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Independence of the Seas Review

Independence of the Seas
Independence of the Seas

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Independence of the Seas
4.5 / 5.0 Cruise Critic Editor Rating
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Outstanding entertainment including "Grease," the musical; vast number of daytime activities


Food quality varies considerably; upcharging for certain activities can be wearing

Bottom Line

2018 refurb has reaffirmed the ship as one of the best family-friendly cruise ships afloat


Passengers 3,858
Crew 1,360
Passenger to Crew 2.84:1
Launched 2008
Shore Excursions 195
Adam Coulter
Cruise Critic UK Managing Editor

Independence of the Seas Overview

Independence of the Seas is the third and final of Royal Caribbean's ground-breaking Freedom-class ships -- once the largest in the world before the launch of Oasis of the Seas and its sister ships.

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In May 2018, Indy, as the ship is known to its many fans, went through a massive refurbishment that saw a host of new features introduced onboard including Sky Pad, a virtual reality trampoline experience; a laser tag arena, a puzzle break room, The Observatorium; two water slides and a kids' aqua park, as well as new dining and drinking venues -- and 107 new cabins. The upgrade was part of Royal's $900 million "Royal Amplified" program, which will see similar features rolled out on nine other ships in the fleet.

The ship has won multiple accolades from cruisers over the years and lays a strong claim to being the U.K.'s favorite family ship. (It's less popular in the U.S., where the Oasis-class ships hold that honor.) A lot of thought went into the last refurbishment, and it really shows, giving Indy a fresh, contemporary feel, as well as cutting-edge (Sky Pad) and on-trend (puzzle break, laser tag arena), new features. Installing new bars and restaurants, as well as the entertainment facilities on the outer decks, is a huge project, yet all of it fits seamlessly into the ship, almost as if it's always been there. With that said, Independence of the Seas is still a 10-year-old ship and some of the cabins and bathrooms are looking their age in terms of decor and in-cabin fixtures and fittings.

Where Indy really excels is in its family offerings. The ship has an extraordinary amount on offer for youngsters -- from kid-oriented entertainment and enrichment to recreational options that range from surfing and body boarding to ice skating and the aforementioned VR-enhanced trampolines -- making it a superb choice for family travelers.


However, adult passengers will still find plenty of space for more grown-up pursuits, with a great selection of restaurants, a vast number of bars and huge amount of entertainment options. The fitness facility is excellent and always busy; adults-only spots beyond bars and the casino range from the Solarium pool and specialty restaurants to late-night adult-themed comedy. Travelers of many different stripes coexisted comfortably. (The ship also has outstanding facilities for passengers with accessibility needs.)

If you're after an almost limitless number of activities and forms of entertainment, whether that's watching a Broadway show, enjoying movies by the pool, or perfecting your surfing skills; or if you want fine dining and a wide bar choice, or if you just want a great kids' club and kids' facilities -- Indy delivers, time and time again.


Included with your cruise fare:

  • Meals in three main dining rooms, the Windjammer Marketplace, Sorrento’s Pizzeria and snacks at Cafe Promenade; continental breakfast room service
  • Shows in the main theater
  • Most activities and events, including ice skating in Studio B
  • Use of the fitness center, but not most classes
  • Use of the sports court, Perfect Storm water slides, mini-golf, Sky Pad, Flowrider surfing simulator and rock climbing wall
  • Adventure Ocean kids club programming through 10 p.m.
  • Gratuities, only if you booked your cruise in Australia and New Zealand in AU and NZ dollars

Not included with your cruise fare:

  • Daily crew gratuities ($14.50 per person, per day for Junior Suites and below; $17.50 per person, per day for Grand Suites & higher)
  • Drinks, excluding water, tea (including iced tea), coffee and juices from the Windjammer buffet
  • Room Service ($7.95 per order, excluding free continental breakfast)
  • Most specialty dining
  • Spa and salon treatments and services
  • Most fitness center classes
  • Auto-gratuities of 18 percent applicable to salon, spa, and beverage purchases, and all specialty dining reservations
  • Activities like the behind-the-scenes ship tour, arcade games, bingo, sushi demonstrations, arts and crafts classes, the bottomless galley brunch and all alcohol tastings
  • Nightime kids supervision programs after 10:00 p.m. in Adventure Ocean
  • Shore excursions
  • Internet access/packages
  • Photos and retail purchases

Fellow Passengers

The passenger makeup varies, depending on the time of year and where the ship is based. During the Caribbean season (late fall through early spring), Independence of the Seas' American passengers are in the majority, with a strong showing of travelers from the U.K., Mexico and Spain, in particular. During its summer sojourn in Southampton, when it offers cruises to both the Baltic and the Med, as well as short-break cruises, Brits make up the vast majority of passengers. 

During vacation periods, kids make up more than one-third of the passengers, and a significant number are teens. During periods other than school holiday breaks, the ship feels less like an all-family resort destination, though the ship's Adventure Ocean program operates year-round. 

The ship makes an effort to accommodate travelers with special needs. There are wheelchair-accessible cabins with roll-in showers, transfer lifts in one pool and one whirlpool, and lowered tables in the casino. A room is equipped with an Infrared Assistive Learning System, and the ship's daily newsletter is available, upon request, in braille. 

Although the ambience onboard is conducive for a variety of passenger types, this is a tough ship for solo travelers. So many passengers travel in groups of family members or friends that all but the most gregarious may find it hard to connect with fellow singles, though there are occasional meetups for solo travelers. One suggestion: Consider signing up for Cruise Critic's Meet & Mingle gathering.

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas Dress Code

Daytime: During the day, dress is casual (shorts, T-shirts, flip-flops).

Evening: On cruises longer than five nights, there are two formal nights, though formal on Indy is better defined as "smart casual" -- very few people dress up in tuxedo or full ballgown/cocktail dress attire. Most men wear a jacket and shirt and women will opt for a nice dress. The other nights are resort casual (tropical sundresses and pants outfits for women, khakis and shirts for men).

Not permitted: Tank tops are prohibited in the main dining room and specialty restaurants at dinner. Shoes must be worn in all dining venues at all times.

For more information, visit Cruise Line Dress Codes: Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas Awards

Cruisers’ Choice Awards

2018 Best for Entertainment
2016 Best for Fitness & Recreation
2014 Best for Families
2013 Best for Fitness

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Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas Member Reviews

Independence of the Seas
Sail Date: Jan 2019
Independence of the Seas is definitely a ship that you should experience. The ship was updated, spacious, fun, and CLEAN! It never seemed busy, and you never had to wait for a drink....Read More
Independence of the Seas
Sail Date: Sep 2019
Independence of the Seas is a very large vessel but its facilities are not themselves large enough or well-staffed enough to accommodate the passenger population....Read More
Independence of the Seas
Sail Date: Nov 2018
A great variety of activities are offered on the Independence of the Seas. I was pleased that the fitness center was large enough to always have available equipment for use....Read More
Independence of the Seas
Sail Date: May 2019
We picked Independence of the Seas out of Southampton for our first European Cruise....Read More

Royal Caribbean International Fleet