Sail Date: January 2008
From beginning to end, this trip was perfect! No snags or unhappy events! I can't wait to go again. Before embarkation we spent 3 days in Daytona Beach with my husband's uncle. They are great people and we were happy to see ... Read More
From beginning to end, this trip was perfect! No snags or unhappy events! I can't wait to go again. Before embarkation we spent 3 days in Daytona Beach with my husband's uncle. They are great people and we were happy to see them. It was my first visit to Daytona Beach, and we really liked the town. If you have an uncle in Daytona Beach, you should go visit them! We drove down on Sunday and arrived at the port about 1pm. From the moment we stepped into the check in building until we were on the ship finding our room was just 15 minutes!!!! I timed it. I couldn't believe it! Smooth, smooth smooth!!! Our luggage arrived in a reasonable time. When we went to dinner that night we were pleased with out seatmates. One couple was from Denmark and were great to chat with. The other couple lived about 2 hours from us, so we had a great time discussing local stuff when the Danes were at the specialty dining. The dining staff were top notch and provided outstanding service. We did a lot of resting and drinking on this trip. I recommend a yellow bird and a mojito. Every drink was expertly poured and every bar staff was friendly and chatty. Every lounge chair was comfy and so inviting.... Johnny rockets was deelish, The dining room food was superb and even the snacky stuff on the promenade was so so yummy. We never ordered room service or went to chops/Portofino's because there were so many other things that we wanted. I love dessert, and I had many. We were second dinner seating, so were spent time at the pool and hot tub while half the ship was at dinner. This was great, and we never had trouble getting a chair or finding a spot in the hot tub. We spent a great afternoon on the flowrider and had a blast. Lots of great pictures! Most of the crowd were teenage boys, and I was worried. But, they were so supportive, and cheered loudly for everyone, which was a nice feeling. I had two small complaints about this trip which i tried to address, but never got anywhere. First, the hours for the ice skating rink were very limited and we ended up not going at all. The rink was not open every day, and the times it was open were short. This was something I was really looking forward to, and i was told that the professional skaters needed time to practice and rest. OK, but this was so popular and then to only have it open here and there was disappointing. The other issue was the scrapbooking classes. They were advertised for 50 participants, and every time they had the class they had about 20-30 people. They would hand out supplies to about the first 20 people, then turn everyone else away and say there wasn't enough stuff. If they only intended to have 20 people participate, then the Compass should have reflected that. I guess that the moral to the story is that try to do what you are most interested in on the first few days and arrive early as it may fill up or not have an opportunity later in the week. I never really felt crowded on the ship except while shopping the $10 sale on the promenade with really pushy people and when trying to find a seat in the Windjammer during high traffic times. Both of these were manageable. We decorated our door to celebrate my graduation from nursing school. "Soon I'll fix your boo-boo, but this week I need drinks that are foo-foo!!" It was fun to hear the other passengers comments, and it made finding our room so much easier. Disembarkation was OK, but not great. Hubby and I were fine, but MANY older folks were really struggling with out anyone to help. These were people who were not disabled, but were not capable of hauling their carry ons up and down stairs and down hallways and standing for long periods of time. This process needs some tweaking. I can't say enough wonderful things about this trip. I wish I could do it again very soon. But now it's 23 degrees here in Pennsylvania and it will be a long time until i am tropical again. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
    We were not impressed. This was our sixth Cruise but the first from a UK port. Whether this was the reason or not we are not sure.     The Balcony Cabin was very good and very clean. The staff were all very good and ... Read More
    We were not impressed. This was our sixth Cruise but the first from a UK port. Whether this was the reason or not we are not sure.     The Balcony Cabin was very good and very clean. The staff were all very good and attentive.The food was overall abysmal, certainly the worst we have had on any cruise ship. It is the very first time I have been on a cruise and not had a decent steak in the restaurant. The Windjammer Buffet was not very good either. The presentation of the food was pathetic and the same every day very little variation.      They seem to do some very strange things. Although there were nearly four passengers they closed half the Winjammer and only used one side most of the time, consequently there was a shortage of tables. Why ? no one seemed to know.       One day whilst in the Med they stopped the use of balconies so they could be cleaned.......why not do this in cooler climes when the balconies were not being used ?       Also while in the Med on a beautiful day the closed part of the pool area for CLEANING and Varnishing !!!!!       The cost of everything was very expensive ( $6.50 for a can of Buds...almost a fiver)$29.99 for 1 hour on the internet.       They must actually have got embarrassed at on stage as they were charging $12 for a trip into Livorno town and decided to refund $4 and charge only $8.       We only met one couple on the ship that were satisfied customers ( and we strongly suspected that was because they had a relative working onboard)       We were on the Grand Princess last year wnd the difference was remarkable it would have been difficult to fault anything on that ship.        By the way we agree with the Daily Telegraph reviewer, there are only lifts at the front and rear of the ship and it is a hell of a long walk to get your meals if you are not situated near the rear.        Maybe just too big !!!!!!!              Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
I am not going to go into naming every lunge and describing every detail but I intend to give an informative realistic review. First off to get to all the negative thing I read on other reviews. 1. nobody was sick 2. the rooms were ... Read More
I am not going to go into naming every lunge and describing every detail but I intend to give an informative realistic review. First off to get to all the negative thing I read on other reviews. 1. nobody was sick 2. the rooms were spotless not messy 3. there were plenty of seats to eat at the buffet 4. There were always lounge chairs available (yes some day it was harder to get a prime spot) Getting on the ship was quick and easy. I read 1PM boarding...I jumped out of my can and went right through the empty line at 1130AM. I stood in line for a few minutes and was on the ship. Very easy, get on line as early as possible and don't wait for the "posted" boarding time. We were able to explore the ship, eat and do whatever we wanted until the room was ready at 1PM. There were always plenty of options to eat at different locations. Make reservations for Portofino's and Choppe Grille the First day. Anything else you do not need a reservation for. I suggest trying to get the later second seating time for the main dining rooms. We had 6PM reserved. We only made it there two nights. After spending all day at the ports or swimming outside, to waste a few hours of sun getting showered and ready for the 6PM meal. There was always so much to do. We tried to do 3-4 different things a night and there was still stuff we missed. Every night there are so many shows, musicians, special occasions (outside buffet/ closing off an area to turn it into another style club, gameshows, spa,gym, etc..there was always something to do every night! We saw A singer/impersonator.. he was great! the juggling comedian was super talented, funny and entertaining, we missed the ice show because we were on an incredible roll at the big casino the night we had tickets. There are plenty of areas for smokers so do not be afraid of that. Outside decks 4,11, 12 and numerous inside lounges allowed smoking. There was an internet room which would have been more convenient if they didn't charge by the minute. There is plenty of sporty activities, flow rider, mountain climbing, basketball/soccer court, mini golf, golf simulator, ping pong, arcade, etc..if that is your thing. There was always free coffee, pizza and room service daily. The atmosphere was amazing, the food was served fast, If I really had to dig deep for a complaint it would only involve getting off the boat at the end of the trip and at one port. I am punctual and an early bird so I was at the gangway 10 minutes before it was scheduled to let us off the boat at 10 A.M. and they were not ready fro 40 minutes. The other ports were pretty smooth. I would suggest going leaving the boat a half hour after the earliest scheduled time. This way you do not stand there on line if they are running late and you avoid the big crowd. Getting off the ship was a little unorganized, they tell you to go to a certain area and wait , They were not close to being ontime because they had to wait for customs. Everyone like myself who were there early ended up being 200 people behind because after they hold you in the theatre they exit by a door right by the elevators. Sooo..You are actually better off again coming a few minutes later then the posted time right down the elevator to the gangway and just skip being shuffled off into the waiting room behind everyone else. Two minor waits on line was the only negative stuff. everything was great! Staff was friendly and there was so much to do! I would definitely go back again! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
Myself and a colleague flew from Dublin to London and were met by Royal Caribbean reps on arrival. We were coached down to Southampton and this only took around 1 hour 40 minutes. On arrival we were checked in right away and were able to ... Read More
Myself and a colleague flew from Dublin to London and were met by Royal Caribbean reps on arrival. We were coached down to Southampton and this only took around 1 hour 40 minutes. On arrival we were checked in right away and were able to board the ship at 1145am. This was great as we just wanted to get to our stateroom and drop our bags to explore the ship. We started at deck 14 and worked our way down. I have been on the Liberty of the Seas last year and the Independence is a carbon copy with a few minor changes. The flowrider is alot of fun and a guy was demonstrating how it works. Some of the guest then tried and its not as easy as it looks. Its nice to be able to sit and watch and always makes people laugh. A stop for a Pina Colada at 'Wipe out' bar next to the flowrider was a welcome break. No changes to deck 13. The basket ball court/Mini golf and the Wall are all the same. Down to deck 12 and a visit to the day spa. As we walked in the smell of essential oils was very nice. We were greeted by the staff and given a tour of the treatment rooms and advised about the treatments on offer. Down the glass steps to the boxing ring and sauna areas everything shiny and brand new. My colleague being a girl went to look at the ladies sauna area and I went to the mens area. After that we met outside and showed eachother the photos of the sauna's. The ladies sauna is half the size of the mens. I don't know why this is . We then went to look at the kids area 'Ocean Adventure' and Johnny Rockets. I was looking forward to having a milk shake but it was closed and remained closed for the whole time we were onboard. The kids area has so many facilities to keep any child happy for a 14 day cruise. Deck 11 and we loved the H2o zone for kids. Its a great idea and looks very impressive. The Solarium and whirlpools are a really nice area to relax in. I always prefer this area than the main pool area as its quiet. Down the other end of the deck and we were at the Windjammer. We decided to stop here for lunch. So much on offer and it was hard to decide what to eat. I decided to go for a a mix. The sweet and sour chicken was amazing. I decided not to go for a dessert although they were very tempting. We then proceeded to the stateroom decks and various types were available for viewing. I have to say my favorite was the Royal Suite. The owners suite follows. They are so spacious and nicely furnished. We then saw a reduced mobility stateroom and it really is great to have all of the handrails and wider doors for people with wheelchairs. Everything is tailor made to make life easier. The Promenade stateroom is an ideal choice for those who cant afford a outside but don't want to be boxed in with an inside. Alot of people actually prefer the PR staterooms as you can see all thats going on in the Royal Promenade. I have stayed in one on a Trans Atlantic cruise on the Voyager and it was ideal as a solo traveller. The outside stateroom was nice but to be honest Id prefer a PR. I love the showers onboard in the staterooms. They are very powerful and the curved doors give you extra room so you don't keep bashing your arms whilst showering. There was a dispenser for shampoo but I prefer to take my own products that I use at home. The towels were lovely and soft and made from 100% Egyptian cotton. The beds were so comfortable it was hard to get out of them the next morning. They get 100% for that. The powerpoints in the stateroom are one European 2 pin and 2 USA flatpin so for all UK cruisers take adapters!!! All staterooms have a Data socket to plug your laptop into. Time to take a stroll along the Royal Promenade. I love the Freedom class as the longer Promenade really makes a difference. The Cafe is great and you have to try the 'Rustica' vegetarian Pizza! Its to die for . Free Tea and Coffee from the self service area are always available. Speciality Coffee from Seattles finest is charged but very nice for a proper brew. The pub is called the Dog and Badger and is nice to have a pint. Im sure it will be popular with the Brits this season. The Champagne bar is as good as ever. I tried the Pomegranate one and it was very nice. All of the normal logo wear and perfume shops are there. The guest relations area is also the same. It was then time to check out the nightclub and its called the 'Labyrinth'. All quite gothic but also Tower of London themed with Beefeaters and ravens !!! Quite a mix but I have to say I loved the British influence for a UK based ship. Studio B and the Theatre are the same . We did look in on a show that night but to be honest I didn't like it and we left after 15 minutes. This is quite unusual as I normally enjoy them. Im sure they will improve on the proper cruises. I thought they would have done something related to productions in London's West end theatres but this seemed to be clowns or something. The main dining room is as glitzy as ever and it really looks the part. Dinner that evening was amazing and the food was top class. I went for my favorite shrimp cocktail and then we shared the Eggplant and Mozzarella dish which was equally as nice. I then went for the beef fillet and it was 100%. The food on the whole ship was 100% so a big thumbs up to Royal Caribbean for that. The dedicated terminal and great itineraries from Southampton should prove a success for Royal Caribbean. It certainly is a ship packed full of amenities and there is something for everyone onboard.... With the arrival of Genesis not far behind I can only dream what Central Park will look like. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
Independence of the Seas - April 30 - May 2, 2008 Pre-Inaugural Cruise Pre-Cruise We were contest winners! It's an amazing feeling to have someone call you to tell you you've won a trip to England and a trip on the biggest, ... Read More
Independence of the Seas - April 30 - May 2, 2008 Pre-Inaugural Cruise Pre-Cruise We were contest winners! It's an amazing feeling to have someone call you to tell you you've won a trip to England and a trip on the biggest, newest cruise ship in the world! We are avid cruisers and I couldn't have been more excited. Royal Caribbean was generous in allowing us to fly out early. We left on Friday, April 25th and spent 3 days touring London at our own expense. We flew on Virgin Atlantic and I'd recommend this airline to anyone. They were great. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum. It was a great hotel; the location was perfect, just one block from the Gloucester Road Tube Station. We took the Big Bus tour the first day and saw all the classic sights from the bus. This is a Hop On/Hop Off bus and the ticket is good for 24 hours. On day 2 we toured the Tower of London and took a Thames River cruise. On our last day in London we walked to Kensington Palace and toured the gardens there. Then off to our flight on the London Eye and a visit to Harrods. That evening we went to the Lyric Theatre, one of the oldest theatres in London, to see Cabaret. It was a wonderful show and quite an experience. On Tuesday morning, Royal Caribbean arranged a car service to pick us up at the hotel and drive us to the Hilton in Southampton to wait our boarding the Independence of the Seas on Wednesday. The Hilton was a nice hotel, but too far out of the cruise port for our liking. Food here was very expensive! That afternoon, we met up with the other contestants as they came in. Some of us went out to dinner that evening at the Chilworth Arms, a lovely pub near the hotel. Wednesday, we were shuttled together to the port in Southampton for our first look at this beautiful ship. The check in process was smooth enough. There were a few kinks, but that is to be expected on a shakedown cruise. We were all given Priority boarding passes and sent to wait in a comfortable lounge where they were serving cookies, coffee and tea. There is a bar in the waiting area as well. At 11:30 AM, we were able to board the Indy. This was definitely not your typical cruise experience. We brought our own luggage aboard, our photos were taken for the Sign & Sail card and off we went to our cabins. There was open bar for the whole cruise too. ? We were in cabin 7600, designated as Deluxe Ocean View, Cat E1. The balcony was very large at 74 sq feet, the deepest balcony we've ever had. The cabin was wonderfully appointed, even had a tea kettle. I really liked having this to make coffee every morning. The beds were pillow top mattresses and were very comfy! We were off to wander the ship and I combed the whole ship taking a LOT of pictures. It was overwhelming.....just such a beautiful ship with so many spaces and things to do. The Royal Promenade was so cool. There you will find the shops, Sorrento's Pizza, the Dog and Badger Pub and a Champagne Bar to name a few things. It was really amazing! There is also a LOT of artwork on board the ship. Something I really appreciated. We were given a booklet identifying all the pieces, the artist and the location. The three level dining room was spectacular as well. Most had open seating for dinner, but we contestants had reserved tables on deck 4 in the Macbeth Dining Room. Deck 5 has the King Lear dining room and Deck3 has the Romeo and Juliet dining room. Next, we were off to the Windjammer for lunch. The windjammer is huge with lots of tables and window seats. The food was delicious! Chops is located at the entrance to the Windjammer. It's a really beautiful space. After lunch, we did some more exploring, checking out the Flow Rider, Johnny Rockets and the Solarium area. The cantilevered whirlpools were open and although it was a chilly, rainy day, they were just so inviting we couldn't resist a dip. It was wonderful! There are two of these whirlpools on either side of the ship. It was nice to relax for a bit. After that we headed back to our rooms to dress early for dinner and attend the Naming Ceremony held at 4:30 in the Alhambra Theatre. Everyone was presented a glass of champagne upon entering. The ceremony was done very well, so moving. The Godmother, Elizabeth Hill we presented in a procession with the Highlander Players following and the International Highlanders and Celtic Feet, a River Dance type troupe. Richard Fain announced the Godmother and Captain Strazicic spoke. Elizabeth was presented with a huge bouquet by some of the children helped by the Steve Redgrave Fund, a charitable organization that helps disabled and mentally challenged children. The Norwegian, American and United Kingdom anthems were sung as well. We went to the Ice Skating show before dinner, Strings! - A world Adventure on Ice. It was really good. After the show it was time to get ready for dinner. Dinner was at 7:30. It was a more limited menu than is usual at dinner, but it was delicious none the less. We met the Royal Caribbean Marketing representative, Harry Liu and Gene Sloan from USA Today. We were also introduced to the reps from the marketing firm Weber & Shandwick who worked in conjunction with RCI and USA Today on the Name that Ship Genesis contest. Everyone was so nice. They made us feel very special. Sail away was at 10 PM and we enjoyed it with a great view in the Royal Crown Lounge. Later, there was a 70's dance party in the Royal Promenade. What a blast that was with the dancers in costume, the disco balls sparkling and the music thumping. We danced and drank the night away. After a visit to the Karaoke bar and some laughs there, we headed to bed. We missed the main show tonight, just too much to do! The was titled Abbacadabra, the Ultimate Abba Concert. Thursday morning, we were up early and had breakfast again in the Windjammer. Then we were off to a meeting with some reps for RCI and Gene Sloan. After the meeting, we headed up to the top decks for our photo shoot with the group of other contestants. We had lunch at Johnny Rockets after that, which is a great place to enjoy a burger and a shake. The waiters and waitresses did the singing and dancing. It was a lot of fun. We were lucky enough to be invited on a Bridge tour. It was very interesting to see all the computers and other equipment that keeps us safe while sailing. The views from up on the bridge were amazing. After the bridge tour we went on a Galley tour as well. It was informative and interesting to see how they make so much food! Dinner Thursday night was a more typical menu, with many options. I had the steak and it was done to perfection. The Grand Marnier soufflE for dessert was perfect. We attended the show on Thursday night, Under the Big Top. We enjoyed that a lot. After the show, was yet another dance party, the Rock Britannia Street Party on the Royal Promenade. After the party, we headed to bed, thoroughly exhausted and happy. On Friday morning, disembarkation was a breeze. We took our own luggage off the ship, climbed onto the waiting bus and headed to Heathrow to fly home. Photos of Independence can be see on my Webshots page here: http://good-times.webshots.com/album/563288702TpMeic Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We were treated to this cruise by my parents to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. We travelled with them, my brother and his partner, my niece and her 2 yr old son- so 8 of us in total of varying ages and abilities! My parents ... Read More
We were treated to this cruise by my parents to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. We travelled with them, my brother and his partner, my niece and her 2 yr old son- so 8 of us in total of varying ages and abilities! My parents are in their 70's, The four of us in the next generation are in our 40's, my niece is 20 and her son 2 years old. Being from the north and south of the country we all met up just outside Southampton on Friday lunchtime in order to drive to the port in a convoy of three cars. (This was not easy as there are many traffic lights in Southampton!) On arrival at the port gate 8 there was a slight build up of traffic but we were moving slowly. We couldn't believe the size of the ship when we first caught sight of it. We were so excited! Baggage drop off was smooth and as my mum has Parkinson's, and uses an electric scooter, I went with her on foot to the check in area whilst the others parked the cars. They joined us very quickly and we were soon through the necessary controls to check in. ( I had to be searched as I set off the bleeper thing- which always seems to happen to me at airports too!) Mum also had to be searched as her metal hip set off the bleeper! We all could check in through the disabled desk as we were a party with a disabled member which was good as the queue was not as long as some of the others. However we still had to wait 5 or 10 mins after check in for our card passes to be brought from elsewhere. Embarkation was then so easy and access was no problem for my mum. She rode straight up and onto the ship, up in the lift and into her stateroom with ease. There really is no problem for people with mobility problems. You can access all areas of the ship easily. We were handed a lovely cocktail as we entered the ship which was delicious. On Deck 9 We all separated to find our rooms. On the way I was trying to take in as much as possible! One of the first things I noticed was the artwork- this continued to impress me throughout the trip. There is a booklet in your rooms giving background information on this. Our balcony stateroom was better than I had expected. Plenty big enough for two with plenty of storage and a good sized balcony with two chairs and a small table. The bed was huge with top quality linens and was so soft and comfortable it was hard to leave it behind! The towels were very thick and soft but too small for me. I like a good sized bath SHEET and these were just tiny hand towels and a bath towel. The bathroom was small - only room for one- but perfectly adequate. The shower was powerful and hot and I liked that it had proper doors not a curtain-which I hate. Our room attendant came to see us after about 10 mins to introduce himself and explain the room etc. We had tea and coffee making in the room (which they've introduced for the brits I think) but when we went to make a coffee there was no milk and we were too anxious to get out and explore so we didn't bother to send for any( just brought a carton back from breakfast the next morning) We had a look at our family's rooms. My parents had a junior suite which was superb. About half as big again as our room. It had a lounger on the balcony in addition to the chairs and the balcony was wider. They had a super walk-in wardrobe and a bigger bathroom with a full bath(shower over). They had a chaise long type seat in addition to the settee and chairs. We had ordered flowers and a fruit basket for them before we left home. I did this on the internet and it did not allow for me to put in their room number so I had to have it delivered to ours. However it was waiting for us in our room as we arrived so I had our attendant take it round for them. He was pleased to do so and even reported back to us that they were really surprised.Nothing is too much trouble on this ship. My brothers room was the same as ours but a little cramped as there were three adults and a child in there. The Ship Well where do I start. My husband and I set off to explore the ship just as it left Southampton. I could not believe all the things I saw! And the atmosphere as we left port was electric. Bands playing, people dancing, waving flags, lined up looking over the side, cocktails, horn blowing.... The weather was superb and people were making the most of it on the sun loungers and in the pools.We managed to take in the pool deck before we had to get ready for dinner as we had booked the 6pm sitting. Im not sure about the sittings for dinner. I would have preferred to eat a little later as we were always rushing to get ready fro 6. If we had been on or own I think we would have taken a more flexible approach to dining rather than the set time but it was good to meet with the family and get together at meal times. The main restaurant was breathtakingly stunning. We ate in Macbeth which was the middle tier, I think, and we were near a window which was nice but it was far too tight for space around the table. My chair had to be pushed in by the waiter every night as it was too heavy for me to move!! I ended up feeling a little hemmed in. The waiting staff were excellent. Well trained, friendly and 'no' is just not in their vocabulary! You can ask for whatever and it will be done! After the first night our waiter, Candice ,knew every one of our preferences and looked after us so well. The menus were varied and there was something to suit everyone. I could not fault the food. It was perfect for me as it was small portions. If you have a bigger appetite you can just ask for more! A member of our party celebrated her birthday on the Saturday night and they brought her a birthday cake and sang to her round the table. It was a nice touch. The after dinner shows were of a high standard. My favorite being the Strings Ice Show. Top quality skating. It got a standing ovation. My little nephew couldn't take his eyes of the skaters despite being way past his bedtime! The sports activities were great. We tried the ice skating(the boots hurt), the crazy golf(well planned and set out), the rock climbing wall ( hard work), the flow rider (very difficult but fun),the table tennis( kept losing the balls), the jogging track (5 times round = 1 mile), the gym ( loads of equipment). We tried the cantilever whirlpools. Lovely but my only complaint was there are no suitable changing cubicles. I don't like getting changed in the toilets and it was a long way back to my stateroom. You can use the gym changing area but its not private. On the topic of toilets, my niece had trouble when needing to change her little boys nappy as there are NO baby changing facilities anywhere. You Have to go back to your room. This is usually a long way from where you are! My Dad took his grandson to the play activities for 19-36 months. He said the staff didn't do anything with the children - you had to entertain them yourself. We didn't use the ships excursions as my brother had booked us a private mini bus tour before we left. The driver was great. He took us to Blarney Castle( where we kissed the famous stone) the on for sunday lunch at a great Irish pub called Blairs Inn. Highly recommended. Then a quick tour around Cork city and back to Cobh port. One word of warning- allow plenty of time back to the ship especially if you are sailing that day. There was a build up of traffic going back into Cobh( apparently locals going to see the ship leave port) and it took us ages to get back to the ship! Our highlight has got to be leaving Cobh on the Sunday night. It was formal night so we were all dressed up on deck. Thousands of people had lined the town, piers, streets etc. There was a band playing on the quay side and as we set sail there were cheers and whistles,ships horn blowing etc. It was quite emotional. We liked the Olive or twist bar with its live music and dancing. We went there most nights after the show. But there are many more to try. We only had four nights and couldn't possibly cram everything in. We did our best though! One thing I must say is that if you are not used to cruising you WILL feel the ship moving. I don't think the sea was that choppy but I felt a lot of swaying and at times it was making me quite dizzy. Back at Southampton disembarking was so easy and we collected our luggage and back in the car in about 15 mins. All in all it was an amazing experience.I would definitely do it again. Just have to start saving now as we will have to pay for the next one ourselves!! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
My husband daughter (16years) and myself went on the 10 days RCC trip out of Southampton on the cruise to Madeira/Canaries/Spain then back to Southampton. The ship is huge (having already been on 2 other RCC ships) I found this ship ... Read More
My husband daughter (16years) and myself went on the 10 days RCC trip out of Southampton on the cruise to Madeira/Canaries/Spain then back to Southampton. The ship is huge (having already been on 2 other RCC ships) I found this ship exactly the same as the Voyager of the Seas but on a larger scale. The service was good the food was good. However our waiter was not as attentive as the previous ships we have been on, we had to keep waiting for him and waiting for our wine/drinks and it wasn't as if he had lots to do as some of the tables were empty, he was particularly upset when one night none of us turned up, he seemed to sulk the next evening! The Windjammer was always packed, and quite often in the morning you had to walk round quite a few times to get a table, or if there was a waiter nearby he directed you to a table with people on it, to share, not a problem to us but could be to some people. Our daughter went to the teenager club, she loved it, met loads of kids the same sort of age, they all tend to stick together all week doing their own thing. We went to the ice shows (there were 2) they were fantastic,superb, but the shows in the theatre were ok... the RCC dancers and singers are so cheesy....don't sit near the front as it really spoils the illusion. I felt all of their shows were the same, just different songs but same tunes. Some of the acts were really good, but not all. If you get to the theatre too late then you have to sit upstairs and you cannot see anything in fact we were late once and in the end we left the theatre as the seats upstairs are awful and if you are sitting in front of the poles then forget it. The ports that we stopped at were not really very good, Madeira/Funchal was ok and the weather was quite nice, but when we stopped on the Sunday at Las Palmas (i think not sure) all of the shops were closed, why on earth did we bother to stop there was some kind of market on, but it was full of rubbish think car boot sale/jumble shop not somewhere you really want to go. The port of Vigo in Spain is a town, and yet again more shops to be honest the ports were not that well thought out, but we all said we knew why they were chosen, so that they could take this huge ship. It was great travelling from Southampton (but even the service of unloading your bags from your car to the get them on the ship was a nightmare as machine had broken....) but you are able to get on the ship from 11am (even if they do tell you 2pm onwards)and you need to get there early as all of the parking spaces were filled up really quickly. If you live locally go in a cab and you are dropped off at the front and just drop your bags in, so much easier. I don't think we would go on a ship this big again (lots of movement when we left Southampton - well I thought so... and was boring being on a ship for over 2 days in the awful weather as you could not go outside due to the wind, no way could you sunbathe far too cold even in May)but I do like RCC and would def book another one of their cruises... Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
My wife and I cruised with my niece and her friend, so essentially I spent the cruise in the company of three lovely women, which kept many of the other passengers guessing and boosted my ego quite a bit. Our cruise was the second of the ... Read More
My wife and I cruised with my niece and her friend, so essentially I spent the cruise in the company of three lovely women, which kept many of the other passengers guessing and boosted my ego quite a bit. Our cruise was the second of the IotS, from Southampton calling at Madeira, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Lisbon, Vigo and back to Southampton (not Western Mediterranean as I selected from the CC drop down list, but there is no selection offered for this itinerary). On a very warm and sunny day in Southampton, embarkation was fast and slick and by sailaway on deck 11 we were very much in the holiday spirit; the ship's band, 'Rock the Boat' caught our attention immediately with their superb playing, but I will come back to that. The Ship - huge of course and actually very impressive, good architecture, well designed and built. All I can compare with is QM2, and whilst the dEcor is perhaps a little jazzier, no quality is lost. I didn't think I would like the Royal Promenade, but it actually works as a main thoroughfare and social focal point for the ship. Of all the bars, we liked Boleros for a pre dinner cocktails in a very lively Latin American atmosphere, or for something quieter the Champagne Bar was also excellent. Both of these are pretty close to the main Dining Room entrance, so perfect venues just before dinner. There are of course other bars around the ship, and we used those occasionally. The top decks 11 and 12 are also well designed and create a variety of extensive sunbathing and pool areas, many of which sheltered from the wind, and on a nice late afternoon, the pool bars are a good place for a margarita or two. Flowrider and Rock Climbing wall are on the upper deck at the rear of the ship, looked good fun but didn't try. Sports Court here also, used this from time to time, kicking a ball around or the occasional 5-aside football game. Cabins - Good. We were in 7502, right at the front of the ship with a fantastic porthole facing dead ahead. We had a few gripes about the stateroom attendant but overall the cabin was as good as similar cabins on QM2, but without robes, slippers, toiletries. Casino - Big, all you need and I won so no complaints. Dining - We ate in third tier (King Lear) by the window, a wonderfully intimate setting considering the size of the restaurant, served by Milan and Olga. After the first night, which took too long and served dry steak, leaving us at that point wishing we were back on QM2, the food improved. There are only three courses but I have no problem with that, because you can supplement your meal with pretty much anything off the menu, if you can find room for it (which I could not). Milan and Olga were excellent, and took extremely good care of us (Hello Stacey, Chris and Dan). Speciality restaurants (supplement applies) Chops Grille and Portofino's were both excellent, Portofino's had the edge in my view, 5 star dining and excellent service. Entertainment - Alhambra theatre shows were OK to excellent, but even the less impressive shows are still a nice way to spend an hour in the evening. The Ice skating shows, we saw two, were superb, don't miss them. One evening the rink was converted into a venue for a crazy game show called 'The Quest'. Don't be snobby about this, go see it, you cannot help getting caught up in the fun. Otherwise there are performers ranging from violins, guitars, lounge bands etc dotted around here and there, all very nice. And then there is the ship's rock band, 'Rock the Boat'. That's right, rock band, in fact rock, pop and blues. This band, I promise you, was worth the fare alone, so much better than the usual calypso / Caribbean / party band that you will find disappearing into the background on other ships. Rock the Boat - Four extremely talented musicians and I will name them: Band lead vocalist and bass player, Curtiss; Drums and support vocalist Dave; Keyboards Dave; and last and certainly not least, lead guitar and support vocals Darren. I love this band, and Darren is an expert lead guitarist who knows how to play, really play. The blues night in the Pyramid lounge, amongst many other excellent nights when we saw the band, ranks as one of the best nights of my life. The Pyramid lounge became a blues club for the night, a sort of jamming session with a couple of the orchestra's sax players joining in for a few numbers, unrehearsed and simply magic. These guys don't know how good they are, Maybe RCI don't know either, but if you were born in the fifties like me, you will probably love these guys too. I could go on and on about this band, but I won't - just go see them. Destinations - OK, liked Madeira and Lisbon best, but actually usually were quite glad to get back on the ship. Go again - Probably, if only to catch another blues night. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
My wife and I, plus 2 grown up children and their partners approached this trip with real excitement, lot least as we had waited over a year to go on one of the "worlds largest ships"! So we were not surprised when we first set ... Read More
My wife and I, plus 2 grown up children and their partners approached this trip with real excitement, lot least as we had waited over a year to go on one of the "worlds largest ships"! So we were not surprised when we first set eyes upon her, she is enormous. Joy and I have cruised on many occasions, so had an idea what to expect, my daughter and partner were on their third cruise and my son and wife on their second. First of all, embarkation was very well handled; from parking the car to getting handed a glass of champagne on the ship was less than half an hour, which is very good indeed. Our luggage was with us 1.5 hours later that is a record, so well done RCCI that is as good as it gets in our eyes. This was only a mini cruise, but we sure packed a lot in; Day One, explored the ship, easy as we had been on a Voyager class ship previously, and found the layout and most of the interior to be almost the same (that was surprise number one), but being new it did have that extra dimension with a few little changes. We were dining on main sitting in the dining room as a family of 6, but having checked our "sea passes" found we were not together (surprise number two), but on two different floors and two different tables, so we joined the queue to see the restaurant manager who changed this to a table for six very quickly(blaming H.O. in Miami)so we could sit together. Upon arrival at our new table that evening (cards delivered to stateroom, with table number) we found that it was a table for four! Now that is just not good enough RCCI (I know you read these reviews), we expected better organization than this, particularly as we had taken the trouble to changed it on boarding the ship ourselves, the food was fine, not great, but good all the same. The first nights show (Centre Stage) was very impressive, and of the very highest quality, the musicians were just incredible, top quality playing and we can say without any hesitation that they were the best we have ever come across in 36 other cruises. The quality of the singers and dancers were also of such high quality, we were asking ourselves if we were on Broadway, or the West End of London - it was that good! We tried several bars and found the drinks to be well priced (unless you are from the USA, where $13 - $14 for two standard drinks may well turn you into a non drinker), but service was slow at times - this is a busy ship! Entertainment was good all around the ship. Day Two morning at sea, afternoon in Cobh; got to see the ship in all its glory, tried the rock climbing (me and grown up children - not my wife), it is very high and great fun. The flow rider (surfing machine) is just incredible, so much fun to watch, and I guess even more fun to try. Lots to do for families on this ship, and lots of places to spend money if you wish, just like any other holiday resort; and this is a resort! Arrived in Cobh at 1430; Cobh is a lovely little town with lots of history (Titanic etc) and of course Guinness (it really does taste better in Ireland)! The people are friendly, but after an hour or so we found that there was not much to do in Cobh except drink Guinness. Back on board we had dinner (just two of us), which was fine, except we had to then explain to the waiter, assistant waiter and assistant head waiter (all at different times), that the rest of our party were ashore in Cobh enjoying the town (we were staying over night), and it was not the service that kept them away. Did not see the show on day two, it was an Irish singer (just singing is not to our liking), so we found several places around the ship to entertain ourselves (there are lots). There is non-stop entertainment if you want it, and as this is a family ship so lots to do for families of all ages. Day Three went to Cork, had lunch and enjoyed it very much (there are better reviewers than me to review this great city). Back on board got ready for formal night, and had a wonderful time, the show again was just fantastic, but the queues for formal photographs were long and there were people everywhere in Main Street, far to many to say it was relaxing, but you can find quite places if you look. Day Four at sea, just relaxed and enjoyed the facilities of this great big ship, and got to know and enjoy the sheer size and quantity of the facilities. Now we of course knew it was large, and of course we knew it was a family ship, so no surprises there, but it was just so busy at times we just were overwhelmed! The lifts (elevators) were always busy, and many a time had to wait for another one to arrive, and the main street was at times so full, you could just about walk down it, but this is a family ship, and families like to keep busy we kept telling ourselves, so maybe this type of ship is not for us. Did we enjoy ourselves? Yes we did! Would we go on this size ship again? No we would not! It just lacked a little bit of class, and we kept saying to ourselves "it is a family ship", my daughter (mid twenties), also said she preferred Celebrity, again it was just down to that little lack of class, and the feeling of being rushed all the time. There were some negatives and some positives, and I know its down to personal taste, it's just not to ours. So well done RCCI it's a great ship, not for us, we will enjoy some of your other great ships, and there are many. David and Joy May 2008. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
Background. This was our debut cruise as Crown and Anchor Platinum members and we travelled with my mother, a sprightly 91 and our daughter. We made our own arrangements getting to /from Dublin to Southampton, which included a two hour ... Read More
Background. This was our debut cruise as Crown and Anchor Platinum members and we travelled with my mother, a sprightly 91 and our daughter. We made our own arrangements getting to /from Dublin to Southampton, which included a two hour delay on the flight out and a long wait at Southampton Airport on the way home. Still, it was better than going through Heathrow with the road transfer to follow. Embarkation. The taxi dropped us at City Cruise terminal at 1p.m. As we were travelling with a wheelchair, we bypassed even the Express check in for Platinum/Diamond members and were directed to a special desk for checking in passengers with wheelchairs. Unfortunately, neither of the parties in front of us had checked in online, so we had to wait about 20 minutes to be processed. We were onboard by 1.30p.m. Credit to RCI for the efficient operation at Southampton. Other ports take note, especially Miami. Staterooms. We had a junior suite on deck nine, 9558. It was forward on the port side, close to the elevators. My mother and daughter had an inside on deck six, 6531, also near the elevators, so it was easy to commute between the two. The JS was excellent, with lots of space including a great walk in wardrobe. Our balcony was large with a recliner as well as the usual table and chairs. The inside was fine, bit tight on space with the wheelchair, but the ladies had absolutely no complaints. Both room stewards were very efficient and low key. One of them recognized us from the Jewel of the Seas, which was nice. The bedding was SO comfortable, it was difficult to get up some mornings. Restaurants. We were main dining on deck 4, Macbeth, table 413. Up to now we had always taken late seating, so it took a day or two to acclimate to the earlier times. The table was right by the window with great views. We were fortunate enough to visit the Indy in April as part of the launch process, and quite incredibly, the table we sat at that night was the same one we had for the cruise. Our waiter was Sandu from Romania, assisted by Larry from the Philippines. As usual, we had great banter with them both, and every evening Larry would give us a number puzzle to solve by dinner time next day. I am still not sure if the standard of food on Indy is as good as other RCI cruises. There has certainly been a shift in emphasis on a number of fronts, namely the size of the portions (smaller) and menu choice. There was quite a bit of repetition, and the 'reserve ' items such as steak and chicken now appear as first choices every single night. As our waiter said one night, in a few years time we'll be given a pill with 'Chicken' or 'Steak' on it. We spread breakfast between free seating in the dining room and Windjammer. Credit where its due, Windjammer wins hand down and I have never said that before. The range available was much better there, with the dining room offering a smaller menu than usual. Because it was a mainly British cruise, the dining room was very busy, more so than I have seen on any other cruise. They even had a 'self service' section set up to speed things up. We went to Chops Grille on one night and it was superb. Well worth the extra $25 cover. Tried Johnny Rockets late one night as well. It was pretty good. Entertainment. Ken Rush was the CD. It was his last trip before a vacation, relief on other ships and then Oasis of the Seas. Its not hard to see why he gets to bring out all the new ships. He is a real pro, who was everywhere on the ship. The two Ice Shows were probably the pick of the shows. Strings was about the history of a violin through the centuries and Freeze Frame was a musical journey from the 1940's through to 1980. Spectacular is the word for both shows. The Alhambra Theatre was busy every night, with full houses for most of the shows. First night clashed with the Champions League final and it was probably the worst attended night, with a very good comedian, Jeff Stevenson. Next up was Elton John impressionist, Jonathan Kane, who was really good. The first production show was Under the Big Top, which we saw on the preview visit. I thought it awful then, but a little adjustment here and there worked wonders and it was a vastly improved show.. Saturday night was the now infamous Love and Marriage Show. Have to say it didn't work this time around. Ken had to prompt the contestants too much and it lacked the spark of other shows. Day 5 saw a good comedian impressionist called Gary T Thompson, who includes singing over videos of the likes of Tom Jones, Freddie Mercury and Frank Sinatra. he overan on time and we could hear him having a little spat with the Cruise Director while still on stage. Next night was another new production called Centre Stage which was basically a musical review featuring just about every musician and dancer on the ship. It was o.k.but that type of show leaves me cold anyway. We were now on the home run so a little bit of comedy was very welcome in the form of Liverpudlian John Martin, who was great and will be featuring on a lot more cruises. If there is one thing you can be sure of on a cruise, its the American Drifters, and sure enough there they were on day 8. I have nothing against these guys, but its the fourth cruise I have seen them on, and thats more than enough. Day 9 was another new production called Once Upon A Time, which as you can guess had a fairytale theme. Again, pretty good with lavish sets and costumes. The last night was a Farewell Show with a very good magic act called Philip Hitchcock and a balancing act called Fulcrum who literally defied gravity. Ken Rush brought on all the entertainment staff and a sample of all the various departments on the ship for a richly deserved accolade. It was an emotional night for Ken, you could see he was sorry to be going, and he is being replaced by Graham Seymour. Apart from the main shows, there were some very good musicians on board. Chris McCann in the Dog and Badger springs to mind, but the pick of the bunch for me were 'Rock the Boat', a band from Toronto who played some great rock and pop all over the ship. They are on till November, so check them out. The bass player is a real showman. All in all, the entertainment on the Indy was excellent. Ports of Call. Probably not the most exciting aspect of the trip, but some interesting stops, none the less. After almost 3 days at sea, it was nice to see dry land in the shape of Madeira. We did the 'Taste of Madeira' tour. It's a very hilly island with spectacular views and some lovely gardens and vineyards. It was 'Navy Day' when we were there, lots of old sailing ships and Navy warships. Big crowds on the quayside for arrival and departure. Next day was Santa Cruz, in Tenerife. We hired a car and drove over to Santa Cruz and around the northern part of the island for a few hours. We decided we'd better send a few postcards from Gran Canaria and spent 2 hours searching for the Post Office. Other than that, stayed close to the ship. In Lanzarote, we took a taxi to Puerto del Carmen for a walkabout. Early departure here so not much time. When we got to Vigo, the weather had changed for the worse, with some heavy rain. Did a quick run around the nearby Shopping Centre and that was it. Independence has now moved on to the probably more interesting ports around France and Italy General Points I'm going to be negative here on a few issues, some important some probably not, but here goes. As I said, we brought a wheelchair with us for my mother. During our April visit, I enquired from Guest Relations whether ships wheelchairs would be available for our then forthcoming cruise. The answer I got was an emphatic ' NO', bring your own was the advice we got. This we did only to find no shortage of wheelchairs on the Indy. I will be taking this up with Royal Caribbean, because we had to go to some expense and bother to bring our own when it was not really necessary. Small point, but annoying all the same. The next gripe is the manners of a small percentage of our fellow cruisers. It appears that out of 3700 passengers, 2700 were first time cruisers.. While making allowances for the newness of the experience to most of these people, some of them were downright rude and inconsiderate to their fellow passengers. Examples of this are jumping the line at the elevators to get on in front of a wheelchair, and then not making room when the elevator did arrive. In Windjammer, I saw one passenger shouting at a server to get her some item that was not even available at that food station, and verbally abusing him when he suggested she went to the right station. It was often difficult to get tables at peak time, and its amazing how many people want tables for 2 beside the window and were very reluctant to share a table. Small examples, I know, but in all our cruises, I have not experienced so many incidents of bad behavior. Hopefully , it was a once off, and again, it was a VERY small percentage of passengers causing problems. The majority were perfectly behaved. Debarkation, Incredibly smooth. From color call to taxi in less than 10 minutes. It doesn't get much better than that. Again, other ports take note from Southampton's initiative.. Only thing, it meant we were off and running too early, and had to wait 5 hours at the airport. Overall. We all really enjoyed the cruise, but in hindsight we probably prefer slightly smaller ships such as the Jewel.. It was the first cruise we really experienced congestion, both in Windjammer, on the Royal Promenade, and at times in the theatre. And the ship was NOT full. RCI have done a great job as always, but I think in future, will probably go a bit smaller Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We knew she was big. Nothing could have prepared us for the size of what was, at the time, the biggest cruise ship in the world. As we drove up to Southampton port we were just blown away with the size of this stunning ship in front of us. ... Read More
We knew she was big. Nothing could have prepared us for the size of what was, at the time, the biggest cruise ship in the world. As we drove up to Southampton port we were just blown away with the size of this stunning ship in front of us. Such a massive ship would bring to mind long queues to get onboard but this was not the case. In no time at all I'd moved my dear old lady friend, in her wheelchair, through the formalities and we were standing in the foyer of the most fabulous, brand-new, foyer of Independence of the Seas. To say we were gobsmacked would be an understatement. This was my second cruise and the first for my friend. We were stopped in our tracks at the opulence, the colour and sparkle of it all. Our luggage came to the delightful cabin quite quickly and we were out exploring in no time, only interupted by the practice 'safety drills' which was well organised and not too intrusive of our rather excited early hours on the ship. What an experience. We were just so elated to be on this floating hotel where we savoured divine meals in the copious restaurants; Wind Jammer was open any time of day or night and always full with people choosing from hundreds of choices in huge, delightful smorgasboard of hot and cold collations. Our evening more formal dining was at a table for six, so we met two other friendly couples as we sat beside a window and had the most efficient serving staff. Every day we had something different to do and with eleven nights and twelve days ahead of us we set about making sure we got the best out of all on offer for this inaugural cruise to the Canary Islands. We appreciated the evening newsletter which appeared on our beds each night after our house-attendant had turned down our beds and made us a surprise towel sculpture. It gave us time to plan for the next day and not to miss the best of the huge amount of activities, lectures, trips for the next day. Our shore excursions were easy to book, tickets arrived on time and we saw lots of places in Madiera, Teneriffe, Lanzarote, Lisbon and Vigo. We didn't go rock-climbing, wave-riding, golfing or tennis but we did attend food sculpture, table-serviette folding and spent indulgent time in the beauty spas. Heavenly. My 80's friend had always wanted to cruise but could never find anyone to go with her. She was in a wheelchair but I have to say access was excellent. As it was early days for the ship we told an official that the lift doors tried to close too quickly for wheelchair access. This was attended to and like the incident with our flat tyre, it was fixed and we got a report to say so. My only quibble is with the gratuity/tipping edict system. I don't like being told what to give, I rather like deciding the amount and to whom I give it. To overcome this - as with the other two couples at our table - we put a sum of British pounds into an envelope and asked the head waiter to share it around the staff. Independence of the Seas was on its first voyage to the Canary Islands, the staff were so well presented, with keen and energetic enthusiasm for their work. I hope they continue to assist and share their cruise as well as they did on this first trip. Certainly the ports we visited gave us the most amazing welcomes as it had not been there before thousands were keen to welcome it along the shore and specialty groups beside the ship when we walked down onto the port. We were given souviners and music and dancing abounded. Super memory. So, if you like the idea of cruising in the most wonderfully presented cruise ship, like waking up in a new port each morning, appreciate divine cuisine and relaxing outdoors or in - choose a Royal Caribbean cruise. My mind slips back to the most fantastic holiday on Independence of the Seas, my life was enhanced by sharing this most wonderful cruising experience with my very special friend. We thought everything about it was value for money, food, activities, interesting destinations, shopping, casual cafe time (what a picture the tiny cakes and savouries!!) with plenty of options everyday. The ice show was the best show I have ever seen, on land or sea. I won the main prize on day one's welcome aboard party which got it all off to a great start. Go well - Independent of the Seas. Please may I join you again sometime? Sure thing! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We drove from home in the Midlands to the port of Southampton taking our usual 2.5 hour and arrived just after 12 noon. We dropped of the luggage and parked the car and then walked back to the terminal in order to go through the passport ... Read More
We drove from home in the Midlands to the port of Southampton taking our usual 2.5 hour and arrived just after 12 noon. We dropped of the luggage and parked the car and then walked back to the terminal in order to go through the passport control. We were soon on the ship and were welcomed with a glass of champagne after walking through a balloon archway. It made you feel like royalty. We rode the elevator up to the lido deck and walked along to the Windjammer restaurant to have a quick spot of lunch. Plenty of choice of food and soon seated. We then went for a walk around the deck and marvelled at the Flowrider. After having a quick game of golf we went back inside the ship and wandered round finding our bearings. One good thing about the royal promenade is that there are so many different things to look at and do, gift shops, bars, snack bars, etc etc. The evening meal was taken in one of the main restaurants and we had a very pleasant head waiter called Maximo. He was a great comic and made us laugh with his intepretation of the English language ie. a jacket potato. When he had first heard about a jacket potato he thought it was a potato with a napkin wound round it to form a jacket. To say the table was in fits of laughter was an understatement. The first evening was spent moving around bars, theatre and sampling all that the ship had to offer. Also as we found the ice rink and it was fairly quiet we had a try. At one stage we were even the only two on it. Less people to laugh when I nearly fell over! Cabin was just underneath the bridge and was an oceanview. It was very spacious and the bed was enormous. Bathroom was small but functional. Also had a small sofa which is a great advantage as it means that you do not have to sit on the bed whenever you are in the cabin to watch the TV. First and only port was Cobh, Ireland Cruise port in order to go to Cork City. Morning was spent walking around and watching the brave souls try the flowrider. Had a couple of games of golf and a quick game on the basketball court. About 1 - 2 pm we hit the outskirts of Ireland and then followed the inlet into Cobh. We were escorted to the dock by pilot boats spouting water fountains. As this was Indy's second appearance in a month, she was still warmly welcomed by the irish crowds who were lining all the streets of the town in order to see the largest liner (at the time) enter their town. As we were stood on the deck everyone was taking photos, people on the ship were waving at people on the docks and street and vice versa. To add to the occasion, the local market was happening alongside the lower streets of the town. Once we had docked, we left the ship and went for a walk around the town. It is very compact and very attractive, with an enormous church at the top of the hill which overlooks the whole town. We went and sampled some of the local drink in one of the many public houses in the town. After a couple of hours sampling the local life, we went back to the ship for evening meal and then went back out on the town again. The next day we left the ship and took the bus into Cork city. We then caught another bus and went to Blarney castle. We toured the grounds and then climbed the many steps inside the castle to the very top where we kissed the Blarney stone. On return to the city we walked around for a while and then caught the train back to Cobh. Left Cobh at 6 pm. The following day was spent at sea cruising back to Southampton. During the day we again watched people on the flowrider. I had a go at climbing the rock wall and got halfway up. Some very small children were climbing up it with no bother at all. Had another game or two of golf and in the afternoon watched the Ice Show. Considering how small this rink is the shows which are produced on it are spectactular. The skaters put in throws and stuff which you see on the television and they have no room whatsover to get their speed up before the throws. Congratulations to them. Whatever you do, do not miss the ice shows!! Best entertainment on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We are a couple in our forties, travelling without children. EMBARKATION We travelled down to Southampton by train from London Waterloo. The terminal is a £5 ten minute cab ride away. As we had completed the online check-in ... Read More
We are a couple in our forties, travelling without children. EMBARKATION We travelled down to Southampton by train from London Waterloo. The terminal is a £5 ten minute cab ride away. As we had completed the online check-in embarkation took only 20 mins from arriving at the terminal to boarding the ship. A wonderful start to the holiday and full marks to RCI for their efficiency. CABINS We had an inside cabin on Deck 9. The cabin was small, but wholly functional. Not a lot of space at either side of the bed, but the bed itself was very comfortable. Flatscreen telly offered updates on our progress throughout the voyage, with weather guides, cruising speed and ocean depth etc, as well as information on all aspects of entertainment on board and film guides on each port of call, as well as news, film and sports channels. Our Filipino room attendant Ferdinand tidied the room three times daily and was very polite, humorous and unobtrusive. At night, we returned to our cabin to find animal shapes made out of towels on the bed and a chocolate on each pillow. Tea and coffee sachets and a kettle are also supplied throughout. DINING We preferred to dine in the buffet Windjammer most days and evenings, as it gave us more freedom. The buffet is open for breakfast between 7am-11.30am for breakfast, 11.30am-3.30pm for lunch, 3.30pm-5.00pm for afternoon tea and scones etc and from 5.30pm-9pm for dinner. The range of food on offer was superb, as was the taste and presentation and the service throughout was exemplary. ENTERTAINMENT We passed on a lot of the shows in The Alhambra Theatre as they were a little too Royal Variety performance stuff for our liking.......comics who laugh at their own jokes, glitzy dancers and tribute acts. The American Drifters were outstanding though and it was nice to see them around the ship the following day. The Labyrinth is one of two smoking bars and was a good spot for meeting people, though the nightclub below was half empty most evenings, possibly because the DJ seemed stuck in an 80's timewarp playing Rick Astley etc every night. Bolero's with an excellent salsa band was much more laidback and enjoyable. Fortunately, the weather was beautiful for all but the first and last days and much use was made of the upper decks poolside entertainment. The rock band Rock The Boat, who played on Deck 11 every day were very good and added to the feel-good factor while sunbathing with a cocktail, splashing about in the pools or wallowing in a hot tub. For the sports minded, the crazy golf, the Rock Wall, Flowrider and the basketball court all saw plenty of action. The gym is also superbly equipped. The centrepiece of the ship, the Royal Promenade, is quite a stunning feature. Boutiques and jewelers sit alongside bars and cafes and this area of the ship was busy day and night. PORTS OF CALL Gibraltar Not really any need to book an excursion on Gibraltar as it's so small and the ship docks ten mins walk from the town centre, but this being the first port of call we took a minibus with a local, which we booked on the spot just outside the ship ( 25 euros each). He drove us through the town explaining some of the local history, up to one of the Pillars of Hercules, with a great panorama of the bay and the ship below, then on to the caves and finally, on to see the free-roaming apes, which was fun and a good photo opportunity, before dropping us back into town. Barcelona We docked around 5pm and pre-booked a shuttle bus into the city. Again, the city is very close, but there is a sizeable bridge to cross, so well worth the ten dollar return trip. We were dropped off by the Columbus statue, just round the corner from Las Ramblas, the most famous street in Spain. We spent the evening there admiring the human statues in their wonderful costumes, taking in a few shops and a bite to eat. Overnight in Barcelona and the shuttle bus back into town the following morning. There, we booked one day tickets on the hop-on hop-off bus ( 20 euros each)which gave us ongoing commentary and allowed us freedom of movement. It's a long time since I was last in Barcelona and it's a wonderful, vibrant city. We ended the day with a last stroll down Las Ramblas and a walk around the food market. Villefranche. By tender from the ship to the port, we had booked the Nice and Cannes On Your Own excursion. This proved to be an excellent purchase. Driving out of sunny Villefranche with the tour guide pointing out the pastel-coloured hillside villas owned by the rich and famous we arrived in Nice, three miles away. Lunch in a lovely restaurant Beau Rivage, right on the beach and a stroll around the boutiques and gardens in this beautiful town, then back on the coach for a trip to Cannes 28km away. Yes, we did the touristy thing and photographed ourselves walking down the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival Auditorium, lay on the beach for an hour and had a cocktail in the town. This was our favorite excursion of the whole trip. Livorno Again, we pre-booked an excursion Pisa and Florence On Your Own. The journey to Pisa is appx one hour and our guide was very informative as we drove through the Tuscan countryside. I have been to both these places before. Despite being a university town, there is little to occupy the mind in Pisa beyond the Field of Miracles, which is where the leaning tower is situated. A few photos and we were back on the coach in 50 mins, heading for Florence. Three hours in Florence were spent in a leisurely manner, strolling round the narrow streets and taking pics around the Arno Bridge. Caglieri There is no need to pre-book anything in Caglieri as the ship pulls right in beside the town, a two minute walk. Our first time here and it was a wonderful surprise. It was Sunday and many of the shops were closed, but the town is very picturesque with the streets lined with a profusion of purple jacandara trees. We hopped on public transport for the fifteen minute journey to the beach, La Poetta, for one euro each and spent the afternoon sunbathing and watching the yachts. A great first impression of Sardinia. Malaga We pre-booked the Marbella and Puerto Banus On your Own excursion. This was largely disappointing. We alighted the ship by 11am as stated, but had to be back on board by 4.30pm, so we got something like 45 mins in Marbella and 45 mins in Puerto Banus, as the coach returned to the terminal by 2.45pm. Malaga didn't look particularly interesting, Marbella was much nicer, though time was so limited we saw very little and Puerto Banus was basically just an exclusive harbor with very expensive boats. Lisbon Pre-booked the shuttle bus into Lisbon for $10 return each, which was a wise move as it is too far to walk into town in the time permitted. In Lisbon, we just had a leisurely day strolling around the shops and the lovely squares, taking pics. I've always regarded the Portuguese to be amongst the friendliest people I've ever encountered on my travels and nothing happened in Lisbon to change that impression. Vigo A sense of everything coming to an end on what had been a wonderful cruise meant that once again we just used our time in Vigo to stroll round the city and get a feel for it, rather than seeking out anything of historical note. The ship pulls right in beside the town, so no need to book any sort of transport. Much more busy than I had realized, with lots of shops and the street musicians were enjoyable. Disembarkation was a swift and efficient as it had been getting on. In conclusion, this was a truly wonderful introduction to cruising for us. The Independence is a beautiful ship with something for everyone. Service and cleanliness are immaculate and the passage is so smooth that you practically glide over the waves. If, like us, you are a bit wary about cruising thinking it is only for the rich, don't be. Everyone we met was very friendly and the more experienced cruisers were only too happy to pass on advice. Would we do it again? You bet we would! Enjoy! CS, London, England. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We were fortunate enough to sail on the 2nd May Inaugural Sailing of the Independence. It was a 4 night Sailing out of Southampton to Cobh (Cork, Ireland). We have never sailed with Royal Caribbean before and were travelling with two other ... Read More
We were fortunate enough to sail on the 2nd May Inaugural Sailing of the Independence. It was a 4 night Sailing out of Southampton to Cobh (Cork, Ireland). We have never sailed with Royal Caribbean before and were travelling with two other couples who have never cruised before. We have been on 6 cruises (Celebrity, HAL and Cunard and are all in our early 50's). We booked an E1 balcony on Deck 8 midships, with one set of friends in the cabin next door, and the other couple were in an E2 on Deck 7 on the Hump. I've gone into a fair bit of detail here, so apologize if you fall asleep whilst reading. You will see I have been both negative and positive about our trip. We arrived in Southampton at around 12.15, but then spent over an hour queuing to get to the ship parking. We followed the sign for the Independence of the Seas, only to be sent around a totally different way when we got to the front of the queue. There displays were wrong! The new P&O ship, the Vistana was sailing and also the Queen Victoria, so it was all pretty busy. Eventually, when we got to the right dock (8) for those with pre paid parking, we were directed to the luggage drop off area. From there we drove through pretty easily, unloaded to a Porter and then parked our car in our reserved parking which was right next to the ship. The boarding process was the quickest I have ever experienced and we were all very impressed. Loads of very helpful staff around. Probably on board and in our cabins within 10 minutes of arriving at the check in area. Cabin The cabins were really very good. This is the first balcony cabin that we have had recently, having had Suites on two cruises on HAL and one on the QM2, so we were a bit worried about going back to a Balcony. We were very pleasantly surprised. The bed was beautifully made up with turquoise cushions etc and good quality sheets and was 6ft wide, even though described as a Queen. We were expecting to squeeze into a 5ft wide bed. What a relief. The mirrors to the dressing table were excellent and for the first time ever, you could see every angle of your body (which was a bit of a shock!) Plenty of drawer space, but the wardrobe shelves were a bit awkward to get to at and for a 14 night cruise there certainly would not be enough space for all our clothes. But then again, we always take too much! The bathroom was very small compared to the size of a Suite Bathroom, but we both felt it was very well designed and did not really matter at all. The shower is circular and has good pressure etc and a good size. There is a small cupboard behind the glass to the left of the sink for your toiletries. We were disappointed that there was no Conditioner, Cotton Wool Balls, Body Moisturizer etc, just a squeezy bottle of shampoo in the shower. The towels were thick and new, but were a bit small. We missed not having a bath, but apart from that it was fine. We had pre-ordered 3 bottles of white wine, but only one was in the cabin on ice for us. We tried ringing through to Room Service (after speaking to our Steward) to get the other bottles, but after 20 mins of hanging on, gave up! The ice in the wine had melted and there was no ice in the Ice Bucket. Our Steward quickly sorted this out for us. There was also a half drunk bottle of water and an opened carton of milk in our minibar, obviously left from one of the two trips that had been done before the inaugural. Not a very good start from our Steward. He quickly rectified it for us and after that looked after us pretty well, but was the worst service we have ever had. Having said that all other trips, the service had been so good, he had a hard act to follow (particularly the Butler on the QM2). There was also a small kettle for tea / coffee making which I thought was a great addition. However, they supplied us with two paper cups and RCL need to realize that us Brits do not like drinking tea out of these sorts of cups! They would be better to supply a couple of mugs. (A small but petty point!) The balcony was a good size with two comfortable white chairs, with blue plastic slatting and a small table. No teak deck though - it was a sort of rubberized composite. Our Steward opened up the adjoining Balcony to our friends next door which was great for pre dinner drinks and we had a lot of fun out there. Windjammer We had lunch in the Windjammer on our first day which was OK. Other days the lunches seemed better, although they cleared most of it away before 3, which caught us out a couple of times. No trays though, so difficult to carry anything and was surprised to see no self service tea / coffee / drinks stations. This may well be a Royal Caribbean thing. I would imagine it is probably to stop the spread of bugs and if that is the case, it is a good idea. A bit awkward though. The coffee was very poor and not to our taste. The orange juice was particularly good though and breakfast was OK and pretty well organized. Speciality Restaurants Both were really great. Can't say enough good things about either. Fabulous food, setting and service. If we could have eaten in there every night we would have done, but could only get Portofino's for the first night and Chops for the second. Main Dining Room We had a nice table for 6 by the window in King Lear the top level. Our server Juan was from Chile and was very helpful and fun. As we had eaten in the speciality restaurants the first two nights our first appearance was on the formal night (which was the Sunday after leaving Cobh). We were disappointed with the menu, only three courses, with a pour selection of Starters and no Lobster or Crab Legs on the Main Courses. Our waiter was helpful though and most of us had a pasta from the Main Course list as our Starter followed by the Filet Mignon which was very good. The rest of the meal was below what we were expecting. Just didn't taste that great. I was surprised to see no salad course. On the final night, although the service was again great, the food was not. We were however supplied with a big bowl of Caesar Salad to share which was probably the high point of the meal. We found the decor to be very dated and tacky - with fake horrid paintings etc. The three tiers were nice though and elegant, but in a very old fashioned way. Entertainment There were four performances of the Ice Show "Strings" and we managed to get tickets for the 18.30 performance on the Sunday. It was amazing - don't miss it if you get the chance. We had front row seats on the side and it was exhilarating. We missed the first night's production show, but managed the one on the last night. It was the first performance of this show on an RCL ship, but I can't remember it's name. Sorry! It was a mixture of Singing / Dancing and violin, piano recitals all backed up with an Orchestra. It was really good, very high quality performances, although it didn't have enough dancing for our tastes. Overall it was excellent though. There was live music in most bars in the evening, all of which were very good. There was a great band in "Olive or Twist" which was our favorite bar. Also a great Salsa band in Boleros. It was sometimes tough to get a seat though. We loved the champagne bar and the wine bar as well. We visited the disco "Labyrinth" on the last night and it was jumping. Great music, sound quality, mixing etc. The décor again was a bit over the top. Overall the drinks service was slow, but the wait staff were friendly and good fun. The Promenade was spectacular, albeit a bit Disney, but interesting area that we've never seen on a ship before. Sports Our friends used the Gym a few times and loved it and also went to a few lectures and classes all of which were apparently very good. We all used the Sauna / Steam which was good. We didn't, however use the Spa as we had a day at Fota Island where the boys played golf and us girls used the Spa (Sheraton). We played the mini golf on Day one which was fun, but never seemed to have the time for any of the other activities. The cantilevered hot tubs were great, but we only managed one visit into these. Why is cruise ship time so much faster than "work" time. The flowrider looked great and it was great to see such a good basketball court. There were quite a few children / teens on board and they were absolutely no trouble. Debarkation Went like clockwork. Best we've had off any ship. We were in our car within about 10 mins of being called. Overall Considering this was their first full cruise it was all very good. No real teething issues. Service was pretty slow in the bars, but hey we were on holiday! Drinks were a reasonable price, but the wine was really expensive. We found the whole ship a bit glitzy and fake for our tastes, except the cabins which were much more appealing. Not a criticism, but just a preference thing. There was a huge problem getting back onto the ship from Cobh on Saturday afternoon (she was moored there overnight, so I guess it was just unfortunate that a lot of people headed back at the same time. We queued for about 30 minutes and it started to rain - the crew were brilliant though and handed out rain ponchos. The Casino was good although I was disappointed not be able to put coins in the slots, nor receive them. Wasn't quite the same getting a voucher! Like to hear the tinkle of the coins if and when I win. Lovely that it was smokefree - made such a difference. Having pointed out quite a few negatives, I would like to stress that we had a really good time, but am not sure RCL is the line for us. If the price was right though, I'm sure we'll be back! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We sailed from southampton on May 31st after arriving on the coach transfer from Heathrow. The coach trip down was very pleasant and boarding was quick and uncomplicated. Our cabin was not ready when we got on board so we had a quick lunch ... Read More
We sailed from southampton on May 31st after arriving on the coach transfer from Heathrow. The coach trip down was very pleasant and boarding was quick and uncomplicated. Our cabin was not ready when we got on board so we had a quick lunch and made our way to the pool. We had 2 young children with us and they enjoyed splashing in the pool in their underwear while we waited for our bags with swimwear to be delivered to our cabin. Luckily this was the first bag delivered. We had a table for 4 in romeo and juliet on deck 3 and we lasted 2 nights in the dining room. Our complaint here was, understandably they set the table with a full set of cutlery but the opportunity to play with 3 knifes and forks was too much to resist and they all ended up on the floor, the kids menu was not pointed out to us and it was limited and when it did arrive the plates were too hot for an adult to handle and yet it was placed in front of a 2 year old!! We ate in the windjammer every other night and it was much more relaxed with kids and the staff were so much more friendlier there. Our cabin was an inside one with 2 bunk beds that were pulled down from the ceiling. I had requested a cot but it never arrived and I don't know where they would have put it anyway. The cabin was a bit of a squeeze with 4 of us but we managed. Beds are really comfy, but the bunks weren't so and the blanket on the bunk was really light not a proper duvet. Showers were lovely and plenty of towels which were constantly changed. Our stateroom attendant was very nice and helpful. A wash and fold laundry service was provided after the first week for $20. I asked could I give in 2 bags of laundry for $40 but was told no that they would be doing this service again but this didn't happen. Our kids went to the kids clubs every day. The aquanauts was brilliant for our 4 year old and she loved every second of it. The royal babies and tots was good too but our 2and half year old wanted to be in with her big sister in the aquanauts. Before I left I enquired and was led to believe that if our 2 year old was mature enough and fully toilet trained she could be upgraded to a higher aged kids club. She goes to montessori with her big sister so she is mature enough and is fully trained but when we got on board we were told no. She could go to the aquanauts room with her sister if it was quiet and one parent had to stay at all times. We didn't avail of the babysitting service but from speaking to other parents it was very good once your child is 12 months plus. The entertainment on board was excellent. We went to both ice shows but people started queuing up to an hour before hand for seats and they definitely give out too many tickets to the amount of seats available. I was left standing for the entire show because we were not allowed sit on the steps. Normally not a problem but I was 5 months pregnant and was holding a 2 year old who had fallen asleep in my arms. You can't blame royal caribbean for uncaring ignorant people who choose to save seats for others rather than offer them up. Any of the stops were had were lovely. We bought tickets for the shuttle buses into the ports but in malaga it was a joke. We were on the bus for 4 minutes. They brought us from the ship to the port terminal and then you made your way into malaga. About a 20/30 minute walk and charged $6 each for this. We didn't even use the bus on the way back. Disembarkation was quick and painless even if it was early. Our bags were waiting and so was the coach. All in all we had a fantastic time on this cruise. This was our second with RC. We honeymooned on Voyager 6 years ago. We found the facilities for children on freedom class fantastic for children but the staff and food was of a much higher standard on voyager. We are definitely going to go on a cruise again. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
Around 1500 dignitaries and travel trade representatives were invited on board the Independence of The Seas to attend the naming ceremony and spend two nights on board, to experience what this ship offers. The first impression was WOW! A ... Read More
Around 1500 dignitaries and travel trade representatives were invited on board the Independence of The Seas to attend the naming ceremony and spend two nights on board, to experience what this ship offers. The first impression was WOW! A brand new ship in pristine condition. Check in security and boarding was very slick, with numerous smiling shoreside staff and crew to welcome us aboard and help us find our stateroom. The D2 room assigned was less spacious than for the same grade on other Royal Caribbean ships, but the balcony was a good size. Fittings throughout were to the usual Royal Caribbean standard. A nice innovation for British guests was the kettle, tea, and coffee-making tray. Our cabin steward was friendly and helpful. We were welcomed to the naming ceremony in the theatre with glasses of champagne. Sadly, the organizers had missed the fact that guests out numbered the available seats, so it was standing room only at the back. After the naming, we went to very good ice show, then dinner. The dinning room is spectacular, spread over three decks connected by curving internal staircases. At such a prestigious event, we were surprised that not all guests had been allocated table numbers, so, on both evenings, large numbers were required follow waiters wandering through the room looking for places to sit. The food was good, but not memorably so, the service adequate, but, disappointingly, without the polish experienced on other cruise ships. Headwaiters were conspicuous by their absence. After dinner, we set sail for trip across the channel to Guernsey and back, with a full day to enjoy all the on board facilities. The unique attraction of this ship is the flow rider. The very competent sports staff demonstrated some very tricky surfing moves, and it is sure to prove a hit with future passengers. The rock-climbing wall is terrifyingly steep and definitely not for the faint hearted, although staff are always on hand to ensure safety criteria are met. Our burger lunch in the fifties style diner was excellent. The very efficient waiting staff doubled up as entertainers, bopping along to music from the juke box. After dark the grand promenade on deck is the place to be. A range of shops, cafe, pizzeria, wine bar, and even a pub. This ship adds a new dimension to cruising, spoilt for us only by the poor dining experience. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
INDEPENDENCE OF THE SEAS 31 MAY - 14 JUNE 2008 Captain Teo Ship Facts Passenger Capacity: 3,634 double occupancy Gross Tonnage: 160,000 Length: 1,112' Max Beam: 184' Draft: 28' Cruising Speed: 21.6 knots 2610 My wife and I ... Read More
INDEPENDENCE OF THE SEAS 31 MAY - 14 JUNE 2008 Captain Teo Ship Facts Passenger Capacity: 3,634 double occupancy Gross Tonnage: 160,000 Length: 1,112' Max Beam: 184' Draft: 28' Cruising Speed: 21.6 knots 2610 My wife and I have just returned from two weeks on independence of the Seas and this was our 11th cruise and out 2nd cruise with RCCI and we enjoyed the experience. We stayed in Southampton, DeVere Hotel on the way out and this made a nice start to our cruise as the outlook was to see other ships in that day and when we got up next morning we could see our ship. Our check in was very quick as we ate breakfast in hotel then a ride around docks to see other ships in and then about 10:30 am we headed in to gate 10 and as we had free car park a tag put on the car and up to unload cases and the across road to the car park and only a short walk back and we were on the ship by 11 am. The rooms had lots of space and were very well designed. The staff were all very helpful and friendly and the shopping mall was just spectacular. The size of the whole ship was for us a bit awesome. The main dining areas was split over 3 floors and a more stunning setting we have never seen. On the down side, we were a bit disappoint with the standard and the presentation of the food. The plates were hot. The service in the dining areas was first class but the food did not live up to expectations. Ports of Call: FRI 30 MAY HOTEL FOR OVERNIGHT SHIPS IN PORT 30 MAY ARTEMIS, NORWEGIAN JADE, VENTURA ARRIVE DEPART SAT 31 MAY Southampton Casual Attire 1700 SHIP IN PORT ORIANA, SEA PRINCESS Day one entertainment was John Evans (comedian) and featuring the Balancing act of Fulcrum in the Alhambra Theatre on deck 3 & 4. After show their was the Showband called "Rock the Boat" in the Pyramid Lounge on Deck 5. Very good band. SUN 01 JUNE CRUISING Formal Attire -- -- Day Two entertainment was The American Drifters and the are as good as ever even only 2 of the original group. We also had the Captain's Welcome Reception at 7:30 - 8:05 in the Pyramid Lounge. You could also have your photo taken with Captain Teo Also their was a time change at 3:00 am MON 02 JUNE CRUISING Casual Attire or '70s Attire -- -- Day Three entertainment was the ships group called Centre Stage as all their show were as god as you going to get. We also went to the first ICE SPECTACULAR which was a International Ice Cast and it was so good we booked another night for same show. At 10:40 they did Dancin' in the Street - '70s style. And the was down the Royal Promenade on deck 5. TUE 03 JUNE Gibraltar Smart Casual Attire 0900 1600 Day Four entertainment was the ships crew and called Once upon a Time. Also was the start of the dance competition with Greg Carger and Orchestra and Professional Ballroom couple Ashley and Ryan Di Lello. On our cruise on the Jewel last year a couple on our table were from Gibraltar and we said we were doing this cruise so the said they would meet us and give us the grant tour of Gibraltar. They meet us off ship about 9:30 and we got back to ship about 3.20 as we were due back by 3:30. We seen on much that we would not have seen on a ship tour. WED 04 JUNE Barcelona, Spain Smart Casual 1900 OVERNIGHT SHIPS IN PORT Norwegian JADE, CELEBRITY SUMMIT We did not get off ship when we arrived. Day Five entertainment was Andy Leach, Comedy, Mayhem, Magic and Madness. THUR 05 JUNE Barcelona, Spain Formal Attire 1700 SHIPS IN PORT SEA PRINCESS, VENTURA We made our way off ship and got the shuttle bus as we docked farther away than last time in Barcelona. Then we got the open top bus and spent 2 hours on it and the to the Rambles for a bit of lunch and a drink. Day Six entertainment was Jonathan Kane, The only tribute act endorsed by Elton John. The repeat Ice show was very good. FRI 06 JUNE Villefranche , France Casual/Tropical Attire 0830 2000 At 9am we went on the ships tour to Nice, Eze for lunch and then to Monaco and Lunch This was a lot of walking but we enjoyed it. Day Seven They showed a Mo vie in the Theatre as we were in port till 8 pm. SAT 07 JUNE Livorno (for Florence/Pisa), Italy Smart Casual 0700 1900 SHIPS IN PORT MSC MELODY, SUMMIT Again a early start on the ships tour at 7:35 to Florence and Pisa. Again it was a lot of walking but the wife loved it as I had been before I still liked it. Day Eight entertainment was Hilary O'Neil a Comedy Vocal Impressionist. SUN 08 JUNE Cagliari, Sardinia Casual Attire 1200 1900 We got off the ship a found a taxi who gave us a good ride with another couple around the area, this was RCCI first time in port. It a very nice place to go again. Day Nine entertainment Crew Show Under the Big Top, This was a very good show. MON 09 JUNE CRUISING Formal Attire -- -- Day Ten entertainment Gary Lovini who I have seen twice but hes does a very good show. We also went to a new Ice Show, some say it was better than the other one but I think both were very good. TUE 10 JUNE Malaga, Spain Casual Attire 0700 1600 We were going to do a walk about as we have been a few times but we booked a ship tour to go to the Caves at Nerja. It was a very hot day but the caves keep the same temperature all the time. Day Eleven entertainment The Mr. & Mrs Game Show staring Cruise Director Graham Seymour also Mad Hatter's Ball Parade down Promenade Deck 5 WED 11 JUNE Lisbon, Portugal Casual Attire 1130 1630 SHIPS IN PORT ROYAL PRINCESS The ships tour was 12:30 Panoramic Lisbon , we think this was the best ship tour we had and we got back to the ship at 4:30.. Day twelve entertainment Starring Blackbeat Beatles which was very good show for my age as I can remember the start of the Beatles. Graham the Cruise Director did a 12:15 Adult show. THUR 12 JUNE Vigo, Spain Smart Casual Attire 1000 1700 We walked around the town and up a lot of hills and steps. Then we stopped for a drink the the square. Day Thirteen entertainment by the cruise people called Invitation to Dance also another street party but not as good as the other ones. FRI 13 JUNE CRUISING Casual Attire -- -- Day Fourteen entertainment Farewell Variety Show staring The Magic of Jamie Allen and guest stars Fulcrum. SAT 14 JUNE Southampton 0515 SHIPS IN PORT ORIANA, SEA PRINCESS We got up early and had breakfast and went to the bar and waited for our call, we were called at 7:15 then off ship and found our cases and out to the car by 7:30. We arrived home just after noon. The cruise and the stops were very good. The food could have been better and the layout of the menu could have been better but you can choose what you like from it in any order as it not laid out as 1,23,+ courses. Walking from dinner to the show you walked or tried to through the casino. All rooms of the ship were very nice and the cabins were great and found very quite and room for everything. Yes we would go on her again and I think most would say that. james/sheila June 2008 Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
My family of four...2 forty somethings and 2 teen boys took the Mediterranean Treasures cruise that embarked on May 31. We arrived in London Gatwick 3 days early so that we could tour London. We stayed at a Best Western hotel near ... Read More
My family of four...2 forty somethings and 2 teen boys took the Mediterranean Treasures cruise that embarked on May 31. We arrived in London Gatwick 3 days early so that we could tour London. We stayed at a Best Western hotel near Victoria Station. Nice clean economical hotel in a good location. London is very expensive for Americans right now. We covered a lot of London using hop on hop off bus and tube and lots of walking. Wonderful place! We hired a private driver to Southampton who was late. I think we were nearly the last ones on the ship! Check in: Smooth and fast. We were the only ones checking at at 3:45! Cabin: For the first time ever we got an inside cabin. Previously we have had balconies, and outside (pothole) rooms. We loved it! I may never go back. We liked how dark and quiet the room was. I was afraid I would wake up disoriented or claustrophobic with no light but this was not the case. Our 7th floor aft location was very good...easy access to dining rooms. Ship: Gorgeous! I loved having 2 sea days to explore. We have never been on a mega ship before and we were impressed. Though large and full to capacity it didn't feel crowded and the layout made it fairly easy to get around. There are ship diagrams everywhere so you can't get turned around. We used the fitness center every day and it was great. Excellent equipment, fab views. My kids loved the flow rider, rock wall and ice skating and got a lot of use of these as there were not too many kids on board. They also loved the DJ class. I used the spa for hair services a couple times and was satisfied, though the services are wildly overpriced! I paid 75 dollars for a wash and blowdry! We spent some time in the casino..very nice. Dining: We had late dining (8:30) and loved it even though we are early diners at home. We never had to rush after port days. Service and food were good to very good in the Windjammer and beautiful dining room. Sorrentos and Cafe Promenade were open when you needed a snack. Worth mentioning is that this ship serves real coffee everywhere!!!! This has always been a complaint of mine that ship coffee is so terrible..not here! Kudos to RCI for this. Gibraltar: We walked to the cable car (15 minutes) took the ride up (bought the ride plus entries to caves, tunnels, and moorish castle for about 20 euro)There was no line early for the cable car. The views from the top were magnificent. We walked back down to town (moderately strenuous)and saw the very charming apes (they do not approach you unless you make the first move..they had plenty of food available to them and we saw no aggressiveness)One of our party wanted to hold one and the younger monkeys are very amenable to this. We somehow took a wrong turn after the caves (the map provided is not detailed)and have to get creative to get back to town. Unfortunately we missed the siege tunnels which I heard were very interesting. We walked around town then back to the ship. Barcelona: We docked at 7 p.m. and walked to La Rambla. It turned out to be at least two miles! Take the shuttle or a cab! We took a cab into town in the morning to meet our privately arranged Segway tour that never showed up!!! That was OK. We had a nice time walking around. Our kids enjoyed the market the best with all the exotic fruit, fish and meat. We have been to Barcelona before and have seen all the Gaudi sights..which are worth seeing. Nice: We walked to town and took the public bus from VF to Nice and then to Eze. The bus was cheap and easy to use, but very hot. It was a gorgeous, cool day out but here was no ventilation or open windows. I don't understand that. Anyway, Eze was fabulous and we spent a couple hours there, then back to Nice where we looked around the Old Town and had lunch and gelato, then took the bus back to VF where we walked around and had a nice glass of wine. VF is very pretty and less crowded than Nice. Livorno: We took the shop tour to Cinque Terre. We enjoyed this very much. Our tour guide was funny and informative (Andrea)and the scenery there was splendid. We arrived at the first island and took a boat shuttle to next two. At the last we had some free time. Though there are lots of tourists here, it still felt pretty authentic. I imagine if your could stay overnight when all the cruise people are god you would get a better feel for the area. Sardina: We arranged a private bike tour for the 12 in our party. We rode about 8 miles around town and to the beach and back through town. Cute town...I'm not sure I need to go back anytime soon...The bike leader went quite fast and this pace was too fast for our group...who wanted a more leisurely ride. We stopped for lunch at a seaside tent like restaurant. Our guides ordered seafood pasta for us, which was OK, but we saw lots of wonderful looking food that other tables had ordered that we would have preferred. Malaga: We took the shop shuttle into town and walked around. We really spent a lot of time at the fortress. It was huge and very impressive. The town was very lovely and we went to a sherry bar and tried the local wine. We had intended to go to Alhambra, but my teens staged a revolt against getting on another bus (the ones in Nice had made a bad impression! and the ride to Cinque Terre was long)It turned out fine as we had a great day in Malaga. Lisbon: We walked off the ship to Belem. It was about 2.5 miles. Saw the discovery monument, the monastery and the coach museum (very interesting). We also bought a sack of Belem Pastries (custard)...delicious! We took a cab to Lisbon Cathedral (about 6 euro) and walked around the town some. It was very pretty and we wished we had more time. We thought to take a cab back to the ship, but the cabbie wanted 15 euro for the 1.5 miles! We took the ship shuttle ($5 per person..I had prebought the tickets fortunately). Our friends took a cab tour they picked up right off the boat and they saw a LOT. I would do that next time. Vigo: We did the ship's white water rafting trip...highly recommended. It was an hour or so bus ride (again, a hot, uncomfortable bus with windows that apparently do not open!!! What's up with that???)We had to carry our inflatable rafts to the river. we wore life vests and helmets. Our group had four 8 man rafts with a guide on each. We went about 8 miles through very scenic country and some very exciting rapids. the guides said they were class 1 and 2 but they were enough for me. There were many splash fights among the boats and great fun was had. I recommend you not do this one unless you are quite physically fit. Carrying the rafts was challenging. Disembarkation: A breeze. We had a 12:30 flight so we wanted to be off early to meet our driver at 6:30 a.m. We did express check out where we managed our own bags and we could have gotten off at 6 if we wanted. Off to gatwick (2 hours) and home! It was a great trip. No complaints at all. OHHHH!!!! the shows...I almost forgot!!! They were GREAT! We went to two ice shows and 2 production shows and the magician at the end . All were fabulous. Very professional. I have never been too impressed with ships entertainment before til now! I can't recommend seeing these shows enough. I was on my feet at the end cheering. The ships orchestra is so good too. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
This was myself and my BF's third cruise. We are in our late 30's/early 40's and took our first cruise 3 years ago and are now hooked! This was our second time on Royal Caribbean and we have also sailed with Princess. We ... Read More
This was myself and my BF's third cruise. We are in our late 30's/early 40's and took our first cruise 3 years ago and are now hooked! This was our second time on Royal Caribbean and we have also sailed with Princess. We live just outside of London so the journey down to Southampton didn't take us too long. We arrived early so drove straight in to Mayflower Park where we caught our first glimpse of the ship - WOW! It is huge and looks fantastic - we were so excited to get on! We parked at the port at 11:30 - we had pre booked a parking space. Embarkation could not have been better - we dropped our luggage off with the porters, parked and were on the ship by about 11:45. I went and checked our table assignment in the main dining room and as per our request had been given a table for 2. We went up to the Windjammer for some lunch and relaxed until our room was ready at 13:00. Stateroom - We had a cabin with a balcony on deck 9. It was great! Balcony was roomy. Bed was wonderful. The mattress topper and bedding made it so comfortable. Having the tea and coffee making facilities was a big plus! I had read about this just before we left so we took a jar of our favorite coffee with us so we could have a cup whenever we wanted. The bathroom was fine, shower really good, the fact that it had the wrap around doors rather than a shower curtain is so much better. Just a note, there is no body lotion or conditioner in the bathroom - I always take my own but thought I would let others know just incase! They do provide shampoo and bars of soap though. It was also nice to have a flat screen tv - it took up less room. Our stateroom attendant was OK and if we needed anything he would get it for us. Dining - the food in the Windjammer was fine. I always really enjoy the breakfasts and there was a good selection. We ate lunch in the Windjammer most days and Dinner a couple of times. Having the Jade section there was really good as I had some lovely rice and curry dishes from there! As always in the buffet, peak times are really heaving and it is quite difficult to get a seat - we always located somewhere to sit first so that our food wasn't cold by the time we got to a table! We ate in Johnny Rockets once - we really enjoyed it - burgers,fries and onion rings were all good. It was a fun atmosphere and they play music and dance for you! We were in the Macbeth level of the dining room on deck four. Our Waiters were fine. The food in the dining room although good, and I certainly have no complaints, was not quite as good as our first time with RCI - although there were a couple of main courses that we thought were exceptional. We did not book the speciality restaurants on this cruise. We had room service a couple of times - used the TV to order and the service and food were both good. Entertainment - The shows that we went to were mostly very good and the theatre itself is lovely - we particularly enjoyed the Motown Band and David Copperfield (not the illusionist!) The Ice Skating shows were fantastic - much better than I had imagined they would be. Also, the parades down the Royal Promenade were a lot of fun. There were so many bars and lounges to choose from that we did not manage to get to all of them! The Pyramid Lounge was really nice and the live band that they had there most nights were very good. They played a varied selection of music and had a different theme each night - 50's and 60's, Blues, Country, 70's etc. They also had a Big Band night one night. We went in to the Labyrinth nightclub and I loved the decor! It was really gothic with big crushed velvet chairs, dark booths with curtains, gargoyles etc. The music was quite a good selection as well although I never saw it really busy in there. I think that this may be have been because the average age on this cruise was a little higher than the last two that I have been on? In various other bars around the ship they had Jazz, Latin American music - the Bar with the Pianist seemed particularly popular and there was also an entertainer in the dog and badger pub who was great fun! There really is something to suit everyones taste. The Ship itself is beautiful. I know that it helps that it is brand new, but really, we thought the way that it has been designed and furnished is just lovely. For us it was the perfect blend of being fun with lots to do without being tacky. i loved the Royal Promenade. The fact that you can just go and get a coffee and a slice of pizza or pastry or a drink in the pub and look round the shops is brilliant. They had free coffee/hot chocolate and tea in both the Cafe and Sorrentos as well as the for fee lattes etc. The Casino had a good selection of slots and I did go in there a few times - I tried to limit myself to the low 1c bets though! The pool areas are great and I thought it was good that there is a whole separate area where kids can have fun. The solarium pool was nice and looked great lit up at night. It is a shame that we could not make more use of the pool deck at night but unfortunately it was a bit cold! I loved the cantilevered whirlpools. We played mini golf - great fun and also shot a few hoops in the basket ball court. My BF wanted to have a go on the flowrider, but we just never got a chance - it did look good though. Itinerary - we liked Madeira - it was very pretty. We didn't care much for either Tenerife or Gran Canaria - as we had never been to either of these places we just opted to get off the ship and walk around - if I ever did go back I think I would opt for a shore excursion. In Lanzarote we went on a camel ride and then a drive through the Timanfaya national park - we really enjoyed this! I just wish that we could have got off the coach a bit more and actually had a walk through the park as it was stunning! We had been to Lisbon and Vigo before and like both of these ports. The weather wasn't that great, but that was the only downside. Disembarking was just as easy as embarking. All in all we both loved this ship! I remember the first time that my BF said that he had booked us a cruise - I was really worried and thought it would be a big mistake and that I would hate it -how wrong I was - I am addicted, and am now busy trying to persuade him to book the short break to Cork for later in the year! If any one has any questions that I can help with please let me know. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
EMBARKING - We made our way down to Southampton on 14th June and arrived at Southampton port around midday. Our paperwork was checked at the gates and in we went. We were pointed over to an unloading area where a chap helped get our cases ... Read More
EMBARKING - We made our way down to Southampton on 14th June and arrived at Southampton port around midday. Our paperwork was checked at the gates and in we went. We were pointed over to an unloading area where a chap helped get our cases from the boot of the car and took them away. Job done. We parked the car nearby (parking is really easy and you can see the ship from every parking space!) and made our 5 minute walk to the ship. Checking in was a breeze, no endless queues like at the airports. A pleasant lady checked us in which took a total of 5 minutes and then off we went to get on the ship. Our cabin (an outside cabin on deck 4 - more about this later)was ready so we decided to put our hand luggage in there, grab the cameras and go exploring! BEST BITS: No queues, no flying, open luggage allowance, sitting with a cocktail within half an hour of parking the car! THE SHIP - This ship is huge and although there are a fair few people on board, it never seems busy and you can always get a seat in one of the many bars or restaurants are on the sun deck. The ship is very glitzy, neon lights, plants, art work, marble floors, lush carpets and is very clean and tidy. The staff are friendly and always smiling, no sloppy service on this ship! You can tell its an American cruise line - they just know how to do it don't they. Great food, great shows, great service - it makes other cruise lines look like Butlins! OUR CABIN - Our cabin was an outside cabin on deck 4 with a nice big round window, no small portholes on this ship! The bed was huge and the most comfortable we had ever slept in. Crisp cotton sheets and plenty of pillows. The storage space was good, suitcases went under the bed, wardrobe ok for 2 of you and it has a safe in there too. The dressing table is useful with little hidden shelves behind the mirror at the side. The bathroom is functional, big shower with proper circular shower doors, not naff shower curtain here! Plenty of towels and flannels. There aren't any toiletries available in the bathroom other than shampoo in the shower, so take your own toiletries! We didn't see much of our room steward, he kept himself to himself but we were ok with that. He made our room a pleasant one, turning down the sheets at night, chocolate on the pillow, clean bathroom and sometimes we would come back to the cabin and find an elephant or a monkey on the bed made out of towels! BEST BITS: The bed, the room service, the view from the window FOOD - my favorite subject and boy, did they do us proud! What can I say and where do I start? Starting with breakfast - we decided to have breakfast in bed every morning - why not? So we ordered our breakfast every night by filling in a card and hanging it outside the door. You have up until 3am to order brekkie! You can have English breakfast items, or continental, pastries, hot chocolate, fresh fruit (fruit platter is fab!) and fresh hot flasks of ground coffee or tea. I hear that the breakfast in the Windjammer buffet restaurant was marvellous - I can believe it too, but we just decided that we were going to be lazy and treat ourselves! Breakfast in bed is not charged for, its all included in the room service. Lunch - The best lunches we had were in the Windjammer Buffet Restaurant. It seems wrong to call it a buffet as it brings to mind the wrong image. Forget that image, this is a first class buffet restaurant. Firstly, there are different "stations" within the restaurant. There is Italian, Japanese, Thai, Indian, English, Salad bar, Dessert bar, it goes on and on. I love Indian food so decided to try the curries - they were fantastic. I've dined in some very fine Indian restaurants in the UK and I can honestly say, the curries here were as good, if not better, than those fine restaurants. Every day they would have 3 or 4 different curries and rice and breads - in total I had 22 curries in 14 days! I had it for lunch and dinner it was so good. They were very authentic, had some interesting mixes (such as paneer and chickpea, potato and spinach) and I couldn't get enough of them. Being a vegetarian is not a problem on this ship, they go out of their way to cater for us which makes a huge change. We are normally 2nd class citizens when it comes to menus, but not here, you will be spoilt for choice. Amongst all the fine cuisine above, they also have an English station where there is a huge roast every day, mash, carrots, peas, gravy, shepherds pie, fish pie, toad in the hole - they cater for even the plainest of pallets! The salad bar is great too - lots of variety and lots of different salad dressings - again, very American - they know how to do food! The dessert station is fab - bit bowls of whipped cream, freshly made ice cream, choc mud pie, jellies, mousse, cakes, cookies, muffins - again a fantastic choice. The main restaurant is as you would expect - formal and special. We had a table for two and our waiters were great. They noted that I was a vegetarian on the first night and went out of their way to make sure that I had a good choice of dishes. My husband tried lots of different dishes, especially fish - lots of fish that we hadn't even heard of!. There is a steak and lobster night on board which he enjoyed too. The black tie nights are fun - a chance to get dressed up and I noticed that not all chaps wear black tie, lots wore suits, so no need to by a penguin suit just for a cruise. Johnny Rockets - burger bar. Fantastic for a lunchtime treat. The cover charge is $3.95 each (around £2) and is worth every penny. Its set out like a real 50's diner, rock and roll in background, staff dressed up in that era and mini wurlitzers on your table where you can pick and song and it will play over the sound system. Every now and then the staff burst into song and start dancing in the isles. The food is what you would expect and more. As soon as you sit down they bung massive onion rings and a big bowl of fries in front of you. They you can order what burger you want. My husband had the double cheeseburger which stood 5 inches high! I had the toasted cheese sandwich which was lovely. You can order as many chips and onion rings or chilli etc as you want. Drinks are charged for, but quite cheap. Included in the cover charge is an oreo cookie sundae - you have to have this - its naughty, but nice! SORRENTOS - Italian pizza bar on the Royal Promenade deck. Again, all included and they serve pasta, pizza, salad and cakes. They are open most of the time and is idea for a slice of pizza after a late night in the nightclub. ACTIVITIES - The cruise director, Graham Seymour, is great. I've seen him on previous cruises with the Princess Cruise line. He suits RC very well and is really good fun. He does a TV show every morning, telling you about what lay ahead for that day and he always had us in stitches. I wont forget those mornings sat in bed with the hubby, breakfast on our laps, laughing and Graham's silliness. The theatre is great - the shows again are very American, some would say cheesy, I would say not. The entertainment in here is varied - magicians, violinist, singers, dancers, comedians (although one would question whether David Copperfield is a true comedian!). The Ice shows were good on the ice rink too, very daring and great costumes/music. You can order drinks in the theatre and ice show just before the show starts which is great. The rock climbing wall is fun, my hubby gave it go and really enjoyed it. The surf rider is great to watch, we didn't fancy having a go as it looks a bit too fast and furious but it was very good fun to watch the young ones performing on it! The basketball court looked good and the mini golf with 9 holes at the back of the ship was brilliant! We played on there many an evening as the sun went down. Some of the pools and jacuzzis are open 24 hours so if you fancy a midnight dip that is possible. There is a waiter service around the pool in the day so you really don't need to move from your sun bed (unless you want to get your self a "Mr Whippy" style ice cream from the machine near the pool - all included. There is a Ben and Jerrys on board which is great although you have to pay for it. Having said that, you ought to see how much ice cream you get for £2 - ridiculous! We could only manage one trip there as we were so full from it! We visited some great ports - other reviews cover these and you can gain lots of information about the places that ship visits by surfing the net. Our day in Rome was great - we went on the cruise trip for this and it cost about £35 each for the day but was worth it. Monte Carlo was good too, take the little train on wheels as this will take you around the "race track". Gibraltar was good although I wasn't overly keen on the monkey running wild at the top of the Rock! They steel anything in a plastic bag so don't take any up with you. I saw the monkeys steeling bags off people! The view from the top of the Rock are fab and you can take a great photo of your ship from there! Beware the queues for the cable car for this though, we queued for over an hour (although I guess it was worth it). Nice and Florence were beautiful, Pisa was good although once you have seen the leaning tower theres not much else to do around there. All in all a fabulous holiday - great food, great room, great places of interest, great service and worth every penny. When we got back home we sat and talked about the holiday and tried to think of just ONE thing we would change - and we couldn't think of one thing. It was perfect and we are definitely now fans of Royal Caribbean. I'm not sure that we will bother with Princess or P&O ever again! Happy cruising folks! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
Excitement was at an all time level as our party of 14 got ready to embark on the 4th voyage of The Independence of the Seas on June 28, 2008. We arrived at the terminal at 11:15 eager to start our adventure as early as possible. After ... Read More
Excitement was at an all time level as our party of 14 got ready to embark on the 4th voyage of The Independence of the Seas on June 28, 2008. We arrived at the terminal at 11:15 eager to start our adventure as early as possible. After reading on the cruise critic boards that you were able to embark early and just wait until your cabin was ready. We were walking onto the ship at 11:30 eager to start to learn where everything was. The process was the easiest I have ever experienced on my cruising history. We were informed our cabins would be ready at 1 PM. We took a walk around deck 11 which is where the pools are as well as the Windjammer and specialty restaurants. We then proceeded to go for lunch at the Windjammer. So to start this review let me go in order. Cabin: We selected an inside cabin. Since we do not spend anytime in the cabin we chose this category. The room was ample enough with plenty of storage. When the beds are put together to make a king (not a queen) there is no room to walk around either side. You really have to slide off the bed or step over the corners. Otherwise there was no complaint. The shower is ample enough as there is a rounded shower door. As stated in other reviews, there is no conditioner or lotion in the room. Easy enough to remedy by bringing along sample sizes. Dining Room: We were seated at 2 adjoining tables in the Macbeth Dining Room. We were a table away from the window so we had magnificent views. We had Renato as our waiter and he was superb. I have to say the food is just adequate. There were a few nights that were very good but on a whole RCI needs to improve their food. The choices were varied enough but just not that good. It actually got better towards the end or we just got use to it. Flaming Baked Alaska and lobster tails are a thing of the past. They had surf and turf which included 1/2 of a small lobster tail. The bread was actually very good compared to a Princess cruise we took last year. Windjammer: Eat here only if you need to. It is very crowded and the food is for the masses. Good when dining room is closed for breakfast. Specialty restaurants: If you can treat yourselves. Chops was great and Portofino's is not to be missed. Service is first class as it should be. Cafe Promenade has great cookies in the afternoon. Stop by for a cup of coffee or tea and some sweets... Excursions: We took one in every port with the exception of Sardinia. I can truly say you get value for your money. Ports: We stopped in Gibraltar, Barcelona, Nice, Livorno, Sardinia, Malaga, Lisbon and Vigo. Only Sardinia we were not thrilled with. It was Sunday and EVERYTHING is closed. A couple of restaurants had the sense to stay open. Learning from a neighbor who spent the school year there as an exchange student, we knew that all would be closed. Most restaurants closed at 1 pm for siesta. A few got smart and were ready for the cruise ships that stopped there. Entertainment: Graham Seymour was our cruise director and if you are lucky enough to get him you will have the time of your life. All shows were professional and excellent. The ice shows are something that you should not miss. One night we had THE QUEST. This was the funniest thing every and if you have the opportunity to get it on your cruise do not miss this for anything! You will not be sorry!!!! Funny, funny, funny!!!! The parades on the promenade were just terrific and lots of fun. Disembarkation: As easy as embarkation. I give this ship the highest recommendation. It is a beauty and cannot wait for it to come to Florida. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2008
We were on the June 14th sailing on the Independence of the Seas on the Italian Mediterranean cruise. This was the second cruise we have been on, the other with Carnival in the Caribbean. We loved this cruise!!! It was my husband and I, ... Read More
We were on the June 14th sailing on the Independence of the Seas on the Italian Mediterranean cruise. This was the second cruise we have been on, the other with Carnival in the Caribbean. We loved this cruise!!! It was my husband and I, with our teenage daughter (14). It was one of the best vacations we have ever had! We stayed in London for two nights pre-cruise after our flight from Washington D.C. We stayed at the London Renaissance Chancery Court hotel, which was a beautiful hotel very near the British Museum, but was quite pricey. We enjoyed our time in London, also visiting the London Eye and Harrods. We used Eddie Manning's transfer service (www.limo.co.uk) for both our transfer from Heathrow to London, and then again Saturday from London to Southampton. We would definitely recommend them; ask for Stuart, he was great! Saturday, we got down to the ship about 11:00 a.m. They told us where to put our luggage, and we waited a few minutes to make sure it went into the building (there was a lot if luggage sitting there and we just wanted to make sure it got on). We went into the check-in area and had no lines at all. We were on the ship in 10-15 minutes! We went to check on our table in the dining room. We really wanted to sit by ourselves, but being a family of three, we were sure we would have to sit with at least one other family. We were so happy to find ourselves at a table for four (but just for the 3 of us) by the window on Deck 3 in the Romeo and Juliet/Othello dining room. I went and hugged and tipped the head waiter!!! We loved our table. They had lots of big tables for groups, but also many tables for two and four for couples and small families. CABIN: We went and ate lunch in the Windjammer and went to our room about 12:45. Our stateroom attendant - Rogie introduced himself right away. He was the BEST! We were in balcony cabin 7514 on deck 7. The room was amazing, plenty big enough for the three of us. The bed was the most comfortable we had ever slept on. Rogie would make up the sofa bed every night for our daughter with sheets and a nice duvet- it flattened out, not like a hide-a-bed with the bar, and she said it was comfortable (although not as comfortable as our bed!). We had four large suitcases and they all fit under the bed. All of our clothes hung nicely in the closet. There are four shelves in the closet along with the safe and six drawers out by the mirror. Don't forget to look behind the mirrors, we didn't realize there were compartments behind them until the end of the cruise! We were the first cabin on the port side of deck 7 and one side of our balcony had rounded window panels that give us extra room and allow us to look forward to the front of the ship! If you have this cabin for a future cruise, you will love it! It was also very quiet, being at the front of the ship - hardly any people in the hallways. We got settled a bit and then went to the muster drill station. You do not have to stand outside like on our Carnival trip. We got drinks and went on deck for the sail away. It was great fun because the Queen Mary 2 and the Sea Princess were all leaving at the same time. We beat them all out, but had a battle of the ship horns before we left. SHIP: The ship was beautiful. Very elegant, with wonderful artwork everywhere. Everything is brand new and one of the best things is that smoking was only allowed on the open decks of 4, 11 & 12 and in the Labyrinth Disco (sorry smokers). We loved it! The casino and all of the other bars/lounges were smoke free!!! We really enjoyed having drinks in the different lounges and bars without smoke. The ship was easy to navigate and the Royal Promenade was great. The ship was full, but it almost never felt crowded - only during parades, etc. Our favorite places were the Pyramid Lounge and the Olive or Twist Lounge. We would go up to the Olive or Twist and read our books during the day - great view and quiet. We aren't pool loungers, but there were always plenty of chairs that we could see, and we had excellent weather our whole trip - sunny and warm! The pool areas are large and the H2O Zone was great for the kids. There was so much to do. Our daughter loved the Flowrider, she learned how to surf and practiced every day, and my husband tried it as well. We also played mini golf - fun! It is great that the teenagers have two different areas all to themselves, The Living Room and Fuel, their dance club. She made tons of friends and had the time of her life. We heard there were only 300 kids on the ship, compared to 3,000 adults, but the teenagers made friends and hung out the whole cruise. The teenage activities were excellent - she was hooked after the "hottie hunt" the first night. She was out until 1:30 p.m. every night and has many great memories. The photographers on board were great. They offered opportunities for pictures with many different backgrounds and we took the opportunity, while we were dressed up to have family pictures taken. On a side note, everyone really got dressed up for dinner, especially on formal nights. My DH had rented a tuxedo through the ship and was very glad he did. Most men were in tuxedos (loved the Scottish kilt tuxedos around!) and women were dressed to the nines. The ship also had photographers out and about, like at the Flow Rider, and we got great professional pictures of both my DD and DH surfing. I also liked that they had souvenirs and post cards from the ports we visited for sale in the evening on the Royal Promenade. ENTERTAINMENT: The cruise director, Graham Seymour was excellent the entire trip - very funny!! We loved all of the production shows we went to. We attended the Welcome Aboard Show, Center Stage, Once Upon a Time, and the show the last night. We also went to both ice shows, Freeze Frame and Strings. Everything was amazing. I have been to Broadway shows, and these were just as good. The singers and dancers are very high quality and the ice skaters are simply outstanding. Don't miss the ice shows!!! Also, many nights we would go to the Pyramid Lounge and listen to the band Rock the Boat. They were excellent! I'm not kidding! They would play Maroon Five songs and they sounded JUST like Maroon Five. They had different "theme" nights like 70's, 80's, etc. and had a huge repertoire of songs. Do not miss this band! FOOD: We loved all of the food the entire trip! We had the late dining, which really worked for us. We liked going to the evening show at 7:00 (about half the time it was at 7:00) and then going to dinner afterwards. We ate in the dining room most nights. The food was always excellent. Some of our favorites starters were the Vidalia onion tart, chilled watermelon soup, calamari, jalapeno potato soup, and fried mushrooms. Some of our favorite main courses were the prime rib, shrimp ravioli, beef filet, duck, lamb, and pork tenderloins. We also ate at Portofino's one night and at Chops for our anniversary. Chops we loved - we had the crab and shrimp cake starter and filet mignon and it was perfect. They let us try all four sauces they serve with it! We also had the fried mushrooms and onions and potatoes - Yum. The mud pie for dessert was to-die-for. Our only complaint was Portofino's. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it was not like any Italian restaurant we were used to. The food was more like another steak place. We would have liked to see more pastas, etc. We had breakfast in the Windjammer almost every day, very good, hot and lots of variety. Here, the British influence was felt the most because they had tomatoes, beans and British bacon every morning. However, they also had American bacon, sausage, eggs to order, omelettes, pancakes, fruit, and anything else you could have wanted for breakfast! The white chocolate covered doughnuts were great! Also, do not miss the cookies for free in the Cafe Promenade! They had several different kinds every day and they were some of the best cookies we had ever had - we had some almost every day! Also, we ate lunch in Johnny Rockets four times!!! It was that good! We had room service a couple of times for a snack in the afternoon. They were always quick and it was good. SERVICE: The workers on this ship are the friendliest people you will meet. They will go out of your way to do anything you ask. When we walked down the hall in the morning, every ship employee would say "Good Morning". Our head waiter Katarina and our assistant waiter I-Wyen were amazing. We really felt like royalty. We never had a bad experience with any of the waiters/staff. In the Windjammer, they would come around with drinks, and were right there to clean off tables. They had greeters for every meal (that would also make sure you grabbed some hand sanitizer - good job!) We are very impressed with Royal Caribbean service. We tipped extra and hope others will too. PORTS GIBRALTER: We did a ship's tour at Gibraltar - the Upper Walking Tour. We went to the theater and they had us in groups and out of there within a few minutes. We got onto small busses in groups of about 25 people and drove through the town to the cable car. We did not even have a line. The cable car ride had amazing views and although we were squished in, it was open air and the breeze made the ride nice. At the top, we took amazing panoramic pictures and learned about the history of Gibraltar from our guide. We started walking down and saw the Barbary monkeys everywhere!! There were many babies, and they were feeding them fruit, so we saw them so close up. It was awesome seeing so many monkeys with babies. We saw monkeys on the mirrors of the taxi vans coming up the street and only one monkey jumped on someone. I think they had coaxed him to do it; it was not anyone in our group. In our group, no one had anything snatched or had a monkey jump on them. We then went into St. Michael's cave. The cave is beautiful with amazing stalactites and stalagmites. After that, we boarded our small bus and drove to the Great Siege tunnels. They have exhibits (mannequins dressed up in period costume) which were neat. The tunnels are also very interesting. After the tunnels, we re-boarded the bus and drove through narrow streets that were so quaint with Italian looking shutters, wrought iron balconies and wash hanging in the breeze. The bus was going back to the ship, but they offered to let us out at the main shopping district in town and about half the bus got off. We were dropped off in a square with many restaurants and we decided to get something to eat. We happened upon Cafe Solo and went inside to eat. It was Italian. We had learned from our tour guide that the majority of Gibraltean people are descendants of Italians! We believe her after that lunch! It was the BEST! We had goat cheese salad and rustic pizza, our daughter had cheese pizza. It was some of the best pizza we have ever eaten! Our rustic pizza had the sweetest small red onions, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, and goat cheese along with mozzarella. The salad had the most delicious fresh tomatoes. They also had home-made garlic and herb infused olive oil that was to-die-for! We are already wondering how we can get back to Gibraltar to go to that Cafe! If you go to Gibraltar, find Cafe Solo! After lunch, we did some shopping in the cute, pedestrian-only shopping district. We decided to walk back to the ship, it was not a bad walk at all - maybe 15-20 minute walk. The weather was beautiful and we could really see the coast and mountains of Africa. We all agreed that Gibraltar exceeded our expectations! CANNES: We woke up at 7 a.m. to find ourselves in France. We were anchored in the bay right in Cannes. We got pastries and chai iced lattes at Cafe Promenade and then headed for the tendering stations. We just wanted to do Cannes on our own. There were no lines! We went to the public market in Cannes, which had beautiful, fresh vegetables, flowers galore, fresh fish still flopping around, and meats, cheeses and herbs. It was awesome! Then, we headed up through the quaint winding little streets to find the castle at the top of Cannes. We took beautiful pictures along the way and at the top. Then we wound our way back down to the main street in front of the harbor. Our daughter stuck her feet in the Mediterranean and we window shopped at all the fancy shops like Lois Vitton, Hermes, etc. We enjoyed "beautiful people" watching and looking at all of the super expensive cars driving around and yachts in the harbor. We stopped for a break and had Nutella crepes and DH had a dark French beer he said was really good. We also went to the Cannes Film Festival building for a "red carpet" picture and to see the handprints in the concrete walkway. LIVORNO: We had the Florence and Pisa on Your Own shore excursion from RCI. They loaded us on big busses and took us first to Pisa, even though the description of the shore excursion said we would go to Pisa in the afternoon. There were seven other ships in Livornia that day, so it was very crowded, so we were glad we went to Pisa first. We were able to get the standard pictures holding up the leaning tower before it got too busy. The buildings around the leaning tower, especially the baptistery were beautiful! There were also lots of shops along the field and we had time to do shopping. We were given an hour of free time, then we met up and went back to the bus for the hour and a half ride to Florence. In Florence, we were let off outside the pedestrian shopping district and walked in. We then had almost 4 hours on our own. We went to the piazza with all of the great statues and the replica of David. We had a reservation to see the real David, but missed it due to going to Pisa first. We weren't really disappointed, the square with all of the statues is beautiful and we were able to find a small air-conditioned restaurant and had a nice lunch. Then, we shopped quite a bit. DD got a purse and some leather bracelets for her friends. I got ceramic plates painted beautifully. We made our way down to the Duomo and saw the famous doors on the baptistery. We hardly had to wait in line at all to go into the Duomo and it was beautiful inside. DH was wearing longish shorts, and they had no problem with it, they just wanted bare shoulders covered. After taking lots of pictures in the Duomo, we slowly made our way back to the meeting point for our tour. It was very hot, so we just hung out in the shade of a church. We really liked the little alleyways and pretty buildings. All-in-all it was a very fun day! ROME: Our day in Rome was our favorite day on the cruise!!! We walked right off the ship because we had our own guide reserved through Rome in Limo (info@romeinlimo.com). Do NOT try to see Rome on your own - you CAN see all of the best sites in one day using Rome in Limo! It is sooooo worth it! This was our one splurge on the trip and we were so glad we did it. Francesco from Rome in Limo was there for us at 7:50 a.m. and off we went. He was an absolute delight! He told us all about his city and showed us many amazing sights, all in the comfort of an air conditioned Mercedes! He drove us right up to everything and all we had to do is step out and see things and take pictures. We were able to see Palentine Hill, the Roman Forum, Circus Maximus, the outside of the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Tell the Truth Fountain (in the movie Roman Holiday), the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, Castel Sant'Angelo, and much more all before lunch! We threw our coins into the Trevi Fountain to ensure we will return to Rome one day. Francesco took us to a special, secret place that was absolutely amazing! I don't want to ruin it for anyone who might be able to get to Rome to see it, but let's just say that it was the most amazing key hole we have ever seen. And then, Francesco was even amazed because the doors opened! He said that he had been there hundreds of times and only 3 times had he seen the doors opened. It was very, very special!!! We then drove over and explored the Pantheon, which was also amazing. We found the best gelato near the Pantheon. For lunch, we ate at Piazza Navona, one of the most beautiful squares in the world. We just had about 45 minutes, so we had quick salad and panninis. After lunch Francesco took us to our guide, Sara who was to take us through the Colosseum and the Vatican. (Costs extra, but very worth it!) What an amazing afternoon! We breezed past the lines right into the Colosseum. Sara was very informative and it was really neat to be inside the famous Colosseum. Francesco then zoomed us over to the Vatican. Sara got us in a back entrance with only a short security line, and then it was into the Vatican Museum. Wow! It was amazing and breathtaking and overwhelming. Sara is an expert in Art History, so she made it all come alive and was so informative. We saw roman statues, beautiful tapestries spun with silk and gold, the famous map room, and of course, the best part of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel. It was much larger and more impressive than we had imagined. The vivid colors and beauty of the paintings were incredible. Sara then took us via St. Peter's square into the basilica. What an amazing place. It was huge! And it was filled with several sainted popes lying entombed in wax or metal. We rubbed a famous statue's feet as is the custom for good luck. It was so huge and overwhelming - so much to see, but an amazing, unforgettable experience! We were exhausted on the ride back to the ship, but we would not change a thing! It was so worth the money to have Francesco and Sara show us around Rome. We highly recommend them!!! If you only have a day in Rome - use Rome in Limo, you will really get your money's worth. What a great, amazing day! CAGLIARI/SARDINIA: We did this port on our own; we just got off the ship and went into Cagliari to explore the town. It was a cute little town and we did a little shopping along the main shopping street. Cagliari is known for its cork, ceramics, and cheese and sausage. We then hiked up the small winding alleys towards the castle at the very top of the hill. It was quite a hike, but a great view from the top. We came across beautiful churches and quaint alleys with iron balconies and potted plants with wash hanging from lines. Simply beautiful! CADIZ: We docked at 9:00 and boarded our bus for Seville, Spain. We had the Seville transfer (on your own) tour through the ship. We all slept some on the hour and a half drive to Seville, although the farmland scenery was interesting, especially the sun flower fields. We were dropped off several blocks away from the Cathedral and shopping district. We went shopping first since they would be closing for siesta. It was a great pedestrian shopping area. We bought painted fans and clapper music things, among other things. Then, we went to the Cathedral. On the way, we were going to get something to eat at one of the cafes, but the menus were really weird food with squid and bulls testicles - yuk! We just went to the cathedral and tower first. The cathedral was incredible! It is one of the biggest gothic style churches in the world and it was worth the visit and cover charge. We also were able to climb the tower, which dates back to Moorish times. The view from the top was great! We happened upon a small cafe that had ice cream and were going to just have ice cream for lunch. I noticed some other customers eating delicious little sandwiches of ham and cheese. DD knew some Spanish and was able to order us some and they were very good - ask for jamon and quesa! We got cold water and ate our dessert first (ice cream) then the sandwiches hit the spot! After that, it was back to catch the bus back to our ship. LISBON: We watched the ship come into the port at Lisbon which was amazing, especially going under the bridge which is an almost exact copy of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco where we lived for many years! After mochas and muffins, we headed off the ship to the shuttle bus (purchase for $10 per person round-trip from the ship) which took us to the heart of Lisbon. Again, many cute winding streets. We headed up-hill and happened upon the Cathedral of Lisbon. It was one of the best churches we have visited, not because of its size, but because of the unique things inside. There are cloisters in the back that have many tombs you can walk right among. There is also excavation work being done where they have found Phoenecian, Moorish and Roman civilizations' artifacts. Also, there is a museum of Portugese artifacts which is amazing. It is hard to explain, but don't miss it! You have to pay two different small cover charges to go into the cloisters and up into the museum - don't miss either one! We then walked up to the Castle of St. Jeorge which is a medieval castle. You can walk all around it and even go up steep stairs to the tops of the ramparts! We had a picnic lunch up at the top with a wonderful view. After some shopping, we headed back to the shuttle bus and back to the ship. Lisbon was definitely one of our favorite ports! VIGO: Again, we just did this port on our own. We got off the ship and headed to the highest point. There is a great park at the top of the hill - quite a hike! There are great views and Celtic ruins along with pretty gardens and fountains. There is a curvy street on the way up, by the cathedral that is crazy later in the afternoon with locals selling seafood. If you love raw oysters, this is the port for you! There is also good shopping, in little shops in town and at the large mall that is RIGHT next to where the ship is docked. We never could figure out why, but there were little witch souvenirs everywhere in Vigo. I would love to find out their superstitions or customs that seem to make witches their mascot! A very low-key port for the last port day. SOUTHAMPTON: We took the ship tour to get us back to Heathrow airport that goes to Stonehenge. We had a late flight and figured it would be more interesting than waiting at the airport. Because we had a RCI tour, we were the fourth ones called on debarkation day at 7:15 a.m. We got right off the ship and found our luggage. It was a little congested, but did not take long at all. The bus took us through very pretty English countryside with thatched house roofs and wild ponies. We went through Salisbury and got a glimpse of the Cathedral there and even drove by Winchester Castle. We spent an hour at Stonehenge and then were dropped right at the airport. We really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone going right to the airport on debarkation day. OVERALL: This was one of the best vacations we have ever taken! The cruise was mostly people from U.K. and they are the most polite, delightful people that we have ever met. Our last cruise on Carnival, I got annoyed at people cutting in line or being obnoxious. I did not see one person doing any of that! We will definitely cruise Royal Caribbean again! For those of you sailing on the Independence of the Seas soon happy sailing, you will have a wonderful time! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
This was our sixth cruise, third from Southampton and second with Royal Caribbean. We arrived at the terminal at 10:45 am after a leisurely 4 hour drive from our home near Liverpool. As we approached the cruise terminal the sheer size of ... Read More
This was our sixth cruise, third from Southampton and second with Royal Caribbean. We arrived at the terminal at 10:45 am after a leisurely 4 hour drive from our home near Liverpool. As we approached the cruise terminal the sheer size of the ship was visible. We were swiftly directed to the luggage unloading area and then after unloading proceeded to the parking area, which was just 2 minutes walk away from the terminal building, check in was quick and efficient having pre completed the online forms, no waiting at security and then straight onto the ship - in total from leaving the car it took no more than 10-15 minutes, top marks for organization. After checking out our dining table we went up to Windjammer for some lunch, we then spent a little time exploring the ship before going to our room at just after 1pm. Three of our bags had already arrived and our fourth turned up a few minutes later. We had a D2 Room with Balcony (9576) on Deck 9, we found it to have ample hanging and drawer space, a minibar with space for us to put our own bottles of water in, 6ft double bed, 3 seater sofa and 28" flatscreen tv showing a mix of news, documentary, entertainment and films, the balcony was a good size with two chairs and a small table. Our room steward popped in to introduce himself, we found him to be efficient and very low key. We had a table for two on second sitting in the King Lear dining room on deck 5 - which was excellent, the waiting staff could not of been better and they looked after us extremely well, we were rather concerned about about some of the negative comments we had read about the standard of food before going away, but over the 14 nights we never had any cause for complaint about either the quality or the portion size. One thing we did notice was that the menu posted outside of the dining room did not always display all of the items on the menu for that evening. We ate breakfast in Windjammer everyday and usually also had a snack there mid afternoon, unless out on a trip, food always piping hot and lots of choice, it did get busy at peak times especially on port days, but we always found a table but generally tried to go either before or after the main rush. Rolls, cakes and cookies were also available in the Cafe Promenade, and Pizza from Sorrento's. We tried Johnny Rockets on one of the sea days for lunch and it was excellent. We did pick and choose which shows we attended as obviously they are catering for a wide audience and not everything was to our taste, the only thing we did feel that was missing was at least one well known act. Graham Seymour the cruise director was very funny and was very visible around the ship, during the second week he also did a five minute slot each morning that was repeated on a loop between 6am and 10am on one of the tv channels going through the highlights for the day, there was also a couple of behind the scenes tours he presented, which he brought his humor to. The ice shows were extremely good, we actually preferred Freeze Frame to the second show Strings. The nightclub was very good - busier on some nights than others, but found the music to be great. Bars etc - good service throughout and very good choice of drinks at reasonable prices. Facilities - lots to do throughout the ship, plenty of sunbeds, sitting areas etc. The Royal Promenade can become a little congested at times in particular when they have retail sales on. Reasonable choice in the onboard shops. Gym was fantastic, better than the one we go to at a local Hotel! Ports: Gibraltar - we took the Fortress Gibraltar organized tour which was very good and enjoyable, only one point was that it took over an hour longer than advertised, leaving us a little less time for shopping than we had hoped, but having been to Gibraltar many times before we were able just to go to the shops we wanted. Barcelona - Evening in port - we booked tickets for the evening shuttle service, which runs between 7pm and 10pm but despite getting into port on time, it was almost 7.30pm before we were able to get off and then the traffic in the port was very busy, we did not get dropped off until almost 8pm - a quick walk and drink was all that we could manage before heading back to catch the shuttle at 9.45pm again traffic very busy, due to the overnight ferries loading at this time. I think they need to rethink the shuttle bus times and possibly extend it till say midnight or my advice would be just get it one way and get a taxi back. Barcelona - we took the transfer to Sitges a small resort about 45 mins south of Barcelona - well worth the visit, some lovely shops and a nice seafront prom / beach. Villefranche - we took the Nice & Monaco on your own tour - this gave us two hours in Nice and three hours in Monaco - which was ample - as we have visited both before. Livorno - We had a day off as we have visited Florence and Pisa before and relaxed onboard, with so many people on tours the ship was very quiet. Cagliari - We had a leisurely walk around town, being a Sunday not many places open, but a lovely place. Malaga - We took the tour to Mijas, as we quite regularly have short break in the area we have visited most places - but had not been to Mijas for a number of years. Lisbon - We took the shuttle bus into the center and walked around. Vigo - We had a walk around the center for a little while before returning to the ship. Our only criticism about the tours was the ticket collection process, in every other cruise ship we have been given your stickers as you enter the lounge, you then sit and wait to be called - here you had to go in sit down, then get called up to get your stickers, then sit down again, as most times they used the theatre this was quite awkward, squeezing past people, walking down to the front, then finding another seat afterwards, then getting out again to go on your tour. As ever on most cruise ships and in life in general, a minority element of rude and inconsiderate people, examples included pushing past everyone to get into the lifts, pushing into the lines at the buffet, speaking to the ships staff like dirt. Disembarkation was very smooth and well organized - we were called right on schedule at 6:45am and in the car at 7:00am. We both really enjoyed the cruise and would not hesitate to return on it, we very much went on this holiday for the ship not the ports as we have been to most of them before either on holiday or on other cruises. We would not hesitate in booking another cruise onboard - but it would be good if they could offer some new ports of call / itineraries, but I appreciate they are quite limited sailing from Southampton. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
My wife, son (age 13), and I went on the Independence of the Seas "Mediterranean Treasures" cruise, leaving Southampton on June 28 and returning on July 12. The ship stopped at Gibraltar, Barcelona, Villefranche (French Riviera), ... Read More
My wife, son (age 13), and I went on the Independence of the Seas "Mediterranean Treasures" cruise, leaving Southampton on June 28 and returning on July 12. The ship stopped at Gibraltar, Barcelona, Villefranche (French Riviera), Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Cagliari, Malaga, Lisbon, and Vigo. Pre-cruise: I opted to make travel and pre-cruise arrangements through RCCL. We flew from Washington Dulles to Heathrow without any problem, were met immediately by the RCCL rep, and bused to our hotel, which was the Grosvenor House. The hotel was nice and in a fabulous location (next to Hyde Park), but everything associated with it was hideously expensive. Since we arrived early in the morning, we got to camp out in the lobby for about 4 hours prior to getting into a room. We opted for free sightseeing (the British Museum and Hyde Park) on the day prior to embarkation. Travel to Southampton: the harried RCCL rep, who was also trying to handle several busloads of passengers leaving for a Celebrity cruise out of Dover, got us onto the bus about 45 minutes late - just in time to hit the height of London weekend traffic. We drove through the middle of town to another hotel and stopped - no passengers. The driver finally rousted the handful of people we were supposed to pick up, and we then spent another 45 minutes in traffic going to another hotel to pick up maybe four people. It took over two hours to get out of London, and we didn't get to Southampton until around 2:00 p.m. Since we like to get on the ship early, this was fairly irritating. Embarkation: RCCL did a great job here, as it took less than 15 minutes to go from the port to the ship with our IDs in hand. This was probably one of the most efficient people-processing operations I've ever seen. The Ship: Independence is enormously impressive and very large, but it was easy to get around. I thought the elevators would be mobbed, but after a day or so everyone settled into various routines and crowds were limited to shows, parades in the Royal Promenade, and the pools. The dEcor (particularly the artwork) is not immediately attractive, but you need to understand that most of the major pieces are thematic and are not just trim pieces. Most rooms had a folio that described the art, and I'd recommend reading that folio in a spare moment so that you can appreciate some of the works (or even figure out where they are). One outdoor space I would recommend is Deck 3 (I believe), which features an outside covered walkway that runs around the entire ship. It was rare to find many people on this walkway, and since one lap of it was about a quarter of a mile, it is a nice place for a stroll. Most of the public spaces are very nice, with two exceptions: the Schooner Bar, which for some reason always smelled like a reeking fireplace, and The Crypt, a weird bar that looked like a set for a high-school production of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Since the Crypt stayed open most of the night, I can only conclude that it caters to customers who get so drunk they don't care what the place looks like. I used the gym a fair amount, including taking four Pilates classes during the cruise. The gym is large and well-equipped, and the staff was very capable. My wife used the spa on several occasions for facial and hair treatments, and gives them high marks. My son and I didn't attempt the Flowrider, but we did use the rock wall several times and my son and his buddies used the pool a fair amount. The pool areas were consistently crowded on this cruise, but that didn't bother us, as we are not sun worshippers and were content to leave the spaces to the passengers who really wanted to work on their sunburns. One thing RCCL did on this cruise was run a number of documentaries on one of the TV channels on ship operations as well as construction and refurbishment of several RCCL ships. I was fascinated by these, since I'm always curious about how these huge cruise ships are built and operated. Since things such as bridge and galley tours have disappeared due to security concerns, these documentaries are the next best thing. The Room: we had a junior suite (1600) on Deck 10, which was perfect for the three of us and was the best cabin we've had on any cruise we've taken. The walk-in closet was enormous, and we had a spacious balcony with good views fore and aft. Also, we enjoyed excellent service from Brenda, the room steward, who was efficient and unobtrusive. The Dining: previous posters have complained about the Windjammer buffet and the fare in the formal dining room fare, but we simply don't agree with them. We sat in the first seating in the Galileo (Deck 5 dining room), and had marvelous companions (Peter, Maggie, and their son Daniel from England) as well as excellent service from our waiters, Lloyd and Raymundo. We thought the food was better than on our five previous cruises (which includes RCCL, Celebrity, and Princess), and the menu was more varied. Now, on a ship this big, you will have to plan a little bit to use the Windjammer. It gets very crowded at peak times - so don't go at peak times. You can always sit down for breakfast or lunch in the formal dining room, or you can use one of the other restaurants. Cafe Promenade was always open, and the Sorrento's pizza parlor had extended hours (we didn't eat in Johnny Rockets, as there's one of those near our house and we didn't think it was something we needed to do on a cruise). My wife and I ate in Portofino on one of the three formal nights, and it was fabulous experience. If you are traveling with teenagers who view formal nights as sentences to be worked off, cutting them loose for one of the nights and going to the specialty restaurant is a very good plan. The Entertainment. I enjoyed the shows immensely. Since this ship caters to the British market, the various acts were generally from the UK or Australia, and I thought they were very good (Americans just don't imitate Ozzy Osbourne or Prince Charles very effectively). Again, previous posters have complained about the acts, but these people apparently have standards well in excess of ours. One piece of advice: if you intend to see the ice show (and you should - it's impressive, given the reduced size of the ice rink), take the time to get tickets for the show. The tickets are free, but are necessary because of the number of seats available. So, unless you want to cram into the back like we did and sit on a cocktail table, pick up tickets when they are announced to be available. I would give Graham Seymour, the cruise director, very high marks. He was much more interesting than other cruise directors we've had, and my impression was that he was rewarded with Independence for his abilities. The Ports. I'll cover each port in turn, but first I'd like to praise Dr. Kenneth Pearl of Queensborough College for the great series of lectures he gave on these regions. Unfortunately, the Independence for some reason decided to schedule these lectures in a little room in the Conference Center, and invariably scheduled the Inconsolable Toddler Hour in the room right next door! Dr. Pearl did a great job, and deserves a much better venue; on other cruises we've been on, he would have filled over half the main theater. Gibraltar. Following advice from other Cruise Critic posters, we did not book an excursion, but just walked into town and took the tram to the top of the rock. While the Barbary apes were more numerous than we expected, they weren't a bother. We walked halfway down and caught the tram the rest of the way (another Cruise Critic tip), which worked out very well. Barcelona. The Independence stayed overnight here, arriving around 7:00 p.m. The arrival time precipitated a stampede trying to get off the ship, and was our introduction to the unevenness of local shuttle services. Apparently, the company RCCL booked didn't provide anybody to get people onto busses, so some very high-ranking members of the ship's crew were enlisted to try and disentangle the mess. Not enough busses, no taxis (for some weird reason), and the last bus service back to the ship at 10:00 p.m. - this was not good. But, we made it to the town and walked Las Ramblas with a few million other tourists. The next day, my son and I took a bike tour with Fat Tire Bike Tours - again, based on a Cruise Critic review. We had a great tour, led by Michael from Austin, Texas, and got lucky with temperatures in the high 70s. Villefranche. Here, we took our only ship tour, a bus trip to Nice, Eze, and Monaco. This went OK, but it was hot and the tour group had to accommodate the usual wide collection of shapes, sizes, walking speeds, and attention spans. If I had it to do again, I would have just taken the train from the port to Nice and/or Monaco, which was inexpensive and quick. Nonetheless, the ship's tour was good for what it was. Livorno. Following previous Cruise Critic reviews, I hired Guido Sarzani of "Tuscany In My Pocket" to give us a private tour of Florence, with quick stop at Pisa. We had a great day, seeing all the sights in Florence including Michelangelo's David. Guido is a very enthusiastic guide and is encyclopedic about Florence, which is his hometown. My son, who is hard to impress with culture, highly recommends him. Cagliari. The ship put in at Cagliari (a city on the southern end of the island of Sardinia) on a Sunday. Except for a few gelato vendors on the main street, virtually everything was closed and there was almost no one on the streets. I have never seen a city so deserted - it seemed like the scene of a biological disaster. My wife and I walked the town at length and managed to climb a couple of the towers, but if I was RCCL I would avoid this stop on a Sunday. Even the ancient Roman amphitheater was closed (fenced in for an upcoming rock concert). A final "feature" was the genius of the port guards, who refused to let us walk through their port checkpoint to the ship and insisted we take the port shuttle. So, we trudged back to the bus pickup area, got on the bus, and drove through - and no one checked our IDs until we got to the ship. Malaga. Again, we did this on our own. We got off the ship early to avoid the heat, and I thought we could just walk up to Gibralfaro Castle, which overlooks the city. Well, this is a pretty taxing hike, and my family let me know that they didn't appreciate morning mountaineering. So, I'd recommend a bus or taxi to the Gibralfaro. Some travel books say the walk is dangerous due to muggers, but they would have to be Olympian to chug up and down this hill. But, once we made it to the top, the Castle was worth seeing, as was the Alcazaba further down. Downtown Malaga was also nice to walk, and easy. Lisbon. Lisbon was probably the most frustrating stop on the trip, because it is a fabulous place and the Independence was only in port for six hours. Determined not to get trapped by the ship's shuttle again, we got off the ship early and hailed a taxi, which turned out to be piloted by someone who must have been a Formula One driver at one time. After a white-knuckle ride, we got downtown and bought daily public transport cards. We rode the #28 trolley circuit (another Cruise Critic recommendation) and saw as much of the city as we could. Then, we took another trolley back, and were let off right in front of the dock. If you go to Lisbon on this cruise, you really don't need to mess with buses or taxis; just take the trolley into town. It's cheap, and fast. I would add one recommendation from our dining mates, though; they hired a taxi to give them a tour for about 150 euros total, and the taxi driver did a great job, driving them for 6 hours and showing them a huge number of sites. Vigo. A pleasant little town, but this stop simply did not compare to the other ports and was of value only as a way to ease into the end of the cruise and the subsequent return to real life. Again, we walked the city on our own, and I can't think of a reason to take an organized tour here. The Debarkation. Be advised that you kicked off the Independence very early, so if you are flying back to the US and have the typical late afternoon departure, you will be stuck for awhile at Heathrow without much to do. You can take the Tube and go into London, but you have to pay to store your bags because the airlines won't let you check in more than 3 hours in advance, and the charges to do this at Heathrow are ridiculous. However, the biggest problem for us was that one of our bags got lost between the ship and the terminal (a distance of about 25 yards), and we had to give up searching for it to make our bus. This headache lasted almost four weeks, with my wife having to declare war on RCCL to get them to ship our bag back to us (they had located it a day or two after we left). RCCL, to their credit, sent us very generous vouchers for use on a future cruise, but it was a really irritating way to end the journey. Would We Take the Independence Again? We look for itineraries rather than particular ships (although my son and I favor the mega-ships). Aside from the bag incident, the cruise was spectacular and lived up to our expectations. My son made eight buddies (with hometowns ranging from California to Hong Kong) within two hours of getting on the ship, and had such a great time that it took him many days to come down from the journey. However, I would strongly urge RCCL to straighten out the shuttle service at certain stops and find a way to increase port time in Lisbon. As a matter of fact, they could skip Vigo and stay overnight in Lisbon, which I think every passenger would have voted for. Regardless, I'd recommend Independence, and this itinerary, to anyone interested in this part of the world. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
First time cruising for both my husband an me....Trepidation of what to expect!! Arrived by car to Southampton to be faced by the 'mother of all liners'. Transfer from car to ship was efficient and effortless, even when my ... Read More
First time cruising for both my husband an me....Trepidation of what to expect!! Arrived by car to Southampton to be faced by the 'mother of all liners'. Transfer from car to ship was efficient and effortless, even when my husband had to return to shore after realizing he'd left his wallet in our car (men for you!). Baggage took a number of hours before it arrived at our stateroom, which incidentally, was totally practicable and comfortable (exceeding a lot of 4* hotels we have stopped in). Food and Dining - Firm believer in having the opportunity to 'dress up' for evening dinners, the Independence has the structure perfectly set up with 3 formal nights and 2 smart casual and the rest being casual. Ship and facilities - Beyond belief!!! The Independence promises so much in the brochures and delivers with aplomb. Three days of intense investigation (never mind the shoe leather), just to gain an impression of the ship and what it has to offer. It is beyond description!!! Destinations - Some good, some indifferent. Villefranche was the showstopper with Cannes and Monaco, Vigo was extremely disappointing especially as this was the last port of call before arriving home. Entertainment - Luxurious surroundings in the Alhambra theatre sadly let down by the quality of the live shows. We could never quite understand why better quality of entertainers could not be engaged by RCI. Disappointing!!....Never mind the multitude of different bars and their associated themes made up for this. Staff - Overall, more than I expected. Majority of staff were kind and courteous and always presented a smile on their faces. Only area that did not reflect this was during the breakfasts in the main dining area, service there was occasionally lax bordering on the disappointing (wrong orders, late service of tea....And the toast...Yuk!!). Evening dining - Probably our biggest grievance (see below). Positives - The Independence of the Seas promises so, so much in the brochures and only just fails to deliver across all spectrums. RCI have a wonderful asset to their cruising portfolio with the addition of this ship. Whether you are a couple or a family with children, then the ship will deliver the majority of your aspirations with ease. This, I can only applaud RCI for. Negatives - Surprisingly few. However, the area around dining is a fundamental concern. Catering for upward of 1500 guests per sitting at dinner did represent challenges to RCI that sadly they missed. This was not reflective of their wonderful chefs or the supporting waiter service but is a more deep routed problem around Logistics. The bigger they build these ships the greater the logistical challenge faced...One that I feel they are destined too lose, especially with the advent of their latest liner next year! Overall - If you are happy o accept the few culinary failings then the Independence of the Seas is the holiday for you. It is magical beyond belief..... Would I do another??...Darn right I would! Read Less
Independence of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 3.0 3.8
Entertainment 5.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 5.0 4.2
Family 5.0 4.2
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.5
Enrichment 3.0 3.5
Service 4.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates N/A 3.8

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