Freedom of the Seas

Royal Caribbean International

Ship information

Freedom of the Seas

About Freedom of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas launched in May 2006 as the world's biggest cruise ship, measuring 155,000 tons, carrying 4,500 passengers and introducing Royal Caribbean's now-widespread FlowRider surf simulator to the cruise industry.

Although the ship is no longer the biggest in Royal Caribbean's fleet -- that title is held by the line's newer Oasis-class ships -- its public spaces don't feel outdated. If anything, Royal Caribbean is doing a great job of keeping Freedom of the Seas in tip-top shape, including a $116-million upgrade that took place in 2020, including a completely redesigned pool deck featuring The Lime & Coconut Bar and a new Splashaway Bay water park for kids.

Freedom of the Seas Deck Plans Include Updated Pool Deck, More Restaurants and Kids Spaces

During a 2020 dry dock, Freedom of the Seas got a major upgrade, especially in outdoor spaces like the pool deck. The cheery new features include bright and charming casitas, a bustling taco shack and the Lime and Coconut bar. The $116-million refurbishment also added new restaurants, kids spaces and cool sports bar, Playmakers. Cabins are virtually the only spaces untouched by the massive project, leaving them feeling a little worn and dated by comparison.

While the ship can hold 4,500 passengers, Freedom of the Seas doesn't feel crowded. That's not to say that the ship feels empty or small. Sometimes there's congestion in Windjammer at peak times, you'll wait in a line (a short line, but a line nonetheless) to disembark at tender ports, and dinnertime can be a bit noisy with hundreds of others chowing down around you. At the same time, it's never hard to find quiet, private nooks. The library, Internet cafe, Cafe Promenade, Vintages wine bar and even the Solarium pool are great for getting-away-from-it-all moments, particularly on port days.

Overall, the traffic flow throughout the ship is smooth, but there are times when it comes to a dead standstill along the Royal Promenade (the ship's mall-like main thoroughfare) -- when there's a sale on duty-free watches, for example. Other areas just seem poorly designed. It can be a harrowing experience to reach the Deck 3 Studio B from the front of the ship, as there's no direct access straight through. Passengers have to either walk up one flight to Deck 4 (and through the casino) to the aft, then head down or go up two decks to the often-crowded Royal Promenade to walk aft before heading down.

Food on Freedom of the Seas: Good Basic Options

The food on Freedom of the Seas is decent, with options for even the pickiest eater. Beyond the main dining room and buffet, you can pick up sandwiches and small bites at Cafe Promenade, slices at Sorrento's and our personal favorite, Mexican food at El Loco Fresh on the pool deck.

The quality goes up once you venture into the specialty restaurants, and it's worth splurging on at least one for-fee meal once during your cruise. Options include Chops steakhouse, Giovanni's Kitchen for Italian food, Izumi for sushi and hibachi and good old Johnny Rockets for burgers.

In general, service is personal, because there are so many spaces in which you can become a "regular." Baristas at Cafe Promenade, serving Starbucks coffee drinks, remember complicated beverage orders; the bartenders at Boleros, Royal Caribbean's Latin-themed bar, remember names and poisons; and even the wait staff in Windjammer, the casual buffet, treat kids as the highest-order VIPs.

There's Lots of Room Choice on Freedom of the Seas But Cabins Can Seem Dated

While newer cruise ships tend to focus on balcony cabins, Freedom of the Seas has lots of choices, in all categories. Of the 1,894 staterooms, 880 rooms have private balconies, with the rest being oceanview or interior cabins. A full 168 cabins have promenade views, meaning they overlook the inside "mall" like area that serves as the main corridor of the ship.

Although Royal Caribbean has done a great job of maintaining Freedom of the Seas, the cabins are where the vessel's age is most apparent. Chipped paint and a color scheme of peach and teal make staterooms look dated. And while they serve their purpose well, they're average in terms of decor and amenities. There's nothing particularly noteworthy or innovative about them. One exception to this is a group of new oversized ocean-view cabins and suites, added during a 2015 dry dock. Located on decks 3 and 12, they boast a more modern palette of white, tan and blue.

Freedom of the Seas COVID-19 Rules


For the most up-to-date testing, masking, and vaccination requirements aboard Freedom of the Seas, please refer to Royal Caribbean's

health and safety protocols

. You can also

refer to Cruise Critic's guide to masking requirements

on the world's major cruise lines.

Cabins

Freedom of the Seas has 36 cabin types available

Inside Cabins

9 Inside types to choose from

Inside Cabins

9 Inside types to choose from

Inside Cabins

9 Inside types to choose from

Inside Cabins

9 Inside types to choose from

Inside Cabins

9 Inside types to choose from

Inside Cabins

9 Inside types to choose from

Inside Cabins

9 Inside types to choose from

Inside Cabins

9 Inside types to choose from

Inside Cabins

9 Inside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

9 Outside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

9 Outside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

9 Outside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

9 Outside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

9 Outside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

9 Outside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

9 Outside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

9 Outside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

9 Outside types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

10 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

10 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

10 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

10 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

10 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

10 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

10 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

10 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

10 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

10 Balcony types to choose from

Suite Cabins

8 Suite types to choose from

Suite Cabins

8 Suite types to choose from

Suite Cabins

8 Suite types to choose from

Suite Cabins

8 Suite types to choose from

Suite Cabins

8 Suite types to choose from

Suite Cabins

8 Suite types to choose from

Suite Cabins

8 Suite types to choose from

Suite Cabins

8 Suite types to choose from

Deck Plans

14 deck images available

Activities and Entertainment

Theaters and Shows on Freedom of the Seas

Arcadia Theater (Decks 3 and 4): The main Arcadia Theater, done up in red and gold, seats more than 1,300 people over two decks and is the venue for nighttime productions, both song-and-dance shows by Royal Caribbean's troupe and performances by guest entertainers, including aerialists, comedians and magicians.

Star Lounge (Deck 5): Nighttime gameshows like Friendly Feud and Finish that Lyric are held in Star Lounge, the secondary show lounge.

Studio B (Deck 3): The ice rink at Studio B also doubles as a secondary show lounge; it's the spot for the onboard ice show and Battle of the Sexes, as well as Quest, an adult scavenger hunt. There are free skate hours listed in the onboard daily schedule.

Daily Fun on Freedom of the Seas

Daytime activities include the ubiquitous pool games (bellyflop and cannonball contests and trivia contests, while Vintages wine bar hosts several tasting sessions throughout the week. Passengers can also find a video arcade located inside Playmakers, health and port "lectures" (which are mostly just sales pitches), art auctions, mini-golf tournaments, basketball shoot-outs, surf competitions, dance classes, bingo and photo scavenger hunts, as well as movies, concerts and sporting events shown on the poolside big screen.

Nightlife on Freedom of the Seas

The casino is open whenever the ship is at sea and features slot machines in a range of denominations, table games, including craps, blackjack and two types of poker, and a bar. Promotions, such as "double points on slots," are offered on select evenings. Theme nights, such as Pirate Night in the casino, and tournaments -- poker, couples' slots -- take place throughout each sailing.

After hours, Boleros -- the hip Latin lounge found on many Royal Caribbean ships -- is a favorite spot. Though the location (in a hallway, outside the casino, near a staircase) is not ideal, this venue draws major crowds with live music and merengue dancing. Don't miss karaoke at the Star Lounge -- even if you don't participate yourself, it's fun to watch others.

Nightly music is found in other areas of the ship, too. A guitarist/soloist performs rock tunes in the Bull & Bear Pub, and a pianist packs Royal Caribbean's nautical-themed Schooner Bar, taking requests until the wee hours. If you'd like to catch sporting events at night, head to Playmakers.

Freedom of the Seas Bars and Lounges

Royal Caribbean offers a plethora of drink packages, from a soda only package to an unlimited packaged, all priced per person per day. Note that the drinking age onboard is 21, and each passenger of drinking age is permitted to bring up to two bottles of wine onboard. Free drinks available include tap water, iced tea, lemonade and flavored-infused waters. (We tried the iced tea twice, and it tasted like water both times.)

Schooner Bar (Deck 4): This nautical-themed bar is a Royal Caribbean staple, often hosting trivia and piano music throughout the day.

Bolero's (Deck 4): This Latin-themed bar is the place to be for lively music and Latin-style dancing.

Playmakers Sports Bar and Cafe (Deck 4): Huge TVs, lots of seating and a mini-arcade make this spot bustle at all hours. We love that they print out a list of what events will be broadcast when.

Star Lounge (Deck 5): The secondary show lounge is used for hosting trivia, live music and private functions, among other activities.

R Bar (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): Added to the ship in 2015, the R Bar -- the closest thing Freedom has to an atrium bar -- replaced the former Champagne Bar and is located directly across the Royal Promenade from the passenger services desk.

Bull & Bear Pub (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): Head to Bull & Bear for live music and a glass, bottle or can of your favorite brew. (Choose from 40 different types of beer carried onboard.)

Vintages (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): A low-key wine bar, Vintages offers tastings, plenty of cushy seating.

Plaza Bar (Deck 11, Windjammer): This is where you can snag your drink of choice during meals in the Windjammer buffet.

The Lime & Coconut (Deck 11-12): Feeling like a tipple while you sunbathe? The Lime & Coconut is your closest bet. It also features fun chair swings, though you won't swing far.

Olive or Twist (Deck 14, Viking Crown Lounge): Set high atop the front of the ship, boasting floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, the Viking Crown Lounge is another Royal Caribbean favorite. On Freedom of the Seas, this venue is home to Olive or Twist. Billed as and designed with the ambiance of a martini bar, it also weirdly acts as the ship's disco. It's the place to be for late-night dancing to music from all decades. On one night of our sailing, there was even a "silent" disco, where passengers use supplied headphones to hear the music that's playing. (Even if you're not a dancer, it's worth a peek, just to see an entire crowd of people dancing in what appears to be total silence.)

Pools and Hot Tubs on Freedom of the Seas

Main and Sports Pools (Deck 11): There are two main pools on the Lido -- one for swimming and one for sports like water volleyball -- flanked by three roomy hot tubs. The area can get crowded on sea days, particularly when movies or sporting events are shown on the giant screen. Mesh deck chairs are available throughout the area.

We love the colorful casitas , which provide some shade over cushy lounge chairs; plus, they have spots for device charging while you soak up the sun. You'll have to pay a fee to rent these, however.

Splashaway Bay (Deck 11): Just aft of the main pools is the colorful Splashaway Bay water park, complete with a kids-only pool, slide and tons of toys for dumping, spraying and splashing water. Frankly, the setup is so cool it keeps kids out of adult pool areas for the most part.

Solarium (Deck 11): The adults-only Solarium pool area is where you'll find shaded deck chairs with ocean views, as well as many in the sun. Two cantilevered whirlpools -- meaning they hang over the side of the ship -- also offer sea views, and wide panels of glass give an incredible view of the ocean directly below, as well.

Waterslides, FlowRider and Other Activities on Freedom of the Seas

Perfect Storm (Deck 14): Now a staple on virtually all Royal Caribbean ships, the Perfect Storm offers two twisty waterslides, dubbed Typhoon and Cyclone.

FlowRider (Deck 13):

FlowRider

debuted on Freedom of the Seas as the first surf park at sea. A three-inch sheet of water flows up the 32-foot-wide by 40-foot-long incline to create a wave-like reverse waterfall. There are designated hours each day for standup surfing and boogie-boarding; check on the Sports Deck for your itinerary's schedule. There's no signup sheet, but passengers (and guardians for those younger than 18) must sign waivers to obtain the wristband needed to "hang ten." Height requirements also apply (58 inches for surfing, 52 inches for boogie boarding).

Even if you're more of a sunbather than a swimmer, our advice is to get off the bleachers and try the easier boogie-boarding option at least once. When you're up there, it doesn't look nearly as steep (or frightening).

Really want to master onboard surfing? Passengers can book one-on-one private FlowRider lessons for $69 per person, per hour (up to eight people per session with a minimum of four required). Individuals or groups looking to "free-surf" without an instructor, can book the FlowRider for $345 per hour with no limit to the total number of participants. It can also be rented out with instruction for $552 per hour. (A 50 percent no-show fee will be charged if you don't cancel at least 24 hours in advance.)

Fair warning: There are wooden bleachers surrounding the FlowRider area, and it's likely you'll have an audience. You have a roughly 50 percent chance of losing your bathing suit; if you're a guy, tighten your trunks, and consider wearing a one-piece suit or leggings and sports bra if you're a woman.

Sports Court (Deck 13): The sports court is open for use during set hours. (Check your daily Cruise Compass.) Activities like free-throw contests and three-point shoot-outs take place throughout each sailing.

Freedom Dunes (Deck 13): This 24-hour nine-hole miniature golf course sits next to a giant golf ball on a tee. Mini-golf tournaments are held during each voyage.

Table Tennis (Deck 13): Visit the FlowRider window on the Sports Deck to snag paddles and extra balls for table tennis.

Shuffleboard (Deck 5): If you're itching for some shuffleboard, you'll find your fix on Deck 5's outdoor decks.

Sun Decks on Freedom of the Seas

There is only one main sun deck aboard Freedom of the Seas -- Deck 11 -- although it's tiered in places and divided into separate areas for both kids and adults. From the Solarium to the main pool, passengers can find plenty of loungers to work on their tans.

Need a fresh towel after a day of swimming or lounging in the sun? Trade yours in at the towel exchange kiosks near the pools on the lido. Note: Your card will be swiped when you obtain a towel. Be sure to return it (and have your card swiped again) by the last day of your cruise, or you'll be charged a $25 fee. If you're guilty of chair hogging and someone has removed your belongings, chances are good you'll find them at the pool deck lost and found kiosks, located near the pool area.

Freedom of the Seas Services, Shops and WiFi

The LCD Wayfinder system utilizes a series of touch screens, placed throughout the ship, that not only show you how to get where you want to go, but also tell you what's going on at that very moment.

The main "front" desk, also known as passenger services (located at the back of the ship on Deck 5), is where you go to resolve issues with your onboard account, get change and ask general questions you might have throughout your sailing. You'll find an ATM there, as well. (Note: On Deck 5, across from the cruise director's office, look for the framed poem "Ode to Freedom," written by Cruise Critic members.)

Shore excursions can be purchased at a desk that shares a wall with the passenger services desk on Deck 5. On our sailing, we tried a fantastic horseback riding tour in St. Maarten, which provided transportation, equipment, a 90-minute ride that ended with us riding our horses waist-deep into the ocean, and rum punch. Excursions like glass-bottom boat tours and parasailing in the Bahamas filled up quickly, as did open-air vehicle tours of St. Thomas and a whole-day sail to Christmas and Honeymoon Coves on a schooner.

Cruisers looking to purchase a future cruise can stop by the NextCruise "store" on Deck 5. Discounts are often offered if you book while onboard. There are racks of brochures to browse through while you wait to meet with a representative.

There's no self-service laundry facility onboard, but laundry and dry cleaning can be sent out, and it's not cost prohibitive. We paid about $5 to launder a favorite baby blanket.

Contemporary art-lovers might enjoy the art gallery on Deck 3, run by well-known art dealers Park West; there's often a seminar to take in and a revolving selection of works to buy.

Even if you don't buy your pictures, it's a fun diversion to visit the photo gallery on Deck 4, where the staff display all the photos, from your boarding photo to formal nights. You can buy a picture photo CD or even design your own photobook (a combination of your own photos and Royal Caribbean stock photos).

Among the stores you'll find on Deck 5 along the Royal Promenade are a dedicated Michael Kors shop that sells the famous designer's handbags (watch for sales mid-cruise.), a perfume and cosmetics shop, and a general store selling duty-free alcohol and sundries like candy and toiletry items. You can also stop in at the Logo Souvenir shop for all things Royal Caribbean-branded -- T-shirts, mugs, keychains -- you get the idea. You'll also find non-Royal Caribbean clothing from brands like Newport News and Tommy Bahama, as well as shot glasses, flip-flops and various items designed by artist Romero Britto. For higher-end jewelry, pop into Regalia to pick up some designer accessories like watches. And check out Get Out There for all things nautical. Forgot your bathing suit or sunscreen? Not a problem. But with brands like Roxy, you'll pay a premium.

Have questions about shopping in port? The port shopping kiosk along the Royal Promenade can help.

Three conference rooms (Barbados, Jamaica and St. Thomas) are available on Deck 2, and a business services desk is stationed on Deck 6.

The onboard medical center is located on the ship's lowest deck. The vessel has a helipad at its bow, and passengers are able to access the area for amazing views from the front of the ship.

WiFi is fast on Freedom of the Seas, although not free; you'll have to buy a package. We were able to log into our company's VPN and stream online fitness classes. The Royal Caribbean app is easy to use, although we did have trouble booking restaurants with it once onboard.

Dining

As seems to be the trend on many new and upgraded ships, alternative eateries levying a surcharge outnumber the gratis venues onboard. That doesn't mean you have to shell out a ton of money, though. The main dining room menu is tasty, the pizza shop serves up some of the best slices we've ever had, and the onboard cafe offers 24-hour nibbles, coffee and tea -- all free.

Free Restaurants on Freedom of the Seas

Main Dining Room (Decks 3, 4, 5): The three tiers of the main dining room (Leonardo's on Deck 3, themed after Leonardo Da Vinci; Isaac's on 4, based on Isaac Newton; and Galileo's on 5, named for Galileo) offer traditional, assigned-seating dining during two sittings (5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and My Time Dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime between 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and can change your reservations on a daily basis. (Reservations aren't required, but they help if you want to avoid a wait at peak times.) Regardless of the option you choose, be warned that dinner in the MDR isn't a quick affair. Budget at least two hours for your meal. (Note: Those opting for My Time Dining need to prepay gratuities. Also worth mentioning is that we opted for the 8 p.m. set seating time and found that it interfered with several of the activities we hoped to attend.)

Dinner menu items change daily, and there are three courses. Impressive and delicious options might include watermelon and raspberry soup, crab cakes with corn and peppers, shrimp cocktail and escargot as appetizers; horseradish-crusted Atlantic salmon, pasta with short rib ragu and parmesan cheese, and Thai chicken breast with red curry and edamame as mains; and blueberry peach crumble, low-fat strawberry trifle, and baked Alaska for dessert. A "Chefs Inspiration" section of the menu lists the chef's recommendations from that night's rotating selections.

Also included on the menu are always-available options like pasta with tomato sauce, grilled chicken breast, broiled salmon, beef sliders, Manhattan strip steak, Bailey's creme brulee, chocolate sensation cake and a cheese plate. Additionally, passengers can order steakhouse items -- a whole lobster, filet mignon or surf and turf -- from the "Premium Selections" list for an extra fee.

We found service to be friendly and efficient, and our servers remembered every name in our party of nine after the first night. The dining staff also did a fantastic job of accommodating one member of our table who couldn't eat gluten. Menu items are marked if they're gluten-free, lactose-free or vegetarian, and these options are available daily.

Breakfast and lunch are served in the dining rooms with open seating. The advantage over Windjammer: If you don't like the communal, serve-yourself nature of a buffet, you'll love this. Although you might expect a protracted eating experience, you can be in and out in 45 minutes. You'll still be able to customize, with favorites like Thai chicken lettuce wraps that come with lots of fresh toppings and two sauces; Caesar salad to which you can add chicken or salmon; and delicious and fresh-composed Nicoise salad. At breakfast, the main attraction is eggs Benedict, though we loved the huevos rancheros and customized omelets.

Windjammer Cafe (Deck 11): We liked the fare and atmosphere in the Windjammer Cafe, Freedom's lido buffet, for its flexibility (long hours, casual dress code) and endless variety. Plus, the waiters went out of their way to bring us things from the buffet so we wouldn't have to get up -- stellar service, especially considering the format.

The

Windjammer

is set up like a food court, with one long self-service line of hot and cold items that travels around the back of the ship in a U shape, plus stations toward the back for salads, pizza, fresh sandwiches, carved meats and petite desserts. In the mornings, an omelet station fixes made-to-order eggs, while other options include cold cuts and cheeses, bacon, hash browns, pancakes, bacon and sausage. We loved some of the innovation we saw here for breakfast, including rope sausage and avocado toast, both of which change daily, so you can try new variations ever time. In the afternoons, we particularly liked

Jade Sushi

, an area of the Windjammer that specializes in Asian dishes and goes a bit off the beaten path with ever-changing fare that includes Indonesian and Vietnamese specialties. The buffet is open five times a day: for Continental breakfast, full-buffet breakfast, lunch, tea and snacks, and dinner.

Once per sailing, as an extension of the buffet, a poolside grill is set up on Deck 11 to offer burgers, hot dogs and grilled chicken at lunchtime. All other days, grilled items are available inside the buffet.

A casual buffet dinner is served at Windjammer, as well; menu options generally mirror what's being served in the main dining room, with the exception of Jade, which is attached to Windjammer and free of charge. Sushi chefs are hard at work every night, serving vegetarian and other maki rolls.

Sorrento's (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): Located at the aft end of the Promenade is

Sorrento's

, an all-day pizzeria. In addition to staples like cheese and pepperoni, there's a selection that changes daily (Mexican or Hawaiian, for example), as well as a front counter where you can choose any combination of seafood salad, grilled Italian veggies, marinated mozzarella or feta cheese, hunks of bread, artichokes and olives. It's a fantastic midday snack spot. Gluten-free pizza is available.

Cafe Promenade (Deck 5, Royal Promenade): This venue, midship on the Royal Promenade, is open around the clock with complimentary pastries and sandwiches, coffee and tea. The attached Starbucks coffee bar offers more fancy coffee drinks -- cappuccinos, lattes -- for a fee.

Cafe Promenade

is a great option if you can't be bothered to go to the buffet or dining room and just want a light bite. Sandwiches include things like prosciutto on olive bread and egg salad on croissants. Note: There are two separate lines -- one for added-fee coffee orders and one from which you can order free nibbles like cookies, Rice Krispy treats and hummus with veggies. Free self-serve coffee and tea are located on the back wall of the cafe.

Sprinkles (Deck 11): This soft-serve ice cream machine on wheels is located on Deck 11 by the pool. On our sailing, it offered cones of vanilla, chocolate or twist. Near the end of the cruise, the vanilla ran out, so strawberry was available instead. Despite the name, sprinkles and other toppings are not offered.

El Loco Fresh (Deck 11): Serving up hot and fresh tacos and burritos, El Loco Fresh is a great casual option for lunch. Tortillas are made and pressed right on the spot, and you can fill your plate with custom-made Mexican treats. You also can try the premade options, like quesadillas. Grab a plate of tortilla chips and load up at the salsa bar.

Room Service: Room service is available 24/7. The menu consists of just a few salads and sandwiches, but the Mediterranean chicken salad with grilled marinated chicken and feta cheese, and the seeded rye baguette with oak smoked salmon and brie were both winners, and they were delivered within 30 minutes of ordering. For people who hate mornings, ordering breakfast via a doorknob card is a great option. Royal Caribbean still offers hot items -- eggs, bacon -- on its room service breakfast menu, as well as Continental fare, from cereal to fruit plates. Our hot breakfast was delivered at the early end of the time range we selected, but we were disappointed with the small portions and quality of the food, which consisted of one ice cream-sized scoop of watery powdered eggs and two pieces of undercooked bacon. Our request for tomatoes was also ignored. Caveat: Only Continental breakfast is free of charge; all other orders come with a $7.95 surcharge.

Fee Restaurants on Freedom of the Seas

Chops Grille (Deck 11); $35: At this smart-casual steakhouse, expect tuna tartare and crab cakes among the starters, several cuts of steak, plus other grilled meats and fish like lamb loin and halibut. If you are a chocolate-lover, do not -- I repeat: Do not -- miss the Mississippi Mud Pie at

Chops Grille

. It's a huge slice of velvety goodness with a cluster of caramel nuts in the center. We also loved the warm, dark-wood paneling and cushy velvet seating.

Giovanni's Italian Kitchen (Deck 11); $35:

Giovanni's Italian Kitchen

, open for dinner nightly, is a hip space filled with long tables and floor-to ceiling windows. It also features an open-air kitchen, so passengers can watch as their food is prepared.

The menu features a mix of Italian dishes, including a fantastic meat and cheese platter, giant meatball (yes, it's giant), Stromboli, osso buco and chicken parmigiana. If you're dining with a group, order a couple of pizzas; the seven-cheese was our ooey-gooey favorite. For dessert, try the chocolate ravioli.

Izumi's (Deck 4); a la carte

Izumi's Japanese restaurant

is another Royal Caribbean favorite. On Freedom of the Seas, it's tucked down on Deck 4, but everyone who loves hibachi and sushi seems to find it; book early.

Tip: If your dining companions are ordering hibachi, it's OK for you to stick to sushi and sit at the table with them.

Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade (Deck 4); a la carte: If you are craving bar food, this is your spot. Playmakers offers up wings, burgers and nachos, among other traditional fried favorites. Desserts are worth saving room for, including the seven-scoop sundae served in a football helmet.

Johnny Rockets (Deck 12); $6.95: The at-sea version of this restaurant serves the same yummy burgers, hot dogs, onion rings and fries as its land-based brethren. If there's a wait, you can take a pager to the nearby arcade to pass the time until your table is ready. Food is available for dine-in or takeout. The cover charge at

Johnny Rockets

includes as much food as you'd like, but soda, ice cream, floats and alcoholic beverages come with an additional fee. Breakfast here is free.

Ben & Jerry's (Deck 5, Royal Promenade); $4.75 or less: Ben & Jerry's ice cream bar, across from Cafe Promenade and next to Cupcake Cupboard, is available to satisfy your sweet tooth. The waffle cones are made fresh, and if you happen to walk through the promenade while they're being made, you'll catch the sweet cinnamon scent wafting through the air. Get one with a scoop (or two) of your choosing. The selection rotates and tops a dozen flavors. They also make floats and shakes and let you sample flavors before committing.

Cruise Critic Dining Picks

For a specialty meal, Chops delivers that special occasion feeling and the food is consistent. Among the casual restaurants, El Loco Fresh is a standout for poolside eats.