By Allison Tibaldi, Taking the Kids Contributor
DAY ONE AT SEA — The Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas is a very large ship. It is wider than the White House and the same height as two Statues of Liberty.
As a novice cruiser, I feared that I would never be able to find my way around. Thankfully, this was not the case. There are interactive touch screens on each deck that will map a path to your desired destination, so you won’t get lost, no matter how poor your sense of direction is. As soon as we embarked, we strolled around the entire ship. It gave us a sense of orientation as well as a good overview of the multitude of offerings that are available.
Alec and I quickly got the message that Freedom of the Seas is for families with kids of all ages. There are many activities, with something to appeal to each age group, even hard-to-please teenagers. The ship offers ten pools and whirlpools, a challenging rock-climbing wall, miniature golf, a state-of–the-art health club, a FlowRider that simulates surfing and an ice skating rink. These active pursuits are great for kids and parents to participate in together or apart. Even the nightly live entertainment show begins at a family-friendly 9 pm. It is over by 10, so you can still get the kids to bed at a reasonable hour.
Freedom of the Seas is sparkling clean, and the crew works hard to keep it ship-shape tidy. There were dispensers of hand sanitizing liquid everywhere we turned, so we were constantly cleaning our hands.
I quickly realized that cruising was going to be a social occasion. People were very friendly from the moment we walked onboard and casual conversations were easy. I had worried that my son might get bored of my middle-aged company, but Alec and I mingled with passengers of all ages from among the over 3,000 guests.
Our dinner table assignment would remain the same for the duration of the cruise, and we looked forward to the nightly company of our tablemates. Our waiter, Rodson, was from India, but he must have had an Italian grandmother somewhere in his family tree, as his mission was to tempt our appetites with copious amounts of delectable treats. He pampered our palates, bringing us what we ordered and then some. He was completely professional and devoted to giving us a consistent dining experience.
Basil was our accommodating room steward. I was pleased that our stateroom had a veranda, perfect for stargazing. Alec was alarmed when he saw only one king-sized bed, but Basil explained that he would separate it into two twin beds, much to Alec’s relief. The level of service across the board was excellent and harked back to a day when travel was a kinder, gentler affair.
We were on board for several hours before we were ready to set sail. It was exciting the first time I heard a booming voice over the loud speaker say “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking”. There was much fanfare, sparkling wine and merriment as we departed Port Canaveral. The mood was 100% festive and we were thrilled to be part of it.