We've just returned from a family holiday on the 11 April Independence of Seas cruise to the Canary Islands and have to say that it was one of our most enjoyable family holidays yet! This was our second cruise, the first being with Princess Cruises to Norway last year which we also really enjoyed.
We found the Independence of the Seas a very well equipped ship with nothing but friendly staff and excellent activities. We particularly enjoyed the Ice Skating, climbing wall and Flowrider (surf simulator), all of which are available at no extra charge.
The entertainment on-board was also excellent and ranged from typical theatre musical and comedy shows show to musical street parties in the 'Royal Promenade' and an ice skating show. The Cruise Director, Luke Aerowsmith, was excellent and had endless energy and enthusiasm for his job.
The Dining on-board was excellent with options ranging from 24-hour cafes on the Royal Promenade, the Sprinkles 'help yourself' ice cream machine (which the kids soon found!), through to the Windjammer breakfast, lunch and dinner cafe and formal dining rooms. The food was largely excellent with all tastes being catered for from daily 'Sunday' roasts through to some excellent curry options. Hot drinks (tea and coffee) were available at any time from the Windjammer, Royal Promenade cafes and there were also tea making facilities in the stateroom. Other than for the Captain's champagne reception, alcohol had to be purchased and certainly wasn't cheap, though I felt a 500ml bottle of London Pride beer for $6.50 was tolerable.
Our children are aged 5 and 7 and thoroughly enjoyed the ship, so much so that they didn't want to get off on the shore days! They particularly liked the kids' club (Adventure Ocean) which had activities planned throughout every day. The staff in the kids club were excellent and again very friendly and helpful. Particular highlights were the two kids' performances which were put on in the Royal Promenade. There were also some family activities ranging from art projects through to a scavenger hunt and family bingo.
Service throughout the ship was generally excellent and I don't recall meeting anyone who wasn't polite and helpful. There were a few areas for improvement on the cruise, but all were the result of the ship being full on our particular cruise. Sometimes the Windjammer cafe got very busy and the staff struggled to keep tables clear. Also there was sometimes a shortage of seats in the Alhambra Theatre for evening performances (even though it seats 1,500!). Furthermore the embarkation process involved some lengthy queuing (1.5 hours), which was tedious to say the least. However, it should be said that overall these were minor issues and even though the cruise was fully booked, the above times were the only times it felt crowded in any way.
Disembarkation went very smoothly with allocated times for everyone to leave the ship.
Our Stateroom was very comfortable with everyone having a good night's sleep on every night of the cruise. The kids slept in bunk beds that the room attendant lowered each evening.
Royal Caribbean shore excursions were expensive, so we made our own arrangements on each occasion. To give some ideas, below is what we ended up doing: -
- Vigo -- walk up the hill to the Castro Park for excellent views over the city and then a walk around the shops (there is a good C&A in town).
- Lisbon -- train into city (station a few minutes walk due north from ship), though the tram or bus would also have been an option. Walk around old town, then tram out to Belem and then back to ship.
- Gran Canaria -- Taxi from ship to see extinct volcano crater Caldera de Bandama (â‚¬35), then look around old town before bus back to beach and ship.
- Tenerife -- Walk into city then bus to Pyramids of Guimar (45 mins -- every 30 mins). 20 min walk from bus station at Guimar.
- Funchal -- walk into town -- then bus up to Botanical Gardens for excellent walk around and view over town and harbour.
- La Corua -- walk out to lighthouse (30 mins) and bus back into town.
Where the ship docked out of town in Lisbon and Funchal, shuttle buses were laid on, but we felt these were expensive, particularly for a family of four and Royal Caribbean should consider including these within the cost of the cruise.
Overall we really enjoyed the cruise and there were so many activities on board that we never had a dull moment. In our opinion it would be hard to beat the Independence of the Seas for family holidays.
If anyone from Royal Caribbean is reading we'd like to thank them for an excellent holiday and we'll certainly be cruising with Royal Caribbean again!