Leadership Aboard Freedom of the Seas Discuss their Return to Service

Filed under: Ships

Today we had the opportunity to hear from several members of leadership aboard Freedom of the Seas including the Captain, the Hotel Director, the Cruise Director, and Director of Entertainment and Guest Activities, and the Director of Food and Beverage Services.

We heard first from Ken Rush, Director of Entertainment and Guest Activities. He started by commenting on just how special it was to be back on board for both guests and crew and made mention of their incredible first Fourth of July back in service, celebrated with a beautiful fireworks show over Coco Cay.

He commented on how receptive guests were to new safety protocols that affected his department and said guest responses were overwhelmingly appreciative. One new health and safety protocol you may notice if you will be heading to the karaoke lounge will be the sanitization of microphones between users. Small steps and small changes that have huge effects on the health and safety of guests.

Next up we heard from the Captain Trim of the Freedom of the Seas and I can’t tell you how great it was to hear that voice again! Cruising really is back! He spoke about both the shutdown and the restart and gave insight into how he has spent his last year. He was part of the skeleton crew that was brought back to Freedom of the Seas in May. The skeleton crew consisted of about 90 crew members brought on to maintain the ship. Over the next 3-4 weeks, the crew was increased to around 1,200 as they prepared to return to service and they started health and safety trainings that consisted of public health trainings, conducted coast guard inspections, and made trips to Miami for vaccinations. They also worked closely with the CDC who were onboard the first revenue sailing for two days.

With almost 1,100 crew on board and 1,000-1,100 guests onboard, that puts the crew to guest ratio at almost 1:1 all the time. Many guests have commented that it feels like they’re on a private yacht! The Captain said that guest capacity would start slowly increasing in August.

On a more personal note, he talked about how almost the entire crew onboard right now had spent the last year in their home countries, and how happy they were to back on a ship, making a living, and supporting their families again.

The Freedom of the Seas Hotel Director, Keith Murphy, was next to address the group. He was asked by the Vice President of Sales, Vicki Freed, what the biggest concerns being brought up at Guest Services have been. He was quick to acknowledge that because Royal Caribbean is a family oriented cruiseline that remains dedicated to families sailing together, families wanting unvaccinated children wanting to go ashore freely was presenting a problem during their stop in Nassau. Unvaccinated children can currently only go ashore through Royal Caribbean sponsored excursions. Vaccinated parents of unvaccinated children who wish do explore freely can visit Adventure Ocean when they board to make arrangements for childcare. Interestingly, he commented that the inability to go ashore was due to their agreement with Nassau, and not necessarily a Royal Caribbean decision, so we may see in the future some ports allowing guests to go ashore and others not. It will probably be very dependent upon each islands Covid status.

He shared that the “masks while eating and drinking” has been the most difficult rule to enforce as people will want to cross the Promenade and other common areas with food or drink in hand and say they are eating or drinking. They have been trying to kindly remind guests that they must be stationary while eating and drinking to remove masks. He also said they were struggling with vaccinated guests understanding why they still needed to wear masks in shared spaces, but said that for the most part people were happy to comply.

Screen Shot 2021-07-21 at 12.40.35 PM.png

Adventure Ocean was discussed by cruise director Thomas Sven Hopkins! He said that the clubs would remain open with smaller groups of kids and more staff. This has caused some modifications to be made to the hours. They will be doing temperature checks on arrival at the club, hand washing sessions are everything 30 minutes or as needed in-between the scheduled 30 minute sessions, and masks are required at all times.

Screen Shot 2021-07-21 at 12.40.03 PM.png

Vicki Freed asked him how the nightlife was being affected onboard and he explained that many of the parties previously held in the Royal Promenade have been relocated to Studio B and other Clubs throughout the ship to be able to have party venues for vaccinated and unvaccinated guests. So the parties and celebrations are alive and well! He commented on how nice it was to finally see people celebrating milestones they’d put off during the pandemic like anniversaries, birthdays, and graduations. It was really very heart warming!

In the theaters, seating on the bottom is reserved for vaccinated guests while seating in the upper levels and balconies is for unvaccinated guests and families.

Screen Shot 2021-07-21 at 12.46.20 PM.png

And finally- the food! This is where one BIG change I, and I think a of other parents, will LOVE! But I wont tell you right away….

All dining venues are open including Specialty Dining and all, with the exception of Izumi Hibachi, can accommodate unvaccinated guests. The Main Dining Room has been able to maintain a very normal feel by having different groups of diners on the different levels. Deck 5 will have seating for My Time Dining (currently available only to vaccinated guests and groups), Deck 4 has seating for unvaccinated guests and families with unvaccinated children, and deck 3 is for vaccinated guests.

The Windjammer is open but modifications have been made to reduce lines and move guests through more efficiently. Changes that you will see are that there is no longer and self service of food and some food items, such as a Caesar salad, may be pre-prepared for easier hand off and reduced contamination activities. The Windjammer is currently only open for breakfast and lunch but will resume offering dinner service once they are able to have 3,000 guests onboard again.

And now, for the change I am most excited for! In an effort to reduce traffic at breakfast, Royal Caribbean is offering both the American breakfast menu and Continental menu available for room service for breakfast each morning from 6am to 11m FREE OF CHARGE! Previously only the basic continental breakfast was available for free but they will now expand this to include the American breakfast with items like scrambled eggs, bacon, and ham to choose from. I love having some food available in the room in the morning when kids get up and while we’re getting ready! Great change.