This was our third cruise on the Independence. Despite emails from RC about roadworks around Southampton we had no trouble and even though our sea passes were momentarily lost, we were on the ship enjoying lunch within an hour of arrival. We stayed in a suite as it was a ' special' birthday and the room was fantastic. Loads of storage, daily treats left for us and a wonderful stateroom attendant. As were in a suite we had access to various other things - concerige club with complimentary pre dinner drinks and canapés, no need to queue for ice skating tickets, reserved seats in the theatre and sun loungers for suite guests only, use of chops grill at breakfast and during lunch.These perks absolutely made it for us and I fear it may be quite a different review if we hadn't had them. If we did venture into the windjammer it was rather like a scrum and on one occasion the crowd was so large around the puddings I gave up! ( not something I do lightly!). Yes , it was half term, so yes, there were lots of children. It's possibly short sighted of folk to expect otherwise, especially with the new guidance on taking children on holiday during term time.
I thoroughly enjoyed the ports. We booked an excursion to Hon Fleur, which was wonderful, then took a land train guided tour around Le Harve, which cost 10 euros from the ship. We explored Bilbao and Gijon by our selves and found excellent restaurants and , of course, visited the Guggenheim. Weather was rubbish, but when you're Welsh you're kind of used to rain and it certainly didn't stop us doing anything.
One big negative from our last cruise was that there seemed to be many more smoking areas, especially in the casino, which is a thoroughfare. You could smell the smoke from the casino on the promenade, which wasn't pleasant in the cafe there.
On balance, we had a wonderful time and would recommend spending the extra on a suite, you get the money back by not buying drinks in the evening. Be a shame to see this ship go as she has made some great family memories.