We have cruised with Royal Caribbean five or six times now, and tend to like the layout of the ship, the size, and now we know where everything is. Well, almost.
First the pros. The Independence is a beautiful ship, rooms were very clean, and staff very friendly. I did feel they did as much as they could if we had a problem. The Ice Shows are very professional, you don't need to queue for tickets, there are always plenty of seats.
However the cons. Quite a few. We did not appreciate the loud blaring 'music' when we were trying to relax around the pool, or on sunbeds, particularly around the Flow Rider. However there is one 'quite' pool area if you can get a sunbed early enough. Too many towels left on seats. And If you are not a smoker, avoid the Casino. Full of heavy smoke and cigarette butts stubbed out and unemptied in ashtrays.
There were five tenders waiting to take us to Cannes, at two exits, but everyone was guided to the same exit point so at 10.30 in the morning the queue went from Level 1 to Level 4. Each tender took around 20 minutes there and back. We waited to disembark for over an hour. It was hot and stuffy inside on the stairs, and everyone was complaining. People were getting out of lifts as we were queueing and were being told by staff to get back in the lift and come back later. An absolute farce. No apology from staff. Coming back to the ship, we waiting on the dock in the boiling heat, in a queue, to embark for a good half hour. The same thing happened in Lisbon, not to get on a tender, just to get off the ship! A good half hour wait, again on the stairs. Again no apology from the Captain. At Vigo we disembarked at 10.30 and had to be back by 2.30. Why not all day in Vigo? Would it cost RC more money to stay at the Port longer? No explanations.
We have noticed that RC has become much more money orientated over the years. We rushed to get to the 9pm show in the Alhambra Theatre. Then Mr Joff 'er,er,er' Eaton 'your wonderful Cruise Director' came onstage and proceeded to hold an Auction, albeit for charity, an auction which we did not enter the theatre to see. This happened on two occasions. It probably happened more often, but we didn't go to the theatre every night. My next point. Showtime. Who is Dain Cordean/Claire Maidin/Joanna Marie/Victor Michael/Diane Cousins/John Udry?? It was like watching Britains Got Talent – the bad auditions. One Welsh lady 'comedienne and singer' was a typical karaoke/pub entertainer. The violinist was really scraping the barrel, poor chap. Russian songs.Scottish songs.Irish songs.You get my gist. We walked out halfway through (along with several other guests). Bernie Flint.Winner of Opportunity Knocks all those years ago, as he kept telling us. And telling us. Because nobody knew who he was! No hypnotist, no magician. The RC 'Singers and Dancers'. Amateurish and Very Corny. Do we want to be Under The Big Top or seeing a show about Fairy Tales? Hello! Most of us are retired! Its not a creche!!! The best act of the cruise was comedian John Evans (who?I hear you ask) well, he was very very funny and had the audience in fits of laughter. And when the night's 'entertainment' eventually came to an end, and Joff 'Er,er,er' Eaton appeared on stage to tell everyone what we could all read in the Cruise Compass, half the audience walked out to go to bed or find the next entertainment at their nearest bar. Mr Eaton had no audience appeal and didn't seem to have a lot of confidence.The live bands in the bars were very good but two weeks of Latin American and Caribbean music, the same songs, almost in the same order are great for a few days and after two weeks you cannot get the songs out of your head.
RC were plugging plenty of Beauty Treatments around the Pool, outside the Windjammer, just about everywhere. No I did not want an Eyelash Lift, a Spa Treatment, St Tropez Tanning or Acupuncture. No I did not want my teeth whitened, have an Elemis Collagen Facial or find out how to banish my under-eyebags. I did not want to buy a Work of Art, a Digital Camera or a Watch. I did not want to buy a plastic handbag, have a $23 photograph taken or have a 'complimentary' Good Feet analysis. Enough already!
We tended to eat in the Windjammer most evenings as we find the dining room very formal, stuffy, being fawned over by waiters who 'recommend' a dish that's on the menu. Does that make you order it? No. Not enough choice on the menu, ridiculously tiny starters and desserts. I would say 20% of cruisers agreed with us, at the Windjammer there was plenty of food, choice, seats, view, sitting with whom you want where you want, at what time you want. I must admit though, on the last three evenings there was No Meat at the Carvery. Every time we asked where it was we were told 'It will be seven minutes'... but it didn't really matter. Earlier on the cruise most nights, the carvery meat was very tough. I ate a lot of salad and the salad bar was same, same, same every lunch and evening. Food is not as varied as it used to be.
We couldn't hear the announcements on the tannoy, either in the cabin or on deck. Thank goodness it wasn't 'Man the Lifeboats'. Just a few tips. The price for the RC shuttle into Lisbon at the terminal was $19 each. The price of the open top bus at the terminal is $15 each. Do the maths. Don't take up the $60 Daily Plan for Internet access. Wait until you are on shore and use a cafe for your Wi-Fi. Always check your account on the TV screen. We were charged $22 for items out of the Mini Bar which we did not use and eventually the charge was refunded. No apology. Perhaps we will try P&O next year.