Independence of the Seas Cruise Review by Jo and Rob: 3 night cruise on Independence of the Seas
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3 night cruise on Independence of the Seas
The parking was easy to find and we were able to drop off suitcases before parking the car. (Several people before us had to pull over as they had forgotten to put on the luggage labels but as long as you have done that in advance there is no problem) The proximity was excellent with the walk no longer than the far end of a supermarket car park. We were led straight through to check in which was immediate as we had already printed our set sail passes. From there we joined the back of the boarding queue which took about 30 minutes as we made our way up the gangway admiring the ship through the windows.
The Cabin - 6302 Deluxe Ocean view stateroom with balcony (E1)
The cabin had a double bed and not the twin configuration I had requested. I also couldn't see the bunk on the wall and the chair was obviously not a sofa chair so I rang housekeeping to check we were in the correct room. She confirmed there was a bunk, but I still couldn't see it More until I realised it was in the ceiling! Very clever design as it was completely out of the way during the day. I asked for the beds to be split and for the fridge to be emptied. I also then noticed we only had towels for two people, glasses for two people and chairs on the balcony for two people so I made another call to housekeeping. The beds were split and the fridge was emptied by the time we returned later but I had to make further requests for towels (one more phone call) and the balcony chair (two more phone calls) We then filled our fridge with the soft drinks we had brought on board ready for the balcony. We had a connecting room but we didn't hear anything apart from our neighbour coughing in the morning and I was unimpressed by the smell of smoke from his balcony, I thought smoking was forbidden on balconies.
The bathroom was well designed apart from the location of the toilet paper which my daughter could not reach from the toilet! There was a lot of storage space in the bathroom and the shower had sliding doors rather than a curtain and the temperature was easy to control. I didn't realise until the last day that there was a retractable washing line inside the shower so I improvised and dangled our costumes from the shower instead.
Windjammer buffet restaurant - deck 11
Everyone was guided towards the buffet restaurant upon boarding and it was chaos to put it mildly. It was really difficult to find somewhere to sit, long queues by every station and the layout was somewhat confusing. There was a drinks station where you could have water, lemonade, fruit drink which was welcome but everything was very stressful and noisy due to the sheer volume of people onboard. I was underwhelmed with quality and choice of the food. I can recommend the Nasi Goreng if you see it which was delicious. There was a salad bar, mini sandwiches, pizza, burgers, hotdogs, a carvery, curries, casseroles etc. I am not a fan of buffets at the best of times but in WJ the tables were not even set with cutlery which would have instantly improved the experience and reduced the amount of getting up and down every five minutes! I'm sorry to say I hated the buffet with a passion. I decided that I couldn't face the commotion at lunch after the first day so we had our lunch by the pool outside and that worked really well. I just went in to WJ, got the food and brought it out.
Romeo and Juliet main dining room - deck 3
6pm First sitting - The main dining room is on three floors (deck 3, 4 and 5) and looks magnificent with huge chandeliers and a sweeping staircase where the musical entertainment was located. Our table was a table for 6 but we never saw the other three people during our trip. There was a couple sitting alone on a table for 10 on the first night but fortunately their table mates joined them for the rest of the cruise. The children were given the main menu and ordered from that the entire cruise apart from the children's soup of the day for starter. The menu selection was about six starters, but predominantly soup with Caesar salad always an option, then there were about six main courses with Sirloin steak always an option (ordered by my son every night!) and then there were about six desserts including cheese, ice cream and sorbet which were always an option. The food was good but the choice and quality did not much up to the outstanding food we enjoyed on our previous cruise with Princess. At times we had to wait quite a while to order and be served but our assistance waiter kept us stocked up with bread so we didn't go hungry. The waiters were good with the children, cutting up their meat etc so I could enjoy my meal before it got cold which I appreciated. They also encouraged us to order more than one dish if we couldn't make up our minds and were quick to replace food when there was a problem. I had the snails on formal night which were delicious and definitely the highlight of the MDR.
Breakfast in MDR - I thought the organisation at breakfast was excellent. There was an à la carte menu with a daily special and there was also a hot and cold buffet if you preferred. This was the best of both worlds for many as they could get a quick breakfast if they needed to while still enjoying the ambience of the main dining room. The specials included crab cake with hollandaise sauce and asparagus (which was lovely but served with a cold potato rosti!) and oriental scrambled eggs on the last day. I had eggs Benedict although not on the menu on Day 2 which is always available apart from disembarkation day. Breakfast is open seating for breakfast on deck 3 only.
Lunch in MDR - we were told it was not going to be open as there were no sea days. However despite there being no mention in the compass there was a hand written sign on entering WJ on day 2 to say it would be open until 1.30pm (I didn't have enough time to get the children out of their costumes so we missed it). I mentioned that we had been told it would be shut and our breakfast waiter told us that it was a late decision as the WJ couldn't cope with the volume of people, but no one came (I could have told them that one day 1, of course people didn't go, they didn't realise)
Sports Deck - deck 13
A lot of passengers were extremely frustrated (including me) by the restricted opening hours of the rock climbing wall and flowrider. They didn't open until 3.30pm "because we didn't have a sea day" and my son desperately wanted to go climbing so we got in that queue first. The queue at 3.30pm was huge and it took an hour to get on the wall. He then went off to play table tennis while I queued for flowrider but having waited 30 minutes I had to leave the queue to pick up my daughter from Adventure Ocean and as we were 6pm dining I missed out on having a go. Both venues should have been open in the morning. It is a poor show to advertise activities on the ship and then restrict the times they are open to such an extent that you can't actually do them. The mini-golf on the other hand was open 24 hours a day so we did manage to enjoy that as a family.
Ice rink - deck 3
Fortunately despite not having any sea days we did not have the same problem with the ice rink. They kit you out with helmet and boots and you have to sign an insurance waiver like the wall and flow rider. It was open in the evening on the first and last day and in the morning on day 2. I think it was a shame it was not open in the morning on day 3 as well as we didn't want to miss the production shows so only managed to skate once.
The ice shows were on the first and last day of this 3 night cruise. The show was excellent and included a variety of solo, pairs and group skating. They included some impressive double and triple jumps particularly when you consider the small size of the ice they were skating on. The show was themed on the decades of 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s with music and costumes to match. I couldn't believe they managed to change costume so fast! Please be aware that you have to get the tickets in advance as I spoke to many people who didn't realise that the announcement on the first day was their only chance to get tickets.
Promenade - deck 5
I must admit this had been hyped up so much before we sailed I didn't really get the wow factor everyone was talking about. The shops were closed for the majority of the cruise as we had no sea days and there were no parades which was extremely disappointing as I thought that the parade was going to be one of the highlights of the cruise. The Promenade cafe was a great location for people watching over a cup of coffee. There are self serve coffee machines with mugs or take away cups and I liked the fact you could help yourself to complimentary coffee anytime. The food in the counter was disappointing however with curly sandwiches by the end of the day and an over dense brownie so I tended to go for cookies instead. At the other end of the Promenade is Sorrentos which also has self serve coffee and milk plus pizza, garlic bread and small desserts. There are lifts at either end of the Promenade with glass lifts facing the Promenade.
On day one there are stands with crew members promoting different areas of the ship. I signed the waiver for the wall and flow rider after collecting my ice show tickets and filled in some raffle tickets for the 3pm draw. The raffle was very short and sweet with only about 6 prizes, the best one being a mini-facial, another was a speciality drink of the day (unlike the 15 or so prizes on Princess which included great prizes such as a meal for two in one of the speciality restaurants)
Pools - deck 11
This is one area where RCI beat Princess hands down. The H20 zone was a real hit with the children who loved the fountains and sitting in the Jacuzzis. "Sprinkles" on deck 11 starboard side by the H2O zone is a self serve Mr Whippy icecream machine (frozen yogurt according to the sign and open from 11am to 9pm) with a choice of vanilla, chocolate or a mixture of both. There was a whirl pool but this was closed on day 2 and not reopened which was very disappointing as my two loved it.
There were two sports pools with deep pools and some live music so we enjoyed this area particularly when the whirlpool was closed. The pools were on the same deck as WJ so you could get a complementary drink and take it outside if you wanted alternatively there are several bars on deck 11 serving alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks including iced water.
There was an adult only pool and adult only seating area with padded cushions, and padded seating in the shade. In addition, there were two cantilevered Jacuzzis which stuck out each side of the ship.
Towels were available on your sea pass with a $20 fine if they weren't returned. Because of this some people tended to save loungers with books etc instead but it really wasn't an issue as there were plenty of loungers on the ship both in the sun and in the shade.
Adventure Ocean - deck 12
The children (8 and 5) were given muster station wrist bands by the Adventure Ocean staff as soon as we boarded which meant they would be taken to the correct area in an emergency if they were in club. They were in the Aquanauts room (3-5) and the Explorers room (6-8). The children are signed in and out on your sea pass and they also wore a computer chipped wrist band while in club. They were given Adventure Ocean lanyards which were really handy. Both enjoyed the club and went to two afternoon sessions and two evening sessions. Children can be dropped off and collected at any time during the sessions so they joined the pyjama party after they had they enjoyed the formal night dinner and I collected my son mid-session so he could do the climbing wall. Access to the Explorer room is through the arcade. There is also table tennis on deck 12 and a running track. Three circuits is a km and 5 circuits is a mile!
Production Shows -
I loved the two shows I saw. The welcome show was fantastic. The one on Princess was a tedious let me introduce you to...but this was music, singing, dancing and all to a great standard. I particularly liked the drummer who was putting his heart and soul into the beat. The second show was a Once upon a time show which we saw as a family (although Adventure Ocean was going there too) and it was based around fairy tales. Unfortunately I didn't want to see the hypnotist and there wasn't anything else on which was a surprise. I missed seeing a comedian or similar act.
This was quite hit and miss. We had to wait 45 minutes twice but once got it within about 15 minutes. We only used it for coffee, tea, orange juice and pastries so I can't comment on the food. Summary
We all loved the trip and the children didn't want to get off. I was glad the sun was shining so we could relax by the pool as I was surprised by the lack of organised activities available, I imagined there would be more going on. The ship was beautifully clean. There had been Norovirus on the ship the week before and they were squirting us with anti-bac gel everywhere we turned which was good to see. Despite being the largest cruise ship in Europe Indy did not feel enormous at all. We walked right around her on the last evening which you can do on deck 4, going up a few steps at the front where not only can you have a titanic moment, but it is here you will find the helipad and be able to wave to the captain. We did and he waved back!
We did a video on the trip and the link is below. I stupidly call the ship Adventure of the Seas at the beginning! What an idiot!
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