I have sailed on quite a few different cruises so I am basing this on what other experiences I and my family have had on the different cruise lines.I have also never been on the IOTS but have been on the sister ship (Liberty) twice in the past.
Someone a few weeks ago put on a review saying Indy has lost its 'Wow' factor, and I couldnt see how and what that meant. However, I now totally agree with it and it truly has lost its wow factor.
The easiest I have ever seen, we turned up at about 12pm and were on the ship by 12:15. We used the Platinum queue but the normal queue seemed very short too.
We went for a category X guarantee due to the price being much cheaper than picking our own inside. The room was a huge disappointment, myself and my partner have done over 100 nights combined on Royal Caribbean and they chose to give us a room at the back of the ship, down a hidden corridor, with a connecting door (meaning only half a sofa) and also lots of noise and light from the room next door. The bed was also quite uncomfortable (always falling apart) because of the quality of the foam topper. For a cruise line that prides itself on its loyalty scheme, we should of maybe had a better location room (im not even asking for a window etc, just a better location). Another thing to add was that our shower was absolutely useless, it would keep changing speed and heat and was impossible to set at one temperature.
I was also dissapointed that the TV doesnt fully turn to face the bed, so its hard to see from one side. The bed was too big that you had to climb to get onto the right side as the gap was smaller than a letter box. The room service menu was ripped and the wardrobe space was quite small. Also, our TV was temperamental and only worked after pressing a button about 10 times.
Finally, we were given the gold and platinum loyalty booklets but no loyalty pin, also my girlfriends booklet was just 4 A4 sheets of paper with the vouchers printed on as they had obviously run out of the real things.
Fairly good as standard with the Royal Carib Freedom class, the pub (dog and badger) was very very overcrowded at all times and bars like Olive Or Twist was pretty empty most of the time. The casino was okay and the piano lounge (schooner's) quite good. The library was quite spacious and all the other rooms pretty decent in size and space.
This is where the Independence let us down. The shows were just very very poor bar one of the ice shows and a hypnotist, the others were quite boring. The piano guy in schooners was okay and the other bands were just so repetitive, somewhat monotone and very boring.
The planner wasn't much better and all the deck parties/promenade parties had been condensed to about 1 night with just loud music being played. The deck party used the normal bars and one of the bands, normally they would have different drinks on sale, BBQ food on deck and cool flashing gimmicks and the cruise director getting everyone dancing. This was very different, you could see cutbacks being made right in front of your eyes. The club would shut early and most of the ship would be in bed before midnight. - the last cruise I did (liberty) had things starting late at night.
The ice show ticket distribution annoyed me too, they made you get up at about 8 to go and queue on the promenade (all the way from one end to the other)to collect tickets to the shows (which only started on day 6). It just seemed a huge mess and a waste of our time. I dont know why they didnt just let people do it once they got on the ship.
Overall very good, we did go to the steak restaurant twice (after getting one go free) because they messed up the first time we went, we had a burnt and then frozen steak. The second time was much better and great food. We didnt try giovannis as the food seemed too similar to normal. The MDR was great and so was the buffet. I still think Royal Caribbean have some of the best meals going. We also had Johnny Rockets twice which was fun and nice too. Sorrentos pizza was one of our main places to go late and night and it was usually very good although we could never take a whole pizza to the room as they didnt have pizza boxes and one night we ended up eating an off blu-cheese dressing.
Ports of Call:
We had basically all the main Spanish ports + Vigo & Gibraler and Considering we could only really get as far as Western Europe in the two weeks, the ports were quite good. However, some ports we had to pay $15 for shuttles (I think 5/8) and that really annoyed me. They should be doing it at cost price if they feel they need to charge in the first place.
Fitness centre / pools:
The fitness centre was good, but absolutely Sahara desert-style boiling hot, it was unbearable to run and I had to have breaks doing weights. The selection was quite good though and the gym was a good size.
The pools were also quite good, there were 3 big ones and these were adequate. They were all on one deck though and this meant it was always very very busy. Pathways were pretty narrow too meaning it just took ages to get across deck. Sunbeds were also quite hard to come by.
Some things were good some were bad. We liked the film channel on the TV and also the bathroom size was quite good with a decent size shower (even though it was useless). The afternoon snacks were good as well as sorrentos pizza.
The promenade was more annoying than fun, as seattles coffee would fill up and overflow into the middle of the promenade (this also happened with the pub) and then the super intelligent cruise sales team would put their massive stalls out in the middle so that it left gaps either side big enough for one person at a time. This would then cause a funnel head at each end of the promenade and became very annoying.
Overall I would try it again but probably not from Southampton. It seems like Royal Caribbean dont care too much for Brits and would rather cut back on stuff. Whenever I have gone from Europe or the Caribbean it has always felt so much more personal and fun, rather than mass produced. It really does seem that we were on more of a hotel and they only had a few decent shows. I used to love going to shows every night, and on Princess they are always top notch, but this time we were quite let down.
I am also extremely disappointed in the loyalty program. We have been on so many Royal Caribbean cruises and will now start going on Princess again as they treat past guests so much better. Although I loved the Liberty both times and loved the Navigator a few years back, this has really left us with a bad taste and we now want to try a different liner next year (and also go from europe). It was almost as if they decided that they would make up for us not having to do any flying by cutting out good enjoyable things.
Lastly, a lot of people failed to dress up and especially so on formal night and they were always allowed in the restaurant to eat!
Dont you just love having to checkout at 8 am!! they really ruin the holiday feel by kicking people off so early. We were out the room at 8am (that was quite late compared to others) and saw most rooms were ready for the next passengers already. Therefore, they can obviously let people off later as the next lot are not on til like 12pm. They also made you aware that you were getting off that day by smashing around below our cabin and cleaning all the corridors all day and all night!