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Independence of the Seas Review

4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating
1625 reviews
23 Awards
Independence of the Seas
Izumi on Independence of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)
Independence of the Seas Cabins
Independence of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)
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Editor Rating
4.5
Very Good
Adam Coulter
Cruise Critic UK Managing Editor

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.

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, where similar features were rolled out on nine other ships in the fleet.

The ship has won multiple accolades from cruisers over the years. After many years in the U.K., it's back in the Caribbean through 2023.  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 over a decade old, 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.


Health & Safety

Independence of the Seas requires passengers 12 and over to be fully vaccinated, as per CDC guidelines. While kids 2 to 11 don’t need to be vaccinated, they must take a PCR test upon checking in at the terminal (administered by Royal Caribbean at no charge) and – on cruises longer than five nights – an antigen test at the end of the cruise.

In addition, all passengers 2 and over must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. The pre-cruise test should be taken no more than two to three days – for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers, respectively – before departure. For those 2 to 11, this test cannot be taken on embarkation day as it could affect the test administered at the terminal.

Children under two do not require any testing.

Before Boarding
• Proof of full vaccination, with vaccines approved by the FDA and World Health Organization (i.e. Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson)
• Negative COVID-19 test result
• Arrival time for check-in must be chosen 30 days in advance, on the Royal App
• Check-in to be completed via Royal App
• Health questionnaire (able to be completed on the Royal App)

Onboard
• Masks required at all indoor public spaces and while visiting ports that require them
• Independence of the Seas sailing at limited capacity
• Physical distancing enforced throughout ship, with signage
• Spaced out seating in dining, entertainment and activity venues
• Designated areas of main dining room for families with children

Off the Ship
• Fully vaccinated groups may book a shore excursion through the cruise line or independently, or choose to explore off ship freely.
• Families with unvaccinated kids must book a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean to go offshore, except at the line’s private island of Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Pros

Outstanding entertainment including "Grease," the musical; vast number of daytime activities

Cons

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

About

Passengers : 3,858
Crew : 1,360
Passenger to Crew : 2.84:1
Launched : 2008
Shore Excursions : 60

Sails To

Sails From

Inclusions

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.

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More about Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

Where does Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas sail from?

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas departs from Port Canaveral

Where does Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas sail to?

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas cruises to Port Canaveral (Orlando), Perfect Day at CocoCay, Nassau, and Freeport

How much does it cost to go on Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas?

Cruises on Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas start from $140 per person.

Is Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas a good ship to cruise on?

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas won 23 awards over the years.
Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas Cruiser Reviews

Our 53rd Cruise August 15, 2021

After having 4 booked cruises that were cancelled in the past year we were so happy to resume cruising. We celebrated my husband's Birthday on RCCL Independence of Seas and enjoyed every moment.Read More
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CruiseDirections

10+ Cruises

Age 70s

Great 3 night get away to try cruising again!

Independence of the Seas, despite its age, still holds up to providing a great cruise experience. She is quite large but easy to get around, with only issues still getting on elevators.Read More
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ROYERSKINE

10+ Cruises

Age 70s

Great cruise

Food was delicious and better compared to previous cruise on Freedom of the Seas. However, we did walk out of Grease. It was not the caliber we expected. Coco Cay very clean and updated.Read More
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1SlyFox

6-10 Cruises

Age 50s

Fantastic Cruise even if CoCo was a NoNo!

A good mix of the newer, amplified features of the newer, larger classes, but some of the more timeless, classic features of some of the smaller, older ships, including the "catch-all" Star Lounge.Read More
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garrymorere

10+ Cruises

Age 30s

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