Please don’t let some of the negative reviews of this ship put you off. We have been on 20-25 cruises, mostly on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Princess and found this experience to be as good as any we’ve been on.
Prior to cruise: We flew into London the day before the cruise and had contracted with the excellent SmithsForAirports to take us to our hotel in Southampton. We stayed at the lovely but somewhat expensive Grand Harbour Hotel. The price of the room included a full breakfast and a frees shuttle to the port.
Embarkation: Quick and easy.
The ship: The ship is beautiful and exceptionally clean. Believe me, I look! Our Junior Suite #9644 was immaculate. Not a spec of dirt or mildew anywhere. Our cabin steward, Leroy, was fantastic. The cabin was roomy, the linens great, the bath and shower good and there was plenty of closet and storage space.
Dining: We had late dining, and found the MDR food to be pretty good. Some dishes, like More
the Beef Wellington, were exceptional. Some dishes were far from wonderful, but we just exchanged them for something else. Our waiter and assistant waiter were both very nice. We asked for a cheese plate to enjoy with our drinks before dinner early on in the cruise. Every evening thereafter, we had one waiting for us. The bar server showed up at our table as soon as we sat down each night, so there was no wait for cocktails/wine as others have reported in several reviews.
We ate in Giovanni’s twice and in Chops twice. The food and service in Giovanni’s was excellent. It is more casual than Chops, but very enjoyable. The first night that we had dinner in Chops was excellent. The second night, however, was absolutely horrible. The onion soup was like liquid salt. The chef must have sent it out without tasting it. No one ate it. Then I was served a near-raw, extremely fatty veal chop. I pointed this out to the waiter, he said “perhaps I should have told you that veal chops are fatty meats.” Perhaps I should have told him I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck and was quite familiar with veal chops. I didn’t substitute anything else as everyone had finished their entrees by the time the waiter came around to check on our food. We had reservations for a third night in Chops, but we canceled it.
We had breakfast or lunch in the Windjammer a few times. While there appeared to be quite a variety and quantity of food, I was a bit put off by the atmosphere. I’m on vacation. I want to be served, and I don’t want to wait in a line to get my food. We had a bit of trouble getting a table in the mornings, so we switched to room service on days the MDR wasn’t open. There are always options on a ship!
Lounges: There are a lot of lounges, most of them too small. A nice group sang in Boleros each evening, but we often could not get seats for four people. Same problem in The Pub (World Cup was being broadcast) and Champagne Bar. Even the Viking Lounge was packed before dinner. With the glaring exception of Vintages, bar service was very good. We had Diamond vouchers for three free drinks each from 5:30pm-8:30pm and tipped with a dollar bill for each drink, which I think is only appropriate. We also bought a 12-bottle wine package (shared with another couple), which had a several good wines on it. We ended up getting a few bottles of higher end wines, too. We like wine!
Ports: We had easy disembarkations to all the ports, and used ship transportation on only one. This was a bus ride from Cadiz to Seville. Although this was just transportation and not a tour, there was a young lady who gave a little history about Cadiz and Seville on the way. We had been to all the ports before except Seville and Valencia, so we mostly just did a lot of walking and had lovely lunches in each port. We did not do much shopping (a first for me!) as the US dollar did not go very far. Prices at home, even with taxes, are quite a bit lower. Same thing for merchandise on the ship. Europeans probably will get quite a bit of value, but most Americans are not going to pay the full retail prices on brands like Michael Kors and Ted Baker when so many stores here discounts them.
Entertainment: Good. I often write reviews of cruises and never before have written about or even remembered the name of the Cruise Director. However, Joff Eaton is a gem! His enthusiasm is contagious. No wonder he will be going to the Anthem in the fall. The production shows were adequate (never going to give Celebrity any competition there, though), and the guest performers were very good. There was a Queen tribute band, The Bohemians, that would have been worth the price of a concert ticket. The Bee Gees band wasn’t as good. The magician/comedian and juggler/comedian were both original and entertaining. The violinist was great! Yes, I did say violinist. High energy and exceptional. There also was an aerialist and a somewhat repetitive BMX cycle rider. We did not go to the ice shows (saw them on Freedom before).
Casino: Staff, good. Smoke, bad.
Gym: Lots of equipment, classes, space.
I’ve read some reviews saying the staff on Indy was not as responsive as they should be, and I have to strongly disagree. The couple of times I checked something with Guest Services, they responded positively and immediately. Our room steward could not have been better. We had several items dry cleaned or laundered. All came out fine, and it was cheaper than our dry cleaner at home. The staff all around the ship were terrific – except, as I mentioned earlier, for a particularly unresponsive barman in Vintages (sorry to repeat this, but I’ve never run across any service industry person who so blatantly just didn’t give a #&#?&%. and I’m from Orlando!)
All in all, it was an extremely enjoyable experience. Less
Independence of the Seas Cruises to the Western Mediterranean