We had a wonderful family holiday on this ship and here are the 10 things to know before cruising on "the Independence of the Seas" from a UK perspective! Its a big ship but when you get on it, there's plenty of room for everyone. Our cruise was a huge success and we'd recommend this ship. Its amazing and so is the service (then again, you'd expect it to be for the price!).
1. The plastic card you get given before boarding the ship is more useful than your passport.There is no money onboard, so the card acts as a credit card, an ID card, a reservation card and opens the door to your cabin.
2. The main restaurant is split between 3 floors and has two sittings at Dinner. For breakfast, its usually just the lower floor thats open and first come, first served. For lunch, its not open unless you are in port. For dinner, its three courses - great food, great service. There are 3 extra restaurants where you can pay an additional amount for something different, but why would you when the quality here is great? If you want casual dining, the buffet restaurant acts as an alternative and is called "The Windjammer". Its a bit of a free for all, and also has a small asian (mostly Indian vegetarian) themed area called "Jade". Its open from breakfast through til 9.30pm and is always busy for those who want a t shirt and shorts experience...
3. Even before you board the ship, you'll be asked to disinfect your hands with an alcohol gel. This continues on board with hand hygiene gels and wipes every where you go - at first its a bit strange then you realise that this obsesiveness keeps the stomach bug "norovirus" at bay and is actually very reassuring!
4. Dining tip two; If you have children, go for "My Time Dining" option and book each night for 6.30pm. This will be on Floor 5 which is the upper level of the 3 floor dining room. Generally they will try and allocate you the same table and the same waiters each evening. For the three formal evenings, suit or DJ is the norm and we had our children in suits too as did most others using the dining room.If you are not a fan of getting together in a smart environment - go to the informal buffet restaurant and enjoy that.
5. Dining tip three; buy a wine package before you travel - its much cheaper. When you dine, the waiter takes your card and keeps a record of how much of your pre-paid wine you have used up.The other drinks packages may be good too..depending upon your familiy's preferences. We had a bottled water package for our cabins.
6.The main thoroughfare is called "The Royal Promenade" which is about 100 metres long and runs through the centre of the ship. It has a five storey high ceiling and is overlooked by the central staterooms and lifts etc. It's here that is the internal heart of the public areas housing a coffee shop, shops, Ben & Jerrys Ice Cream parlour, hairdressers, jewellry, duty free etc. The main tip? The coffee shop provides "posh" coffee you can buy, or "no frills" coffee for free, along with free cookies, mini cakes and sandwiches. The pizza place further along does free pizza most of the day too.
7. When you go ashore at a port, your card is swiped, and again on return. Any purchases are scanned by x ray machine, and if you have any thoughts of bringing some cheap alcohol onto the ship to ease your wallet, think again. Its against the On board policy and you will have to hand any purchases in for the remaining days of your holiday!
8. Virtually everything costs apart from the food you consume, but because it goes on your "sea pass card" which is guaranteed by your credit card, you don't really feel the cash being used. Incidentally, every purchase on board is in dollars.
9. The shows in the theatre are fantastic and well worth seeing. Each night is something different and we didn't see a duff one... We had a comedian, broadway style shows, a ventriloquist, a comedy juggler, tribute bands etc. There is also one fab evening on the open decks with a live band and dancing which is really enjoyable from 10pm til midnight. But if you want peace and quiet, there are plenty of areas for that too.
10. The open air decks are 10, 11 and 12. There are plenty of sunloungers but not all are out of the wind, so choose carefully. There is a kids pool area, a mixed area and an adults pool area and in each there are pools and jacuzzis. Its all very palatial and very well catered for with a few bars, a complimentary ice cream machine and complimentary tea and coffee. The pools are warm and easily accessible. There are no official life guards so you need to be responsible for your children, though there are crew who keep an eye on proceedings...naturally, the pool area does get busy sometimes.
I could add more, but that seems enough! Enjoy your trip on this amazing ship.