Our cruise on the Independence of the Seas (The Indy) was every bit as special as we thought it would be. "No" was never a word uttered by the staff when something was requested. The food was great, the accomodations comfortable (memory foam pads on the beds), the shows spectacular, and the embarkation/disembarkation process quick and easy at the beginning and end. Joff Eaton, the Cruise Director, had a wonderful quick wit that kept everything light, funny and new.
If you didn't find something to keep you occupied on sea days, you weren't looking very hard. The new addition of electronic touch screens near every elevator kept you from getting lost and also posted the 'Cruise Compass' that posted the day's activities by time.
We used the 'Any-time Dining' and loved the flexibility it afforded us.
The only thing I would change on RCL ships would be to have passenger self-serve laundry facilities. Our room always had wet clothes hanging about in various places.
Get ready for sticker shock in Norway though. Great job RCL!
Port #1 - Cobh/Cork, Ireland
We did a private tour thru ecoach(Butlers)that included stops at Blarney Castle, Kinsale, and Cork. A 7 hour tour for 25Euro pp with a very interesting commentary while on the bus. Great value and our driver/guide Kevin was terrific.
Port #2 - Olden, Norway / Port Rating 4
A very small town near the Brikdahlen Glacier. We did the ship's tour here. A bus took us to the base of the glacier where we began the 1 1/2 hour hike up to the glacier. When we arrived back down, the restaurant provided a wide assortment of Norwegian sweets and coffee. Beautiful trip. (If you didn't want to hike, there was an option to purchase a dune buggy ride on the gravel road. Glad we went here.
Port #3 - Alesund, Norway / Port Rating 5+
We rented a car here and drove to Trollsteigen, about an hour and a half away on narrow roads, but well worth it. The views were spectacular the whole way as we drove along the fjords. Don't miss it, whether you do a ship's tour or on your own
Port #4 - Stavanger, Norway / Port Rating 5
A very picturesque city we enjoyed a lot. Rodne.no tours offer a good deal on a 3 hour cruise up the lysefjord past Pulpit Rock (where you can do another separate tour and climb it, weather permitting). Our tour was 342NOK, given a 10% discount for groups of 10 or more or as a senior rate. You can book it online before hand.
Port #5 - Kristiansand, Norway / Port Rating 4
The rental car was not in the location noted on our reservation map, so we xld it over the phone and just stayed in town. There is a good zoo here and a walking map of the town given to us by locals greeting the visitors at our ship. We loved this compact, very walkable place. It had a good shopping area downtown that was closed off to traffic, an old historic area, and a beautiful cathedral to visit.
Oslo is easy to navigate without a formal tour. Buy the HOHO pass or the 'Hop on and Off Bus' and make sure to get off at Bygvoy and tour the Kon Tiki, Viking Ships, and Amundsen Museums, all within walking distance of each other. Another Do Not Miss stop is the Vigeland Sculpture Park, and the Akershus Castle and adjoining WWII Resistance Museum next to the ship. Get an early start, because there is a lot to see and to here.