Hi here is my Cruise review of the Independence of the Sea (6th September 2008). I have written this as we travelled along, and given my impressions as they happened. This is our first time sailing Royal Caribbean. We have always sailed Celebrity in the past but fancied sailing without the hassle of flights so picked the go IOS.
Day 1 - Southampton
We set off from Gloucestershire at 8am and arrived at the port about 10.30 am. We had free parking as we booked in advance so made our way to gate 10 to park the car and drop off our luggage. There could have been a few more porters to help with the unloading of the car but we managed and handed in all the cases. Parking was straight forward and we made our way to the check-in.
We checked in straight away as there was no queue. Check-in only took a couple of mins and we went straight to board the ship. We where on board the ship for 10.45.
Our room was not available till 1pm so we had a look around the ship and purchased the soda drinks package.
First impression of the ship
When you approach the ship it strikes you just how big it is, towering above the dock side. Once on board the amazement just continues it is a very atheistically pleasing ship, with modern art and decoration though out the ship. We where very impressed with the scale and decor of the ship.
Our luggage mostly turned up before the life boat drill which meant we could unpack before dinner.
Dinner was very good, our assistant waiter is the best we have had on a cruise. I had read some reviews that the food is not very good on RCI however I have pleasantly surprised. The food was of a good quality.
After dinner we watched the show which was hosted by our cruise director Graham Seymour. Graham came across very well and I would rate him as probably the best cruise director we haves sailed with. The show was a little taster of what's to come with a couple who did some ball dancing (poorly) and a balancing act which was OK but nothing special and a comedian (John Evens) who was very funny.
Day 2 - At Sea
Woke up to an announcement from the captain informing us that we had changed course due to a medical emergency and we where heading to France to meet a helicopter for a medical evacuation. We where able to watch the drama unfold on the in room TV if we wanted but decided to go get ice show ticket and have breakfast.
We ate breakfast in Windjammer's at about 10am and it was very busy but we managed to get a table and had a lovely breakfast. It is so nice to get Danish bacon (although labelled as English bacon which made me chuckle) on a cruise rather than the American bacon which never seams to have any meat on it.
We intended to have a relaxing day at sea so didn't really have a plan for the day but decided we would have a go on the crazy golf course which was fun but made all the more challenging by the very strong wind and the boat rocking.
Decided to have room service for lunch which was excellent, service could have been a little bit quicker but the food was very good.
We fancied going ice skating but unfortunately the open session had finished but we enjoyed watching some people having lessons.
Dinner was good but the menu choice was not as much to my taste as the first night but the food was good quality.
Day 3At sea
Today was the second sea day, and the day of the first ice show - Strings. This was an excellent show which was well performed by the skaters. We ate dinner in the main restaurant which again was excellent.
Day 4 - Gibraltar
We had our first port of call in Gibraltar, we had decided to do one of the ships tours the Gibraltar upper walking tour. We got to see the monkeys and go in the cable car, the tour guide was very good and the tour was very enjoyable.
The tour lasted about 3 and a half hour and we then came back to the boat and tried out the pool which was surprisingly warm.
Day 5 - At sea
Day five was the 3rd sea day and followed the same routine as the other sea days we got up late and ate breakfast at the buffet restaurant followed by a nice walk on deck.
Day 6 - Cannes, France
Today we arrived in Cannes and did one of the Ship tours to Monaco and Monte Carlo. The bus took about an hour and a half to get there which I am sure it did say in the documentation but I don't remember it so was a little supposed at how long it took. We saw the changing of the guard on Monaco and had some free time before heading to Monte Carlo. This was a very long trip about 9 hours but very enjoyable the bus we had was very modern and the guide was very knowledgeable. Would defiantly recommend this trip.
Day 7 - Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy
We had another shore exertion booked for this for of call to the leaning tower of Pisa. We where able to go up the tower and take some pictures from the very top. We also managed to get the obligatory picture of holding up the tower. We didn't venture into Florence but did see some of Pisa which was lovely. Again on this trip we had a very knowledgeable guide and a good coach. I was really glad we did this tour even though it was only a short one and one of the most expensive we did it was really worth the money.
Day 8 - Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy
We did the ship tour Glories of Gladiators today. We boarded the coach but didn't leave the port before it broke down. I have to say I was very impressed with the tour company they had a new bus to us within 15 mins and it didn't interrupt our trip at all. This trip was a one and half hour bus drive to Rome from the port where we where met by our guide. We also had a tour group leader on the bus who told us all about the city and sites on the way into Rome. The guide took us straight to the Coliseum where we had to walk the whole way round as a guy had climbed up on top of the building and was threatening to jump off, luckily this did not interrupt our trip. We then got some history of the Coliseum from our guide then some free time to explore lour. I have to say I was disappointed by the Coliseum. I thought we would be able to go into the bits where they kept the animals and the slaves. But this is not possible. We then got a tour of the Roman forum before being guided to Navona Square where we where left with 3 hours free time. We decided to head to the Vatican to take some pictures. There was not enough time to go inside but we had a pleasant walk and got to see some grate sites. I hate to say it but I wouldn't recommend this trip. I thought there was too much free time and the Forum was dragged out. It had rained on the way in to the city but had stopped by the time we arrived. If it had been as hot as it had been only a few days before the forum part of the tour would have been unbearable. In fact the guide told us the week before he had 6 guest who needed hospitable treatment for various reason but several who clasped because it was too hot. They would easily have fitted a visit to the Vatican in which would have been nice. We had a nice day but in hind site would have rather have done a trip to the Vatican.
As we left port we could see that the waves where getting quite large. The weather was terrible at see we went to Olive or Twist after dinner and watched the rain hammering the ship and the water in the pool sloshing over the side in huge waves. There was noticeably less people around.
The show that evening was a juggler who I have to say I thought was amazing, I could hardly walk the ship was moving that much!!! How he managed to juggle balls and axes and all sorts left me amazed, he even rode an 8 foot unicycle!!!!
Day 9 - Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
The weather was much better by the time we arrived in port in the morning, we didn't have a shore exertion booked here as there was nothing we fancied doing. Do we had a a quite day and caught the free port shuttle bus into town (about 5 mins on the bus). As it was a Sunday not many shops where open but we had a pleasant wander round. We always try and pick up a fridge magnet of all the places we visit but this proved to be quite a challenge in finding anywhere that sold them. We eventually found a small shop that had a few in the window and managed to get one.
Day 10 - At Sea
There was nothing very eventful this day we just chilled out and used the ship facility's. We tried the Jonny Rockets restaurant for dinner using the complementary voucher that was in our platinum rewards booklet. The food was good and the wait staff where amusing doing the dances and stuff. I will say it was over quicker than I thought it would be. We where out in under 30 mins. Have to say I wouldn't pay the $3.95 cover charge for this restaurant seams to me it should be free. Also it should open earlier than 2pm. We would have tried it at Lunch time if it had opened for Lunch. We where invited to a Crown and Anchor reception at 11am in the pyramid lounge where we got lots of free champagne and a few nibbles. Was enjoyable and we got to hear a few words from the Cruise Director and the Hotel director which was interesting.
Day 11 - Seville (Cadiz), Spain
We did another shore exertion today, Cadiz, Jerez & Sherry Cellars. We had a bus ride to Jerez with a very good guide. A short walk round where the guide explained about the town before entering a sherry cellar. I have to admit we kind of picked this tour as we didn't see anything else we fancied and knew we would be itching to get off the boat after a day a sea and no tour in the last port of call. So we didn't really know what to expect, I have never tried Sherry before. When we got to the cellar we got a guide to take us round who was only so so, her English was a little ropey and was hard to understand at times. However it was very interesting and then after about half an hour of a tour end explanation of the sherry making we where invited to taste a couple of different sherry's. We got a good wine glass full for two different sherry's. A glass of Tio Pepe and a glass of Croft original. I wasn't keen of the Tio Pepe but never one to miss out on free booze I drank it anyway. The Croft was very nice indeed and I have to say I would definitely have it again. We ended up buying a few bottle from the gift shop. None of the ones we tried in the taste session and we can get croft at home and the Tio Pepe we didn't like. Even thought we picked this tour as a bit of a last resort I would definitely recommend it we had a lovely time.
Day 12 - Lisbon, Portugal
In Lisbon we didn't see any trips we wanted to do so just got the shuttle bus tickets from the ship to get there shuttle bus in to the city centre. The shuttle ran every 10 mins and was very efficient for $5.50 each way per person. I over heard a guy later on at the bar saying he got charged 20 Euro's to get into the city centre.
Lisbon was a nice place and we had a wonder round and checked out one of the recommended wine shops and bought a couple of bottles of port. We only spent about 1 and a half in the city before heading back to the boat. Was a nice place but not huge.
Day 13 - Vigo, Spain
We did the Typical Galicia & Cellars tour in Vigo. The ride to Galicia took about 2 hours on the coach which there was no mention in the brochure and then an hours free time in the small village of Galicia which the guide gave us no information about. I have to say I think this was one of the worst tour guide I have ever come across. The trip to Galicia was pointless it could have been anywhere there was nothing of interest there. We then got took to a wine cellar where we found our how the Albariño wine is produced before sampling a few glasses of the wine. I have to say I was very tipsy after this.... We then purchased a few bottles to bring back with us. Then it was back to the ship. Again I cant recommended this trip. It was just too far from the ship and the guide was terrible, I know you could get a different guide but it ruined it for us.
Day 14 - At Sea
Our last day on the ship, we had got tickets for the ice show at 5pm so did most of our packing in the afternoon before the show, the show was freeze frame which was very good, at the beginning they picked people who where in the audience and put them on monitors with fake headlines which was very amusing. We had a nice dinner and was sad to say good buy to our waiter and assistant waiter who had been excellent!!! We then went to the final show in the theatre which was excellent, but brought home that tomorrow we will be getting off the ship.
Day 15 - Departure
We had brown tags and where told we would be off the ship between 7.10 and 7.30. We also got invited to the Platinum private departure lounge where we could get a continental breakfast while we waited. We went to the lounge and had a coffee and a danish while we waited to be called. We where called at about 7.20 and where in the car by 7.45. I have to say I thought the debarkation process was the smoothest of any ship I have been on. Some of the Celebrity ones have been terrible!!! We arrived home at 9.45am with the holiday finally over.
We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and the ship is the nicest we have been on. It was not too big and the facility's where very good. It might be because it is brand new but we where very impressed with the ship. The cruise director Graham Seymour was very good, the best cruise director I have had. He was very funny and kept everyone in grate spirits. His morning show was wacky but hilarious as well. There where a few negatives, the food was generally good but the lack of choice in the main dinning room was disappointing, there was pork medallions on the menu 3 times during the cruise at dinner, and many dished where repeated. I personally don't think they should repeat any dishes in the 14 days. Also there was no baked Alaska parade like celebrity does which I missed. I guess the food is a lot better on Celebrity. Also the choice in Windjammer's was disappointing, it was pretty much the same every day. It was nice but I fancied a change after a while.
We got robes in our room as we are platinum members but I really don't see why why couldn't put these in every room. Also there was no shower gel just some very cheap shampoo in the bathroom. The other two thinks that kind of annoyed me where there was no jug of drinking water in the room it was tap water from the bathroom or bottled water. Also we had an ice bucket but it didn't get filled with ice once during the cruise.
While none of these things would put me off RCI I would definitely bear them in mind when picking a cruise if I couldn't decided between Celebrity and RCI.
I think that's everything I have to say.