beach vacation, thinking I would only need simple dresses or beach outfits.

But once I got there, I was surprised at how many other activities I had access to. 

I should have prepared for activities like laser tag, ice skating, and biking. I also didn’t realize that the air conditioning can get cold on a cruise ship; sometimes, simple dresses didn't have enough coverage.

For my second cruise, I came more prepared with sneakers, pants, shorts, and warmer hoodies. I packed the perfect amount, having finally learned my lesson. 

7. I tried more activities on Perfect Day at CocoCay


My first encounter with Perfect Day at CocoCay was just alright. 

On my first cruise, I learned that weather can make a big impact on your experience on Perfect Day at CocoCay.

On the day Wonder of the Seas stopped at Royal Caribbean’s private island, the weather was cloudy and threatening to rain. 

Perfect Day at CocoCay as seen from cruise ship at pier

Although my sister and I woke up early enough to get some sun, we mostly spent our time lounging by the water on Harbor Beach and South Beach.

We grabbed a few complimentary snacks and then walked over to Oasis Lagoon, a pool and floating bar with a live DJ. It looked like a blast, but the pool was too crowded for us to even find a space.

We decided to head back to the ship before 2:00 P.M and eat our lunch at the Windjammer buffet. Shortly after we returned, the rain started.

On my second cruise, however, I came prepared with more information about the complimentary and specialty experiences available on Perfect Day at CocoCay. 

I learned that, in addition to the snack bars, full lunches are also complimentary, offered at Splashaway Bay, Captain Jill's Galleon, Skipper's Grill, Chill Grill, and the Snack Shack.

I also saw that fun shore excursions were offered on the island, like snorkeling, swimming with pigs, and a glass-bottom boat tour. 

Ocean at cococay

On our Freedom of the Seas cruise, I decided to go ahead and take full advantage of the experience. I purchased a snorkeling excursion for our day at Perfect Day at CocoCay, and it turned out to be a blast.

When my girlfriend and I arrived, we were given our snorkeling gear and pointed to the beach at Chill Island. 

We didn’t swim all the way out to the airplane wreck, but we were able to see a shipwreck, friendly tropical fish, two stingrays, and one harmless moon jelly! 

Skipper's Grill

After that, we ate a complimentary lunch at Skipper’s Grill. 

It was still early enough in the day that we grabbed a spot at the floating bar directly in front of the DJ. There, we drank and danced into the afternoon.

I sailed on one of Royal Caribbean's biggest ships. Look inside my 214-square-foot room that had a private balcony

26 Sep 2023

Just last week, I traveled on a 3-night cruise on Freedom of the Seas, sailing from Miami to Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas.

Originally launched in 2006, Freedom of the Seas is a Freedom Class ship and one of Royal Caribbean’s largest ships. She boasts 15 decks and a capacity for 4,635 guests. 

Freedom of the Seas in 2023

In 2020, Freedom did undergo a $116 million Royal Amplification, receiving upgrades to the pool deck, water slides, and new dining venues.

The ship itself holds 1,963 staterooms, and my home for the cruise was located on the 8th deck. 

My girlfriend and I stayed in a 214-square-foot deluxe balcony room for the length of the cruise.

We opted for a guarantee stateroom, selecting a lower price in exchange for an assigned room, rather than choosing one ourselves. 

The total price of the fare was $2,021.68, breaking down to $336.95 per night per person.

When the time came for our cabin to be assigned, we were lucky enough to get a deluxe balcony room with a gorgeous view.

Our stateroom was midship on deck 8, the perfect location to avoid seasickness. 

This location also gave us enough proximity to the Windjammer and pool on deck 11 and the Royal Promenade on deck 5 that we barely had to use the elevators. We only had to take a few flights of stairs to reach our destination. 

When we first opened the cabin door, we were greeted with a spacious room with a long gray couch and a queen-sized bed.

The room’s space is most visible in its length, stretching from the cabin’s front door to the back door leading to the balcony.

The floor between the couch and the deck/vanity was also wide enough that we could leave our luggage right there. 

We chose to leave the suitcases open on the floor instead of unpacking fully and still had enough space to walk about them.

From the cabin and its amenities, I could tell that Freedom of the Seas was an older ship. The features seemed run-down: lights flickered before fully turning on, and I found rips in the towels and stains on the sheets.

To the right of the stateroom door was the small bathroom. Where the stateroom had surprised me by its size, the bathroom felt pinched. 

The curved room was barely large enough for two people to use at the same time—we had to take turns brushing our teeth!

And the shower was even smaller, with only enough space for one person to stand in. However, I was satisfied with the water pressure and hot temperatures.

The sink and counter, although small, did have enough shelf space for our 3-night cruise. Two cups under the mirror served to hold our toothbrushes and toothpaste. 

The mirror was wide, and the counter was thin but long enough that we could spread our items out. However, I think we would have struggled to fit all our toiletries if we had been on a longer trip.

To the left of the stateroom door, we found a large closet with several shelves, a safe, and hangers for our larger clothes. The closet had enough floor space to store several pairs of shoes.

Directly behind that closet faced a floor-length mirror and the desk and vanity space opposite that.

The desk was long enough to hold makeup, jewelry, and multiple bags during our cruise. We also found shelves behind the vanity mirror.

Beside the mirror, we found a small TV. This TV wasn’t a smart TV, so we weren’t able to Chromecast or stream from our phones like I have on previous cruises. However, it had a few free channels available for viewing. 

The mini-fridge (or cooler, rather) was located underneath the TV. Although it was not a fridge cooling system, it kept food and drinks cold enough to store for a couple days.

Facing the desk was the long couch, large enough that I could have laid down to nap on it. However, the bed was so comfortable that we never felt the need to.

The highlight of this room was its large, comfortable bed. Although I found a few stains on the sheets, it was soft and restful for our stay.

Two large paintings above the bed brightened the room, adding to an already relaxing atmosphere with the cabin’s natural light.

On either side of the bed were two nightstands with lamps above them. 

They had helpful drawers and shelving but no charging ports other than one USB port on the phone. We had to plug in most of our devices by the desk. 

After unpacking, we met our stateroom attendant, Alex, who came and cleaned the room once a day. He usually left behind towels folded into cute animals, as well.

Lastly, at the very end of the room was our balcony door. Although heavy and hard to push open and close, the door led to a beautiful view.

The balcony held a small, round table and two deck chairs that could be adjusted to recline. 

The view itself was unbeatable: ocean water during the day and clear, starry skies at night. I also loved that we could wake up on port days and see the island right outside our window.

We also found that the cabin was peaceful and quiet: even when we sat on the balcony, we barely heard noises from other cabins. 

I’m someone who loves sunlight and natural views, so having the balcony attachment made the room so much more enjoyable. After experiencing my first balcony room, I don’t know if I could go back! 

The room felt large and luxurious. I loved this stateroom, from the size of the cabin, the beautiful balcony, and its convenient location in the middle of deck 8. 

I found that I didn’t experience any seasickness in the middle of the ship, and we enjoyed time spent relaxing in our room and on the balcony. 

Although we chose not to order room service, my girlfriend and I often brought back food from the Windjammer or leftovers from other restaurants and enjoyed our time eating in the stateroom.


10 things you should know before cruising onboard Freedom of the Seas

29 Jul 2023

With a gross registered tonnage of 156,271 and maximum passenger capacity of 4,515, Freedom of the Seas is not a small ship by any means. In fact, when launched in 2006, she was the largest cruise ship in the world and the first to feature the FlowRider surf simulator!

Today, she is surpassed by Oasis and (in 2024) Icon Class ships. While you will not find all the bells and whistles on Freedom that you do onboard newer ships, there is still a lot to appreciate about this beloved vessel. 

Here are 10 things you should know before cruising onboard Freedom of the Seas.

RelatedWhat it's like to cruise on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas in 2023

Utilize the Cruise Planner ahead of time to take advantage of pre-cruise discounts 


Once you have placed your deposit, you will gain access to Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site. This is your go-to place to see everything that is available onboard Freedom of the Seas. 

Here, you will have the option to book shore excursions, drink packages, specialty restaurants, internet packages and more.

You can also decide whether you want to book any for-a-fee activities, such as a FlowRider surf lesson, sushi making class, or All Access Ship Tour. 


By purchasing items and packages in advance, you can take advantage of Royal Caribbean's pre-cruise sales. While the actual discount varies, it is not uncommon to see drink packages marked down anywhere from 20% to 40%. 

If you want until you get on the ship, you will be stuck paying the onboard pricing for everything! 

She underwent a $116 million dollar renovation in 2019, meaning there is more to see and do onboard than before

Freedom of the Seas sailing away from Miami

Freedom of the Seas underwent an extreme bow to stern makeover in 2019. New features, such as the Perfect Storm water slide duo, updated Caribbean resort-style pool deck with The Lime & Coconut Bar, Giovanni's Italian Kitchen, and dedicated spaces for kids and teens, were added. 

Other restaurant additions include the complimentary poolside El Loco Fresh, as well as specialty Izumi Hibachi and Sushi and Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade. 


Younger children will love the Splashaway Bay aqua park, while teens will appreciate Social033, a teens-only hangout with private outdoor deck. 

Many public areas got a fresh too, including the adults-only Solarium and Boleros.

You will not find any Broadway-style shows on Freedom of the Seas


While Royal Caribbean is known for their entertainment, not all cruise ships have the advertised Broadway-style musicals or water shows with high drivers, aerialists, and dancers. 

From the ice skating show called to two Royal Caribbean original productions, headlining acts, and numerous game shows, there's no lack of entertainment options onboard Freedom of the Seas.

The first original production is called Marquee and showcases a collection of Broadway songs with sets that try to replicate the specific show. The second, Once Upon a Time, highlights different fairytales including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood. 

Adults can (and should) relax in the cantilevered hot tubs


Freedom of the Seas was the first cruise ship to add cantilevered hot tubs onboard. Now, you can find them on other Freedom Class ships, as well as Oasis Class ships, too. 

In the Solarium, you will find two hot tubs that jet out over the side of the ship. One is located on the port side, while the other is across the ship on the starboard side. 

They are enclosed with glass panels, making it so that you are able to look out at the surroundings while relaxing in the whirlpool. 

Plan on bringing a portable charger or cruise line approved power strip


Like most older cruise ships, Freedom of the Seas' staterooms are not equipped with endless outlets. You will only find two American plugs in standard staterooms located near the desk, meaning that there are no charging options if you want to use your device in bed. 

There is a third European outlet if you have a converter handy. Even so, you may want to be able to charge multiple devices at once, whether that be phones, tablets, or smart watches.

If you have more than two people staying in one room, you will definitely want to ensure that you have a way for everyone to be able to at least charge their phones at the same time. 

RelatedI paid $1500 for an inside cabin on the Freedom of the Seas: take a look inside my tiny windowless room

There is a sun deck at the aft of the ship behind the FlowRider that offers great wake views 


I did not venture up to the FlowRider until the final afternoon of my 4-day cruise. To my surprise, I found there to be an empty sun deck at the back of the ship right behind the surf simulator! Sure, the noise from the sports deck was noticeable, but it was not much different than that found at the pool deck. 

If you are unable to find chairs near the pool or simply want to soak in better ocean views with fewer people around while still sitting in the sun, head to the aft of Deck 13. There, you will find a staircase leading down to this area! 

Take time to familiarize yourself with the deck plans ahead of time, especially for shorter sailings

Freedom of the Seas in 2023

On a similar note, you should always explore the ship as early as possible. You never know what hidden areas you will come across. 

Prior to boarding the ship, take some time to look over the deck plan. Do you know where your cabin is located in proximity to the Windjammer? What about the Royal Promenade and Adventure Ocean? 

When check-in opens, you might want to consider booking an earlier arrival time, as this will give you more time on embarkation day to wander around the ship before the sail away festivities begin. 

Related15 ways to speed up the embarkation process and board your cruise ship faster

Through July 2024, you do not have much variety in itineraries

Wonder and Freedom in CocoCay

From now until July 2024, Freedom of the Seas is mostly making 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises to Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay

In December, there is a single 5-night sailing to Mexico in CocoCay, while Royal Caribbean is also offering one 4-night cruise to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic in April 2024. 

Starting next summer, she will begin making 6- to 8-night cruises to the Eastern, Western, and Southern Caribbean. You will be able to visit anywhere from Castries, St. Lucia and Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis to Grand Cayman and Falmouth, Jamaica. 

If you are sailing soon, you should expect to find a brand-new port area in Nassau 


In May 2023, Nassau opened the first phase of their upgrade cruise port. This cost $300 million and meant not only the addition of new berths to accommodate more ships, but a new port area that no longer immediately exits into the hustle and bustle of Nassau. 

Instead, you can enjoy a leisurely walk through the plaza and browse the local stores, wait in line for a cab to Atlantis, Cable Beach, and Baha Mar at the decided taxi stand, or grab something to drink. There is even a gelato shop!

RelatedNassau, Bahamas opened the first phase of its cruise port revamp. Here's what's new and different

Onboard, you will find five complimentary dining options, ranging from the three-story Main Dining Room to El Loco Fresh for poolside tacos


Food is a major component of any cruise vacation. Some guests like to get their base fare worth and only dine at complimentary venues, while others prefer to splurge on specialty dining. Regardless of your preference, there are plenty of dining options to choose from.

In addition to room service, which is complimentary if you order continental breakfast during certain hours, you have the Main Dining Room, Sorrento's, Windjammer, Café Promenade, and El Loco Fresh.

None of these venues cost you anything extra, and you can eat as much from them as you'd like! 


Specialty restaurants include Izumi Hibachi and Sushi, Chops Grille, Giovanni's Italian Kitchen, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, Chef's Table, and Johnny Rockets. 

I paid $1500 for an inside cabin on the Freedom of the Seas: take a look inside my tiny windowless room

18 Jul 2023

I sailed onboard Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas and booked the cheapest stateroom possible. 


Making her launch in 2006, Freedom of the Seas is the namesake ship of the Freedom Class ship. When she debuted, she became the largest cruise ship in the world, a title that Royal Caribbean ships have held ever since.  

In early 2020, she received $116 million in upgrades through Royal Caribbean's Royal Amplification program, during which she got the Perfect Storm water slide duo, upgraded resort-style Caribbean pool deck, Splashway Bay, and new dining venues, such as an enormous Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, and El Loco Fresh. 

Elizabeth in front of Freedom of the Seas

During a recent 4-night cruise to Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay, I paid a little over $1,500, including port fees and gratuities, for a guaranteed inside stateroom, meaning that I was not immediately assigned my exact cabin.  

If you're wondering why so much for an inside room, there's two reasons.

First, this was a holiday sailing over the very popular July 4th holiday. Cruises over a holiday will always cost more due to higher demand.

Second, I booked this cruise just a month before the sailing.  I booked it on June 2, 2023 for an embarkation date of July 3, 2023. Booking a last-minute sailing doesn't necessarily mean a deal.

Earlier this year, I sailed onboard Liberty of the Seas and was disappointed in the overall shape that my interior cabin was in-- it definitely needed some tending to! 

I was interested to see how my experience onboard an older Freedom Class vessel would be and was pleased to find that this cabin was in much better condition. 


As soon as I walked in, I noticed that the layout was extremely similar to that on Liberty, with the small loveseat pushed against the right wall. 

My cabin measured close to 150 square feet, which is the average size of most interior cabins across their fleet. 


Since I was sailing alone, I decided to keep the two beds pushed together. If you are traveling with friends and family, you might want to separate them into two twin-sized beds to help maximize the limited floor space.  


Beside the bed there were two nightstands. Even though the stateroom's phone was sitting on top of one, there was enough space for my glasses and a glass of water at night. 

Above each nightstand was a lamp attached to the wall and reading light. 


The desk area felt spacious with more than enough storage, especially considering that there were hidden shelves behind the mirrors on the left and right. 

One thing I have learned to be prepared for on older ships is the lack of available outlets, so that did not come as a surprise to me on Freedom of the Seas. 

There were no outlets or USB plugs beside of the bed. There were two American outlets, as well as one European plug, located at the desk. 


The cabin also came equipped with a mini-fridge. There was a single adjustable shelf inside that could be moved according to your preferences, and while I only used it once, it kept my beverage cool. 


Immediately after entering the cabin, you will find a closet on the right. Inside, there were plenty of shelves and hangers. Even if I was sailing with another guest, I do not think we would have struggled unpacking, especially since this was only a 4-night cruise. 

The safe was also located inside of the closet. On a recent cruise onboard Navigator of the Seas, it was in a shelf above the television. 


The bathroom inside of my stateroom was as I expected: a small, standard cruise ship bathroom. There were a few signs of wear and tear, especially along the top border of the mirror; however, it was minor. 

Compared to newer ships, such as Symphony of the Seas, the sink is located in the middle of the vanity, rather than to one side. This means that there is available storage space on both sides of the sink. Plus, the vanity tends to be wider, too. 


There was more storage underneath the sink, and this is where I kept my cosmetics bag and hair straightener. On the back of the door were two hooks to hang items like towels and wet swimsuits. 

One thing that pleasantly surprised me was the water pressure, both in the shower and the sink! It was so strong that I had to be careful turning the sink on. 


In terms of location, my cabin (#8677) was situated at the aft of the ship on Deck 8. While I enjoyed being able to walk three decks to reach either the pool deck or Royal Promenade, I wish it had been more centrally located. 


Overall, I was happy with my stateroom onboard Freedom of the Seas.It was cozy and a comfortable place to return to each evening. I had a fantastic stateroom attendant, which always makes the experience better, too.  

What it's like to cruise on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas in 2023

07 Jul 2023

If you have an upcoming cruise onboard Freedom of the Seas or are just curious as to what you can expect on this ship, we have a first-hand look at what's happening onboard.

Freedom of the Seas in 2023

Freedom of the Seas is a Freedom Class ship that was initially launched in 2006. In early 2020, she underwent Royal Caribbean's Royal Amplification program and received $116 million in upgrades. This means that if you sailed onboard prior to the pandemic, you would have had a different experience, as the ship received new venues, as well as updated some of their old ones. 

Read more: Freedom of the Seas vs. Liberty of the Seas

This was not my first sailing on Freedom of the Seas. My first-ever Royal Caribbean cruise was a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise back in 2011, so I was eager to see how the ship compared to my childhood memories. 

Here is a look into what it is like to sail on Freedom of the Seas in 2023. 

The boarding process


On embarkation day, I arrived just a few minutes shy of my check-in time of 12:30pm. I left my hotel, which was located near the Miami International Airport (MIA), at 11:30am and, after a quick stop at Target to pick up sunscreen, was at the terminal by 12:20pm. 

RelatedThe costly cruising mistake newbies make planning their first cruise

There was minimal traffic driving into the port, and I was able to quickly locate a porter and drop off my luggage. 

There was no line to enter the terminal, either. In fact, they were instructing people with check-in times as late as 1:30pm to go ahead and go inside. 


As soon as you enter the building, you ascend up an escalator and are greeter by port agents who instruct you to an available check-in agent who will scan your Set Sail pass, verify your travel documentation (i.e., passport or birth certificate/photo I.D.), and update your security image, if not done beforehand. 

Afterwards, you go through security and head up another set of escalators to get your embarkation picture taken and officially board the ship. 

To date, I think this was one of the quickest check-ins that I have ever had. Usually, I select the earliest possible time and am often seated before being able to board. Since I had a later time, I was worried that I would be faced with long lines. Within fifteen minutes of arriving at the terminal, I was onboard and exploring the ship.


Rather than go to the Windjammer for lunch, I opted to head up to the pool deck and grab something to eat from El Loco Fresh. There was a short line, but it as nothing like the nearby Windjammer. Plus, the timing worked out great because as soon as I finished lunch, staterooms were ready to be accessed.  

When sail away rolled around, I was able to easily find a spot on Deck 12, despite showing up a few minutes into the party. I had a great view of both the passing scenery and lively atmosphere on the deck below, which was pretty crowded. 



The only other times I have cruised out of Miami have been onboard Symphony of the Seas. Both times were hectic due to the amount of people trying to leave the terminal (and port) at once. 

When I got my luggage tags, I was assigned group 37. On disembarkation morning, however, my app said that I was group 35. Rather than waiting until 9:15am, I was able to get off the ship around 8:40am. Within twenty minutes, I was outside waiting for a Lyft. 

Since there was less traffic that I anticipated, I only had to wait ten minutes for my ride to make its way to the pick-up spot. Overall, it was a smooth and quick disembarkation! 



My home for my 4-night cruise was an interior stateroom located in the aft on the ship on Deck 8.

A few weeks ago, I stayed in another interior stateroom onboard Navigator of the Seas and am truly a fan of Deck 8 on Voyager and Freedom Class ships. It is only three decks below the pool deck and Windjammer and three above the Royal Promenade, meaning that I found myself using the stairs more often than the elevators!

RelatedWhat it's like to cruise on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas in 2023


While the cabin was dated (as expected), it was comfortable and had everything that I needed, from a mini-fridge to keep my bottled water cool, safe in the closet, and plenty of hangers for my clothes.

If I was traveling with another person, the lack of outlets would have frustrated me, as there were only two located on the desk. 


I was pleasantly surprised by the water pressure in the bathroom, both in the shower and the sink! It was probably the best that I have experience on a cruise yet. I did not have any issues with water temperature, either. 



Since everyone has different tastes and preferences, cruise ship dining is a subjective topic. My favorite meal may be someone else's least favorite! 

On this particular sailing, I skipped the Main Dining Room for dinner. Instead, I ate at the Windjammer, Sorrento's, Playmaker's, and Izumi Hibachi, my favorite of which was Izumi. 

Out of the complimentary dining venues that I ate at, my favorite were El Loco Fresh and Sorrento's. They make for great quick-service bites; however, you can also make a full meal at either place depending on what you get.

A few slices for dinner while on a cruise may not be appealing to some, but it was exactly what I wanted after exploring Nassau and having a late lunch in port. 


Bar food is a favorite of mine, so a stop at Playmaker's is a must on any ship that has it. This was my first time trying the wings, and I was a little disappointed. While they satisfied my need for something spicy, the chicken wings themselves were not the best quality. They were actually some of the smallest wings I have ever seen! 

Teppanyaki is one of my favorite dining experiences, whether on a ship or not. While onboard Freedom of the Seas, I ate at Izumi Hibachi for the first time. In the past, I have stuck exclusively to the sushi. 


The chef was a lot of fun, and I was able to substitute sea scallops for beef tenderloin, meaning that I got to enjoy both lobster and steak! I thought that this meal was worth the splurge and would do it again, especially since I used my onboard credit for the majority of the cost and only paid $13.00 out of pocket. 


Freedom of the Seas does not have a Broadway-style production like some other Royal Caribbean ships do. That being said, they had offerings each night to satisfy those looking to catch a show.

The first night, I saw the ice skating show, Perhaps it was because it was the very first show of the cruise, but, unfortunately, the skaters took quite a few falls. 

My favorite part of the show was the soloist who skated during Gwen Stefani's "Rich Girl." She was extremely talented and flawlessly landed each trick. 


The first production show that was offered in the Royal Theater was Marquee, which showcased a collection of Broadway songs. As expected, the quality was not that of their other Broadway-style shows, but it was an entertaining forty-five minutes. 

The following night was the only headlining act of the cruise: Mike Marino, a comedian who has performed on "The Tonight Show," "The Martin Short Show," "Comics Unleashed," and "The Boomed Show." While I have seen better comedians on ships, there were some jokes that had the crowd crying from laughing, including his impression of what announcements would be like if he was a cruise ship captain. 


The show on the last evening was Once Upon a Time. Personally, I preferred this production over Marquee. It highlighted different fairytales, such as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood. 

Numerous different game shows were offered, too, including "Name that Tune," "60 Seconds or Less," "Majority Rules," "The Crazy Quest," "Friendly Feud," and "If You Know It, Dance It."

Onboard activities 


There was no shortage of things to do onboard Freedom of the Seas, from organized events to onboard activities. You will find a FlowRider surf simulator, Perfect Storm water slides, mini-golf, rock climbing, sports court, ice skating, and more.

The colorful resort-style pool deck cannot be found on many older ships, so Freedom stands out in this way. It definitely gives the ship a more tropical and "new" feel. 


When it came to organized activities, there were offerings ranging from trivia and sudoku to sporting competitions, bingo, laser tag, archery, and karaoke. Checking the daily planner is crucial to ensure that you do not miss out on anything that sounds intriguing to you, as the only announcements pertaining to activities were in the evenings to tell guests about the shows. 

My cruise had a single sea day, so I planned to get up early to find a comfortable seat in the Solarium. I was surprised when 11:00am rolled around and there were still open seats, albeit not a ton

Onboard internet 


With download speeds of 26.2mbps upload speeds of 5.92mbps, the internet was not as fast as what I had experienced on Navigator of the Seas a few weeks prior; however, it was sufficient to send and receive texts, browse social media, and more. 

Ports of call

Nassau, Bahamas


My 4-night cruise went to Nassau, Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay, with the first stop being in Nassau. I was most excited for this port, as the first phase of their $300 million port revamp opened just a few months ago. In the past, Nassau has been one of my least favorite destinations, so I wondered if this would change my perception. 

Now, the port is able to accommodate up to six cruise ships per day, including tree Oasis or Icon Class ships, meaning that the port can see up to 30,000 cruise passengers per day. Prior to the revamp, Nassau could accommodate 20,000 guests. 


After a short walk from the cruise berths, you enter a peaceful port area filled with local vendors selling anything from t-shirts to straw hats, alcohol beverages, jewelry, and more. You no longer have to exit the cruise port to do your souvenir shopping. 

Moreover, I appreciated the taxi stand inside of the port. If you want to take a cab to Atlantis, Cable Beach, or Baha Mar, all you have to do is walk up and get in the correct line.  

RelatedNassau, Bahamas opened the first phase of its cruise port revamp. Here's what's new and different

When, and if, you are ready to leave the terminal, you will exit right across the street from Pirate Republic Brewing Company, which has some incredible mozzarella sticks, and The Bahamas Shirt Company. When you are ready to return to your ship, you will enter the terminal from the same area. 


Between the new port area and the upcoming Royal Beach Club in 2025, I can see Nassau becoming a more desirable port of call. 

Perfect Day at CocoCay


This was my fourth visit to CocoCay; however, it was the first time that there was only one ship in port. This gave the island experience a completely different feel. No matter when you strolled up to the beach, you could find a seat on the third or fourth row. 

Plus, there were plenty of tables at the Chill Grill for lunch. In the past, there have been times where I have struggled to find an open seat!  

If you would like to do something a little bit more active than lounge on the complimentary beach chairs, consider booking the Thrill Water Park. Here, you can ride the tallest water slide in North America: Daredevil's Peak.


There are numerous other water slides, as well as a fun wave pool, to keep everyone in your party entertained all day. You are also able to exit and re-enter the park with the tap of your SeaPass card, so you can explore the island in between rides. 

Those who want a more exclusive experience should look into booking a day pass to the Coco Beach Club. This section of the island has plush seating, a sit-down restaurant featuring more upscale dishes, and even its own pool. 

There are countless ways to enjoy your day at CocoCay; just make sure you research your options ahead of time!

Royal Caribbean cancels Freedom of the Seas sailings for drydock work

28 Jun 2023

Royal Caribbean informed guests on select sailings in November and December 2024 that their cruises have been cancelled in order for the ship to undergo work.

Freedom of the Seas aerial at CocoCay

Guests and travel agents received notifications of cancellations of select Freedom of the Seas cruises, which includes the popular Christmas sailings.

"We’re continuously working to improve our ships and the many amenities they have to offer. We’re taking Freedom of the Seas into dry dock for routine maintenance and exciting improvements."

It's not unheard of for a cruise to be cancelled because of dry dock work, but the fact it includes one of the most popular times of the year is eye-opening.

Freedom of the Seas sailing away from Miami

Christmas and New Years week is among the most popular times for a cruise, and it also commands the highest prices.

Cruise ships undergo work every five years (or less), and Freedom of the Seas finished her last dry dock in 2020 when Freedom of the Seas wrapped up a $116 million Royal Amplification.

Guests that were booked on that sailing have three choices:

Oasis of the Seas in Cozumel

Re-book one of the following 2024 or 2025 itineraries departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida:

Freedom of the Seas:

  • October 20th, 2024 | 7-Night Western Caribbean & Perfect Day | sailing to:
    • Perfect Day at CocoCay | Labadee, Haiti| Falmouth, Jamaica | and George Town, Grand Cayman
  • October 27th, 2024 | 7-Night Western Caribbean & Perfect Day | sailing to:
    • Perfect Day at CocoCay | San Juan, Puerto Rico| and Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
  • February 16th, 2025 | 7-Night Eastern Caribbean | sailing to:
    • Nassau, Bahamas | Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas | and St. Johns, Antigua

Oasis of the Seas:

  • November 16th & December 14th in 2024 or January 11th in 2025 | 8-Night Eastern Caribbean & Perfect Day | sailing to:
    • Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis | Philipsburg, St. Maarten | Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas | and Perfect Day at CocoCay
  • November 30th & December 28th in 2024 or January 25th in 2025 | 8-Night Southern Caribbean & Perfect Day |sailing to:
    • Oranjestad, Aruba | Willemstad, Curacao | and Perfect Day at CocoCay

Your original stateroom category price will either be protected at your original cruise fare rate or reduced to the current cruise fare rate (whichever is lower). This excludes taxes, fees, gratuities, and other non-cruise fare items.

And, you’ll also be reimbursed for non-refundable, pre-purchased transportation change fees incurred (such as a flight, train ticket, or rental car).

Royal Caribbean will cover up to $200 USD per guest for Domestic changes, or up to $400 USD per guest for International changes.

Re-book any other Royal Caribbean International sailing

Royal Caribbean will waive any non-refundable deposit change fees.

You’ll be responsible for any difference in pricing for your cruise fare, taxes, fees, gratuities, and other non-cruise fare items.

And, you’ll also be reimbursed for non-refundable, pre-purchased transportation change fees incurred (such as a flight, train ticket, or rental car).

Royal Caribbean will cover up to $200 USD per guest for Domestic changes, or up to $400 USD per guest for International changes.


Cancel and refund

A full refund of any paid portion of your cruise fare (including non-refundable deposits) and any pre-paid amenities to the original form of payment, within 14 business days.

What work is planned for Freedom of the Seas?

Side of Freedom of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has not announced the scope of work expected to be completed for Freedom of the Seas when she goes in for dry dock.

When cruise ships get routine maintenance done, it usually entails the ship being taken from the water so that it can be repainted and critical systems taken offline so they can be properly maintained.

Royal Caribbean rarely divulges the work being done on a ship that is getting refurbished, unless it's a major upgrade.

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

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

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.

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