ONBOARD FREEDOM OF THE SEAS — No lining up for meals, shows or disembarkation. Dozens of pool deck chairs for the choosing. Effortless social distancing by default.
The Freedom of the Seas, which went through Royal Caribbean’s Amplified program just before the global cruise shutdown, felt more like a private superyacht than a massive cruise ship at times on a three-night Bahamas & Perfect Day sailing out of Miami.
Estimates from crew members of the number of passengers ranged from 700 to 800. Just don’t get used to it, said our maitre d’, who also noted many passengers were first-timers.
Securing a couple’s massage at the Vitality at Sea Spa and changing from early to My Time dining — two things that throngs of fellow passengers could have made more challenging — were both a breeze. Multiple runs on the new Perfect Storm slides and embarrassing attempts on the FlowRider without a peanut gallery were possible.
Also easily within reach were smaller diversions, such as the chance to play a rubber match of billiards at the Playmakers Sports Bar without having to make way for other guests.
While having extra space to ourselves was nice, we did miss the energy that a fuller ship normally brings. Group activities definitely suffered.
There was no raucous ’70s celebration on the Royal Promenade and bingo was canceled on Day 1 for lack of players.
A more Perfect Day
The sense of opulence and space continued at our first call, Perfect Day at CocoCay. The private island can handle multiple ships full of passengers, but on Saturday, the Freedom was the only game in town.
The low capacity made visiting the Thrill Waterpark enticing, but we opted instead to spend the day relaxing at the Coco Beach Club. We were glad we did, as the paucity of guests led the team there to offer us a deal on a Beach Cabana upgrade.
Our dedicated server, Gopal, cheerfully tended to our every need and even serenaded us with a flute rendition of “Despacito.”
Our final stop was Nassau, and we found the vast majority of shops on Bay Street, as well as the famous Straw Market, were closed.
Royal helped by providing disembarking guests (all of whom had to be vaccinated to be allowed off the ship) a list of top attractions that were open, including the Graycliff Hotel and Restaurant, where we enjoyed a wine-tasting and shopped for liqueur-filled chocolates.
On the way back to the ship, we visited the Margaritaville Beach Resort and One Particular Harbour residences at The Pointe, which is steadily nearing full opening of its waterpark, Margaritaville store, rooftop bar and other amenities. The complex on Junkanoo Beach is an easy walking distance from the port.
Until capacity returns to pre-pandemic levels, cruise passengers can enjoy a less-crowded experience, while perhaps missing the vitality and energy to which they are accustomed. Just don’t get used to it.
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