Independence of the Seas Cruise Review by Cayman Turtle: 14 Night Spanish Med - IOS - June 29th - July 13th, 2013
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14 Night Spanish Med - IOS - June 29th - July 13th, 2013
Traveling from Canada, we arrived in Southampton the day before our cruise to make sure there weren't any issues with delayed flights. We spent the night at the Premier Inn, 6 New Road. It wasn't the closest hotel to the pier but everything else was full by the time we booked. However, the hotel was perfect for a one night stop over, close to the shopping areas, restaurants and parks. If you are looking for a hotel near the port, go with Novatel. It is directly across the street from the dock.
We booked a taxi the morning of our cruise and it never showed. We spoke with several other people waiting in the lobby for taxis, some who had arranged for taxis the night before. Those taxis never showed either. There were 6 cruise ships in port that morning and it made sense that all the taxi drivers would rather be at the port getting the larger fares than the small fare they would get from us. We decided that we would walk the distance. We had two suitcases that were on wheels and More the walk was completely flat. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the port.
Boarding was seamless. The only small issue for C&A members was there was only one person at the gold boarding area and anyone platinum and above had to wait in that line up. Once we reached the front we were sent through the platinum + line. It wasn't too bad since we were there early enough and the line was fairly short.
The Captain for our sailing was Captain Teo Strazicic of Croatia. The Cruise Director was Joff Eaton of England.
We went straight to the Solarium Bar to wait until our room was ready at 1 pm. It wasn't too busy since the weather was still a little cool. At 1 pm we went to check out our stateroom. We had an ocean view room this time - a porthole on the forward port side on deck 2. We'd never stayed on deck 2 before, but we quickly found that this was a great room. The rooms on deck two and three forward are separate from the rooms aft by the ice rink so there isn't and thoroughfare. It was very quiet since there was less foot traffic. Since deck two forward only has the conference centre, for the most part the only people in the area were those who had one of the 14 staterooms. The only noise from the ship that we heard was when we were docking in port and on the day of departure. I think the noise on departure day was planned to make sure all the guests were up and getting ready to leave the ship!
3:45 pm was the muster drill. We went to our muster station (no life jackets required) and were finished within 15 minutes.
Suggested attire for the dining room was casual. We chose to go with My Time Dining for this cruise since all gratuities are now included. You have to make a reservation each day, or you can pre-book your reservation time online up to two months before you sail. You can also request to have the same time each day when you first board. We had two wonderful waiters on our first night so we asked to be seated in their area each evening. Most nights we were given a table by the window and we were able to see dolphins swimming along side the ship.
We didn't watch the Welcome Aboard show. Instead, we had planned to spend a fair amount of time at the Dog and Badger Pub, but since this cruise had 90% British guests, it was near impossible to find a place to sit. We decided to try the disco since that was always fun on previous trips, but there was no one dancing. We decided to call it an early night.
At Sea. There were a lot of enrichment lectures and seminars to take part in but that isn't my sort of thing. We had our Cruise Critic M&M in the morning and we met lots of great people, several who became good friends throughout the cruise. We took part in the Progressive Quiz, a five part trivia game for teams of six that lasted throughout the entire cruise. We teamed up with some M&M members and had so much fun. There were lots of different trivia options throughout each day of the cruise. We won several prizes and it is well worth trying if you want to get to know your fellow cruisers and the cruise director staff.
The Captain's welcome aboard reception was in the evening. We didn't go since we knew we had an Emerald event to attend later in the cruise and the Captain would be attending that as well. Dining room attire was formal and the show, which we didn't attend, was a production by the RC Singers and Dancers called Invitation to Dance.
We tried the disco again, but it was still empty.
We docked in Vigo, Spain at 8 am. All aboard was 3:30 pm. We didn't do an excursion since pretty much everything offered was a city tour and we felt we could just walk ourselves and see the city. There are shops and restaurants within walking distance of the ship. We found a little road side café and had a wonderful local lunch followed by pastries from one of the many shops in the town centre. We walked to the top of the Citadel to a nice view of the city and the ship.
Back on board we celebrated Canada Day with the staff in the Labyrinth. They had made a huge cake and invited all the Canadians on board (61 of us!) to celebrate. It was the most people we saw in the disco for the entire cruise.
Dining room attire was Smart Casual. The Headliner Show was Paul Adams (comedian) but we didn't go to that show either since we missed the first show at 9:00 pm (we were at trivia) and the next show started at 10:45 pm while we were at 10:30 trivia. We poked our heads in to the disco and as you can guess, it was empty.
Lisbon, Portugal. We docked at 9 am and all aboard was 4:30 pm. We sailed under the 25th April Bridge and docked nearby. If you missed sailing under on the way in, you have a second chance to see it on the way out.
We decided to walk on our own again since the touristy area didn't look too far from where the ship was on the little map RC gives you with the port info. Let me tell you, it is ridiculously far. We walked and walked and walked (I'm thinking it was a couple of hours) until we finally made it to St. George's castle. We bought tickets (7.50 euros each) and went inside. They have brochures in several different languages and the views are amazing.
We got the Hop on Hop off bus back to the ship. I believe the tickets were 15 or 20 euros and well worth it if you want to see all the historic sites.
Dining room attire was casual. Headliner Show was Pete Matthews (comedy juggler) who we missed since the shows were scheduled at the same time at our dinner and our trivia.
Disco - empty.
Gibraltar, UK. We arrived in Gibraltar at 1pm and all aboard was 7:30 pm. We walked from the ship to Main Street (10 - 15 minutes) where there is LOTS of shopping and restaurants. We then walked up the castle steps towards the Moorish Castle and the beginning of the Nature Reserve. Before you can enter you have to buy a ticket. This ticket will give you access to St. Michael Cave, Apes Den, Great Siege Tunnels, Military Heritage Museum, City Under Siege, Moorish Castle and 100 Ton Gun. The only thing we wanted to see was the WW2 tunnels which is operated by an independent company, so we opted for the Walker's Fee (0.50 pounds) and made our way on foot to the tunnels. It was blissfully cool inside and the tour was well worth the hike. If you are Canadian you will learn about the contributions that were made by our country during the war.
We walked back down the stairs to the Main Street again for lunch. If you eat in the square be prepared to have local musicians playing nearby and then come up to your table asking for coins. They aren't pushy and will just move on if you shake your head.
Dining room attire is smart casual. Headliner Show is the hypnotist Christopher Caress. I didn't see this show either but heard it was very good.
Disco - empty.
This sea day was most welcome. The back to back ports can wear you out, especially with the high temps.
Ice show tickets were available starting at 8:30am. The queue down the promenade was ridiculously long. We went to breakfast and came back to get our tickets after. We still had to wait, but the line moved fairly quickly. There were two shows and we got tickets for both, but for a later date.
We took part in day two of the progressive quiz. This quiz is only held on sea days and it is super fun. If you get the chance, go take part.
We did rock climbing. Lots of fun. We aren't the type to sit out in the sun, but if you are you might be disappointed. We could never find a sun bed that was free. Guests would go up to the pool deck first thing in the morning and put their towels on the beds and leave them there all day so they would have a spot when they wanted to go outside. The request to not reserve beds and that your things would be removed if left unattended for more than 30 minutes was completely ignored.
Dining room attire - formal. The production showtime was Center Stage by the RC Singers and Dancers. Didn't see it.
Disco - you guessed it, empty.
Valencia, Spain. Arrived at 8 am and all aboard was 5:30 pm. This was the first time this ship had gone to Valencia. We got the shuttle to the town centre. Don't attempt to walk - it really is too far.
We visited the Triumphal gate (entry fee required) and spent an hour looking for the silk market. For those of you who, like me, were thinking it might be a nice place to buy some souvenirs, the silk market is old courtyard that was once a silk market, but isn't any longer. But while you're in the area, go across the street to Mercado Central and check out the market.
If you want to find something to eat or drink, there are many places to choose from. One thing to note, if you are going to have a drink in one of the plazas, be prepared to pay more than double. The beer on the side streets is about 2 euros and we were charged 5 euros in the plaza.
Dining room attire is casual. Headliner show is The Eastcoast Boys - a Frankie Valli tribute band.
The Love and Marriage game show is also on this evening. If you want to take part you get a ticket from one of the cruise director staff. They draw four tickets and those are the contestants. Myself and my husband took part and were the winners. Lots of fun - go get a ticket and you'll win yourself some nice prizes, including a bottle of champagne.
Barcelona, Spain. Arrival 8 am. All aboard 5:30 pm.
Don't bother with the shuttle. We purchased shuttle tickets and it was about a five minute drive to Las Ramblas, the main street with shops and restaurants. All the tourist spots are found near this road.
Seafood is the most popular thing to eat, so if you are looking for chicken, you may have quite a search.
The Gothic Quarter is impressive. Be prepared to hear some of the best street musicians you've ever heard.
The Colon Monument is near where the shuttle bus drops you off. The entrance can easily be missed - you have to walk down a flight of stairs at the base of the tower. There is a fee to go up in the tower (credit cards accepted) and the elevator can only hold 3-4 people at a time. There isn't much space at the top. You basically walk around the circumference of the tower in a space that is about 2-3 feet.
Dining room attire is casual. Headliner show is Cheryl Sinclair. I believe she is a singer - I didn't see the show.
Palma De Mallorca, Spain. Arrival 7:45 am, all aboard 7:30 pm.
The Palma Sightseeing Bus (hop on, hop off) stops right at the pier. If you want to visit Beliver Castle, it is a great way to get there. Do not attempt to walk - it is way to far. The Castle is definitely worth the drive. The day that we were there the entry fee was waived - not sure why. Maybe because it was Sunday, or maybe it was some sort of holiday. It is a beautiful castle, lots of artifacts and places to explore.
We came back on board early to watch the ice show, Freeze Frame. One of the skaters was injured - she fell into the boards and wasn't in any of the shows after that. I believe she was taken from the ship and was being checked out in hospital on shore. The shows are shorter than I remember, but that may be because there are two of them during this sailing.
Dining room - casual (suggested black and white because of the poolside party that night). The ice shows were the shows for that evening.
Ibiza, Spain. Arrival 8 am, all aboard 5:30 pm.
There is a shuttle service just outside the pier. The cost is 2.50 euros per person. There is also a water taxi for 2.60 euros per person. These will take you to the old town. We walked instead, and it took about 20 minutes or so. We did take the water taxi back since the heat was so overwhelming. It was 38 degrees (101 F). We walked up to D'Alt Vila where you can get a great view of the ship. Perfect for a photo op. There is shopping and restaurants but at 11 am when we were there the restaurants were all closed. We walked around until we found one that was open, but it took a while.
Dining room is smart casual. Production showtime is Under the Big Top. I didn't see it but I think it was some sort of circus show.
The Quest was held this evening. It has changed since the last time I was on board. Children are allowed to watch and there was nothing stated that discouraged them from attending, but they must be 18 to take part. Things weren't as racy as in the past. It worked well but I was surprised that people were allowed to sit on the stair ways, blocking the exits. It was nearly impossible to get up the aisle if you needed to.
We went to the disco and again there was no one dancing. We decided to make the most of it and dance anyway. We stayed until the place closed (3am) and were the only two dancing for most of the night. We had a blast thanks to cruise director staff member Joe Chambers who played lots of great music.
At Sea. The four back to back ports is tiring so this sea day was a blessing. Events include the progressive quiz part 3, belly flop competition, battle of the sexes game, and the second ice show.
Dining room attire is smart casual. Production show is Neil Lockwood - an Elton John Tribute show.
We went to the Mystery Dinner Theatre for the evening meal. It was lots of fun, with the RC singers and dancers performing while we ate at Giovanni's table. The winners won a bunch of RC prizes and a bottle of champagne. The staff was amazing and we met some great people.
The Stars vs Stripes show was this evening as well. The Captain's crew went head to head with the Cruise Director's staff in a game of charades. It was hilarious and not to be missed.
Cadiz, Spain. Arrival 7 am, all aboard 4:30 pm. The ship docks right next to the tourist area. You can walk off and be right in the heart of where you want to be. We walked along the sea wall and did a loop of the island. It is a very easy walk and doesn't take to long. We stopped at several tourist spots, such as Saint Catalina Castle and Caleta Beach. We stopped for lunch in the plaza outside The Cathedral and walked along the shop lined streets as we headed back to the ship. This is a very easy port to navigate.
Dining room attire is formal. Production shows were the second ice show and the RC singers and dancers in Once Upon a Time.
Events include the progressive quiz part 4, battle of the sexes, the walk for wishes, lots of trivia.
Dining Attire was casual. Production show time was a Queen tribute band called the Bohemians. They were amazing. Go see them if you get the chance.
After the show was the Rock Britannia Street Party in the promenade. The CD staff were all dressed up in various costumes and music played while we all danced. The street was packed with dancers. When that ended we went to the disco to keep the party going. It was empty! :)
Events include the progressive quiz part 5 (our team took fifth place), battle of the sexes final round (women won), scavenger hunt, trivia.
I've lost the compass for this day so I don't remember the dining room attire (I think it was casual) or the show (I think it was the RC singers and dancers farewell show).
Overall an amazing cruise. I'm booked again for March and can't wait to be back on Indy! Less
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Cabin review: Independence of the Seas
Cabin was quiet since foot traffic in this area is at a minimum. Close to the theatre and right next to the elevator and stairs. So easy to quickly pop back to the room if need be. Would definitely ask for this room again.
Port and Shore Excursions
Tourist area is within walking distance of the port. I purchased the shuttle ticket but the bus ride was only five minutes.
Las Ramblas is a busy tourist street lined with shops and restaurants. It will also lead you to the Gothic Quarter where you will hear some of the best street musicians you have ever heard.
The Colon Monument at the beginning of Las Ramblas has an elevator inside that will take you to the top for a fee (credit cards accepted). The elevator is small (3-4 people max) and the space at the top is limited. I would think that at most 10 people can be up there at once.
Seafood is the most common food. Be prepared for some unusual choices such as octopus. If, like me, you prefer chicken, you'll have a hard time finding it in a paella. I found it in only one spot - an Irish pub!
Main Street is about a 10-15 minute walk from the dock. There is lots of shopping and restaurants in this area.
You can walk to Moorish Castle by going up the Castle Steps. You will need to purchase a ticket to the Nature Reserve (I believe it is 10 pounds) if you wish to see the castle, the great siege tunnels or the apes.
If you only want to see the WW2 tunnels, you can purchase a 0.50 pound walker's ticket. The tunnels are only a few metres further up the hill. This tour is run independently and you will have to purchase a ticket at the entrance. The view from Jock's Balcony is worth it!
If you want to skip Main Street and go right to the cable car I suggest you take a taxi.
There is a shuttle bus service directly outside the pier (2.50 euros) or a water taxi (2.60 euros) if the ship is docked on the opposite side of the old town. If the ship is docked on the same side as the old town, you will be right in the heart of the city when you disembark. It is possible to walk from the opposite side and it will take about 20 minutes or so.
Be sure to check out D'Alt Vista for amazing views of the ship.
Restaurants are plentiful but most don't open until 11:30 am or later.
The old town has lots of touristy type shops.
You will need a shuttle service or some other type of transportation to get to the tourist spots. I recommend the Hop on Hop off buses since they take you to many of the popular stops.
St. George Castle is a beautiful spot with amazing views. Well worth the 7.50 euro ticket cost.
The Hop on Hop Off bus stops right next to the port. It takes you to Beliver Castle - a must see while you are here.
The main tourist area is within easy walking distance of the port. Lots of great restaurants and cafes, bakery shops and tourist souvenir shops.
We were told to leave our valuables on board and take care to keep an eye on your wallet while in port. We didn't have any issues, but we did notice that the police/security were very visible in the touristy areas, presumably to warn off any pick pockets.
Spanish is the main language and while there are some who speak a little English, don't be surprised to find many places where English isn't understood. We found a beautiful little pastry shop where the elderly lady behind the counter didn't understand any English. We managed to order by pointing at what we wanted, us speaking English, she responding in Spanish. My husband ordered some sort of cake and the woman looked at him and said "No, no, no," and a whole bunch more in Spanish as she pointed to a different cake. She obviously was telling him that his choice wasn't as fresh as what she was pointing out. He went with her choice and was very pleased. We sat near a fountain outside her store and ate our goodies. She was watching us eat and my husband in his limited English looked inside and told her it was wonderful. She was obviously very pleased. All in all it was a great experience.
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