My wife and I have cruised several times before but never with RCI so we were interested to see how they compare with the likes of Celebrity, Cunard and Princess. Our conclusion afterwards was that "Indy" is a very impressive ship but it doesn't have quite the same overall feeling of elegance as Cunard or Celebrity. There again, RCI cruises seem to be cheaper so the old adage applies of getting what you pay for.
Embarkation/disembarkation at Southampton were impressively quick and hassle free which made a good start and finish to the cruise. Our balcony stateroom was similar to what we'd had on previous cruises and was fine with nothing at all to complain about. Our lady room attendant looked after us very well. Following tips on this site, I asked as soon as we were on board if there was any chance of having a bathrobe and she said they were really only available to suite passengers but she'd see what she could do. One appeared less than an hour later!
Everyone knows that this is a big ship but you don't realise just how big it is until you're on it. However, signage is very good and we didn't get lost although a little booklet showing deck plans and facility locations like we've had on other cruises would have been helpful. Also, when you've done a few cruises you realise that the layout of most cruise ships is pretty similar - formal dining room at the stern, theatre towards the bows, shops midships and so on.
As others have said, the ship was kept spotlessly clean and the staff couldn't have been more friendly and helpful. The decor in places was, to us, a bit over the top glitzy but the heart of the passenger areas, the Royal Promenade with its shops bars and cafes, was truly impressive.
We had chosen My Time dining which worked for us very well. After the first couple of days we settled into a routine of going to the dining room about 8pm
and through the memory of the restaurant manager and his computer we nearly always found ourselves on the same table with the same dining companions which suited us fine. The table waiters were wonderful and got to know us and our preferences very quickly.
We are not heavy drinkers and we had worked out that the general drinks packages wouldn't be worthwhile but we do like a bottle of wine with dinner so we bought one of the wine packages which saved us quite a bit compared with buying an individual bottle from the wine list every night. On the subject of drinks prices, yes, they are rather expensive but probably not much more than other cruise lines charge
The choice of dishes was less than we had experienced on previous cruises and there was an emphasis on beef in its various forms. However, we didn't mind that because we love beef and, like the rest of the food, it was of first class quality.
We used the Windjammer occasionally but although the food variety and choice were fine it was usually very busy and perhaps a little bit too "cafeish." My wife uses a mobility scooter (of which more later) and she found that it was virtually impossible to use it in the Windjammer a) because it was so busy and b) because it was difficult to see what was on the food counters, In fairness we can't see that anything can be done about this.
We didn't see many of the shows but those we did see were very good. In particular, the Ice Show was outstanding.
Shore excursions were slickly and efficiently organised but, as many have said, rather expensive.
Although the ship was nearly full, the only times we felt it was overcrowded were on sea days when the decks around the pools were very busy and occasionally in the evening on the Royal Promenade. In this respect we think that the tables outside the Dog and Badger pub (always a very popular venue) encroach too much into pedestrian traffic areas.
My wife has recently had to start using one of the much maligned electric mobility scooters and she really couldn't have managed without it. We found that just about everyone was very courteous in making way for her and, by the same token, we would like to think that she's not one of those drivers who bash on regardless and expect everyone else to get out of the way! She took it on shore several times and we found that the crew were very quick to help get the scooter on and off the gangway. A tip for other users - we discovered that it was quite awkward to manoeuvre the scooter into our room and keep the door open wide enough for access at the same time. Our attendant had given us a door wedge but when we used it we found that it fouled the scooter front wheel. So we bought some of those elasticated straps with a hook at either end from a street market in Toulon and we found that if I stood inside the room and pulled the door wide open with the strap, access was much easier.
My wife and I both smoke and we had checked RCI's website beforehand to see where smoking was allowed. We checked again when we boarded the ship and found that smoking was no longer allowed in the Labyrinth which meant that the only place we could smoke in a public area inside the ship was in the Connoisseur Club. That was fine but it meant that it was always very busy as, indeed, were the open deck smoking areas and it was difficult to get a seat, particularly in the evenings. I don't wish to enter a debate here about the pros and cons of smoking on cruise ships and I am merely saying that there is very clearly still a strong demand for smoking areas and the ones provided are not sufficient to meet that demand. Whilst we would be the first to accept that smokers are in the minority these days, to have nearly 100% of the public areas of the ship designated as non smoking does seem something of an imbalance.
We enjoyed the cruise which is just as well because, before booking this one, we had already booked another for later in the year. We're looking forward to it!