Well, we just returned this morning from the Independence of the Seas 1st Caribbean voyage post European tour. The ship was beautiful as expected and the stateroom was as expected very nice. Our first issue was that the refrigerator wasn't cool and it took 4 phone calls and nagging to finally get them to bring a working fridge to our room. The ship was just in for refurbishment this year so we expected great things? Once we got a new fridge, they sent some kind of food to our room as a make up gift every day
Since this is about our 50th or so cruise, we have come to know what good, great, and exceptional are, as well as sub par. My wife and I felt that the Independence was a pretty ship with all the great amenities of most big ships. The ships personnel seemed well trained to make eye contact and always say hello. The housekeeping staff friendlier and more educated than we've ever seen and it was a pleasure interacting with them. The room was kept clean, towels replaced promptly and this made our cruise very enjoyable.
The shows I can't comment on because we have seen so many we don't bother anymore. The music was great and we would love to have had a bit more of the Caribbean flare (steel drum) music that keeps us going back to the Caribbean destinations that can all be found very similar.
St. Kitts for example which was on our itinerary, was a village created by the cruise lines to sell everyone tee shirts and other junk. The stores are all similar and it appeared that the Indians (from India) have taken over all the store ownership, just like when you call for help on your Apple Computer (you usually get someone from India). Don't get me wrong, I love Indian people from India, however they seem to be very worried about theft and watch you like your going to steel something? (must be an issue). Many times we don't even get off the ship because once you've seen these little island shops, they all run together in your mind and you can own only so many hats and tee shirts. St. Thomas is probably the best of the best for shopping but certainly not the prettiest town. We always seem to get off there but this cruise didn't stop there this time around.
We did however stop in Labadee in Haiti where we haven't been in many years. The stop was absolutely beautiful and Royal Caribbean (who probably built the harbor and town) uses this stop like Princess uses Princess Cay. BBQ on the beach and lots of fun. This was an fun surprise for us as very experienced cruisers of the Caribbean.
The food on this ship was terrible, INCLUDING DESSERTS with the exception of the "red velvet cake at Chops Grill which was world class! (not Chops which is OK, just the cake). I say this with no malice just truth. The wonderful Phillipine ships crew is really evident in the Windjammer buffet, with wok style dishes taking about 35% of the buffet. Last nights chicken, pork, beef etc. from the dining room will be found the next day in little pieces with vegetables served asian style at the buffet. If you like rice, they did not have a bad form of it. Each variation was cooked extremely well and was very tasty. The hamburgers were like hockey pucks (way overcooked) and the worst of it all was the congealed cheese on the so called pizza that was not close to pizza. The dough was the worst, the hardened cheese was the worst and the entire pizza was as bad as it can possibly get…yet there will always be those who will say they loved the food because there was plenty of it? I never expect that a ship can feed thousands of people every day and produce food that is as good as a fine restaurant on shore, so I always have my fall back items like "pizza" "pasta" and "burgers". Not on this ship or any from Royal Caribbean for that matter. The Pizza stinks on every R.C ship even at their on board pizza restaurant "Sorrento's"! It's like a micro wave, frozen dough deritive of a very americanized crappy pizza. I may seem tough here but is there really an excuse for "terrible" pizza? Princess Cruises has real Bakers Pride pizza ovens on deck with an Italian usually making fresh dough and the pizza in front of your eyes. It's always high quality. (Maybe that's why the guests line up when a new "pie" comes out of the oven?) Their pasta in the dining room is always al dente and seldom overcooked like the RC pasta. There is no excuse for this. These are easy things to fix. I discussed this with the Executive Chef (Andrew-a super nice guy) and he "did not" disagree. I pulled out a picture of some Pizza I had in Naples Italy and even he said "now that's the real deal". I asked why RC couldn't do pizza better and he told me that he was tied up by the companies decision to go with what they had. He completely understood my feeling and I could tell he agreed but would not vocalize it for obvious reasons. He explained the burgers now a days scare these guys because undercooked beef can cause illness and to RC's credit, Johnny Rockets for $4.95 extra is well worth the price to get a much fresher and juicer burger on board. The balance of the ho hum food experience is about cost cutting but I think they have just gone a bit too far. Desserts
We loved the ship, loved the people, hated the food and enjoyed the ports. You decide what's important to you! If they would really fix the pizza and pasta, I would cruise even more with RC but as of now I must mix in Princess to get good Pizza and pasta, because the food is declining on all ships at the moment. Having a staple like "PIZZA" and "Al Dente Pasta" with a really good Italian sauce to fall back on when I've had my fill of little bits of meat with stir fried vegetables, is a must! I don't believe there was even one Italian on the RC chef's staff? Americans love their Pizza and Pasta and in this day and age more and more people are watching the "Food Network". Quality in this case is not difficult and I implore RC to get a grip on these two items to give me and those who are discerning "foodies" a fallback position to rely on.