Having just returned from our first cruise, I feel it essential to pass on what are our shared thoughts on the experience. We were a party of four, all aged over fifty, and as stated, we were all embarking on our very first cruise.
We booked early, and that was our first mistake, we paid FULL price with no discounts offered, indeed at the time my wife and I booked we were not offered free parking at SOUTHAMPTON, but my sister and her husband who booked days after we had booked, were offered free parking, CHING CHING another Â£130 pounds cost for us.
Weeks before our departure, the original itinerary was changed, we were due to have an overnight stay in Majorca, but this got changed and an additional stop added, Allicante. No big problem other than we were not advised by RCI of these changes, we only found out about the changes from my sister, who had booked via an Agent. When I pursued this fact with RCI they advised that we HAD been advised by letter, but no letter was ever received, so RCI then sent me a WORD document advising of the changes, it was an "OPEN" word document that I could edit at will if I had wished too, a bit unprofessional I thought , but we marched on.
The actual ship is difficult to criticize The Independence of the Sea's is a stunning site and a beautiful ship. My wife and I had booked a Superior State room with balcony, which was in truth very nice, and was maintained well throughout the cruise.
However we made what I now regard as a big mistake in pre paying our gratuities,some Â£120 each, big mistake, the service we received was "adequate" at best and downright "rude" at worst. In hindsight I would have had no qualms at disembarkation and leaving nothing.
Whilst I would not regard it as being a mistake, we had also booked a Platinum Wine and Dine package that worked out at Â£25 a bottle for twelve bottles of wine. It was not a mistake because if purchased on board wine was a minimum of $40 a bottle, and you don't have other options, any wine or booze bought whilst ashore will be confiscated and returned when you are due off the vessel.
None of our party are what could be classed as BIG drinkers, but all of us like a drink in the early evening, I would warn all that the drinks on board are expensive, and in addition keep a close eye on what you are served, on more than one occasion we were served with the likes of Gin and Tonic with virtually no gin having been included, keep a close eye on your account as well, as it seems to be common practice to add drinks to your account that you have not actually taken, again on several occasions we were obliged to report these "mistakes" to the customer services desk whereupon the charges were removed without quibble ... strange we thought.
There are very limited provisions made for smokers inside the vessel, only The Cigar Bar, which whilst under sail is full to capacity, small with insufficient seating. There is external seating for smokers but as soon as the ship leaves port, even Med Ports of call, the wind whistles through the defined area's making them extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant places to be seated.
There are thousands of sun beds and seating in areas that catch good sun, with a policy that if vacated for more that thirty minutes should be relinquished. this just does not get enforced and people, usually the same people leave their personal belonging on their well situated beds and retain them for the day.
Coffee and snacking areas are usually full, and again people utilizer these as general seating area's so this limits the seating for those wishing to take a coffee with a snack, this is especially true whilst at sea, be warned.
The food was good but we found it very repetitive.
Our cruise was predominantly occupied by over 80's and never have I been obliged to share confined areas with such a rude and inconsiderate bunch of fellow holiday makers.
We witnessed numerous MIRACLES, BY WAY OF WHAT WERE APPARENTLY WHEEL CHAIR BOUND PASSENGERS, that once off the ship were perfectly capable of strolling round the port's of call, some of which are really quiet demanding and hilly. However these miraculous cures appeared to be short lived, and the offenders returned to their wheel chairs upon boarding the vessel, I would hope that this was not to gain priority when having to queue of board an elevator but strongly suspect their motives and actions.
Our cruise was heavily discounted two weeks before departure, with late bookers being given Room Upgrades more on board spending allowances etc
We went We Tried it but NEVER EVER AGAIN .... NEVER