First about us: Male 30 Female 26. We have been on 2 cruises prior to sailing on the Independence of the Seas. Both were with RC. We did the Allure and the Oasis. Because they are different classes I will try not to compare to much. We had a great time and the ship was nice and would go back but we did prefer the bigger ships but that is just personal preference.
Pre Cruise: Flew into Ft Lauderdale a day early from Philly. We decided to rent a car and stay at the Marriott Beach hotel in Key Largo. Hotel was really nice and not to far away (maybe and 115 from the airport). We got the car from Fox rental (had some minor issues). After returning the car on Sunday morning we flagged down a cab and was at the port in less then 10 minutes.
Embarkation: We arrived at the port around 930 am. We waited in line till about 10 am until the security doors were open. Once inside we checked in and sat in an older section of Pier 29. We waited for about 45 minutes until we were allowed to board the ship. Now This process was just ok. This pier is not that big and can not really handle the number of people that our going onto the ship. We were lucky because we arrived early. The section we were in was closed off around 1030 and all the other guest went to a different area of the building to check in. So my tip would be to get there early. You do have to wait a little bit but you are one of the firsts on the ship. I will have to say though that the RC people in the pier are helpful and they do their best to keep things moving.
Room: We had a balcony on deck 6 mid ship. Room number was 6600. Beds on RC are the best. You will sleep like a baby. Room was bigger then the Oasis Class balcony rooms same for the bathroom. There was 2 chairs instead of a couch because it was an adjoining stateroom. Room was always clean.
The Ship: As all others that we have been on very clean. Actually spotless. I heard they are taking the ship into a dry dock for upgrades/repairs but by the looks of it I would say it does not really need one but who am I to say. There were bars, shops, a gym, a casino (good one to, live poker) outdoor track, ice cream place, barbershop, spa, small movie theater, discos, skating rink, 2 main pools, 1 adult pool, 2 infinity hot tubs, 3 regular hot tubs in the main pool area and an entire kids pool area as well. There was a free frozen yogurt stand on the pool deck that you will be sure to visit almost everyday. On the back of the ship you find a rock climbing wall, flow-rider, and ping pong.
Pools/Lounging: There is a place for everyone. There are different sections for kids, adults and everyone in between. Trick is on sea days is to get up early and get the seats you want. We got to the pools by 9 am every morning and got exactly what we wanted. RC does not enforce the 30 minute rule about saving chairs so you can get any seat you want if you get there early enough. But if you want a spot in the sun you can always find one. The top deck and the back of the ship offer some nice quiet places to relax in the sun. There is a live band all day by the pool and a few activities but not much. The best one in my opinion was the belly flop contest. The music from the band is a bit loud but your on vacation so who cares. There are always plenty of servers to get you drinks by the pool.
Ports: We stopped at 3 places. Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios and Labadee (RC private island/peninsula). Grand Cayman was stop number 1 (our favorite). At this port you tender. We got in line early on deck 2 and was on the first tender off the ship. I highly recommend doing this. No crowds at the port and it was easy to get a taxi. We got a cab and took it to the Royal Palm Beach/Bar place. It was $4 dollar cab ride and only took about 10 minutes or so. This place is great. They charge $2 pp to get in and $10 pp for a chair. So for $24 bucks we got access to the 7 mile beach, a pool, restaurant, bar and clean shower/restroom facilities. Make sure you try the wood fired pizzas they were really good.
Stop #2 took us to Ocho Rios. We decided to do it on our own again. We took a cab to an all inclusive hotel about 10 minutes from the port. The hotel was a chain called RIU. Cost was $90 pp but it included everything. Food, liquor, beer, wine, soda, water, pool, towels and beach. The cost was only $45 for kids. We found a great taxi driver named Watson. He took us and picked us up with no problems. I know there can be some annoying locals trying to sell you things but a simple no did us just fine.
Stop 3 was RC private island. It is not really an island but an actual peninsula. This is our second time there and each time we have done the same exact thing. We just chill on the beach. We actually rented a cabana both times which is really nice. I think they will let you have up to 6 or 8 adults per cabana. The cost is $200 for the day but gets you access to the suite guests beach and the upgraded buffet. The other buffet (both are provided by the ship) gets really crowed. This day we were in port there were 2 ships. Ours and the Explorer of the Seas. The beaches on the south side are the Caribbean sea which are way calmer then the north side which is the Atlantic Ocean. Staff at Labadee is great. Only warning about the cabanas is that there are different categories. So just make sure you are paying for what you want. EX: some are in the shade all day.
Food: The food was good but I have to say it was better on the bigger ships. The biggest difference is on the Oasis class there are so many different options where as on this class your sort of limited on your options. The strange part is that a lot of the menu items are the same but I think the quality was better on our other cruises. The wind jammer on the Indy is HUGE. Food selection was good and quality was standard but not really our thing. We ate breakfast there everyday. All of our dinners were in the main dining room. They do serve lunch in the MDR but only on sea days from 12 to 130 pm. We did not do any specialty places including Johnny Rockets. We did of course enjoy room service which is free up to midnight when a small service charge of $3.95 runs until 5 am. Breakfast was also free for room service. Sorrento's (pizza place) on deck 5 is ok. It is not the best but you will grad a slice every time you pass. The royal promenade cafe is open 24/7 and is free.
Entertainment : Again the Oasis class puts this ship to shame when it comes to shows. They did a good job but nothing compares.
Departure: We choose to do the express departure which we had to carry our own bags off between 615 am and 730 am. This option was great. We were out of our rooms at 715 and in a cab by 730. No lines no waiting.
Random stuff: They did offer an all you can drink package on this cruise. It was $55 per person per day. Everyone in your cabin had to buy it and you could only purchase it on the first day. It was only offered on the ship not on the pre cruise planner. It included beer, wine, soda, mixed drinks, frozen drinks and all the other good stuff. Only thing it did not include were red bull drinks, Patron and martinis. So if you are a big drinker this is for you.
I wish I wish I wish I wish I wish Royal Caribbean would modify there smoking policy. I understand they do not want to get rid of smoking all together but our balcony room was ruined by the people in the cabin next to us. I swear they smoked out there 24/7. I even saw them by the pool one day and they had there own portable ash tray at there table they had brought from home. We could not go out on the balcony for more then 3 minutes before they would come out and light em up. It really ruined that part of our trip. I think they should look at making different floors or sides non smoking balcony rooms. It got so bad that out cabin actually smelled like smoke. I called down to the front desk but they could not and did not do anything about it.
The art action is not a real action. The prices start at almost full retail. They do give out free champagne but other then that it is a waist of time because you can buy any piece and anytime in the gallery.
The muster drill is a bit crazy but just take a deep breath and you will be fine.
I would go back on this ship in a heart beat. I really like RC and they offer a great value and good time.