This was our second crossing on the Independence of the Seas, having done the Eastbound this past April. We came in the day prior and stayed at the beautiful Sofitel Hotel at Heathrow where we had stayed after the Eastbound. The flight on British Air was uneventful, but one of those awfully long flights. We, once again, used Woodford Chauffeur Cars for our transportation to the port, sharing with another couple from our Cruise Critic roll call. Woodford was nice enough to let us stop at a supermarket for some supplies for the crossing.
The Indy is a beautiful ship and so far, our favorite one. We were happy to hear that Capt. Teo was once again at the helm for the crossing as there is a certain comfort level with him. He has a great sense of humor, too, and we enjoyed his noon announcements. We enjoyed our cabin on the "hump" which was perfect. You could see both forward and backwards from our balcony. We had the luck of a great room steward the last crossing (Stevie) who apparently is now on the Oasis. The gentleman we had on this cruise was Erwin. I was initially worried about him as he was very quiet, but he became more talkative as the cruise went on and he was very, very good. We appreciated his hard work.
Once again, as far as dining goes, it was the usual, same RCCL food and menu, ranging from poor to good but nothing outstanding. We actually found that the Windjammer had much better food on occasion and the Windjammer staff was very good and attentive. We were not as happy with the dining room staff. We had a wonderful table by the window in the McBeth (4th floor) dining room. The waiter, Rohinton (Rocky) was ok. Nothing special and no extra touches that we have had on previous RCCL cruises. Beverly, the assistant, was hit or miss, but did try to please us. We are pretty convinced that the best ones went to the Oasis and it shows.
We booked this cruise for the ports and we enjoyed them very much. In LeHavre, we called (from the desk in the cruise terminal) for a taxi with an English speaking driver. We had emailed LeHavre taxi when researching the cruise and the taxis are independently owned and operated. They have several circuits for set prices. We were very lucky as we had Daniel Pain as our taxi driver (firstname.lastname@example.org). We could have chosen any circuit, even Paris, but we just wanted a half day tour of Honfleur. It was very picturesue and we enjoyed our time there very much. He offered to show us more, but it was getting dark and we wanted to go back to the ship. The morning was spent on our own at the Coty Mall shopping at Monoprix supermarket for French goodies to bring home. It is a beautiful mall and we have been there several times before. This time, it was all decorated for the holidays and so beautiful. The next port was Cherbourg and we rented a car from National Car Rental with another roll call member to tour the Normandy Beaches/D-Day sites. It was very emotional and the highlight of our trip. My husband was the driver and the other gentleman was the navigator. It was very easy and we would certainly do it again. The other ports were Vigo, Spain and Funchal, Madeira, both of which we have visited before. Madeira is one of our favorite places and just beautiful, but two of our four visits there have been on sundays when things are closed (cruise lines, are you listening?.
Anyway, I have to mention two other highlights of our cruise. One was the progressive trivia with Joff Eaton, cruise director. I was initially disappointed that we did not have Graham Seymour again. However, Joff made the cruise. He was hilarious and I think he is the best cruise director we have had!! No one could top him! There were so many people at trivia that you had to get there an hour and a half early just to get enough seats for your group. I usually don't do trivia, but I did it because Joff made it so much fun. The other thing that made this cruise special was the enrichment lectures with Ronald Bowers, the former DA of Los Angeles. Usually, enrichment lectures tend to put me to sleep. His were so fascinating that both my husband and I went to all of them. This was truly a treat and RCCL would be wise to book him for all of their crossings! He spoke about famous murder cases (Marilyn Monroe, O.J. Simpson, Ennis Cosby, etc.). He revealed things not known to the general public. One thing I was a bit concerned about was the weather for the crossing and the wave heights. They were having gales and I am prone to seasickness. However, the Indy handled the waves very well and it truly became a non-issue for me. Would I go on the Indy again? Definitely! One wish, though, would be for RCCL to get rid of the "filet of beef shoulder" from its menu. It appeared several times and it is something to be avoided. Also, just as on the Eastbound crossing, they ran out of the tea concentrate. Easy to remedy with tea bags but why not carry enough for a 2 week cruise? RCCl does need to change its menues. They have been the same for several years now. All in all, this was a good cruise. We just wish the Indy was not going to come back to the USA after the spring 2010 crossing.