Wow - i don't know where to start. Traveled April 20, 2019 - April 25, 2019 from FLL. Porting at Labadee and Falmouth.
BOARDING A+ amazing, i just can't express how different this was from our two Carnival cruises in 2018. No waiting in a "holding room" for hours on end to get on or off the ship. Attendants are outside waiting to take your luggage. Once luggage dropped and tagged, walk in and go through security, once through security check-in and then make your way to the ship. 10 minutes from the time we stepped out of the cab to the time we stepped onto the cruise ship - WOW
SHIP A+ so many things to do on the ship; rock climbing, flow rider, arcade, laser tag, escape room, observatory, Grease Musical, Ice Skating show, sports bar, piano bar, night club, karaoke. We didn't have time to do everything we wanted to do on the ship. Advise, book escape room as soon as you get on the ship. The promenade was absolutely stunning. I also like the night club was on deck 14, away from the masses - you won't "stumble" on the night club - you have to be intentional about getting there. If I were traveling with my kids, I'd absolutely love this.
CABIN A+ stayed in 7568 with Ocean View Balcony. The cabin was clean, bathroom was clean, our cabin attendant Martin was amazing. We'd take a few showers per day, each time come back with fresh towels. Unfortunately, we weren't port side, but we still had amazing views. The balcony felt bigger than our standard balcony on Carnival (Liberty), also felt more private, although I know folks were next door on either side, it didn't standout.
FOOD A+ RCC takes hand washing very seriously and have gone to extreme pretty funny and creatively cool lengths to make sure the guest know washing your hands is VERY important - washy washy - this stood out as exceptional. I am vegetarian and there were plenty of options available. Everything I tasted was delicious. Had breakfast one morning at main dining hall but preferred buffet due to the # of options. Get to buffet for breakfast before 9am., after 9am gets pretty crowed. Ate dinner in the main dining hall every night and everything was AMAZING!!! Sorentos Pizza - was SO good..... All the food at the Coffee shop is complimentary, you only need to pay for the speciality coffees - but if you don't want pizza, go to the coffee cafe for wraps, sandwiches, deserts, etc. I like that there was an attendant managing the soft serve ice cream machine - keeps things clean! Ate at Izumi Japanese Steakhouse and it was DELICIOUS! We brought refillable water bottles on board, which worked out well. We went to the pop machine to refill on ice and water, no need to pay for water bottle on the ship. Did not use room service, there is a $9 service fee.
SERVICE A+ RCC has customer service on lock, comparable to a Disney Park experience in terms of customer service. There was always an attendant manning a station, whether it be ice cream, or the numerous pools on the ship, or whatever - always someone available to assist with a friendly smile. You really feel like you get a royal treatment.
ALCOHOL B+ for cost / A+ for not watering down the drinks. Alcohol package is too costly (in my opinion) $600 for two....ouch. Drinks on average were $10-$15 per, so if you are a heavy drinker you will likely benefit from purchasing the package. All the drinks that we purchased tasted good and were not watered down.
PORTS Labadee A+ / Falmouth C -
Labadee was great. We rented a cabana on Nelli's beach, however it really wasn't necessary (but we did enjoy and use the cabana). If you get off the ship early enough (we were off at 7:30) you can pretty much pick your perfect spot on the beach. Columbus Cove is great for views b/c you will have a perfect view of the ship from the beach and there are lots of options to put a lounge chair on the beach in shade. Nelli's beach was beautiful as well and where we spent majority of our time. Melli's Beach was probably the least crowed of the 3 beach options. The main beach, believe Dragon something - has the best sand, soft powdery sand, but waters were rougher - there are a ton of seating options here as well and the biggest of all the beaches. Bathrooms are clean with showers to rinse off. The "village" is an area where you can go to buy knick knacks from the local Haitians, they can get pretty aggressive, however I understood that comes from a place of desperation. I spoke with a worker who was pretty clear that without the cruise ships, the locals really don't have any time of employment opportunities. If you sternly but respectfully say "Not Interested" they will leave you be. If you don't go to the village, you won't encounter the "market" and can by-pass this experience all together. RCC really did a nice job of laying out the beach. There is plenty of seating options all over with lots to do. It's hot in Haiti, if you are fair skinned you'll definitely want sun screen and a hat. Also recommend water shoes - you'll be walking on rocks, our water shoes were very handy. Our friends did jet skies for 1 hr. 15 mins and had an amazing time.
Falmouth - um....well........the port itself is nice with nice stores, however you almost have to do an excursion - nothing is within walking distance. Our excursion "Falmouth / Montego Bay at your Leisure" was $45 pp, however the tour is just not long enough. We left the port at 10:45 a.m. spent most of our time on the bus. Once in Montego Bay you have 2 hours to do whatever (shop, eat, beach), well 2 hrs. goes by real fast and just not enough time to do anything. Plus if you just want to shop, you can shop at the port - don't get an excursion for that. If you are going to do an excursion here - do one that starts bright and early. IMPORTANT NOTE - Jamaican time is one hour behind ship time, be mindful of that when returning from your excursion. Your phones will convert to Jamaican time.
COMPLAINT - my one and only complaint is that there is no messaging system on the ship. We did not want to purchase the internet package and communicating with the other 2 couples we traveled with was impossible - this made it really hard to coordinate and/or check-in. I would NOT bring my children on a ship where I could not IM them and I would not want to buy an internet package for 5 folks (my family size) - that gets pricey. I hear The Oasis Class ships (Allure, Oasis, Harmony, Symphony) all have messaging capabilities on their RoyalQ app - but Independence did not.
I've cruised RCC one time prior on Majesty of the Seas in 2008 (long time ago) and 2 Carnival Cruises, both on Liberty of the Seas, in 2018. In comparison, Independence of the Seas blew all the other ships away. I also must say, RCC has me reconsidering my Aug 2019 cruise on Carnival Horizon. We had such an amazing time that we've already booked our next RCC cruise in 2020. I did not come away from my Carnival Cruises feeling this well. However, I don't believe that Liberty is a fair comparison to Independence. I am hopeful that Carnival Horizon will allow me the opportunity to do a true comparison, right now Carnival has pretty big shoes to fill.