We sailed the Independence of the Seas February 1-9, 2014, for our honeymoon. It was my seventh cruise (second on Royal) and my husband’s third (first on Royal). The ports on the 8-day itinerary of this cruise were the draw for us. Our last cruise was on the NCL Epic and we loved it, so the Indy had a lot to live up to! After researching Royal Caribbean, we went into our cruise on the Indy with an open mind, knowing there would be some similarities and some differences.
Embarkation was probably the fastest embarkation ever. We arrived at the port around noon and were on board by about 12:45. It was excellent to not have to wait in the boarding area and board by groups.
We went to Windjammer for lunch and it was a zoo! I’d read about that here on CC, so knew going in, but man, it was a complete mess. Waiters could not clear tables fast enough before people sat down at them. It was like that again when we went for breakfast on the days we were in St. Maarten and Labadee. We tried to avoid the Windjammer as much as possible.
Stateroom: We were on a hump balcony on deck 6. Our room steward, Cecelia, was wonderful. Met her within the first couple hours of boarding, and she was visible much of the week, wanting to know if everything in our room was okay and asking if we needed anything. We’re very organized, but she kept the room clean throughout the week. The room was comfortable for the two of us, although this was the first time on a cruise that we really noticed that two beds had been pushed together. The “egg crate” foam topper was comfortable, but there’s a definite separation. Loved our balcony! If I had to choose again, though, I would have chosen a room on the hump on deck 7 or 8. It always felt like we were going up (mostly to the Pool deck), and since we took the stairs the entire cruise, we did a lot of climbing!
Ports: We really, really enjoyed all of the ports (St. Maarten, St. Kitts, San Juan, and Labadee). The Indy does a great itinerary with that one. The only Royal-sponsored excursion we did was the St. Kitts Catamaran Sail & Snorkel (KT98). It was awesome! The snorkeling was fantastic and the unlimited rum punches and Carib beers after were great, too. Highly recommended!
Entertainment: We saw the ice show, Strings, and it was really, really good! The skaters were talented and it’s pretty cool how much they can do with not much room on the ice. Shows were plentiful, but we never seemed to time it right to attend a show. We tried to find one at 8 p.m. one night, and everything that was happening on the ship was in a bar. We enjoy bars, but they seemed to push the bars on this cruise if there was not much else happening entertainment-wise.
Fitness Center/Sauna/Steam Room: Located in the forward deck 11, the fitness center is a nice size and there were always machines available. Machines seem relatively new. My one complaint about the fitness center is that there are no fans (at least none that I saw), so it gets really hot in there. On our first two days at sea, the sun was shining directly in on the treadmills and it was HOT running! Also, it would have been nice if they had signs to request people use the Purell wipes and towels to clean their machines after use.
The sauna was not working the week we were on board, but I did use the steam room after coming down with a cold during the sailing. The weird thing to me about the steam room is that they don’t turn the lights on! The steam room isn’t next to a window, either, so the only “natural” light is from the door. Was a little eerie to open the door and not know if someone was in there!
Food: Our biggest negative about this cruise, and probably the one thing that will keep us from cruising with Royal for a couple years, was the food. We are not picky eaters, but we were not fans of the food on Royal. My husband gave it a 4 out of 10. We often found ourselves comparing it to the food on NCL. In the zoo that was the Windjammer, lunch and dinner were awful. (Breakfast was good.) Tried a burger one night and it was pretty much a hockey puck. Another night, we arrived closer to when it was closing and the food seemed to have been sitting under heat lamps for much of the night. The MDR was so-so. We had one good meal in the three nights we ate there. We ordered a couple different items each night in the MDR, hoping to find one we liked. Escargot was on the menu each night, and my husband did enjoy that. Room service breakfast was generally okay, but near the end of the week, the “selection of pastries” option – which was usually a croissant and two fruit-filled pastries early on in the week – was rolls from what seemed like dinner the evening before. Meh. We ordered room service for dinner one night and the food was comparable in quality to the Windjammer, though it did seem more freshly made.
We often ended up at Sorrento’s for pizza, the Sprinkles frozen yogurt machine on the Pool deck, and Johnny Rockets. We ate at Johnny Rockets twice (once on the first formal night) and loved it both times. The $4.95 cover charge per person was very worth it. We did not go hungry, but we definitely did not eat as much as we probably would have on this cruise, so I guess that’s a good thing.
The Indy itself is in good shape after last year’s drydock. With the size of the ship, there was fair amount to do for all ages.
Disembarkation took quite awhile. Not sure why, but we didn't get off the ship until 11 a.m. Waited in the Pyramid Lounge from 8:30 a.m. until close to 11 until they called our group (42-45). We were in group 42 and it took until then to be called. Long lines through customs, but thankfully, we had a late flight and were only planning to kill some time in the airport that day.
Would we sail with Royal again? Probably not for a couple years or until their food menu is revamped. We enjoyed the itinerary and the ship, but the food took Royal down a couple notches in our book. We’re back on NCL next year!