The 160,000-ton, 3,634-passenger ship was launched in the U.K. port last April, and began its inaugural season sailing Mediterranean itineraries before heading to the Caribbean for the winter. In April 2010, the ship will reposition to Southampton, as planned, to sail its already scheduled summer season of mainly 10- to 14-night Mediterranean and Canary Island cruises and a handful of shorter cruises.
Then, in the winter of 2010, Independence will remain in Southampton for another just-announced series of Canary Islands and Mediterranean voyages ranging from 11 to 18 nights in duration. Exact itinerary details are not yet available. The winter 2010 season will go on sale on 1 June, 2009; according to a press release, 11-night Canary Islands cruises will start from £799 per person and 18-night Mediterranean cruises will start from £999 per person.
This announcement signifies the cruise line's confidence in the U.K. market, as most lines -- including British lines, such as P&O -- generally head to warmer climates or on world cruises for the winter rather than sailing from Southampton. Also significant is the fact that Southampton has landed what is currently one of the largest cruise ships in the world (that is, until Oasis of the Seas debuts), with highlights onboard including a FlowRider surf park and H2O water park.
Independence of the Seas had a successful U.K. launch thanks in part to tweaks for the U.K. market: amenities such as heated pools, and tea- and coffee-making facilities in each cabin (a first for the line). To that end, U.K.-based cruisers are excited by the news. Member Elizanessie, from Scotland, posts, "I was looking for a cruise here for my 50th birthday in February 2011 and the Indy would fit the bill nicely ... and easier for some of my family to join us who don't like flying to the U.S.A."
On the other hand, North American-based cruise travellers are losing out on a big-ship option. California-based Phamer55 writes, "This is too bad. I would never consider doing a Europe cruise in the winter, but I do enjoy a Caribbean cruise in the winter time. The more choices the better, and now we have one less choice for winter Caribbean."
Royal Caribbean first based a ship, Legend of the Seas, in Southampton in 2005.
--by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor
Photo appears courtesy of member HappyGolfer