Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas: Passenger Tips – Part Two

In last week’s Travel Wednesday post, I detailed five tips for future travelers on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas.  My family and I spent a week on the Freedom of the Seas in late May and early June, traveling to Haiti, Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Cozumel.

This week, I conclude my list, with an additional six tips.

1. Get up early if you want lounge chairs near the pool on the days at sea

Despite a “guest conduct policy” that prohibits saving chairs and signs that say attendants will remove personal items left on an unoccupied chair for more than 30 minutes, we never saw any issues with saving chairs.  However, we did see many people disappointed by 9:00am when the only chairs they could find were either in the shade or on deck 12, one level above the pool, where the wind is fierce.  Getting there early is even more critical if you want chairs by the adult pool.  These are premium seats for the quiet and for the chair cushions which aren’t available at other pools.

The Adult Pool on the Freedom of the Seas

Our cruise had two days at sea, and on both days we got up around 8:00 and put out towels, magazines, sun tan lotion and other markers to stake our claim on two lounge chairs near the adult pool.  By the time we finished breakfast and made it up to our seats around 9:30, all the chairs were long gone.  No one had disturbed our stuff, and we settled right in.  We recommend making friends with the people near you, so that you can protect each other’s chairs when you step away for food, a massage, or to gamble.

I’ve seen other reviews that suggest our behavior is revolting and mean-spirited.  Sorry.  I spent a lot of money on this vacation, and I got up early to get the seat I want.  If you want a better chair, get up earlier than me.

2.  Book your own excursions

We booked excursions in Jamaica and in Cozumel on our own, not through RC.  We found both excursions through Trip Advisor and found the reviews to be accurate. In one instance we had a better time and saved money, and in the other we did something that RC doesn’t offer.

On Jamaica, we booked a day-long tour that included climbing Dunn’s River Falls, a tubing trip down the river, and a stop for lunch.  Our guide, Phil Lafayette, kept us entertained with his stories and his narration of the surroundings.  When rain washed out the tubing trip, he took us to nearby areas for more sightseeing, and he reduced the cost.  The cost should have been $55 per adult and $45 per child under 11.  We found similar trips offered by RC that were double the price.  Finding Phil at the dock was easy, and we were one of seven or eight families that did the same thing.  (By the way, if you haven’t climbed Dunn’s River Falls and you are physically able to do so, I highly recommend it.)

On Cozumel, we participated in the Amazing Cozumel Race.  This is offered by Carnival, but not yet by RC, so we booked it ourselves.  We walked, swam, and ran 3.5 miles through and around downtown Cozumel in 90 minutes, moving from clue to clue as in the television show Amazing Race.  We finished third, behind a group of four 20-somethings and behind another family with older kids.  It was nearly 100 degrees, but, except for a bit of family bickering at the clues, we really enjoyed ourselves.  The race was inventive and challenging.  The cost for the four of us was $268.

3. Get private lessons on the Flowrider

The Flowrider lives up to expectations.  Located on deck 12 at the rear of the ship, the Flowrider is a “ride” in which water pulsating very fast up an incline provides resistance to allow “riders” to surf or boogie board.  As you might imagine, the lines get very long, especially during the days at sea.  At about five minutes per surfer or boogie boarder, it takes a while to get through the line.

For $60 per person, you can take private lessons on the Flowrider.  We signed our son up for surfing and our daughter up for boogie boarding.  At 9:00pm on the second night, they had one-on-one instruction in a group.  For example, my son was one of four surfers for the hour, but each time he was up, he worked directly with an instructor.  During the lessons, the surfers and boogie boarders can use the whole Flowrider each time, whereas during the day, the Flowrider is divided in half to allow more people to use it.  After the lessons, both kids qualified to attend “expert sessions” early in the morning when lines are shorter.  We can’t recommend these lessons enough.  Below is video from our kids lessons.

4. Get a “cabana chair” in Haiti

Unfortunately, we found information lacking about RC’s private beach at Labadee, Haiti.  We checked for maps at guest services and asked around, but could learn almost nothing.  The head of the excursions desk on deck 5 knew zero!  I want to pass one thing on to you.

When you get off this ship, go straight and take the path almost as far as you can take it.  By walking straight and far, you come to a less rocky area, from which you can swim.  However, you will also find “cabana” chairs.  These are two normal chairs pushed under a half-moon, umbrella like cover that provides shade and a bit of privacy.  They are first-come, first-serve.  If you don’t care about swimming, then find some shade under a tree.  But, if you want to swim and want shade to relax, go directly for a cabana chair.

5. Return to the ship earlier than normal in Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman is a tender port.  This means that you go from ship to tender (a boat) to the shore.  At all other ports, you can just walk off the ship.  These tenders become natural bottleneck as they fill up with passengers and leave the dock.  The line quickly gets long and winds through the port area.  When the sun is hot and the line moves slowly, it’s no fun.  If we had to do it over again, we’d head back to the boat on the earlier side to avoid the lines and take advantage of quiet on board ship.

6. Depart on your own terms.

After going through departure, I have two tips.

First, don’t forget to fill out your departure times on a slip in the room.  We forgot and ended up in group 20, which was scheduled to leave at 8:30am.  We were in no rush, but 8:30 was just too late.  There is commotion all over the ship.  As a result, it’s nearly impossible to sleep late.  I recommend something around 7:30 or 7:45.  Remember to fill out your forms and leave on the earlier side.

Second, if you are antsy, you don’t have to wait for your number to be called to leave.  The departure group numbers are the order in which luggage is delivered to the baggage area.  It is not a limiting factor on when you can leave the ship.  If you are in group 20 and want to leave with group 1, you can.  However, you are stuck in the baggage area until your bags come out.  Although we were group 20, we departed when they called group 15, and only  had to wait a short time for our bags.  Not one person asked us what our group number was except the person directing us to the right luggage carousel.

I hope this week’s and last week’s tips are helpful.  If you have other questions, post a comment and I’ll answer as best I can.

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8 Responses to Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas: Passenger Tips – Part Two

  1. Pingback: I Like GIFSoup, But I Can’t Praise It Just Yet « Life With Spidey

  2. wayne cleverly says:

    Hi

    We were on the freedom of the seas on the same week end of may start of June
    we were in a party of 7 . Your tips were spot on we found it to be very much the same ,
    looking forward in doing it again next year

    wayne

    • Andy Mayer says:

      Glad to have the tips validated. I’m trying now to get a group of 20+ to go back, but maybe on the Oasis. We’ll see.

      • Bob says:

        Taking this cruise in a few days. Any new tips??

  3. Pool boy and girl says:

    Saving chairs at the pool? Are you five years old? How about the other people that spent their money. And then you have the stupidity to go off for a massage or spend an hour or two in the casino and expect you chairs to be there?
    Whenever we’re ready to go to the pool, we just have an attendant remove articles left by people like you and relax.
    I hope we’re on the same cruise with yous sometime. Come back and find your stuff in the pool!

    • Andy Mayer says:

      I understand your opinion, and I respect it. However, it’s a zero sum game on these cruise ships and many resorts. If you don’t do what we do, then you’re likely to find yourself without a chair or in an undesirable location. I have found that most attendant’s will not touch other people’s stuff. In addition, most people want the privilege of reserving seats, so they help each other out. We’ve helped our seat neighbors many times and they’ve helped us. I think you just need to play the game.

  4. I don’t have a problem with folks originally saving chairs. What really, really bums me out is when they go shopping, eat lunch, stay in the pool for hours, while other folks like me have nowhere to go while your chair is unattended. 😦

  5. dee says:

    The people who “save seats” are the same ones who block the door of an empty elevator so no one else can get on, stand in the middle of a walkway blocking traffic… etc… very selfish…. I bet your whole life is “me, me, me… the heck with everyone else” What a sad, empty life.

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