We embarked in Southampton on 23rd November 2009. Everything went smoothly from the the time we were met at Heathrow by the RCI rep. We actually embarked at about 3.30pm and walked wide-eyed around the ship. It was like a floating city, absolutely HUGE. First stop was the bar for a drink, it had been a long trip from Edinburgh. I nearly fainted at the size of the measures and pretty cheap too, no more than what you would pay in a wine bar in any big city. Then we went to find our stateroom. I was a little worried about how much space we would have, but my fears were allayed very quickly. We quickly introduced ourselves to the stateroom attendant(Marko) who was brilliant all the way through the cruise.
We were also a little worried about who we would be seated with for dining, but RCI must be psychic, because they sat us with an American couple who we had so much in common with.
Our waiters Tyrone and Ladislav were so friendly and nothing was too much trouble. I had to tell Tyrone not to pull my chair out for me, I'm quite and independent woman and although it's nice once or twice, I felt it was something I could do for myself. After assuring him it was not a slight on his skills as a waiter he deferred to my wishes. And we became the best of friends. Ladislav however was very gracious and had a wicked sense of humour. He had to have really from the ribbing he took from both my husband and his partner in crime (our tablemate).
We mainly ate in the main dining room at night, but tried Windjammer for lunch and afternoon tea quite often. There is every type of food you could wish for in Windjammer from burgers to stews and Chinese options. We did find it was difficult to find a table at breakfast and lunch in Windjammer, and found it was best for one of us to find a table, while the other got their food, and then the other go for theirs. The Cafe Promenade was THE place to go for a cappuccino and a wind down. Kim was nearly always on hand to have a quick chat. For the first few days it was cold as it would be in this part of the world in November, but there were quizzes and bingo to keep you occupied inside. Docking at ports and disembarking at them was trouble free and there was a transfer coach to take you into town centres. although be warned the do charge for this usually about $8-10 each return. Some people on our cruise got on them and then got off when they realised they had to pay for them. (rolls eyes in disgust lol).
The pool on deck was actually warm which surprised me, and I've got to say the whirlpools were my second home for nearly 2 weeks.
Evening entertainment was good. The ice shows were excellent, very professional. and the Beatles tribute band had everybody singing and dancing.
The only setback we had was disembarkation in Fort Lauderdale. It took us 4 hours to get off the ship and an extra 2 to get through US Immigration. Not any fault of Royal Caribbean's just US Immigration not having enough staff on to cope with the amount of people on board. Tut Tut.
All in all a very memorable first cruise and an experience we are definitely going to repeat. We are just booking to sail on Liberty in 2011.
As a footnote but not meant to be an after thought, we would like to thank all the staff on board Independence for making our trip such a success and a relaxing and memorable occasion.