My Husband & I sailed 2 years ago with my younger daughter with RCI on Voyager & have done nothing but rave about our full experience from the moment we boarded the ship til we left to board Independence of the Seas. We looked forward to the larger ship, the 11 nights instead of the 7 nights and the enjoyment & luxury of Royal Caribbean.
We travelled this time with 2 daughters, 1 age 20 & the other of 9.
Where do we start..
The restaurant staff were the best, the experience from voyager was a little disappointing, mainly due to the waiter but these guys (kharan & alex) made up for it for sure.
The flights incl with our price (70 return each) was excellent and good flight times with fly-be.
The spa staff were excellent, although i wouldnt pay full price & booking prior to travelling as the deals on ship were fab.. pick & mix 3 or 6 items for 42/66.. staff were excellent, although i let the aftersales of what they used & recommended go over my head! 15% grat is automatically added ontop of cost, but i felt this was well deserved.
Room service we had one evening, due to the time of the cancelled & rescheduled ice show. Room service was lovely, much better than had thought would be. all hot food was warm, fresh & delicious, although a little more choice wouldnt have went wrong, but still great.
Hand sanitizer is everywhere, which initially was a pain but when you see others lifting & returning food, it was welcomed!
If I can dig deep & think of any other postives I will add as i go on.
After having 2 weddings, engagements, big birthdays & a housemove this summer, we decided to have our summer holiday later in the year. With advice & knowledge from our local travel agents we were excited to book our 11 night cruise on the 2nd biggest cruise ship in the world, with 4 days at sea (wow, on this vast ship) and even talked our 20 year old to come & join us, we assured her she wouldnt be disappointed!!
we arrived at southampton airport with no doubt the rest of the flight heading to our ship, (approx 200 ppl) to have one irate lady telling ppl to wait here if waiting on west bus... westbus??? other passengers were of the same opinion as us, that we guessed we just stood behind the others looked bewildered of her instructions. No notice that this lady was of RCI. we boarded the westbus which duly took us to the ship (lucky). It all looked very calm & relaxed until we got in the terminal building, where thousands of ppl were queueing to get thru customs/checkin. 2 hours later we were about to board the ship, against the all aboard 90 min check in departure rule.
Muster drill carried out and we were off 4.30pm prompt.
We left top deck (due to the wind) and went to our cabin to unpack. The cabins were small but well set out, plenty of coathangers & generally clean.
Dinner was a 6pm sitting & had emailed RCI before travelling for a window seat for dinner which was lovely.
After dinner we went to the theatre for the 9pm showing at approx 8.30 to already have a full house. Reserving seats was clearly not allowed, but clearly ignored. We eventually had to queue to be able to sit in 'gold card' members seats after they had decided not to attend. Drinks were ordered & 4 drinks were passed along the full row along with our seapass card & receipt to sign & pass back along. Other guests were clearly not amused & if known this was going to happen we wouldnt have ordered drinks. At this point, I would like to point out the issue wasnt passing the drinks, it was passing the drinks passed approx 15 others, which were elderly, infirm & wheelchair bound!
We were guaranteed the Independence would no different than voyager other than the size.
Indy is 100ft longer thus more cabins. Another few shops, ie sorrentos which is just sliced pizza which on voyager was also served in cafe promenade. The clean shave shop, which was expensive for a regular razor shave, my hubby avoided at all costs on the choppy seas. A Swarovski shop which was almost always empty & the jumble sale tables which were brought out to the promenade on sea days to 'get rid' of the the when its gone its gone items.
Duty & tax free shops are there, which even although travelling in european waters the ship fails to tell you that its usa sales & permits you to purchase 200 cigs & 1 lt of spirit each. I guess they dont want to tell you this as there sales may drop, but the customs as you get off the ship are there in force and clearly aware that passengers will come off with more than allowed & then confiscated. TAKE NOTE!!
Our restauarnt staff were 1st class, as in the windjammer. The cafe promenade staff and other 'free food' areas were more on the rude side, clearly not needing to be nice for gratuties & this was very evident. The promenade housed the permenant residents of guests which caused an issue when looking for a seat to sit & drink tea/coffee.
The theatre shows were just ok, especially there own production team. Ive heard better but they do put their heart into it. The headliner acts were much better, namely mike doyle, the hynotist (- as seen on tv - in poland), & the comedy magician. The back beat beatles i feel were of the same opinion as us of the crowd.
The ports were poor in our eyes, after doing more touristy places in our previous cruises. What disappointed us more was to get from the ship/port to the place you are docking at there is a shuttle bus (as there was on voyager) but was at a cost. Although only $10 , its $40 per trip for our family on the few days we docked. this cost should be included in the cruise surely, again we were not alone with this unexpected cost. so if you dont pay the shuttle, you have an hour treck ( as we found out). Maderia was the only one which was easy walking but shops closed on a sunday, there was little to do, or the day we docked 12 & sailing again at 6 with shops closed 1-5, seems a waste of time getting off, and not told of this before the shuttle costs were taken & arrived at the closed town!!!
In 2 years i have found the RCI have changed from the Nation of why not, to the ship of give us your money! we were soooo disappointed.
My 9 year old daughter used the voyagers kids club & loved every moment!!
Now, this was our biggest gripe... the age group!!
Now my husband & i are 40 & 46, def not old in our eyes. On speaking to staff, they also found it funny (we weren't laughing) that the age groups of people of travelling. In summer months this ship would have 1400 children, this trip had 142! 4000 on board, of which easily 3000 were 75+. Even a lovely lady of 74 was having a moan of the volume of elderly, not just elderly, but elderly that occupied the lifts, cafe promenade & corridors with wheelchairs & mobility scooter's. I am a very fair person, & totally understand that everyone is entitled to a holiday to where & when suits them, however, when my 9 year old is getting run over with a mobility scooter because the lady didn't know how to operate it, and with no apology, I'm not a happy camper. The same evening, another scooter was put into reverse instead of forward which subsequently ran over my left foot. Along from our cabin, we had 6 wheelchairs/scooters parked in the corridor every evening, which was a def hazard should we have had to evacuate. The lifts were simply a no go area as were permanently occupied with wheelchairs etc, to the extreme, mothers with pushchairs were using the stairs. Appar October onwards is occupied by this age group and feel that the travel agent should have advised us the same as they would have advised oaps of a family or young holiday venue. The volume of wheelchairs on the ship would have been an issue for the users should the ship have to evacuate, although with witnessing a few of them using the pool, the golf, i'm sure they would make sure they were first out their chairs to be on the life boats. Chairs were left outside the restaurants & theatre, if chairs were needed, why not use them. everyone's needs are different, i know that, but it was a gripe throughout the ship and 4 days at seas putting up with this, will in my eyes, never seen again as i will always from now on, book to go abroad to from Barcelona etc to avoid this. I'm fed up talking about this.
Our room attendant clearly had a few cabins to service, his sweat dripping from his brow made this evident. He moaned (cute coming from me lol)about the sea, his work load, if people were in the rooms, if people were out the rooms. Towel animals were every 2nd night for us, but every night for others,the hoover was there, but never used, the tv was on one night i returned to my cabin as he was on the sofa watching the football ;-0 . Although were out the room for 9am some mornings, we returned early afternoon for it still to be serviced.
Gratuities we decided to pay cash at the end of trip. 11 nights in our eyes was really 2 days getting to port & 2 days returning, therefor a 7 day holidays. Gratuities for 4 passengers is alot and should be added to the initial cost as although most did warrant the tips, it should be at the passengers discretion and not what RCI dictate.
In all, we enjoyed our holiday, as we decided we would. The crowd should have been highlighted as i'm sure this october holiday was not a one off. Although i am proud to be British, I really didn't expect the ship to be full of British! Looking back, why i thought that, i don't know. I enjoy the culture of Spanish, french etc, which we only heard a few Americans! People in reviews have previously said butlins at sea and sadly i would agree! Bingo every morning, noon & night, quizzes, craft classes, to buy items from it, diet advice, with items to buy after it...money money money!! Disappointed in RCI, although not put off by cruising but will def sail with others before RCI again.