Independence of the Seas Cruise Review by Espire
- Sail Date: May 2018
- Destination: Baltic Sea
- Cabin Type: Spacious Ocean View Balcony
We are a senior couple with a young outlook and have cruised on Brilliance of the Seas, Royal Princess and P&O's Ventura and Azura. This was a brilliant holiday for us but admit we were lucky with the weather and the excursions we planned for ourselves.
Embarkation (and disembarkation) were highly efficient. We drove from Leeds to Salisbury the day before and on to Southampton the morning of departure. We had been allocated a boarding time but I made a minor enquiry by email in advance and the response implied we could turn up when we liked. We left our car with a meet and greet company in the short term car park and were on board within half an hour, two hours early!
Good news for the Brits. There are kettles in the cabins. The drinks price list INCLUDES gratuities. Some waiters in the main dining room actually put the tea bag in the pot BEFORE the hot water (and do not just bring a tea bag on the side). But not all waiters have learned this yet so you will need to train them!! In fact there were very few North Americans on board (maybe 300) and even fewer from other countries. Also Independence entertainment staff are heavily British.
We did not have a drinks package so needed to watch bar prices. Best value for drinks I found was gin & tonic with a very generous shot of gin at $8.50. A bottle of beer from $7.75, cheapest glass of wine $8. No regular “happy hours” but a $9 “drink of the day”, available everywhere, ranged from a Pimms to a Singapore Sling
Food in Windjammer buffet restaurant was very good. Free soft drink or iced tea available, variety of food astonishing, quality high in the main. Problem was at busy times you had to search for a table and hang onto it so we rarely ate together at breakfast or lunch. Dinner was quieter.
Main dining room was really good for breakfast with buffet service as varied as Windjammer (we did not use waiter service section) but ended at 9:30 compared to 11am for Windjammer. Lunch here was part buffet, part waiter service but if we ate lunch on board we often took a sandwich from Royal Promenade cafe to our balcony.
Evening meals in the main dining rooms were mostly very good with an occasional poor dish. We had freedom dining and found waiters were not all experienced. So there were slow times, less knowledge and I felt no encouragement to indulge at some tables. People mostly dressed up on formal nights but I did not feel that I was out of place for not wearing the full dinner suit, bow tie and starched shirt.
As seems to be the trend for larger ships in the Royal Theatre they offer a full West End style show, Grease, on Independence. This was very well done with a cast of over 20 and all the famous songs. As they cannot fit in two performances a night they have to do two nights plus a matinee so everyone can see it. Consequently the ships company only did one additional show on our eight night cruise. Four other major acts were 75% successful only the comedy magician being weak.
The number two venue for entertainment is the ice rink which has a spectacular show with ten professional skaters and a talented solo violinist. A regular on board said they had seen it eight times. I do not know if that was a tribute to quality or a hint they need to change the act! Available for open skating during the day at times they can cover over the ice and use it as a dance floor for a nightclub or it can be an 800 seat amphitheatre.
For popular shows we learned to be 30 minutes early to get a good seat, otherwise 15 mins is OK
The Star show lounge is smaller than on other ships but when not in use is available as extra seating on sea days.
The Royal Promenade is the focal point of the ship and intended to be a high street with different shops and bars to give atmosphere. This is successful and offers great ambience in the evenings and when the weather is too bad to use the pool deck. The trouble is whenever it is the right time to be here you can never find a seat. Other areas are the same- when there is a quiz in the Schooner Bar, when the band are playing in Boleros- there are no seats.
Those who knew the old Indy said the nightclub on decks 3 & 4 was a useful daytime quiet area as well as an evening venue. Now it is Laser Quest and Izumi. And what was the most sophisticated bar on the ship, Olive and Twist, now has karaoke every night. The refit additions, Water Slides, VR trampoline, Escape Room, Laser Quest are mainly for the teens and young adults.
Pool deck is in three areas, adults only at front, then everyone with stage for band and giant screen, followed by kids splash area. All well designed with hot tubs in various places usable even on cold days. There looks to be enough sun beds for every single person on ship on various decks but obviously those next to a pool will be fought over.
We are not spa users or fitness fanatics so no comments in that area. No classic "enrichment" of any kind. Only selling seminars or quizes. I think some bridge players got the use of the dining room but I saw nothing else on the daily planner other than napkin folding! But this was a port heavy cruise with only two sea days so not important.
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