This was our 16th cruise on Royal Caribbean and our 2nd time on Independence. Sadly, it was rather a disappointment overall; for me to give a cruise a 3 star rating is a first. In fairness, not everything was disappointing about this ... Read More
This was our 16th cruise on Royal Caribbean and our 2nd time on Independence. Sadly, it was rather a disappointment overall; for me to give a cruise a 3 star rating is a first. In fairness, not everything was disappointing about this cruise and not everything about the vacation was a problem with Royal Caribbean. I'll try and delineate in my full review below.
Pre Cruise Stay
We drove to Ft. Lauderdale the day prior to our cruise and stayed at The Quality Inn and Suites on Stirling Rd, roughly 15 to 20 minutes from Port Everglades. NEVER AGAIN. Our room in this "hotel" were dingy and dirty. The price for the room plus five nights parking was close to $200. It included a free shuttle to/from the port, however, there was so much confusion at the time we were supposed to leave regarding who was going where in the shuttle that we decided to take an Uber instead (about $20 plus tip; we shared the Uber with another couple also not happy with the shuttle situation). Our car was fine when we returned, so, that's a good thing!
Good marks for this. We arrived at the port around 10:30 and were through security, check-in, and sitting in the Diamond embarkation area by 10:50 or so. They boarded not too long after, and we were on the ship a bit after 11.
Indy has received a huge overhaul since the last time we were on her (December 2015) with the vast majority of the changes being to "kidify" her (water slide, bungee jumping thing, other stuff) plus add venues that younger adults would find more interesting (Play Makers Sports Bar/Arcade (this in essence cut the casino back by a third)). I'm sure there were other differences as well, but these were the most obvious. Not upgraded were the staterooms; still the old light green/pink drapes, carpets, etc. in them. The ship itself seemed in good shape; very clean, no obvious signs of wear and tear, carpet stains, etc.
I'm also impressed by the looks of the main dining room on Freedom Class ships. Oh, and they added hand wash stations at the entrance to the Windjammer.
We pre ordered the Ultimate Dining Package so had all four meals in one of the specialty restaurants (which would be Giovanni's Table or Chops Grille since the package wasn't good for Izumi). There were significant issues with making RSVPs. Our first RSVP was made for us at 6:30 embarkation night at Gio's, which was ok; however, we prefer eating at 7:30. Absolutely none of these time slots available at either restaurant when we checked with the Diamond Concierge that first evening. So, we ended up eating very late the 2nd night (8:30 RSVP (more on that evening later) and 6:30 the 3rd and 4th nights. It seems to me they oversell these packages and it's very hard to get the time slot you want.
I wouldn't do this again. Also, the food was just, in general, "meh"; some stand-outs here and there, but not what you'd expect for paying extra. People seem to complain about the food in the main dining room (which I can't really comment on this cruise since we only ate breakfast in there one morning and it was fine), however, you'd really expect the food in restaurants you have to pay extra for would be superior. It wasn't. The wine list was also pathetic. Only a few wine by the glass selections available, and fewer of these within the limit of the drink package (which we had).
For the first time ever, we did not step foot into the Windjammer (other than to visit the bar), nor did we order room service.
The food available in the Diamond Lounge was quite good, especially what they laid out for lunch/afternoon. We found ourselves in there more often than not eating several small wraps, sandwiches, fruit, etc.
As mentioned, we had the drink package having secured a pretty good deal on it during the Black Friday sales. Most of the bars/bartenders were very accommodating and helpful as we attempted to navigate through the issue of why there was a $12 per drink limit, yet, many of the menus listed drinks at $13 each. Only one bar, The Champagne Bar, were sticklers for this (telling us the only glass of champagne we could get there would cost us $8 over the drink package price; very confusing since Chandon Champagne was widely available every other place and included). Come to think of it, we had an issue at Indy's Champagne Bar the last time we were on this ship! Service in the pub, Boleros, Schooner Bar, Viking Crown (Olive or Twist), the bar in Windjammer, and the Diamond Lounge was excellent. As an aside, we paid $52 per person per day for the drink package. On board it was $70!!!!!
In general, ok. A few folks were just so friendly and helpful. Most were ok; a few were not very helpful at all. This was not a cruise where I'd say "The crew made this cruise", however.
We saw two shows; the ventriloquist and Royal's Love and Marriage. The former was excellent; I laughed so hard I cried. The latter was ok. Same questions, so, I am thinking people come prepared to answer them "correctly", which isn't very interesting. The Scottish guitar player/singer in the pub was good. As an aside, there were a lot of kids at shows that were not really kid appropriate. And, speaking of which.
Kids! Kids! More kids! I've never seen so many kids on a cruise before EVER. Why were they not in school? LOL. Kids, teens, young adults (20s) overran the pool areas so we didn't even bother trying to hand out in our usual spot The Solarium. Kids running around the hallways, up and down the stairs, in and out of the elevators. Even kids in the Diamond Lounge during cocktail hour (thankfully they were well behaved). So, yeah. I've nothing against kids but this was a bit much. Which leads me to believe Royal Caribbean is really upping the game on the kid/family market, which means we'll probably jump ship to Celebrity. There were your usual party animals on this cruise, not surprising as it was over a long weekend. Booze Cruisers. Thankfully, though, no real issues with PAX except one evening in Gio's when there was a huge snafu with RSVPs. People with RSVPs were waiting long past their time slot. Some were getting very irate and extremely rude, both to employees and other PAXs waiting in line. I know it's not unusual to run into rude people here and there on a cruise, but this situation was boarding on uncomfortable.
Junior Suite 9338 starboard in the middle of the hump. Very close to Centrum (aft) elevators. Oversized (long) balcony (large enough for two chairs, a small round table, and two loungers). Quiet stateroom with tons of space, a walk-in closet, lots of drawers, and a good-sized bathroom with a shower/tub. As previously mentioned, the furnishings were a bit dated. Our stateroom attendant, Ultra, was sweet and efficient (although we hardly saw her; not that we needed to; she responded to our few requests promptly).
One of the best experiences we've had. Hailey was the concierge and she was very helpful. Because it is up on Deck 14 close to The Viking Crown, the views are quite nice. We stayed in there frequently when we just wanted to sit, read, or chat.
Another "meh"; I don't think folks were following instructions. Heck, there were no instructions where we were told to go and wait for our number to be called. We saw some people we knew go by while we were waiting for our number to be called; there number was our number so we just jumped in with them. A very long line at the terminal to get through security. Thankfully, it moved quickly. A bit of a zoo getting our Uber back to the hotel.
Maybe we're just getting old, but, for the first time, I didn't feel quite at home on this cruise.
Everything seemed to be catering to kids, families, and first time cruisers. Even the magnet that you put on your stateroom door (magnet itself a vast improvement over the thing you put on the door handle) was geared at younger people. "Out catching more thrills. Please make up my room". PLEASE! The fact that we hung out in the Diamond Lounge (and other very quiet places) as opposed to the pool area or some of our favorite bars told me that we felt we needed to "hide" from all the craziness. Thankfully we found a few nice places, including our own balcony, so we did have some positive moments. Read Less