This was our first cruise and we couldn't have been more impressed with it!
Early in 2013 my parents decided to give me the best 30th birthday gift a girl could ask for, a cruise for 2!
It took me quite a while to settle on which cruise I wanted, but I knew I'd be going on Royal Caribbean for 1 reason: Flow Rider. I have loved using Flow Rider in the past when I've been to Utah and Florida for vacations. I knew I wanted a ship that had this option, and only 1 company fit that bill. Once I had decided on the cruise line, it was time to nail down the ship. After much debate, I settled on a January sailing to the Eastern Caribbean on the Independence of the Seas. I loved that this was an 8 night option as I really wanted the extra time to really get to enjoy the ship without sacrificing ports.
Fast forward 11 months and it was finally cruise time. I was pretty sure January would never come, but the time was finally here. I had spent months scouring the message boards, YouTube and anything else I could find to help with every aspect of the trip (I'm a little bit of an organization freak, I hate leaving things to chance). I took a pile of packing tips, and wasn't disappointed with any of them.
With our bags packed and loaded into the car, we set off for Detroit to spend the night before we flew out. I was a little nervous as we were sandwiched by huge winter storms. A huge chunk of the east coast was shut down on the Friday due to storms, and it was heading our way for the Sunday. Our flight leaving Saturday (the day of our cruise) was a little nerve racking, but we did make it.
We got the Ft. Lauderdale late morning, got our luggage and hailed a taxi. I honestly can't think of any other way I'd go to the cruise terminal. We didn't have to wait for a shuttle to pick us up, or for it to fill up with other passengers. Honestly, it was about $17 with tip to get us to the cruise terminal.
We dropped our bags and headed in to go through security. It wasn't too busy when we got there, but it was a little bit intimidating. We moved through security relatively quickly then waited in line to check in. Me being an organizational freak had done the online check-in and had all documents in hand and everything pre-paid. When we made it to the counter, it honestly took about 5 minutes and we were headed through the corridors to the gangway to the ship.
Stunned is an understatement of how we felt when we were on board. I couldn't comprehend the magnitude of this vessel. We basically just looked around dazed at the beauty of the ship. We were warned that our cabin might not be ready, but as soon as we found it, we were grateful that it was. We dropped off our carry on bags and headed out to browse our home for the next 8 days. We took in the grandeur of the promenade (which our room overlooked) and then decided to head to the Windjammer for some lunch. It was still pretty early (around 12:30) so it wasn't too busy on board. We loaded a plate of food and then went to sit by the window to look out over the water.
The first meal in the promenade wasn't anything spectacular, but I wasn't surprised as they're trying to unload and load thousands of people, restock food and get ready to head back out on the water just hours after docking. I wouldn't say the food was bad at all, just mediocre buffet food.
We wandered the ship, got a tonne of pictures then headed back to our cabin to relax for a bit and wait for our luggage.
Well, that was my very lengthy description of my first impression of the Independence. Now onto the details of the cruise.
We ate dinner in the main dining room at our 8:30pm dining time every single night. We were at a table of 10, but only 6 of us showed up. By night 3 it was down to 5, and we ate dinner and breakfast together every day for the remainder of the cruise. Our waiter was Gregory and he was FANTASTIC! He was hilarious, and really got to know us. Kenneth was our assistant waiter and he was great. He always had our drinks ready when we arrived at the table, and even started to remember our bread preferences. Most of the tables in Gregory's area stopped showing up in the dining room half way through the cruise, so we had his full attention. It was so much fun talking, joking and teasing each other. We often popped by the pizzeria on port days at lunch just to say hello and grab a slice.
Our room steward was Igede. He was wonderful. Somehow he figured out when we weren't around (we had the most erratic schedule) and managed to make up our room twice a day. It was wonderful and of course we loved the towel animals!
Overall the food was good. The Windjammer was pretty basic, nothing too special, but then again we only ever popped in for breakfast or lunch. The one time we went up around dinner there were some tasty items.
I swear by the main dining room! Only 1 night would I say my dinner was mediocre. The selection was great, and everything was cooked and seasoned appropriately. We only discovered the main dining room for breakfast on the 3rd day, and WOW! We loved the fresh breakfast including the fruit and yogurt bar. The 1 time we ate lunch in the dining room, it was probably the best lunch we had all week. The food was great, its a shame you can only have lunch on at sea days, but I do understand the reasoning.
The quick bites we had on board at the pizzeria and cafe were better than I had expected. The food was always fresh, and I loved those little sandwiches!
We went to the show in the theatre every night and most were fantastic. There were 2 that I wasn't a fan of, but they were dancing, which isn't my cup of tea. We loved the Love and Marriage game show, it was HILARIOUS! We also loved the ventriloquist. They had the group "Home Free" from NBC's Sing Off there, and they did a great job.
I think the most mind blowing show was the ice show. I'm not normally a fan of figure skating, but wanting to experience everything, we got our tickets and checked it out. They were fantastic. The rink was tiny, so I wasn't sure how they were going to pull off a show, but they did it and with style! There were tonnes of flips and spins and jumps, I couldn't believe they were pulling it off and all while our ship was pitching up and down. If you are on this ship, or another ship with an ice rink, make sure you get tickets!!!!
I had originally picked this ship for Flow Rider, so I obviously spent quite a bit of time at the back of the ship. It was quite busy, but they did a decent job keeping the line moving. The staff were very helpful, and I had a lot of fun talking with them and joking around. Overall, just having a blast on the water, boogie boarding or stand up surfing. I also tried my hand a rock climbing, which I failed miserably at, but the staff was excellent and always so patient and helpful.
I think that covers everything about life on the ship that we experienced. It was a gorgeous ship, spotless all the time, and you could tell that the staff genuinely cared. I couldn't have been happier with our time on the ship and can't wait to go on another RCI cruise in only 7 more months!