Independence of the Seas Cruise Review by Stevie Lawson: Fun in the sun, maybe ?
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Fun in the sun, maybe ?
Fun, laughter and more aboard the Indy to the Med...IF you mixed with your own age group.
This 21st Sept sailing was my 4th cruise aboard. A few changes have made to the ship and the evening shows recently.
An elderly demographic led this voyage, interspersed with younger families and middle aged couples. But wheelchairs, electric buggies and strollers ruled. (At other times it is children making up 1/3 of the passengers)
Boarding at Southampton was slick for the Diamond/Suite check ins, aboard from parking and security in under half an hour just after 1pm.
Junior Suite 9564 superbly appointed, close enough to the much less used forward elevators. The cabin was in very good condition. Large balcony with 2 upright loungers, 2 chairs and small table. Bed in middle of room, with sofa and chair/footstool by sliding door and separate window. Bath with shower curtain very clean and not showing age. On mini forward hump, just under the floating hot tubs More but never noticed the overhang. When you sleep your head is at the aft, feet towards stern when travelling (you travel backwards!) Reynaldo was excellent, never once came back and room not done.
There were some new shows, Rock the Boat band still aboard, Strings was the only ice show being performed to all passengers this 12 night voyage. However Freeze Frame (50s 60s 70s) which is a new show was offered as a private performance for certain levels of C&A. Nice touch and fantastic show.
The tribute act this time was Soul Satisfaction, a Motown act and very entertaining.
Mel was the Diamond Lounge Concierge again this voyage and had just come aboard. With around 280 guests of that C&A level she was kept busy. The overflow lounge across in Cloud 9 was used and it was busy every evening but had a nice quiet ambience in comparison to the rather crowded and noisy main DL. The two guys serving were excellent.
A highlight for me in the Dining Room is the filet mignon option at $17. It is a superbly cooked 10oz fillet steak that melts like butter. Generally the menus were good and have been changed recently. The service from our waiter Bernard and his asst. Karla was fabulous in My Time Dining. A table for 2 by the window was perfect. The lines to be seated can be rather long at certain times and stretched back past Guest Relations. It made no difference whether you had a reservation or not, you still had to wait to be checked in by the two efficient guys. We tend to see what table we get and if it is good we stick with it around the same time.
Rock the Boat were a again a highlight of our cruise. Classic rock music almost every evening in the Pyramid Lounge. They generally played from 930 till around 1230, with either a short interval on their nights or sometimes longer if interrupted by a game show.
I still wonder why the cruise line insists on doing this, there have a packed house and a superb band. The night starts generally at 930 till 1015. Then the band has an enforced break, sometimes up to an hour, for a banal game show. Particuarly Battle of the Sexes which was the most awful, mind numbing wasted 45m of my life...led by weak cruise staff.
On the nights that the band had the lounge to themselves all evening, they played 945-1045. 1100 till 1230. Packed out, and when they said there were on to play straight through with no game shows they got loud cheers of appreciation and many waited till the end of the set. A quality band that play a superb mix of material to suit an appreciative audience, very professional and entertaining and a real asset to the Indy. Some nights it felt like you had just been at a gig.
The Schooner Bar had a piano man on most evenings, Derek Conlon, who was ok if you like that type of thing. Olive or Twist up in the sky lounge offered alternatives too. The Labyrinth Night Club had a DJ on late. And the casino was always popular.
Apart from the ice shows and the rock band, I viewed the overall entertainment package to be poor. The big production shows were missing. Too many individual acts of the same type. The Prestige latin band in Boleros had an out of tune female lead singer. RCCL still include string quartets which don't quite match the "Get out there" advertising.
Mike Hunnerup was a very poor cruise director, absent and weak, and not memorable in anyway.
The production show, Once Upon a Time did feature as did a new dance show. There was no grande finale show highlighting the voyages entertainment. There were lots of single entertainment acts which no doubt cost less, but did not entice us into the theatre.
The ports of call were good on this cruise. We mostly did our own thing. In Barcelona we took a cab to the Nou Camp, 30 euros, 23 euros admission for tour, 25 euros taxi from Nou Camp to Placa Catalunya, walked down Ramblas, 25 euros cab back to ship. They do charge port entry fees to the fare. It was a great day and was good to tour the football stadium at your own pace rather than follow a tour guide round. And the cost worked out quite similar. Lunch at the Hard Rock Café on the square.
Gibraltar, Vigo, Cartagena and Cadiz were all easy walk offs with everything close by. In Lisbon we took a ships tour to Sintra and Cascais, lovely half day but unfortunately weather was wet. Palma probably needs a shuttle or a cab as the port is some way around the bay from the centre or resorts, but still a nice setting.
Daytime entertainment aboard on sea days is severely lacking. No interesting activities, unless you want to see towel folding and napkin demos. The Flowrider is always a good watch though.
The enrichment talks this time about the movies did not entice us although on past voyages some have been very entertaining. Celebrity Cruises enrichment programme is a big plus for us when the weather is bad.
The seas were calm and we had another good crossing across the Bay of Biscay. Unfortunately not pool weather as the wind tends to linger around the upper decks on sea days.
Disappointingly, the sun loungers at pool tied were tied together on upper decks for the entire voyage. This is an inconvenience to cruisers, as you can't turn to choose direction. You miss out on viewing the large screen or and cannot chose from wind/sunshine. This is a cost saving to cruise line as less staff to tidy up decks. I did ask if they would untie them in certain areas and was told no due to the wind, but in the past they always untied them during the day. Guess it takes less time and staff to tidy them away again. They did show a Tom Jones concert one afternoon on the screen and a bit of football but apart from that nothing of note. Wish they would stop the $25 towel thing, Celebrity doesn't do this. No great fuss at sail aways, the Caribbean cruises make this into an event. The Walk for Wishes event was very well supported again.
The Elevators were hugely popular as usual. So much so that the cardigan brigade enjoyed being in them so much that that they felt the need to get on no matter what direction it was travelling. If you got on at deck 14 they would arrive full from deck 11, or if you returned from a trip and got on deck 1 there would be people already in them. The aft ones are always busy, but the forward elevators were more available. A tip, if you returned from a trip, simply walk around to the other side and avoid the queues.
Overall a good cabin, nice food, some good entertainment. Still quite expensive considering there was no flights or hotels required in the package. This voyage was sold out and no discounts became available.
I don't think $6.75 is that bad for a double gin and tonic. Or $2.50 for a diet coke. Wine is the most expensive. Coffee, tea and water by the glass is available free 24hrs a day from the promenade cafes.
We are unlikely to cruise again from Southampton with Royal Caribbean for some considerable time. It is worth making the effort to travel out of Barcelona, Rome etc. The passenger demographics don't suit us out of the UK, the ship can be full of school kids at holiday times or packed with the elderly and incapacitated at others. If you are 45-55 you were in the minority on this 21st Sept sailing, wonder what the even younger couples thought ? Quite a few Alpha calls too... A fly cruise is definitely more appealing.
Day 1 sea - welcome aboard show 745pm inc BMX bikes ?
Day 2 sea - sounds of Grace (the Grace Trio) ? Formal. 80s Pop Party Promenade.
Day 3 Gibraltar - shuttle independent pier €4 rtn, 20 min walk. Show Paul Adams, funny man ?
Day 4 Cartagena - docks at pier in town, independent boat trip 45m at pier €8. Dance show ?
Day 5 Barcelona , shuttle $10 each return. Cabs at pier. Mike Doyle, voice and comedy ?
Day 6 Palma, shuttle $10 each rtn. Katy Setterfield, divas tribute act from 2008 BBC show ?
Day 7 sea. Mind of Kennedy , mind blowing impossibilities?
Day 8, Cadiz, walk off. Pete Matthews, comedy juggler ?
Day 9, Lisbon, shuttle $12. Soul Satisfaction motown tribute. Excellent.
Day 10, vigo, walk off. Once Upon a Time production show, Rock Britannia.
Day 11 sea. Andy James, comedy and magic ? Less
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