May 8, 2018
(5 p.m. BST) -- Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas returns to its summer home of Southampton this weekend following a multimillion-pound refurbishment.
The huge makeover has seen one of the UK's best-loved ships fitted with a whole host of new features including virtual reality trampolines, a kids' water park, an escape room, laser tag and a number of new eating and drinking venues.
Independence of the Seas will arrive in Southampton this weekend ahead of a two-night mini-cruise to Le Havre on Sunday, before starting its full summer schedule of cruises to Norway, Northern Europe and the Mediterranean.
The new features include:
1. Skypad: a virtual reality trampoline experience that gives you the impression you're floating in space or walking on the moon.
2. Playmakers Sports Bar: a sports-themed bar which made its debut on the line's newest ship, Symphony of the Seas. It will have a number of big-screen TVs showing whatever major sports games are playing around the world, depending where the ship is based, and will serve a wide variety of craft beers, cocktails and snack foods.
3. Splashaway Bay: a kiddie water park featuring waterslides, water cannons, fountains, pools and the drench bucket.
4. The Perfect Storm: two racing waterslides -- called Cyclone and Typhoon -- that make up The Perfect Storm can be used to race friends and family.
5. Fish & Ships: a new poolside venue serving quintessentially British seaside snacks, including fresh fried cod with chips.
6. Escape Room: right at the top of the ship, on Deck 15 (where the chapel was), this is called the Observatorium.
7. Izumi Hibachi & Sushi: debuting the biggest hibachi on the fleet.
8. Sugar Beach Candy & Ice Cream Store: a brand-new sweet shop, which also made its debut on Symphony.
9. Laser Tag Arena: a glow-in-the-dark arena housed in the Studio B ice rink (between ice shows).
10. Panoramic Ocean View Cabins: new cabin type featuring floor-to-ceiling glass windows, a separate living area and a rotating TV suspended on a stand in the centre of the room.
--By Adam Coulter, Managing Editor, UK