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Parking was not included as part of the cruise fare and so we had to book parking separately from www.abparking.co.uk . We booked shuttle parking, which means you park within the dock area and a shuttle transports you and your luggage from the car park to the terminal. The terminal is about 3 minutes drive from the car park. Your luggage is carried in a trailer towed by the shuttle bus. The shuttle buses take about 10 people at a time. Although a boarding time of 1345 was shown on our travel document, we arrived at the car park at 1130 and after 30 minutes we were having a meal in the Windjammer cafe. You are issued with a SeaPass card on production of your credit card. You use the SeaPass card for all payments on board, and to disembark / embark at ports. Once the document checks were completed we went through the xray scanner and then on to the ship. We were directed to the Windjammer cafe for meals. The Windjammer was jam packed. It seems that most people, like us, turned up earlier than the allocated boarding time. We were able to get a table within a couple of minutes of searching for one. No one seems to check whether you are boarding at the allocated time. It is a magnificent ship and it was spotlessly clean. The staff were all polite and helpful. We had the first sitting for all our meals in the Romeo & Juliet dining room on deck 3. The first dinner sitting is from 6.00 to 6.30 but there are always some people who still stroll in at 7.00 or later, which is inconsiderate when you are sharing a table with others. It also disrupts the service provided by the waiters. The second dinner seating is from 8.00 to 8.30. During the first and second seating for dinner you sit at the same table, with the same people and have the same waiter and assistant waiter. You don't have to eat here every night . If you want a change you can go to the Windjammer cafe (included in the fare) for a buffet or other restaurants for a nominal cover charge. You can have lunch on one of the dining rooms where you could be seated on any table with other passengers. We chose to have lunch in the Windjammer cafe where you can sit anywhere if there is a vacant table. There is a vast selection of food to suit all tastes. We enjoyed the food in the dining rooms in the evenings and the Windjammer cafe for breakfast and lunch, and never felt the need to go to one of the other speciality restaurants. The Jade and Windjammer cafe are buffet restaurants where you help yourself to what you fancy. There will always be people with eyes bigger than their stomachs, who load their plates and waste food whenever they come across serve yourself restaurants. The Jade is a part of the Windjammer cafe where you get Asian/Oriental dishes Three of the speciality restaurants require a nominal charge (gratuities included in the charge) per person and you have to make a booking. Speciality restaurants: Portofino - Italian - US$20 per person Chops Grille - Steaks - US$25 per person Johnny Rockets - Burgers, fries, milkshakes - US$4.95 per person Seating can be a problem in the Windjammer cafe which is buffet restaurant. Most people stay up late at night and get up later in the morning. Therefore it would be very crowded and would be difficult to find seating for breakfast around 9.00 am or later when most people turn up for breakfast. We avoided this by going to the Windjammer around 7.30 am when there would be very few people for breakfast most tables were empty. We also had early lunch around noon in order to avoid the crowds Even though there were over 4000 people on board we never had more than one or two people in front of us at any of the buffet counters in the Windjammer. The service in the main dining rooms was excellent and the staff in the Windjammer cafe were all polite and helpful. We were disappointed by the fact that coffee was not provided in the staterooms. Only tea , milk and sugar was available in the staterooms. If you want free coffee you have to go to deck 5 where it is available in Sorrentos, Cafe Promenade and in the Casino. Tea and chocolate is also available here. If you want cappuccino, latte or other drinks you will have to pay for them. Seating is limited but you can use plastic cups to collect your takeaway tea , coffee, chocolate and hot water. The entertainment on board mostly ranged form good to excellent, although we did not care for the magician with his pack of cards on the last night. The ice show was excellent. You will have to collect free tickets for the ice show. The day on which you can collect tickets will be announced and the show is repeated several times during the cruise. When you turn up to collect the tickets you will have to indicate the day (and time) you want to see the show. The Alhambra theatre has 1350 seats which means you will not be able to see a show unless you get there early. As we were on first sitting for dinner, we would finish dinner around 7.30 pm. As the shows start at 9 pm we would get to our seats by 8.20 pm and people watch until the start of the show. There are many entertainment venues on board but we only went to the Alhambra theatre. We avoided all the photographers on board who seem to pop up at every opportunity. I would not be surprised if RCCL make more money on photos than on all the other merchandise sold on board. It would seem that some families spend a small fortune on photos. Towards the latter part of the cruise some passengers seem to be suffering from photo overdose or photo fatigue, and refuse the to pose for the soliciting photographers on board. We never went on any of the ships's excursions. We preferred to walk into the town when it was possible. The ship had shuttles to take passengers to the nearest town/shopping area in Madeira and Lanzarote. The fee was US$6 per person each way. Shuttle transport was available in Madeira and Lanzarote. A couple could pay US$24 (£16) for a 20-30 minute walk into town. We chose to walk in Funchal (Maderia) and it took 30 minutes to get into the main shopping area. Half the time you were walking on a 3 feet wide raise pavement along a busy road. Just image hundreds of cruise passengers along this narrow pavement . Fortunately it was one way traffic as it was only the cruise passengers walking from the dockside to the town. In Tenerfie, Gran Canaria and Vigo you could walk into town in about 10-15 minutes. The worst outlook from the ship is at Lanzarote. Not a pretty view like the other ports on this trip. Some people tried to walk into town at Lanzarote and gave up part way because of the distance and the grotty surroundings. This is one place to consider the shuttle or a local taxi. We prepaid the gratuities when we booked. The amount is US$9.75 per person per day based on $3.50 for room attendant, £3.50 Waiter, $2.00 Asst Waiter, $ 0.75 Head Waiter. The head waiter oversees a large number of table but he doe not do the serving or clearing, hence the lower rate. On the day before the cruise ends, 4 envelopes and vouchers are provided in your stateroom. The envelopes are addressed to the Stateroom Attendant, Head Waiter and Assistant Waiter. Each person in the stateroom who has prepaid the gratuities receives the vouchers in the form of an A4 sheet of paper from which you cut out the 4 printed vouchers addressed to each of the job functions.(no names) . After dinner on the last evening you hand out the envelopes containing the vouchers to the relevant individuals. If you so desire. you can put cash in the envelopes in addition to the vouchers. Prepaid gratuities is optional for Traditional Dining (same table and same waiters) but My Time Dining requires payment of gratuities at the time of booking your cruise. My Time Dining means you turn up at the time you want to eat at a particular section of the dining rooms, but pre-booking your table for the time you want to eat is recommended. We wondered if we made the right decision by booking a cruise on such as large ship as particularly with regard to over-crowding. Overcrowding was not a problem except if you went to the Windjammer cafe, (buffet dining), at the "wrong" time for meals , or to the Royal Promenade (deck 5) on parade nights or for the Captain's cocktails. We were always early for the Windjammer and never had a problem, but due to the overcrowding we missed out on the parades and the cocktails. Nonetheless we had a great cruise. Arrangement for disembarkation went with military precision. We got of the ship at the nominated time, and within 30 minutes of leaving the ship we had collected our luggage and we were dropped off by shuttle at the car park. The formalities involved in cruising from Southampton is like a dose of salts compared to airport formalities. Ports visited: Madeira, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Vigo Warning 1 Check you invoice which is delivered to you room on the last morning of your cruise. You can see your account on the television in your room. I was happy with what was shown on the screen on the afternoon prior to disembarkation day.. When I received the invoice the following morning I saw a charge of US$20. for pool towel. My wife and I have never used the pools or the deckchairs, and we have never let our SeaPass cards out of our possession. An item can only be charged to your account when a SeaPass card is presented. When I went to reception to make a complaint I was told that the matter will be sorted out and the charge would be removed. No apology for this error. I was not given a revised invoice. I will wait to see what is shown on my credit card statement. As there were only 5 charges on our account it was easy to spot. Some people who consume a lot of drinks and buy a lot of present may have a very long list of times on their SeaPass statement and may miss a charge that they did not incur. Warning 2 I attended a fitness seminar where the subject of detoxification for good health was presented . No one offers a free health seminar without trying to sell you a product. A herbal bath product for detoxification was promoted, and I was told that it would be cheaper on board than buying it on line. The product is Elemis Cellutox Herbal Bath Synergy. I bought 2 packets with 10 sachets in each packet. The cost of each packet of 10 sachets was US$176 or £117.33 when using an exchange rate of £1=$1.50. When I returned home I went to the website for Elemis and found that the same product was available at £52 in the UK , less than half of what I paid on board. I have emailed Royal Caribbean using the website form about this. I bought the product because I was told that it was cheaper on board. The product I bought is a British product from a British company (Elemis). You can buy the product from www.timetospa.co.uk for £52 and also from Amazon UK or Debenhams. Other websites charge lower prices. In effect RCCL is selling a british product to the British and charging what the Americans would be in the USA. In fact the timetospa US website sells them for the same price as I was charged on board. I think it is an unethical practice to say that it is cheaper to buy on board than online, particularly as most of the passengers on board were British.

Sunshine cruise to the canaries

Independence of the Seas Cruise Review by D Appadurai

Trip Details
Parking was not included as part of the cruise fare and so we had to book parking separately from www.abparking.co.uk . We booked shuttle parking, which means you park within the dock area and a shuttle transports you and your luggage from the car park to the terminal. The terminal is about 3 minutes drive from the car park. Your luggage is carried in a trailer towed by the shuttle bus. The shuttle buses take about 10 people at a time.
Although a boarding time of 1345 was shown on our travel document, we arrived at the car park at 1130 and after 30 minutes we were having a meal in the Windjammer cafe. You are issued with a SeaPass card on production of your credit card. You use the SeaPass card for all payments on board, and to disembark / embark at ports. Once the document checks were completed we went through the xray scanner and then on to the ship. We were directed to the Windjammer cafe for meals. The Windjammer was jam packed. It seems that most people, like us, turned up earlier than the allocated boarding time. We were able to get a table within a couple of minutes of searching for one. No one seems to check whether you are boarding at the allocated time.
It is a magnificent ship and it was spotlessly clean. The staff were all polite and helpful.
We had the first sitting for all our meals in the Romeo & Juliet dining room on deck 3. The first dinner sitting is from 6.00 to 6.30 but there are always some people who still stroll in at 7.00 or later, which is inconsiderate when you are sharing a table with others. It also disrupts the service provided by the waiters. The second dinner seating is from 8.00 to 8.30. During the first and second seating for dinner you sit at the same table, with the same people and have the same waiter and assistant waiter. You don't have to eat here every night . If you want a change you can go to the Windjammer cafe (included in the fare) for a buffet or other restaurants for a nominal cover charge.
You can have lunch on one of the dining rooms where you could be seated on any table with other passengers. We chose to have lunch in the Windjammer cafe where you can sit anywhere if there is a vacant table. There is a vast selection of food to suit all tastes. We enjoyed the food in the dining rooms in the evenings and the Windjammer cafe for breakfast and lunch, and never felt the need to go to one of the other speciality restaurants. The Jade and Windjammer cafe are buffet restaurants where you help yourself to what you fancy. There will always be people with eyes bigger than their stomachs, who load their plates and waste food whenever they come across serve yourself restaurants. The Jade is a part of the Windjammer cafe where you get Asian/Oriental dishes Three of the speciality restaurants require a nominal charge (gratuities included in the charge) per person and you have to make a booking.
Speciality restaurants: Portofino - Italian - US$20 per person Chops Grille - Steaks - US$25 per person Johnny Rockets - Burgers, fries, milkshakes - US$4.95 per person
Seating can be a problem in the Windjammer cafe which is buffet restaurant. Most people stay up late at night and get up later in the morning. Therefore it would be very crowded and would be difficult to find seating for breakfast around 9.00 am or later when most people turn up for breakfast. We avoided this by going to the Windjammer around 7.30 am when there would be very few people for breakfast most tables were empty. We also had early lunch around noon in order to avoid the crowds Even though there were over 4000 people on board we never had more than one or two people in front of us at any of the buffet counters in the Windjammer. The service in the main dining rooms was excellent and the staff in the Windjammer cafe were all polite and helpful.
We were disappointed by the fact that coffee was not provided in the staterooms. Only tea , milk and sugar was available in the staterooms. If you want free coffee you have to go to deck 5 where it is available in Sorrentos, Cafe Promenade and in the Casino. Tea and chocolate is also available here. If you want cappuccino, latte or other drinks you will have to pay for them. Seating is limited but you can use plastic cups to collect your takeaway tea , coffee, chocolate and hot water.
The entertainment on board mostly ranged form good to excellent, although we did not care for the magician with his pack of cards on the last night. The ice show was excellent. You will have to collect free tickets for the ice show. The day on which you can collect tickets will be announced and the show is repeated several times during the cruise. When you turn up to collect the tickets you will have to indicate the day (and time) you want to see the show. The Alhambra theatre has 1350 seats which means you will not be able to see a show unless you get there early. As we were on first sitting for dinner, we would finish dinner around 7.30 pm. As the shows start at 9 pm we would get to our seats by 8.20 pm and people watch until the start of the show. There are many entertainment venues on board but we only went to the Alhambra theatre.
We avoided all the photographers on board who seem to pop up at every opportunity. I would not be surprised if RCCL make more money on photos than on all the other merchandise sold on board. It would seem that some families spend a small fortune on photos. Towards the latter part of the cruise some passengers seem to be suffering from photo overdose or photo fatigue, and refuse the to pose for the soliciting photographers on board.
We never went on any of the ships's excursions. We preferred to walk into the town when it was possible. The ship had shuttles to take passengers to the nearest town/shopping area in Madeira and Lanzarote. The fee was US$6 per person each way. Shuttle transport was available in Madeira and Lanzarote. A couple could pay US$24 (£16) for a 20-30 minute walk into town. We chose to walk in Funchal (Maderia) and it took 30 minutes to get into the main shopping area. Half the time you were walking on a 3 feet wide raise pavement along a busy road. Just image hundreds of cruise passengers along this narrow pavement . Fortunately it was one way traffic as it was only the cruise passengers walking from the dockside to the town. In Tenerfie, Gran Canaria and Vigo you could walk into town in about 10-15 minutes. The worst outlook from the ship is at Lanzarote. Not a pretty view like the other ports on this trip. Some people tried to walk into town at Lanzarote and gave up part way because of the distance and the grotty surroundings. This is one place to consider the shuttle or a local taxi.
We prepaid the gratuities when we booked. The amount is US$9.75 per person per day based on $3.50 for room attendant, £3.50 Waiter, $2.00 Asst Waiter, $ 0.75 Head Waiter. The head waiter oversees a large number of table but he doe not do the serving or clearing, hence the lower rate. On the day before the cruise ends, 4 envelopes and vouchers are provided in your stateroom. The envelopes are addressed to the Stateroom Attendant, Head Waiter and Assistant Waiter. Each person in the stateroom who has prepaid the gratuities receives the vouchers in the form of an A4 sheet of paper from which you cut out the 4 printed vouchers addressed to each of the job functions.(no names) . After dinner on the last evening you hand out the envelopes containing the vouchers to the relevant individuals. If you so desire. you can put cash in the envelopes in addition to the vouchers. Prepaid gratuities is optional for Traditional Dining (same table and same waiters) but My Time Dining requires payment of gratuities at the time of booking your cruise. My Time Dining means you turn up at the time you want to eat at a particular section of the dining rooms, but pre-booking your table for the time you want to eat is recommended.
We wondered if we made the right decision by booking a cruise on such as large ship as particularly with regard to over-crowding. Overcrowding was not a problem except if you went to the Windjammer cafe, (buffet dining), at the "wrong" time for meals , or to the Royal Promenade (deck 5) on parade nights or for the Captain's cocktails. We were always early for the Windjammer and never had a problem, but due to the overcrowding we missed out on the parades and the cocktails. Nonetheless we had a great cruise.
Arrangement for disembarkation went with military precision. We got of the ship at the nominated time, and within 30 minutes of leaving the ship we had collected our luggage and we were dropped off by shuttle at the car park. The formalities involved in cruising from Southampton is like a dose of salts compared to airport formalities.
Ports visited: Madeira, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Vigo
Warning 1
Check you invoice which is delivered to you room on the last morning of your cruise. You can see your account on the television in your room. I was happy with what was shown on the screen on the afternoon prior to disembarkation day.. When I received the invoice the following morning I saw a charge of US$20. for pool towel. My wife and I have never used the pools or the deckchairs, and we have never let our SeaPass cards out of our possession. An item can only be charged to your account when a SeaPass card is presented. When I went to reception to make a complaint I was told that the matter will be sorted out and the charge would be removed. No apology for this error. I was not given a revised invoice. I will wait to see what is shown on my credit card statement. As there were only 5 charges on our account it was easy to spot. Some people who consume a lot of drinks and buy a lot of present may have a very long list of times on their SeaPass statement and may miss a charge that they did not incur.

Warning 2 I attended a fitness seminar where the subject of detoxification for good health was presented . No one offers a free health seminar without trying to sell you a product. A herbal bath product for detoxification was promoted, and I was told that it would be cheaper on board than buying it on line. The product is Elemis Cellutox Herbal Bath Synergy. I bought 2 packets with 10 sachets in each packet. The cost of each packet of 10 sachets was US$176 or £117.33 when using an exchange rate of £1=$1.50. When I returned home I went to the website for Elemis and found that the same product was available at £52 in the UK , less than half of what I paid on board. I have emailed Royal Caribbean using the website form about this. I bought the product because I was told that it was cheaper on board. The product I bought is a British product from a British company (Elemis). You can buy the product from www.timetospa.co.uk for £52 and also from Amazon UK or Debenhams. Other websites charge lower prices. In effect RCCL is selling a british product to the British and charging what the Americans would be in the USA. In fact the timetospa US website sells them for the same price as I was charged on board. I think it is an unethical practice to say that it is cheaper to buy on board than online, particularly as most of the passengers on board were British.
D Appadurai’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin 3318
Cabin 3318 was on deck 3 towardrs the rear half of the ship. It was comfortable and quiet. The window always seemed to have some condensation on the outside. You have to walk past about 10 cabins to get to the elevators and stairs. The main dining room was near the elevators. You cannot walk along the corridors past the cabins to the front of the ship. You have to go to deck 4 or deck 5 if you want to walk along the public areas to the from of the ship.
  Independence of the Seas Deck Plans