Carnival Freedom – A Review of our First Carnival Cruise!

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As a Florida native, I’ve been on a lot of cruises. But until recently I had never had the chance to sail on a Carnival Cruise. That changed over the winter holidays, when I took a five night Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Freedom. Here’s my detailed review of the ship and my answer to the question – have I been converted to a Carnival cruiser?

my son in front of the Carnival Freedom cruise ship

So in all transparency, I’ve never cruised on Carnival because I’ve been a bit scared off by their reputation. They are definitely known as the “party ship”, which can be a good or bad thing depending on what you’re looking for. And they also have a bit of a reputation for stuff happening on their ships – like when the Carnival Freedom’s tail caught fire back in 2022. Yikes.

But we decided it was finally time to take a chance and try out Carnival for ourselves. And I’m really glad we gave it a shot! So now I’ve set out to give you the most comprehensive review of the Carnival Freedom to ever hit the internet.

Who is writing this review?

Ok, we all know that this kind of review is extremely subjective. The things I love, you might find terrible, and vice versa. So I like to put my reviews into perspective by telling you a little about me and my cruising companions.

I took this cruise with my family – which includes my husband and eight year old son – along with a group of friends and their children. So I’m writing from the perspective of a family travelling with elementary aged kids. So if you’re looking to party it up in the nightclub or post up in the adult only spaces, this might not be the info you need. If you are a family travelling with kids – I’ve got you covered!

Everyone in our group are very experienced cruisers. We are local to the cruise ports, so cruises are quick and easy warm weather getaways for us. I’ve cruised with Royal Caribbean over 20+ times, and also have sailed on Norwegian and Disney Cruises in the past. So while I’ve tried to evaluate the Carnival Freedom on its own merits here, I will also compare to some of these other lines and ships. (You can find more of my cruise reviews here.)

The Ship: The Carnival Freedom

The Carnival Freedom is definitely an older ship. It was built in 2007, making it about 16 years old at the time I’m writing this. It was refurbished in 2023, but that mostly consisted of repairing the ship’s “whale tail”, which was previously damaged in a fire.

a lounge area on Carnival Freedom

And to be honest, the ship is showing its age a bit. It was in very good repair, but the interior spaces look dated and it lacks some of the bells and whistles that newer ships in the fleet have. It just comes off as kind of dark and dingy compared to the light, bright interiors you find on the more modern ships. And you won’t find elaborate features like roller coasters or fancy water play areas or a host of specialty restaurants. It’s a more basic ship.

But if you can put aside that first impression, there is still a lot to love about the Carnival Freedom.

Port Canaveral – Tips & Tricks

We sailed from Port Canaveral, which is far and above my favorite cruise port in Florida. It’s easy to get in and out of, typically has plenty of parking available, and there are lots of inexpensive places to stay nearby if you need a hotel. In comparison, the Miami and Ft. Lauderdale ports are pure chaos. And the Tampa port is lovely, but only hosts smaller ships thanks to the low height of the Sunshine Skyway bridge that must be sailed below.

So anyway, if you plan to park at the port, the easiest option is the on site parking garage. You can not book this ahead of time, so don’t get tricked into any of those pre-paid parking schemes. Those are all off site parking lots and will require a shuttle ride to the port. Just show up and follow the instructions to park in the garage.

If you are arriving the night before your cruise, I recommend staying the night at the Hampton Inn & Suites Cape Canaveral. It’s clean, comfy, and they have a nice pool and fire pits at night. Super close to the cruise port, and also convenient for visiting Kennedy Space Center, if you have time for that.

Fun Tip: Cape Canaveral is also the home of NASA. Yes, that NASA. The one with the rocket ships. And when they have a shuttle launch scheduled on your departure day, you can often see it from the ship. I have been lucky enough to have this happen twice now – once on this cruise and once on our Disney Wish cruise. Check the Kennedy Space Center launch schedule to see if any events coincide with your trip.

Boarding and the Muster Drill

Of course, the first step to cruising is actually getting onboard that ship. Two weeks prior to your cruise, you will check in online and provide all of your travel details such as passport numbers and flight schedules. At that time, you will also be able to select a port arrival time. This helps ensure that everyone doesn’t show up at the same time and mob the cruise port.

We were able to select a 10:30am arrival time, which is the earliest possible. However, it was closer to 11:30 when we arrived thanks to traffic coming from Tampa. When you arrive at the port, you can follow the signs to luggage drop off. You will pull up and hand off your checked luggage to the luggage porters, and then proceed on to the parking garage. (Don’t forget to have a few dollars handy to tip the porters.)

Once you park, you’ll proceed to the check in area. Now here is where you can easily get stuck in a giant line. By the time we got to this step, there was a massive line out the door of the port building. However, we had purchased the Faster to the Fun option (see more details on that below), which allowed us to use the priority line and get on board vey quickly.

Once we boarded, we were asked to proceed directly to our muster stations. If you’re not familiar with the muster drill, it’s a mandatory process where all passengers are shown where to go in case of an emergency. Basically if the ship is sinking, this is where you get your lifeboat!

In a traditional muster drill, all passengers go to their muster stations at the same time, which of course results in mass chaos. But Carnival had a streamlined approach, where you could visit the muster station at your earliest convenience, and the staff there would check off that you had completed the muster drill. This was great and better than many other cruise lines!

The Staterooms

Much like the rest of the ship, Freedom’s staterooms are beginning to feel a bit dated in both style and features. But overall, I found our room to be clean and comfortable, which is all that really matters.

our balcony stateroom on Carnival Freedom
That sofa turns into a bed – but then it stays that way for the rest of the cruise.

We stayed in a balcony room, which is what we choose on all of our cruises. We were in stateroom 7367 and the exact category was 8C. The location on deck 7 aft was convenient to most things on the ship, but we did find it very noisy. It seemed that the crew had a morning meeting nearby, resulting in what sounded like a herd of elephants walking down the hallway everyday at 6am. So… I would probably choose something a little more central next time.

The interior layout of the cabin was essentially the same as what I’ve found on other cruise lines. There was a double bed and a sofa that pulls out into a sleeper sofa. If you have a family of four, you will be able to book a cabin that also has a pull down bunk bed.

The downside of using the sleeper sofa is that the cabin attendants leave it set up for the entire duration of your cruise – they do not set it up and fold it back each day. And you can’t really do it yourself with all the bedding in the way. So if you are using the sofa bed, you lose the use of the sofa and don’t have anywhere to sit in the cabin. This made the cabin feel really cramped, and was a downside versus other cruise lines where a family of three can choose a stateroom with a pull down bunk (check out my Disney Wish review for an example).

my son checking out our balcony on the Carnival Freedom

The balcony was a pretty normal size, and had two chairs and a small table. I really enjoy sitting on the balcony with a glass of wine in the evenings and watching as the ship pulls into port.

A couple odd things about the balcony though. The cabin door swings outward into the balcony, crashing into one of the chairs each time, so you have to move one chair to get in and out. And the ship Wi-Fi did not work on the balcony – at all. Annoying if you wanted to relax and also be able to receive text messages from your cruise companions on the app.

the bathroom in our cabin on Carnival Freedom

The bathroom was actually a bit larger than what I have found in similar cabins on other ships, and had a ton of storage space. So that was a nice surprise! Of course, it’s still a cruise ship bathroom, so expect tight quarters.

In general, the room was lacking in the little creature comforts that I’ve found on lines like Disney. There was only a single outlet for charging, located on the vanity, so it was not possible to plug in a device by the bedside. The hair dryer was tethered so tightly to the vanity that I could barely reach it to my head. And the toiletries were just a pump dispenser of soap mounted on the shower wall. So all fine but very… basic.

water bottles in the cabin

There was a refrigerator and it did actually stay cold! These can be hit or miss on cruise ships. And from the reviews, I would say it’s hit or miss on the Freedom too, so we got lucky. I pre-ordered some water bottles to our stateroom (highly recommend doing this!), and always had cold water ready to go.

my son with his towel animals in the cabin on Carnival Freedom

And of course the towel animals! Our cabin steward was on it with the towel animals. He made a new one every day, which my son insisted on keeping intact. So we had a big stockpile of animals by the end of our cruise. That’s him above with a couple of his faves.

The Pool Deck

pool deck at sailaway on Carnival Freedom
Main pool deck at the sail away party.

The pool is definitely where the party’s at on Carnival Freedom! We really enjoyed the main pool area and all of the activities there. The pool itself is quite small – but that is true on all cruise ships. But there were a good amount of chairs around, two large bars for drinks, and the kids waterslides are visible from the pool chairs so the kids can slide while you relax with a cocktail.

And the party was on! The music was great and there was a constant stream of activities – from dance offs to hula hoop competitions to an ice carving demonstration. It definitely felt more like a party (in a family friendly way) than most other ships I’ve sailed.

There are also two hot tubs by the main pool. But I’ll warn you that they were filled with kids the whole time. And I mean filled. I’m talking 15 kids in the hot tub and they’re still calling in more friends. I’m not complaining since mine was right in the mix – but don’t expect a relaxing hot tub soak here.

adult pool on Carnival Freedom
Adults only pool and hot tubs.

In addition to the main pool deck, there is an additional pool with two hot tubs that is adults only. The area around it is not adults only, and is in fact the home of the Pizza Pirate, so there are lots of families in that area around lunch time. Just no kids in that pool. And there is a Serenity deck on the front of the ship which also has two adults only hot tubs and some quieter seating. Those hot tubs were also packed every time I walked by them – just with adults instead of kids.

Note that there was no splash pad for babies and toddlers on this ship. Like all cruise ships, kids in diapers can not use the swimming pools. And they are very serious about this rule, as it comes from the CDC. So that doesn’t leave any water play option for the little ones. If you’re travelling with toddlers, I would really recommend looking for a different ship that does have a water play area for them.

The Onboard Activities

For my son and his friends, the main attraction on this ships was the Waterworks water slides– two decent sized water slides that land by the main pool deck. This entertained them for a good chunk of time on each sea day.

Carnival Freedom pool deck at night
Pool deck at night – those are the water slides in back.

There was also a small mini golf course and a shuffleboard court up by the sports deck. The mini golf was very small (and frankly a bit boring ) compared to the elaborate courses you see on the newer ships. But it still entertained them for one round. There was a small-ish sports zone too, where there were activities like basketball or soccer going on.

my husband and son playing deal or no deal on the ship

Besides these attractions, there were typical cruise ship activities like trivia and Bingo. In fact, I think Carnival had a lot more organized daytime activities than other ships I’ve sailed, and many more that were interesting for families. For example, they had a towel animal folding class one morning that was great fun and a family scavenger hunt one evening. And on other days we played Bingo and Deal or No Deal.

the casino on Carnival Freedom

And of course, there’s the casino. Obviously, not a kid friendly activity, but my husband enjoyed sneaking away for a little bit to lose some money. And if your kids want in on the gambling, they can hit the arcade.

Evening Entertainment

In the evenings, there were a variety of options for entertainment. I really enjoyed how the ship is designed with a number of smaller venues offering different types of entertainment. It felt like walking around an entertainment district. There was a comedy club (my favorite), a piano bar, a sports bar, a lounge which had karaoke most nights, and also the Alchemy Bar which is known for the fancy cocktails.

There is also a larger theater which had some headliner shows. To be honest, none of the headliner shows were that appealing to either the adults or kids in the group, so we ended up skipping those. This was a bit disappointing – there was nothing comparable to the Broadway style shows found on Royal Caribbean or the performances on Disney ships.

The comedy club was my personal favorite, and they even had a couple kid friendly shows that we were able to hit up in the early evenings as a family.

New Year’s Celebration

This happened to be a New Year’s Eve Cruise, so we were geared up to party. And it definitely was a party crowd. A five night cruise would normally have just one formal night, but they made New Year’s Eve an additional formal night. So we worse our most glittery outfits to dinner.

our sparkly outfits
Our sparkly outfits for New Year’s Eve.

The ship hosted a big New Year’s Eve countdown on the main pool deck, which was absolutely jam packed with people. There were glow sticks and music and we watched the ball drop on the big outdoor movie screens. I was worried that it would be too rowdy for the kids. And it was definitely rowdy, but there were plenty of families in the mix too. I imagine the celebration in the night club space was a bit more adult oriented.

For folks that couldn’t make it to midnight, they also had a “Noon Year’s Eve” celebration in the atrium the next day with a more family oriented countdown for the little ones.

Formal & Theme Nights

Formal Nights: We had two “Elegant Nights” on our cruise, but the second was a bonus for New Year’s. Normally, there would be just one formal night on a five night cruise. Formal night is just what it sounds like – wear your finest to dinner and around the ship that evening. But don’t worry, you don’t have to get too dressy if you don’t want to. You will see everything from slacks and a blouse to full ball gowns. So do what you want – just don’t roll in wearing jean shorts.

80s Night: There was also an 80s theme night, which lots of people participated in. So if the 80s are your jam, be sure to bring along some hair scrunchies and t-shirt ties. ;) And if I saw this inflatable giant boom box and cell phone before we went – I would have needed these too.

Glow Party: And the glow party was the highlight for the kids. Ours was on New Year’s Eve, which worked perfectly, but there is a glow party on non-holiday cruises too. My son wore this awesome light up tie and I brought along this pack of glow-in-the-dark props for the group to split up.

What’s to eat on Carnival Freedom?

So what’s to eat on board? While you certainly won’t go hungry on any cruise ship, food on the Carnival Freedom was a bit hit or miss for us. So here are the high and low points.

The Buffet (and Quick Service Restaurants)

This is really where my biggest complaint is – the buffet was terrible for all meals. And yes, I am aware that this is a real first world problem. But hey, it’s a review.

If you’ve cruised on other cruise lines, you know that the buffet is usually a highlight. We are big fans of the Windjammer buffet on Royal Caribbean, which is just filled with ton of options ranging from kid friendly foods to Indian selections to a fresh salad bar.

Well, it was slim pickings at the buffet on the Freedom. There was a very limited selection of items, and nothing kid friendly at all – think shepherd’s pie and steamed vegetables at lunch. The salad bar was teeny tiny, with just a few toppings and a few dressings. Overall, super disappointing.

There was also a stir fry station which looked pretty good, but I never got a chance to try that because the line was so incredibly long every day. My friend waited literally 40 minutes to get some plain stir fry noodles with chicken for her kid. Just terrible.

To be fair, there were also several quick service options to supplement the buffet area. The ship bills some of these as “specialty restaurants”, but they really are just grab and go food stations. There was a Mexican station, a burger station, and a pizza station. That all sounds great – except for the lines. It’s almost like they weren’t expecting anyone to eat lunch. I stood in line for 20+ minutes to get a small serving of pizza for my son multiple times.

Breakfast wasn’t any better in the buffet. It’s the only time in my life I’ve seen a breakfast buffet with no bacon. Again, there were omelets being made at a station but it had a miserably long line. And the things readily available on the buffet were very limited. There were also none of the typical grab-and-go items I’m used to seeing like mini cereal boxes or cartons of milk. So not much that could be stashed for a snack later if your kid isn’t hungry yet.

And the biggest complaint about the buffet – there were no hand washing stations. Most cruise ships have jumped on board with the sanitation, but not this one. There were a few scarce sanitizer dispensers on the walls, in weird locations that are not the entrance. I didn’t see anyone use them.

So the buffet was a big miss for us.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the ice cream. There is the obligatory soft serve station near the pool deck, where your kids can make an unhealthy amount of ice cream cones all day long. Very important on any cruise. Two thumbs up for the ice cream.

Main Dining Room

dining room on Carnival Freedom

Now things definitely took a turn upwards at the main dining room, and I can say we really enjoyed our meals here. There was a nice selection each night, including a new vegetarian Indian option every day. The food was all around pretty good – as good as can be expected when you’re serving a few thousand guests at once.

And the service was really fantastic! Our servers were super friendly and great with the kids, who got to sit at their own kids table. When our server learned that my husband is from India, he hooked us up with some delicious off-menu Indian food each night.

There was even a magician roaming around the dining room each evening, who stopped every night to do some magic tricks for our kids. What’s not to love about that?

You can also have breakfast and lunch in the main dining room, although it does take up a lot of extra time. We had brunch there on one of the sea days, and the food was definitely a big step up from the buffet. Plus my son was delighted that he could get mac and cheese for breakfast.

Note on Dining Times: We always opt for one of the set dining times (early or late dining), which allows you to get the same table and servers each night. There is also an “anytime dining” option which theoretically lets you choose your own dining time each night. Just be warned, if you choose anytime dining, you may be waiting in a line to be seated. And this is especially true if you have a large group.

Specialty (Extra Fee) Restaurants

coffee shop on Carnival Freedom
Java Blue in the early morning hours.

If the included food doesn’t do it for you, there are a few specialty restaurants and cafes that you can pay an extra fee for. Most of these are not worthwhile. Here’s the scoop.

Carnival Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse  – This is the only real specialty restaurant on Carnival Freedom. It’s a traditional steakhouse, where you can make a reservation for lunch or dinner. I’m a vegetarian so this is a no go for me, but it does seem to be popular.

Bonsai Sushi Express – This sushi place isn’t really a restaurant – just a walk up window in the middle of the buffet, where you can order sushi for an extra fee. My husband tried out the sushi rolls one afternoon. His assessment was… meh. Not bad and not great. I wouldn’t spend extra on that.

Seafood Shack – Another grab and go option that has things like lobster rolls, fried shrimp, and clam chowder. We didn’t try this, based on the sushi not being great, so no opinion on this one.

JavaBlue Cafe – This is the coffee shop! Regular coffee is included in your cruise fare, but you can get specialty coffees here (think Starbucks-esque creations) for an extra fee. These were pretty good and we had one just about every morning. They also had milkshakes that the kids enjoyed, and I loved the boozy Mexican coffee. This one is a thumbs up from me.

Room Service

Now one of the fun perks of a cruise is definitely room service. I think it’s pretty great to order room service breakfast and eat it in peace and quiet on my balcony. But alas, there was no room service breakfast available on our sailing. Typically, Carnival does offer a continental room service breakfast for free (and hot selections at an extra charge). But they just didn’t have it. I asked. Not sure if this was permanent or just for our sailing. So that was a bummer. We had to go to the terrible buffet.

They did have the “all day” room service menu in the afternoons/evenings, which you can order from at an extra charge. After waiting in line for mediocre pizza several days in a row, we opted to order room service pizzas for $6 each to our room the next day. And that was a winner. They came fast and hot and were way better than the ones by the buffet. So maybe try this if you’re disappointed with the lunch options.

Dr. Seuss Breakfast

characters at Dr Seuss breakfast

We opted to check out the Dr. Seuss Breakfast on our final sea day, which is something totally unique to Carnival. This is just exactly what it sounds like – a breakfast seating themed to Dr. Seuss.

The dining room was decorated in a Dr. Seuss theme and the characters were available for photos with the kids. And the menu was all themed to Dr. Seuss as well – including the obvious green eggs and ham.

Honestly, the food was adorable but tasted pretty terrible. Everyone agreed it was the worst food we ate on the ship. But the theming was cute and I’m not sorry I did it for the small fee that it cost. I wouldn’t do it again though.

Is the CHEERS Drink Package worth it?

Are you considering the all-inclusive “Cheers” drink package? Here’s how it works. The package includes all drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), with a couple caveats. First, it covers drinks up to $20. This is basically everything, but there are a few super premiums liquors or wines you could order for more than that. (The max price limit changes from time to time, so double check if that’s important to you.)

And it only covers up to 15 alcoholic drinks per day. Yes, 15.

Now, there are two reactions people have when they hear about the 15 drink limit. It’s either “Who could possibly drink 15 drinks a day?” or “What happens when I hit my 15 drink limit?”. ;) If you hit the 15 drink limit, you won’t be able to charge any more drinks to your account, even if you wish to pay for them. So… travel with a friend who won’t use all 15 of their drinks.

The other catch is that all adults in the same cabin must purchase the drink package if one does. So you can’t purchase for one person and share. Don’t try – you will get cut off.

And of course, it also includes non-alcoholic drinks. So you can get bottles of water, soda, specialty coffees, and milkshakes too. Those don’t count against your 15 limit – the limit is only for alcohol.

We did get the Cheers drink package and it was a very good value for us. No, we did not drink 15 drinks every day. But we had enough to get our money’s worth and the packages were priced much better than I have seen on competing cruise lines.

The Itinerary – Amber Cove and Grand Turk

Despite having been on many cruises, these two ports were completely new for everyone in our group. I can’t say that this was my favorite itinerary, but we found some fun things to do in both ports!

Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

Amber Cove in Dominican Republic
Amber Cove from the cruise ship!

In Amber Cove, we opted to take an excursion booked through the cruise ship called “Buggies, Monkeys, and Waterfalls”. It was a three part trip and took the whole day – about six hours. Our first stop was to ride ATVs (I guess they were technically side by sides), and this was definitely the highlight! My husband had to sit this excursion out due to a back injury, so I was the defacto buggy driver, and it was really fun! Lots of winding trails and driving through mud and rivers. My son loved it!

my son in the ATV

The second activity was a short hike (about 20 minutes) to a waterfall. We had the chance to climb up the waterfall and then slide down the rocks into the water below. I’ll be honest – I kind of hated this. And so did my kid. It’s one of those things that looks fun, but actually is just really unpleasant. This is also the first waterfall in the very famous “27 Waterfalls of Damajuaga” tour – so don’t sign up for that if this doesn’t sounds fun to you.

the waterfall slides

And the final activity was a visit to the monkey sanctuary. This was a fairly quick stop but very fun. Everyone had plenty of up close and personal time with the monkeys – they were very friendly and very happy to play with us in exchange for food.

me with a monkey on my head

Overall, it was a really fun day but I didn’t love the waterfall part. It felt very rushed and crowded and sliding down the rocks was just kind of painful. It wasn’t my thing. So if I were going again, I would stick to just the monkeys and buggy rides.

Now if you prefer not to do an excursion at Amber Cove, you can actually just hang out at the port. There is a large pool complex where you can relax, at no extra charge. But you will need to pay for food and drinks on shore. While Carnival has exclusive use of the facility, nothing is included here. There were also some paid activities available like zip lining and overwater cabana rentals.

Honestly, the water in this area was less than amazing, so I think an excursion is the right move. Aside from a few shops at the pier, there is nothing within walking distance of the port.

Grand Turk

beach near the cruise port at Grand Turk
This is the beach next to the cruise port at Grand Turk.

Now, I have to admit that when we booked this cruise, I only gave the ports a cursory glance. So I totally thought we were going to Turks & Caicos, which is amazing. But alas, Grand Turk is an entirely different place. ;)

And there’s not a whole lot there. It’s a six mile long island with a very beautiful beach area and crystal clear water – and not much else. For the easiest day, you can get off the ship and simply turn left and walk to the beach there. You will find some restaurants and bars ready to rent you chairs where you can post up for the day. It’s literally called the Cruise Center Beach.

But for a nicer and somewhat less crowded beach experience, head down to Governor’s Beach. You can walk there if you’re up for it (about one mile), or grab a taxi from the port.

We opted to rent golf carts and explore the small island on our own, including a few different beach areas. We first hit up the lighthouse on the far end of the island. Then we drove to Pillory Beach and finally Governor’s Beach. We had fun stopping along the way and enjoyed seeing the many friendly donkeys roaming the island.

We rented our golf carts through Wet Money Tours (because they were recommended on the tourism website) and they were barely functional. Like one required a running start. So maybe check the Google reviews before you book your golf cart rental. They were cheap, though.

Camp Ocean – Carnival’s Kids Club

My son doesn’t typically spend much time in the kids club on a cruise ship. But he actually visited several times on this cruise, mostly because he had a big group of friends along to go with. And he really enjoyed it!

  • The kids club is divided into various age groups:
  • Turtles (6 months – under 2)
  • Penguins (2-5 years)
  • Stingrays (6-8 years)
  • Sharks (9-11 years)

My son was eight, but only about a month shy of nine, and they allowed him to age up into the 9-11 age group to be with his friends. I wouldn’t count on this, as it depends on the staff that is working, but it doesn’t hurt to ask nicely.

There was a good variety of activities going on in the club, and they published a schedule on the app so you could see what the kids were interested in each day. My son particularly liked gaga ball and the magic show. There was also a Night Owls program after 10pm, where the kids could stay late for an extra charge. We did this a couple nights, which gave the adults a chance to catch the comedy show and check out the casino.

The one downside is that there is no way for the kids to contact you from the club, unless you leave them with a cell phone and pay for messaging. In my experience, this is pretty typical on most ships. Disney is the only cruise line I’ve been on that will actually message parents right in the app when the kids request it. We had a couple older kids in our group with phones, so they messaged the parents on everyone’s behalf when ready to be picked up.

In addition to the kids programming, there are some activities and spaces for the teens (Club O2, age 15-17) and preteens (Circle C, age 12-14) as well. I can’t really add much detail on those, but check with me in a few years!

The HUB App & Wifi Packages

HUB App: Carnival offers the HUB app for use onboard, and you will definitely need it. I suggest downloading it before you leave home so that it’s ready to use when you board the ship. This is where you will find a schedule of daily activities, dinner and room service menus, and also allows you to make reservations for things like specialty dining and excursions. Pretty much all cruise lines have a similar app now, which replaces the paper schedules you used to get in the old days. The app is free to use on board the ship.

Messaging: Within the app, there is an option for text messaging with your cruise companions. This is an extra charge of $5 per person. That’s $5 for the whole cruise, not per day. I think this should also be free, but at least it’s a low cost. You will need this if you want to keep track of your group on board the ship.

WiFi Packages: In addition to messaging, there is Wi-Fi available onboard for an extra charge. There are three different levels of service, which are essentially just different bandwidth limits. I need internet available since I run websites for a living, so I went with the middle package and it worked well throughout most of the ship. However, even if you pay for an expensive internet package, you still have to pay additional for the in-app messaging. I do think that is a bit nickel and dime-y of them.

So would I do another Carnival cruise?

Yes! I totally would. The Carnival Freedom really shined when it comes to activities – they lived up to their reputation as the party ship and kept the fun going all day long. Service was great, the main dining room was great, and there was plenty to keep us entertained for a few days.

The food outside of the main dining room was a pretty big miss for us. And overall, I think we prefer having more active activities onboard the ship – like the rock walls, zip lines, and bigger water slides offered on many of the Royal Caribbean ships.

But this Carnival cruise was also very affordable – priced lower than comparable Royal Caribbean and Disney sailings. And I felt like I got fantastic value for my money. (The drink package in particular was a great deal compared to Royal Caribbean!)

So I will definitely cruise Carnival again in the future, and look forward to checking out some of their newer, larger ships for more family vacations!

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