We are in our mid-forties, family of four, daughters are in their teens. We traveled with two other families and were a combined total of 14. Our sailing was an eight-day.
Boarding was quick due to C and A status, first time on Independence, but have sailed on sister ship, Liberty along with several other ships in the fleet and NCL and Celebrity.
First thing was to head to dining room and try and find seating for all of us together. We all had booked very late and had chosen the My Time option. The staff was very accommodating and had found us two tables in the rear of the King Lear floor (5). For the rest of the cruise, we tried to be plus or minus fifteen minutes, but pretty much 8:15pm was our chosen dinner, so we were always given the same two tables,(508-509) Those tables could accommodate up to two more each, so we had a little extra room. Waiter and Assistant waiter were excellent and exceeded our expectations. "Anthony" was our head-waiter.
Excursions-did not purchase on board. We followed previous posters and looked for the official taxi stand folks and negotiated. That worked on St. Kitts, and for P.R.
St. Maarten, we did the water taxi to the beach on the left(as per other advice from other posts), we found and negotiated with a vendor for three chairs beach side, umbrella and five beers for the day for $25.00. Water was great, clean, and some stores and bars were beach side and only a block or two way as well.
Tip-It seems PR has a new 7% sales tax, so the best shopping out of all the ports, both in price and in variety was on St. Maarten.
Casino-single odds on Craps, no Let it Ride, mostly five dollar tables. Good bar service, mostly good and upbeat dealers.
Bars-we tended to spend most of our time at the pub on deck 5 and Boleros on deck 4.
Tip-Wherever you think you may want to spend the most time at, find the waiter/waitress that you like, slip them a $5.00 at the start of the cruise or on the second day and you will be taken care of the rest of the week. In addition, I would add a dollar tip to each Seapass charges if I found the service to be quick and on target. By the third day, all the bartenders remembered us and my choice of serving and beverage.
Activities-Teen room, great! kids used it a lot and found one of the leaders, "Zoe" to be outstanding.
Pools, Flowrider, golf simulator, mini golf and rock climbing, all were working and in good condition.
Entertainment-not as "wow" as an Oasis class, but made me laugh during comedy situations. Orchestra onboard and in venues was superb.
Cabin-very good for the four us. Follow tipping guideline in my post and your cabin steward will be take very good care of you.
Overall ship-very good and in a clean condition. Definitely met my RCCL expectations.
Bottom line wisdom-not to sound too Monty Pythonish here, but "always look at the bright side of life." Yes, you spent good money, but you are on board with over one thousand guests, you may not get the same type of service as at an intimate bistro, or exactly the specific way you like your eggs, but you are not in the frozen tundra, you are not working, the kids are not engaged in social media and you get to hold your loved ones close while gazing at beautiful vistas and eating a dozen times a day without having to wash, vacuum and take the dog for a walk. We had a blast and would sail on RCCL again.