Had an amazing time on the Independence this year. Having been on the Adventure of the Seas last year, we booked as soon as we got home for this year. The Ship is bigger but not obviously so, because a bigger ship means more people, so needless to say although the ship is bigger it didn't feel much roomier. It does however have an additional pizza restaurant which is open 24 hours on the promenade that provides pizzas, paninis, cakes etc. and are not chargeable, along with the promenade cafe that sells cookies, croissants etc. so needless to say you will definitely not starve.
We had the same issues with the sunbeds as last year, as in people getting up early to save them, which happens pretty much everywhere I know, but still, when you are on holiday it is so frustrating feeling you have to set your alarm to guarantee a sunbed around the pool on 'at sea' days. The deck attendants are meant to monitor it and remove any towels from beds that have been unattended for 30 minutes or more, but we only saw this happen a couple of times. The most annoying is when guests reserve sunbeds before going to shore, to ensure they have a bed when they return to the ship. Which obviously makes it unfair when other guests return earlier to find all the beds reserved.
The food was amazing as always, we had a fantastic balcony cabin which after having an interior cabin last year was fantastic and completely made our holiday all the more enjoyable. The staff were great and very friendly. The H2O zone for the little ones was excellent and very busy, the areas around this pool and the main pools always have the sunbeds reserved first, so be aware of this if you have young children.
The flowrider was great, the staff are great and try to help those that have never done it before, and each person is given the same amount of time regardless of how good you are, which is great as some people are amazing and would be on there all day if they could.
We were a little disappointed that there were very few football games and basketball games organised for the younger teenagers around 8pm which was a shame as my son thoroughly enjoyed them last year.
One of the major downsides for us was that smoking was allowed in the casino, this made it very unpleasant for non-smokers. I have no issue with people wanting to smoke, but when the ship provides an internal room plus 2 outside decks for smokers, I do not understand why it was necessary to allow smoking in the casino. Needless to say we did not spend many nights in there this year, which was a shame as we really enjoyed it last year,
All in all the cruise was fantastic and we have already booked again for next year.
We loved Barcelona, there is so much to see. We got a taxi from the port as we docked further down from the Ramblas and it cost approx. 10 EURO, it is walkable but I would not recommend with children. The shops in Barcelona are fantastic, with so much choice and really unusual. However, we did a Segway tour which we booked in advance www.barcelonasegwaytour.com - it was fantastic, 2 hours and cost 59 Euros each, but we saw SO much and with 2 teenagers it was definitely the way to go... Would highly recommend.
The ship docks approx. 10 minute walk from the start of the shops and 15 minute walk from Talamanca Beach. If you come out of the port and turn left and then follow the road, you will see signs for Talamanca Beach. It is a lovely beach with shallow warm waters, white sands and comfortable beds and umbrellas for hire. There are numerous bars and restaurants along the back of the beach which offer a great selection of food. We walked back a different way via Spa which took us up hill and gave great views of the bay and the ship.
There are places to walk to from the port, but we wanted to go to the beach, so rather than pay the high prices for transfers to Palma Nova beach we choose to take a taxi which cost 20 Euros each way and took about 15 minutes. If there are only a couple of you then the ship excursion will probably work out the same sort of money, but as there are 4 of us, it was cheaper to get a taxi. Palma Nova beach is really nice and has lots of shops and bars etc. along the main road that runs down the back of the beach. There are beds and umbrellas for hire but they get booked up quite early so you need to get there early to get a bed. We hired a long paddle board whilst there for 10 Euros for 1 hour which my son loved, there are also pedalos for hire and along the beach there are jet ski's etc. Palma Nova beach is separated into 3 sections by some steps. Along the main road there is a spa which makes baguettes to order which we brought and took to the beach, highly recommend.
We docked further from the Praca do Comercio this time and were nearer the 25th April bridge, however, we did attempt to walk to the centre, but it would have taken us approx. 1 hour if we had not flagged a taxi half way there. Without children the walk would be lovely. You come out of the port and turn right away from the bridge, if you stay on the main road you will eventually come to the large Praca do Commercio square which is obvious by the yellow buildings and restaurants etc. The town is behind this square. We however did a Lisbon Segway tour which was amazing, we booked through www.lisbonbysegway.com and did the 1 hour medieval tour. It was excellent and we saw so much that we would never have done by foot as Lisbon is very hilly.
This is very old Spain so a lovely place to walk around. The ship docks immediately in front of the town, you come out of the port, cross the road and walk straight, this takes you to all the roads with lots of great shops. If you keep walking through you will come to a market and then to the Playa de la Caleta beach, which was long and has beds and umbrellas to hire. There are no restaurants or shops along the front so take food and drink with you. The walk to the start of the shops takes 10 minutes and to the beach approx. 25. As you leave the port terminal there are maps being given out which help you find your way.
The ship docks directly in front of a new shopping centre which also has a couple of restaurants/bars outside with tables & chairs out front. Taxi's or buses can be picked up just after the shopping centre which is a 5 minute walk from the ship. We got a taxi to Samil Sands beach which cost approx. 12 Euros each way, it was about 10 minutes in the taxi. It is a really nice beach with a couple of man made swimming pools along the front of the beach which are open to all ( not sure if they charge), there are a couple of restaurants/bars and ice cream stands. There is a macdonalds in front of where the taxi rank is and where you get dropped for the beach, which is directly in front of the beach. The sand is lovely and there are rocks for those that enjoy rock pools, the sea however was a bit chilly so if you like warm water you won't be swimming in it. There did seem to be quite a lot of locals around, but the beach is very large so it did not feel busy. English is not a strong language here so it would be beneficial to have a few Spanish phrases ready.