Independence of the Seas Cruise Review by Saintpat: Relaxing time; mixed reviews
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Relaxing time; mixed reviews
This was my first solo, first time on Indy, first transatlantic crossing, and first my-time dining option. I've sailed on Royal 3 times before, and on many other lines in my 28 years of cruising. After this transatlantic cruise, I stayed on the Indy for another 8 days to Norway, making 3 weeks in all aboard. I was drawn by the price with no single-supplement for the transatlantic. And I got fully what I paid for -- a bargain cruise.
Embarkation was a mess at FLL, with parking guards sending us three times to the wrong spot and refusing 3 times to let me, a moderately disabled woman of 71, be dropped off at the spot marked for unloading of disabled passengers -- a spot clearly marked with the usual blue wheelchair logo sign. I cannot explain this, nor could anyone on the ship, although the Guest Services staff did respond with consideration once I was able to complain to them. I was furious, I admit it. Eventually, I got on board, and enjoyed sail away at the pool bar with the More other cruise critics. This is hard to believe, but I had my first margarita there with Pedro the bartender and didn't go there again for two weeks until the cruise ended, but he actually remembered me, saying, "I served you with the first margarita on sail-away!" I was astonished at this incredible example of making a guest feel special.
The best place on the ship is Deck 4, with plentiful chairs and almost no crowds, unlike the pool deck which was overcrowded on every warm day. For the first time ever, I actually had to bribe a pool attendant with $10 to find me a pool lounge chair because the other passengers would crowd their possessions on the adjoining chairs and claim, "Oh, my friend is in this chair." The attendant had enough authority, I guess, to fix them with a glare and they'd grudgingly remove their bag or towel or whatever. In my view, this is what I deserved for cruising on the cheap -- a certain number of ill-mannered low-life fellow guests. I have never seen such grabbing, saving, cheating, and hustling of chairs. Be warned.....
I found my "bump" cabin on Deck 8 to be delightful. It was clean, comfortable, and attractive. I spent a lot of time on the balcony, just reading or watching the waves and clouds -- the best show on earth. The "bump" really does offer a great vista that's a real plus and well worth the price. I was extremely happy to know that no smoking is allowed on balconies, but I had to yell at a neighbor who broke that rule and when I ratted him out to the crew, he didn't repeat the offense. The casino was very smoky and I avoided it by passing through the ship on other decks, but the smoke spiraled up onto Deck 5 on the open stairway and was unpleasant.
The staff were uniformly polite, smiling, helpful, and courteous. My cabin attendant, Christopher, was a sweetheart, the best I've ever known. For the My Time Dining, I was truly impressed by the smooth operation and the pleasant staff night after night. There was always no waiting for a "sharing table" of ten, and also a reservation option that many people took. However, I heard many complaints that the staff would not take reservations between certain popular times, such as six to seven, so it was difficult to manage "my time" for some. I liked the sharing tables as I met new people every night. Most nights were casual or smart casual. Formal nights found most of us dressing up, with a few rude exceptions of men in jeans and golf shirts with the tail out. Really, they might as well hang a sign around their necks saying, "I'm an ill-mannered lout."
As for the food, it was neither good nor bad. It positively made me long for my own cooking, which was a first. I got the best meal at Johnny Rockets, and the best lunch was in the Brasserie 30, a plentiful and high-quality salad bar with a limited a la carte menu in one of the dining rooms. I also had breakfast in the main dining room because I found the Windjammer to be unappealing, with cold food, tasteless offerings, and an atmosphere like the subway rush hour. However, most passengers, who were mainly from the UK, seemed to praise the Windjammer curry selections and most people consistently ate there with relish. The Café Promenade was really popular, but the only item I got there was no good, so I didn't go back. The pizza parlor, Sorrento's, had pizza just like Pizza Hut, and it was open until from 11:30a.m. to 3 a.m., so it was popular with late night feeders and the shore excursion lunchtime crowd. It also offered sandwiches every day, though the Panini maker was broken for quite a while on the cruise. (Why does a major cruise ship have only one Panini maker --?). All in all, an experienced cruiser knows not to cruise on a ship with a German head chef -- and that's what the Indy had. But again, I sold out for the price, so I deserved what I got. And by the way, my advice about Room Service is "don't."
The ship is really attractive and the staff did a wonderful job of constant cleaning and having us all use hand sanitizer in every venue. However, the hot tubs had definite "bath tub ring" of scum from people's sunblock and cosmetics and also -- I guess -- just plain old dead skin cells, so I only used them once. My main activity was playing all the trivia quizzes, though the venue for these, the Schooner Bar, was extremely crowded and uncomfortable. Plenty of activity was offered every day, but also plenty of loafing around and just sitting in the pub or café for people watching on the always-fascinating Deck 5 Royal Promenade. I just loved the Dog and Badger Pub for its décor, musician, and those delightful Brits with their beer and jokes. I avoided the shows after a time or two as they just weren't very good, with the exception of the ice shows. The violinist was remarkable, and I enjoyed her playing several times on the cruise. I liked all the ship's various bands, though it was curious how they seemed to play only 45 minutes and vanish.
Since a good many passengers took inside cabins, they had to crowd the bars and lounges during the long sea days when it was cool outside. Every chair was occupied all day with people reading. I always enjoyed the top deck lounge called Olive or Twist with its wide ocean views, and also the library, which had some good books, though not a large collection. Oddly, despite the chilly weather, movies were offered outside after dark on the pool deck's big screen. It was just too cold for that. A few movies were offered in the theater. The piano player was excellent, but again, he vanished too soon.
Our Caribbean ports were confused with a cancellation of Nassau and the substitution of San Juan, Puerto Rico at 4pm to midnight. St Thomas and St. Maarten were the other ports. The "America's Cup Regatta" which was offered as a shore excursion in St. Maarten was a real delight. The ship seemed to have only excursions in the $90 to $100 range, which was expensive for a family, and some people arranged their own shore excursions, but that's always seemed risky to me. Someone reported that a taxi-driver offered them a deluxe beach break for $15 but only drove them to a private beach where he had them sneak through some shrubs onto the beach! After the Caribbean, we were out to sea to England for 8 long days. I had vowed to try six new things every day, and diligently worked my activity list and venues for meals and cocktails to make that happen. A lot of the passengers were interesting travelers with varied backgrounds, and I enjoyed getting to know them -- except for those greedy lowlifes on the pool deck.
Hands down, the worst thing on the ship was the inaccessible but expensive Wi-Fi. It took most of one of my expensive $30 hours to simply get connected, and there was no online café attendant, so we passengers tried to help each other, but it was a debacle. It never got easy for me, though I got it to work. Even in Egypt in the desert I had an easier time connecting. I truly feel Royal Caribbean is going to have to do something about free Wi-Fi with easier connection or else it's going to lose all its passengers to Princess and other lines with free and trouble-free Wi-Fi. I had to press it, but Guest Services eventually did give me a free hour for all the wasted time I'd spent connecting. Overall, Guest Services was responsive to all the issues I brought up to them.
It really annoyed a lot of people not to be able to buy wine or liquor in the ports and have it onboard. It was confiscated at the gangway and given back at the end of the cruise, an attempt to make people buy $30 or higher bottles of wine on board. I had signed up for a 5 bottle wine package onboard for "Wine and Dine," but found out that for the same money I could have a larger and better wine list selection via one bottle at a time in the dining room. I didn't like any of the "allowed" wines in my package. I recommend the St. Martin Reserve Chardonnay at $30 per bottle. Most of the guests figured out that if Royal Caribbean was pushing it for sale, it was strictly to their benefit and would not work out for our benefit.
All in all, I feel I won't sail with Royal Caribbean again. There just wasn't much to come back for. Less
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