Independence of the Seas Cruise Review by krusinwithkids
- Sail Date: December 2017
- Destination: Western Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Owner's Suite - 1 Bedroom
EMBARKATION - Starting at Fort Lauderdale, we had cold weather during embarkation...highs in the low 60's. At the port, we had a smooth experience except for our interaction with the bag porter (who is NOT a RCCL employee). After spending a few days at the hotel in Fort Lauderdale and taking cabs around town, we had nearly run out of small bills for tipping and tried to give the porter a dollar for helping with our bags. He was clearly offended at the low tip and was quite rude about it. He shoved it back at us and refused it. The rest of embarkation went smoothly, with no issues at all. Everyone inside the terminal was very friendly and the process went quickly. We were not surprised however that evening, when some of our bags failed to be delivered to our stateroom with the other bags. Our stateroom attendant was eventually able to find the missing bags in an unclaimed baggage area later that night. The tags had been removed. We assume the porter removed them as they had been secured fairly well, but anyway, we were happy to get our bags on the first evening.
CABIN - Our room was spectacular! We had a suite and it did not disappoint. We used the heavy curtain to separate our bed from the sofa the kids slept on to give everyone their own space and it worked really well. The room was quiet, despite being near the elevators and below the pool deck. The bathroom had Grohe fixtures and was very nice and sparkling clean and well laid out. Our stateroom attendant Mikhail Tibu, was top notch and greeted us every day and gave us his bell station phone number in case we needed anything. The room was very clean everyday. As a suite guest, we also had a concierge assigned to us - Jackie Yabut. She was also very friendly, and greeted us every day and left voicemails in the morning giving a briefing of what was going on that day. There were a couple of things on-line in the cabin description that were different in-person. First, the refrigerator in the room is not cold at all - it is barely cooler than the room temperature, maybe 50-60 degrees. If anyone is wondering if you can chill a bottle of wine in there, you can't. You can't keep milk cold for kids or refrigerate medicine. And if you happen to be traveling with an infant, you definitely can't keep breastmilk cold. The stateroom attendant brings ice everyday though, so it wasn't an issue for us. Also, on-line I read that we would have a DVD player so I brought several DVDs for the kids. I think that the DVD players were recently removed because the player was gone but we could still see the Velcro where it was attached. Instead of DVDs, the suite comes with free in-room movie purchases. Our kids watched 2 movies, normally $12 each, for no fee, so that was nice.
DINING - We were traveling with our children, ages 3 and 7. One of the main reasons we booked a suite is because I was worried about "germs" on the ship because unfortunately my 3 year old is a thumbsucker and in general a curious child who likes to push buttons and turn knobs, etc to see what they do :O I was really dreading bringing a toddler into a buffet area, touching everything, sucking his thumb, etc. So, with the suite, we were able to avoid the buffet area pretty much completely. We dined at our assigned table in the King Lear Main Dining Room as well as had room service delivered to the room (without the typical $8 fee). We were able to eat breakfast everyday on the balcony. This prevented our kids from being in the buffet and restaurant areas too much, which was important to me. A few times I did venture out to get food and bring it back to the room - they didn't seem to mind this. The Main Dining Room food was pretty good. I usually ordered whatever the waiter recommended and that was a good strategy for me. There were always plenty of kid friendly choices as well - hamburgers and hot dogs at every venue. We tried Chops Grill once. I really liked it and thought it was worth the extra fee, but my husband thought the Main Dining Room was just as good. We also went to Johnny Rocket's once. We all liked that - the onion rings were amazing! We also tried Sorrento's pizza. It was okay as a late night snack, but I can see why other reviewers say the pizza is mushy or that the cheese is a little strange. It probably tastes better after a couple of beers. Room Service staff seemed a little overwhelmed at times. Every time we ordered something, they seemed to forget part of the order - like a bag of chips or silverware. It was not an issue, but something to be aware of.
ENTERTAINMENT - We signed the kids up for Adventure Ocean and they both really loved their Aquanauts and Explorer programs. The staff are true professionals. I was worried the kids wouldn't like it, but it was the opposite - they didn't want to leave. They did art projects and played games and had lots of fun. The kids both attended for the first 3 nights. The kids also really enjoyed the H2O zone with the water sprayers and the lazy river. We also went to the ice show, Strings, which was wonderful with really top quality performers. We were really impressed with the beautiful Studio B theater. You do need to show up early for this show. We tried the first day to show up as it was beginning and got turned away because it was full. We also played mini-golf at Independence Dunes and played shuffleboard. On-line I had read that the ship offered in-room babysitters and tried to arrange one one evening so my husband and I could go to a late night show, but they don't actually offer this service. They said they are in the process of getting people certified to be in-room babysitters and that "corporate" has changed the requirements. We were disappointed at first, but the kids enjoyed the Kids Club so much in the evenings that it wasn't really a big deal. Our 7 year old stayed at kids club until 11pm one night and it only cost us $3.50, so it worked out well.
SERVICE - Top Notch. No complaints at all. The staff all tried so hard to provide excellent service. A few people seemed overwhelmed at times, but never rude or disappointing. I guess this is where the whole issue of the Norovirus Outbreak can be covered. On our ship about 332 passengers reported stomach virus symptoms, starting on Day 3. I had been looking on-line at different discussions and articles and I think for the folks who had sick cabin-mates or who saw someone in a public area getting sick felt like the whole ship was sick, but we never actually saw a sick person. 332 works out to be about 5% of the ship. Even if you double that number since many people apparently didn't report their symptoms, it's 10%, which certainly works out to be over 600 people. Surprisingly, this didn't totally ruin the experience for us. I asked several crew members about it and heard that their ongoing investigation revealed that 3 passengers boarded the ship infected in Fort Lauderdale and from there, spread it to others. Very unfortunate. Granted, if we were part of that 5-10% that got sick, then this whole review would be different I'm sure. Starting on Day 3 we got inundated with announcements that increased sanitization measures were being put in place - washy washy stations and crew members distributing hand sanitizer everywhere, letters to the room, PA system reminders every couple of hours to wash your hands. All of the staff were focused on sanitizing and keeping the ship clean and keeping people's hands clean. We did everything we could reasonably do to prevent getting sick (washing hands a lot with soap and water, lots of hand sanitizer, putting the 3 year old in the stroller when we left the room so he couldn't touch rails/buttons, avoiding the buffet, using Clorox wipes to wipe down chair arms and seats when we sat down, etc.) and fortunately were lucky and we didn't get sick. We weren't able to take the kids to Adventure Ocean and asked for our Arcade Tokens to be credited back to our account since we didn't want the kids touching the arcade games, but other than that, we were able to enjoy the cruise. We still dined in the Main Dining Room, had room service, took the kids to the pool, went to a well-attended ice show, got cupcakes, went to the gift shops, and enjoyed walking around the exterior walking paths and jogging paths.
PORTS - We went to Labadee and Falmouth. I would go back to both ports again. I was impressed by how big the Labadee "complex" is and also with the Haitian artists at Artist's Village. Unfortunately, it rained the whole day we were in Labadee, so we were drenched and that certainly diminished the experience, but it was still nice. I think on a sunny day, it would be really spectacular. I did bring water shoes for the kids and I as I had read about the rocky beach - there is a lot of coral there. We went to John's Hall Plantation in Falmouth and the Mt. Olive Basic School. Both were great.
OVERALL - We all enjoyed the cruise and would go again, and would like to stay in a suite again to enjoy those extra benefits. The ship is beautiful already and with the upcoming refurbishment in April 2018, hopefully it will be even nicer. The service was excellent.
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