Carnival Freedom 2008

Revised 03/28/08 to add Disposable Camera Photos, Labeled 'UW pics'

      We wanted to take our grandchildren on a cruise. After talking it over, we decided to take the two older girls, Erin and Bridget Stoops on this trip; Sarah McArthur and Rachel Leitch will accompany us on a later cruise. If we think we're seasoned enough, we'll try taking the boys, Billy McArthur and Garrett Stoops, on a much later cruise. This cruise, on the Carnival Freedom, sailed from Miami on March 15, 2008.

Day 1 (Saturday, 3/15/08)
   We had brought our luggage and stayed overnight at Alex and Phil's house and got an early wake-up before 6:00 AM. We were on the road to the airport, with Phil driving, around 6:20 AM. We were pretty nervous because Carnival and US Air had conspired to overbook our flight and we only had 2 seats out of the 4 that we needed. Luckily, Phil knew someone with enough juice in US Air to be able to get us the seats we needed. We had to go through the long check-in line before finding out that we had the 2 other seats, which were in the same row, but separated by 2 other seats. Good enough for a short flight we figured. Phil hung with us until we were assured of our 4 seats. Then, we went through security in our group of 4 and got some breakfast. Our gate for the flight was changed 3 times before we finally boarded a bit late. For Philadelphia/US Air/Spring Break, the Bermuda Triangle of flying, we took off just a little behind schedule. Bill and Bridget sat together in the very last row of the 737. They played a few games of UNO, Bridget played some Nintendo, Bill read the New Yorker, and they looked out the window to while away the time. Cathy and Erin were on their own since they weren't adjacent to one another. We arrived in Miami just 10 minutes late, picked up our bags, and boarded a bus for the ship. We were at the ship by 3:00 PM, but it took another hour to check-in, board, and get to our cabin, complete with balcony. We went to a top deck to get a snack and then returned to the cabin to put away some clothes and don our life jackets for the boat drill. After the drill, we watched the ship sail from our balcony (pics 1,2,3), put away some more clothing and headed for dinner at our 6:15 PM sitting. We had pleasant waiters and enjoyed our first Carnival dinner in the Chic Dining Room, Table 144. Erin and Bill took a short swim and explored all of the swimming pools. Later, we went to the 10:30 PM "show", which was a lame set of random conversations and bad jokes by our over-the-hill British Cruise Director. There were some hecklers and Bill agreed with them. Bridget fell asleep and Cathy carried her back to the room. During the night, starting at 2:40 AM, there were announcements on the intercom system about some missing girl or woman named Stephanie. Most of the announcements were in the hallways, which only woke Bill, but one of them was piped into the staterooms. Erin started sleepwalking and climbed down the ladder from her top bunk. Cathy awoke groggily and asked Erin, "Stephanie, are you OK?" Finally, an announcement in the hallway said that Stephanie was located.

Day 2 (Sunday, 3/16/08)
   Bill got up at 6:30 AM and found the Viennese Cafe, where he bought a latte. He explored the bar areas, the fun part of the ship, before heading back to our stateroom. We went up to breakfast at the Lido buffet a bit after 8:00 AM. We sat at a table with a great water view and enjoyed our meals. On the way back to the stateroom, we explored the bars area together. Then we went topside for a brief bout of swimming (Bill, Erin, Bridget). Afterward, we checked out "Freedom Camp", which neither girl wanted anything to do with. We came back to the stateroom where Cathy, Erin, and Bridget played UNO while Bill jogged and walked on the jogging track on the Sports Deck. Bill and the other joggers and walkers had to be creative to avoid drunk college students, oblivious sunbathers carrying chairs across the track, and knots of people just clogging up the area. We headed topside for lunch and then watched ice carving and the girls' favorite: a hairy chest contest. Nearby, a group of college students were having a drinking contest. Afterward, we went to the shops for a few items and then to the photo shop to look at some pictures of us. During mid-afternoon, we came back to the stateroom so that the ladies could play cards on the balcony and Bill could work on the computer. Everybody took showers to get ready for formal night. We had a great meal with everyone dressed up. Afterward, we enjoyed a great show by the singers and dancers for this cruise.

Day 3 (Monday, 3/17/08)
   Bill got up at 6:00 AM and watched the ship approach Cozumel. At about 6:45 AM, Bill bought a cappuccino at the Viennese Cafe and came back to the room. We had a St. Patrick's Day celebration while we waited for our room service breakfast, served a bit after 8:00 AM. We followed Carnival Liberty and another ship which both docked at the town pier. Our ship docked at the International Pier, a $6 cab ride into the center of the shopping district. We walked and shopped until we reached Carlos and Charlie's. At the Hard Rock Cafe next door we had some soft drinks. At that point, Bridget said she was too tired to go to the beach, so we took a cab back to the ship for some quiet time. We headed up to lunch and enjoyed it with very few other people on board, since most were somewhere in Mexico. After lunch, we dressed for water and went up to the Lido Deck. Bill and Erin enjoyed the water slide. Bill, Erin, and Bridget enjoyed the pool and the hot tub. Cathy enjoyed the hot tub and some peace and quiet. It was a warm day in Mexico with a refreshing breeze. The girls were able to view a bit over an hours' worth of "High School Musical II" on the big screen on the Lido Deck before we headed downstairs for dinner. The show was a PG13 comedian, so we skipped it and watched "Ratatouille" instead. The ship sailed at 10:00 PM.

Day 4 (Tuesday, 3/18/08)
   Bill got up at 6:00 AM and wandered around the ship for an hour. There were high wind warnings on the jogging track and some other outside areas which were not available. We went up to breakfast at 7:45 AM. Erin decided to give camp a try until 11:00 AM. The three others found empty chairs on the sports deck at the stern and sat for a while. Bridget wanted to swim, so we moved over to the Lido area. We played a 60 question location trivia and came in second with 37 correct. We picked up Erin at camp and found some outside chairs in the Lido area. Bill went in the pool and hot tub, but the girls didn't want to mix it up with all of the big kids. We ate lunch on the Lido and, afterward, the girls and Bill went in swimming and hot tubbing. Cathy went in the hot tub. The wind continued and the water remained a bit rough all day. We watched part of the "Golden Compass" near a group of college students playing drinking games on the Lido Deck. We had our usual good dinner in the dining room and then went to the 8:45 PM show of singing and dancing from the Swing Era.

Day 5 (Wednesday, 3/19/08)
   Bill got up at 6:00 AM and walked the jogging track for a while. He encountered intermittent rain showers which caused him to seek cover. The ship approached Grand Cayman Island as Bill walked. Bill returned to the cabin around 7:00 AM. We watched the ship finish its approach and anchor as we dressed for breakfast. We headed topside for our usual breakfast. Afterward, Bill, Erin, and Bridget went around the ship to do some photography (pics: 1,2,3). We queued up for a ride to shore on one of the tenders about 9:30 AM and arrived at the town pier in Georgetown at about 10:15 AM. We started our tour on a small bus with the Slowskys and a few other shipmates. Our first stop was at a rock formation called "Hell", which also sported 3 gift shops. Next, we headed to a rum store to sample some rum cake and rum and possibly buy some rum for $9 a bottle. Our group was ready for a snack and enjoyed quite a few little pieces of various flavors of rum cake (UW pic:1). The next stop was a turtle farm (UW pic:1) where we learned about Green Turtles and were allowed to hold (UW pic:1) some of them . There were 5,000 turtles at the farm. There was also an extensive gift shop that the girls used for some purchases. Finally, we moved into the much anticipated final phase of the tour, the trip to Stingray Bar. We boarded what seemed to be an old charter fishing boat with a couple of young guys as captain and mate. We headed out into some choppy water (UW pic:1) on the windward side of the island and motored for about 25 minutes to the sandbar (UW pic:1) which held 8 or so boats and a lot of people in waist to chest deep water. There were also a lot of various sized stingrays swimming around among the people. Of our group, only Bill and Bridget decided to get into the water (UW pic:1). They did so and enjoyed the rays (UW pic:1) swimming around them. The water was somewhat rough, but shallow, so Bill holding Bridget at his shoulder worked well. When Bridget reboarded, Bill put on snorkeling gear and observed the rays under water. Occasionally, Bill felt a tap on the shoulder and thought that another wader did it, but then saw a big stingray (UW pic:1) swim off of his shoulder. It was very interesting. We saw the remnants of hurricane damage as we cruised the island in the bus and the driver described some of the history and culture of the place. We saw a very nice big house with an extra lot for only $500,000. Erin thought that she might be interested after she starts to make some money. We took a tender back to the ship around 3:00 PM. We went topside for a snack and then did some swimming and hot tubbing. Erin enjoyed the big waterslide a few times before it closed at 5:00 PM. By that time the ship had started to sail away. We went below to prepare for dinner and then enjoyed another good meal. We decided to head back to the cabin around 8:00 PM for some quiet time before bed.

Day 6 (Thursday, 3/20/08) (NOTE: for some reason, the camera started putting date/time stamps on the photos with the wrong month.)
   Bill got up at 6:00 AM on this first day of Spring and walked the jogging track for a while. He could see the mountains of Jamaica as we approached. When he returned to the cabin, we saw an interesting early sun/cloud formation. We headed up to our usual breakfast after the ship docked at Ocho Rios. We walked off of the ship around 8:30 AM. We wandered a bit and then showed up for our tour. The tour was in 3 parts with a set of shuttle buses moving people from point to point on a regular schedule. We went to Dunn's Falls first. Cathy and the girls decided not to climb up the waterfall which was actually more a set of rapids. Bill did the wet climb (UW pics:1,2) and got soaked, but had a good time. When he met with the rest of our group, the girls got a snack. Then we took the shuttle to Dolphin Cove, which was a small area of dolphins, a small restaurant, a band, a very small beach, and a few gift shops. It was raining while we were there, so we took a shuttle to the shopping center, where we bought a few items. After shopping, we took a shuttle back to the ship. We ate lunch topside. After lunch, Bill and the girls swam (UW pic:1,2), used the hot tub (UW pic:1), and the waterslide. Bridget decided that she wanted to get an official measurement at the top of the slide, so Bill took her up and she just qualified. She wanted to do it, and she did - over and over (UW pic:1). The ship sailed at about 3:40 PM and we went to our cabin for showers and quiet time before a semi-formal dinner. We all thought that Jamaica was our favorite port on this trip. We bought a few photos before going in to the dining room for another good dinner. Afterward, we went to a fabulous (no pun intended) Beatles tribute show. Bridget, who was threatening to sleep during the show, ended up clapping, cheering, and waving a flourescent stick along with the rest of the enthusiastic crowd.

Day 7 (Friday, 3/21/08)
   Bill got up at 6:00 AM and walked on the jogging track for an hour. He saw the lights of the southeastern tip of Cuba as we rounded the big island to head northwest to Miami. The subsequent sunrise behind the ship was brilliant (a nod to the British members of the entertainment crew that say the adjective over and over again). Bill grabbed a cup of coffee and enjoyed the view. When he returned to the cabin, he sat on the balcony for a while until Bridget awakened to play her Nintendo in bed. Slowly, the rest of the cabin awoke. We made it to breakfast by 8:30 AM. After breakfast, we went to the shops for some items and batteries for Bridget's personal fan. During mid-morning, we could see some mountains on Cuba from our balcony. Bill volunteered to go to the debarkation meeting at 11:00 AM to represent our cabin. We ate lunch topside and then Bill, Erin, and Bridget used the waterslide a bit. Bill went back to the cabin with Bridget to check-in to our flight. He got the last 4 seats on flight 742 leaving Miami at 1:55 PM on 3/22 (6E, 17F, 22D, 18A). It's a crime that Carnival didn't book us as a group since we had 2 small children traveling with us. Bill printed the boarding passes, so we'd try to re-organize our seats on the plane. At least we got seats this time. The girls did some more onboard shopping and then did some playing in the cabin. We needed to pack our check-in luggage by midnight for transport off of the ship. We had a good last dinner and then strolled through the busy bars area on Deck 5 to see what that looked like when people were around. We headed back to the cabin and completed our packing. We had the 5 big suitcases outside our door by 10:00 PM.

Day 8 (Saturday, 3/22/08)
   Bill got up at 6:00 AM and watched us come in to a beautifully lit up Miami. The ship passed by some other docked ships, turned around, and found a parking spot on the dock. Next, the smaller Carnival Triumph sailed in the inlet and did the same maneuver. Bill headed back to the cabin at around 7:00 AM to wake up the rest of our group. We made it up to breakfast by 7:30 AM and enjoyed our last meal on the ship. We went back to the cabin and made sure that we didn't leave anything behind. We exited our cabin for the last time and went up to the Lido deck to watch TV on the big screen until our number (10) was called for debarkation. We got our call and had exited the ship, gathered up our luggage, and gone through customs by 9:00 AM. We boarded a shuttle to Miami airport and check-in at US AIR by 10:00 AM. Bill told the agent that we had seats all over the plane and had small children in our party. Without a comment, the agent put us in 4 consecutive seats in row 4 of the plane. We went through security and then had close to 4 hours to wait at the gate. Cathy and Bill read the "New Yorker" and "NY Times" while the girls played on the floor with various toys and games. We ate lunch in the gate area. Finally, our plane arrived a bit early. We also boarded early, took off early, and arrived in Philadelphia early. Phil met us at the baggage claim area and had a nice reunion with the girls. We didn't lose any luggage and arrived at Alex and Phil's by a bit after 6:00 PM.

Conclusion: Bridget and Erin turned out to be excellent travelers. For Cathy and Bill this was a very different sort of cruise from previous ones. Our activities were different and the responsibility for the two girls made for a less relaxing experience. The girls impressed us with their ability to endure the long, formal dinners with a great deal of patience. Erin showed a remarkable sense of direction on our tours by always remembering how to get back to our shuttle buses. Bridget showed a great deal of courage in taking on the big waterslide. Cathy and Bill will never be able to cruise without a balcony in the cabin; it was a wonderful thing to have. All in all, it was a very worthwhile experience.

Bill and Cathy McArthur