Independence of the Seas 1/19/13 IOS 8 day My husband, brother in law, sister in law, and myself boarded IOS on 1/19/13 for an 8 night sailing to St. Kitts, St. Maarten, San Juan PR, and Labadee. I welcome any questions you may have. Hope you enjoy this review.
1/18/13 Drove to Fort Lauderdale airport to pick up BIL and SIL who were flying in from Illinois. They stayed at the Days Inn on 29th Ave. in Hollywood. Their room looked recently remodeled and was fine for an overnight stay. There was a free shuttle to the pier, but they were riding with us, so they did not need to use this service. When we picked them up the 19th the lobby was packed with people waiting for the shuttle. I don't know how long they had to wait, but it looked chaotic. Maybe it was ok, not really sure. We stayed at the Silver Spray Motel on Ocean Dr. in Hollywood, about 5 mins away. It was a quaint privately owned motel 2 blocks from Hollywood beach. Nothing fancy, but clean and owners were nice. We parked at Park N Go on Eller Drive. We have used them before and I cannot say enough about them. Excellent service and price. I reserved online and it was 69.76 to park from 1/19-1/27. The day we arrived it was raining and they have you park under an awning so you don't get wet and they park the car for you. The last time it was not raining and you just park you car and stand by it and they come pick up you and your luggage. Couldn't be easier.
1/19/13 Day 1- We arrived at Pier 29 at 1030. Luggage was handed off from the Park N Go driver to the porters. Tipped them both $1 per bag. We got in line as they had not started to let us into the terminal yet. Once security opened, the line went quickly. BIL and SIL went to one set of lines to check in and we were led to the C&A line. Small glitch- the computers went down on that bank just as it was our turn. We had to wait maybe 10 mins and then we were checked in and headed onboard. They were very apologetic, but I have heard this happens often, so perhaps the IT dept. needs an upgrade! The line looked pretty long behind us, so embarkation was pretty quick for us, but others who arrived later may have a different opinion. We went straight to the Windjammer and I believe we were seated and eating by 1130. We went to the Guest Relations Desk after lunch because I wanted to put cash on our account. (they accept no cash during check in) The cabins were ready by 1300. We took our carry ons into the cabins, put valuables in our safe, and then went to explore the ship.
We sat by the pool and had a drink. The first bartender we met was Bento and he pretty much remained our bartender throughout the rest of the sailing. No matter where he saw us, he had a smile on his face, addressed us by name, and offered drinks, but was not pushy at all. The muster drill was at 1645. Then we went to the sports deck and watched sail away. We stood at the top of the bleachers for the Flow Rider. Great spot and no one else was there but us and a few crew. At 1730 we went back to our cabins to freshen up. Our luggage was in the hallway.
Our dining time was 1800 in the Macbeth dining room. We had a table for 4 by the window. Our waiter, Joel was excellent. He worked so hard every night. We gave both he and Bento a WOW card. Our assistant waiter, Reynaldo didn't talk much, but he seemed sweet and always knew what we wanted before we asked. I think the whole culinary and wait staff did an excellent job. I almost felt guilty sometimes that they were working so hard for all of us. It was nice that we were able to see the sunsets most nights from our dining table. I cannot remember exactly what we all ate each and every day. I can say that we ate in the MDR 7 of 8 nights. Some appetizers, entrees, and desserts were better than others, but all were well presented at the proper temperature. We had the old menus, the new ones are not due until late February sailings, I believe. Many times we would have multiples of each course. It was never a problem. Dining was a pleasure and a part of our day we looked forward to. We then went to the Welcome Aboard show and then the Olympus Rocks Parade, which were both fun.
1/20/13 Day 2 -We had room service for coffee and juice each morning, which served as our wake up call. Tipped them 2.00 each time. We met our room steward, Reva, and she was always very pleasant. She did a good job. She even found my husband an extension cord for his CPAP machine. (There were no outlets by the head of the bed) We didn't see her that much, but the times they clean, are, obviously, when you are likely to NOT be there. Went to the gym a couple of times before starting our day. This first sea day was spent on the pool deck . Loungers by the pool were not hard to find if you were out there early. If you didn't come out until later on there were plenty of loungers if you wanted to be on Deck 12, but we found it too windy up there. We only went to the Solarium at night for the hot tubs. During the day the Solarium was pretty full. We left the pool deck to get ready for the first formal dinner night around 1700. Most everyone was dressed very nicely. Numerous tuxedos, but most men in suits. Most ladies in cocktail dresses and gowns. Very nice evening, which ended with the production show featuring the RC singers and dancers.
1/21/13 Day 3- Had to send the hubbies at 0830 to get the tickets for the ice show. The ice show was the only show that you needed a ticket. There were 4 shows and we wanted to go to the one today at 5:15 so we could then go straight to dinner and then go to the evening show. You can arrive without a ticket and if there are seats left they will let you in right before show time. The ice show, Strings!, was excellent. It was the story of a violin through the centuries. They had a live violinist and she was excellent also. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would have tried to see it again, had we had time to wait standby. We then went to dinner and off to the evening show. The headliner was a man names Finis Henderson. I was very pleasantly surprised at how fun and talented he was. He was an impressionist singer. He was spot on with his singing of many different artists, classic and contemporary. I'll add here that we were also impressed with the IOS house band. ALL music at the production shows are live, no tracks. I saw an interview with the band director and the amount of music they have to learn weekly for all the different performances is impressive. We ended our night with the 70's Disco Inferno party on the Royal Promenade. Always a great time. I love dancing to YMCA and other disco hits as I really can't dance, and no one really cares when it's so much fun! What a great, full day. BTW, the cruise director, Joff Eaton and his staff were all full of energy and fun. Joff was engaging and funny. My husband and BIL were born in Wales, so the Brit flavor of the ship and staff was something they enjoyed very much. It was SPLENDID. LOL. (Youtube search "splendid" and "Joff Eaton" and you'll see what I mean.)
1/22/13 Day 4 is our first of 4 ports. We dock in Basseterre, St.Kitts. This was the only port that we purchased a shore excursion. I was not sure what to do on our own and I didn't want to just go to a beach as we will be doing that in St. Maarten and then in Labadee. We did KT91 St.Kitts Nature Adventure for $52.00 ea. We thought it was well worth the modest price. We were picked up in an open air bus which afforded great views. We took a ride up to the top of Timothy Hill were we took some spectacular photos and walked around for a bit. The photos of the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Atlantic on the other are priceless. We reboarded the bus and then went to the St.Peters area. It was a bit off-road and dusty in the open air busses. When we arrived we were given walking sticks, which surprised many in our group, some of whom were not that mobile. They had to go to an area at the end and wait for us. Some were not pleased, but the excursion description stated that it was "a walk to the Milliken Mountain top". We thought it was exhilarating and very informative. We were guided by a man they called "Nature Man". This was his property. He grew local fruits and vegetables and kept small animals. Now, keep in mind, this was not a sanitized, Americanized farm/zoo. It was a quite rustic, even ramshackle place. We found Nature Man to be informative and the love of his land and country was evident. From what he told us, you could tell that the monkeys that the tourists think are so cute, are the bane of his country. There are tens of thousands of monkeys and he said it is a constant battle to keep them away from the crops that feed his family and his neighbors. This part of the tour ended with samples of rum and locally made juices and locally grown fruits.
We reboarded the bus and the last portion of the tour was maybe a 15 minute ride to Fairview Great House and Botanical Garden. The house and gardens were beautiful. The historical aspect was also interesting.
After the tour, we shopped a bit and then went back to the ship in time for dinner. The evening show was the ice show, so we spent the evening in the hot tubs relaxing.
1/23/13 Day 5- We are in St. Maarten today. We had breakfast in the Windjammer first. Actually, we ate there for breakfast and lunch every day. We never felt the need to go to the dining room for breakfast, but heard it was nice. I must say the Windjammer was busy at times, but that is to be expected. We always found a place to sit. I would recommend finding a table first, then go get your food. We saw many annoyed looking people walking around with plates piled high with food and nowhere to sit. Yes, eventually you will find a spot, but why do it while your food gets cold? I really like that the staff will get your drinks and that they clear tables so quickly. They all work so hard ! After breakfast we caught a cab, $8.00 each to Maho Beach. It was about a 30 min drive. We spent the whole day on the beach having a few drinks watching the planes come in and take off. We saw this on Youtube and I must say we found it to be quite exciting. Where else can you almost reach out and touch a plane? (ok, an exaggeration, but..) You could feel the excitement from everyone else also. We'd jump up with cameras in hand each time a plane approached. We'd watch the braver souls over by the fence hanging on for dear life when a plane took off. Very unique experience and a great beach day. The bar on the beach had good drinks and later on there was a band playing. They served food, but we did not eat, so cannot say if it was good. When we were ready to head back to the ship, there were cab drivers holding signs "Taxi back to ships". Very easy. We headed back around 3 and shopped a bit. Then we hung by the pool until time to get ready for dinner. The evening production show was Once Upon a Time with the RC singers and dancers. Surprisingly good, again. Fairy tale themed with aerial artists as well.
1/24/13 Day 6- Short day in San Juan. Only in port from 0700-1330. Took the free trolley to Castillo de San Felipe del Morro (El Morro). (just walk along the main road outside the pier and find a trolley sign. They come around approx. every 20 mins) Spectacular! We are kind of history nerds but I knew nothing about El Morro or San Juan. I have decided to do a bit of study now that we have been there. Great photo ops, for sure. Don't miss the short informational video that loops in the media room. It was a great place to rest after climbing all those stairs.We walked back to the ship and shopped along the way and had a great morning. We spent the afternoon by the pool before, you guessed it, getting ready for dinner. We arrived a bit late for the evening's show, so we stood in the back. It was Bowser's Rock N Roll Party. He was formerly of Sha Na Na. I was not impressed, but the house was full and no one was leaving, so it was just me. Seems like the audience was having fun. We left , as we didn't have a seat anyway. We hung out at the Dog and Badger Pub until time for the Mad Hatters Ball Parade. It was cute. Sort of like a psychadelic Alice in Wonderland.
1/25/13 Day 7- Labadee ! My favorite private paradise! We did not rent a cabana, we just went to Adrenaline beach and spent the day relaxing and enjoying the scenery. I really love Labadee. It was our second time there and I loved it as much as the first. We enjoyed watching people zip lining above our heads. We knew to have water shoes, as it can be rocky. If you want calmer water, go to the other side by Barefoot Beach Club (to the right as you walk off the ship). We did some shopping, but that can be exhausting, as some of the vendors are very, umm, persistent. We did get some good buys though. The vendors in the artisans village building are not as persistent as the ones on the hillside. The island BBQ lunch was standard BBQ fare, just note that it is only served from 1200-1330. There were some angry, hungry people at 1345! We walked up to see the Dragon's breath rock and got some more pictures before heading back to the ship. We stayed until the last minute, we didn't want to leave. After dinner we hung out at the bar outside of Studio B and waited until The Quest game show started. I knew I wanted to see it, so we got there early. It was a hoot, to be sure, but I could tell it had definitely been tamed down since last year. Maybe someone got injured, or there were too many complaints?
1/26/13 Day 8- Last sea day was spent on deck poolside reading, drinking, talking and being sad that our Caribbean adventure was almost over. After dinner we went to the farewell show. There was a little singing, dancing, jokes, a juggler and a presentation of the officers and crew. We went back to our cabins to get our luggage out into the hallway by 2300.
1/27/13 Debarkation- We got up, packed, and was in the Windjammer with our carry ons by 0700. We were due to be called at 0815 in the Alhambra theater. We had our last breakfast and headed to the theater at 0745. We were called by our zone, 18, by 0815. It was very efficient and smooth. We were through security and waiting for our shuttle to the Park N Go by 0900. Within 15 mins at the most, there was a shuttle to our car. We were in our car on the way to the airport in no time. We dropped off BIL and SIL at the airport by 1000 at the latest.
Summary- We had a fabulous time on the Independence of the Seas. Food, service, ship, ports- all excellent. I don't know what else to say. I must admit I was concerned after the mediocre to poor reviews right after her TA, but I experienced nothing of the sort! I rarely passed any crew that didn't greet me with a smile. The ship itself is in great shape and I think she is beautiful. I realize she is going into dry dock soon, so I will have to sail her again to see what they could have done to improve her! I hope you all enjoyed my rather lengthy review and I am sorry I could not get my pictures to upload properly, so the best I can do is post the link to them. Happy cruising!