I was quite disappointed with this cruise.
I’d been on 2 cruises prior to this one. I was with my wife and 2 children aged 20 and 16. Never been on such a big ship before or with RCI and that was part of the attraction. We did a 14 day cruise from Southampton to the Western Mediterranean.
Check in at Southampton was quite slow but considering there was over 4,000 passengers, we were all on-board in pretty good time. We had 2 inside cabins (sorry staterooms) at the back of the ship. Just big enough and all very clean and modern.
The Independence of the Seas is an impressive ship to be sure. The organisation was pretty much flawless and the Cruise Director Joff Eaton is a sharp and clever guy full of funny quips. The staff were very attentive and mostly friendly, no complaints there. There is a huge central area called the Royal Promenade with lots of shops and a few places to eat and drink. Unfortunately it felt more like a shopping arcade than anything else. Sometimes they held street parties in this area but because there were so many shops most people had to stand.
We prepaid gratuities in order to get this thing called MyTime dining. We were told you could then either pre book a dinner time or turn up and wait a little for the next available table. We pre booked and arrived dead on time but still had to queue for 5 to 10 minutes behind all the other people who had pre booked as well. When eventually seated the service was no better and annoyingly the waiter kept taking our bottle of wine away after filling our glasses.
Personally I preferred the Windjammer Buffet, the food was varied and pretty good but it got very busy and it was closed off during certain times which I’ve not experienced before.
I had high hopes of this but it fell a long way short for me. The acts they had at the Alhambra Theatre were a bit random. There was a Liverpool comedian who spoke too fast and clearly arrived straight out of the seventies. Also a mind reader chap, a female gymnast whose act was competent but hardly breath-taking and a BMX biker who’s fairly boring act went on interminably. The best by a long way was a foursome act called Graffiti Classics. The ships own singers and dancers were professional but their shows were all safe, sanitised and a bit tedious. In my opinion too much Disney about them, nothing racy or edgy at all.
There were other places with live music, mostly soft rock and reggae but the music sets were quite repetitive. Also the daily quiz in the Pyramid Lounge often repeated the same questions.
There was one evening pool party on deck 11 during the first week which we loved, but it didn’t happen again for some reason.
Overall the entertainment was either aimed at the 0-20 group or the over 50s. Nothing much for those in between.
I was in two minds about purchasing a beverage package but glad I didn’t. The premium package is $55 per person per day but doesn’t include everything. I calculated I spent on average $36 each day which is about 5 drinks. That’s a lot of booze every day for a fortnight!
Very expensive, cost $560 for 4 people to go to Rome for the day and that was the cheaper Rome excursion, it did include a basic lunch though. Also not much variety in the type of excursion offered, I’ve done cycling trips on other cruise lines but couldn’t see anything like that on this ship.
Very busy of course during the good weather we had, deck was crammed with sun loungers with barely 6 inches gap between each.
We prepaid ours for the MyTime dining experience but didn’t know if this covered all tips. Tipped for some drinks initially but then wised up. Half way through the voyage they announced that anybody who hadn’t prepaid gratuities would have them automatically added to their stateroom account which seemed slightly bizarre. At the end they also offered envelopes to allow you to tip those extra special staff directly with cash.
Overall impression: Professional, very expensive, very American.