Freedom Comes to Galveston

Carnival Freedom at her berth in Cozumel today. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Freedom at her berth in Cozumel, Mexico during her first Western Caribbean sailing from Galveston, Texas. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Repositioning a ship to a new homeport is big news. It creates jobs, diversifies itineraries, and adds more options for cruisers looking to try something new and possibly different. Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom just relocated to Galveston, Texas, and by all accounts, her first six-day voyage to the Western Caribbean was a rousing success for the nearly 3,000 guests who sailed aboard her.

Our full Live Voyage Report from Carnival Freedom’s first Galveston sailing:

The real diamond-in-the-rough of this sailing was, ironically enough, the city of Galveston. Once too poor to even tear down their derelict and abandoned buildings, Galveston is experiencing a modern-day resurgence. Their turn-of-the-century streets and buildings are shockingly well-preserved, and the city boasts nearly 30 antiques shops, three luxury hotels (plus numerous others), and even a Starbucks situated directly across from the cruise terminal.

Walking the historic streets of Galveston.  Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Walking the historic streets of Galveston. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Boutique shops, restaurants and bars line the streets, and there are more attractions here than you could ever hope to take in. My advice? Galveston is one cruise port you want to spend a few days in before embarkation. Personally, it’s one of my unexpected favorites in the United States.

Galveston boasts plenty of trendy little cafes and restaurants. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Galveston boasts plenty of trendy little cafes and restaurants. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Carnival As Underdog

I have to admit I have a soft spot for Carnival: the line is frequently maligned and often underappreciated. Like the boy who cried wolf, Carnival has a tough time being taken seriously for the things they do right each and every day. My first sailing last year onboard the Carnival Breeze did much to dispel my own misconceptions, and this second Carnival sailing aboard Carnival Freedom only reinforced in my mind just how strong their onboard product is – and how much you’re getting for the price.

You might not think of Carnival as ‘the underdog’, but in many ways, they are. And that’s a good thing.

The BlueIguana Tequila Bar is a recent FunShip 2.0 addition to Carnival Freedom - and just one of many ways the line is diversifying their onboard product. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The BlueIguana Tequila Bar is a recent FunShip 2.0 addition to Carnival Freedom – and just one of many ways the line is diversifying their onboard product. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Take, for example, the culinary offerings onboard Carnival Freedom. You’ve got Guy’s Burger Joint, which serves up delicious hamburgers – for free. Then, there’s the BlueIguana Cantina which serves up freshly-made burritos and tacos – for free. Fish and chips? Free. Ice cream? Free. Juices all day? Free.

Meals served in the Chic and Posh Restaurants are unusually good. The fish, in particular, was so good that I ordered it every single night and never left disappointed. Plating was better than you might expect, and service was friendly and personable, if not highly polished.

Evenings on Carnival Freedom were a real treat. There’s the RedFrog Pub, serving up Carnival’s own delicious RedFrog Ale for a very reasonable $5-something per pint. Come for the Live Music, stay for the Adult Pub Trivia in the evenings – tremendous!

The Alchemy Bar is another FunShip 2.0 addition, located aft on Deck 5. Cool Feature: the backlit menus that light up when opened. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The Alchemy Bar is another FunShip 2.0 addition, located aft on Deck 5. Cool Feature: the backlit menus that light up when opened. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The Alchemy Bar became a fast favorite of mine. Located aft on Deck 5, this popular people-watching spot mixes up craft cocktails and martinis to-order, all of which are selected from a very cool backlit menu that lights up when you open it. You’ll spend $11 on a cocktail after gratuity, but these libations are well worth the cost of admission. Alchemy takes the place of the former Nouveau Wine Bar that never really found the same kind of following that Alchemy has. One of Carnival’s best FunShip 2.0 additions, hands down.

Carnival Freedom features the first Bookville at sea; a Dr. Seuss-themed reading and play room complete with the author's famous children's books. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Freedom features the first Bookville at sea; a Dr. Seuss-themed reading and play room complete with the author’s famous children’s books. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

It’s also worth mentioning Carnival’s retooled Kids and Teens programs, nearly all of which boast new facilities on Carnival Freedom. There’s also an uncommonly smart educational tie-in with Dr. Seuss, the latter of which subtly encourages kids to read. Books are available to read in Bookville in the completely-redesigned Camp Ocean facilities on Deck 12 forward. Camp Ocean replaces the old Camp Carnival, and the new facilities and entertainment programs are so good you’ll wish you were a kid again.

Everything in the new Camp Ocean areas has been designed and created specifically for kids. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Everything in the new Camp Ocean areas has been designed and created specifically for kids. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

As for the itinerary, it’s exactly what you might expect: a good mix of Western Caribbean ports of call that offer sun, sandy beaches, and the odd historical tour – which I highly recommend. My voyage went to Costa Maya, Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico, but Carnival Freedom also offers sailings that visit Montego Bay, Jamaica; Falmouth, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Belize; Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan; Key West, Florida; Freeport, Bahamas; and Nassau, Bahamas.

Chichen Itza's El Castillo, the anchorpiece of the ancient Mayan-Tulmec civilization. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

On-shore highlight of the trip: easily Chichen Itza’s El Castillo, the anchorpiece of the ancient Mayan-Tulmec civilization. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Click here to continue reading!

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom has sadly come to a close. Be sure to follow along with our future adventures on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

 

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