We knew she was big. Nothing could have prepared us for the size of what was, at the time, the biggest cruise ship in the world. As we drove up to Southampton port we were just blown away with the size of this stunning ship in front of us. Such a massive ship would bring to mind long queues to get onboard but this was not the case. In no time at all I'd moved my dear old lady friend, in her wheelchair, through the formalities and we were standing in the foyer of the most fabulous, brand-new, foyer of Independence of the Seas. To say we were gobsmacked would be an understatement. This was my second cruise and the first for my friend. We were stopped in our tracks at the opulence, the colour and sparkle of it all. Our luggage came to the delightful cabin quite quickly and we were out exploring in no time, only interupted by the practice 'safety drills' which was well organised and not too intrusive of our rather excited early hours on the ship. What an experience. We were just so elated to be on this floating hotel where we savoured divine meals in the copious restaurants; Wind Jammer was open any time of day or night and always full with people choosing from hundreds of choices in huge, delightful smorgasboard of hot and cold collations. Our evening more formal dining was at a table for six, so we met two other friendly couples as we sat beside a window and had the most efficient serving staff.
Every day we had something different to do and with eleven nights and twelve days ahead of us we set about making sure we got the best out of all on offer for this inaugural cruise to the Canary Islands. We appreciated the evening newsletter which appeared on our beds each night after our house-attendant had turned down our beds and made us a surprise towel sculpture. It gave us time to plan for the next day and not to miss the best of the huge amount of activities, lectures, trips for the next day. Our shore excursions were easy to book, tickets arrived on time and we saw lots of places in Madiera, Teneriffe, Lanzarote, Lisbon and Vigo. We didn't go rock-climbing, wave-riding, golfing or tennis but we did attend food sculpture, table-serviette folding and spent indulgent time in the beauty spas. Heavenly. My 80's friend had always wanted to cruise but could never find anyone to go with her. She was in a wheelchair but I have to say access was excellent. As it was early days for the ship we told an official that the lift doors tried to close too quickly for wheelchair access. This was attended to and like the incident with our flat tyre, it was fixed and we got a report to say so. My only quibble is with the gratuity/tipping edict system. I don't like being told what to give, I rather like deciding the amount and to whom I give it. To overcome this - as with the other two couples at our table - we put a sum of British pounds into an envelope and asked the head waiter to share it around the staff.
Independence of the Seas was on its first voyage to the Canary Islands, the staff were so well presented, with keen and energetic enthusiasm for their work. I hope they continue to assist and share their cruise as well as they did on this first trip. Certainly the ports we visited gave us the most amazing welcomes as it had not been there before thousands were keen to welcome it along the shore and specialty groups beside the ship when we walked down onto the port. We were given souviners and music and dancing abounded. Super memory. So, if you like the idea of cruising in the most wonderfully presented cruise ship, like waking up in a new port each morning, appreciate divine cuisine and relaxing outdoors or in - choose a Royal Caribbean cruise. My mind slips back to the most fantastic holiday on Independence of the Seas, my life was enhanced by sharing this most wonderful cruising experience with my very special friend. We thought everything about it was value for money, food, activities, interesting destinations, shopping, casual cafe time (what a picture the tiny cakes and savouries!!) with plenty of options everyday. The ice show was the best show I have ever seen, on land or sea. I won the main prize on day one's welcome aboard party which got it all off to a great start. Go well - Independent of the Seas. Please may I join you again sometime? Sure thing!