As a couple we have cruised 5 times in the past – once on OV2, once on P&O and 3 times on the Celebrity Silhouette – all during peak time in August. As a special treat for my 50th birthday my husband booked a 4 night mini cruise on the RCI Independence of the Seas. We approached the cruise with mixed feelings and came away pleasantly surprised. Ironically, it was the crew who seemed most interested in comparing the IOS and RCI with Celebrity and we got the feeling that they saw Celebrity as the ‘posher sister’. We came away thinking that they were probably right.
Our first impression of the ship was that she was a nice looking ship and once we had boarded we loved the atrium area with sweeping staircase and glass. As we were amongst the first people to board we had the chance to look around while she was very quiet and enjoyed strolling down the Royal Promenade of the ship where all of the shops are. To be honest we didn’t like this layout much though, though at night when there was any type of concert it made for a great atmosphere – though somewhat crowded! On our last day we discovered the wrap round promenade and we loved this – something we’d missed on the Silhouette.
The cabin was lovely – we had 1530 which is right at the front on deck 10 and is one of the cabins where the side of the balcony is transparent and offers amazing views to the Bridge. It was huge and we would certainly book this type of cabin again – especially if we were going on a cruise to somewhere hot! What an amazing place to sit and chill out.
The cabin was a good side and had good storage space, though we found the bathroom quite small. Having said that, how much space do you need in a bathroom?! The cabin steward was great.
When we ventured out on to the top decks we were surprised to see how much space was taken up by areas of sunbeds that are only to be used by a certain type of cabin grade. Have never seen this before and looking round we found the pool areas too small and I can imagine that they would be far too crowded mid August when full of families. We took a look around the leisure areas like the water ‘park’ area and climbing area and can imagine that in the hot weather it would be great for families – we’d hate it though! I can’t see that there would be anywhere to just escape the crowds.
We made the most of the 4 day experience and ate in 2 of the select dining venues – Chops Grill Giovannis. We thought that both were very good, with Giovanni’s being the best – the food and service was excellent and we had a great night. We opted for Freedom Dining and this suited us. We only had to wait on the 2nd night (Formal Night) but we had a great table for 2 and the food was as good as anything we have had on Celebrity or P&O. Having a string quartet play during the meal was also a nice touch. Food in the MDR on the 4th night wasn’t quite as good, so it is difficult to say what it would be like on a long cruise.
The 2nd night was a Formal Night which was observed by most passengers – something we really enjoyed – and the whole ship came alive. The Captain’s welcome was well organised and it was nice to have that free glass of Champagne. We never found that Celebrity did this too well so one up for RCI on this one.
Our favourite spot for a drink was the Champagne Bar – the staff were great and we spent many a happy hour (or two) trying the various cocktails. We didn’t use the cafes or bars in the Royal Promenade as we didn’t like this area very much at all.
We didn’t go to any of the shows apart from the Britannia Rocks night held in the Royal Promenade so can’t comment here really.
The one thing we did hate was the mad scrum every morning to try and get a relaxed Breakfast. What a nightmare! When we thought about the number of passengers the ship held when full and compared it to the size of Windjammers it became pretty clear that the restaurant wasn’t big enough. The food stations are not set out well and the whole place felt dingy and rather chaotic. Trying to get a table was hit and miss and trying to get a drink was nigh on impossible. They really need to look at this as it really was not up to the standard we would expect on any cruise line – or at any decent hotel.
Something else we found odd was having to go through Security on the deck – it was very slow and very cold. When we left we didn’t get so much as a ‘Goodbye, safe journey’ – the staff never even looked up as they swiped our seapass card ! Perhaps we’ve been spoiled on the Silhouette when Security is actually inside the ship????
For us, as a couple not travelling with children who have to go on holidays during the school holiday, we would definitely never travel on this ship for our main holidays in August. Most of what it offered wasn’t for us and we would stick to Celebrity. Having said that, we can’t criticise the ship for not suiting us – if you want a great family holiday, good service, generally good food and a good time I would recommend trying the IOS. We would, however, consider sailing on her again for a mini cruise.