My First Cruise with Carnival Freedom

I’ve just got back from my very first cruise with Carnival Freedom to the Carribbean from Texas! As a first-timer, I have to be upfront and admit I was kind of skeptical before leaving as to how I would take to this unknown way of travel. Would I really enjoy it? What would I actually do on board the ship for all that time? Would I have long enough to explore the cities we stopped in? How would this differ from my usual experience of travel? 

As I would end up realizing, I really enjoyed my time out at sea! As most know, cruising is not something new. The development of steam ships in the 19th century led to ever more luxurious vessels taking wealthy guests on glamorous breaks for days. I mean…Titanic anyone? But, for someone in their early 20’s, it was totally new. All of it. Here’s what I ended up finding out:

  • Cruising is for young people too. 

Before cruising, I always envisioned that it was for either families running around with kids or elderly couples sitting on a cruise balcony taking in the view. But then, I started doing research on cruise lines and realized that different companies cater to different crowds. Also depends on what time of year you decide to go. We ended up going with the Carnival Freedom due to it being budget friendly, was going to the Caribbean, and offered a more young adult vibe around these months. I ended up meeting honeymooners, young couples, and a few solo travellers! But I would say some of the best people we met were the older couples, they offered tons of travel insight and I’ve even added a few more must-see places to my list.

  • (Almost) anything you’ll need is included on ship.

I wasn’t too sure what all was included in the package, being new to this myself. In all cruise ships, there are different packages for accommodating your needs. We went with the base-price package which ended up including everything we could want.

  1. Stateroom

  2. 24 hour access to food (buffet, restaurants, room service)

  3. Access to Fitness Facilities

  4. Entertainment Shows every night (comedy, live music, live game shows)

  5. On-board facilities (swimming pool, adults only pool sections, music room, mini golf)

Things like internet, alcohol drinks, shopping and off shore excursions were additional costs. My little tip: don’t pay for internet. I struggled with this decision the day I boarded but after talking with Stephen he convinced me to just disconnect and fully immerse myself in the experience. I didn’t end up getting the internet package and let me tell you, not having access to the digital world for 7 days was amazing. I would connect sometimes at a restaurant at port to upload a photo and let my family know I was doing fine but other than that I just focused on the present.There were way too many people I saw on board just glued to their devices and not taking in a vacation. 

  • You can (kinda) travel the world within the ship.

Carnival employs people from all around the world. On their name tag, all employees had the country they were from. I met so many lovely staff members who shared their stories with me and reminisced about their hometowns. I absolutely love learning about different cultures. I even met two from Peru! We started talking about how the best ceviche is indeed from Peru…and the rest is history. I think I’ve fully convinced Stephen that Peru is our next destination.

  • If you are comfortable it, don’t book excursions straight from the cruise line.

Not to say you shouldn’t, but cruise lines really overcharge on excursions. One of my best friend’s advised me to wait until we got off the ship and shop around with locals for a better price and authentic experience. Now if you aren’t familiar with the language I can see how this can be uncomfortable. However, since I speak Spanish I decided to give it a go. It worked out wonderfully for us. Just as an example, what Carnival would have charged you for snorkeling + transportation in Roatan, Honduras ($130 per person) we got for $40 by going off on our own. Same experience and less crowded. Side note: You do have to be prepared for it not turning out as planned. As with anything, there are always risks. In Cozumel, we walked past the touristy port and found a local company who rented us a scooter to travel the island as we please. We ended up being able to go to the Mayan ruins, get lost in downtown (Stephen’s favorite part), stop and explore the eastern beaches, stop at whatever restaurant caught our eye…all at our leisure. And still had time to do some tequila tastings at the shops. This wouldn’t have been possible if we had just bought an excursion through the ship which you’d only be able to choose one destination and be confined to a schedule.

I would definitely advise traveling to new areas on a cruise to find out what you like and don’t like, combined with returning to these places to explore them further in-depth. There’s only so much you can do in one day in port, after all! But that was what made it so exciting – a different city every day, a different country every day. It felt as though the world was truly my oyster whilst at sea – an experience I won’t be forgetting for years to come.

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