Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Royal Caribbean “Freedom” Experience

So, practically every travel agent within the cruise industry had been eagerly anticipating the introduction of the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas. After all, we have heard the hype and rumors for over the last two or three years. The question is: Does this cruise ship live up to the hype?

Before introducing the Freedom of the Seas to the consumer market in early June 2006, travel agents like myself were privileged to a sneak peek of the cruise ship in May. My wife and a few of my colleagues boarded the ship for a 2-Night cruise from May 16 through May 18, 2006. The ship departed from Royal Caribbean’s new cruise port, Cape Liberty. For those of you who don’t know, Cape Liberty is located in Bayonne, New Jersey.

Immediately upon arriving into the port of Cape Liberty, you couldn’t help but be blown away by the sheer size of this cruise ship. The Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas is approximately 160,000 gross tons, which currently makes it the largest cruise ship in the industry. My question: What is the fuel cost to make this ship move?

Anyway, once inside the cruise ship, I immediately recognized a familiar theme from Royal Caribbean’s Voyager class cruise ships. Just like the Voyager class, the Freedom of the Seas boasted a Royal Promenade, ice skating rink, rock climbing wall, Johnny rockets, basketball courts and a mini-golf course. Make no mistake about it; this brand new cruise ship has a very similar design to the Voyager class. If you have been on a Voyager class cruise ship, then you should have no problem finding your way around this ship. They are laid out in a very similar fashion.

Now, just because the Freedom of the Seas layout is similar to the Voyager class, doesn’t mean this ship has nothing new to offer. While the Royal Promenade looks the same and maybe is just a little longer, Royal Caribbean has added some nice new touches. The Freedom’s Royal Promenade features two eateries, one on each side of the ship. One side of the promenade features an Italian pizzeria and the other side has a coffee shop / delicatessen. I was very glad about the two eateries featured in the promenade because it’s quite a long walk to the other side of the ship and I feared I would starve to death. The new promenade also featured a barbershop, which was a new and interesting idea. Personally, I think I would be a little embarrassed getting a shave while my fellow vacationers passed me by. But hey, that’s just me….

The newest addition that really stood out for me was the H20 Zone water park. While there were barely any children on our cruise (just travel agents), I could really see children and their parents having a blast in this amazing water park. The water park features multiple pools, obstacle courses and colorful statues spitting water out in every direction. My wife and I lounged out near the H20 zone just to soak in all of the great eye candy. Parents can lounge out in the sun while their children have a blast running and swimming for hours. In my opinion, this was the best new addition!

Two other new additions were the FlowRider and the Boxing Ring. I must admit I was skeptical about both of these additions. They had several Royal Caribbean crewmembers demonstrating the Flow Rider surf simulator and it was nice to watch them do some neat tricks. Although, I couldn’t see myself doing this and it did get a little dull to watch after awhile. Now, the Boxing Ring really surprised me. Before, I got onto the cruise ship, I asked myself, “Who would want to fight on their vacation?” Once aboard, I was really impressed and convinced this was a neat idea. The boxing ring was featured in Royal Caribbean’s state of the art gym, which is the largest gym on any cruise ship. While I was exercising, I watched an instructor teach a couple how to spar in the ring. It really looked interesting and they seemed to be getting a great work out. If you get a chance to cruise on the Freedom of the Seas, you must see the gym. It’s even better than most gyms I have used in my hometown. I would cruise on this ship just to use the gym.

So how would I summarize my experience onboard the Freedom? Well, if you have been lucky enough to sail on anyone of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager class ships, then you probably won’t be blown away by the Freedom. However, I believe Royal Caribbean has done a fine job addressing some issues with the Voyager class and have implemented some welcome new additions to the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas. Again, in my opinion the H20 Zone water park is the best new addition. If you are planning a family vacation, you should really consider this cruise ship because it offers just so much to do for all ages. If you have any questions regarding the Freedom, please feel free to reply to this post and I will get back to you ASAP.

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