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Wild Ride on Freedom of the Seas Cruise Ship

Updated on August 23, 2017

We Sailed Freedom of the Seas in Stormy Seas

As we boarded Royal Caribbean's beautiful Freedom of the Seas cruise ship that day, little did we know we were in for a wild ride.

Boarding was slower than usual was because the upper gangway was unusable due to windy conditions. Still, it wasn't long before we were on board and enjoying lunch in the Windjammer Cafe.

The weather had been nasty in the area for a couple of days, but weather reports called for the storm to subside to nearly nothing by sailing time. Preliminary indications seemed to bear that out.

Little did we know that a vicious storm at sea would change that dramatically . . .

Photo: my own

Unless otherwise noted, images on this page are mine

(all rights reserved)


Only Freedom of the Seas Sailed That Day

Two Other Cruise Ships Were Held in Port

As we stood on deck at muster drill*, it was windy and rainy. The date: October 9, 2011.

It was not howling wind or heavy rain. In this picture of the ship berthed next us, you see gray skies and raindrops hitting the water. Nothing dramatic. It's a photo taken upon dismissal from muster.

The bow of the Disney ship was pointed at the port (left) side of our ship, so she was facing a different direction than we were. This would figure into her being retained in port for the night, as you will see.

*Muster Drill: An exercise required of all passengers on every ship, usually held at the beginning of a cruise. Includes instructions on procedures to follow in the event of an emergency.


Freedom of the Seas Makes Her Way - Up the Ship Channel to the Open Sea

The sea became more agitated as we approached the east end of the jetties marking the sides of Port Canaveral's ship channel.

Those little black dots near the jetties are pelicans. In this picture taken from our stateroom on deck seven, they look like tiny wrens.

Note the tilt of the buoy.

The pilot boat had quite a time in these rough seas, as you can tell from the following short video.

Hard Ginger Candy for Seasickness: Gin Gins

Sailors have long used ginger to ward off mal de mer, or seasickness.

Although I am not prone to seasickness, I usually carry several bags of Gin Gins hard ginger candy with me when I cruise to give out to shipmates who feel queezy. They came in rather handy on this particular voyage.

Pilot Boat Tossed in Rough Seas - en route to Freedom of the Seas - October 9, 2011

Large ships are taken into and out of port by a pilot who knows the channel. Pilots are delivered to, and retrieved from the big ships by a pilot boat.

The small boat from the port pulls alongside, and the pilot leaps to or from the larger ship.

Can you imagine making that maneuver in seas like this? Those are some brave guys!


Rain Soon Started and Wind Picked Up

The Sea Got More than a Little Choppy

Just a moment later, it was a little worse.

Here, we're at the end of the jetties, and I've pointed my camera back at land.

The rain is heavier now - so heavy, that you can just barely see suggestion a huge launch tower at Kennedy Space Center.

This was not long before we would be eating dinner in the 11th deck Windjammer Cafe, where real "adventure" awaited.

The Weather Forecasters Got It Wrong

Weather forecasts had said the storm was ready to weaken.

THEY WERE WRONG. Instead of getting weaker, it intensified.

Freedom of the Seas was to soon encounter torrential rain, 40+ foot waves, and wind gusting to category 3 hurricane strength.

The Sea Gets a Little Rougher - As the Ship Heads Out into the Open Atlantic

Another 21 seconds of video... you can see that the ocean was getting stirred up here. It got even worse later on, but by then it was too dark for videos.

The Freedom of the Seas Saiied in Stormy Seas

I Saw Two Ships NOT Sailing by

On October 9, 2011

Three big Cruise Ships were to sail from Port Canaveral that afternoon. Only one did.

Freedom of the Seas set sail. The Disney Magic and the Carnival Dream stayed in port all night. Why? The little bit of research I did indicates this:

1 - The Freedom of the Seas left first. It encountered unexpectedly severe weather.

2 - The Freedom's berth is east-west oriented, with Its bow pointing to sea. The other two ships do not berth facing east. They need to navigate turns in the confines of the turning basin before heading out to sea. Winds picked up, making those turns more risky.

3 - The weather at sea worsened significantly right after Freedom's departure.

Erring on the side of caition, the other two ships were kept in port overnight.

Picture of listing ship by Hervé Cozanet
Picture of listing ship by Hervé Cozanet | Source

List! Freedom of the Seas Listed to Port

She first listed to port, righted, and then later listed to Starboard.

Our party was having dinner at a large round table in the Windjammer Cafe, and most everyone had been dealing pretty well with the motion - even motion sickness prone niece Robin was bearing up.

The storm was raging. The wind was howling, rain was coming sideways, lightening was popping. The ship was now pitching, then rolling as the Captain kept her headed straight into the ever changing wind - no easy task.

Then it happened ---> List!

Have you sailed in stormy seas?

See results

A 12 Degree List

Is some serious business!

The ship listed to port

Our Sue, ever the trooper, grabbed for every dish within her reach, and held on to them. The rest landed on the floor.

Mighty clattering and banging came from the kitchen as dishes, glasses, cookware, and goodness knows what else crashed to the floor.

Dishes, even full drink pitchers, slid off wait stations in the dining area.

Anyone standing desperately tried to stay that way.

Later on, there would be listing to starboard, too.

We would later learn the list was a significant 12 degrees!

author's own graphic
author's own graphic

Kudos to the Crew

Even as many passengers were still gathering their wits, the fabulous crew of the Freedom of the Seas was already in action, doing what was needed: seeing to the safety and comfort of their guests.

Their priorities were in order. They paid special attention to young children and the elderly.

At a table near us was a large family group, including several young children. The table was pushed back. In all of the hubub, the chairs got arranged in a circle, occupied by adults, with the the little ones placed in the middle of that protective circle.


Crew Thank You Cards

The crew was just fantastic all week. This, in spite of the fact that they had to work a lot harder than usual, and put up with a huge number of grumpy, complaining passengers. The extra amounts we slipped into their envelopes on the last night was well deserved.

CREW THANK YOU CARDS can be used instead of the standard tip envelopes that are provided. It's a nice touch, especially when a crew member goes 'above and beyond' like the ones did on our wild ride on Freedom of the Seas.

In the Main Dining Room - Announcement for Passengers to Go to Their Cabins

Video is in the main dining room during dinner... notice there are already things on the floor.

You'll hear the announcement from the bridge for everyone to return to their staterooms. Near the end, people gather near the elevators, waiting for the doors to open. They don't. In high seas, standard procedure is to shut down elevators for safety.

Finally, a few grumbles are heard as someone calls out that the elevators aren't working, and everyone realizes they must climb multiple flights of stairs on a rocking ship.

Evacuating the Dining Room (video)

Evacuation of the Windjammer Cafe

As I mentioned earlier, we were the Windjammer when the ship listed and the "Return to your staterooms" announcement was made.

Being on deck 11, we probably experienced a more severe 'lean' than they did in the dining rooms on decks 3, 4, and 5. But we caught a break in that we only had to descend four decks of stairs to our cabins. It's easier going down!

I must again mention the valient members of the crew, who were incredile during the storm, and throughout the week.

As we made our way out of the cafe, the staff formed a human chain. standing arms outstretched, fingertip to fingertip, ready to catch anyone who might fall. I saw swaying and stumbling, but no falls.

Cruise Accessories - Travel Accessories for Cruisers

SE - Storage Container - Waterproof, 4.25x2.75x1in. - WP672, Colors May Vary
SE - Storage Container - Waterproof, 4.25x2.75x1in. - WP672, Colors May Vary

Very handy! I use one of these when I cruise. (Though I bought mine on board, and paid a little more for it.)

Nautical Boat Wheel Cufflinks
Nautical Boat Wheel Cufflinks

Perfect for formal night, don't you think so?


We Saw Great Waves of Water Blown About

Winds whipped huge sheets of water out of the children's pool and across the deck.

On our way out of the Windhammer, we got a good view of what was happening in the H2Ozone just outside the Windjammer.

The water in the children's pool (far left in this photo) was bouncing up to about six feet, pausing in mid air, thenblowing about 8 to 10 feet toward starboard, in sheets.

The captain later told us that the pools had been emptied completely, then refilled again by the rain, and emptied out again by the wind and waves.

It wasn't possible to get a picture that night during evacuation, but perhaps you can use your imagination with this picture I took on another day of our cruise.

Favors by Serendipity Travel Shower Caddy (For Any Cruise Line,Travel,RV)
Favors by Serendipity Travel Shower Caddy (For Any Cruise Line,Travel,RV)

I'm getting one of these before my next cruise. It has netting to hold everything in place!


Meanwhile, on the Bridge

Captain Rob was manning the helm.

Captain Rob Hempstead, Master of the Freedom of the Seas, was at the helm. He did a truly masterful job of keeping us safe in perilous conditions.

THANK YOU, Captain. Your performance that night was nothing short of phenomenal.

Perhaps the best compliment that I can give is to say that my husband and I slept well while he fought the good fight. First, I laid out things we would need if things took a turn for the worse: Our passports, wallets, and meds, all in plastic; warm clothes; and life jackets.

Then, we went to bed, and slept so soundly that we never even heard the announcement (about 11:00 pm) that a buffet had been laid out for those who had missed dinner.

We were, however, awakened in the middle of the night by a knock on our door. It was an officer doing a bed check and verifying that we were well and uninjured. They checked every single cabin that night!

The Master of Freedom of the Seas SPEAKS

Here, the Master of the Freedom of the Seas, Captain Rob Hempstead, speaks to the Crown and Anchor Society, about the events of the night of October 9, 2011

This man is one impressive human being. We owe him a debt of gratitude.

Captain Rob Hempstead Adresses Crown and Anchor Members

If You Had been on this Cruise . . .

If you had been a passenger on this cruise, would you book another cruise or not?

Would a cruise like this make you think twice about cruising again?

The Next Day Dawned Calm and Sunny

Freedom of the Seas at CocoCay
Freedom of the Seas at CocoCay

And Freedom of the Seas Called at CocoCay

Freedom of the Seas anchored off CocoCay,

Royal Caribbean's private island in the Berry Islands.

I took this picture the morning after the big storm, from the tender area on the island.

After all that happened, we were just an hour late arriving!

By the next day, there wasn't a hint of the massive mess the storm had caused throughout the huge ship - except for the wet carpets as high up as deck 9. Crews would be woking on replacing carpets all week.

Some of the other things that the crew worked most of the night to clean up included:

Over 1,000 bottles of liquor that crashed to the floor in the duty free shop

Displaced furniture and decorative elements

Dishes, glasses, and flatware strewn about numerous dining venues

Souvenirs and other items strewn all over the shops on board

Pool and deck furnishings that had had to be tied down lest it go overboard, though some did

Partitions that had separated balconies were in pieces on balcony floors

They spent all night cleaning up, then greeted us with smiles and helpfulness come morning.

A Wonderful Family Cruise

In spite of the slight inconvenience of the first night's stormy weather, we had a wonderful family cruise.

Will we be cruising again?

You bet we will!

We all agreed that we thoroughly enjoyed our week on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, thanks in large part to the wonderful captain and outstanding crew on this fabulous cruise ship

The fact that my husband and I squished on wet carpets in our stateroom until Friday didn't diminish the value of our cruise! We had a wonderful time.

Before the cruise, I had made up stateroom door markers - one for each cabin booked by our group. Those little magnetic mementos will remind them of a very memorable time we spent on a ship at the mercy of mother nature.

Freedom of the Seas, departing from Port Canaveral, on a beautiful, sunny day
Freedom of the Seas, departing from Port Canaveral, on a beautiful, sunny day

Freedom of the Seas Sailing in Beautiful Weather

Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas is a beautiful ship, and I don't know anyone who hasn't thoroughly enjoyed sailing on her.

Here's a picture of Freedom sailing on a day with lots better weather than what we had on the day in this story.

Enchantment of the Seas
Enchantment of the Seas | Source

We're Ready to Cruise Again!

Anchors Aweigh!

We're ready to cruise again! (Actually, we're always ready)

In fact, we've already booked our next two cruises - short ones. (A cruise is still a cruise, after all!)

One of them WILL be during hurricane season ... on a ship about half the size of the mamouth Freedom of the Seas.

Can't wait to cross that gangway, and get on board!

UPDATE: The short cruises referenced above were uneventful, from a weather standpoint. We'll be on the Enchantment of the Seas during the 2014 hurricane season, and we already have plans to be back on the Freedom next year during the peak weeks of tropical activity.

What do you think about cruising in stormy seas? Have you ever? Would you risk sailing in hurricane season when there is a better chance of something like this happeningt?

The Guestbook Is: OPEN

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    • CruiseReady profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from East Central Florida

      @tiggs12345: We slept just fine that night. I guess our cabin was far enough away from the public venues that we didn't hear noixe from things falling and breaking. BTW - Duct tape is useful for keeping the drawers shut.

    • profile image


      4 years ago



    • CruiseReady profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from East Central Florida

      @meggingmad: We cruised the Caribbean during the peak part of the season on the Ruby Princess several years ago, with no serious weather or high seas incidents at all.

    • meggingmad profile image


      4 years ago

      I`ll be cruising in the Caribbean in the hurricane season on the Ruby Princess. Eek!

    • CamelliaPenny profile image


      5 years ago from South Carolina

      I sailed out of Port Canaveral on a Carnival ship many years ago, and we ended up tailing a little tropical storm called Josephine on the last night. Very rough, ship was pitching, and almost everyone in my group got sick. I've been on the water all my life, though, and am a veteran cruiser, so I wasn't too worried. It wasn't as dramatic as your experience, but it was memorable. My very first cruise ever (also from Port Canveral) was on the Big Red Boat, which was a bit smaller than the other ships. Also experienced some rough water there, but then that area off of Florida is not known for being smooth anyway. God bless Royal Caribbean, though - I'm very impressed with what you've written about them here!! I have been on one of their ships once, and it was my favorite cruise experience. I hope to return to cruising with them someday.

    • CruiseReady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from East Central Florida

      @anonymous: I sure hope you'll cruise again. Though you now know it does happen, rest assured that most cruises are a LOT smoother. As you can tell from the video of the Captain's speech, it seems he had his hands full when the storm hit and for several hours afterwards. I'm so glad we were in his capable hands. His earlier experience in the rough North Sea really stood him in good stead that night!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      My friend and I were on the Freedom of the Seas on 9th October 2011 and it was our first cruise. I have never been so scared as I was on that night when the storm hit. Panic everywhere and very little communication from the bridge in the beginning. The crew were great but they even admitted to us that in the years of cruising they had never experience a storm like this nor would I ever want to again.

    • Camden1 profile image


      6 years ago

      I've never sailed in stormy seas. But even reading this makes me want to go on another cruise!

    • CruiseReady profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from East Central Florida

      @AlleyCatLane: We had a wonderful captain, who did a masterful job, and were in the care of an incredible crew!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      We siled with Cap Rob in Aug of 2011 and were very priveledged to be invited to the Captains Table for Dinner. He is very funny and puts you right at ease. wE enjoyed him and his crew all week and they were amazing. We had the best weather ever - no seas over 8 feet all of the cruise - so rare - the ship was great, the crew wonderful, and the food out of this world - I guess hurricanes ar e a fact of life and if I got caught in one so be it - its no fun oif something exciting doesn't happen so in your case I guess you're good for a few years now - here's hoping you get better weather next time....

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What an adventure you had! Not sure how I would have handled it. I'd probably have lost my lunch. Blessed.

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 

      6 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      I know some folks who would go during hurricane season, just for the thrill itself :) I don't know if I'd tolerate the rolling waves well.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Your "Meanwhile on the Bridge" just got me laugh....kind of like "back at the ranch" though I no laughing matter to experience even as a seasoned cruiser. I don't know that I'd want my first cruise to be in hurricane season, in fact, I know I would wait for safer seas. That list was something, especially on deck 11...I got chills! The crew certainly went into their emergency training mode, that human chain made my eyes mist up, whew, now that's a trip!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      You are experienced cruise travelers. I'd be scared out of my wits if my first cruise started out like this. My husband was on a day cruise where the boat caught fire and sank. Still he is willing to go on boats even now.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I don't travel too well in calm seas, let alone rough ones, just crossing the English Channel usually makes me seasick. Be thankful your Captain wasn't Italian... Nicely done, blessed.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      nice lens! check my vacation lens out also please

    • CruiseReady profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from East Central Florida

      @JanezKranjski: Freedom of the Seas truly is beautiful... a little bigger than I prefer, but beautiful all the same.

    • JanezKranjski profile image


      6 years ago

      This is beautiful ship.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      great explanations on here, well done.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Excellent lens, well worth the read. Very interesting stuff!

      I've given your page a like too

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      6 years ago

      You sure had quite an experience here.

    • emmaklarkins profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow, sounds like quite an adventure! Not sure I'd be up for it.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Quite a read - thank you very much for sharing this story! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • CruiseReady profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from East Central Florida

      @SayGuddaycom: To answer your question - we'll be on another cruise first chance we get. And it may even be during hurricane season,

    • BPCFE profile image


      6 years ago

      I would never risk sailing in hurricane season. No way. Very informative and nicely done lens. Good to see you came back home safe.

    • SayGuddaycom profile image


      6 years ago

      I think of you every time I watch a cruise ship go past my boat in San Diego harbor (which is several times a week at the very least).

    • DuaneJ profile image


      6 years ago

      Sounds like an interesting cruise!


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