Let the Fun Begin
By Kay Harwell Fernandez
You might wonder how Carnival Cruise Lines can continue its “one-upsmanship” each time it rolls out a new ship.
Yet, the cruise line still delivers. See the huge whirlpool and top deck Big Screen shown at right.*
Ship number 22 on the roster, the 110,000-ton Carnival Freedom, made its debut this spring in the Mediterranean. Fifth in the line’s Conquest class, this 2,974-passenger ship has since repositioned to its home port of Miami.
It’s now sailing seasonal Caribbean itineraries from South Florida.
Joe Farcus, Carnival’s long-time ship architect, created the concept of “entertainment architecture.” With the Freedom, he said: “I thought it would be interesting to go back in time to find inspiration for the various public rooms.”
Thus, Freedom’s interior design theme within the public rooms takes passengers on a journey through decades and centuries.
Guests are transported into the near-future as they step into the Millennium atrium (shown at left*). Here, you’ll see cylindrical forms painted in iridescent lacquers.
And wood veneer cutouts have been dyed to look like tiger skin. Striking blue glass follows the curvature of the stair railings. Welcome to the future.
The ship lays claim to 22 bars and lounges, so there’s certainly no shortage of options.
Harkening back to the ragtime days of Scott Joplin in the 1910s, Scott’s Piano Bar (shown at right*) seems to be a happening place.
Guests gather around the rotating bar that cleverly looks like a giant piano keyboard. The piano—and pianist—sits in the middle of the bar.
Smokers will appreciate the Habana Cigar Bar, which exudes a 1940s feel, replete with cushy leather wingback chairs. The ingeniously done bar shows off barstools and tabletops that resemble cigars. The only down side is that nonsmoking guests have to walk through the bar to get to the Internet café.
In the 24-hour Internet area, you may rent a wireless for $10 per day or use any of the computers. Three plans feature pay-as-you-go for 75 cents per minute; 100 minutes for $55; or 250 minutes for $100. The ship also features bow to stern wireless access.
Staterooms reflect a cozy, comfort level in muted burnt orange and gold tones (see photo at left).
Choices include 570 interior cabins; 361 ocean view cabins without a balcony; 504 ocean view staterooms with balcony; 42 suites; and 10 penthouse suites.
Each well-configured cabin (see the balcony cabin at right*) offers generous closet and drawer space, a mini-bar, color TV and hairdryer. In the suites, you’ll find a walk-in closet, whirlpool bath, VCR and sitting area.
The Carnival Comfort Bed is, indeed, heavenly no matter which type of stateroom you’re in.
The two-level dining rooms — Chic forward and Posh aft — represent the style of the 1990s with polished marble and antique gold grillwork.
In addition to Georges Blanc Signature Selections and a diverse menu, guests may choose “spa” healthy fare.
Although it’s a plus to have two dining rooms, the positioning seems a bit awkward. You can’t walk through from end to end on decks three and four because you dead end into the restaurants.
Of course, you don’t have to eat in a traditional dining room. Other options abound including a New York-style deli, the Meiji Sushi Bar, a 24-hour pizzeria, and a grill that flips hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken and steak sandwiches.
Serving a breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet, the two-level Freedom Restaurant (shown above*) incorporates a 1980s design and replicas of the Statue of Liberty. One of the Lido food stations is shown at left.*
Fielded once on each cruise at the Freedom Restaurant, the chocolate extravaganza buffet is a “must see" event.
It’s easy to overlook the seafood nook — Fish & Chips — on Deck 10. This seafood nook serves up ceviche, conch fritters, fried oysters, bouillabaisse, and, of course, fish and chips. Unfortunately, it is only open during lunchtime, but it’s a gem worth checking out.
Without a doubt, the ship's alternative dining venue, the Sun King Supper Club (shown at right*) boasts the best food onboard.
The specialty restaurant’s design takes a cue from Louis XIV, the Sun King. Its ambiance is superb, service is impeccable, and cuisine is outstanding and artistic.
Savor an appetizer of iced Russian caviar or a trio of escargots baked in brioche, stuffed in fondue potatoes and classic bourguignon.
Grilled lamb chops served on a five bean cassoulet and rosemary jus also makes a delectable entrée. Or opt for surf and turf with seared lobster tail over tomato confit and grilled filet mignon over cardamom braised carrots and pumpkin ravioli.
During dinner, you’ll hear the sounds of a duo who encourage folks to take a spin on the small dance floor. Consider the cover charge of $30 per person an excellent value.
Carnival pulls out all stops in nightly entertainment, especially its Broadway-style shows. The show’s venue, the Victoriana Theater, pays homage to Queen Victoria with its 1880s decor and styling.
Among the shows? Talented singers and dancers present "Ticket to Ride," a swinging, foot-tapping tribute to The Beatles.
Performers also sing the praises of New Orleans in a colorful and rousing production of the "Big Easy."
Bearing the “Fun Ship” moniker, the Carnival Freedom offers a plethora of activities for all age groups. The challenge is finding time for it all.
The fun bag of goodies includes art auctions, the Babylon Casino, mini-golf (shown at right*), dance classes, trivia games, bingo, dips in the pool, volleyball and more.
Need to keep your kids entertained? Camp Carnival (see photo below*) helps parents and engages kids with supervised activities for three age groups — toddlers ages 2-5; juniors ages 6-8; and intermediates ages 9-11.
Toddlers take glee in sing-alongs, make Playdoh, and enjoy picture bingo and face painting.
Juniors make sand art and jewelry and have a "camp out" night.
Intermediates take in air hockey, introduction to musical instruments and freaky fear factor fun.
For teens, Carnival Circle encompasses those ages 12-14; activities include talent shows, survivor challenge, pizza making and Nintendo Wii.
Club 02 for those 15-17 allows older teens the opportunity to hang out in comfortable surroundings. They sip on Coca-Cola products, play reality games, board and card games, participate in scavenger hunts, and hold dance parties and karaoke jams.
Carnival’s Seaside Theatre, a 12-foot-high by 22-foot wide LED screen (shown above*) soars above one pool. This outdoor theater shows sports events, concerts, movies and other programming. Cruisers can relax in oversized lounge chairs and nibble on popcorn.
For those wanting that extra rejuvenation, the 13,300-square-foot Spa Carnival on Deck 11 offers guests a pleasing variety of soothing European-style treatments. The 50-minute Elemis pro-collagen marine facial runs $145. An Elemis aroma spa seaweed massage is $195 for half body massage and $259 for a full body massage.
The adjacent state-of-the-art fitness center offers specialized classes in yoga, Pilates (shown at left*) and group cycling.
Personal training can be yours for $85 for 60 minutes. And body composition analysis costs $35 for 30 minutes.
Sports, fitness and fun beckon Carnival Freedom's passengers with four swimming pools, seven whirlpools, volleyball court, shuffleboard, mini-golf and a jogging track.
Pricing & Itineraries
Between now and April 19, 2008, Carnival Freedom sails out of Miami on seven-day eastern, western and exotic eastern Caribbean itineraries.
Eastern ports include San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Western sailings call in Cozumel (shown above*), Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios. Besides San Juan and St. Thomas, the exotic eastern itinerary takes in Half Moon Cay and Grand Turk.
Super saver accommodations range from $579 for interior; $679 for ocean view; $799 for balcony; and $1279 for a suite.
Carnival Freedom’s 14-day transatlantic crossing from Miami to Rome is set for April 26, 2008. Ports include St. Maarten, Funchal, Portugal, Malaga, Spain and Livorno, Italy. Vacation prices: $899 for interior; $1199 for ocean view; $1649 for balcony; and $2799 for a suite. The ship then spends the summer and early fall in Europe.
On Nov. 6, 2008 the ship begins its 16-day transatlantic journey from Rome to Fort Lauderdale. Starting Nov. 22, 2008 Carnival Freedom will launch six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale.
For More Information
To order a complimentary DVD entitled “Your Guide to Fun” call the number above or visit the Web site.
Kay Harwell Fernandez is a freelance writer based in Ormond Beach, FL. She specializes in travel, especially pertaining to food and wine; art, culture and history; and cruises.
*Photos are owned, copyrighted and used courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.