Our cruise was "Independence of the Seas" to Le Havre, France - a short 3 night trip that was about to confirm just what we thought.... after Brilliance of the Seas out of Dubai in March 2010, we had become hooked on RCCL and all that it had to offer and we would stop at nothing to make sure each holiday we took this year was with the RCCL brand.
We sailed from Southampton on Wednesday 2nd June having flown down from Scotland that morning.
We arrived at Southampton airport and a quick visit to the taxi desk and £20.50 we were at the quayside! Check-in was simple, hassle free and those lovely ladies greeting you at the terminal were wonderful and so cheerful! Hurray to them for making you feel like you were going on a fantastic voyage. We had completed the paperwork on-line - great system.
There were a lot of desks open to cope with the 3,600+ guests waiting to get on-board and after being given a ticket with a boarding group on it, we visited the bar for a quick drink to await the start of boarding. We were called around 11.50 am and after a short wait we were on-board and sitting with a drink in our hands by around 12.30 pm in the Dog and Badger pub - what a great idea - a pub on a ship and we spent many a happy hour in there on this somewhat short taster cruise!
It may have been intended as a taster cruise but after only a short time on board it had whet our appetite for more of this fantastic ship. The cabins were available from 2.00 pm and when we went to check them out, our cases were waiting for us as well - fantastic service from those hard working men on the quayside.
A quick safety drill (minus those lovely orange vests which was such a shame as I had co-ordinated my clothing that day for this event) at 4.00 pm and then we were sailing at 4.45pm to Le Havre. We had a rather speedy wander around the boat and agreed that after being on Brilliance in Dubai in March this year, this ship was something else! The sail away was fabulous and with the glorious weather, it made the trip so much more special as just about everyone was up there on the top deck partying and waving to those left behind on the quayside.
Back inside there was a lot to offer on board and great for us as it meant that there were various bar options to choose from to spend our time in after dinner along with our 60+ (but young at heart) relatives who had joined us at rather late notice after we told them about our short excursion to France!
We had a reservation for Chops on the Wednesday night and as expected, it was great. The food in here really is fantastic (steak, steak, steak - something I never eat at home but could never tire of eating on RCCL) and the service was great. We left stuffed (oh yes were really were) and went to meet the relatives who had spent the night in the MDR with some new friends! The evening was finished off on deck 14 in Olive or Twist - soon to be our nightly regular haunt!
Thursday breakfast was in Windjammer and was a bit chaotic to say the least. Although we were in the port, there were 1,000's looking to be fed when we turned up and tables really were at a premium - there's always a challenge in these places to get a seat but we're not shy about sitting next to others and meeting new people, after all, isn't that what cruising is all about?
We met a couple from Wales and had a chat to them whilst we had dipped our soldiers in our lovely fried eggs (and to order - how spoiled were we)! Really it's the only way to eat if you want to feed yourself - double up with those that you are sailing with and shut up and eat!
We went on the ships bus to Le Havre - $5 each way and had a great time wandering around this lovely yet what seemed unspoilt little town. Nice shops (remember C & A and Etam) and some great bars and we even managed to find a local shop selling yummy nougat to bring back for our dog sitters!
We went up the little cable car railway and had a wander around and came back down - all for 40 cents each way! Bargain! The views at the top were stunning and there was a delicious cake and bread shop at the top - strawberry tarts x 4 please!! Yum Yum!
We caught the bus back to the ship and spent the rest of the day enjoying the hospitality of the ship - Oh "sprinkles", we do miss you! Thursday was formal night so the posh frock and DJ were brought out for the numerous photos and we sat stiff upright whilst trying not to crease our posh outfits and eat dinner with our newly acquainted guests that we had met at the table that night! Thursday night ended in the same bar as Wednesday after just about calling out the Captain for a missing Aunt!
I think that Adults should have tracking systems on them if they can't go from deck 6 - 14 without getting lost! Would have certainly helped us on our cruise!
Friday was a different day altogether! We had booked the Bayeux tapestry and DD Landings trip with RCCL and it was FANTASTIC! So glad that we had chosen to book this and our guide Michelle and Bruno the driver were just perfect. With glorious weather and the anniversary of the DD landings a day away, we couldn't have timed this better! Our stops were spot on, we seen what we came to see and nothing disappointed us at all on any stops along the way! We felt that we had both learned a lot from this trip and what we will remember most about this trip was an 89 year old soldier at the war grave in Bayeux who had returned to visit his friends who he lost in 1944 - he then then proceeded to sing the Welsh anthem and saluted his friends of old. Very humbling and left us wondering why it had all had to happen in the first place all these years ago.
Bayeux is a great little place and with more than 1.5 hours to wander, we really were spoiled for choice as to what to do. Eat in a local restaurant or get on the little train that went around the town and see the sights! We did the train and managed to grab a baguette on the way back to the bus!
We returned to the ship around 4.15 pm and a visit to Sorrentos followed for a quick bite of pizza and a "cold one" to refresh us! A very fantastic day out and highly recommended to even those that aren't history minded (yup you've guessed it, that was me until I went on this trip)!
Friday evening was a special birthday in Portofino for my aunt and they didn't disapppoint. The food was perfect, our waiter Szilamer and his assistant Ana made the night really special and we all left very happy after enjoying what this restaurant has to offer. I had ordered the birthday cake for my aunt which was very huge and the staff duly sang Happy Birthday to her! She was very touched by this as she'd never had this happen to her before! I think if she could have smuggled Szilamer in her bag and brought him home to Fife, she would have! Now let me ask you, can you guess where we ended the night? Yes, on deck 14 and not a missing Aunt tonight as we made sure that she was tied to us with some cable ties just in case!
Saturday came around all too quickly and we decided to disembark ourselves as we had hired a car for the day to take ourselves to Portsmouth before returning to Scotland.
Breakfast was in the Windjammer and again, the food on offer was plentiful and there was no hassle in finding a table. We wandered off ourselves around 8.00 am and after a taxi fare of £16.50 back to the airport, we picked up our hired car and headed off to Gunwharf Quays for the day. We really had a great 3 days on this ship and our aunt and uncle who were Princess cruisers before are now RC customers of the future after realising that there are other great ships out there! I'm researching the Canaries for 2011 for them as they want to spend more time on Independence.
Us? Well we are going back on Independence on the 28th August 2010 to do the Cork trip then it's Celebrity Eclipse booked for 27th November 2010 from Miami heading for the sun, sea and sand of the Caribbean - and yes, I'm going to celebrate a birthday and what better way to do it than cruising and enjoying myself with my husband!