First off, let me say that the Independence of the Seas is a beautiful ship. There were many aspects of the cruise that we thoroughly enjoyed, but others that left me thinking that I won't cruise with Royal Caribbean again any time soon.
Leaving from Southampton, we had to hire a car service from London to the port and back as it is about 1 1/2 hrs from Heathrow airport. Thanks to this website, I found an amazing car service, Smiths for Airports, who provided us with transportation with very friendly and punctual drivers, for a fraction of the cost of other car services that I had contacted.
Our arrival at the port on the day of embarkation went very smoothly. We are Platinum members and were able to skip some of the lines. We were on board around noon and were anxious to get to our room, but were told that we couldn't get into it until 1:00 and that we should go to the Windjammer for lunch. And this is where the unpleasantness started. The food at the buffet was barely edible. I existed on salad and bread. The food was never particularly hot or tasty and the choices were definitely geared to a UK palate.
The dining room food wasn't much better. One night when I ordered dinner I asked for my meat cooked medium and was told I could have it either medium rare or medium well. I explained that I like my meat cooked medium and was again told no - what's that all about?? That night I ate the fish and was very annoyed. Our head waiter, Jose, was completely useless. Barely took a second to greet us -ever. When we asked him for a special order one night, he blew us off completely. I have always had special orders on Princess, Celebrity and Holland America cruises, from our head waiters with a smile on their faces. This guy couldn't have cared less. The food was so mediocre that we went to the specialty restaurants often.
Now for the nickel and diming. If you want a steak in the main dining room, that will cost you an extra $20. If you want the lobster, almost $30. They claim the lobster is from Portofino (specialty restaurant) but you can't even get lobster there!! You want to watch a movie in your room? That'll cost you an extra $12.50 - on Celebrity it was free!! Feel like room service? Make sure it's before midnight or there's an extra charge for that too!!
They also MUST do something about the elevators near the pools. When you walk in, it smells like wet dog. The carpets must be wet all the time because of where the lifts are located. There is an air freshener in the elevator but it's not enough.
The entertainment was a bust for us also. Very geared to a UK crowd, they had a British cover band and some British comedians.
All of the other Mediterranean cruises we have done have had a big mix of people. People from all over Europe and North America. This time the population was predominantly UK, and being Canadian, we really felt apart from the rest.
On the plus side, the room is much larger and more spacious than on other cruise lines. Also, the coffee is very tasty compared to the brews on some other lines.
I will definitely be heading back to Celebrity, Princess and Holland America for my next voyage!