As with most large ships, and the Independence is the largest we have cruised on, there are benefits and drawbacks.
Let us start with the positives:
The gym, steam room and saunas. solarium pool and Jacuzzis are wonderful, and probably the best we have used at sea.
The selection of hot and cold menu items at lunch and dinner was pretty good given the scale of the operation. The service in the Windjammer cafe was superb, they were always serving you drinks and cleaning away your empty plates and wiping tables down.
The staff and crew were very friendly and our cabin stewardess was charming and helpful. The youngish entertainment crew did their best with the various quizzes and trivia to maintain order but also make them fun and interesting. I also enjoyed the outdoor mini-golf very much.
Getting on the ship at Fort Lauderdale and getting off at Southampton was a breeze, especially as we carried our own bags and walked off at 8.30am with no problems. Also, the ports were all docked with easy walking to the downtown shopping areas in Nassau, San Juan and Phillipsburg.
What lets the ship down is that is tried to be too many things to too many people. The Royal Promenade became a hang out for many at the pubs and bars to sit and drink endlessly, taking full advantage of the all-inclusive beverage packages. In fact the whole ship had the feeling of an alcoholics convention, with a seemingly endless supply of beers and cocktails.
Also, one side of the outside deck had the permanent stench of smokers, which meant you had to walk all the way around to avoid breathing in the stink.
The entertainment was end of pier circa 1979, with corny comedians and dull performances geared toward the English customers rather than the Americans. The two ice shows were brilliant and made the theatre seem dull and inadequate.
The service in the dining rooms is always disappointing, the staff are amateurish, the food arrives cold and late is not of good quality. We decided to stick to the buffet and for 13 nights it becomes very repetitive.
The orange juice was all water and no juice, and the pre-toasted bread was stale and hard enough to break your teeth. The soups became increasingly salty during the cruise and the hot dishes reheated and relabeled to make a pretense of invention.
For a non-school holiday cruise, there seemed to be plenty of people prepared to yank their kids out of school (it didn't happen in my day). They were to be seen sitting inappropriately in the theater making noises, banging seats and making noise. They also sat on steps in groups blocking your walking and generally causing a nuisance in pools and open areas.
The captain was friendly enough but wittered on for 15 minutes when a brief 2 minute update was more than necessary.
We came off the ship thinking that RCI was no longer where we should be going for the type of experience we want. There were many people, especially Brits who had a wonderful time and were made to feel very much at home, but that was the problem. It became a Butlins at sea,