This was our second cruise with RCI and the first on the Independence. The ship was a nice size and well-kept. The staff was very friendly and helpful for the most part.
The food was very good. We only went to the dining room three times, preferring the Windjammer for greater variety. It frequently had some of the entrees from the dining room menu. The two negatives were way too many mousses for dessert (most of which did not have much flavor) and the pastas tended to be undercooked. We were not overly impressed with our dining room waiters, one of which was slow, and the other barely showing interest in us (probably because we switched tables towards the end of the cruise, and he figured he wouldn't be getting an extra tip by then). Portions in the dining room tended to be small, too - I had the ravioli and there were maybe six pieces in the dish. I found it odd that the three dining rooms were named for Shakespearean tragedies - King Lear, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. Really, an odd "downer" for a cruise ship !
In general, the Independence does not seem to have a theme in its decor. There's ancient Egypt, Baroque, lots of steel and chrome in the Promenade, Renaissance, etc. Certainly nothing "American" despite its name. This didn't distract from the cruise, but just struck me as a bit of a decorative jumble.
The pool areas were nice, the best being the H2O Zone which is meant for the kids but has the best pool as far as depth - the pool with the waterfall has a useable depth of about 4 feet, unlike the adult pools which have a consistent depth over 5 feet - making it impossible to do anything but swim unless you are very tall ! If you like relaxing in a pool without having to tread water the entire time, head for the pool with the waterfall, under the "H2O Zone" sign. We were lucky that there were not a lot of kids on our cruise.
RCI definitely lives up to the "international" part of its name, with English being a second language for most of its employees. This occasionally proved to be an obstacle in asking for assistance, as even some of the waiters and cabin stewards had only the barest grasp on English.
The entertainment was not on a caliber with the Oasis (our previous RCI cruise) but good overall. The best show that I attended was the "Strings" ice show, which was actually better than the one we saw on the Oasis. Don't miss it ! Get in line for your tickets EARLY - I was there less than ten minutes after the ticket line opened, and had to settle for my second choice of times. Fortunately the shows in the large Alhambra theater were open seating, but don't wait until five minutes before the shows to get there if you want a decent seat. I did not go to all of the Alhambra shows, but found their "Once Upon a Time" show to be a bit odd - fairy tales interpreted through pop music (example: During "Rapunzel", the prince sang the theme song from the 1960s musical "Hair"). Some of this was cute, some not. A few older guests actually left during the performance. Also at the Alhambra was a welcome "party" for Crown and Anchor members, which was actually just a sales pitch for their new ships. Oh, and the legendary Super Mario was on board ! He has basically lived on RCI ships since 2000. He will be sailing on the Independence until March, and said he has another 150 cruises booked. Wow ! I love cruising but not enough to live on a ship for years !
There were two parades on the Promenade. Advice on where to stand to watch them: Do NOT stand under the arches ! Some of the performers are on top of these arches, especially the one midway down the Promenade. I learned this the hard way ! Also, try not to stand next to anyone carrying an ipad or tablet with a camera. During the second parade, the person next to me obscured my view with her ipad, sticking it out in front of her to take photos. Very annoying ! I think one of the best spots for viewing is near the car that is parked between the two arches.
As large as the ship is, there was still quite a bit of motion as she cruised. My husband got seasick on the last day when the winds were 30mph. Be sure to invest in a motion sickness wristband - they really work. We had to pay $12 for one on the ship; you can get them for $6 on amazon.com.
The embarkation and disembarkation went smoothly.