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2,182 Royal Caribbean Southampton Cruise Reviews

We were a party of 8 which including 4 teenage children. We travelled down from Wigan the day before and stayed overnight in Oxford which meant we just had a 2 hour drive to get to Southampton. As mentioned in a previous review from ... Read More
We were a party of 8 which including 4 teenage children. We travelled down from Wigan the day before and stayed overnight in Oxford which meant we just had a 2 hour drive to get to Southampton. As mentioned in a previous review from someone we followed the directions our sat nav gave us after inputting the postcode and missed all the traffic which followed the docks signs. We dropped our cases off, parked on the long stay car park and went into the terminal (the ship towered over all the buildings and was very impressive). We hadn't registered online as last year for the Jewel the queues were far longer for that then just going to the desk and again it was the same. We were there just before 11am, went straight to a desk, linked both cabins per family to same seapass card and went through to wait to be called. Only had chance to nip to the toilet and then we were being asked to board. We were on ship by 11.15am and it meant we could use all the facilities and have virtually a full day before we left. After walking around with our mouths wide open - it really is very impressive - we had lunch in the Windjammer and again found the food excellent. Yes it is busy but as the days go on you can generally judge the best times to go. The fruit punch is lovely and the views from the back of the ship fantastic. Dirty plates were cleared quickly and the staff friendly. You can buy drinks but we never felt the need to as the soft drinks were sufficient. We walked down to our cabins on deck 9 about 12.45pm just to get our bearings and found our luggage was outside so we were able to sort that out. We had 4 internal staterooms (2 berth) and even though you couldn't walk around the bed when it was made up into a queen we found the rooms were sufficient. (We have booked a 4 berth on the Voyager next year but are thinking of changing it to 2 x 2 berth again - just as my husband thinks it would be a nightmare having 3 girls getting ready!!) The shower was so powerful you didn't want to get out. Our stateroom attendant was brilliant - Anguis - and emptied bins all the time, did our towel animals, turned beds down, made beds - excellent service. I even had to ask for a needle and thread and it was there within 10 minutes. I used the laundry service to press my dress for formal night - excellent - just fill the form out, hang your item up and they collect it and return it the day after - pressed for $4.75. The pools were fantastic and even though there were a lot of children on board you weren't really bothered. Our lot loved the pools while we sneaked in the adult cantilevered jacuzzis or pool and then went in there's as well - water as warm as bath water. Waiters walking round all the time if you want drinks or cocktails or you can go through to Windjammer to get juice or coffee. When we got on we got all the kids the soda fountain package for $18 each and this was a god send - they put a sticker on their seapass card and they can go as many times during the day and night that they want - that is one of the things when you go on holiday that makes the cost mount up. Sprinkles ice cream machine was great as well - we thought this was just for the kids but it's not. 4.15pm is the muster drill and that is quite weird seeing everyone going down the stairs to deck 4 (i think) in life jackets. Over and done with in half an hour though. We were on early sitting for evening meal but used to go down for 6.30pm. We were in the Macbeth dining room on table 476 in the window. Table for 8 which was lovely. Our waiter Neil and assistant waiter Georgiou both from the Philippines gave EXCELLENT service throughout the holiday and nothing was too much trouble. Elyssa wasn't keen on her starter so he took it away and brought another. If they hadn't liked anything on the menu he would have sent out for a burger etc (they loved everything). We didn't feel the need to eat in chops or Portofino's as the food was excellent in the dining room. They remember your names and use them and you just feel this is the personal service (even though they do it with everyone it just makes a difference). In the evenings we used Schooner Bar, Olive or Twist, Champagne Bar, Boleros Bar, Dog and Badger, Pyramid lounge (in fact I don't think there was one we didn't go in). Every night we ended up in the Pyramid lounge watching the fantastic Rock the Boat - we had seen these last on the Jewel out of Oslo last May and again they were brilliant. We went in the Labyrinth nightclub a couple of times as well and as with every place it's hard to remember you are on a ship. During the days we spent by the pool because even though the weather wasn't brilliant it was okay and we were on holiday!! We docked in Cobh and only got off on the Sunday night just to have a look and had a glass of Murphys in a irish pub - we didn't feel the need to spend time away from the ship as there was so much to do and the kids wanted to stay on board. We watched 2 shows in the Alhambra theatre which were really good. The first night had all the staff and that poor Russian woman was up and down on the piano on the stage - excellent entertainment by all the staff. The second night was a comedian who was so bad he was really funny, if you know what I mean. Then there was an Australian singer who was very good. We got tickets for the Freeze Frame ice show on the Tuesday afternoon at 1pm but make sure you get there about 12.30pm to get good seats. Amazing show and there were a few moves we had to cover our eyes. God - what didn't we do!! We went into the casino and lost but hey ho!! Brilliant night anyway, everyone in formal wear and feeling special. We didn't watch any of the parades on Royal Promenade because it was a little bit busy but we could see them as they made their way up the stairs whilst we sat in Schooner Bar - get there early if you want to watch it from the Promenade. Formal night amazing and even though the queues were long for the photos we had some done which turned out lovely. $19.95 each and for 4 you get a holder with picture of the ship. If you are Crown and Anchor members use your vouchers which are left on your bed the first night - some good benefits. Each night there is the Compass left on your bed which tells you whats going on the day after. You can be doing something every hour if you want. The kids didn't want to use the clubs but there is something going on all the time for them if they do. The boys used the Flowrider and that was great entertainment. There had been a problem with the Seapass interactive accounts during the holiday but you could go and get a statement each day (sometimes they weren't up to date though). We didn't use a credit card and just put cash on and then kept topping it up when we were getting low. I went at 2am on the last night to close the account and get any money back but it still was down. They checked all my receipts I had for that day and worked out I needed a refund of $80. The queues were long the morning after but staff very friendly and helpful and didn't deserve the aggro some passengers were giving them. We had left our cases out the night before and just kept an overnight bag and that worked really well as we have found before you struggle with lifts but at least you can walk down stairs with just one bag. On the morning of departure we were up at 6.30am and went to the Windjammer for breakfast and then disembarked at 8.00am. Everyone got off but my card bleeped and when they rang up I was told I still had a balance on my account. I went back onboard, joined the queue, got an up to date statement and was told I owed them $230. When I got the statement the photography section had charged me 4 times for photos instead of once at $79.80. (one of the tills had been down when I bought them but he kept putting my card through until it worked - watch this as it meant I had been charged four times!) Quick visit to the photo shop for them to refund my card and then back to guest relations for them to just close the account and we were able to leave. This could have been aggro but all the rest of our party had gone down and collected all the cases so it only put us back about half an hour. We left the departure hall and went straight out to our car and that was the end of our holiday. All in all this was an amazing trip - yes we did hear of some people complaining but they sounded very petty things and the guest relations team were excellent and couldn't do enough to help. Julie's sense of humor was wicked! The people we dealt with who deserve a special mention are Anguise, Neil, Georgiou, Julie, Rock the Boat (guys you do rock the boat!), Graham the entertainments manager - made us laugh all day every day - just watch him on your cabin tv! Thanks again Royal Caribbean only 422 days until our journey on the Voyager - can't come quick enough!!!!!!!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
Drove down a very busy M3 and got to Southampton by 11.00. Had prebooked the carpark with AB parking [abparking.co.uk] - dropped off the luggage, parked the car, checked in - all within 5 minutes - and got priority boarding. Were called ... Read More
Drove down a very busy M3 and got to Southampton by 11.00. Had prebooked the carpark with AB parking [abparking.co.uk] - dropped off the luggage, parked the car, checked in - all within 5 minutes - and got priority boarding. Were called and on board by 11.30 First impressions - wow - big, blingly, beautiful, and sparkling new. Our speciality restaurant reservations had been cancelled - apparently cannot prebook if not travelling outside of the EU - something to do with tax, so straight up to book Portofino's for the first night and Chops for the last night. Slice of pizza at Sorrento for lunch and then off to explore. It was noticeable how RCI had 'Anglified' the ship for the mainly British crowd -with a English CD with a very subtle dry sense of humor, ("the tarot reading has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances"), English back bacon, baked beans, brown sauce for breakfast and the kettles in the cabin. We were in D2 balcony cabin 8520 - nicely laid out with the twin beds next to the window, large powerful shower, good storage, and 21 coathangers....only niggle was the position of the plugs in relation to the desktop, if you had an plug that was large it would not fit into the converter. Cobh -we arrived at 3pm where it appeared the whole town was out to meet us, band and and farmers market. Had prehired a car via greatislandcar www.greatislandcarrentals.com. €80 for 24hrs. Drove up to kiss the Blarney stone, entrance fee €10, and then back for a few glasses of the local brew before dinner at Johnny Rockets. Those burgers - yum! Next morning we were up early for a round of golf at Kinsale Golf Club which cost €90 including the hire of golf clubs and trolleys, followed by lunch at Fishy Fishy Restaurant (guess what they serve!) in Kinsale, which is very highly recommended. We only had dinner on one night in the main dining room- We had gone for Mytime dining option and it worked perfectly. The previous day we had reserved table for 2 at 8.15 - and there it was. In my mind the service is more relaxed, slower, as you are not all eating at the fastest pace of the rest of the table, and the food seems to come up fresher and hotter. I hope RCI continue this. It was miserable weather throughout the short trip – this is when the ship starts to creak at the seams with 3500+ on board – there queues for everything! What else do you expect on an English Bank holiday. There was a Food of Nations display on Royal Promenade where you could stroll down and sample the various foods of the nationalities on board. Demographic on board ranged from grandparents to babies...and 70% were in black tie on formal night I am glad to report. Final dinner was at Chops where the fillet steak cut like butter.....all in all a very enjoyable cruise on the most beautiful ship. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
This was the first time that we have cruise with RC as we have always cruised with P & O before and wanted to see what it was like. The transition through booking in to getting to our cabin was very smooth and everyone was most ... Read More
This was the first time that we have cruise with RC as we have always cruised with P & O before and wanted to see what it was like. The transition through booking in to getting to our cabin was very smooth and everyone was most helpful. Once on board we could not believe the size of our cabin compared to P & O. It was spacious and the bed was enormous. Our children (age 11,13) was well taken with the room as well as the mini bar!! The ship was much larger than we expected but was a bit disappointed with the pools. There was a lot of children on the cruise and the family pool seemed a bit small for the amount of people on board. The soda package that was on offer was a godsend as the kids could drink as much as they wanted for an initial price of about £35 and that was all that we paid. The food in the main dining was a bit disappointing as there was no extra veg served with the main meal ( i think if we had asked they would have provided us with it though)and overall the service was good but it did not compare to P & O dining. The food in the buffet areas was excellent and sometimes better than the main dining and it was not as formal as other ships. The kids loved the climbing wall and ice rink and the shows were second to none. Cabin staff was excellent and catered for all of our needs but sharing a cabin with 4 I feel that extra draws would have been better to store all of our holiday clothes. The main shopping area felt like you were not on a ship but on a street and the promenades that was only about 4 times during the cruise was excellent. Overall I much preferred it to P & O as it is not so formal and the atmosphere was very good. Would definitely go RC again. The friends that we took really enjoyed it (1 lot was first time cruisers) and said they would go again. As the dollar was very strong at the time of going the holiday did not break the bank Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
We had an enjoyable cruise, not fantastic but I am not going to harp on about our experience but just mention some things which I think are worthwhile bringing to people's attention.We are British and this was our first experience of ... Read More
We had an enjoyable cruise, not fantastic but I am not going to harp on about our experience but just mention some things which I think are worthwhile bringing to people's attention.We are British and this was our first experience of sailing out of Southampton in the school holidays albeit in the final week. We did not realize this when booking but had sailed in the Caribbean during the US spring break so weren't unduly concerned, how wrong were we ? . So please, if you don't want to sail with hundreds of kids double check the UK school holiday dates. Pool towels- There are 2 pool towel 'stations' on deck, one one each side of the ship in the main pool area. You will need the seapass cards for each person in your party to obtain a maximum of 2 towels per person, your seapass card will be swiped before issue of towels. Signs clearly state $20 will be charged for any missing towels. This was our first experience of a computerized system and on the first day I went to get 4 towels for myself and husband and was given a lecture by the pool attendant that ALL seapass cards had to be shown. I told him ,politely , I wasn't going to walk the length of the ship again to get hubbie's card when he could check on the system how many people were in the cabin !! I did show both cards after that but did witness many problems with lines for the towels due to the numbers of children onboard. Wet/dirty towels could be exchanged at anytime. The pool attendants were not pro-active in removing belongings from 'reserved' lounge chairs though to be perfectly honest we never had a problem finding one so long as you did not want to be frontline by the pool Promenade parades/events- there are 3 'bridges' over the promenade. If you want a first class view of the activities position yourself forward of the middle bridge. I was absolutely amazed to witness this middle bridge come down from the ceiling with the cruise director and his staff on it ready to entertain us, fantastic. We missed the start of the first event on the parade and were too far away to see this happen, apparently the Captain arrived on this descending bridge to do his 'welcome aboard' talk but we also missed that. If I had known beforehand I would have have been there !! We are Diamond plus C & A members and had access to the Diamond lounge looked after by Ricardo and his assistants Richard and Dennis. Excellent service from all. Some people did not realize that the key to access the Diamond lounge was also your 'ticket' to the ice shows , it says it in small writing on the bottom of the key. You no longer need to have a paper ticket, just show your key at the door and it is good for all members in your cabin. Our cabin was an inside on deck 7, aft of the midship elevators. It was very comfortable but was lacking in storage compared to the other RCI ships we have been on, which are many !. With the new flat screens you lose a storage cupboard above, now replaced with a narrow, shallow glass shelf, you do gain some countertop surface though. The safe was now in the wardrobe, losing another shelf. There was still plenty of hanging space for 2 people. We liked the ship and especially the 2 venues on the Royal Promenade for getting snacks and coffee. Never a problem getting a seat except at parade/street party times. If we consider Independence again I will definitely double check the school calendar. There were 400 teenagers, 500 in the middle age group, I don't know how many were in the younger age groups but have never seen so many prams and buggies on a ship !! Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
It was awful, awfully good to use a double negative. It was so good that me and my wife are already booked on the same ship for the Oct 15th trip to the Canary Islands. Due to several circumstances, 3 elderly parents frailty, illness and ... Read More
It was awful, awfully good to use a double negative. It was so good that me and my wife are already booked on the same ship for the Oct 15th trip to the Canary Islands. Due to several circumstances, 3 elderly parents frailty, illness and eventual sad passing plus other problems we have not had a holiday together for over 15 years. My wife had always fancied a cruise but I thought it was not for me. All day long, eating and drinking with nothing else to do, how wrong could I have been. We drove down overnight from near Manchester and stayed near Newbury overnight. An unhurried breakfast and an hours drive saw us arrive in Southampton at around 11.30 AM. From dropping of the cases, parking the car and taking our first steps on deck took less than 30 minutes. An exercise in precise logistics, apart from the guy asking cajoling us to have our picture taken it was a breeze. I don't need to spend to much time talking about the ship in general, several people have already tried. To be perfectly honest it is impossible to do it justice, you really have to see it and feel it to appreciate just how spectacular it is. Our balcony stateroom was of a very high standard, for two people, plenty of storage space, wonderful bed and an excellent shower. All of the staff on board were very polite, friendly and helpful. I only once heard one of them say "have a nice day", even the backroom staff, the men in blue boiler suits etc would always respond to a greeting. The food in the main restaurant was of a very acceptable standard, not cordon bleu, but well presented, and with portions of a size that allowed you to enjoy all of the courses without having to hibernate like a python to digest it for the rest of the night. The choices in Windjammer/Jade could not be faulted. We ate in Portofino's on the night we left Livorno en route to Rome, we had an excellent meal, illuminated by a tremendous thunderstorm, extra brandies helped to calm the nerves of SWMBO. We took in a couple of the shows, Drifters, Elton John tribute but for the most part watched Rock the Boat or went to Olive or Twist in the evenings. I did several of the tours, mainly on my own, enjoyed them all, I will have to return to Rome, 5 hours is not enough. The hard sell was evident at all times and reading other reviews it seems to have rankled one or two people. I however accept that it is a business venture and no one ever pressured me into buying something I didn't really want. I would avoid going at the same time of year though. There was a huge number of children on board, sadly the average British child does seem to lack a sense of what should be basic good manners or behavior, hardly RCIs fault though. We had only been home for a few days before we were sat in front of the PC looking at itineraries, it was a difficult choice, new windows or another cruise... The windows are not that bad and will wait until next year. To the crew & staff of Independence of the Seas, thank you for a fantastic holiday, see you all on the 15th of October. Jim Banks. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
This was our first experience of cruising and we had high expectations of this holiday. I'm pleased to say that RCI met and even exceeded our expectations. What a slick organization RCI are! Embarkation was a breeze - nothing like ... Read More
This was our first experience of cruising and we had high expectations of this holiday. I'm pleased to say that RCI met and even exceeded our expectations. What a slick organization RCI are! Embarkation was a breeze - nothing like the stress of airline travel. We drove into the dock and were pointed towards the luggage unloading area. The luggage was taken from the boot of the car and the next time we saw it was in our stateroom. We were then directed to the car park, parked the car, walked across the road and into the terminal. Everybody there was very friendly and helpful - we checked in (took no time at all as I'd already done the online check-in), went and sat down for a few minutes and were then told we could board the ship. It was only 11.00 am and we weren't due to sail until 5.00 pm. The Windjammer Cafe was open and serving food and drinks so we had a bite to eat and then went to explore the ship. What an amazing ship it is. There is just so much to see and do but if activities are not for you there is no pressure to join in. My husband and son tried the Flowrider and really enjoyed it - I was happy to watch and take photos! The children's club was excellent for our 9 year old as was the H2O Zone waterpark. Entertainment was very good, particularly 'Soul Satisfaction' the Motown Group who had almost everybody in the theatre on their feet, clapping along. The stateroom we had was an inside cabin which involved a bunk bed coming down from the ceiling for our son, which he also loved. The room was compact but very well designed and enough space for everything. It was also very clean - in fact the whole ship is spotless with staff on hand cleaning all the time. The staff were all incredibly polite and helpful. We had dinner in the King Lear restaurant and the food and service were superb. Our waiter Tabrez and assistant waiter Nelson did a fantastic job and were terrific with the fussy eater in our party! We had breakfast and lunch most days in the Windjammer which had a great choice of food. Disembarkation was also a breeze - get off the ship, collect your luggage, walk across to your car and away you go in no time at all. We all agreed this was our best holiday ever. In fact, we've booked again for next year - thanks Darren at RCI for handling our booking so efficiently - we can't wait! Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
Well we travelled on the Maiden on this ship to Ireland, but just myself and my wife, we had a great trip and enjoyed every second of this wonderful ship, but we had already booked to return with the kids in August on the same cruise, but ... Read More
Well we travelled on the Maiden on this ship to Ireland, but just myself and my wife, we had a great trip and enjoyed every second of this wonderful ship, but we had already booked to return with the kids in August on the same cruise, but this time we had an 'FI' Family Inside grade cabin. There was 5 of us in total, arrived at the dock in the car about 1030, into the terminal and all checked in by about 1050, they opened the ship at 1100 and we were on, holiday started!!! Had lunch at the Windjammer, busy as usual but good standard of buffet style food, 1pm came and we could have our rooms, so off to check it out, it was a large family inside, essentially its two promenade view cabins opened up to create one large family room, decent size bathroom with a bath instead of shower cubicle, walk in wardrobe, separate small bedroom with two bunks, lounge area that has convertible sofa bed, then a double bed for us! Great room, couldn't of been better, great for a family of 5 like us. We went for the ship, we spent all the time exploring and enjoying everything the ship had to offer, the kids loved the swimming pool area, my 4 year old had so much fun in the H20 zone she loved it, they tried the kids club and they seemed to enjoy them. The food on the ship was generally of a good standard, we took the kids to JR's but it was busy so the service was slightly slow, but no major problem, we played football, table tennis, basketball etc etc etc and had greta fun. Evenings we would do the shows and our meals, quiet drinks in various locations and everything was generally very good, the shows in the Royal Promenade were very good and great fun. There was a problem with the totting up of the bills on the last night, but nothing to worry about. Overall, had an excellent time, the ship is great, and just wish we were on it now!!!!! Book this ship and you assured of a great cruise I am sure. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
Hi here is my Cruise review of the Independence of the Sea (6th September 2008). I have written this as we travelled along, and given my impressions as they happened. This is our first time sailing Royal Caribbean. We have always sailed ... Read More
Hi here is my Cruise review of the Independence of the Sea (6th September 2008). I have written this as we travelled along, and given my impressions as they happened. This is our first time sailing Royal Caribbean. We have always sailed Celebrity in the past but fancied sailing without the hassle of flights so picked the go IOS. Day 1 - Southampton We set off from Gloucestershire at 8am and arrived at the port about 10.30 am. We had free parking as we booked in advance so made our way to gate 10 to park the car and drop off our luggage. There could have been a few more porters to help with the unloading of the car but we managed and handed in all the cases. Parking was straight forward and we made our way to the check-in. We checked in straight away as there was no queue. Check-in only took a couple of mins and we went straight to board the ship. We where on board the ship for 10.45. Our room was not available till 1pm so we had a look around the ship and purchased the soda drinks package. First impression of the ship When you approach the ship it strikes you just how big it is, towering above the dock side. Once on board the amazement just continues it is a very atheistically pleasing ship, with modern art and decoration though out the ship. We where very impressed with the scale and decor of the ship. Our luggage mostly turned up before the life boat drill which meant we could unpack before dinner. Dinner was very good, our assistant waiter is the best we have had on a cruise. I had read some reviews that the food is not very good on RCI however I have pleasantly surprised. The food was of a good quality. After dinner we watched the show which was hosted by our cruise director Graham Seymour. Graham came across very well and I would rate him as probably the best cruise director we haves sailed with. The show was a little taster of what's to come with a couple who did some ball dancing (poorly) and a balancing act which was OK but nothing special and a comedian (John Evens) who was very funny. Day 2 - At Sea Woke up to an announcement from the captain informing us that we had changed course due to a medical emergency and we where heading to France to meet a helicopter for a medical evacuation. We where able to watch the drama unfold on the in room TV if we wanted but decided to go get ice show ticket and have breakfast. We ate breakfast in Windjammer's at about 10am and it was very busy but we managed to get a table and had a lovely breakfast. It is so nice to get Danish bacon (although labelled as English bacon which made me chuckle) on a cruise rather than the American bacon which never seams to have any meat on it. We intended to have a relaxing day at sea so didn't really have a plan for the day but decided we would have a go on the crazy golf course which was fun but made all the more challenging by the very strong wind and the boat rocking. Decided to have room service for lunch which was excellent, service could have been a little bit quicker but the food was very good. We fancied going ice skating but unfortunately the open session had finished but we enjoyed watching some people having lessons. Dinner was good but the menu choice was not as much to my taste as the first night but the food was good quality. Day 3At sea Today was the second sea day, and the day of the first ice show - Strings. This was an excellent show which was well performed by the skaters. We ate dinner in the main restaurant which again was excellent. Day 4 - Gibraltar We had our first port of call in Gibraltar, we had decided to do one of the ships tours the Gibraltar upper walking tour. We got to see the monkeys and go in the cable car, the tour guide was very good and the tour was very enjoyable. The tour lasted about 3 and a half hour and we then came back to the boat and tried out the pool which was surprisingly warm. Day 5 - At sea Day five was the 3rd sea day and followed the same routine as the other sea days we got up late and ate breakfast at the buffet restaurant followed by a nice walk on deck. Day 6 - Cannes, France Today we arrived in Cannes and did one of the Ship tours to Monaco and Monte Carlo. The bus took about an hour and a half to get there which I am sure it did say in the documentation but I don't remember it so was a little supposed at how long it took. We saw the changing of the guard on Monaco and had some free time before heading to Monte Carlo. This was a very long trip about 9 hours but very enjoyable the bus we had was very modern and the guide was very knowledgeable. Would defiantly recommend this trip. Day 7 - Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy We had another shore exertion booked for this for of call to the leaning tower of Pisa. We where able to go up the tower and take some pictures from the very top. We also managed to get the obligatory picture of holding up the tower. We didn't venture into Florence but did see some of Pisa which was lovely. Again on this trip we had a very knowledgeable guide and a good coach. I was really glad we did this tour even though it was only a short one and one of the most expensive we did it was really worth the money. Day 8 - Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy We did the ship tour Glories of Gladiators today. We boarded the coach but didn't leave the port before it broke down. I have to say I was very impressed with the tour company they had a new bus to us within 15 mins and it didn't interrupt our trip at all. This trip was a one and half hour bus drive to Rome from the port where we where met by our guide. We also had a tour group leader on the bus who told us all about the city and sites on the way into Rome. The guide took us straight to the Coliseum where we had to walk the whole way round as a guy had climbed up on top of the building and was threatening to jump off, luckily this did not interrupt our trip. We then got some history of the Coliseum from our guide then some free time to explore lour. I have to say I was disappointed by the Coliseum. I thought we would be able to go into the bits where they kept the animals and the slaves. But this is not possible. We then got a tour of the Roman forum before being guided to Navona Square where we where left with 3 hours free time. We decided to head to the Vatican to take some pictures. There was not enough time to go inside but we had a pleasant walk and got to see some grate sites. I hate to say it but I wouldn't recommend this trip. I thought there was too much free time and the Forum was dragged out. It had rained on the way in to the city but had stopped by the time we arrived. If it had been as hot as it had been only a few days before the forum part of the tour would have been unbearable. In fact the guide told us the week before he had 6 guest who needed hospitable treatment for various reason but several who clasped because it was too hot. They would easily have fitted a visit to the Vatican in which would have been nice. We had a nice day but in hind site would have rather have done a trip to the Vatican. As we left port we could see that the waves where getting quite large. The weather was terrible at see we went to Olive or Twist after dinner and watched the rain hammering the ship and the water in the pool sloshing over the side in huge waves. There was noticeably less people around. The show that evening was a juggler who I have to say I thought was amazing, I could hardly walk the ship was moving that much!!! How he managed to juggle balls and axes and all sorts left me amazed, he even rode an 8 foot unicycle!!!! Day 9 - Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy The weather was much better by the time we arrived in port in the morning, we didn't have a shore exertion booked here as there was nothing we fancied doing. Do we had a a quite day and caught the free port shuttle bus into town (about 5 mins on the bus). As it was a Sunday not many shops where open but we had a pleasant wander round. We always try and pick up a fridge magnet of all the places we visit but this proved to be quite a challenge in finding anywhere that sold them. We eventually found a small shop that had a few in the window and managed to get one. Day 10 - At Sea There was nothing very eventful this day we just chilled out and used the ship facility's. We tried the Jonny Rockets restaurant for dinner using the complementary voucher that was in our platinum rewards booklet. The food was good and the wait staff where amusing doing the dances and stuff. I will say it was over quicker than I thought it would be. We where out in under 30 mins. Have to say I wouldn't pay the $3.95 cover charge for this restaurant seams to me it should be free. Also it should open earlier than 2pm. We would have tried it at Lunch time if it had opened for Lunch. We where invited to a Crown and Anchor reception at 11am in the pyramid lounge where we got lots of free champagne and a few nibbles. Was enjoyable and we got to hear a few words from the Cruise Director and the Hotel director which was interesting. Day 11 - Seville (Cadiz), Spain We did another shore exertion today, Cadiz, Jerez & Sherry Cellars. We had a bus ride to Jerez with a very good guide. A short walk round where the guide explained about the town before entering a sherry cellar. I have to admit we kind of picked this tour as we didn't see anything else we fancied and knew we would be itching to get off the boat after a day a sea and no tour in the last port of call. So we didn't really know what to expect, I have never tried Sherry before. When we got to the cellar we got a guide to take us round who was only so so, her English was a little ropey and was hard to understand at times. However it was very interesting and then after about half an hour of a tour end explanation of the sherry making we where invited to taste a couple of different sherry's. We got a good wine glass full for two different sherry's. A glass of Tio Pepe and a glass of Croft original. I wasn't keen of the Tio Pepe but never one to miss out on free booze I drank it anyway. The Croft was very nice indeed and I have to say I would definitely have it again. We ended up buying a few bottle from the gift shop. None of the ones we tried in the taste session and we can get croft at home and the Tio Pepe we didn't like. Even thought we picked this tour as a bit of a last resort I would definitely recommend it we had a lovely time. Day 12 - Lisbon, Portugal In Lisbon we didn't see any trips we wanted to do so just got the shuttle bus tickets from the ship to get there shuttle bus in to the city centre. The shuttle ran every 10 mins and was very efficient for $5.50 each way per person. I over heard a guy later on at the bar saying he got charged 20 Euro's to get into the city centre. Lisbon was a nice place and we had a wonder round and checked out one of the recommended wine shops and bought a couple of bottles of port. We only spent about 1 and a half in the city before heading back to the boat. Was a nice place but not huge. Day 13 - Vigo, Spain We did the Typical Galicia & Cellars tour in Vigo. The ride to Galicia took about 2 hours on the coach which there was no mention in the brochure and then an hours free time in the small village of Galicia which the guide gave us no information about. I have to say I think this was one of the worst tour guide I have ever come across. The trip to Galicia was pointless it could have been anywhere there was nothing of interest there. We then got took to a wine cellar where we found our how the Albariño wine is produced before sampling a few glasses of the wine. I have to say I was very tipsy after this.... We then purchased a few bottles to bring back with us. Then it was back to the ship. Again I cant recommended this trip. It was just too far from the ship and the guide was terrible, I know you could get a different guide but it ruined it for us. Day 14 - At Sea Our last day on the ship, we had got tickets for the ice show at 5pm so did most of our packing in the afternoon before the show, the show was freeze frame which was very good, at the beginning they picked people who where in the audience and put them on monitors with fake headlines which was very amusing. We had a nice dinner and was sad to say good buy to our waiter and assistant waiter who had been excellent!!! We then went to the final show in the theatre which was excellent, but brought home that tomorrow we will be getting off the ship. Day 15 - Departure We had brown tags and where told we would be off the ship between 7.10 and 7.30. We also got invited to the Platinum private departure lounge where we could get a continental breakfast while we waited. We went to the lounge and had a coffee and a danish while we waited to be called. We where called at about 7.20 and where in the car by 7.45. I have to say I thought the debarkation process was the smoothest of any ship I have been on. Some of the Celebrity ones have been terrible!!! We arrived home at 9.45am with the holiday finally over. Final thoughts We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and the ship is the nicest we have been on. It was not too big and the facility's where very good. It might be because it is brand new but we where very impressed with the ship. The cruise director Graham Seymour was very good, the best cruise director I have had. He was very funny and kept everyone in grate spirits. His morning show was wacky but hilarious as well. There where a few negatives, the food was generally good but the lack of choice in the main dinning room was disappointing, there was pork medallions on the menu 3 times during the cruise at dinner, and many dished where repeated. I personally don't think they should repeat any dishes in the 14 days. Also there was no baked Alaska parade like celebrity does which I missed. I guess the food is a lot better on Celebrity. Also the choice in Windjammer's was disappointing, it was pretty much the same every day. It was nice but I fancied a change after a while. We got robes in our room as we are platinum members but I really don't see why why couldn't put these in every room. Also there was no shower gel just some very cheap shampoo in the bathroom. The other two thinks that kind of annoyed me where there was no jug of drinking water in the room it was tap water from the bathroom or bottled water. Also we had an ice bucket but it didn't get filled with ice once during the cruise. While none of these things would put me off RCI I would definitely bear them in mind when picking a cruise if I couldn't decided between Celebrity and RCI. I think that's everything I have to say. Thanks Simon Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Our first cruise, a belated 25th Wedding Anniversary present to ourselves. Booked back in June 2007 before the ship was launched, via Reader Offers. Went to see Independence on her christening at Southampton, breath taken away by the sheer ... Read More
Our first cruise, a belated 25th Wedding Anniversary present to ourselves. Booked back in June 2007 before the ship was launched, via Reader Offers. Went to see Independence on her christening at Southampton, breath taken away by the sheer size and presence. Much has been written already about the ship - it IS fantastic so here goes with some 'supporting' info..... BOOKING/GRATUITIES Had been mailed updates via Reader Offers and what came across was the topic of (and pressure) paying advance gratuities to staff on board. One of the last mailings offered a special flexible dining package (we were on a set 8.30pm)whereby you could dine at any time provided that you paid your gratuities in advance.....I called Reader Offers and said about the focus on paying gratuities up front and is was not 'British' to do so, we like to pay upon good service after the event not before, I was met with indifference and that they 'couldn't comment' I moved onto the flexible dining package saying that the offer was only open to pre payers and therefore we felt disadvantaged and discriminated against if we did not pay in advance and could not enjoy flexible dining. They disagreed in an offhand way so in all Reader Offers you weren't much help nor were very customer focused or friendly! Advance gratuities is the subject of much debate - check out the websites, as some cruise lines try it and others don't. Pay the staff the right amount and you wouldn't have to screams in my ears! We paid our gratuities in cash on the last night, apparently if you do pre pay, you are delivered envelopes and vouchers to the value of the suggested amounts which you can give out, those who receive will have that amount in the pay packet at month end. Call me cynical but I bet they don't get the full amount, there's no doubt an admin fee docked off... TRIPS Naturally you are encouraged to take organized trips but as a couple of the ports are distant from the city attractions ie Rome and Florence it's too much travelling especially if you want a relaxing break. They are not cheap. Worse is the implication that there is 'nothing' in Cadiz or Vigo (probably because they are short walk like Gib and don't need a tour bus) which is nonsense, Cadiz is a delight, good shops and beaches, many people said they would holiday there. Our port and shopping girl Victoria just harped on about jewelry that hardly anyone had heard of.... SECURITY It would have been easier to sneak on an AK47 than a bottle of spirits! You are scanned again and again especially when returning from trips. DON'T expect to take booze on board, the bars on ship are obviously a huge revenue stream and nothing will interfere with that (15% gratuity goes on every bar purchase by the way) ENTERTAINMENT/FACILITIES Great if you like that sort of thing, the Elton John tribute was good but the ice skaters fell over 5 times....Warnings flash up about not videoing or using flash photography which is even printed in the daily programme, does anyone take notice? Does anyone enforce it? You guessed it - No. Cruise director Graham's morning 10 minute TV review was hilarious, what some would have made of it from an older generation goodness know! Brilliant. If you did fancy staying on ship when most head off for a trip so that you can enjoy all the facilities don't bank on it! The Flow Rider kicks off with the easy stuff ie body boarding about an hour before departure so most are back by then and so it's a busy as ever likewise the climbing wall...Loads of things to do but looking at the daily list of events not many you'd partake in, cigar club, wine tasting too early in the day, the obligatory Bingo, vitality talks (I felt too tired to go!) etc OTHERS... Oh dear. A certain generation that have lost the ability to smile, say please or thank you or pass the time of day. 'I've paid for it so I'm going to have it all and more' is there obvious reason for being. The public displays of greed and gluttony have to be seen to be believed, no wonder there is a high propensity of walking sticks on board just to cater for failed load bearing hips and knees. Rude, arrogant individuals who are old enough to know better, they will move their sunbeds constantly so they are dead in line with sun, encroaching walkways, blocking you in and shoving themselves into your personal space. Pushing in et al. Yes there were a few children and babies on board, a couple of older kids wanted sorting out particularly as there are no pool attendants to enforce the rules poolside that no one takes notice of. The food is brilliant considering how many the ship caters for, yet people still moan (even in these reviews) I find it astonishing. Go stay in a top Dubai hotel if you must have bespoke, overfussy culinary delights but on ship be realistic. We had a good time, wasn't the holiday of a lifetime as we had expected but perhaps there were too many rude people on board for that. Just do as much research as you can before booking. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
EMBARKATION This was myself and OH's first cruise, we don't know many people who have been on one before and we didn't really know what to expect (other than extensive reading of this site). We drove to Southampton and ... Read More
EMBARKATION This was myself and OH's first cruise, we don't know many people who have been on one before and we didn't really know what to expect (other than extensive reading of this site). We drove to Southampton and stayed in the DeVere the night before, nice hotel and excellent service (a bit about the food here later!) Being first timers and a bit keen we were up early on embarkation day and left the hotel at 10am (thinking we would need a bit of time to find the port...not realizing it was so close). By 10.10am we were in the very short (8 cars) queue for the ship (there was only a queue as it was so early they weren't letting cars through) Ten minutes later we were being guided to drop off the luggage, parked the car and then breezed through check in, all very well organized and seamless and we were on the ship before 11am. This worked out very well as it gave us newbies the chance to orient ourselves with the ship while it was still very quiet. CABIN After a few hours pottering around the ship and having lunch in the Windjammer we headed to the cabin and we weren't disappointed. We were in 8668, D2 category. I have read reviews that there is not enough storage, but I managed to fit our clothes in, having severely over packed, with a little request to our room attendant Hendra (who was brilliant) for a few more hangars, which he dropped off later that afternoon. The bathroom was small but perfectly formed and the pressure from the shower was amazing. Everything was clean and immaculate and thanks to Hendra, despite our best efforts, remained so through the two weeks. FOOD After unpacking we headed to the dining room (Macbeth) to find our table and were amazed that our request for a table for two (later seating) had been honored, we felt quite special as there were quite a few passengers requesting they be changed to a table for two. I was slightly concerned after reading some bad reviews about the food and about the quality & amount of food declining, I am no stranger to fine restaurants and I am not sure what people have had before or what expectations there are of what essentially is mass catering but in my opinion the food was outstanding. The night before leaving we had paid over £100 for a meal for two in the 5* hotel and I can honestly say that the food and service in the dining room of the ship was of a better quality and standard to the hotel every time. Our waiters (Ronilo and Cherryno) were outstanding and were not only knowledgeable about the food and wine, but also kept giving us tips about activities on the ship and where to go in the ports, which was all very useful. We ate in Portofino's and Chops and again the food there was outstanding and well worth the cover charge, I slightly preferred Portofino's as the staff were much more friendly and less intense. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer or Jade most days and again couldn't fault the variety and quality. Cafe Promenade and Sorrentos are great to stop for a cuppa and also for a late night snack on the way back to the cabin. Also, despite the late sitting for dinner we enjoyed the midnight buffet, if you go, watch the ice carvers, they were amazing! FACILITIES / ACTIVITIES One thing I would like to emphasize after a few comments by other reviewers, is that on this cruise I don't think I could have counted more than 20 children over 5 on the whole ship, Having no children of our own (just yet) I'm afraid I grumble at the thought of having to put up with other people's children when I want to relax, so if you are of the same opinion as me, book this ship outside of holiday time. This meant that all the facilities were available with no trouble at all. The big kid with me (my OH aged 30!) had the arcade to himself when he went up there and the queue for the flowrider was short. The entertainment never seemed to end and there was always something different to do. We enjoyed a few shows, especially the Backbeat Beatles and the ice shows are amazing but also a gem on the ship is the party band, Rock the Boat, really enjoyed their sets in the Olive or Twist bar and the pool party. We visited most bars onboard, my favorites were the Champagne Bar before dinner, Olive or Twist for a sail away drink and the Pyramid Lounge mainly for Rock the Boat. We also spent a little time in the Casino and glad that it was no smoking. The prices of the drinks were reasonable, usually $15 a round and we made the most of the free champagne at the art auctions and enjoyed a few of the wine tastings in Vintages. We also took out the wine and dine package for dinner and found it very cost effective. THE PORTS My one complaint about the stops was that it would have been nice to have a bit longer in a few ports, with maybe the opportunity to have a later meal / evening activities in some. Our first stop was Gibraltar (it was nice to have two days at sea, giving us the opportunity to get used to the ship) We took this as an opportunity to go shopping as we had both been up the rock, however I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of variety between the duty free shops (I thought the ship was cheaper anyway) and the shops you see on the UK high street, so we were back to the ship earlier than anticipated Cannes was next, the tenders were no problem, quite enjoyed the trip to shore. Again we took ourselves around Cannes and enjoyed our time there. Third was Livorno and here we went on the Panoramic Florence organized excursion. We enjoyed the excursion but to feed back a few comments from other passengers, don't do this one if you want time to shop in Florence as it gives you limited time on your own and you are there quite early and many of the shops haven't fully opened before you have to leave. Next was Civitavecchia / Rome and we were on the Essence of Rome with Lunch excursion, this was my one disappointment with all the trips. We started well, the Sistine Chapel & Vatican are amazing and we had a great and very knowledgeable tour guide. After this we stopped for the lunch at a local hotel. Given that we were in Rome and had paid quite a lot more for the excursion with lunch, we were expecting a lunch that gave us an essence of Italy, and what we got was essentially chicken, chips and peas with veggie pasta to start. As good as the service in the restaurant was, the cafes we passed on our tours looked like a better option for lunch with anti pastas, authentic pizza's and Italian pasta dishes. If you are expecting something like this then book the tour around Rome and find your own lunch. After lunch was a whistle stop tour to the Trevi Fountain, Circus Maximus and Coliseum, again with our excellent guide. The following day we were in Cagliari in Sardinia and another day where we took ourselves around the town. It was a Sunday so many of the smaller shops were closed, for this reason I think we should have booked on one of the excursions out of the town, but it is a nice town to stop for a drink and bite to eat. At this point I would like to mention the weather we sailed into the night of leaving Sardinia. What the Captain amusingly told us would be a little "motion on the ocean" was (according to a few of the staff - and most seasoned passengers) the roughest seas they had experienced, apparently made worse because the Independence is so big, it catches the wind! For those of you who worry / suffer seasickness, the staff on board were doing their best to make people comfortable and despite feeling a little green (after venturing to the Pyramid Lounge at the front of the ship) we still made it to dinner and woke up the next morning to still waters and sunshine. Next stop was Cadiz, lovely town to wander around but not much to do during siesta, so we took ourselves off to the beach. We made the decision not to go on the Seville excursion as we had long days / early starts with the Rome and Florence trips. Lisbon next, here we went on the Panoramic Lisbon tour, it stopped at the major sites, but unlike Florence, there was no time for you to wander / shop on your own so this was a little disappointing. Vigo was our last stop and a pleasant surprise, it was a lovely town with fantastic seafood restaurants and good shops. Our afternoon was made by watching the dolphin cause chaos with the lifeboat that was lowered as part of the staff drill. Vigo highlighted to us one of our only major criticism of the ship...the shopping information. There is a lot of information for exclusive shops with designer goods but there really isn't much information for the average shopper who is after a bargain or a place to buy reasonable gifts. The ship's advice on shopping in Vigo...was to go to the beach! but we found it one of the best towns to shop in, especially if you wander out of the main town centre. The reason we took the ship excursions in Rome, Florence and Lisbon was because as newbies we wanted a guarantee that the ships will wait if we are delayed (A few passengers were left at Rome because of problems with the trains). However, now having experienced excursions and how they work, I would feel much more confident taking trips on our own or taking advantage of the shuttles to the long distance destinations. STAFF/SERVICE I couldn't end this review without a special mention to all the staff onboard who were all very hardworking, friendly and knowledgeable. I couldn't believe how they could remember my name and usual drinks after only a few orders (in all the bars we frequented ;-) I read on the forums that there were many staff not happy on the Independence for various reasons, this was certainly not evident from my experience, our waiters were quite happy filling us in on the goings on behind the scenes and their events seemed more fun than ours! We overheard a few grumblings about tipping, particularly the suggested amounts for your stateroom attendant and waiters, but I have no complaints they all deserved every penny. We researched and knew what was expected before we booked and budgeted this into the cost / spends of the holiday. To put it simply if you have an issue with tipping, don't book on a line that expects it. OVERALL A good way to sum up our holiday was that for the first time on the last day of a holiday I wasn't looking forward to my own bed, I could quite cheerfully make that ship home. I haven't been on another cruise to compare this to but I have been well and truly bitten by the cruise bug thanks to the wonderful experience on the Independence, and whilst writing this review my OH is searching the internet for our next holiday on a Royal Caribbean ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
My Husband and I went on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas for our Honeymoon. We first Arrived in London (Heathrow) and were transported via taxi/cab to the Westminster City Inn. This hotel is a partner with Royal ... Read More
My Husband and I went on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas for our Honeymoon. We first Arrived in London (Heathrow) and were transported via taxi/cab to the Westminster City Inn. This hotel is a partner with Royal Caribbean and we were to be provided a transfer from the hotel to Southampton for the Cruise. The City Inn was a very nice hotel-nice location, very popular for drinks in the later evening. The hotel is very modern/Ikea ish. The bathroom is small but efficient. Instead of having a television in the room, it is an IMAC that can be used as a computer. For older travelers (we are in our late 20s) if they are not computer literate, this may be a hard adjustment. I was even confused. The beds we had were two twins that could be pushed together to become a king. However, they rolled away from each other quickly, which kind of spoiled the "romantic"ness. However, the hotel was in a nice location. We walked everywhere in London. We are from Connecticut (US) and so we had to be careful of traffic. The transport from Westminster City Inn was quick and efficient. The bus picked up other travelers from two other participating hotels in London and then we are on their way. Embarkation was quick. We arrived at Southampton around 12noon and were told that our room would be ready at 1pm. We went up to the Windjammer and had lunch and by that time, we were able to find our room and drop off our things. Some of our luggage had already arrived in the room, so we tucked that in and went exploring. The ship was huge! I was a first time cruiser, my husband had been on a few (previously Royal Caribbean ships as well). We were amazed by the size of the ship! and the ice skating rink (small, but heck, its on a ship!), the theater, dining halls, pools! All of it amazing. We frequented the bars at night before our dinner. We usually went to the Schooner bar, Vintages (the wine bar) or Olive and TWist. Olive or Twist is on the 14th floor and can be very rocky (if you don't like the movement, don't drink there). The Schooner bar was great-we had very good bartenders who were fun, and we played the trivia there. Our dining was second (830) and we had a great table on the bottom floor. we were able to see all of the performances of the wait staff. Our table mates were both from the UK and were lots of fun. We didn't see many performances on the ship-we were definitely in the minority on the ship for our age and being from the US, but most of the time we found things to do. We did see the Elton John performance (pretty good) and the Mr&Mrs as well as Graham Seymours comedy, and the Freeze Frame Ice show. All were very good and we enjoyed them. However, we really liked to just hang out by the pool and read with a good drink or even hang out with our table mates. Our room was nice-we were in stateroom 7680 and had a balcony view. I was very happy with it! Tip-bring binoculars. We didn't, but our next door neighbors did and they often passed theirs over so we could see. Sometimes we would zoom with our cameras to see as well. We were able to see lots of beautiful scenery pulling in and out of ports. And a lot of dolphins. However, it would have been nicer to see if we had our own binoculars. The inside staterooms were small. Having a balcony stateroom you have the ability to have a couch or chairs as well. I was happy we had that! We saw some of the smaller rooms and I was happy we weren't stuffed into that size room. We did have a lady come up to us (she was very nosy) and saw how much room we had in our balcony stateroom and was complaining that there were three adults in her room (husband wife and sister) and why they were all put in the same stateroom that size. Umm..you get what you paid for!! oh well! The Windjammer-biggest downfall of this ship. For 3500 passengers, there is only room for approximately 900 people in the main buffet (where breakfast and lunch are provided). These caused many aggravating breakfast and lunchtimes for us. We aren't pushy and we would often be wondering for a while waiting for a table, or trying to get in line (queue) for food. the flow of the room is not helpful. Our dinner table mates came up with a suggestion-make the chairs smaller and then more tables could be put in the dining room. Dinner was always good. We were at a table of six people in the Romeo and Juliet dining room. OUr assistant waiter was excellent. Always on the ball. I didn't like my food two nights, and they quickly switched it for me. Our waiter was in another category-he was hard to find, and the third night went into a mini tirade of how little he gets paid and how long and hard he works. Soon after that tirade, his workmanship was slackened and his boss and his assistant did most of the work at the table. They were excellent. The pools were excellent, The flow rider, sports area, wonderful! Lots of things to do. My husband did the "long drive" at the golf simulator and won the gold (yep, I'm bragging for him). I did the flow rider, and ouch! it hurts when you fall, but you should try it anyhow. The rock wall was lots of fun (you are 200 feet above sea level if you get to the top). The ports were great. We only did excursions in Gibraltar and Rome. Gibraltar-we did the walking tour. It is considered the most exerting of the entire trip. A little hilly, but my husband and I are extremely active and it was hard for us to walk as slow as we were walking. we got to see the Barbary Apes, which was great. Tip=Listen to the guides when they say do not eat in front of the Apes, open your bags, etc. They really do steal food, out of your hand! One went up to a woman who was eating a chocolate bar. You have to be careful. They can bite!! We didn't see anyone get bitten but close. One guy was petting one...eek. No no no! Our group size for the walking tour was nice, about 20 people. There was also an option for us to be dropped off in town and walk around, but, honestly, there wasn't much to do in town. Our next excursion was in Rome. Our tour group was around 60 people. Ugh! Way too many people but, that seems to be the size of all the tours in Rome. It is so busy and crowded you very quickly lose your group. You have these radio receptors to hear what the guide was saying, but if you get caught in a group, then you can't hear what they are saying. We liked walking around on our own. My biggest advice, when the ship offers the shuttles, just buy the tickets. We figured we would walk, but its actually illegal to walk of certain ports (Livorno, Cagliari and Lisbon-too far to walk). So, you just have to buck up the 10.50 per person (or something like 5.25 each way...why they do it "each way" I don't get). Just might as well pay for it! We ended up spending over 1,000 on the ship for drinks and activities that weren't included. Just be ware that not everything is all inclusive! Otherwise, this ship is great. I think I could be fine with doing a 7 or 10 day cruise next time as being around the masses of people for that long were a little overwhelming, but otherwise, the ship is beautiful, and most of the people on the ship are great! Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Day One Arrived in Southampton around 10am. Turning the corner and seeing IOS was some experience! Like the biggest block of flats you ever saw! Gleaming in the sun. Awesome. Dropped relatives at pier. Had a bit of an issue finding ... Read More
Day One Arrived in Southampton around 10am. Turning the corner and seeing IOS was some experience! Like the biggest block of flats you ever saw! Gleaming in the sun. Awesome. Dropped relatives at pier. Had a bit of an issue finding the hire car place to drop off car but managed that eventually. Climbed into back seat with DD and SIL and approached the car park. 'You got your yellow ticket?' 'Excuse me?' 'You got your yellow car park ticket.... you paid to park here?' 'No we have a letter confirming car space' Show letter. He points. Hmmmmm. Parked up. Boarding has started. Very easy check in. Get pics taken prior to boarding in front of RCI sign. Straight up to Windjammers. 1130. Great selection of food. Drinks being served continually (water and some sort of cherry squash). Also came round with alcoholic drink of the day. Thanks to reading the forum I am aware that the 'glasses' are included in the price. SO, DD and SIL have one and declare them delicious. I go to dining room (Romeo and Juliet) to check out our table seating. It is near a window. Perfect. We have a table to ourselves. Book in for Chops and Portofino's. 1pm rooms are ready. Spotless. Have to say shower room tiny. 2 bars of soap provided and a canister of shampoo. Hmmmm. Adequate storage for our 2 weeks worth of clothing. Wonderful to have the balcony on such a glorious day. Visit spa. Get manicure and pedicure before the rush. Heaven. A real treat and really relaxing. Cases have been delivered. Our steward has cleared the fridge and (bless him) provided us with 2 toweling robes. Unpack. Muster. Well. What can I say. 3600 people crammed into life jackets crammed onto decks in very warm weather. I start singing boating / sailing songs quietly and get funny looks. I get a call from a cousin in the US who has no idea where I am and why I am whispering (we have been told not to use mobiles..... oops). Sailaway. On our balcony. Wonderful. Lots of boats trying to race us. Children waving from them. Wave back. Feel elated. Early seating for dinner. Great service. Delicious if rather small portions but then I am offered a second load of my main course..... drool. Welcome show. Great fun. Brilliant comic. Jeff Stevenson. Very very funny. Little punt in casino. Pop into Sorrento's and have pizza and fruit salad and biscotti and biscuits. Parade performed by representatives of all departments. Lively and colorful. Day two Internet access very expensive. $.55 per minute!! And slow. We have 2 coupons = $10. Wangled robes by asking our lovely room steward.... Food is excellent. Enough said. Egg crate mattress on bed. So comfortable!! Very slight movement & vibration noticed. Not unpleasant. Tom & Jerry Sweet on our floor..... would love to see the inside!! Breakfast in MDR. Good choice of buffet and hot food served to table. Went to Introduction to Yoga. $10 per session. Session each sea day. 45 mins. Not bad. Would have liked a bit more hands on support as I had to keep looking up to see what it was she was doing. Only one other participant. Gym itself is fabulous with awesome sea views. Promenade packed for early lunch. jewelry franchise down center. Am guessing there will be a lot of alternate merchandising throughout the cruise. Wii Tennis tournament. SO and SIL enter. SIL wins silver medal!!! Head to Windjammer for lunch. Packed. Find a table aft. Stunning views. Really good selection of food. Long queues for pudding. The food is so good. Catering for so many people at such a high standard. Noticed a board advertising lunch in MDR..... shepherds pie.... yeah they are catering for Brits here. Selling gold chain by the inch (?) outside the dining room.... yet another opportunity to increase revenue. Have seen the most of the ship now. Not seen a guest use the Flowmaster but witnessed a suitability clad employee demonstrating. Very windy up there. Quite a few people playing miniature golf. Scuba lessons in a pool. Wall not in use. There are some children on board. School age. Some are definitely English. Little ones enjoying the H2O. Found the library in good use. Lovely views over the promenade. There are a couple or rooms set aside for board games where there were tables of people playing cards. Interested to note there is disabled assistance to get up the stairs to the chapel by way of chair lift. Go to play pub trivia. Did not do well. DD suffering motion sickness. She is dosed up and napping in her room. SO snoring deeply here. Sun is shining and the world is slowly drifting by. Formal night tonight. I am sooooooo sorry!!! I forgot to mention went to the CC Meet & Mingle this morning. SIL won a RCI keyboard mouse! Canapes, cheese plate and fresh fruit. Tea, coffee, juice. Met others from the roll call which was lovely. Uncle Norbert didn't make it. Aunt Alice not well but is dosed and recovering. We all dressed up and went to dinner. 90% of those who attended, and I'm guessing 95% attendance for our sitting, wore full tux; suits and ties the others. The ladies glittered. Truly a lovely sight. The meal was outstanding; met the head waiter. Drop dead gorgeous.... didn't catch his name as my eyes were focusing on this beautiful face and barely got what he was saying. Kind of how I would react if I met Richard Gere without the fainting. Captains cocktail party on the Prom. Well..... thousands of people there I'm guessing..... bit like Oscar night for the dress code. Champagne. I don't do crowds so headed for the Casino. Didn't get to see Captain though there was a huge band playing and a couple of singers making the atmosphere convivial. Have to say there is music all over this ship in one form or another at all hours. Show tonight, Beatles tribute band the Backbeat Beatles. Am ashamed to say I twisted the night away and fell over in the doing. Really had a good time. Their sound seemed pretty realistic to me as I remember it. The 'Lennon' even had a look about him. Brilliant. Have asked SO to check out any sockets on the TV in the room. He says if you have HDMI DVD/Blueray/SVideo/composite players they can be plugged in but there's no scart. He keeps muttering this is interesting. It's a Samsung LCD 26" but he can't see what particular model it is. He's muttering that it's really weird and that it may specially altered. I haven't a clue what he's saying. Not a Samsung remote, it's locked down and has a specific remote. Know it's called a Flowrider not Flowmaster as above. Sorry. Information overload. Clocks go forward an hour tonight. Have ordered tea and coffee and fruit plate as a wakeup call though I'll probably be up already. Am eating way too much. On return to room discovered a tray outside DD and SIL door..... room service is alive and well!! The opportunity to overindulge is tantamount to torture.... will submit claim for compensation against the expense of gym membership and new clothing on my return! That is if they ever get me off. I want to be that woman who lives in a suite on a cruise ship and only goes home 3 months of the year. I'd settle for a balcony cabin. Day 3 Slept well. Had left breakfast order for morning tea and coffee outside room. Phone rang at 7 am to advise it was on its way. Brilliant!! Had requested a fruit plate too and that was a lovely wake up. MDR for breakfast : eggs benedict this time; delicious. Yoga again. Only me there this time so 1:1. SO and SIL went to a digital photography seminar. Was beginners orientated, lasted 20 mins. They are very keen amateurs so this really wasn't for them. Had a coffee on the 14th deck bar Olive or Twist. The view is spectacular up there. Down to Deck 3 to play Wii Bowling. OK. I promise. I have never held a Wii controller in my hand before. I scored 2 strikes straight off!! Seriously embarrassing. Managed a spare in the 2nd round. That was me out but I can hold my head up!! Lunch in MDR. We prefer this to Windjammer. Not crowded. Proper menu with daily specials. Excellent salad bar with chefs putting the salad together as you point for what you want, then toss dressing then you can add the extras. Dessert.... requested the profiteroles with extra chocolate. Yum. Lifts do get very busy. We tend to use the stairs. Midday captain gives a daily report over the tannoy. Yesterday there was an 'Alpha alpha alpha starboard' somewhere..... have forgotten what that is and haven't the time to hunt for that on the forum. DD has been on Flowrider!!! Quite a few times. Got to kneeling. It's 1745 and it's..... how do you say the word when the sun is shining and you begin to glow gently.... oh yes..... it's hot!!!! MDR for dinner last night. Chose chefs signature menu of ham and prosciutto, lamb shanks and tiramisu. Seriously good. We go check out the pics taken so far by the official photographer. Seriously unimpressed. You can check your pics by using the Seapass in a machine which logs all your pics in the same place. Clever idea. Pop into Casino. Have a little play. Decide to have an early night. Fall asleep in front of movie. Day 4 We pull into Gibraltar. Grey, rainy day. Not cold. Early breakfast. I've brought a pack a mac thingy with me and it's needed. Disembark. Approached by taxi company offering tour of Rock for €35 per head. We had planned to take the cable car up and walk down but it seems due to the extremely low cloud (can't see the summit) the cable car is shut. We share minivan with a couple of others. Tour guide chatty and does a lot of explaining. First stop Pillars of Hercules, then St Michael's Cave and then an altogether hysterical stop to see the monkeys. DD is particular attractive to the monkeys as they jump onto and all over her. From being quite horrified she became equally attracted to them and had to be dissuaded from taking one of the babies back with us. Finally the siege tunnel. It is only from here that we can actually see the sea..... the air appears to be clearing. By the time we have reached the bottom the sun is out. Strolled down main street which is hard to differentiate content wise from any UK high street with its M&S, BHS, ELC etc. Bargains to be had for smokers. I purchase perfume for myself, DD and SIL. Strike a bargain. Well pleased. Visit a chemist to stock up on arnica cream for DDs legs following her exertions on the Flowrider and some Glucosamine for me.... me joints are aching! Catch a shuttle back to ship for €5 per head. Lunch in Windjammer as MDR closed. Not busy at all. Sun is now out in force so take position nice and early on deck 12 for sailaway. Catnap for half an hour. Suntan lotion needed. P&O ship Arcadia pulls in alongside. We tower over her! Nip up to Windjammer to pick up some chocolate milk and cookies then back to room. I cannot believe the amount of food that people are piling on their plates! SO has just uploaded over 400 pics from today!! Have picked up a fact sheet about IOS. So here's one : in an average week 86,400 fresh eggs are consumed. From previous posts that I can remember there was a lot of talk about cleanliness. Outside every dining room and restaurant or cafeteria there are sanitizing hand machines with staff on hand to ensure they are used before meals. Have checked my account so far. OK. There's a problem. When you don't actually pass the money over it's easy to forget how much you are spending. Makes a mental note to self .... do you really need that Ben & Jerry's ice cream? Chops tonight for dinner. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm steak! (FYI not noticed a steak option at a premium on the main menu at all as mentioned in other posts on other ships). SO very excited. Dolphins spotted from the balcony!! Chops was amazing. Service of course was impeccable. I had the house salad to start.... big enough to be an entree-size serving. Delicious dressing. Followed by 10oz filet mignon medium rare wih a Cabernet reduction. They provided 2 of every type of vegetable dish for the table to share. And then a coffee cheese cake. Absolutely delicious. Cannot recommend highly enough. Had window seating. Sunset. Beautiful. Ended evening in Olive or Twist bar. Day 5 At sea Not going to Yoga. Hip giving me problems. Went back to bed after breakfast and slept till lunch. Rain rain rain. Figured the dining room & Windjammers and the promenade would be full to capacity as everyone would be indoors so we had room service for lunch. Perfect. Went to ice show matinee. Arrived to find auditorium already packed with people queuing for left over spaces. We had tickets and managed to sit together with poor view though. Clearly people needing entertainment when wind and rain force one indoors. Would definitely go earlier next time to get rinkside seats with unobstructed view. Great music, wonderful costuming and excellent choreography. Nip up to Windjammers for chocolate milk and cookies to bring back to room. Back to cabin to have long discussion about whether or not to take organized tour tomorrow of Barcelona. We will have early dinner tonight prior to docking then suss out the port. About to get ready for dinner and open shower room door..... the room is ankle deep in foam..... not mine.... someone elses. Call maintenance. Leave off having shower until bed time by which time all is cleaned up and sorted. Have to say Barcelona by night is lovely. Put aside my paranoia about pickpockets and being mugged we had a lovely evening. Docked during dinner. It's one hell of walk into town from the ship so we buy return shuttle tickets from RCI. There appears to be a bus into town too from the pier but we never got around to finding out where it goes in town nor how much it costs though clearly will be cheaper than $4.50 each way with RCI. We get dropped off and decide to head for the Gothic part of town. Taking a slight detour whilst we accustom ourselves to our location we stumble upon a full orchestra on an outdoor stage in full evening dress with a large audience. Didn't recognize what they were playing but it was lovely. We head up La Rambla along with everyone else then veered off to the right as DD decided to take us thru the pedestrian neighborhood. Full of restaurants. Tapas bars. Children on bicycles. Very graffiti-ed reminiscent of Camden Lock. We stick to well lit paths and come up on Santa Eulalia Cathedral. Full mass is being celebrated. Girls in red and white costumes parade through the streets. Right outside the cathedral a market is opening up selling honey, jams, and other home grown delicacies. Let me remind you that this around 930pm. We head back down La Rambla past the market stalls and street performers. Catch shuttle back. Would like to suggest to RCI that they provide the shuttle free of charge. It's one hell of a walk and ok for the young and fit but seriously impossible for those in wheelchairs or with walking difficulties. Other ports have free shuttles. Day 6 Head back into town after breakfast. Share a taxi with Uncle and Aunt to La Sagrada Familia. Oh my. This is one stunning work of art. As Cathedrals go I have to say this is quite exceptional and unique. Packed of course. Don't have enough time to queue for lift nor the energy to climb to the top but the impression we are given is something which celebrates life and love. It is awesome. The sculptures are exquisite. One has to remember too that this is a work in progress. Amazing. Having split from Uncle and Aunt, SO and I head for Park Guell, another Gaudi masterpiece. This is a park like no other. I keep repeating myself with the word stunning and for that I apologize. Palm trees, winding paths, mosaics, pillars adorned with plants; music; street vendors; tropical birds nest building; fabulous views; fountains. And lovely sunshine. DD and SIL have been to the Aquarium and declared it brilliant. Taxis in Barcelona are reasonably priced and despite my appalling Spanish we managed to get about well enough. We lunched at Park Guell cheaply enough. Back to ship in good time to grab a lounger on deck 12 for sailaway following a detour to Windjammer for hot dogs and cookies and of course my chocolate milk fix for the night. Not sure if I mentioned it earlier but the other night at dinner the whole serving staff gathered on the main staircase in the dining room and regaled us with 'O Sole mio'! Formal night 2 tonight. Still no invite to Captain's table ?. Dinner was lovely. Had planned to try the Bingo tonight but fell asleep on the bed and decided to climb in as opposed to getting up and out again!! Day 7 We are awake for sunrise and anchoring at Villefranche. Lovely photos. Take the tender ashore after breakfast and decide to take the bus into Monaco. Only €1 per person. Information desk provides us with directions and train times. Bus is packed and we stand most of the way. We take the bus straight to the Casino and spend a happy while snapping the cars, the Casino, the cars, the view, the cars, and so on. If it wasn't a Ferrari it was a Rolls or an Aston Martin, or a Bentley, or .... or.... simply stunning. Today was Monaco Boat Show and the place was heaving with beautiful people. No taxis to be had; we had wanted a tour of the GP circuit. We take a lift down from the Casino level to find ourselves at THE tunnel.... you know the one..... the one from the F1 GP .... Schumacher had a phenomenal shunt there a couple of years back..... THAT tunnel..... unfortunately it is being repaired or something so there were diggers and the like spoiling the view. We then head towards the Marina but can barely see the pavement for boat show tents. The yachts are fabulous of course. DD would have liked to go in .... I have no idea how much a day ticket cost but I decided that we weren't dressed appropriately as prospective buyers .... We go instead for a light lunch of escargots and moules marinieres. Very strange to keep having meal interrupted by the sound of Ferrari engines! We catch a bus then walk up to the Grimaldi Palace. Just as we arrive at the summit the heavens open up. We run for shelter into a cafe and console ourselves with tarte au citron. Thunder, lightning.... what???? The day had started hot and sunny. About half an hour later all was right with the world again and we decide to head for the station. Bumped into some cruisers and wondered about hitching a ride with them but they had yet to go into Monaco and we were ready to go back. We find the station which is well signed. Ticket purchase impossible from machine. I speak fluent French but couldn't work my way around the fare structure on the machine so head for the total other side of the station to the ticket office. Train due in 5 minutes. Train arrives. That's when hell broke loose. 4 carriage train. Apparently there hasn't been one for a long while. A few people get off. Hundreds, and I do mean hundreds, of people try to get on. DD and SIL manage to get on. There was no way SO and I could make it. I pass the tickets to SIL who's just visible in the throng and watch the doors close and the train depart. We're worried about getting onto the next train due in 45 minutes as platform is still packed..... much muttering from people who had also been stranded. There are no taxis to be had on that level outside. We are advised to go up a couple of levels to hail one. We decide to wait for the next train and see how it goes. By then the crowd had thinned as a direct train to Nice had been and gone. Train arrived on time and had loads of seating available. Received SMS from DD showing her on the beach at Villefranche.... they have arrived safely. Catch tender back. Seriously enjoyed the hot shower. Dinner. Again entertainment by the serving staff, this time along a surfing theme. Much fun had. Am aware there is a late buffet and will need keeping awake. Quick visit to Casino then up to games room for a spirited game of Trivial Pursuit. Outside is really blowy. Head off to Buffet. RCI...... if anyone is reading this from the staff side..... what a great job!!! Such a wide variety of food and so beautifully served and presented. Would suggest this would have been better arranged for a night prior to an at sea day..... I have to be up early to catch our tour coach in the morning!! Thanks anyway..... the profiteroles especially were yummy. Day 8 Livorno Not a good night's sleep. Upset stomach. Hmmmm. That'll be midnight eating then. No breakfast for either of us this morning. We have docked already. SO has popped up to Deck 12 to catch the sunrise. Maybe the buffet should have included cereals! There was fruit and cheese but did I eat the healthy stuff? No, I did not. Today is get a bag of laundry washed for $20 day (2nd one of those so far) so I have a bag ready for them. Today has been one of extreme highs and lows. Pisa and Florence as cities were spectacular. I last visited Pisa in the mid 60s. The merchandising of the Duomo and Bell Tower is extremely sad. Vendors line the way into the center; we were warned on the coach regarding the faux handbags and even more directly made aware of the individual pavement sellers of sunglasses, shawls, jewelry who do so unlicensed. They are not afraid to come straight up to you and request you to purchase from them. There were many of them and quite annoying in their persistence. Regardless of this the sun shone and we loved the atmosphere. Back on the coach to Florence. Easy to follow the maps provided by both the ship and the coach guide. Saw the major sites and enjoyed an outdoor lunch. Many vendors line the streets here too but the quality of the stalls was really very good. Again the pavement vendors are not afraid to use the direct approach. So we were on the way back to the meeting point. DD and I had turned a corner, SIL and SO were photographing something beautiful (let's face it that's not difficult in Florence). SIL joins DD and I... I ask where is he? He's not to be seen. I become concerned and start walking back to corner when he appears. 'Someone just tried to mug me,' he says. 'What!?' Apparently some young chap had grabbed hold of the camera strap around his neck.... jerking him around.... well.... you need to know that SO is no light weight.... he may be around 5'7" and he's been eating well this holiday.... enough said....anyway there is no way SO is going to be parted from his prized Canon so he lays the chap out with a couple of direct blows .... passers by continue to pass by so SO steps over said youth and continues on his way. Well...... we have decided to stick together from now on. Sleep on coach back to ship. Dinner. Meet up with Aunt and Uncle. Whilst in Florence she too has had a rather too close encounter. She noticed her bag zip was open during a tour of one of the sites. She thought she may have left her credit cards on board..... when she got back and checked the safe she realized she hadn't and that her cards had been stolen. The ship staff were really helpful and assisted them in contacting the banks and card issuers. I am concerned that she is elderly and that whilst she shows a philosophical attitude and an 'I'll be fine' approach that she may suffer some kind of delayed shock. We all attended the show tonight, David Copperfield. Aunt had been stunned to think the American superstar illusionist had been snared by RCI. She actually enjoyed the show by the UK comedian bearing the same name.... the one who appeared alongside Lenny Henry in Three of a Kind way back when. He was hysterical. Very very funny. And what a voice. The man can sing, play the guitar, and hold an audience for an hour. I had tears at one point..... from laughter. Casino. Lost. We have towel animals!!! Day 9 Cagliari Sunday. It's closed. Seriously. I had been talked out of an organized tour.... big mistake. HUGE. Dock around midday. Coaches are laid on to take us the 5 minutes from the dock to the town. Tour guide there offers bus trip around the island for €10pp so we head to the bus stop. So does virtually everyone else. Bus can only seat around 35 so we are in for at least an hour wait. Taxis are practically non existent. It's already hot. There is a horse drawn tour for around 10 people; there is a queue for that. There is a queue for taxis and only a couple appear to be snapped up. I am concerned to take a taxi somewhere to be left to wander which would be lovely but then unable to return. We head back down the hill to see if we can catch a bus over to the gardens to the east where there appears to be a nature reserve. Catch a bus in the right direction. On board are other cruisers as well as cruise staff who are really helpful in telling us where to get off for the famous beach which is what we do. The gardens appear to be nearby. So we walk. And walk. And walk. And give up. Head back to the beach..... it's beautiful.... if you like beaches this is the one for you. We see a bus facing the right way and hop on. Joy of joys. Back in the room we discover the GP is being shown on RTL.... so ok it's in German but that doesn't matter!! We've missed the first hour but are brought up to speed by the neighbors. I'd enquired yesterday at the pursers desk whether it was likely to be shown and was told they didn't have the rights to any of the channels it was to be shown on. SIL had come across a channel where random football matches had been shown so he'd given that a go shortly after race start and there it was! I've also asked for the possibility of a bridge tour or a machine room tour and was told they weren't possible either. And while I'm on the subject of advice given I've been to enquire about 'Next Cruise' at the RCI booking desk. There are options to purchase future cruises with OBC for UK passengers however the 'Next cruise' facility doesn't exist for us...... am wondering if this is something else that is poor advice. Quite disappointed. The lady there says she would have the booking transferred to a travel agent. I'll investigate this a bit further before we leave as I'm not convinced that this would be the best price available, even compared to booking online. I have dreams of Alaska, the far East and Australia / New Zealand.... not at the same time of course but wouldn't that be a back to back to dream about!! Smart casual dress tonight in MDR. Quest night in the theatre. From what I remember reading this is one not to be missed. Last night in the theatre I was sat next to a couple who told me their friends were in the process of moving cabins. When I expressed interest as I had thought all cabins were fully occupied they said that these friends had been on Deck 2 in an inside cabin. They had complained about noise and had been moved for one night whilst work was carried out. Following move back the noise persisted so they were moved to Deck 8 into a Balcony room. Nice upgrade. The thing is THAT room had just become vacated as the occupants had left the ship. No further information available. I am sooo curious! Of course I'm aware that visiting performers get to come and go and rooms have to be available for them so maybe that's how come there was an empty room..... Was on winning Quest team!!! Even better than that DD was our team leader and won a bottle of 'Champagne'! It really was tremendous fun. The CD had enormous fun with a piece of her underwear.... all done in the best possible taste.... Have subsequently ordered the cruise DVD in anticipation that some of it will have made the final cut. Day 10 At sea Had a very bad night. 0230 went for a stroll with one of the 4 books I had brought with me. Stopped for a coffee and a sandwich at the Cafe promenade which was still open. Bad idea. When I went back to bed some time later oh the indigestion!! Too knackered to get out of bed to find the Rennies. Part of the win at Quest yesterday was some Bingo cards so we went to play the morning session. Waste of time and the money to purchase a regular strip....$31!! OK the big prize for one of the games is $2000 I believe and that will have to be paid out by the end of the cruise. DD said she would have had more fun spending the 31 in the Casino. Fall asleep waiting for the auction of rare masterpieces to start. Only went out of curiosity following the hype in the forum. Yes the pics are awesome and my Aunt has been attending the lectures given by the auctioneer declaring him to the amongst the best she has heard of the Park West chaps. Nonetheless I wasn't inclined to show an interest though there was some art there that COULD tempt me.... specifically a Popeye cell and a Dali etching. I have diverse tastes. Shrug. Just not the income. It's started raining. We go up to Johnny Rockets. Great fun. Good burgers and great milkshakes. Try and catch up on lost sleep. Formal night in MDR. String group wearing ball frocks. Head chef introduces his team. Can't eat dessert tonight. SO cannot do up his tux trousers.... only 3rd time of wearing. We'll be back on the diet Saturday. Wonder if M&S will have them back ;) Have a conference with DD and SIL about what to do in Lisbon and Vigo. Nothing decided on. Tomorrow we have booked the trip to Mijas. Aunt carries fond memories of a restaurant there from a few years back that served her the best gazpacho. Day 11 Malaga Uncle has given me earplugs and I can sleep now despite the racket!!! Another bad night. Think I have developed sciatica.... am ok standing but lying down or sitting... oh my goodness.... Had had high hopes of being steeped in Spanish history today.... unfortunately let down. Mijas had been, once upon a time, a pretty, mountain village. 21st Century commercialism and tourism have taken over and whilst the old town does retain some of the features I had been looking for I was immensely saddened at the amount of souvenir shops and other such enterprises. The guide spoke excellent English however her accent made it extremely difficult to understand what she was saying. It's so difficult to judge how best to spend money on an escorted tour when the description of what is being offered differs from the reality. This is meant to be a Treasures of the Med cruise. DD says Cagliari was no treasure. We'd have liked more on board cultural input with a trip so described.... eg.... talks that don't involve shopping and instead more local educational inspiration. We'd have been far more likely to have booked more tours that way. Not seen any flamenco dancing for example. On Cagliari they had had a trip into the mountains with loads of local input however it was priced at well over $100 per person; even including lunch that is way too steep for a family of 4. There is a TV channel devoted to excursions but they are delivered by sales girls; it would be useful to have had for example : tonight on channel X Lisbon..... where to go and what to see and in greater depth than the little bites currently provided; instead the talks are repeated ad infinitum and are totally non-inspiring. Even better.... have an on board speaker the day before each port of call. That's my gripe for tonight. Just got back from Portofino's. Heaven. Absolute heaven. I have eaten at Michelin * restaurants and this meal tonight actually stood heads above most. The service was exemplary, the presentation flawless. I need the recipe for the risotto. I have to have it. It's not in the cookbook they're currently selling which is volume 2. Anyone out there with volume 1???? The view from the restaurant as we sailed past Gibraltar at sunset was just ..... fabulous! Day 12 Lisbon Beautiful sunny day. The approach to Lisbon was just so inspiring. The bridge spanning the river, the statue of Jesus on the hilltop.... how lucky were we to be on the starboard side to see that from the balcony! We had disembarked by 11am. Long queue for the shuttle into town but it moved quickly. I have never been to Portugal before and I know I want to return. We were dropped off at this beautiful square with an incredible statue dominating.... my apologies for not going into detail here..... SO is asleep and the paperwork is elsewhere. We could have hired a little buggy for 4 featuring a guided tour by GPS for €30 for the hour or a segway..... yeah right..... me on a segway!!! Rofl. There were also ample tourist buses. SIL was approached twice by drug dealers..... I kid you not..... Broad daylight. We decided to walk. First stop the Cathedral. There was a service in progress in a little alcove; sounds of chanting echoed through the building. The stained glass windows were illuminated by the sun. Very peaceful and serene. We then made our way up the cobbled streets to St George's Castle. Now I've not had the time yet to Google how come our St George has anything to do with Lisbon but I'm guessing the Crusades. Looking forward to returning home and broadband access!! This is definitely a must see in Lisbon. We didn't have enough time to see it all. The ramparts and the view are just amazing. We could see the ship, the bridge, the statue and miles around. Lots of feral cats. Lunch in the cafeteria. There is a Camera Obscura with a guided talk; by the time we had located it the next talk was in Spanish and we wouldn't have had the time to wait for the one in English. One thing I've remembered that I've forgotten to mention earlier..... there is music everywhere. On board it's mostly 60s / 70s. If I hear 'Quanta ramera' (??) one more time I'll throw myself overboard (poolside band has limited repertoire). On shore though I've been quite moved by hearing guitar music played at Park Guell in Barcelona and today at the Castle. The sound of music really adds to the atmosphere at these places even if they are commercially motivated. At Park Guell there were some very unusual instruments being played at different locations..... if I recall correctly one was called a Hang and resembled a wok but sounded like one of those Caribbean kettle drums. Today there was a guitarist playing in a courtyard and no matter where you were you could hear him; I'll admit that the playing of the theme from 'The Deerhunter' was perhaps not typical of the area but it still made for a pleasant background. We are truly back in the Atlantic. Ship is rocking away heading north to Vigo, our last port of call. Lots of creaking. Day 13 Vigo, Spain Forgot to mention yesterday that when we ordered room service on our return from Lisbon the room steward brought us chocolate covered strawberries.... compliments of the chef!! Divine! Missed the ice show last night as we were in Portofino's. Uncle and Aunt went the night before to see the Grumbleweeds..... we passed on that.... Uncle and Aunt wish they had too. Tonight it's the American Drifters. I have failed miserably in researching the ports we were to visit. As with Lisbon yesterday I was surprised and delighted by our arrival at Vigo. Passing between islands and heading into port was wonderful , helped by the sun.... how lucky have we been with the weather. Disembarking began around 9am. We sauntered off around 10. Finally a 2nd port we can access without having to pay charges for the privilege. Another advantage is that should we want to we could have returned to the ship and gone ashore again. Perhaps RCI could consider, if they simply HAVE to charge for shuttle transfers to and from the ship to make the charge a day ticket. That way at least people could return to the ship for lunch. We wander around a little aimlessly looking for the fish market which we stumble upon by accident. We then go to look for where they sell the oysters for which they are famous and find them too. All within 2 minutes of the ship. Unsure what to do and where to go locally we jump into a cab and head for Samil beach. It's long, and white, and blue and lovely. There are sand sculptures. Few people. DD gets her fix of sand between her toes. Grab a coffee in a beach bar. Find a taxi to bring us back. In my non existent Spanish I am able to request the driver to take us on a little tour of Vigo. He gets the gist. We drive by a beautiful horse sculpture (Spain Square?) and then up to Castro Park where he waits whilst the fellas do their 'togging' (that's what serious photographers call themselves apparently unlike the rest of us who take 'snaps'). The view is spectacular. He then drives us down to the port. Now.... the two taxis cost a total of €25 including tips for the 4 of us. In fact the first one was only €10, the 2nd costing more because of the detour. Ship bought return bus tickets to Samil beach are $20 per person. Something not quite right there. DD gets her fix of 7 huge oysters. We are charged for 6. Wind is up. SO is asked to leave deck 5 by the Helipad following sailaway as it's considered dangerous. 7 on the Beaufort. I've popped into the gym as it's forward and has the best inside views of the way forward. Day 14 At sea Weather extremely bad. Ship rolling. I have a load of hip pain; manage to go down to breakfast for eggs Benedict and then back to bed. Sleep. Feel more confident about walking about in the afternoon and head for the Alhambra theatre for the Bingo jackpot game..... had to be done. Didn't win. Someone else won over $7,000. Outdoor decks have been closed all day from what I can gather. We have a discussion about tipping as the envelopes have arrived along with luggage tags for disembarking tomorrow. There are activities I wanted to do but never got around to in the 2 weeks. Sudoku challenge for one. Miniature golf. Table tennis. Some crayola activity sounded interesting bizarrely. Read one of the 4 books I brought along. Haven't decided whether or not I'll book with RCI again. The Independence is a beautiful ship. Service exemplary. Food ranges from very good to excellent. The cost of various add ons however leaves a lot to be desired. Signing out : Linda, Darran, Bella, David, Alice and of course Norbert. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
I am a Diamond, almost Plus, member and cross regularly on RCCL's larger ships and the QM2. I decided to cross the Atlantic on the Independence of the Seas rather than the Navigator, my favorite ship, because it was a first time ... Read More
I am a Diamond, almost Plus, member and cross regularly on RCCL's larger ships and the QM2. I decided to cross the Atlantic on the Independence of the Seas rather than the Navigator, my favorite ship, because it was a first time crossing for this ship and I thought it would be fun seeing all the new stuff RCCL has put on this basically English market outfitted ship. The Independence is very large but so well designed that you do not notice the large numbers of people. It is a new ship with large flat screen TV's and unique to the Independence, a very good hot water kettle in the room with tea and coffee. I do wish RCCL would put such a quality kettle in all the rooms on their ships. I had a rear facing D1 balcony cabin which was just wonderful. The same size as most D1 cabins, the rear facing cabins have, generally, a balcony three time the size of traditional balconies. I was on the 10th floor and right next to me were two wonderful regular RCCL travelers from Florida. We enjoyed talking a lot on that crossing. The advantage to being a Diamond on RCCL is that they do a lot for those who are loyal to this ship line. No other cruise ship line does as much as RCCL for in the mornings they have a lounge open specially for Diamonds and those Plus which has a great breakfast. The two concierges they have on the Diamond level try to work issues out and do the best they can when sometimes very arrogant Diamond members make unreasonable demands. RCCL also has a cocktail time from generally 5-8:30pm where Diamonds and Diamond Plus members can meet and have a good time while having a drink or two provided by RCCL. No other Cruise Line comes even close to doing this for their loyal customers! I so hope RCCL never changes this policy for it is the primary reason so many of us return to RCCL given some of the manifest other issues they do not seem to be able to address such as the lesser than average food in their dinning rooms, etc. The primary reason I am writing this is to send along a compliment to RCCL for so many times all I hear are stories finding problems with the cruise lines. On this crossing the ship stopped in Vigo, Spain, and against better advice I ate oysters on shore. I thereupon, a day later, became so ill that for the first time, ever, I called the medical facility on the ship at 2am and said I was so bad I could not ever walk down to their facility. They immediately sent someone up with a wheel chair and brought me down to see the nurse and the Doctor. The nurse was from Romania and was just wonderful and the Doctor was Canadian and really knew his business of taking care of very sick travelers. They gave me fluids via intravenously and a shot, etc. After a period of two hours I was well enough to go back to the room and because RCCL is very conscious of the virus that can become a problem with other travelers on the ship, I was quarantined for two days. I was fine with being quarantined because even though I thought my problem was food poisoning the Dr. wanted to make sure I had nothing else that could cause problems with everyone else on board. For the next two days they sent my meals to my room, called me regularly from the infirmary, from guest services and from the Diamond lounge to make sure I was ok and doing better. They sent free of charge all the gatorade, bottled water I needed and gave me free Internet wifi in my room for my laptop and I watched all the movies I wanted as a gift from the ship. I am somewhat discerning about medical care and I can tell you that rest easy if that is something that causes you concern about going to sea. If you are on a RCCL ship, their standards are very high and they take that responsibility seriously. RCCL also sent me a cruise credit for a future cruise because I missed part of my crossing being quarantined. Cruise credits are nice things to have for you keep being rewarded by RCCL the more credits you receive. So, what started out as a short note seems to have gone on but if anyone wants to ask me any questions, please just email me at: rennyga2000@yahoo.com Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
We joined the ship at Southampton and the facilities for parking and embarkation were smooth and really quick. In no time we were on board and settled into our cabin; having sailed with RC before our cabin was almost identical to suites on ... Read More
We joined the ship at Southampton and the facilities for parking and embarkation were smooth and really quick. In no time we were on board and settled into our cabin; having sailed with RC before our cabin was almost identical to suites on other RC ships, only much newer. Overall the vessel was comfortable and the ship was extremely stable even when the sea was a 'little bumpy'. On sea days the upper decks were almost full to capacity, but somehow one was able to secure a spot. The H2O feature was well used by youngsters who seemed to enjoy the experience. We have sailed on several RC vessels, but this was our first on the Independence of the Seas. Compared to the Navigator of the Seas, we found the vessel too large for our liking. Being relatively new it has to be expected that some time is required to ensure that everything can, and will, work well. We are not trying to be negative about the vessel, it is obviously perfect for families with young children, but the facilities seemed to be geared that way. We ate in Chops, Portofino and Johnny Rockets all of which were first class in both food and service. The same cannot be said of the dining room where the service was sometimes 'iffey' and the food presentation was many times poor. Very few dishes included enough vegetables, for our liking and as a result we ate in the Windjammer where the food and service was excellent. Choice was abundant, vegetables were generous and the meat from the joints were very much better than in the dining room. We like to sit at larger tables so that one can meet with other passengers and so that was our request. However as soon as we were on board we were informed that our table had been changed. On seeking the reason why, we were then informed that we were moved as a result of us choosing to sit on a table for four. Apparently this change took place at 11 am, sometime before we actually boarded the ship. We were not alone with table mess-ups and other passengers found themselves on a large table with no other diners. I believe this results from the 'My Time Dining' experiment; I think that RC should either adopt a full freestyle dining program or revert to the normal table and seating allocation. Our cruises on other RC vessels have been excellent and the food in their main dining room has been of the highest order; we were on the Legend of the Seas in May 2008 and the culinary experience was outstanding as has been cruises on the Navigator of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas. The Concierge facilities and Lounge on the Independence of the Seas was, as expected, of a high standard emulating similar facilities on other RC vessels. So that's the dislikes of our chests. The cruise itinerary was good and it was interesting to see just how a large ship copes with passengers leaving and returning to the ship, some lines, but in the main no waiting was experienced. The crew were pleasant and helpful, the bars and lounges were also good and the shows were of a high standard especially the Ice Shows. We would certainly recommend the ship to travellers with young families and it appeared to be a very accommodating ship for disabled passengers, as for us we prefer the smaller Royal Caribbean ships. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Independence of the Seas 4th Oct from Southampton to Madeira,Canary Islands,Lisbon and Vigo. What can I say !! Brilliant, we loved it. My husband, sister in law, Brother in law and my daughter (17) and myself all travelled to ... Read More
Independence of the Seas 4th Oct from Southampton to Madeira,Canary Islands,Lisbon and Vigo. What can I say !! Brilliant, we loved it. My husband, sister in law, Brother in law and my daughter (17) and myself all travelled to Southampton from Glasgow. The ship on first sight is wonderful. Close up when we boarded was even better. Getting on board was a complete dawdle, we had done our on line boarding and there was NO queue. We could not have been more than 15 mins. How clean sparkling and friendly the ship was we couldn't believe it. The Windjammer was serving lunch and what a selection !! A special mention to the Windjammer staff they were magnificent. My hubby was poorly (drink related)and we requested an omelette at dinner, which was made by the Catering Director no less !!!! (He was wearing a suit with a lot of gold on it but how was I to know??) How impressed were we when someone told us who he was. The young greeter lady at the door every morning was a complete tonic singing her "good morning" bah humbug to the morons who berated her for being too loud with their hangovers. Staterooms were terrific as were our respective attendants, nothing was too much trouble. Shower pressure was terrific, we had a small problem with the flushing of the loo but I had no sooner called Maintenance when the plumber was at the door, fixed in two minutes flat and he was off before I put the receiver back in it's cradle. Eating was great, we tried the main dining room on the first night but enjoyed the freedom of the Windjammer buffet more. So for the rest of the time we ate buffet style which suited five very different tastes extremely well. Facilities were great , I particularly enjoyed the cantilevered whirlpools, the adult only swimming pool and the Schooner Bar. Hi to Yalcin our great waiter!!!!! Cruise director Graham and staff did a great job. Karen for the progressive quiz, we were a respectable 4rth. Ports were good, we did our own thing so cannot comment on the excursions. But it was easy enough to go by yourself and explore. Taxi driver Umberto in Lisbon made our entire holiday (although not for free) he was fabulous. Even made my 17 year old daughter smile. Not an easy task!! We were so sad to go home, disembarking was effortless and quick, full marks to everyone. Royal Caribbean get full marks from me, I have read about kids playing on the lifts etc on this site but we went out with school holidays after all it is a family ship. I would agree about the people though, we encountered some very selfish and ignorant people. One guy when I leant past him to get a plate thought I was Q jumping and he was very rude. I don't think they would run out of food EVER never mind the 5 minutes I held him up. RCI cannot be held responsible for their clients and I will cruise with them again, our last day was brilliant. Their was chefs lining the promenade showing off their skills, making sugar flowers, carving melons, making pancakes, cakes and all manner of goodies. (I put on 4 pounds) Well done to everyone I am a cruise convert and am already looking to book with RCI again on a different itinerary. Do yourself a favor and try the Independence of the Seas, the captain has a sense of humor as well. He says we will depart when he finds his keys!!! Nice man. Bon voyage xx Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
We cruised from Southampton to Ft. Lauderdale on this mega-ship's first Transatlantic crossing. The Independence had been in Europe since being put into service in May '08, and was still as good as new. Our midship balcony ... Read More
We cruised from Southampton to Ft. Lauderdale on this mega-ship's first Transatlantic crossing. The Independence had been in Europe since being put into service in May '08, and was still as good as new. Our midship balcony stateroom on deck 8 was fine, with the practical and pleasant layout and abundance of storage found on most newer ships, kept tidy by a friendly attendant. In general, it's a well laid-out ship, and despite its huge size easy to move around on. It's fun to walk around the multi-story center "mall", which provides a community feeling, no matter how temporary it may be (although the shopping opportunities are not better than on less extravagant vessels), and it's also a nice stage for some of the cruise staff's elaborate evening parades. The ship offers very good sports and workout opportunities; I especially loved the Flow-Rider surfing machine and couldn't get enough of it. (I'm 61 and had never surfed before.) However, the dance floors are much too small, especially in comparison to Princess and Cunard ships with the exception of the temporary dance floor which sometimes covers the ice skating rink; it's of good size but very sticky and, therefore, uncomfortable to dance on. This was a shame because there was a decent band playing ballroom music as well as a good Latin band. Also, far too few dance lessons were being offered by the excellent professional Russian dance couple (3, on a 13 day cruise with 10 days at sea). Dinner service as well as room service were good, food quality average. We attended a Crown & Anchor wine tasting, and I would strongly recommend against it: The four wines presented were of sub-par quality, and the wine steward must have been the worst presenter on board; he dragged out for an hour what could have been explained in a few minutes. My wife and I consoled ourselves by digging into the accompanying cheese platters. The variety shows in the theatre were uneven two excellent ones, others less so. Both ice shows were very good, with highly professional skaters who, to our surprise, also doubled as rink attendants during passenger skating hours as well as support personnel in the ports. The cruise director was possibly the best one we've experienced over the 13 cruises we've taken in the past dozen years; all his people were very personable, and there were plenty of activities for every taste, including the famed Quest, which we, contrary to our preconceptions, enjoyed enormously. There was only one truly weak spot on this ship, at least for us: Customer / purser service did not live up to our expectations and was considerably below what we've experienced on other cruises most recently a Transatlantic crossing on the QM2 and a Transpacific crossing (Alaska to China) on the Sapphire Princess. Calls to their "0" number were often not answered (ring-ring-ring forever), and several times we were given outrightly false information worst in Funchal, Madeira, concerning car rental opportunities: We were advised to purchase RC's bus tickets from the dock into town, where there would be car rental places nearby. This proved to be completely wrong: After taking that bus and losing nearly an hour asking around ("no, there is no Avis or Hertz or you-name-it here"), a rare cab driver who did not try to convince us that he was the only "car rental" in town ferried us from the city center in the opposite direction to the Lido area (which we could have gotten to from the ship's dock in under 5 minutes by cab or maybe 20 minutes walking), where one can find every car rental agency imaginable, all near each other and priced very reasonably. When, upon our return to the ship that evening, I complained about the wrong information that had caused us to lose time and spend extra money, the person at the purser's desk (not the same who had given us the faulty info to begin with) told me they hadn't known, and she would see to it that we were at least reimbursed for the unnecessary bus trip into Funchal's city center. The reimbursement never materialized (and I didn't want to lose more time by again standing in line at the purser's desk to follow up with a complaint). Also, their feigning ignorance with regard to the location of car rentals in Funchal is not very believable, considering that RC and the Independence of the Seas have been regulars in that place. Otherwise, we enjoyed the crossing, including the three first days of cool mist and rain (Southampton to our first port: Vigo, Spain) and, of course, the magnificent weather and mostly calm seas from Madeira to St. Maarten and finally Ft. Lauderdale. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We are a family of six adults and two children arriving in Southampton at 11am. Embarkation was a breeze with luggage drop off and check in was the speediest we have experienced. We had access to our cabins straight away and from check in ... Read More
We are a family of six adults and two children arriving in Southampton at 11am. Embarkation was a breeze with luggage drop off and check in was the speediest we have experienced. We had access to our cabins straight away and from check in to cabin was about 30 minutes. Our service in the restaurant could not be faulted the staff where top notch. A pity the menus are limited and not up to other cruise lines we have been on. Prime rib and surf and turf only served once in a 14 day cruise. On some nights my daughter(23) would only have a starter due to the limited choice.The Windjammer cafe was busy at peak times and finding a seat a problem, the menu had a good selection each day. It was at its very busy when the restaurant did not open for lunch on the first day at sea.RCCL have a bare faced cheek to increase the bar price by 25% on leaving Southampton after its Transatlanic crossing. A 20oz beer is $7.50 which includes the 15% service which is not shown on the receipt though a space is left for gratuities. My Grandson(4.5) went to the childrens club on the first day. His mother was not allowed in the room to settle him in. On taking him to the club on the second day, he sat down at the door and would not go in as the 'ladies were not nice'. My daughter requested hot water in the Champagne bar to heat the babies bottle, only to be told to go to her room and order room service. Not my idea of helpful service. The only child changing facilities are on deck 11, so a long haul to your cabin or deck 11 if you are anywhere else on the ship.The waitresses in the pyramid lounge need a rocket up their rears to get them away from the barman. My 23 year old daughter sat at a table for ten plus minutes before going to the bar to place her order. I also ended up going to the bar as they ignored my waving arm trying to get a drink.The entertainment was very good as were the sports facilities. It was a pity that the ice rink did not open more often as it was closed on numerous occasions. I have not include all the Ports of call due to space available, but I sure you will find other reviews. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Our first ever cruise.  This was a present from my partner and I to my Mum and Sister.  As it was the first cruise we wanted a WOW factor and the ship delivers this in buckets. Good points:  Boarding at Southampton could not be ... Read More
Our first ever cruise.  This was a present from my partner and I to my Mum and Sister.  As it was the first cruise we wanted a WOW factor and the ship delivers this in buckets. Good points:  Boarding at Southampton could not be easier- out of the car and on the boat in 10 minutes. Interior stateroom well laid out, spotless and not as small as we imagined. Beds incredibly comfortable -attendant (Brenda) was superb. Huge ship, loads to do.  Royal Promenade is superb for strolling and looks stunning. Main Dining Room food choice very good and waiters very flexible in changing things for us.  We ate on My Time Dining, always got the time we wanted and had two waiters over the 2 weeks.  Both were superb.  Had window seats almost every night.  Loved Main Dining Room for lunch on sea days but breakfast was somewhat disorganized. Formal nights were good and most seemed to make an effort or went to the Windjammer instead. Good choice at Windjammer (but see bad points below) Great Pool Deck -  love the ice cream machine Ice shows were superb - outstanding even. Embarkation/disembarkation in ports was smooth with short queues. Did one ship excursion - Pisa and Florence on your own.  Very good, great guide and well organized if somewhat expensive. Theatre is a great venue with good sightlines, sound and lighting (but see below). Weather - from the moment we arrived in Gibraltar to reaching Cadiz 9 days later on the way back we had lovely weather for this time of year.    Bad Points: Windjammer way too busy.  Had to fight for a seat and despite constant announcements to vacate tables after eating many did not and just sat there drinking.  A very stressful place to visit. No labelling of vegetarian dishes in Windjammer. My partner is vegetarian and if you are a strict veggie then you will have problems in the windjammer.  Meat dishes are next to veggie ones and there are no main veggie dishes to speak of except pasta.  We asked why they couldn't put 'V' symbols on the buffet labels and they said it would be too much work across all ships - a poor excuse.  Guest Relations and our Head Waiter both said this had been raised many times before. Drink prices - Way too high.  Apparently they increase them about 25% for Southampton sailings.  Everyone was moaning about the prices and were hardly buying drinks.  E.g. Beer $7.50, House Wine $6.95 a glass or $27.00 a bottle.  Most felt like they were being ripped off as other regular cruisers confirmed prices on other ships where no way near as high. Theatre entertainment very average. Mainly one man shows from unknown acts. The Elton John tribute act was spot on though.  The last night was a 'variety night' and included the CD singing a song and then the worst comedian ever. About half the audience left during his act and the others sat there and cringed.  How the CD thought this was entertainment we have no idea. Also on 2 evenings before sea days they showed a film in the main theatre.  This is just cheap and we expected better. We were told we were only at 2/3rds of capacity.  We would not like to be on the ship when full.  Windjammer would be impossible to eat in and the queues for lifts would be intolerable.  This was quite an aged lot of passengers so everyone wanted the lifts which meant waits of up to 10 minutes on occasion.  Very few kids on board but in high summer I expect it could be bedlam everywhere. If the weather is poor you will struggle to find somewhere to go.  The bars all become full of people reading their books or playing cards even when the weather was good so I would hate to imagine the scrum if you couldn't go out on deck. Bills - apparently the bills have been changed. They used to show a breakdown of the price of the drink, the tax and the tip with a total. Now they just show a total and have a box for an additional gratuity. Many thought they had to fill in this box so the waiter got a tip when in fact the tip had already been included. This felt like a con and we sensed a difference in service if you didn't give an extra tip. Hassle - on a sea day by the pool expect a waiter prompting you for a drink about every 2 minutes - very annoying. Although there are a few gripes above, overall we enjoyed our first cruise immensely.  We are glad we have experienced such a huge ship and all its amenities however we all agreed we want something a little smaller and more personal next time and hopefully one where we didn't feel like we were being ripped off on drink prices.   From chatting to other regular cruisers it appeared they preferred previous smaller ships too and would not be returning to the Independence.  Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
I have just returned from the Voyager of the Seas Floating refit, this cruise will certainly make me think twice about ever sailing with RCI again. Boarding in Southampton was painless and when you walk out and see Voyager up close it ... Read More
I have just returned from the Voyager of the Seas Floating refit, this cruise will certainly make me think twice about ever sailing with RCI again. Boarding in Southampton was painless and when you walk out and see Voyager up close it definitely has the WOW factor. We went straight to our cabin a Junior Suite on 9 Deck to offload our bags. The Cabin was wonderful, very large with a walk in wardrobe and plenty of storage space, a nice size bathroom and lovely balcony (the cabin and balcony was probably the saving grace of the whole holiday). Our Stateroom attendant for the Cruise Alex Prosper was brilliant and the cabin was kept immaculate throughout, he entertained us with various towel animals in the evenings and was always happy and polite. The swimming pool area was under maintenance for the whole of the cruise, admittedly the first few days were too cold to use it anyway, but once it became warmer trying to relax around the pool became difficult, we had to put up with people using huge sanding machines on the deck and other noisy machines trying to get the pools finished, (Just a note here, Voyager had just come out of Dry Dock and these jobs should have been completed then). The pool area was still not finished when we pulled into Barcelona 11 days later. Adventure Ocean, the kids pool area, was closed for the first 9 days of the Cruise, again not completed in DryDock. Deck 12, with the running track was never completely open for the whole Cruise as they were replacing the deck covering, again surely this should have been done in Dry Dock. All that apart the Voyager does look good but they really should think about a major docking period as it is starting to look a bit worn in some of the interior spaces. Food - generally the food was mediocre, All meals taken in the main dining room were luke warm and towards the end of the cruise we used the Windjammer where the food seemed hotter. On the last night we ate in Portofino's, what can I say, the food was outstanding and the service immaculate, well worth the extra money you pay to eat here, if I were to travel RCI again I would probably eat here more often. Excursions - Didn't do any, we are very do it ourselves Cruisers (especially at RCI prices), however I do begrudge the fact that in Liverno you cannot just walk off the ship through the dockyard but have to take a shuttle bus for which RCI charge you $12, if you call into a port with limited access surely the Cruise Company should provide transport (just my Opinion) Entertainment - If you like BINGO this is the cruise line for you, twice a day they make shipwide announcements about Bingo, WHY?, they don't announce anything else from the Cruise compass daily activities list, whoops forgot they announce Art auctions as well, could it be they only announce stuff where they make money or am I just being slightly cynical. As for the other stuff, not bad, a good mix of entertainment, with Broadway style shows, singers, magicians and comedians. However the one you should not miss is the ICE SHOW, it was stunning, very professional and highly entertaining. The in Cabin television is a joke, we were shown the same 8 or so films and repeating programs for 11 days, maybe this is to get you to use the PAY FOR VIEW which showed not very new films at $12.95 each. I can buy the DVD cheaper than that at home.Drinks - Most bank robbers have the decency to wear a mask when robbing people, RCI do it with a smile, it may be a policy to stop people getting drunk, well it worked here, $12 for 2 Buds is a bit over the top. At least the bars in our ports of call made some money, if the amount of passengers in them were anything to go by. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Our cruise experience began in the dockside embarkation station set up by Royal Caribbean in Southampton, England. Royal Caribbean apologized that their computer system was not functioning, so the whole process resembled something more ... Read More
Our cruise experience began in the dockside embarkation station set up by Royal Caribbean in Southampton, England. Royal Caribbean apologized that their computer system was not functioning, so the whole process resembled something more akin to a boatload of immigrants seeking asylum at Ellis Island: long lines and short tempers. Once on-board, we marveled at the beauty of Voyager, with her well appointed, multi-story promenade running half the length of the ship, with cabins that overlooked the street-like scene. Upon entering our stateroom, we were pleased with the larger, family-sized stateroom (approximately 211 square feet, a little more money - but worth it). After a bit, we noticed that there was no welcome basket of free goodies (such as razors, crèmes, etc) that we had become accustomed to on previous Royal Caribbean cruises and other cruise lines as well. Also, robes were no longer provided for our use. The stateroom was clean and maintained to a very high standard throughout our cruise. A side note: stateroom television programming was abysmal. Signals were choppy, at times interrupted, and on one occasion, during the showing of the classic movie "Safari" with Clark Gable, Grace Kelly, and Ava Gardner, the movie looped back on itself at a point about twenty minutes from the end, and for about 36 hours you could go to that channel and continue to see the same portion of the movie, over and over and over and over again and again. Our traveling companions in a stateroom three cabins away reported even worse TV service. We reported these difficulties to our room steward who reported it to the appropriate personnel, and then we reported this malfunctioning to Customer Relations who were also malfunctioning, but on a different level. The food in the three-deck high dining room was very well prepared and the wait staff and service was excellent, but unlike previous Royal Caribbean cruises, most passengers had noticed and commented that the selections were rather limited to lower-end cuts of beef, lamb-chops so thin that they looked as if they had survived a death-march, and the inclusion of a nightly Indian menu (appetizer, main course) that most passengers concluded were introduced to cut meal costs. If you wanted a good cut of beef, like filet mignon, you had to pay an additional charge of $14.95, according to what my wife read on the menu. And, horror of all horrors, there was no lobster offerings on any night of the cruise. Now that is really skimping!! Royal Caribbean: if you want me to dress up like a penguin on formal nights, then feed me lobster. The desserts were generally very good, and there was always a sherbet and ice cream, as well as a sugar-free offering. In the Windjammer Restaurant on deck 11, we were assured that all the serving lines served the same foods. Not true! On several occasions, they ran out of the carving station meat (pork loin, roast turkey, roast beef) and simply stated: "there is no more". I'm sorry Royal Caribbean; that line just doesn't cut it. The breakfasts as well as lunch selections were plentiful and for the most part, very good. Often tables would be littered with dirty dishes, requiring you to clean them yourself. Then you would set your full plate of food down to go get a drink, only to come back and find that some bus person had removed it from the table and disposed of it. Come on, fellows, you're supposed to pick up the empty, dirty dishes. LEAVE the full ones! This happened often enough to be an annoyance. Bar service was difficult to understand. On some occasions, we would order a glass of wine from a bar, only to be told that "we are out of that wine, would you like something else/" I could walk to another bar and get that wine, but for some reason, no one else could. One waiter, Jose Junior, actually did go to another bar for my wife. Thank you, Jose. A few more "can do" people like you and Royal Caribbean would be far better. If you have a wine in fifteen other bars, how hard would it be for someone to lug a few bottles back to the empty bar? Duh, how many Guest Relations personnel does it take to screw in a light bulb? Also, many crewmembers could not tell you where different venues were located, or on what decks. Entertainment was either a hit or a miss. One outstanding performance was UK pianist/vocalist Jacqui Scott belting out Broadway tunes on the piano, performing a Beatles medley, and singing her Broadway hits. A standing ovation followed. And juggler Pete Mattews was a far cut above most jugglers and very entertaining. Sadly, the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers were just marginal and had to resort to electronic enhancements to boost their vocal capabilities, which was only slightly better than their dancing. It also appears that some of them might need a good seamstress to let out their costumes, so that their portly condition doesn't detract from the performance. At one point, one of the dancers was struggling mightily to lift and hold one of the four stars aloft while performing a routine. Someone sitting behind us blurted out "he's going to drop her." That said, it should be noted that there are so many cruise ships vying for the best talent that these type of shows have become mundane and rather average; better than most high school plays, but a far drop from most college productions. However, the entertainment booby prize goes to a forgettable group attempting to pass themselves off as the "Motown" sound. They mostly picked songs seldom heard by anyone, that way no one could figure out how bad they really were. They should have been arrested for impersonating vocalists after murdering the all-too-few recognizable Motown songs in their retinue. But the really bothersome things about this cruise happened at the management staff levels. And I will enumerate these below: The "Explorations" excursion desk was only open from 7-8am, and from 6:30-8:30pm, which meant that you had to choose between being in line at the desk, or getting ready for a tour or getting ready for or having dinner. It was never open when it was convenient for the passengers, only the crew. On several occasions, passengers complained about being put on the wrong tours by the Explorations staff, which issued passengers the wrong stickers placing them on the wrong buses. One of our tours failed to stop at indicated points of interest on two occasions leading to long waits in 87 degree heat without any shade, seating, or bathrooms available. We were given a token $13.00 refund off our $55.00 tour ticket. Our friends were not even given that pittance. The service was very uneven. The Guest Services desk was very task oriented. In other words, if you wanted to change currency, euros to dollars, only one person was apparently trained to handle that task, and they were not always available; actually, more often than not, they were unavailable. And they were not capable of changing UK pounds into Euros without first changing them into dollars. Other staffers were similarly handicapped by a lack of thorough training, which led to longer waits for passengers with differing needs. The only bright spot in Guest relations was a young man named "Baris" He seemed to be the only person in Guest relations who had the chutzpah to make a decision. Everyone else had the "fill out this form, we'll turn it in to management, and someone will get back to you" attitude, about the most trivial things. It was truly exasperating. The Captain is touted as the youngest in the Royal Caribbean fleet. What a caring man. I am not a smoker, nor am I partial to those people who are, but what is good for the goose is good for the gander, unless you are the captain of the Voyager. Whenever the Captain made an official "meet/greet/photo op visit to the public decks, he prohibited smoking on all these decks. At first blush, you would think, "great, score one for the non-smokers." But he only did this when he was present. Apparently, our captain could care less about the passengers; he was only thinking of his own health and comfort, because as soon as he was off the public decks, the ship could once again light up to their hearts desire. And the "rock wall" and ice-skating rink they tout in their ads? Forget them too. The rock wall was mostly unavailable due to a lack of staff to man the safety lines. The ice-skating rink was only available during one sea day, and three times during dinner hours between 6:00 and 9:00pm during the cruise. Oddly, it was not open for use during the other sea days because the rink was covered and used for the sparsely attended art auction. Art auction personnel were not happy with the location either because of the coldness from the ice. But the staff was happy, because they were able to keep the auction out of the nice, warm Cleopatra's Needle Lounge, which might have had to be used as a muster station. I guess they could make that argument for every other lounge as well. Safety at sea is paramount. Needless to say, the only people happy with the arrangement were the staff: not the passengers who might have enjoyed some family fun on the ice, and certainly not the art auction staff and their followers. But the most serious shortcoming was a safety issue. On May 23, 2009 at approximately 4:00pm, we were returning to our stateroom after lunch and noticed a strong odor permeating about 100 feet of the passageway on deck 9 forward on the port side. Having served professionally as Hazardous Material Response Specialists, our traveling companion and I noted the odor to be either a diesel-like fuel or possibly a hazardous gas vapor from some shipboard operation. Neither was appropriate for a passenger area. We opened our cabin doors and the odor had infiltrated into the staterooms as well. We contacted Guest Relations immediately and requested a response to our area by ship's safety personnel. There was no response. We called again, still no response. At this point, my wife and I visited the Guest Relations desk and after a heated exchange with Guest Relations over their lack of grasping safety issues, I threatened to pull the fire alarm as a way to alert ship's staff. At this, they finally acted and sent a crew with air evacuation equipment to our passageway and stateroom. It should not have been like this. About an hour later, my wife received a call, purportedly from the bridge. The caller stated that the odors were gas fumes from a welding operation that was scheduled to stop at 5:00pm. My wife was advised to open the balcony door to let in fresh air. When she advised the caller that we didn't have a balcony cabin, he seemed surprised. I would hope that in the future, gas fumes from a welding operation would constitute a need for an immediate hazard response. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
After 4 wonderful days in London, our group embarked in Southampton for an 11 night, Best of Europe Cities cruise with RC.  This was our 2nd cruise with RC.  We were so happy with our 1st experience (11 night Southern Caribbean cruise on ... Read More
After 4 wonderful days in London, our group embarked in Southampton for an 11 night, Best of Europe Cities cruise with RC.  This was our 2nd cruise with RC.  We were so happy with our 1st experience (11 night Southern Caribbean cruise on Empress of the Seas) with RC in December 2007, that we had to do another cruise, and this time my mother and her friend joined us.  I was somewhat disappointed with this cruise and could tell in the 1.5 years since my last cruise that the quality of the food has plummeted.  It was bland, and tasteless.  The same food that is served in the Windjammer, was served in the dining room, was served for room service.  The steak was tough (how hard is it to grill a steak medium well?).  When I asked for the steak to be cooked medium...it came out medium well, and was still tough and dry.  The Windjammer is now offering what appears to be less options.  Also, while in port, at times, there wasn't anywhere to get any food except through room service, and their menu is sparse to say the least, and what you get is not that great. But, the interesting thing was, you could get a drink around the clock.  No food, but I can buy alcohol; such BS!!   It's obvious we were HIGHLY disappointed in the food.  I kept telling my mom and her friend how much different it was on our last cruise (almost apologetically).  In the Dining Room, our waiter and the assistant waiter (Eduardo and Andres) were nice, friendly, and provided excellent service.  However, our head waiter, she came to our table only twice during an 11 day cruise!!  And, the 1st time wasn't until the 3rd night.  On our last cruise we saw our head waiter every single evening we ate in the Dining Room.  Needless to say...we didn't tip her.  In fact, we took what we would have tipped her, and added in to the tip we gave the Waiter and assistant waiter.  I rate the food, during dinner, in the dining room 3.75 stars.  Max!!  The only real vegetarian options (my husband is vegetarian) they had was always Indian food; as if the Indians have cornered the market on Vegetarian Food.  As I mentioned before...the quality of the food, and the selection has plummeted since my last cruise with RC. I didn't see any of the shows, even though I heard the Ice Show was excellent.   I did hear complaints about the pool being closed and repair work going on while people were trying to lay out.  The running track was being repainted, so you had limited access to that.  All things that were being done on our dime/time.  I think this is unacceptable.  Don't use the pool as a selling point (which they do) if it's not available for use!!  Our favorite bartender (Christian Ferrari) was in the Aquarium Bar.  He seemed to be the only bartender on the ship who knew how to consistently make a good Grey Goose Cosmopolitan.  LOL.  Oh Yea...there was a bartender in the Schooner bar who wasn't bad as well.  But, the others, it was hit and miss.  Even with my Fav bartender being in the Aquarium Bar...the best place on ship is the High Note bar on deck 14.   We ate at Portofino's one night.  The food was good, and the service was impeccable.  I would highly recommend spending the extra money for this experience. Oh Yea!!  I did use the Spa and got a $65 pedicure!!!!!  $65 for a freakin' pedicure!!!  But, you know what?  It was one of the best pedicures I've had in a long time, that girl worked my feet over, and afterwards...I felt it was totally worth it. The ports on this cruise were wonderful (the main reason we chose this cruise).  We stopped in Vigo, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Gibraltar, UK; Cagliari, Sardinia; Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy; Livorno (Pisa/Florence), Italy; Villefranche, France.  Both Vigo and Cagliari were a welcome surprise, as was Gibraltar.  I HIGHLY recommend NOT using the ships cruise tour in Rome and Florence, and going with a company called Limo in Rome (limoinrome.com).  We used this company in both ports and we were extremely pleased with the personalized service and the experience.  These tours are private (meaning just your group is on it), the small vans they use are roomy and get you right up to the sights you want to see, without having to walk great distances, and you're on your time (you see what you want, for the time you have).  Our driver in Livorno even arranged for a private tour of a vineyard in Chianti.  In both Rome and Florence we were taken to restaurants that were both reasonably priced, and were where the locals ate.  We LOVED it!!  And, the best part of all of this (as if it could have gotten any better) was that it is actually cheaper than what the ship charges for the similar tour, and with the ship excursion, you're on a big tour bus, which has limited access on the small narrow streets you find in Rome and Florence, with a bunch of other people.  Compare $345 per person for the ships excursion to the 500 Euro for all 4 of us on our private tour. It's a guarantee ours was a better bargain and a better experience. While Rome, our drive through the Tuscan countryside (via our private vineyard tour) on our way to Florence, and Florence, were the highlight of our trip; I wouldn't do this trip justice if I didn't mention Cannes!!  We LOVED it!!   During our stop in Villafranche, we rented a car and drove to Cannes.  Why?  Because the 62nd Annual Cannes Film Festival was in full swing.  The energy was palpable, and, the drive along the French Riviera was awesome.  It was easy to rent the car;  109 Euro (with tax, insurance, etc. included) and we were on our way.  On our way to Cannes we stopped and strolled along the beach in Nice, oogled yachts that screamed "I'm a weathly _____ (fill in whatever you like)", and enjoyed views of the Mediterranean that were just breath taking. My overall rating for this cruise 4.5 stars.  The ports of call receive 5 out of 5 stars and the food 3.5 stars.  Royal Caribbean really should do something about the food.  Seriously!!!  It was tasteless and cheap.  If you're a fast food eater (and I'm not)...you may enjoy it...but, if you have any idea what quality taste like...you WILL be disappointed.   We enjoy the cruise experience.  But, now, RC has given me compelling reasons to try another cruise line.  Next time...maybe Princess Cruises? Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
I traveled with a group of 15 from the United States.  we all arrived in London a few days prior to the cruise. We all flew Delta from CVG-LGW.  We stayed at the Hilton Tower Bridge. In London we toured the Tower of London, Tower ... Read More
I traveled with a group of 15 from the United States.  we all arrived in London a few days prior to the cruise. We all flew Delta from CVG-LGW.  We stayed at the Hilton Tower Bridge. In London we toured the Tower of London, Tower Bridge,St. Pauls cathedral and a few pubs. We also visited Wesley Chapel. We arrived at the ship around 12:30. It took us about 15 minutes to board. Once onboard we dropped of bags and headed to the Windjammer for lunch. Our group had a sailaway party in one of the cabin suites. The ship had just come out of a refurb in Germany. The ship looked good; the staff was putting carpeting in some of the cabins and stores onboard during our cruise. Since this was a re-positioning cruise, the staff were trying to get eveything ready for the arrival in Barcelona, which was ten days down the road. Our cabin steward was ok.  We didn't see him that much. Our cabin was a grand suite and it was nice. There was plenty of room, since we were at sea 11 nights.  The size of the room was great.  We had plenty of closet space, and plenty of drawers to put our clothes in.  The bathroom had a double sink, and bathtub.  We had plenty of drawers in the bathroom for storage.  There was a makeup area with a counter and seat, and also a mirror and hairdryer.  The balcony was double size.  it went from the bedroom across to the livingroom.  The tv was hooked up to a bose system with speakers hung up on both sides of room.  The location was a little forward of the hump.  We had to walk about two hundred feet to get to the elevator and stairs.  We were on deck ten, so we went up one flight to the windjammer, and one flight down to the conceirge loungs.  The room was quiet,  we never heard any noise from neighbors of the pool area above. There were no rooms directly across from ours.  Location, space, size, and comfort, were great.  We also had a large couch with two arm chairs.  Our balcony had a table with four patio chairs. We did use the concerige lounge and concierge service more than usual. Martin (pronounced Marteen), was great. He got our entire group ice show tickets, made appointments for use, and even changed shore excursions at the last minute. The cruise director Jill Tasker, was just ok. She was not that involved with the everyday things; in fact I didn't see her that much. Not like other cruise directors whom seemed to be everywhere on the ship.  Same with the Captain. He stated on Day one that he doesn't do dinner with select guests. He says' he would rather walk around the dining rooms each night, that way he gets to meet more people.  In 11 nights at sea, our group never saw him in the dining room.  The shows were good; there were a couple of performers, mainly the comedians who were very funny.  The food in the dining room was excellent. The had plenty of choices, and over the 11 nights, I only say two items that were repeated at dinner. Desserts were good.  We ate one night in Portifino's and I have to say it was excellent, and worth the money.  Went to Johnny Rockets twice and both times had a great time. Saw the ice show (Ice Oddessy),  it was an amazing show.  All the bartenders were nice; I visited every bar on the ship and talked with the bartenders.  Most have been with Royal Caribbean for over ten years and they like the company.  We had a meet and mingle on the first sea day.  There was about 60 people;  got to meet face to face with all who were on the Best of Europe thread for the past year.  We had three formal nights on this cruise.  I rented a tux and shoes. Everything fit perfect. I was amazed; didn't need any alterations, and the shoes were a perfect fit. Never attended the art auction. Did not attend bingo, although members of my group won at bingo and won in the casino. My wife visited the spa and was pleased, I went to the fitness center on day and gave up. PLayed shuffleboard a couple times, and also play mini golf twice.  Did not climb rock wall, but members of my group did. All in all I was pleased with everything on this cruise. It was relaxing, the shore excursions were good, the food was good, the crew were nice; and our head waiter, tablewaiter and ass't table waiter were excellent. Junior, Olivia, and Ignohr, did a superb job.  The royal singer and dancers did two wonderful shows.  The royal promenade was great, and the staff at the windjammer did their best to make us feel at home.  The weather on this cruise was great. We had one bad sea day.  that was on day two from Southampton-Vigo.  We were in the Atlantic Ocean and it got bumpy.  The rest of the cruise was like sailing on a glass lake. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
     We embarked in Southampton, UK after having spent 3 days in London proper.  The embarkation process was smooth and we were enjoying the Windjammer by 11:30AM.  After conversing for almost a yr. on the CC Board we arranged a ... Read More
     We embarked in Southampton, UK after having spent 3 days in London proper.  The embarkation process was smooth and we were enjoying the Windjammer by 11:30AM.  After conversing for almost a yr. on the CC Board we arranged a Sailaway party in the HIgh Notes Lounge after the muster drill.  It was great being able to put faces with all the writings we had exchanged.  One of the members of our group volunteered to do name badges and about 60 members attended our M & M party the 2nd day.        The ship had just come out of dry dock in Hamburg, Germany and this was a repositioning cruise to Barcelona, Spain.  Overall, the ship was in good condition.  New carpeting could be found in most of the public areas and work was still going on in the pool area which necessitated the pool beng closed for the first two days.  This proved no inconvenience to us since it was a bit windy and cool outside as well as rough seas as we crossed over to Vigo, Spain.  From what we heard many passengers, as well as several new crew members were a bit under the weather as a result of the rough seas on the first night.  Fortunately, we didn't experience any of the malaise     Our cabin attendant, Michael from the Phillapines was excellent.  We saw him at least twice a day and whenever any issue occured - he was right on top of it.  We had a one day issue with our toilet not flushing and it was repaired within 2 hrs. and we inquired as to why we could not hear the ship's announcements in our cabin and were told that ALL  of the speakers within the cabins had been disconnected due to passenger complaints about early morning port calls. We really enjoyed having the balcony in our cabin and must say that the balconys aboard the Voyager are much more private that ones we had previously had.     The Main Dining Room was 3 stories tall and our waiter was Erklan (Turkey) and his Assistant (Samuel) Jamaica did a superb job with our table of 8.  Several times we or other members of the group requested more than one entree as well as additional appetizers or desserts and all requests were cheerfully accommodated.  We also enjoyed an evening meal in Portofino's and would highly recommend it to anyone that has the opportunity to reserve it.  It was a 6 course meal that took 2 hours to consume and well worth the $20 fee.  We visited Johnny Rockets one day for lunch and it was a fun time as well with excellent burgers, fries, and milk shakes as well as entertainment. There were 3 formal nights during the 11 night cruise and the last one  was following a full day excursion in Florence so we opted for the Windjammer.  The first two were on sea days and I rented a tux from the ship which allowed for extra room in my luggage.  We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer and never had any problem with lines or choices of entrees.Overall the food and staff in the dining areas were excellent.     The Voyager has a young Captain (34 yrs old) and although quite competent at operating the ship lacked some personal skills in terms of mingling with the passengers.  We never heard of anyone being invited to his table for dinner and the only time we saw him was for photo op's on formal nights in the Promenade.  The Cruise Director, Jill, had the least amount of personality I have ever seen on a cruise ship.  She almost seemed put out hosting the few events that she was responsible for on board,  While most CD's are usually fairly outgoing and friendly Jill could best be described as somewhat "snooty".       The ports were fabulous: Rome, Florence, Vigo, Gibralter, Sardinia, Lisbon, Monaco, and Barcelona - who could ask for more,  The excursions we booked in Rome, Florence, Sardinia, and Lisbon were all excellent as well.         We climbed the rock wall, ice skated, played Miniature golf, and played bingo and enojyed them all.  Although the Voyager is now 10 yrs. old and no longer the largest ship in the fleet, I would highly recommend her to anyone considering either a European or Carribean adventure.          Disembarkation took place in Barcelona and was quick and efficient.  We stayed in Barcelona for an additional 3 days and ejoyed everything that city had to offer as well. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Background: We were 4 adults traveling, me and my fiancee and her parents. We were all new to cruising. Since I was a little kid I've always been fascinated with big ships and because of that it's been a life long dream being ... Read More
Background: We were 4 adults traveling, me and my fiancee and her parents. We were all new to cruising. Since I was a little kid I've always been fascinated with big ships and because of that it's been a life long dream being able to go on a cruise on one of the biggest ships in the world. All 4 of us are from Sweden and unfortunatly there's not many cruising opportunities there and perhaps that's why it took me 30 years before I finally had the chance of going on a cruise. Needless to say I had very high expectations for this cruise...We booked our cruise in oktober last year (2008) and thanks to www.cruisecritic.com I was able find the perfect cabin. We booked the aft cabin 7388 which was highly recommended on the boards and her parents booked an inside cabin with a view over the royal promenad.FoodFood... perhaps the most important part of the cruise for many people... so I'll start with that :) Before I go further describing the food let me just take a minute to explain that we're ordinary hard working people, we don't eat out every day nor do we eat in 5 star restaurants very often. I emphasize this because I've read some people that complain on the food and I guess that maybe, just maybe if you eat out on 5 star restaurants every day, then maybe you'll find something to complain about.We absolutely loved the food. 3 course dinner every day, what's there to complain about? Top that with the best service we've ever had! Breakfast was good, we ate all of our breakfasts in the Windjammer. There were enough lots of things to try for breakfast making sure you could have different things every day if you wanted it. We ate most of our lunches at Windjammer as well, twice we did try Johnny Rockets though, more about that later. Lunch is buffE-style and one could always argue about the quality of the food on a buffE, but there were always lots to choose from and in general well tasting food. As a comparison I stayed in a 4 star all-inclusive hotel in egypt 2 years ago and it's not even possible comparing the two. This food was so, so much better. The desserts was also very good, even though there were some that I didn't like there were enough I DID like unfortunatly for my weight :)My fianceE is gluten intolerant so that was something that worried us before we went. We didn't need to worry! They were very knowledgable about it and in the main dining room the head waiter usually helped us answering questions. Every night Marie (my fiancEe) got to select from the next days menu and the head waiter would say if it was possible or not. Sometimes they prepared her meal specially with special sause, sometimes she got no sause and sometimes she had to select a second dish that she wanted. But they were always very careful and tried their best to make it as enjoyable as possible for her. They also made special desserts for her at several times! They did have gluten-free bread but my fiancEe didn't like that very much so we she skipped it. But it is possible to get if you want it! One thing that took us almost the entire trip to understand is that when they make a special order with a special sause or something, they will only serve exactly what's on the order. Meaning that they won't serve any potatoes or rice with the dish even if it's on the menu. So at the end of the cruise we finally learned ordering potatoes and rice as a side order. Of course it was never any problem as our wonderful waiter Carlos would always get it for us.The service was excellent as I said earlier. Normally I don't really like stiff, fancy dinners with waiters hovering over me and to start with I was a bit uncomfortable about the waiter and assistent waiter always being around asking how the food was, if we wanted anything else or refilling our water as soon as we took a sip. But they were really nice people, making you feel like they really cared about you and your dining experience. They felt very genuine and soon I felt right at home. Thank you Carlos from Chile and Kristina from Hungary (I think)! The excellent staff is perhaps the impression that's going to last the longest for me, something I had not expected before the trip as I normally don't care so much about the service.Last about the dinner, we signed up for my time dining as soon as it became available. How someone would not want the possibility of choosing your own dinner time is beyond me! We ended up getting the same waiter almost every night anyway which was great! On future cruises my time dining (or similar program) will be a must for us to even consider the cruise. I also want to comment on an earlier reviewer who said it was hard finding food to eat on port days... were we on the same cruise? I felt like we were always eating, even my fiancEe who couldn't eat alot of the snacks on the royal promenade never went hungry.   The cabin As I mentioned earlier we had an aft cabin (7388) that we had found browsing cruisecritic.com. We absolutely loved it! Now it will be hard booking anything else other than an aft cabin, the balcony size as almost as big as the cabin itself. We had 2 ordinary chairs and 2 sunchairs and 2 small tables. We spent several wonderful sailaways and nights on the balcony. One thing I loved about having a balcony was waking up on the morning, opening the curtains and looking out over the ocean. The balcony cost some extra, but at those times it was worth it.   As her parents had a inside cabin in the middle of the ship we got to compare both the noise level and if the you could feel the sea more in our aft cabin. About the noise, yes, there is a slight humming from the engines which we could hear clearly sometimes. But to me it was just soothing and I to be honest I think the rythmic sound made me go to sleep faster! On the second day there was quite rough sea. Being in our cabin then was alot worse then being in their mid-ship cabin. To add to our uncomfort at the time was the fact that our drawers and closet doors would open up as the ship rocked. I would perhaps think twice about an aft cabin on a cruise where I'd know there was a high chance of alot of rough sea, but otherwise I'd pick aft cabin anytime!   Out stateroom attendent did an ok job. He was not very cheerful and neither was he overly friendly. But he did his job, and he did it twice a day. Can't complain there.   The entertainment We didn't join too many of the events going on, but we did go on many of the shows in the La Scala theater. We also went to see the Ice show. I can't say that I go and watch that kind of entertainment very regulary and therefor I'm probably not the most qualified person to say anything about the quality of the shows. But I did enjoy most of the shows and the evening show in La Scala theater quickly became the main event for us every evening. To my untrained eye the quality was very high and the same goes for the Ice show which we all enjoyed very much!   I have to agree with what several other people has said afterwards, and that is that the cruise director Jill was nothing special. As a first time cruiser I didn't know what to expect but it seemed to me that she lacked carisma. But like I said we didn't join to many of the events going on and we might have missed her when she was at her best.   The ongoing work I've heard many people complain about the ongoing work that was going on on several places of the ship. First it was the pool area that was closed and later the crew closed parts of the deck as they did paint jobs in sections of the ship. To me this was only a milder annoyance. The first days the weather was to bad for bathing and even though parts of the deck was closed there was always plenty of space left. If I had been a jogger I would probably been more annoyed as I don't think the entire track was ever open. The carpets of our cabin was also replaced on the third day, we spent most of the day on deck so it didn't bother us much.   The captainI was happy to hear that the captain was a fellow countryman! There weren't many swedes aboard (I encountered 4) so I decided to try getting a word with him at some occassion during the cruise. That proved hard as the only time the captain was available would be 30 minutes during each formal night and we always seemed to dine at this very time. On the second formal night though I managed to get there just as the captain was leaving. I managed to call his attention and had asked my fiancee to take a picture as I shaked his hand. I did get to shake his hand but then he cut me short saying I'd have to wait for next formal night to get a picture as "there were to many people on the royal promenade now". I had perhaps hoped for a slightly warmer reception and I was quite dissapointed. Reading the boards afterwards one complaint seem to be about the captains ability to keep his passengers happy, I have to say that I wholeheardedly agree, his social skills could have been alot better.   The ports I won't go in to length here as this trip had a huge number of interesting ports. Gibraltar surprised me the most and turned out to be my favorite port. We walked into town and took a mini cab up to the gibraltar rock. Really liked this tour. Most dissapointing was Rome. It was very warm and crowded. The town was very hard to navigate and we got lost at one time having to take a taxi back to our designated meeting point. The vatican was impressing and I would have liked more time here. By the time we got to the colosseum we were all so tired we just found some shade and waited for the bus to go back. Our second favorite port was Villefranche. The ship tendered in the bay just outside this small cozy town which was surrounded by high mountains, providing a beautiful setting. I could imagining myself living in this peaceful little town!   Summary The best vacation of my life, period. What made it really stand out was the food, service and the feeling of a living like royality every day and not needing to spend a dime (of course I know we paid alot for it :). Living on the ship is better than living on a luxuary hotel cause the ship has so much more to offer. To top it you have to possibility of seeing a new place almost every day. The ship was like a fairy-tale castle to me... big, exciting and just plain wonderful! :) I'm going to give this cruise 5 starts out of 5 possible which is a very high grade for me. Side note: I think it's a culturual difference but in Sweden we very seldom give out that high grades, on a scale on 1-5 we start at 3 and subtract or add from that. Looking at cruisecritic.com I'd guess that american do it differently as many quite negative reviews still end up with a 4 out 5 :) Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
What a vacation!  We were looking for a port-intensive cruise to maximize our time in Europe and the Best of Europe itinerary more than met our expectations in that regard.  Since the cruise was 11 whole days, rather that review ... Read More
What a vacation!  We were looking for a port-intensive cruise to maximize our time in Europe and the Best of Europe itinerary more than met our expectations in that regard.  Since the cruise was 11 whole days, rather that review port-by-port, I'll hit the highlights of the main categories. Accommodations:  We splurged on a Grand Suite and were not disappointed!  The bathroom is very luxurious, the bed and linens great, and the space and balcony were awesome.  It was especially fun to make bets on the port captain's success jumping off the ship to his waiting boat after each port.  It's also a great place to relax with an adult beverage when dulling the pain of an injury from 2000 year old rocks.  Don't ask.  The cabin steward was fabulous and we loved how he learned our schedule within about a day.  Never had him bother us when we were sleeping in.  Our one constructive critique is that we would have loved a walk-in closet instead of the different closet cabinets. Ship:  Voyager just got out of dry dock and overall the ship seriously impressed!  There was a bit of work going on resurfacing pool and sport decks, but the lousy weather the first few days kept all but the craziest swimmers away.  It really didn't bother us any, and the solarium had no construction.  If you've never been on a mega ship, it's awesome.  We loved the atmosphere and the elegance.  Spa was nice - great port specials on our cruise that we took advantage of.  Not overly in love with the fitness classes offered - those were just okay. Food:  WOW!  If you went hungry on the ship, you didn't leave your cabin, couldn't find the phone for room service, or were taken ill and could only drink broth.  The dining room did not disappoint - so elegant and the food was terrific.  The three-course meals each night had much more variety than expected - Indian dishes, Italian, and vegetarian were almost always available.  Definitely an exotic flair!  Our waiter and assistant waiter were very personable, knowledgeable, and pretty much anticipated our needs - if we even mentioned an item, they generally ordered it for us to try.  The "O Solo Mio" serenade was fun and we really appreciated the ability to dress casual (read: jeans) on every night except the 3 formal nights. Ports:  This was absolutely the jewel of the cruise.  We cruised out of Southampton, so we spent a couple days in London before.  The ports of call were: Vigo Spain, Lisbon Portugal, Gibraltar, Sardinia Italy, Rome Italy, Florence/Pisa Italy, South of France (Villefranche/Nice/Cannes/Monaco), and ending in Barcelona.  If you love lots of activity, this cruise had it!  We were exhausted by the end of the trip from the long days back-to-back-to-back in port, but to be able to see that many countries in 11 days, it was worth the sacrifice.  We did some excursions through RCCL and some privately.  The ship's excursions we took were well organized and decently priced.  We took private tours in Rome (USE ROME-IN-LIMO - they are wonderful), Florence/Pisa (Tuscany by Taxi - good for getting you around but no guide included in the base price), and South of France (Revelation - a top-notch tour of little French villages, plus Nice and Monaco - use them!!).  Our favorites were Florence for the shopping, the South of France for everything - Michel the tour guide was great, the villages so charming, and the scenery amazing.  It's a place we'd love to come back and explore more.  The neatest surprise was Gibraltar - I would go there again to see the apes and shop!!!  Staff & Entertainment:  This was probably our biggest disappointment.  We loved Captain Patrik - he was very personable to us.  Not as impressed with Jill, the Cruise Director.  She did not really address passenger complaints well and I think that may have contributed to the "mutiny" (as it was referred to) on the last day.  Unhappy passengers confronted the Captain in a very public forum.  The issues really did not bother us - it was really about the work that was going on during the cruise, and we were in port so much we didn't really care since we were off the ship those days.  The scheduling of many of the fun activities also were just not optimal.  The game show-type events fell on long port days at the end of the cruise and were rather late for the early mornings the next day.  Just probably would have had better turnout if they had done that differently.  I can say that I was rarely bored, which was a big complaint I had on a prior cruise on Norwegian.   I thought the Cruise Director's staff were all very nice - dance lessons were fun, as were the cooking demonstration and some of the other activities. Overall, we will definitely put RCCL at the top of our list for another cruise and would recommend this to other couples as well.  Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
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