Our family had never been on a cruise before, so, we were very excited when Royal Caribbean International invited us to go on a cruise, on the Freedom of the Seas! The trip would highlight the new joint program between Universal Orlando Resort and Royal Caribbean International, where you can experience the best of both Land and Sea. We spent an amazing two days at the Universal Orlando Resort, where we stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, a tropical paradise. You can read my review on our time at Universal Orlando HERE.
The Sea part of our vacation was spent on the,newly enhanced, Freedom of the Seas cruise ship.
It was so much bigger than we imagined!
The Freedom of the Seas can hold up to 4,375 guests and 1360 international crew members. If you stood the Freedom of the Seas upright, on its bow, it would be taller than the Eiffel Tower! We were amazed at how quickly we boarded the ship, and found our cabin. The organization of the boarding experience was excellent.
We had the pleasure of sharing our journey, at sea, with the High Seas Rally Bikers. These pirates made our cruise very interesting, and one even dressed up like Santa! Our children were so excited about the H2O zone, with brightly coloured sculptures spraying water, a wave pool and swimming pool with a waterfall. (Lower left image)
Our stateroom was filled with Barbie treasures!
When we found our cabin, our daughters immediately felt special, because we had signs on our door telling us there were Barbie Girls On Board! The room continued the theme, with blankets, pillow cases, lanyards, new Barbie dolls and decorations everywhere. This is part of the Barbie Premium Experience you can purchase, when you travel on Royal Caribbean cruises.
I highly recommend purchasing this add-on. My girls are 9 and 11 and had pretty much grown out of Barbie at home, but on the cruise, they absolutely loved the special welcome in our room and special events just for them throughout the week. During the week there was a Fashion Designer Workshop where they designed their own Barbie clothes, an Tiaras and Teacups Tea Party where they learned etiquette, a mermaid dance party and more.
Our cruise was also a specially themed Dreamworks Experience cruise.
During the week we were able to watch Dreamworks movies on our tv 24/7 and 3D movies at special times in the Arcadia Theatre. There was a Dreamworks Character Breakfast, meet and greets, photo opportunities with Dreamworks characters, and a Dreamworks parade on the final day. It was a lot of fun watching Shrek and Fiona dance! These little additions to your cruise really make it a memorable vacation, for your children.
There is so much on the Freedom of the Seas to enjoy. We are an active family and enjoyed rock climbing, surfing, mini golf, skating, swimming and basketball on the ship. There is no doubt our favourite activity on the ship was the FlowRider, a 32 foot wide surf simulator. We were so proud when my husband won the Best of the Best contest on the FlowRider!
We were also invited, to a special fitness session, with Dhani Jones, to talk about the newest Royal Caribbean ship: the Quantum of the Seas! This groundbreaking new vessel will feature Ripcord by IFLY, the first ever sky diving simulator at sea. Wow! The fitness centre on the Freedom of the Seas was huge, and even has a boxing ring!
If you’re not really into a lot of sports, its ok!
There are so many incredible activities on board!
Why not try a cupcake decorating class, or take in one of the nightly shows, at the Arcadia Theatre? The Arcadia Theatre can seat up to 1,350 guests. There is even a skating show with 10 ice skating performers! If you have younger children you don’t want to miss the ImagineOcean glow in the dark musical. It was very cute!
We stopped at two amazing islands, in the Caribbean, on our trip.
The first was Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. We arrived early so we went off wandering on our own to do some shopping. The wonderful thing about travelling on a cruise ship is you can go back to the ship for a rest or a meal if you don’t want to stay off the ship all day. We had lunch back onboard and then heading on the Legendary Kon Tiki Sightseeing and Beach Cruise shore excursion. The Kon Tiki is a large flat-bottomed boat with glass viewing areas on the bottom of the boat.
They took us on a narrated your of the island and then to a nearby reef. When they lowered the glass until it touched the water, you could see very clearly! We went over a shipwreck which you can remnants of in my photo. This tour also took us to a beautiful, white sand beach, for a swim. The Kon Tiki offered snacks for purchase and a yummy free punch. We were entertained by a steel drum band and the very energetic crew starting a limbo contest. It was a fun and entertaining afternoon.
The next day we arrived in Philipsburg, St. Maarten (Sint Maarten). We arrived on the Dutch side of the island, however, there is also a French side: St. Martin (Saint-Martin), because this island is owned by two countries! We took a fantastic shore excursion to the Butterfly Farm & Marigot. The butterfly farm was run by a very interesting gentleman whose father was from Nova Scotia! The gardens and exotic butterflies were beautiful. Our tour was narrated by the comical bus driver, who told us a lot about the island. In Marigot we stopped to do some quick shopping from the locals in a tented bazaar. It was just was I was hoping for! We really enjoyed St. Martin and would love to return someday.
Based on our experiences, I would recommend taking shore excursions on your cruise. It’s a fantastic way to meet locals, have a fun adventure and see so much more of the island than you can on your own.
The food was incredible!
The specialty Italian restaurant Portofino (slight additional charge) is not to be missed. We felt spoiled there and the food was out of this world! The buffets were plentiful, full of good choices and there was fresh fruit available at every meal. The pizza restaurant (included) was very good and perfect for a quick snack. The choices are endless and you really must prepare before you go by exercising, because the desserts are to die for and are served at every meal!
The service was amazing!
How can I explain how good the service was, by every employee on board? We had multiple waiters serving us dinner, in the main dining room, and some did magic tricks. Our room attendant knew us by name, and made towel animals. Our assistant waiter knew what kind of buns we liked. The staff in the Adventure Ocean kids club knew our children’s names, after one visit. The staff at Johnny Rockets sang and danced. Our children actually wanted to use their manners, and dress up to go to the dining room, so they could enjoy the service!
The ship was so beautiful!
The details were wonderful, especially the little things such as the engraving on the elevator doors. There is an art gallery on board, with art auctions happening throughout the cruise. There really is something for everyone onboard Freedom of the Seas. (They even have a mini zamboni for the ice rink)
The only negative experience I had on our cruise, was that I ended up being sensitive to sea-sickness, and had to take medicine. We were so busy having fun, that we were exhausted every night. Some of the facilities I haven’t mentioned are the Vitality Spa, Jogging Path, Outdoor Movie Screen, Video Arcade, Boutiques, Medical Center, Internet Center, Casino, many themed clubs, Ben & Jerry’s, Fuel Teen Disco, Conference Center, Library and the Skylight Wedding Chapel!
We really loved the way Universal Orlando and Royal Caribbean have joined forces for this vacation package. It was a lot of fun being able to do both Universal and a cruise on the same vacation. The transfer from Universal Orlando to the Freedom of the Seas at Port Canaveral, was fast, easy and we didn’t have to worry about a thing. It was all taken care of for us. I would recommend this package for your next vacation, if you are interested in trying a cruise but also having some time on land in Florida!
All photos in this article are the property of My Life in the Sun or Royal Caribbean International and may not be reproduced without permission.
Disclosure: This vacation was sponsored by Royal Caribbean International however all opinions in this post are my own.