Just back from a four-night taster cruise to Cork on the Independence of the Seas. Not sure what to expect, having read various reviews, and it was clearly marketed as a family cruise ship. We did not like the Ventura a couple of years ago.
Embarkation was smooth (on a day when there were record 5 ships in port) - disembarkation the least hassle we have experienced.
We (late fifties) both enjoyed the ship very much. There was a wider variation in the ages and the social background of our fellow passengers, compared to the P&O, Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean cruises we've been on - and in our opinion, all the better for that. Nobody did or said anything that offended our sensibilities. We found the children no problem at all and from what we heard they were having a great time.
The ship was spotless and generally more restrained in dEcor than we anticipated.
The Royal Promenade was much less over-the-top than we expected, and we found it a pleasant place to spend time. Wouldn't want a room that overlooked it though - with lights on, you could see into the rooms, so curtains would need to be closed most of the time.
The evening meals in the main dining-room were perhaps not terribly exciting, but were of a very good standard. The lunch meals never looked interesting enough for us to bother. We didn't find it any more difficult to get a seat in the buffet (Windjammer) restaurant than other buffets on other ships - with a very wide selection of food.
We enjoyed the shows and particularly the ice show - but then we're not terribly critical about such things when we're cruising.
Staff were universally friendly, polite and attentive, without any servility (thank goodness)
Rooms (we had a balcony) were, we think, larger than on any other ship we've been on. Designed for families, there was a six-foot wide double bed, and a three-seater sofa, which presumably made another double. The sitting area was larger than we remember elsewhere. Bathroom with shower perfectly adequate as was storage space.
All in all, a very good product.
A few cautionary notes:
Some of the staff said that the week before, there had been another 1,000 children on board, and that it had been somewhat crowded. Perhaps for older passengers, school holidays should be avoided!
There was surprisingly no indoor swimming-pool, or one with a retractable cover. The "Solarium" was a small outdoor adults-only pool, and the weather and the water were too cold for my wife to even try a swim - one of the major pleasures for her on a cruise.
The company policy of reserving front rows at shows for Concierge guests was unwelcome - to us the "all in this together" aspect of cruising is one of its appeals. We don't travel on Cunard because of what we see as their "class" system and this has the same feel - a real pity.