Independence of the Seas Cruise Review by petronella: The Best Hotel in The World!
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The Best Hotel in The World!
... at least, according to my 13 year old grandson!
He, his 10 year old sister and their parents (my son and DIL) were first time cruisers, however husband and I have cruised to the Med on P&O's Aurora and additionally on a 4 nighter on Aurora and the same on ex-P&O Artemis. The choice of ship was my son's and he had already booked and paid by the time we decided on a cruise as well, so if we wanted to go with them, we had to go on Indy ... so we were both a little unsure about whether we were doing the right thing. This ship is over twice the size in terms of passenger numbers than Aurora and we thought she was big!
To be honest, it was a nightmare. We waited to drop off our bags for 45 minutes (we arrived about 10.45 to find the 'holding' area already full of cars), then joined queue after queue, eventually getting to the check-in area where we waited for another 40 minutes. It was so hot in there and I actually started to feel quite ill ... we hadn't More got off to a good start! Happily, that was the worst part of the whole experience, but it was bad enough to make me think twice about going again on this ship.
Disembarkation at Southampton :
Piece of cake! Very well organised and we were out and bags into car in about 10 minutes. Shame they can't find some way to make embarkation as painless .. perhaps allotted times as per disembarkation?
The ship :
Well, it's amazing. Beautifully designed, easy to get around, not much to find fault with really. Personal taste meant that I wasn't over-keen on the Royal Promenade , it felt a bit claustrophobic when we were at sea but plenty of people loved it. I prefer being able to see outside from wherever I am on the ship. The sheer size was also a bit daunting and as I am lift/elevator phobic, there's an awful lot of stairs to climb up and down to get anyplace! There is nothing at all wrong with the ship, I just prefer something a bit smaller and more intimate.
We had a Balcony Guarantee booking and ended up with a D1 on Deck 10. For the two of us it was perfectly adequate in size and amenities, though I had expected shower gel in the shower and it was shampoo only, so washing was with bars of soap .. not my ideal. Would have liked to have had toiletries as per P&O but I had come equipped with everything except shower gel, so no big deal really. Loved the little round shower and can't really understand why others have said it was tiny. We were in 1270 starboard, located immediately below the solarium and just aft of the cantilevered whirlpool and there was noise, sometimes from very early (about 5am) as the pool attendants started getting ready for the day or quite late as they were finishing off at the end of it. I'm a light sleeper but the noise wasn't constant enough to be an annoyance, but I imagine for some it could be a big issue.
Well, they made the cruise for us. Almost everyone we encountered was friendly, cheerful and helpful. Special mention for our room attendant, the lovely Larisa and our son's attendant Warner .. we now have a grandson expert at towel animals as Warner took the time to show him how to make them. Also to our wonder My Time Dining waitress Irene and assistant Al Valdean ... I shall miss us being called Miss Jane and Sir John every evening! I shall really miss Irene herself as well ? And kudos to Head Waiter Jason, who really couldn't do enough when we seemed to keep having a variety of problems at meal times! And must mention Raymon and Daniel, bartenders at the Olive or Twist, who kept us entertained for hours every night and the hilarious waiter Errol, who was a whizz at tray spinning, dancing to the music and singing My Way ?
However we were surprised at how few officers were about the ship and the few we saw, kept very much to themselves ... on P&O they were very evident and really friendly, so we thought that a bit odd. Maybe we just weren't in the right place at the right time.
We liked the itinerary and were able to visit several ports we didn't see on our last Med cruise.
The sail in to Gibralter was made magical by a huge pod of dolphins alongside the ship .. they just seemed to keep coming and coming. Parents with babies, lots of leaping out of the water, a few somersaults ... a real privilege to have seen it.
Husband and I stayed onboard for Livorno and I stayed on alone for Civitavecchia, while the rest of the family braved Rome .. but other than that we got off and mostly did our own thing at every stop. My one big gripe about Royal Caribbean and the ports was the lack of good information ... P&O beat them hands down for this. There seemed to be more interest in pointing out which shops RCI recommended (partnered?) than giving decent guidance.
I actually got very irritated at what was deemed the Toulon stop. Through reading tons of stuff on Cruise Critic, I knew that we would almost certainly be docking at La Seyne Sur Mer and not Toulon, but I found nothing anywhere that said we would be at La Seyne. I even specifically asked at Guest Relations if we would dock at La Seyne or Toulon and they said Toulon. They lied! But anyway, we walked into the very lovely La Seyne from the ship, found the market selling incredibly cheap, decent quality goods (men's leather belts for 3 euros!) and got the land train back for a few euros each. I did feel for the man who was trying to make sense of the map provided by RCI, as he thought he was in Toulon and it was a cafe proprieter who put him right. Very poor RCI.
Loved Ajaccio, Corsica ... had little idea what to expect and it was such a pretty place. We weren't there long and so wish we could have had more time.
I personally only took one ship's excursion; wine tasting in Vigo. Or more specifically two hours from Vigo by the time we had driven through the Gallician countryside being lectured non-stop on every aspect of the area from the material the buildings were made of and even the components of the soil! Our guide was very well informed, no doubt, but DIL and I only wanted to go wine tasting!! Another example of not enough information being given on just what the excursion entailed .. had we known, we probably wouldn't have gone.
Ship food/restaurants/bars :
I am almost completely vegetarian, but will eat some fish. I thought the offerings in the MDR were excellent and there was only one night I struggled. I selected the fish dish of perch and hated the taste and texture. At least I know never to try perch again! Best dessert ever was on the first night with a cherry chocolate concoction ... just yummy yum yum, as Irene would say ?
I preferred the MDR for the evening meal but Windjammers/Jade was the usual choice for breakfast and lunch. Loads of choice for breakfast and I can't believe anyone couldn't find something they liked. We never once struggled to find a table and usually found ourselves by the bar in Jade. Veggie choice was a bit limited, but the ever helpful Jason (who patrolled Windjammers during the day!) insisted the chefs would make up anything I requested. Wow! One day they served up an aubergine parmigiana which was to die for and Jason arranged for it to be served up to me in the MDR a few nights later ... that is a pretty good service!
The bars on the Royal Promenade and lower decks always looked to be heaving with people in the evenings, but early on we discovered the Olive or Twist and it became our bar of choice for the whole two weeks .. never overcrowded, great staff, met lots of lovely people as we sat at the bar. Loved it.
Kids' clubs/teens :
As previously mentioned, grandson loved every second, so did our granddaughter. They both joined their respective age groups , always had loads to do and could barely wait to finish dinner to be off again. We took advice from reading CC comments and joined them up on the first day and this seemed to work as they made friends pretty quickly.
We did see quite a lot of teens running around the ship in the evenings, especially as the Olive or Twist, was right above the teen areas. The pool deck seemed to be the place of choice for the older kids and the slightly younger ones seemed to be exploring in large groups (saw security hoick them out from the chapel a couple of times, but they were no trouble, just curious.) We had no problems or complaints at all, though we heard the usual stories about all the lift buttons being pushed, from a few people.
We aren't big on-board theatre goers and ventured in only once, on the first night ... and ventured right out again after about 20 minutes! Variety song and dance routines just aren't our thing. Each night in the Olive or Twist there was live music, which was mainly as a background and although the musicians weren't exactly international superstar quality, they were good enough for us not to walk out! Enjoyed Rock The Boat when they played on the Pool Deck on a couple of sailaways.
Meet & Mingle :
This was almost a non-starter for us as the online information said the M&M would be on Monday at 10.30am. My son received a note to his stateroom confirming it was on the Sunday, but we didn't get anything. Larisa went and asked about it for us and it was indeed on Sunday. It was a fun way to spend a bit of time and lovely that everyone there won a raffle prize ... my granddaughter won a bottle of champagne (sparkling wine in reality) which was immediately appropriated by her Mum! Later that day, we bumped into a large family group of people we recognised as being from the roll call, but who weren't at the M&M ... seems they too had no idea it had changed to Sunday. As it happened they had three suites right next to our stateroom, so maybe not just a co-incidence.
Maybe we got lucky, but we had no problems with neighbours smoking on balconies. In fact, we hardly saw anyone smoking anywhere, though I'm sure there must have been. Didn't smell smoke once, inside or outside ... it was a pleasurable surprise.
Summing up :
Indy is without doubt a beautiful vessel with just about everything you need for a holiday, on tap. I thought the food was good and I'm fussy! It's hard to compare as the RCI and P&O experiences are so different .. both excellent but in differing ways. We probably prefer the rather more formal P&O experience, prefer dealing in UK pounds rather than US dollars and prefer P&O's alcohol and beveridge policy in that there is no problem bring on your own wine/spirits, water, soda etc. But it's not a deal breaker. MDR food comparable but prefer the selection at the P&O Orangery above Windjammers .. but only just.
For adults travelling without children, we much preferred Aurora .. but if you have children with you, Indy has it all. We are certainly glad we went! Less
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