Independence of the Seas may not be the most elegant ship, but it certainly is one of the most fun ships. Royal Caribbean does a good job of catering to guests looking for an active, entertainment packed cruise and our Indy sailing did not disappoint. We stayed two nights pre-cruise at the impressive Westin Diplomat on Hollywood Beach, taking cabs from the airport and to the cruise port rather than renting a car. Check-in around 2:30 was fairly straight forward as most of the crowds were already aboard by that time. Next time we check in later in the day, we will carry all our own luggage directly to our cabin to avoid waiting for it to be delivered. We had hoped to go to the gym before dinner but couldn't because our bags hadn't arrived. We were very pleased with our seventh deck balcony cabin, as being on the starboard side allowed us to enjoy the sun on the balcony during the initial two days at sea. Being a slightly older ship, the balcony was extra large.
The gyms on Freedom class ships have the most spectacular views from the elliptical trainers and treadmills situated along the windows at the front of the ship. There is room for improvement in the gym, however, as some of the equipment had unsanitary rips in the plastic upholstery.
Because I have a very severe gluten intolerance, one of the first things we did upon embarking the ship was to pay a visit to the dining room manager to express my concerns. The dining room staff were unbelievably attentive to my dietary needs. Our head waiter Suraj took me under his care, making sure that I did not make any choices which might compromise my health. The menus have many items marked "gluten free" but not all of them are suitable for someone who cannot tolerate any cross-contamination. On more than one occasion, I had the chef visit my table to warn against a selected item which may be cross-contaminated and to make suggestions as to a better choice. This level of care gave me great peace of mind and I had absolutely no problems while dining on board.
The main reason we choose Freedom, Oasis and now Quantum class ships is because my husband loves the Flowrider surf simulator. Having last been on Allure, he missed having a dedicated stand up Flowrider, as they divide up the time on the one Independence Flowrider between stand up riding and boogie boarding. He ended up extending his Flowriding time by signing up for group lessons.
The entertainment on board ranged from excellent to just okay but I have found that to be pretty typical as not every entertainer appeals to every individual. The skating show is always outstanding and worth waiting in line for the tickets. The skating show on Independence features a guest violinist who truly was a virtuoso. We always enjoy the jazz night in the Olive or Twist lounge which features the lead cast members from the production shows. It is great to enjoy their talents in a more intimate venue.
We prefer sailing on Allure and Oasis but went back to a Freedom class ship because of the ports offered in this extraordinary 8 day itinerary. Being able to visit St. Martin, St. Kitts, San Juan and Labadee made this a very special cruise as we loved all our port days.