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Travel


“One of the greatest advantages of going on a cruise is the opportunity to see far-off lands that you would otherwise not visit.”


transferred from our hotel to Port Canaveral in time to board Freedom of the Seas.


The cruise ship isn’t just big, it’s very big. One of Royal Caribbean International’s larger ships, it is 1,112ft long and 185ft wide, with a guest capacity of 3,634. On board, there is everything from an ice-skating rink to a 1950s-style diner, a theatre to a casino, and a rock-climbing wall to a wedding chapel.


At the heart of the ship is the shop and restaurant-lined Promenade and on the upper decks you’ll find three swimming pools, six whirlpools and a Flow Rider where you can polish your surfing skills.


Once you have checked in on the ship, all you need is your SeaPass card - which acts as your room key, passport and credit card. Although there’s a lot to explore, you cannot miss the ship setting sail and the best place to do this is on the upper decks. Cocktail in hand, we waved goodbye to Florida.


The top deck at night


restaurants for those who would rather keep their feet firmly on the ground. But most visitors’ favourite is clearly Harry Potter. Looking past the snow-capped buildings of Hogsmeade and towards the imposing towers of Hogwarts is an awesome sight.


The highlight is undeniably the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. The queues may be long - but guests are entertained by talking paintings and Dumbledore. Oh, and the safety instructions are dictated by the Sorting Hat - of course. The ride is not a rollercoaster as such, but the effect is much the same. If there was ever an attraction that lets you live out what you see in the movies, it’s this one.


The other half of the park is the movie-themed Universal Studios Florida. Complete with still-functioning film lots, this park is divided into Production Central, New York, San Francisco, World Expo, Woody Woodpecker’s Kid Zone and Hollywood.


Like its Islands counterpart, there are plenty of activities for all ages. I lived out a childhood dream by going on the E.T. Adventure ride - even if it does look ancient nowadays. The Simpsons Ride also proved a hit with our party. The makers of the show had full input in its development and although it’s not a rollercoaster, thanks to 3D animation it may as well be. Our final ride was indoor rollercoaster Revenge of the Mummy and I’m sorry to say none of us had the nerve to try the Rip Ride Rockit, where you sing along to a song of your choice while rocketing along at 65mph.


At night the studios really come alive when the streets of San Francisco, New York and Hollywood sparkle with the fluorescent lights of cinema-fronts, stores and restaurants.


After the excitement of Universal Orlando Resort, it was back to reality with a reasonably soft landing as we were


Party Time on board Life Begins 11


Once at sea, you can do as little or as much as you like. I went rock climbing, played mini-golf, had a massage in the Freedom Spa and sat around in numerous hot tubs. I also watched a rather fantastic ice skating show, which was a slightly strange experience while in the middle of the Caribbean.


However, my favourite part of being on board was the food. While there are plenty of informal options - the self-service buffet at Windjammer, burgers and dancing waiters at Johnny Rockets and peanut butter cookies at Cafe Promenade - the dining really comes into its own at one of the restaurants or at the formal dinner.


I had perfectly-cooked filet mignon at Chops Grille and the most succulent seafood skewer at Portofinos. The formal dinner evening is also a great excuse to dress up and the food lives up to the occasion as much as the frocks.


One of the greatest advantages of going on a cruise is the opportunity to see far-off lands that you would otherwise not visit. Our ship called at Labadee in Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico, before returning to Florida. There is an extensive list of excursions you can sign up to before you arrive at each port - from parasailing to sunbathing on a beach or learning about local life as part of a cultural tour.


But my personal highlight was still the zip line over Labadee. Flying through the air, any preconceptions I had about theme park and cruise holidays quickly evaporated. This was anything but the unadventurous option!


Mardi Gras Parade at Universal Studios


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