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Independence of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)
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

In May 2018, Independence of the Seas (or "Indy" as the ship is known to its many fans), went through a massive refurbishment which saw a host of new features introduced onboard including Skypad, a VR trampoline, a Laser Tag Arena, a Puzzle Break Room, two new waterslides and a new kids aqua park, as well as new dining and drinking venues -- and 107 new cabins. The upgrade formed part of Royal's $90 million "Amplified" program, which will see similar features rolled out on nine other ships in the fleet.

Indy's last refurb took place five years previously, when the ship underwent a $7 million upgrade which saw a cupcake shop, an Italian trattoria called Giovanni's Table and a Royal Babies & Tots Nursery installed. On the technology side, the ship got new digital signage, bow-to-stern Wi-Fi and a poolside movie screen. And in 2016 Grease the musical was added, combining the best of the movie and the stage hit -- and for our money, one of the best shows at sea.

The digital way finding systems are excellent -- especially for new-to-cruisers who get lost on huge ships such as this. They offer maps and directions to everywhere on the ship using a board with a number keypad on which a passenger can enter their room number to find their way to their room. There are also features that display the menus for the ship's restaurants, lists of entertainment options and other onboard facilities. The large writing and quick responsive touch screen makes navigation around the ship so much easier than squinting at a laminated map.

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. Though in its 10th year (in 2018), the refurb has gone a long way to giving it a fresh, contemporary feel and some excellent new features.

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 -- 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 almost limitless entertainment options. The fitness facility, complete with boxing ring, is excellent and always busy. Adults-only spots beyond bars and the casino ranged from the Solarium pool and boutique restaurants (which have a set age limit of 15) to a rather racy late-night comedy show. Travelers of many different stripes coexisted comfortably. (The ship also has outstanding facilities for disabled passengers.)

Sea days could feature a bit more substance in the lackluster enrichment department. (The chief workshop was advanced napkin folding.) The ship's vast sun deck, divided into three "neighborhoods," is colorful, whimsical and joyful -- but there's not enough effort to create events there after the sun sets.

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.

About Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

Strong entertainment lineup, including "Grease," the musical.


Average food in main dining room and buffet might leave some unsatisfied.

Bottom Line

A good option for cruisers who enjoy great entertainment and a variety of dining options.

Find an Independence of the Seas Cruise

Fellow Passengers

The passenger make-up varies, depending on the time of year and where the ship is based. During vacation periods, kids made up more than one-third of the passengers, and a significant number were 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. 

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 warm-weather cruises in the Mediterranean, when the ship is based in Southampton, Brits will be significantly represented. 

The ship makes an effort to accommodate travelers with special needs. There are cabins with roll-in showers, transfer lifts in one pool and one whirlpool, and lowered tables in the casino. A show 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. 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 were two formal nights; the rest were resort casual (tropical sundresses and pants outfits for women, khakis and collared shirts for men). On the formal nights, those who dined in the ship's main restaurant venue tended to be the most dolled-up; passengers not in the mood to dress in black tie (most men actually just wore jackets and ties, and few women sported beaded gowns) headed to the Windjammer buffet venue, Johnny Rocket's or to casual eateries along the promenade.

During the day, dress was plain ol' casual, though most wore bathing suit cover-ups and shoes when indoors.

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.

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: 3,634
  • Registry: Bahamas
  • CDC Score: 98
Independence of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 5.0 3.9
Public Rooms 5.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.2
Family 5.0 4.2
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 2.0 3.6
Service 4.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.8

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