Independence of the Seas, has the WOW factor, having everything we need as a family, this year no exception. Embarkation, Royal Caribbean have this off to a 'T'. On board by 11am straight to swimming pools hot tub and the obligatory cocktail. I had purchased premium drinks package and two soda packages for the children, you don't have to just drink alcohol with this package as people think non alcoholic smoothies during the morning lager shandy and a cocktail during the day, glass or two of wine during dinner and a couple of drinks in the evening more than covers the amount you pay for the day, its not all about the alcahol.
Indy is perfect for our needs, we went to the Cruise critic meet and Mingle and met Pete and his family from Canada and seemed to meet them everywhere incuding bumping into them literally in the Collesium, lovely family and enhanced the holiday.
Pool areas busy as you would expect be there early to get seats by the pool, there is seating for everyone at some part of the boat it depends where and when you want to seat, bar service in pool area was not the best I have experienced on board Indy, movie screen, they have not got its usage right yet, noise level too high and this is the same for the live music as well, no evening movie unless you watched the teenage movie night film, the movie screen could have shown a movie or two at night, the Bon Jovi concert well received the Tom Jones concert not well received.
Sports Team, the best I have experienced on board, I used the flowrider a lot, booked a lesson as well, do not book a lesson with 6 people on it, you do not get a lot of ride time, book a lesson with 4 people on it, all doing the same discipline either stand up or boogie board, this way you learn more.
Public areas, people have the perception the areas are small this is true but ask why it is to give a street feeling and it works, I tried all bars and favoured Olive or Twist for an after dinner cocktail before the show and to watch the sunset, Boleros for a pre dinner cocktail, the different bars have different music for a reason and again try them all and find what works for you.
The nightclub Labryinth is under utilised, the two levels whilst nice does not work everyone is downstairs and I have yet to see it full.
I was disappointed in the shows this year compared to previous, The Bohemians(Queen tribute act) are fantastic, but four nights of 1980's comedians basically telling the same jokes and the poor last night show, not entirely sure what i was watching then, the variety in previous years has been better, Royal caribbeans own shows hosted by Joff and the Ents team were on a different level, and the parades and shows down the Prom deck are fantastic.
My teenage children had a fantastic time, due to the excellent security and deck patrols you feel safe in the knowledge that your children are safe, even though they probably did what most teenagers do and get upto, but Royal Caribbean are very accommadating and patient towards them which enhances the parents holiday.
Casino team were excellent, patient and engaging, yes I did lose money but enjoyed myself doing so.
Main dinner, I was on first sitting, do not go in at 6, go in at 6.30, give yourself that extra 30 mins to enjoy the sun, pamper yourself and avoid the crowds, do try different dishes, my meals were served hot and if I wanted to change a dish this was not an issue, waiter and assistant were excellent(Logan and Ethel), the waiter parade is excellent but please no more recitals of neil diamond but a waiter and some of the music which seem to get louder at c7pm almost overpowered the atmosphere and stopped people talking.
The Windjammer is the Windjammer if you know when to time it, no problem with crowds but if you are a creature of habit expect it to be busy, the variety and choice of food is really fantastic considering there are 4000 people to serve all with different tastes, but the hot dog and burger buns still seem to be an issue.
The fitness centre really is a great space with great facilities, the early morning classes did not always run to time which was a tad disruptive to my early morning routine and needs to be adjusted and looked at, as the classes are good to go to, but I stopped going due to the inconsistency of start time, sauna and steam rooms even though only single sex are very pleasant areas.
Overall ship life for our family was as we expected, the sport areas better than before especially the flowrider and climbing wall, shows not as good as before but Quest and Rock Britannia excellent as per usual, food better than previous years cabin as expected, movie screen and noise level outside in pool area needs to be improved, outdoor adult party very good, the family outdoor party needs to be themed to make it a proper party night, save black and white for formal nights. An additional formal night and an additional smart casual night would be better as us men tend to let the down the ladies who always appear more glamorous in the cocktailand formal dresses.
Now for the ports, excursions are expensive with Royal caribbean but you are guaranteed to be back on boat which if you go ashore by yourself or with other companies and you are delayed this is not guaranteed. I have done with Royal Caribbean, by myself and other companies the choice is basically yours.
For a family Independence has it, it will be busy, enjoy it expect it to be busy in peak season, relax do not stick to a rigid timetable you will stop yourself enjoying the experience, I will be back on board next year. Thank you for another great holiday.