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Independence of the Seas
2018 Best for Entertainment
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
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By 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.

About Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas


Pro

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

Con

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


Find an Independence of the Seas Cruise

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.

Top Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas Itineraries

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

On an eight-night cruise, 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).

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


Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas Gratuity

Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $14.50 per person, per day ($17.50 for suite guests). Gratuities can be prepaid or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the guest services desk while onboard. An 18 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs and spa treatments. The currency used onboard is U.S. dollars.


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 Ship Stats

  • Crew: 1,360
  • Launched: 2008
  • Decks: 15
  • Passengers: 3,858
  • Registry: Bahamas
  • CDC Score: 90
Independence of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 3.0 3.8
Entertainment 5.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 5.0 4.2
Family 5.0 4.2
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.5
Enrichment 3.0 3.5
Service 4.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates N/A 3.8

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