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8 Royal Caribbean Dover Cruise Reviews

After travelling with royal Caribbean we were very disappointed at how we think there standards have lowered. There have been lots of cuts overall. We travelled on the independence first time in 2008 and and it was first class since then ... Read More
After travelling with royal Caribbean we were very disappointed at how we think there standards have lowered. There have been lots of cuts overall. We travelled on the independence first time in 2008 and and it was first class since then all of main holidays have been on royal Caribbean our next will be a beach! Here's a run down of our holiday. Check in was very well organised and being platinum travellers very quick no problems there. Once on board we discovered they now have and all-inclusive premium drinks package which we decided to take up which included all cocktails, beers, champagne cocktails and house wine. Very good at first until we realised they had stopped promoting most of there cocktails by not putting out menus on display (possibly to cut down costs) Also the waiters only had there eyes on the single paying guests who were tipping! hence to say we did not get waited on anywhere throughout most of the cruise. We had to go and wait at the bar or sit and waits ages twisting out heads and waving out arms!! Wasn't allowed to order another drink cause i had half drink in my glass was told twice that they only serve one at time! did they not realise we had to wait ages in between!! and I'm sure if we were not package this would not be the case!! Found a lot of guests on board rude! Room was nice and clean but toilet smelt constantly of urine! attendant was lovely and polite and went out of his way to says hello all the time. Nice big balcony with sun beds. They have cut down on the towel animals you get in the room 2 per cruise now opposed to one a day! OK you may say but having two children who used to love going back to the cabin to find out what we had today was very disappointing. Ice show tickets queued and were gone in an hour or so waste of my time, when complained at guest relations go the reply well there is nearly 4000 people on they ship! apparently nothing they could do. next day we received a private viewing of the other ice show because we were platinum guests but not because we complained no mention of this the day before. Dining, not bad not great. We had my time and once we were in a regular place was good service with the waiters. on one side the waiter was not listening to us i.e. we would say no white wine and he would pour it and keep walking of before we had finished speaking hence to say he did not know what were requesting. Food was mostly nice found towards the end of the cruise meat was highly salted and not very nice, Had to back some dry fish and some meals bit dry no gravy, overall 50 50. Snacks great in the cafe promenade and sorrentos loved the pies however don't think they should heat up the pork pies!! Tables constantly dirty and had a job finding a clean one at times in sorrentos. Portofinos murder mystery entertainment great food was outstanding!! Pool area hard to find a bed unless very early we did not use the pool very much as weather was bad hate to think if it was sunny!. first time in the pool my sons shorts were covered in paint! they washed for us got most out didn't bother going back as were cheap but should of. Drinks and plates were hardly ever picked up we had to take them back ourselves and stack them up!! no one walking around serving drinks. (usually loads of people). Kids club activities excellent, kids loved them had a few problems with older child and some other children not really sorted out, Our was given time out for not listening a few times most of what he said was not his fault other children talking to him act but who knows? ( we know there was a lot of kids and they need to keep control) over all though very pleased younger son loved it staff were good. Son cut his arm on a arcade machine that had button came off they just said do you want to go to the medic. Entertainment very good loved the morning show i took part in the thriller dance which i didn't know what it was at the beginning. Production Shows good even though they have not changed in 4 years!! only saw some headliners as not what we really liked. team good. Overall queued a lot for things staff not great a few stroppy attendants in the casino! a lady from the barbers crying in the toilets to another member of staff about how she did not want to smile and pretend to people! Pianist in schooners friendly but not very exciting music bit dull and overheard him saying to others guests it was his last cruise and couldn't wait to get off! asked for drinks all the time. Guest relations not great found the man quite rude and condescending . When did complain on number of things he often shrugged his shoulders told us it was due to cut backs! One time i left my card in the room got another one went up to room it did not work tried several times , Went ll the way back down asked to check he said well there is no reason it shouldn't work!! What was i stupid?? We were booking another cruise with friends but am not so sure if we receive they type of holiday. We normally recommend to friends saying its 5 star now we would not! Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
This was our 4th cruise but first on Royal Caribbean. We traveled with our 2 teenagers and 10 yr old. We flew from Hawaii to London 3 days before sailing, and saw the local sites. Booked transit to Southampton through a local travel agency ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise but first on Royal Caribbean. We traveled with our 2 teenagers and 10 yr old. We flew from Hawaii to London 3 days before sailing, and saw the local sites. Booked transit to Southampton through a local travel agency for a good price. The cruise before us was hit hard with norovirus so no one knew quite what to expect at embarkation as everything had been delayed a bit. As it turned out, I think we boarded maybe 2 hours later than normal without problem. Went right to the Windjammer and found a table, did the obligatory first day on board lunch with the honey stung chicken (which wasn't quite my thing after all)then set out to explore the ship. Along the way we were waylayed by a bar person with a bucket of drinks who was selling the new all inclusive drink packages. Doing the math in our heads, we quickly snatched them up- $29 per day for beer and wine for my husband, $39 for beer, wine and liquor for me. This was a smart investment, and we greatly enjoyed our "magic cards" all cruise long.The ship was *beautiful*, it was decorated wonderfully and everything was spick and span clean. The crew was hyper vigilant about the noro threat and had hand sanitizing stations at each doorway in public areas and they would ask each passenger upon entry if they had sanitized. Efforts paid off, as we had no outbreak on our cruise.We really enjoyed all of the entertainment venues- especially "Rock The Boat" singing rock n roll songs in the Pyramid lounge nightly, and Kory the piano man after hours. The main theatre shows were beautifully done, if a bit short lived. The ice show was *magnificent*, we saw "Strings" and the violinist was wonderful!Food- here is a mixed review. We found the main dining room food to be very disappointing compared to previous cruises. Menus seemed limited and seemedto repeat similar dishes nightly, the meat was over or under done each time we ate in there, the plates were not garnished and presentation greatly lacked. No complaints with the servers- just the food itself. We ate there the 3 formal nights (and were disappointed, no lobster??) but stuck to Windjammer or speciality restaurants the other nights. The Windjammer was very pleasing- with a large selection, I especially enjoyed the Jade side with its various Indian and Asian dishes. Johnny Rockets was fun, quite hat we expected... we also did the Murder Mystery Dinner in Portofino- our opinion was the show was lacking, and not worth the cost- but the company we met was great and the meat we had was the best of our cruise.Amazing filet and that tiramisu in a white chocolate cup... delicious!!!Quizzes on board varied in fun factor- some staff were wonderful at making everyone laugh and others not so much. Cruise Director Joff was wonderful- and hilarious!! We really enjoyed when he hosted events. My husband was one of the team leaders for The Quest and that was the most fun game of the cruise.Drinks were generally very well made. Coffee exceeded expectations based on former complaints. We brought 2 cases of bottled water on board with luggage tags and they made it fine- the ids enjoyed their soda packages and we sure enjoyed our alcohol packages so no complaints at all.Kids clubs- the 10 yr old LOVED hers, we dragged her away kicking an screaming nightly. The 17/18 yr old loved his- he was gone from embarkation until debarkation! The 13 yr old on the other hand-she was disappointed they did not keep the teens segregated as advertised, but instead the older and younger kids shared the living room space most of the time- she is a YOUNG 13, and to boot she didn't want to be around her 17/18 yr old brother. As a result she shied away from so many activities. I felt bad for her. She did enjoy ice skating, and ping pong, and the arcade and the free ice cream *a lot*!All in all we had a FABULOUS time, and we would not hesitate to sail Indy again!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
I have just returned from a holiday of a lifetime - it was fantastic!! As some of you may already know (I have mentioned it in plenty of reviews during the past few months , that I was going on a cruise) , and after waiting (impatiently) ... Read More
I have just returned from a holiday of a lifetime - it was fantastic!! As some of you may already know (I have mentioned it in plenty of reviews during the past few months , that I was going on a cruise) , and after waiting (impatiently) for almost ten months , the time arrived on Saturday 5th June and lasted until Saturday 19th June , and so my holiday has quickly and sadly been and gone! I had never been on a cruise before , let alone gone away from home for more than one week , let alone a fortnight , and now after a brilliant time , I am very sad that's it's over! So to help me get over my post-holiday-blues , I thought that I would share my experience with you!! (Just to warn you , it is going to be a very long review , as I have so much to say!) Right...where shall I begin............ from the very beginning I guess. So , last year , having never been abroad before , I was moaning that I wanted to go on a foreign holiday , so one day whilst out shopping , I walked into a travel agents and picked up a load of holiday brochures. My mum had always wanted to go on a cruise but hadn't been and so after flicking through a couple of brochures , was getting quite tempted to actually go. We then decided that it would be good if a group of us went (these were the very early days of the planning, and me like an excited child , was really hoping that the answer would be a great big yes!) So we discussed it with my sister and her boyfriend , and my aunt and uncle , and we were all (well I wasn't - I was all for it!) debating , shall we shan't we. In the end we decided on a two week mediterranean cruise with Royal Caribbean International. I was so excited when we had confirmed the booking , yet I still had ten months to wait for the time to come. When the day eventually arrived , we caught a bus not too far away , which was a 'link' to the ship itself. The journey to Southamton (we got on in Southamton , not Dover as I have put as the 'place of emarking' , it didn't have 'southampton' on the list , but wouldn't let me post my review if I didn't choose one of the places)took about four hours (I slept most of the way , and so I woke up just as we arrived at the port), there were loads of ships which we passed before we got to hours and I was thinking 'I think it's that one' , 'no wait , it's gotta be that one'. But when I finally saw the actual ship , Independence Of The Seas , I was gobsmacked - it was absolutely massive - in fact it was bigger than a lot of the big buildings by the port. I could not believe that something so big could sail the seas!) It was a beautiful ship ; very smart looking. * Boarding The Ship * Once we had got off the bus , we had to queue for a little while , and then check that our 'papers' and passports were correct before going to a desk where we had to hand in some paperwork. We were then handed our 'seapasses' (more of which I will come to later on). We then had to make our way through 'security' ; the same kind as you would in an airport , I expect ; putting your hand luggage through an 'x ray machine' and then walking through a kind of 'x ray frame'. We then had about a ten minute walk where we finally got to step onto the ship. Boarding was fairly straightforward and didn't take too long which was good news. We were told that it could take up until 9pm that night (by now it was around 4 o' clock) until we had our luggage , although when we found our cabin at about four , our luggage was there waiting for us outside the door. We had around thirty minutes in our room , and then we had to go to a 'safety thing' about how to put on a life jacket etc. Apparently the ship would not sail until everyone had seen the demonstration. As planned , we set sail from Southhampton at 4:45. When I first got on the ship and saw how big it was , I was a bit 'scared'. I was thinking 'oh my god - this place is massive, we're all going to have to stick together the whole time otherwise we may not see eachother for days. Before going , a lot of people who had been on cruises before had told me , 'it's so easy to get lost' and 'make sure you follow the corect carpet (if your room carpet is red , then follow the red carpet on the ship and then you will know that your cabin is in that area'. Well of course that panicked me , although after a couple of days , I knew my way around and so there was no way of getting lost. We were all on deck 6 and we were on one side and the rest of the group were on the opposite site. We had a meeting point which was the bit between the two corridors , this was the place that we always met , by the balcony overlooking the Royal Promenade. * Seapass* As I mentioned earlier , before boarding the ship , each person was given a little blue card which was known as the 'seapass'. This little card was the same size and made of plastic just like a bank card. On it , it had the name of the ship,your name , date of sailing , your cabin number, your designated area number (if there was an emergency etc) , the name of the restaurant you were booked at as well as your table number. So all in all this card held a lot of information about the passenger. Also , instead of using money , the ship uses a cash-free system. Whatever you bought onboard (food is included) , for example drinks , spa treatments or for buying souveniers in the onboard shops , you would pay for it by 'swiping the card' , which would then add the amount to your 'bill' which you paid at the end of the trip. I really liked the fact that you could use it to buy things , as it made it so much easier and meant you didn't have to carry money around on the ship with you at all. This card also acted as your room key , and also to 'clock you in and off' the ship. So it was very important not to lose it. * The Ship * The ship itself was absolutely massive , yet very smart looking. It is a fairly new ship , built in 2008 and cost £900 million to build! The ship is very smart in the inside , with a lot of artwork and paintings. There were a few glass elavators which were handy as sometimes if you were shopping on the ship's own street on Deck five and then wanted to go to the Windjammer (on deck eleven) for lunch it meant walking twelve sets of stairs. So taking the lift was the easiest option (although I did try and take the stairs when I could , until I twisted my ankle one day - being silly , I jumped off the bed and landed on a shoe - not clever at all). The ship had glass elevators so you could see the street and decks from the inside when you were going up and down. There were also 'closed elevators' where you couldn't see out , and I wasn't too keen on using these ones. At least if you broke down in the glass elevators (thankfully we didn't) at least people could see you panicking! The ship itself was very , very clean. There was always a member of staff cleaning the hand rails on the stairs or cleaning the floors. A couple of nights when returning to our rooms at about 11:30pm , I saw a member of staff hoovering the carpets - at that time of night -poor thing! * Cabin * Our cabin , was quite spacious. The room was spotlessly clean and tidy. The beds were the comfiest ever - I always find it hard to get to sleep at night and always sleep lightly , but on the ship , I don't know what happened to me , becaue the minute my head hit the pillow , I was fast asleep , and a deep sleep it was. I've never had such good sleep as I did on that ship - I think the slight movement helped). Because there were three of us , I slept on the 'sofa bed'. My first impression was 'oh no - it's going to be uncomfortable' , but that was the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in! It did not look like a sofa at all at night - it was brilliant. The room had plenty of storing space ; a large wardrobe and plenty of draws and cupboards as well as mirrors with build in cupboards behind them on the dressing table. We had a shower (no bath) which was great , especially after a sweaty day in the sun - the shower was adjustable , and was easy to adjust (either hot or cold , and also you could choose which pressure you wanted). There was plenty of 'oomph' in the pressure of the water which was great. Tea and coffee were available in our bedroom , along with a mini fridge which included cans of coke , sweets and bottled water. To begin with , we were like 'don't touch the fridge - it'll cost us!' but towards the end , we had almost cleared all the sweets! We even had our own private balcony which was great , as you could see the sea , and whenever we were close to the ports , you could see the land getting closer and closer , and also when we were leaving the port , you could watch the sight of the land fade away. It was also a great place to relax outside , knowing that you had a 'bit of outside space to yourself'. No one could see you either which was nice , although if you popped your head round the side , you would sometimes see your neighbour if they were also leaning over the balcony. I absolutely loved the balcony , and would often sit there reading a book or listening to my music , not having a care in the world whilst watching the sea go by. The bathroom , although small , was still quite spacious with a huge mirror. We also had a hairdryer and tea and coffee making facilities which were replenished on a morning/night basis. We also had a televison with a great selection of channels ; sports , news , movies , music etc. The ship even has it's own channels including one which shows , events which have happened so far on the holiday ,as well as the shows , and also a morning programme with the ship's famous 'Joff' the cruise director , who 'presented' all of the shows. There was always an 'interactive' thing on the telly , where you could book an excursion , see what was coming up on the cruise , and even keep an eye on your bill , as well as loads of other things. You could even watch some of the latest movies for a price of $12. I watched Dear John. I had thought that $12 was quite a lot to watch a film , but then I realised , had I gone to my local cineworld which is an hours drive away , the cost of petrol combined with the £7 per person cinema ticket it would have cost around £30 for three of us to go to the cinema , and so for $12 , it was great value as we saved petrol , and all three of us got to watch the movie , so it worked out a lot cheaper than going to the cinema. We had our own room attendant , who was brilliant ; always friendly , professional and always had time for us. He did his job really well , and I felt sorry for him that every night he would have to turn the sofa into a bed for me , and in the morning change my bed back into the sofa , although when we returned from dinner at night , my sofa bed was always ready , and in the morning , we'd leave the room for about half an hour for breakfast , and then return to our room , and the bed would be back to a sofa. When returning from dinner , it was always a pleasure to see what kind of animal the room attendant had made for us using towels ; some nights we would have elephants , pigs , snakes and monkeys. * Food * The food on the Independence of The Seas was brilliant. The restaurants wee always very clean and the standard of cleanliness was very high. Before entering a food place, everyone had to sanitize their hands which I thought was a brilliant idea.There were so many choices of places to eat : * Romeo and Juliet Restaurant * This is the restaurant where we were automatically booked into when we booked the holiday. The restaurant was very posh looking and you could see the above restaurant 'Macbeth' above , and also the restaurant 'King Lea' which was above 'Macbeth'. It was like one big restaurant (3 floors - yet each floor had a different name and had a different menu and sometimes a different style of serving. ) It was in the Romeo and Juliette restaurant that we had our breakfast and dinner. Breakfast (Romeo and Juliette restaurant): You could choose where you wanted to have your breakfast each day. Most of the time we stuck to the buffet-style breakfast which was served in he Romeo and Juliette restaurant. Here , you helped yourself to the massive selection of cereals , pastries , fruit salad , cooked breakfast , cheese and meats and yoghurts. There was so much choice, and the food was always topped up right to the top. I am not a fan of cooked breakfast , although the rest of my group all had cooked breakfasts (bacon , eggs , mushrooms , beans , harsh browns etc) and could not praise the food enough. I myself would have fresh fruit (different fruits laid out in separate bowls ; different kinds of melons , grapes , pineapples - great for getting your five-a-day) , croissants , cereal such as Alpen and also there were muffins which I absolutely loved. Tea and coffee was brought to your table , and so was the orange juice. There didn't seem to be many other fruit juices available ; the waiter would come to your table and say 'would you like some orange juice' and if you didn't they would ask if you would like apple juice. I loved the orange juice though , as it was always fresh. Another 'toast waiter' would then come around with a basket of toast and ask you if you wanted white or brown. Throughout the cruise , the toast was edible , although it wasn't that nice - it was always really hard and had a funny texture , although I solved the problem by smothering it with plenty of butter and strawberry jam. Dinner (Romeo and Juliette) : We were a group of seven and had requested at the time of booking for a table of our own so that we could sit together. However , when we received our seapasses with the dining information on it , it stated that three of us were to eat in the Romeo and Juliette and the other four were to eat in the Macbeth restaurant. We went to see the restaurant manager who changed this for us and so on the first evening we had a table to ourselves. One you knew where your table was (at dinner , you sat at the same table every night , although breakfast , the waiters would find you a suitable table each day , and so for breakfast you sat on a different table each day - on the last day we had a window table which was fantastic!). So on the second night , we walked into the restaurant , making our way to our table , when we noticed a couple on our table , meaning that as the table was only set up for us seven, there wasn't enough room for all of us. The head waiter then came and explained to the couple what had happened (we couldn't hear what exactly was being said as we were too far away) , although the couple did not seem happy at all , although the head waiter was brilliant and we had our table back , which remained ours for the rest of the holiday. The food was brilliant at the restaurant ; of a very high standard. The menu more or less changed each evening although there were still items which remained on the menu most nights. There were about eight options for each of the three courses. The majority of the group are meat-eaters (including fish) and so it meant that they had a different starter and main course each evening , however , I am vegetarian and so is my mum , and we are quite fussy eaters too. I stuck with the ceasar salad most nights (consiting of crisp lettuce , parmasan cheese , yummy garlic croutons and a gorgeous dressing - I absolutely loved it!) and a pasta dish (I love pasta). On one or two ocasions there was other vegetarian meals available such as 'pastry tarts' which I tried one night - it was nice to begin with , but I found it became too much of the same taste and so I couldn't finish it. Although , there was nothing wrong with the food (we all agreed that it was wonderful) , it was just that I am a very fussy eater. On the other hand , the deserts were to die for ; sponge puddings , chocolate tarts , panacottas - they were all brilliant. Although , I love fresh fruit , I am not really a fan of fruity deserts , although I did try a 'berry mousse' one night - and it was one of the best deserts I have ever tasted! Also if you didn't want to put on too much weight during the holiday , there was also a 'special three course menu' where every starter , main course and desert all came to less than 800 calories - I tried this some nights and the food was of an excellent standard. * WindJammer Cafe * What a great place this was ; it was open from about 7am everyday for breakfast , right through for lunch and afternoon tea until 5pm and then it would open again at 6:30pm for dinner. The very popular , cafe is located on top of the ship at the back with fantastic views of the ocean. Foodwise ; there was so much to choose from. The food was served buffet-style and had something for every taste , whether you were starving or just in a 'picking' mood. Such food included roast dinners ,salads, pizzas , burgers , pasta , rolls , as well of a huge range of deserts. On days where we were getting off the ship to go exploring , we would sometimes get up early and go to the cafe for breakfast. Food available was served buffet style where you helped yourself. Although it was a great place , I prefered having breakfast in the Romeo and Juliet dining room as although they were both buffet style , at least in the restaurant a waiter would bring you juice,toast, tea and cofee and anything else you wanted. A waiter would come around with tea or coffee in this cafe , but it would be served tea-bag-in-a-cup style rather than in a pot like in the restaurant. I loved the Windjammer ; as it was always quick and you could go whenever you wanted ; there was always plenty of food to choose from and the dishes were always topped out ; they never seemed to run out of anything. The food was always of a high standard too. One thing which I did not like about the Windjammer , although this is by means no fault of the ship's , was the fact that some people were like pigs and would push in front of you even if you were queing. One day , I had been queing up for one of the deserts and as it was my turn , was just about to take a desert , when a man pushed in from nowhere , and said 'excuse me , can I just grab one of those' , and his attitude was so selfish ; he hadn't queued or nothing. People would very often push you out of the way too which was annoying. We found the nicest time to go was at about 4:30 as there wasn't that many people about then which was great. Also sometimes , at peak times , especially lunch time , it was hard to find a table , although there was always one waiter who would greet customers and get another waiter to find a suitable for us. They always found us a table very quickly and we were never left to wait more than five minutes. Once you found a table , the experience was great. What was also great was the fact that you could just grab a slice of pizza or a cake and then take it to your room or to the poolside to eat it. * Other Restaurants * There were also many other places were you could have food , such as 'Johnny Rockets' which was like an American-1950's style burger place. We went here one night for a change (there was an extra charge of around $4 per person at this place - most of the restaurants including the Windjammer and Romeo and Juliet restaurants as well as a lot of others were included in the cruise package which was good as it meant that you could eat as much as you wanted which was brilliant). If you like Italian dining , then there was an Italian restaurant onboard called the Portfino. Although to eat here , it cost $20 per person. I did fancy here but the rest of the group thought that beings as there were a lot of places that we could eat at , that were included in the price of our holiday , it would have been silly to have spent $140 between us for just one meal , and so we didn't go there. Although I would have liked to have tried it. There was also a 'meaty' restaurant called 'Chops Grille' which also charged around $10 extra , although being vegetarian , I didn't eat here. There are also numerous cafes down in the Royal Promenade , where you could obtain as much tea and coffee as you wanted for 'free'. There were also tea and coffee stands in various areas of the ships , although these were only available at certain times. * Bars * If you wanted a drink then you had many bars to choose from , and even at busy times , you would almost always find a seat. Some of the bars which we went to included the 'On Air' bar, which also did karaoke , where my sister and I sang a couple of times. They also had a 'private karaoke booth' where you could sing if the karaoke wasn't on. This place also showed the football on a big screen. Another bar which I loved was 'Boleros' ; a latin themed bar. There was a live latin band who performed there every single night and I loved their style of music and how they made their own 'Spanish sounding' versions of popular songs such as 'Sway' by Michael Buble. I also loved the Olive Or Twist bar which was located right on top of the ship and you could see 360 degrees around the ship ; it was brilliant. It was one of my favourite places to go in the day as it was always peaceful , and you could see all that was happening outside on the ship as well as the sea , so it was great. There was another bar called 'The Pyramid Lounge' which had an Egyptian theme. I didn't particularly like this bar ; there wasn't nothing wrong with it , just that it seemed 'out of the way' compared to a lot of the other bars which were located in the centre of the ship. When the football was on , this is one of the areas where loads of people flocked too to see a game - there was a good atmosphere here though, especially when England were playing. There were also a lot of other bars which you could go to , although the ones listed above are the ones which I went to the most. There was also a nightclub called 'The Labyrinth' on the show. I did step inside and it was full of smokers (one of the not too many places that smokers could smoke). I was really disappointed that they had made the club a 'smoker's place' as I love partying yet hate smoking , and because the club was absolutely full of smokers , I didn't go there again. * Staff * The staff were absolutely fantastic!!! They treated us as though we were royalty. They couldn't do enough for you ; always willing to help and nothing was too much trouble. They were always so professional , friendly , and a lot of them were also really comical too so that made our dining experiences entertaining. The service was always spot on , especially in the dining room. They would not let you lift a finger ; they wanted to do absolutely everything for you which was brilliant , although I did feel guilty at times especially when they said they don't get one day off and work all day every single day for six months!! We had two waiters at dinner who remained the same two throughout the cruise (for breakfast you always had a different waiter , depending where you sat) , the main waiter and an assistant waiter and they were brilliant ; so professional , yet very friendly. They really knew their stuff. Working in the hotel industry myself , I appreciate it so much more and with their excellent 'Gold Anchor service' I even picked up a few tips! The staff in the Windjammer cafe were also great ; always smiling and willing to get anything you wanted from the buffet (if you were too lazy to get it yourself). All staff aboard were great ; always friendly and saying hello if they met you in the corridor , even the ones you had never spoken too. Throughout our cruise we received a fantastic service. Everything about it was properly thought out and all made sense , which meant that everything ran smoothly. There was always plenty of staff around too , all working very hard. Everyone was lovely ; professional , friendly and ALWAYS willing to help which was great. *Tipping * Before we went on the cruise , a lot of people who had been before had warned us about the tipping of staff - apparently if you didn't say that you didn't want them to automatically add tips to your bill , at the beginning of the cruise , then they would go ahead and do this. So , at the beginning we made it clear that we wanted to choose the amount of tips we gave at the end of the cruise , as the suggested amount for each person (head waiter , waiter , assistant waiter and room attendent) added up to around $6 per person per day ,and did seem quite a lot. We were assured that unless we had signed a form in our room that said you wanted the tips to be added automatically to your room bill , then you wouldn't be charged. So on the last day , when we received the envelopes to put our own tips into. We all agreed on what we were going to give per person ( in total it added up to about $200 between the three of us for four members or staff). Although , later on that afternoon (before we had handed in our tips) we receieved 'vouchers' along with a letter type thing that said 'thank you for pre-paying your gratuities'. We weren't sure what this meant (there were four vouches which had our names printed on them so they were obviously for us). So we went down to enquire about it at the guest relations , and they said that we had indeed already paid the gratuities in the price of our holiday. We were a bit annoyed at first because we had preched and preached that we hadn't wanted this (although it wasn't the ship's fault , it was the travel agent's fault) , although when we added up what we had already pre-paid (around $60 from each of us between four members of staff) compared to the $200 which we were going to pay , it worked out less for us , and we were also relieved that it had already been paid as it meant we had more spending money left , and also , we weren't sure how much to give in the first place , so that solved the problem. We did however give the room attendent an extra $30 , especially when he told us that he would have to move all of the cases (there were hundreds of them , all laid out in the corridors outside people's cabins) in the night (and he had already worked most of that day). The staff worked so hard , so it was really worth every penny! So instead of putting money in the envelopes and handing them to each member of staff (4 in total) , we simply put our vouches in the envelopes and then gave them to them. I expect they would then have to hand in the vouchers in return for the money we had already paid for them. So although we were against pre-paying the gratuities , it did actually work out better for us , and also means you get it out of the way. Apparently the staff only get $50 per month (including their food and keep) , although they work very long hours , and for their whole contract (6 months , usually) they don't get one day off - so they rely on the tips as their income. * Shows * The Independence Of The Seas has it's own theatre called the 'Alhambra' , which is fairly big. Each night , there was a different show on. The ship has it's own entertainers simply known as 'The Royal Caribbean singers and dancers'. Whilst we were there they put on four different productions ; one was a circus , another one was about fairytales as well as others. The shows were brilliant and the performers were excellent. As well as the shows they did , they also performed in the street parades. The ship also had it's own live band ; who seemed to be involved with most things musical on the ship ; all of the shows , the street parades , the talent show etc. As well as the ship's own in-house-entertainers , there was also entertainers who had just 'called in'. Some of them were very good including a comedian who was very funny , and kept us laughing throughout the whole show. There was an elderly gentleman who sang , and he was brilliant too. Another good one was a comedy juggler , who was brilliant and so was the Motown band. There was one man though , who was an impersonator and he was really bad ; he was American and lot of the impersonations he did were of Americans from television shows and things like that , which we hadn't seen and ,so because we didn't know who these people were , we didn't know if he was good at impersonating them or not , and so the show was very boring. A lot of people even walked out that night. It was really cringy because no one was laughing either! Most of the time , the shows were fantastic , although my only criticism was the fact that they were too short. Each show only lasted around an hour and so they were over quickly. Apart from this , the shows were of a very high standard (apart from the impersontor man). There was also an ice rink onboard which also had their own shows , although because these were always on in the afternoon , because we had either been out in the ports all day we would go for a rest before dinner that evening and so we didn't go to see the ice shows. Also another factor was that , with the other shows you could just walk in (it was included in the price of the cruise) to the theatre , find a seat and watch the show. Although with the ice shows , you had to get a ticket in the morning of the day of the show , and so we had already gone out by then perhaps. One evening they did a show called 'The Love And Marriage Show' in the theatre. The show consisted of four couples hand-picked from the audience ; the men then had to answer embaressing questions about their other halves while they weren't there and then vice versa , and the other halves would have to guess what their partners had said. This was a very comical show!! * Activities * There were many activites taking place all day every day. Each night , you would receive a cruise newsletter called 'The Cruise Compass' which would tell you everything about what was going on the next day , including the weather as as well as certain onboard offers such as at the spa etc ,which was very good . There were hundreds of activites to choose from including ; Yoga , bingo , Quizzes , karaoke ; everything you could imagine. They even had a rock climbing wall and a Flow Rider which was a water thing which 'shot' out water so that you could surf. Great for kids! There was so much to do that in the whole two weeks , no way would you have had time to try everything! I had orginally thought when I saw that we had a few 'sea days' (days where we didn't get off the ship at ports) that we would be very bored with nothing to do , although there was soo much to do , that at times I actually prefered the sea days to the port days. We went to the karaoke one night and it was quite quiet there. There wasn't that many singers there. Me and my sister both sang , although I was disappointed with the songs available , as they were all pre 2000's songs and so there weren't many songs that we knew. We also went to the bingo session one afternoon. We go to bingo every couple or months or so , and so were looking forward to the session. Although we were really disappointed when we only played about four 'line' games and one 'house' game and so for about $30 we felt this was a bit of rip off as there was only about five chances of winning a prize. When we go to Mecca bingo at home , we pay about £15 and have about twenty-something games , so this one was a bit disappointing. Although I would have loved to have won the top prize which was to spend the rest of your holiday in the 'royal suite'. There were also other 'fun activities' which involved 'members of the public'. Such things included 'men's belly flop' competition , where they had to flop into the pool and the audience had to vote for who they thought made the biggest splash. The ironic part was , that there were five guys trying (four of which were quite big men) and a skinny guy and the skinny guy won which I thought was funny! There were a lot of sports facilities including table tennis tables , which we played a few times during our stay. You could also play football and basketball as well as go swimming in one of the many swimming pools. What was good was the fact that there were lots of little swimming pools and one section was for kids and then there was a more quieter area with pools for adults. There were also a few jacuzzis which were lovely and warm. There was also a pool bar which was good , especially at night as it was very quiet and relaxing. There were loads of deck chairs available on the top deck ; great for sunbathing , and most of the time we had brilliant weather. There was almost always deck chairs available , until the last day when there were hardly none left! There was also a 'help-yourself-ice-cream-machine' which I absolutely loved , and you could as many as you wanted! * Ports of Call * We went to some great places ; Gibraltar , Corsica , Cannes , Barcelona , Ibiza , Malag , Lisbon and Vigo. You could book excursions with the ship , where you could go on tours (you had to pay) or go to museums or things like football clubs. We never went on any of the ship's excursions and just did our own thing. I was really pleased with the places we went to especially ; Barcelona , Malaga , Lisbon and Vigo. The rest of the places we visited were good , although the ones I have listed above are the ones which stood out the most for me. When getting off the ship you had to use your seapass to 'clock out' and then on returning to the ship , you had to clock back in , and go through security checks ; you couldn't bring particular items such as food and drink onto the ship. * Photographs * There was always an opportunity for a photograph. The ship had it's own photographers , who were always buzzing about the ship. Whenever you stepped off the ship , the photographers would be waiting for you , (one would be dressed up in a special outfit depending on which place we were at - in gibraltar they were dressed up as a monkey , a bull fighter in Barcelona , a dolphin in lisbon etc) and you could have your photo taken with the 'mascot'. Your photos would then be available to purchase in the ship's own gallery which held loads of photos. You could also have you're photos taken every night around the ship with special backgrounds such as the ship , or on the stairs. On formal nights they would 'chase' you for a photo - sometimes even interupting your dinner for a photo. We had some good photos of all of us which we purchased at around $20-$30 per photo. Once we had purchased four photos , we had a 'free' photo album which was worth $39 so that was good! Throughout the cruise , they were always on about a dvd which the ship people had made during the fortnight and would be a great souvenier to take home as it contained great memories from the particular cruise (featuring clips from the shows , and the parties , and of the people). I thought 'oh wow ,that sounds good' and so bought a copy of the DVD for $30! However , I managed to watch it for the first time last night , and it was a load of old rubish! Yes , it did feature clips of the shows and clips of the passengers dancing in the parties and so on , although it was more like a 'promotional dvd' which you can get free if you request from cruise companies (I had had some free through the post from P&O cruises and Ocean Village , before we went) and this one was exactly like one of those as it said 'this is the so-and-so - we are open from 8-4 every day' kind of thing , and so I felt it was a complete rip off , telling me about what I already knew! * Royal Promenade * Believe it or not , the ship has it's own 'street' with shops and cafes. You would not believe that you were on a ship , but would think that you were really shopping on a real street. There aren't that many shops (just small shops such as a 'general store' which sold sweets , medication and souveniers , a women's clothes shop , a men's clothes shop , cafes , Ben and Jerry's Ice cream shop as well as 'travel agents' where you could book your next cruise' , and once you had been in them once , you'd seen it all. One good thing about the shops was the fact that they were 'duty-free'. The shops were sometimes closed whilst the ship was docked , and would then open when the ship was back at sea. At night , 'parties' would take place on the Royal Promenade. The first 'party' was good ; it featured two of the cruise's professional singers and they were brilliant. Although as the cruise went on , these parties became 'boring'. There were these bridges/stages that came down from the roof. There would be music playing (they would have special nights such as British rock etc) and then they would have members of the entertainment teams (not the actual singers and dancers - but the ones who would help out at events such as bingo and karaoke etc) and they would just be dancing and jumping up and down , and the crowd would just be looking at them , and so I thought that this was very boring and so I didn't watch these parades after. * Extra Points and tips * Beforehand , we had worried that we would get sea sick ; although it did take us a day or two to get used to the ship's movement , we were absolutely find. One or two nights it was a bit rocky although we felt safe onboard. We took 'travel bands' which really helped on the first day. Although sea sickness didn't affect us at all. We always made sure that we left at least an hour before we were supposed to get back on the ship , when visiting ports , as the ship wouldn't wait for anyone. When we visited Cannes , there was a group of people who weren't back on the ship at the time the ship was set to sail , the captain said that they would wait twenty minutes for them and no more (as the ship was being charged to park at the port). I don't know if they did get back on in time or if they had to fly to Barcelona to meet the ship the next day. So it's better to leave the ports a little early in order to get back onto the ship in time. Before the cruise I shopped and shopped until I was certain that I wouldn't be able to fit everything into my suitcase (luckily I was). I was sure I didn't have enough clothes for two weeks ; I took about eight different pairs of shoes and only ended up wearing the same two pairs throughout. I also didn't wear half the clothes that I took with me. There was also an onboard laundry where you could send your dirty laundry for a small price and then they would return your items to your room which was good. The best time to go swimming was at around 6pm as there were hardly no people there at all , just the odd one or two. However in the day it was proper busy and quite noisy at times too . If you are going to buy sovenieres then I recommend that you do so on the last day rather than at the beginning of your holiday , as there was a big sale at the end of cruise ,especially on jewellry and perfumes , so it is worth waiting. With over 4000 passengers onboard as well as over 1,300 members of staff , you would have thought that it would have been overcrowded , but the truth was it wasn't (apart from the Windjammer at busy times). There were some real great places which were very peaceful , including the very front of the ship , on the top deck after 6pm (when everyone had either gone to dinner for 6:30 , or gone to get ready for dinner at 8:30). Before going , a lot of people had said that a cruise was a holiday for old people ,so I was a bit like 'oh god', but I can honestly tell you that there were more people in their twenties and thirties than old people. Although having said that , there were people of all ages from , babies , toddlers , kids , teens , adults and seniors. It really is the perfect holiday for everyone! If you're in a group , it's a good idea to have a meeting point. So if you do happen to get split up from everyone , it's a good idea to say 'if we lose someone , head to the 'meeting point' (whether it be outside a shop or bar) on the hour' , so say that you 'lose someone' and it's 12:45 , then you would be at the meeting place to meet at 1 o clock , if that makes sense. Before going I was worried that I wouldn't have enough spending money to last a fortnight , and was thinking 'oh my god , I'm going to need at least £1000. In the end I took around 400 Euros with me and that was more than enough - I think during the whole two weeks , I only spent around 100 Euros , and that was off the ship , mainly buying tickets to go on tour buses , entries into places like caves and museums and for souveniers , and so that proves that you don't need that much money with you at all , although it wise to make sure that you do have enough. Everything you bought onboard the ship with your 'seapass' , which was linked to a credit card , was taken out of your bank account at the end of the holiday. * Overall Experience * We had a fantastic time ; all seven of us agreed that it was a brilliant experience and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Everything about it was wonderful ; the food , the staff , the cabins , shows , ports , ice cream machine , jacuzzi , bars ....everything was perfect!! We paid around £1300 each for a room with a balcony and it was well worth the money. At first it did seem a little expensive , although when we were actually on the ship it was obvious that it was well worth the money when you think about all that was included : Unlimited food : (breakfast , lunch tea , and dinner as well as 24 hour buffet) , including a three course meal every night (if you had gone to a restaurant it would probably have cost £20+ per person). All of the ice cream we had at the pool (if you would have bought it in a shop , each cone would have cost at least £2 each , and we had loads here) The top shows ; In all , I think we saw about nine shows. Imagine if you had gone to see a show at your local theatre it would have cost around £20 per person per show (actually more probably as the performers on this ship were World class). There was so much more included although the above are the main ones! So all in all it was excellent value for money! * Highly Recommended * I would definately recommend the Independence Of The Seas ; it was fantastic , a real holiday in a lifetime , and now that I have arrived home after two weeks onboard the brilliant ship...it's horrible , there was so much to do onboard , so many people and great company , and now it just seems really boring and lonely after being surrounded by so many people for a fortnight !I really can't wait to go again! Time to start saving some money for another cruise I think...........! Thanks for reading! Apologies for such a long review (it's not often I write long ones!) June 24th 2010 xdonzx Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
I have never been to Disney; it's just one of those places that I could never see myself connecting with. I have spoken too many and am confident that it is an amazing experience that sticks in a Childs mind for a lifetime. What makes ... Read More
I have never been to Disney; it's just one of those places that I could never see myself connecting with. I have spoken too many and am confident that it is an amazing experience that sticks in a Childs mind for a lifetime. What makes it not appealing to me is the whole pretence of pretend, trying to be so many things at once, copying other places in the world, recreated with a look and feel of the original. I find myself drawing parallels as I sit aboard Independence of the Seas writing this review. Check-in at Southampton was less than smooth. I queued in the car to get into the port, queued to get my case unloaded, queued to get into the waiting area before security, queued to check in. Over an hour and a half to get from arrival at the dock gates to finally embarking. Not that the delays ended there, my case did not arrive until after dinner (8pm) and if you wanted to try and speak to guest relations; join the long, long line. Now Oasis of the Seas, with it's 6,000 passengers and based in Florida, manages to get kerbside to cabin in 15 mins. Why must we pay 3 or 4 times the price of a cruise in the USA to experience this poor service departing Southampton? This needs to change. This is my fourth of six cruises this year and as I walked onto the ship she it was as impressive as I had thought. She's big, very big and immediate impression was lots of people, and no ship guide in the stateroom. Thankfully outside each lift there is illuminated cut-away of the ship so you can see where you are in relation to everything around you. The main feature of all 'Freedom class' ships is the Royal Promenade; a 'mall style' 6 deck high alley that goes down the centre of the ship. Like a mall it has shops and pubs each side trying to sell you items over and above the cost of the cruise. Each shop or bar is individually styled to make it feel like something else. The Dog and Badger pub which is presented like an old Tudor English pub, Sorrento's an Italian style cafe across the way serving pizza 24 hours a day, or Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream etc I was blessed with the weather on this cruise with sun and temperatures above 25 celcius every day, so relaxing at the side of the impressive Flo-rider or sipping my favourite BBC cocktail at the pool side sky bar were delightful times. Independence is now sailing year round from Southampton and with no indoor pool and so much public entertainment space in and around the pools on decks 11 & 12, sailing from Southampton on a cold, dark February evening would not be fun. This ship houses over 1,000 more passengers than Queen Mary 2 and is only slightly bigger and as I strolled round the Deck 12 area it certainly felt like it. Every sun lounger had a either a person or a checked-out towel laying on it. You have to present your room Sea Pass card to get a Pool Towel and if not returned you get charged $20. So despite notices requesting people do not take a sun lounger for more than 30 minutes most were there for the afternoon. There were a few times the number of people became an issue, the captain's address in the Royal Promenade on Formal Night was certainly a squeeze as was the 40 min queue to buy a fridge magnet on the last night...... The Royal Promenade is deprived of any connection to the sea or the fact you are on a cruise, no glass roof to the sky being completely encased and artificially lit, no windows to the ocean (only small windows in two of the bars looking at lifeboats). It is a celebration of consumerism; a cathedral to shopping and, for me, adds nothing to the cruise experience that I could not get in my local shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon. I did find the whole imitation theme; the Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, King Lear, Anthony & Cleopatra and Othello named dining rooms; the Pyramid Lounge complete with fake Cleopatra's needle outside, the stale smoke drenched Labyrinth nightclub complete with fake stained glass, gothic chairs and pews felt more like a gothic S&M dungeon; Sorrentos the 24 hour pizza outlet complete with 24 hour Italian jukebox, a plastic Morgan car and so on. It all had a veneer of reality that was only as thick as the painted coating. Why could not the largest cruise ship in Europe have the confidence to be original, to create something that is not just lifted from the text book of history or a copy of something else, but actually tried to bring something new to the party? Royal Caribbean had a chance to really impress and set a new standard that OTHERS could have aspired to, but fell way short. From the looks of Oasis of the Seas, they may have found it again. The food was OK but not memorable. I steak on the first night arrived overcooked and tough as leather, though most meals in the Romeo & Juliet dining room were edible though not exciting. No four courses here like Cunard or Celebrity. Service was good, though hard sold; It was disclosed to me, after I had completed the questionnaire, that if you had marked 'Good', 'Fair' or 'Poor' on the end of cruise survey they count as minus points to the staff you are rating. Only the highest rank of 'Excellent' counts as a positive. So the effort of the waiting staff to impress, and to make sure you turned up on the last night to give them the gratuities envelope, was way to pushy. Joy and Robert our waiters were excellent, even though the dining room we were in was less than half full. It's the impersonal approach and the little things I missed on this cruise: No bathrobe, no slippers and no chocolate on the pillow last thing at night (Cunard & Celebrity). No real dress code in the main dining room with jeans and shorts at dinner and breakfast. No extra little cakes after dinner or Bread basket and dips on the table (Celebrity) However it I was looking to take the family on a cruise this would be top of my list. The FloRider surf simulator with the wrap around seating was a great place to see experts and beginners try out surfing. For the more adventurous the rock-climbing wall was open each day adjacent to the basketball court. And for the under 8's the H2O zone with its water jets and vortex pool would be a hit. The ice rink shows on Deck 3 studio B were impressive, 10 skaters pulled from national teams (mainly Russian) executed a through the ages show called Freeze-Frame with great precision. And the Showtime shows in the 1,300 seat Alhambra Theatre were good, especially the Once Upon A Time show on the last night. As I walked round the ship at sunset one night I passed the windows to the Adventure Ocean kids club and there were toddlers dashing about the place in supervised activities and older kids in the Fuel Teen Club; I did agree that as a family holiday this ship offers both family and adult time with the peace of mind if knowing the kids are safe and having fun, rather than bored and left behind. Even though this was half term week and the waiter imparted that there was 800 kids on board, the organisation was such that at dinner we were in a quite dining area and families, couples and solo cruisers were well grouped. To summarise, Independence of the Seas is mass-cruising, how best to cope with the number of passengers. It is mass catering, mass entertaining and mass movement of people, I felt as unique as my stateroom number throughout. This is not a classy five star ship. It has been designed for the mass family UK market with a bit of something for everyone and at this level it succeeds on all counts. If I were boarding Independence as my first cruise I would be wowed by the experience and everything on offer. If you have cruised before then this will probably meet all of your expectations for RCI. It's a good cruise ship, but not excellent like Queen Mary 2 or any of the Celebrity Solstice class ships (owned by the same corporate). This is solid four star family fun. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Our group was ourselves and another couple that we have cruised with previously. This was our first trip with RCL and was our seventh cruise. The other cruises were with Celebrity - a sister line. We arrived in London at Terminal 4 one ... Read More
Our group was ourselves and another couple that we have cruised with previously. This was our first trip with RCL and was our seventh cruise. The other cruises were with Celebrity - a sister line. We arrived in London at Terminal 4 one day ahead of time and spent the night at the Thistle Hotel near the airport (not a great place, but adequate, and it included breakfast). It is a 20 pound taxi ride between the two - each way. (The Hilton near Terminal 4 may not have cost much more.) The next morning found us back at the airport to meet our purchased shuttle bus to the pier in Harwich. After about a 2 ½ hour ride we were at the ship where embarkation was by far the easiest, smoothest we have experienced. The Ship - Jewel of the Seas was a bit of a disappointment to us. The biggest negative was the Centrum area on Deck 4 that extended up several decks. There were many activities that took place there and the sound carried up this center portion. This area was often very congested, also, because there are so many things here - guest relations, a dance floor, a bar, and the onshore excursion desk. It was difficult to find a quiet, comfortable place to read anywhere on the ship. We were disappointed that the main dining room did not open to windows at the stern of the ship as we have had previously. The ship was well maintained, had lovely art work, and was easy to navigate. However, there are no elevators toward the stern - only sets at midship and forward. The Ports - This was a cruise with 9 port and 2 sea days. I will try to comment on each port. In the ship's first day newsletter there was a list of the ports and which ports would have a shuttle. Keep track of this because you won't find the info again. Normally we mainly do the ports on our own. This cruise I booked the ship's onshore excursions in most ports and was pleased with nearly all of them. Our first port was LeHavre in France, the port for Paris. It is a 2 ½ hour bus ride each way to Paris, so consider this when making your plans. We chose to tour the Beaches of Normandy which also went to the American cemetery and a museum, for lunch. It was an 8-hour tour and very informative. Cherbourg was our next stop. I just stayed onboard to rest while my husband took a shuttle uptown, walked around, and walked back. Our friends took a country tour. Cobh/Cork in Ireland came next. We took a trip to Kinsale and saw lovely countryside. The town was only OK for us. (Don't kiss the Blarney Stone in Cork - the locals do nasty stuff to it.) Dublin provided us with a city trip mainly to St. Patrick's Cathedral and Trinity College (the book of Kells is here and there was a long line waiting to get to see it.) Grenock/Glasgow is a very friendly port. Some people were offered a free tour by a group that was promoting their city. We took a tour of four lochs that included Loch Lomond and made a round trip, returning us to the ship via ferry. The day was rather overcast, but was well worth the price. On nearly all of our tours, the guide was excellent. After a day at sea we woke up just outside of Geiranger, our first fjord port in Norway, and what a fabulous scene outside our cabin! The next several days had terrific scenery and were the highlight of this trip. We took a bus trip to the top of Mt. Dalsnibba - lots of hairpin turns and wonderful photo stops. We were lucky enough to come across a small herd of reindeer. I did a bit of shopping here. It is a tender port and there are several shops just as you get off the tenders. (Norway is expensive! - no real need to change money on this trip, except that we did to pay for the taxi in London.) Flam was the next stop and again lots of scenery. This is a very small village and the ship docked right there. It is a very short walk to the shops. We went to Stalheim Valley and Tvinde waterfall. Alesund, even though not in a fjord, provided us with a great excursion - the Valley of the Trolls. Trolls Ladder is not to be missed, whether you do it on your own or through the ship!! No picture could do it justice. It is something you must see for yourself. If you don't mind heights, make sure that you walk to the overlook at the top. A new one just opened the day we were there. Our last port was Bergen. It was 80 degrees when we were there - very warm for Norway. My husband found a free hop on/hop off bus near the visitors' information center and rode two of the routes. I stayed onboard and kept cool. The weather on this whole trip was wonderful and just added to everything. This and That - The meals were average. We ate in the main dining room every night, and our waiter was poor. The assistant was excellent, so made up for it a bit. However, we were at a table for 8 and our tablemates were outstanding. We had great conversations and wonderful fun with them, at other times, too. We ate most of our other meals in the Windjammer buffet. Sometimes it was very busy, but there is a lot of seating. Our room steward was attentive and provided us with shampoo, extra towels, robes, whatever we asked for. (I didn't bring any shampoo, as it is provided on Celebrity, as are cotton balls and Q-Tips - just a couple of little things that I missed on RCL.) We went to the theater every night, but the entertainment was only average. The evening sunset show was better. We enjoyed our balcony a great deal. It was a quiet sanctuary, and despite all of our other activities we each read three books. We made use of the gym. I had planned on getting a pedicure, but checked out the chair that they use and found it to be very uncomfortable, so saved a few dollars on that. Since we are part of the Celebrity loyalty program and that transfers to RCL, we are at a high enough level to enjoy the Concierge Club. This provides a quieter place for a continental breakfast and also evening drinks and appetizers in a private area. Since we were new to this amenity, we were surprised to find out that alcoholic drinks are also complimentary. We were happy to find out that we could get our daily 'fix' of a soft drink without having to purchase the very expensive soft drink option. I have since heard that RCL is modifying this program to offer free wine and soft drinks, but to offer a percent off the cost of hard liquor. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
First time cruising for both my husband an me....Trepidation of what to expect!! Arrived by car to Southampton to be faced by the 'mother of all liners'. Transfer from car to ship was efficient and effortless, even when my ... Read More
First time cruising for both my husband an me....Trepidation of what to expect!! Arrived by car to Southampton to be faced by the 'mother of all liners'. Transfer from car to ship was efficient and effortless, even when my husband had to return to shore after realizing he'd left his wallet in our car (men for you!). Baggage took a number of hours before it arrived at our stateroom, which incidentally, was totally practicable and comfortable (exceeding a lot of 4* hotels we have stopped in). Food and Dining - Firm believer in having the opportunity to 'dress up' for evening dinners, the Independence has the structure perfectly set up with 3 formal nights and 2 smart casual and the rest being casual. Ship and facilities - Beyond belief!!! The Independence promises so much in the brochures and delivers with aplomb. Three days of intense investigation (never mind the shoe leather), just to gain an impression of the ship and what it has to offer. It is beyond description!!! Destinations - Some good, some indifferent. Villefranche was the showstopper with Cannes and Monaco, Vigo was extremely disappointing especially as this was the last port of call before arriving home. Entertainment - Luxurious surroundings in the Alhambra theatre sadly let down by the quality of the live shows. We could never quite understand why better quality of entertainers could not be engaged by RCI. Disappointing!!....Never mind the multitude of different bars and their associated themes made up for this. Staff - Overall, more than I expected. Majority of staff were kind and courteous and always presented a smile on their faces. Only area that did not reflect this was during the breakfasts in the main dining area, service there was occasionally lax bordering on the disappointing (wrong orders, late service of tea....And the toast...Yuk!!). Evening dining - Probably our biggest grievance (see below). Positives - The Independence of the Seas promises so, so much in the brochures and only just fails to deliver across all spectrums. RCI have a wonderful asset to their cruising portfolio with the addition of this ship. Whether you are a couple or a family with children, then the ship will deliver the majority of your aspirations with ease. This, I can only applaud RCI for. Negatives - Surprisingly few. However, the area around dining is a fundamental concern. Catering for upward of 1500 guests per sitting at dinner did represent challenges to RCI that sadly they missed. This was not reflective of their wonderful chefs or the supporting waiter service but is a more deep routed problem around Logistics. The bigger they build these ships the greater the logistical challenge faced...One that I feel they are destined too lose, especially with the advent of their latest liner next year! Overall - If you are happy o accept the few culinary failings then the Independence of the Seas is the holiday for you. It is magical beyond belief..... Would I do another??...Darn right I would! Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
We were fortunate enough to sail on the 2nd May Inaugural Sailing of the Independence. It was a 4 night Sailing out of Southampton to Cobh (Cork, Ireland). We have never sailed with Royal Caribbean before and were travelling with two other ... Read More
We were fortunate enough to sail on the 2nd May Inaugural Sailing of the Independence. It was a 4 night Sailing out of Southampton to Cobh (Cork, Ireland). We have never sailed with Royal Caribbean before and were travelling with two other couples who have never cruised before. We have been on 6 cruises (Celebrity, HAL and Cunard and are all in our early 50's). We booked an E1 balcony on Deck 8 midships, with one set of friends in the cabin next door, and the other couple were in an E2 on Deck 7 on the Hump. I've gone into a fair bit of detail here, so apologize if you fall asleep whilst reading. You will see I have been both negative and positive about our trip. We arrived in Southampton at around 12.15, but then spent over an hour queuing to get to the ship parking. We followed the sign for the Independence of the Seas, only to be sent around a totally different way when we got to the front of the queue. There displays were wrong! The new P&O ship, the Vistana was sailing and also the Queen Victoria, so it was all pretty busy. Eventually, when we got to the right dock (8) for those with pre paid parking, we were directed to the luggage drop off area. From there we drove through pretty easily, unloaded to a Porter and then parked our car in our reserved parking which was right next to the ship. The boarding process was the quickest I have ever experienced and we were all very impressed. Loads of very helpful staff around. Probably on board and in our cabins within 10 minutes of arriving at the check in area. Cabin The cabins were really very good. This is the first balcony cabin that we have had recently, having had Suites on two cruises on HAL and one on the QM2, so we were a bit worried about going back to a Balcony. We were very pleasantly surprised. The bed was beautifully made up with turquoise cushions etc and good quality sheets and was 6ft wide, even though described as a Queen. We were expecting to squeeze into a 5ft wide bed. What a relief. The mirrors to the dressing table were excellent and for the first time ever, you could see every angle of your body (which was a bit of a shock!) Plenty of drawer space, but the wardrobe shelves were a bit awkward to get to at and for a 14 night cruise there certainly would not be enough space for all our clothes. But then again, we always take too much! The bathroom was very small compared to the size of a Suite Bathroom, but we both felt it was very well designed and did not really matter at all. The shower is circular and has good pressure etc and a good size. There is a small cupboard behind the glass to the left of the sink for your toiletries. We were disappointed that there was no Conditioner, Cotton Wool Balls, Body Moisturizer etc, just a squeezy bottle of shampoo in the shower. The towels were thick and new, but were a bit small. We missed not having a bath, but apart from that it was fine. We had pre-ordered 3 bottles of white wine, but only one was in the cabin on ice for us. We tried ringing through to Room Service (after speaking to our Steward) to get the other bottles, but after 20 mins of hanging on, gave up! The ice in the wine had melted and there was no ice in the Ice Bucket. Our Steward quickly sorted this out for us. There was also a half drunk bottle of water and an opened carton of milk in our minibar, obviously left from one of the two trips that had been done before the inaugural. Not a very good start from our Steward. He quickly rectified it for us and after that looked after us pretty well, but was the worst service we have ever had. Having said that all other trips, the service had been so good, he had a hard act to follow (particularly the Butler on the QM2). There was also a small kettle for tea / coffee making which I thought was a great addition. However, they supplied us with two paper cups and RCL need to realize that us Brits do not like drinking tea out of these sorts of cups! They would be better to supply a couple of mugs. (A small but petty point!) The balcony was a good size with two comfortable white chairs, with blue plastic slatting and a small table. No teak deck though - it was a sort of rubberized composite. Our Steward opened up the adjoining Balcony to our friends next door which was great for pre dinner drinks and we had a lot of fun out there. Windjammer We had lunch in the Windjammer on our first day which was OK. Other days the lunches seemed better, although they cleared most of it away before 3, which caught us out a couple of times. No trays though, so difficult to carry anything and was surprised to see no self service tea / coffee / drinks stations. This may well be a Royal Caribbean thing. I would imagine it is probably to stop the spread of bugs and if that is the case, it is a good idea. A bit awkward though. The coffee was very poor and not to our taste. The orange juice was particularly good though and breakfast was OK and pretty well organized. Speciality Restaurants Both were really great. Can't say enough good things about either. Fabulous food, setting and service. If we could have eaten in there every night we would have done, but could only get Portofino's for the first night and Chops for the second. Main Dining Room We had a nice table for 6 by the window in King Lear the top level. Our server Juan was from Chile and was very helpful and fun. As we had eaten in the speciality restaurants the first two nights our first appearance was on the formal night (which was the Sunday after leaving Cobh). We were disappointed with the menu, only three courses, with a pour selection of Starters and no Lobster or Crab Legs on the Main Courses. Our waiter was helpful though and most of us had a pasta from the Main Course list as our Starter followed by the Filet Mignon which was very good. The rest of the meal was below what we were expecting. Just didn't taste that great. I was surprised to see no salad course. On the final night, although the service was again great, the food was not. We were however supplied with a big bowl of Caesar Salad to share which was probably the high point of the meal. We found the decor to be very dated and tacky - with fake horrid paintings etc. The three tiers were nice though and elegant, but in a very old fashioned way. Entertainment There were four performances of the Ice Show "Strings" and we managed to get tickets for the 18.30 performance on the Sunday. It was amazing - don't miss it if you get the chance. We had front row seats on the side and it was exhilarating. We missed the first night's production show, but managed the one on the last night. It was the first performance of this show on an RCL ship, but I can't remember it's name. Sorry! It was a mixture of Singing / Dancing and violin, piano recitals all backed up with an Orchestra. It was really good, very high quality performances, although it didn't have enough dancing for our tastes. Overall it was excellent though. There was live music in most bars in the evening, all of which were very good. There was a great band in "Olive or Twist" which was our favorite bar. Also a great Salsa band in Boleros. It was sometimes tough to get a seat though. We loved the champagne bar and the wine bar as well. We visited the disco "Labyrinth" on the last night and it was jumping. Great music, sound quality, mixing etc. The décor again was a bit over the top. Overall the drinks service was slow, but the wait staff were friendly and good fun. The Promenade was spectacular, albeit a bit Disney, but interesting area that we've never seen on a ship before. Sports Our friends used the Gym a few times and loved it and also went to a few lectures and classes all of which were apparently very good. We all used the Sauna / Steam which was good. We didn't, however use the Spa as we had a day at Fota Island where the boys played golf and us girls used the Spa (Sheraton). We played the mini golf on Day one which was fun, but never seemed to have the time for any of the other activities. The cantilevered hot tubs were great, but we only managed one visit into these. Why is cruise ship time so much faster than "work" time. The flowrider looked great and it was great to see such a good basketball court. There were quite a few children / teens on board and they were absolutely no trouble. Debarkation Went like clockwork. Best we've had off any ship. We were in our car within about 10 mins of being called. Overall Considering this was their first full cruise it was all very good. No real teething issues. Service was pretty slow in the bars, but hey we were on holiday! Drinks were a reasonable price, but the wine was really expensive. We found the whole ship a bit glitzy and fake for our tastes, except the cabins which were much more appealing. Not a criticism, but just a preference thing. There was a huge problem getting back onto the ship from Cobh on Saturday afternoon (she was moored there overnight, so I guess it was just unfortunate that a lot of people headed back at the same time. We queued for about 30 minutes and it started to rain - the crew were brilliant though and handed out rain ponchos. The Casino was good although I was disappointed not be able to put coins in the slots, nor receive them. Wasn't quite the same getting a voucher! Like to hear the tinkle of the coins if and when I win. Lovely that it was smokefree - made such a difference. Having pointed out quite a few negatives, I would like to stress that we had a really good time, but am not sure RCL is the line for us. If the price was right though, I'm sure we'll be back! Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
What a fantastic vacation and a beautiful ship. My husband and I arrived in London the day before the cruise. British Airways was excellent, great food and excellent service. Getting from Terminal 4 to Terminal 2 at Heathrow airport was ... Read More
What a fantastic vacation and a beautiful ship. My husband and I arrived in London the day before the cruise. British Airways was excellent, great food and excellent service. Getting from Terminal 4 to Terminal 2 at Heathrow airport was quite challenging. Trains, escalators, moving sidewalks, back and forth until we finally found our transfer company. Fortunately we brought spinner luggage and was able to maneuver it easily. RCL booked us into the City Inn at Westminster and the hotel was modern, clean and friendly although the food in the restaurant was very expensive. We wanted to ride on the London Eye but its computers weren't working. We caught a performance of "Wicked"- excellent. The transfer to the ship was fast and easy. The Jewel of the Sea is a beautiful ship . Our oceanview room was upgraded to a large balcony cabin- in a perfect location. This Baltic cruise necessitates a balcony cabin because cruising through the fjords and seeing it on your private balcony is a great memory. We ate breakfast every morning in the main dining room and it was good but there was no variation in the menu. Lunch in Windjammer was very good with a wide variety of selections especially the desserts. Dinner- mixed reviews. Sometimes it was tasty and other nights it was boring and ordinary. Our waiter was outstanding. We really enjoyed all the cultural presentations on the Baltic ports. We really liked the Russian bazaar at the end of the cruise.There was a great selection of Russian boxes and stacking dolls. The entertainment was excellent. The production shows were good but Tenors Unlimited and the pianist was fantastic! Ports of call- A must see in Oslo is the Vigeland Sculpture Garden. The sculpture as well as the gardens are outstanding. A must see in Sweden is the Vasa Museum. We booked our tours online from DenRus for St. Petersburg and we were so pleased. It was most reasonably priced and the service and our tour guide was excellent. her name was Elena and her knowledge and personality was outstanding. They took us on a cruise on the Neva River- fantastic, the Hermitage was outstanding and Peterhoff Palace was beyond our expectations. DenRus was great and we highly recommend them to everyone. They took great care of us. This was our 8th and best cruise yet. The itinerary was remarkable and the people working on Jewel of the Sea were most kind and efficient. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
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