Embarkation in Southampton was very smooth and well organised and took around one hour from parking the car to getting on board. Our cabin was ready on arrival and we had lunch in the Windjammer, where we easily found a table.
Our cabin was another pleasant surprise. A good size and a large balcony and probably the quietest cabin we've ever had on a ship, and a very comfortable bed. Adequate shower room and a proper shower screen rather than a flapping curtain. Shampoo and soap available but no other products, and I see what a previous reviewer means about the quality of the toilet paper! There is a switch on the left handside of the dressing table mirror you can turn on to listen to ship's announcements in the cabin (though ours didn't actually work).
The weather was great while alongside in Southampton, with a sailaway party after muster stations. This was the only time it was warm enough to sit outside so we were surprised that there were not more activities More
laid on, though there were plenty of quizzes. Only went to one evening show which was good, as was the skating show, 'Strings'. There were four showings during the four night cruise and didn't have any problems getting tickets, though not for the time we'd have preferred. It did mean getting up early one morning but you could wait outside the show to see if there were no-shows for seats available at the last minute.
Cobh was a lovely port, with lively bars to visit while the ship was in overnight. The railway station is on the dock and extra trains were laid on so these went to Cork every 30 mins. Fare 5.55 Euros pp and approx 20 mins journey. Unfortunately the weather in Cork was diabolical so we only did the HoHo bus trip and visited the gaol which is well worth seeing.
We were on early seating, which means reaching the table between 6-6.45pm which is fine if you are on a table for two or travelling with friends so you arrive together but must be odd if people are all turning up at different times. Personally I'd prefer 6.30 and 8.30pm set sittings as My Time Dining is also available. Didn't eat in Chops or Portofino's, but Johnny Rockets was good and not bad value for $4.95 (plus drinks) though not sure I'd bother if I was sailing in warm climes. The dining room food was basically better than I was expecting from another relatively recent RCI cruise. Wine package worked well and reasonable value. The waiters were good, but I never saw the cabin steward, who was a bit slap-dash. Food in Windjammer was fine and never had a problem finding somewhere to sit. Handwash prevalent everywhere on board to keep germs at bay.
I was quite nervous about travelling on such a large ship but once onboard it felt fine and was surprisingly easy to find my way around. Not a big fan of the Royal Promenade, which could get very crowded, though the parades were popular (two on this cruise). I've no idea who is responsible for the shops on board cruise ships but they all seem to be full of stuff no one much wants to buy, which seems a wasted opportunity with captive customers (though perhaps the concessions would disagree). Really enjoyed Kory Simon in the Schooner bar, which got very busy. Few of the bars/lounges are very big, which makes for a more intimate atmosphere but did mean they could get crowded, particularly on a cruise when it was not warm enough to sit on deck.
The gym was big and well equipped; never tried the running track thanks to the wind, but there were people on the flowrider.
Being a short cruise there were plenty of Stag/Hen/birthday groups on board but none were loud or obnoxious. Although there was only one formal night, on the whole everyone, particularly women, really went to a lot of trouble to dress up each night, regardless of the casual dress code.
Personally the ship exceeded my expectations and I'd definitely cruise on her again. Less
Independence of the Seas Cruises to the British Isles & Western Europe