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2,175 Royal Caribbean Southampton Cruise Reviews

Yet again Independence delivered a spectacular cruising experience. The size of the ship always wows. She seems to be in great condition now she is a year old.Boarding was prompt.I think the ship was full of non-CCers who had no idea you ... Read More
Yet again Independence delivered a spectacular cruising experience. The size of the ship always wows. She seems to be in great condition now she is a year old.Boarding was prompt.I think the ship was full of non-CCers who had no idea you could board by 11:30. We were literally the only people at check in, and were on within seconds.It was half term, the ship was packed, but there was always room to sit in the solarium, and we always found a table in the WindJammer for breakfast or for lunch immediately. The food in the main dining room was generally tasty (and hot, contrary to recent reports). Whilst the Videlia Onion Tart was a winner as always, the roast turkey tasted like a Bernard Matthews prepacked meal. Not goodI found Portofinos to be very disappointing as it did not deliver the same level of service I have had before - the ceasar salad was not prepared at the table, instead I was presented with an overchilled pile of tasteless lettuce; there was no clove of garlic display, my glass remained empty for 10 minutes. Little things but it was not as good. The restaurant was empty so there was no excuse for the lack of service or care.The Diamond Lounge and Ricardo were superb. I could happily have stayed in there for the duration. Good to see that everyone made the effort and got dressed 'properly' for formal night and there was quite a bit of glamour on the other nights too. I will ignore the man who wore Adidas tracksuit bottoms with a dress-shirt. Entertainment: the young man singing in the Schooner Bar was fantastic - a real charmer. His name was Paul O'Shea and I believe this was his last cruise with Indepedence, and he was moving to Freedom - you are in for a treat! The disco was empty as always, with a few people smoking and the DJ playing noise you can't dance to (goodness, I sound like my mother!). Graham Seymour was doing a good job especially getting everyone on board dancing to The Proclaimers waving their Union Jacks on British Night!!!! In the theatre there was the usual selection shows, but one had a lady playing classical music accompanied by 3 more ladies with violins. Definitely a step up from the usual belly flop contests. I got the feeling that RCI were trying to be a bit classier.The best thing on this cruise was the drop in the drinks prices. No more 15% added to the bill.  The prices have been dropped by 15% and then the 15% gratuity is built into the bill you get. Probably a way to stop the stingy Brits from lining up at GR asking to get the 15% removed. Ha ha.    Anyway, certainly a lot more people appeared to be drinking. Also noticibly was the distinct lack of announcements calling you to bingo or art. I only heard one a day which was a marked improvement. Cobh itself is far prettier on the sail in than it is up close. The town comes out in force to meet the ship and it is a general party atmosphere in town. The train station is right opposite the port, as is the museum. The museum gave you 50% off the ticket price if you showed your seapass card, and it is well worth a visit, as is the cathedral at the top of the steep hill.The weather was sunny and warm throughout, the children remained in the childrens areas so were not seen, and were certainly not causing chaos in the lifts etc, the sea was like a mill-pond - so all in all a very good little cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Mark & KieronUKSailed 9th May 2009Our 6th Cruise2 Weeks Med Cruise, taking in :-Gibraltar, Cagliari Sardinia Italy, Florence/Pisa (Livorno) Italy, Barcelona Spain, Malaga Spain, Lisbon Portugal, Vigo Spain.When we booked the holiday we ... Read More
Mark & KieronUKSailed 9th May 2009Our 6th Cruise2 Weeks Med Cruise, taking in :-Gibraltar, Cagliari Sardinia Italy, Florence/Pisa (Livorno) Italy, Barcelona Spain, Malaga Spain, Lisbon Portugal, Vigo Spain.When we booked the holiday we got included, $200 on board credit, Free Car Parking at Southampton, and Tips included in the price. We also went for My Time Dinning.Getting to the Ship    As the IOS was leaving from Southampton, we decided to drive down on the Friday and spent the night at Novatel across from the docks. We got the Internet price of £70 for the room inc Hot Buffet Breakfast, which was very nice.Place was nice, but had to change to a different room as there was no hot water. We asked for a smoking room, and as the room we moved to wasn't smoking we thought there would be a problem. But Assistant Manager told us there is no problem. All good there then.In the morning after Breakfast we had a walk to M&S to buy a pair of jeans and had a coffee, then headed back to get our things together.We drove the short distance to the Dock Gate 8. About 15 cars in front of us. We drove round, dropped our bags off with a porter. Gave him £4. Drove round to the car park and walked back to do the dreaded checking in.Getting On the Ship.    We walked into a large hall with the Disney Queue system. Plenty of people at desks and walked right up to one of them as it was quiet in there. Gave our Passports and online check-in forms. Out of nowhere came our cards and a have a nice Cruise.A few minutes later we were heading for the ship. Up an enclosed gangway and onto deck 4. We used our cards for the first time. Putting them in the machine and having our picture taken. Whoo Hoo, on the ship. And it only took about 10 mins. Or half an hour from first dropping bags off.First Impressions    As they tell you not to go to Stateroom till 1pm, we toured the ship. Up, Down, Front and Back. Nice place to be for the next 2 weeks. We went to Windjammer to get a drink (Whoever designed this place wants shooting) and walked back to deck 11 for a smoke.For my first Moan, I would like to say that all the rooms looked very much alike. And now reviewing pictures that I took of the whole ship, I'm right. There is no individuality to many of the rooms and bars. EndStateroom    We headed down at 1pm to see if it was ready. As we got close we passed one of those service areas for staff, and lo and behold our bags were there atop of the stairs. We grabbed them and headed down the corridor. There it is. In we go. Mmmm not bad at all. Good size. Lots of storage space. Shower was really good as well as it had sliding doors and seemed quite roomy from what you usually get. The TV was really good as well because you could order room service, excursions and even look at your bill on it. We immediately found our room steward and asked for the beds to be separated (we did want twins) Empty the Mini Bar and asked for regular ice deliveries.When he had done we went into cases and filled fridge with our carry on Spirits. 8.5 Litres of the stuff. You can't beat a drink on the Balcony before and after a night out. And before anyone gets in a huff Our bill for 2 weeks with NO excursions was $1148 That is NOT including the $200 OBC.(Second Moan I find it stupid that this Cruise line makes such a big deal of Alcohol. We wouldn't bring anything on board if you could buy if from room service like we did on Princess. Then they would have made more money out of us.)(Carrying on Second Moan The biggest complaint people we spoke to had, was the price of drinks on the ship. And we heard from staff on the last day that drink prices are being slashed from the next cruise! (refund anyone?)) End! Edit:- This has been confirmed.Just a short moan about the room steward, he was hardly ever around when you needed him and a lot of the time the bed had not been made up properly and the ice bucket was empty half the time even though we had given him a $40 tip on the first day of the cruise.Anyway,We sat on the Balcony with a drink and watched the world go by for and hour. We had a meeting arranged with other CC members at 2.30.We went down to the schooner bar and met up with the people we had been chatting to for a few months. That was a nice afternoon, and I hope we made some new friends. We met up with a few of them everyday for the 5.15 Name That Tune, also in the Schooner bar.We had the official Meet n Mingle on the Sunday at 10.30. There were spose to be 28 but it only ended up being 18. Well done to RCI for a nice event. Didn't expect the raffle. Nearly everyone won a prize. Hope to keep in touch with you all.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Entertainment    Everything done by the ships crew was thoroughly enjoyed. That is the shows in the theatre and the Ice Skating shows were extremely good.Paul (who we think did a runner, as went missing for last few days) who played Piano in the Schooner bar by taking requests was good.But apart from him, all the entertainment was the same. Olive or Twist, Balero's. Shame.A lot of people on here will disagree but we thought the band in the pyramid lounge were very poor and could not sing at all. One of the most unbelievable things was when they could not be bothered to put any entertainment on at all and showed a rubbish film in the main theatre on a Saturday night, no I'm not kidding!!! I usually like going to the nightclub to relax and listen to some good tunes.Third Moan. Ok I could smoke in there. Only inside place on the damn ship. But they really need to fit Extraction! It was awfully smoky when busy and it always was in the smoking area upstairs. Never really saw anyone down stairs.The DJ wasn't very good. Romantic love songs were played 10 - 11pm. WHAT? Then I swear it was a tape that was played as so many songs were repeated. Latest I stayed was 1.30 pm. One night he was playing 80s music and everyone seemed to be enjoying it, then he started to play rubbish again. Waste of space. Lots of lights (never used many) Bar staff bored silly.  End!There are plenty of quizzes in the Schooner Bar. We just went to the 5.15 Name that tune one. A good way to meet others and usually see the same faces. A good ½ - 1 hour passed.Food around the ship    We ate most of the time in the MTD dinning room, Deck 5 King Lear.We went the whole hog, Dinner suites for Formal and suites for Smart Casual. Casual was trousers and a shirt. Most people did dress up and didn't really see to many Scruffs, which was good.Now don't get me wrong here. The food for the most part was always excellent (well apart from 1 tough Sirloin) The only thing that stood out was presentation was very poor. Everything was just thrown on a plate. No Class. Take medallions of pork. 2 lumps of pork on a plate. Never seen a medallion in their life. Cheese cake which was more like sponge cake. Nice, but not what you expect. Also duck was always on the bone, when they should have sliced it and arranged it nicely over a few potatoes or vegetables.There just seemed to be a lack of care put into the presentation which spoiled things a bit. Desserts were poor quality as well. One big thing we must warn people about stay clear of the rice. It was always stuck together and was like rubber, worst rice we have ever had. We had heard good and bad reports of the food and have to agree with this.We have to finally say a big thank you to the staff in the main restaurant who looked after us, they did a great job and nothing was too much trouble for them.( especially GODWIN)Windjammer. Now lets take the word Jammer. Your told that there is no need to go to another station to get food, as everything is repeated on each station. What a load of Tosh. When busy, you have to fight your way from one station to another to get what you want, That's if you can find a table in the first place. And once you have found a table make sure you fill it with all your stuff. Don't just put a coffee down and expect it to be free when you get back 10 mins later. If you want a relaxed time up there. Get there early for Breakfast 7am. Lunch not as bad. Dinner well take a chance. There is also NO TRAYS in the place either so you have to make a few trips back and forth to your table. ( Before you think we should not be so greedy ) an example, at breakfast you want to have fruit juice and tea or coffee, toast to go with your bacon and eggs, perhaps fruit or yoghurt, how are you supposed to try and carry all that back to your table before someone has sat at your table.What this ship really needs is outside food areas on the pool decks serving hot dogs and burgers etc. This would take some of the pressure off windjammers. We have done 7 other cruises and this is the first one where they did not have this, and this ship is supposed to be the biggest cruise ship in the world, so they could have fitted them in somewhere.Mark Said Johnny Rockets was very good. Should think so for the $10.65 price he paid. Cover charge $4.95 and strawberry milkshake $5.70One night he also had a Pizza and said he enjoyed that as well. That is Free.Went to the Promenade Cafe a few times. Nice Coffee and nice sandwiches at lunch and pastries at breakfast. You can have a nice time in there and watch the world go by.Never went to Chops or Portofino's. Why pay extra?Never did proper room service. But did have a try of the Chicken Drummers. Which were good. All 4 of them.Port Services    All, apart from 1 of the ports was a working container port or other industrial port. Each apart from the one had a very long walk to get out of it to get to the towns. For this reason RCI provided transport (which you had to pay for. Anywhere from $4 - $8 one way!) Oh boy did a lot of people moan about this. At one port we bought tickets for the bus. $16 Only to read in the Compass the bus was free. Whoa. We cancelled the tickets that morning and headed for the FREE shuttle. I swear not, it went just passed the front of the damn ship. It took longer to get on and off the bus than it would have done to walk. Then yes you guessed it, we had a very, very long walk. It was a Taxi back I can tell you, I think that was Malaga.I'm not going to tell you about the ports, I'll leave that to someone else. I will say, that people we spoke to really enjoyed the open topped tour busses that usually pick up outside the port gates or very near by. Red busses. Prices are 21 Euro and take you for a few hours around the city. They stop here and there and you can get off and catch the next one that comes by. A great way to see the sites. We should have done these. Available in most of the stops we did, if not all.Casino    I'm only mentioning this as we were quite lucky. Never won big, but we did win about $500 in the 2 weeks which paid off some of our bill. We always have $20 a night between us, so are not big spenders in there, and we just hit lucky most of the time. $80 here and there. Biggest win was $140. We played the Nickel slots. 9 lines, 10 cents a line, which came to 90c a play. So when you won your money was X 10. You could also do 20c a line but was quite dear at $1.80 a game. Happy Days.Final notes, it would be a good idea to bring your own toilet paper onboard as the ones on the ship are really thin and a waste of time.For the smokers beware that the ship is now mostly a non-smoking ship as all the bars and lounges that you could smoke in when the ship was in the Caribbean  are now non-smoking ones. You can only smoke in the top floor of the night club now or on your balcony and on a few decks outside on one side of the ship.For people who are used to the Caribbean this cruise is a shock to the system, there is a lot of walking involved as the ports can be a long way from the city centre and not enough time is spent in the ports for you to see what you would like. It seems RCL wants to keep everyone on the ship spending money rather than giving enough time in each port to see everything.Its like trying to run around London in 4 to 5 hours and fit in all the sights. We came home feeling like we needed another holiday just to get over this one.We found the RCL experience not to our liking and will be cruising with either Carnival or NCL next time. The drink prices are extortionate and the food was served up like you get at cheap workmans cafe in the U.K. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
From Southampton to the Med, and from seeing her sailing up the Solent at 4,30am on the 8th of May we were not disappointed.Checkin and Boarding was so smooth, and organised and the staff so friendly. We were at the gate at 10.15am and ... Read More
From Southampton to the Med, and from seeing her sailing up the Solent at 4,30am on the 8th of May we were not disappointed.Checkin and Boarding was so smooth, and organised and the staff so friendly. We were at the gate at 10.15am and boarded by 11.15am.The ship is beautiful, extremely clean, and all of the staff very friendly.We had a Junior Suite, and whilst it was very nice and comfortable, the only thing I would say here is that, our room steward was a nice fella but something was missed most days - balcony not cleaned, a towel missing here or there.As ar as the food is concerned, well Chops Grill was just wonderful, Portofino's was good, Main Dining room was very good and plenty of choices throughout, and we opted for My Time Dining which was great as it was a small dedicated area on Deck 5. the staff in there were Fabulous, especially Adela and Simone.Nothing was too much trouble at all.Windjammer, was always packed, and often the food would be cold or just luke warm, however we spoke to a Purser about it, and he did try to explain about the food on mass, keeping it hot being buffet style, but said he would take the comments on board.The shows were good in all areas, and the shore excurions, however we seemed to be frogmarched around Monte Carlo, and despite asking the guide to slow down to assist the less able bodied people, she carried on.At the cocktail bar, the boys there were absolutly fabulous, they juggled, they had large crowds each day with their tricks and they mixed a mean cocktail.At the Labrynth, Yeltsin was just the most hard working barman I have ever seen, and always a smile. A real nice guy."Another Rocks of Gibraltar please"!!!There were lots of Sales on board on the Promenade and as the time passed, the items prices came down and down with each day, so by the end of our cruise, one or two bargains could be had.There were a lot of friendly people on board and a lot of wingers, and a lot of rude people, rude to staff, rude to other travellers, barging past, trying to get into lifts whilst people were trying to get out. shouting abusive language, dive bombing pools, reserving pool side beds etc, which was very annoying, however this did not spoil what was the most wonderful holiday.We had a Meet and Mingle with fellow Cruise Critics and we had a lovely time with everyone, and we will be meeting up with some or all again. Lovely people. Friendships forged.From the staff, to the Ship itself, to the Food, the Excursions, everything was fabulous, and I cannot wait till we go again.Happy Sailing Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
EMBARKATION- Relatively smooth, could not board ship until 12pm so had a bit of a wait in the terminal. lots of people seemed to arrive early which created a slight delay. STATEROOM- Good size for 2 people, plenty of storage, nice size ... Read More
EMBARKATION- Relatively smooth, could not board ship until 12pm so had a bit of a wait in the terminal. lots of people seemed to arrive early which created a slight delay. STATEROOM- Good size for 2 people, plenty of storage, nice size balcony.WINDJAMMER- Despite reading some slightly negative reviews of the windjammer, we never experienced a problem. Yes it was busy most of the time but we always managed to find a table. We dont think the windjammer coped any worse than other smaller ships we have been on. There will never be enough tables for absolutely everyone, regardless of the size of ship and numbers of passengers. We dined in windjammer for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. We could'nt be bothered with the main dining room as we prefer to be more relaxed. The evening buffet seemed very popular. We never struggled with finding food that we liked. There was always curries, roast dinner, fish, meat, pasta, everything you can think of. We never experienced cold or lukewarm food either which some people on here have suggested. It would be a hazard to have piping hot food in a buffet. JOHNNY ROCKETS- We loved this place. Dined here one evening, the hot fudge oreo cookie sundae is an absolute must. You have to pay a small cover charge, and drinks are charged at bar prices. ENTERTAINMENT- We found the entertainment to be far superior and more varied than P&O. The ice shows were brilliant.OVERALL-We loved this ship, it is truly spectacular. We heard a few people moaning that they thought it was too big and they preferred small ships. I find it quite ironic that these people book a holiday on what is currently the biggest cruise ship in the world, they know exactly how many passengers it carries, yet they moan. No doubt they will probably book a cruise on Oasis and moan about that too!!! Make sure you try out the sprinkles ice cream machine by the pool, its free and really nice ice cream. The cookies in the cafe are fantastic aswell, and free! DISEMBARKATION-Smooth, no problems we were off the ship at 08.05 and were at Southampton train station by 08.25.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Embarkation at Southampton was an absolute breeze, in through and on the ship in 15 minutes! If you are driving to Southampton be sure to ask for free parking when you book. Get there early, you might not be allowed in the staterooms ... Read More
Embarkation at Southampton was an absolute breeze, in through and on the ship in 15 minutes! If you are driving to Southampton be sure to ask for free parking when you book. Get there early, you might not be allowed in the staterooms until 1pm but you have the rest of the boat to explore. Southampton town Centre is a few minutes walk away from the Ship, with an absolutely cracking shopping centre, if you have the time, get off and have a look around the town its cracking. As you get on the ship, you will be asked if you want to purchase a soda package. Dont go for this unless you really think you are going to drink 5/6 drinks a day, its not worth it. Juice, water, tea and coffee are free all day. The day time entertainment was outstanding. All over the ship bands were playing lovely music, activities were on every corner, golf, ice skating, rock climbing, gym, spa, casino, pools, speakers, dancing, quizzes, well stcoked library, people watching.... It was everywhere, never could you be bored. Go and do as much or as little as you want. Evening, the place if it could became even more alive. The shows were awesome, the parades and costumes were beautiful and the crew were the most enthusiastic. I laughed till I cried at the Comedian and the stage props and dancers were truly innovative. The passion they had was incredible. They WANTED you to have a good time. The cruise director was Graham Seymore, he was truly a man in the right vocation! Dining room was lovely. Our waitress was very informative, giving us the agenda for the next day and some handy tips. Brilliant. I dont necessarily agree with prepaid gratuities, I personally dont tip until someone has given a good service but never have I had need not to tip. Always tipped in cash directly to the person intended. I have this issue with prepaid that I feel Im just heloing pay their wages as apposed to rewarding excellent service. Plus, the best waiter for me wouldnt have got anything had I prepaid as he was in the Theatre. Ask your travel agent to remove the prepaid gratuities but please do tip the waiter, waitresses and your cabin attendant, show your appreciation, they do a wonderful job, its hard working and long hours and they always smile no matter what time it is. The ship shuttle I think is a bit of a cheeky way of making money. Most of the places with the exception I would say of Lanzarote, dock close enough to walk to the town. If there is only a couple of you, pair up with someone as you get off and jump in a taxi together and share the cost. Its never more than the ship shuttle that is for certain! You have to ignore the number of times they try and get you to part the extra cash for extras, if you do, you can and will have a fabulous holiday for next to nothing more than your ticket price. This ship is fabulous and I mean truly wonderful. For the price we paid, we couldn't get a week in a Shoddy Spanish hotel!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Right - lets beginFirst impressions were that it was great - huge - well crewed and spacious the truth - its actually not much bigger than say Legend if you add the extra passengers and crew - so no real time increase is actual free space ... Read More
Right - lets beginFirst impressions were that it was great - huge - well crewed and spacious the truth - its actually not much bigger than say Legend if you add the extra passengers and crew - so no real time increase is actual free space If anything we found it to be far more crowded than previous smaller shipsThe crew were great and very helpful but there were so many it was difficult to actually get the 'personal service' provided on previous cruises - this wasn't a major problem but did make it difficult to relax like other cruisesWe found the bars to be very crowded most fo the time during the evenings and almost impossible to walk in and get a seat most of the time The shows were great but seating was again an issue - rather than have more shows you were issued tickets to each show - queueing is the great British pastime and yes we queued for tickets each time for the Ice ShowGetting there early was the only way to get good seats Unless >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>You had a suite - Gold members - not the loyalty kind but the Suite kind had seats reserved for them at every show - the pool side , sun beds , ice shows etc - It seems RCCI has introduced the two tire system them and us !!!!! and i have say that some of them were pains in the butt - moving around in their front seats during the shows getting the way - just because they couldThe prices for soft drinks were not too bad - still way over the odds but just liveable - obviously the soda package was available but way over priced for what you got - The cost of beer was out of this world - $6.50 for a 24oz glass (pint) - how in the world do RCCI get away with it - the cost was disgusting - as was the beer alot of the time - canned was $8 for a large Fosters WOWAgain the prices of the cocktails were massive - and the cocktails are not made from totally fresh ingredients - they use a cocktail mix and ice - so no where near as nice as freshly mixed onesThe excursions were OK but not as nice as last time and again well over priced for what you get - shorter and less interesting than last cruise - cost cutting big timeThe dining room we didn't use so cannot commentThe Wind Jammer food was cold and disgusting - when the manager was asked why the food was of such a low temperature - 'to stop people namely children burning their hands' was the answerI suggest getting your food directly from the chef and not taking the food on hold - the meals we had hot we had to ask for - holding temperature was 50 degrees celcius - UK spec is 65 degrees minimum !!!!! proven by a temp probe by the Soux Chef when asked to - his answer was the probe was getting there lolOur room was no bigger then a smaller ships room as previously used - the balcony was great - we only had one soft chair - we asked for another and in this massive ship they had no spares - so we endured the cruise with one sofa chair and the bed to sit on !!! don't have an ajoining room unless you need it - we didn't and suffered from the door being there and no second chairThe room wasn't hoovered everyday - neither did our room guy dust or provide ice even after being asked - The towel animals don't start until day 8 either - they really weren't very good either Overall value for money - very poor - Overall enjoyment - poorOverall relaxation - medium poorOverall excursions - medium poorOverall cruise - medium poorwill i cruise with RCCI again - yes - but it will be on a smaller ship quote from my wife - 'its like a floating Butlins' - there was fighting on the dance floor too lol Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Having never cruised before we had no idea what to expect but hope this prooves useful? Travel agent was Thompson and we had a problem when they didnt book our parking at Southampton, then tried to give us a transfer type of parking as it ... Read More
Having never cruised before we had no idea what to expect but hope this prooves useful? Travel agent was Thompson and we had a problem when they didnt book our parking at Southampton, then tried to give us a transfer type of parking as it was cheaper for them then ABP at the docks. On complaining it was changed but it shouldnt have occured in the first place. On arriving at Southampton we tried to check in our baggage but had our suit & dress carriers refused by the porters, this was not mentioned by RCI in their literature at any stage. This was a major issue as we each had a carry on bag as advised by RCI and then also had to carry on three suit carriers as well, they were not light as we had used them for suites, dresses and shirts to avoid creasing in the suitcases. The porters said they wouldnt take them as something might fall out? and they didnt want to be responsible! We then entered the terminal to then be given health forms to fill in (Swine Flue) I guess. Whilst I commend RCI on doing this, they did not have sufficent tables etc to fill these out so you had to wait for one or try and rest on something. Now loaded with baggage we had to put everything down first and we were getting hot and bothered. Swine flue is not new so perhaps this health form could have been supplied with the ticket? We had expected to breeze in and show our sail pass, passports etc and then board.Queuing for security and registration to get your seapass card wouldnt have been a problem except we had extra luggage to carry now. Once processed we got on board and through the facial recognition system and went to our cabin. The cabin was lovely with a balcony larger than expected with two chairs and small table. Only complaint about that was it would have been nice to have a higher table as we had envisaged having an occasional romantic meal on the balcony, it was not possible due to this though. The only other moan was that any motion of the boat made doors squeek and creek which when we crossed the bumpy bay of Biscay proved a real pain when your trying to sleep. Room service was good though when I booked it for 7am I would always get a phonecall at 6.20 to tell me it was on its way. The water in the taps although drinkable is not cold and tastes chlorinated, this may be to encourage you to use the Evian bottled water in the minibar at $4.55 for 500ml. We thought the price of water was extortionate on board. Our cabin steward was excellent and would clean our cabin twice a day, we gave him extra for his good work on top of the pre paid gratuity. Food was a high quality and we always enjoyed our meals however do not expect vegetables of any quantity, I dare say we could have asked for more though as every other request was fulfilled. Dissapointingly dispite the menu stating the Chef used the quality ingredients, I discovered that they used IMITATION crab meat in the sushi. I confronted the head waiter and he told me this was the case and that the chef had stated the "crab meat" patties were delivered on board and that he did not make them. I find that unnaceptable that its clearly advertised as containing pieces of "meaty crab" and as such breeches trades description regulations. However the rest of the food was very good and Potifinos speciality dinning resteraunt was supurb with personal attention of the highest order and mouth watering food. There is a $20 per person extra charge but it is worth it. The wines in the main dinning room was very good but didnt like Windjammers single choice in either red or white. The Windjammer provided consistant and constant high quality food of a huge variety, it is however difficult at times to get a table. Everyone on my table of six hated the coffee and never had another one in any resteraunt after the first day, it was always bitter and often tasted burnt. Even my Wife had tea instead which is not something she would normally drink. You can make your own coffee in the snack bars on the Royal promenade and its drinkable if you swamp it with milk. Our table waiter and assistant waiter although friendly, polite and helpful, did in the opinion of most of us fall below our expectations. We would have missing cutlery and glasses not been used were left on the table leaving it cluttered. On occasions people were given the wrong meals although that was infrequent.The interactive TV was excellent and you can check your seapass spending account at any time. Good variety of TV programs and films. The entertainment on board was fantastic and we cannot emphasise that enough. Graham Seymour the cruise entertainments manager was brilliant! The shows were west end standard in our opinion. Get there early to get a seat though. Rock the Boat are a brilliant band and very versatile, just get in the pyramid lounge early enough to get a seat as its always an issue and we rarely managed to get a table which was dissapointing. All the other bars had quality entertainers which created suitable ambiance for the type of lounge you were in.We were surprised that a cruise costing many thousands of pounds and a ship of such quality that RCI peddled such cheap tat on the Royal promenade. It seems out of place when you compare the standard of everything else. Also it seemed a very much American affair on board, targeted at the American guest. Nothing against our freinds from the USA but we are different and have different likes and tastes. This was also the opinion of many British people on board. Yes we are a reserved bunch I know.All in all it was a fantastic experiance and we will cruise again although I will try a different cruise line so I can make an honest comparison. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
The first thing to say about this ship is that it is big. VERY big We were initially met by an incredibly well organised embarkation procedure. We arrived there at 10.30 we were aboard by 11.15. This gave us plenty of time to explore ... Read More
The first thing to say about this ship is that it is big. VERY big We were initially met by an incredibly well organised embarkation procedure. We arrived there at 10.30 we were aboard by 11.15. This gave us plenty of time to explore before our room was ready at 13.00 The shopping mall running down the length of deck five seemed a little dark and uninviting but the contents of the shops were fine . Additionaly there were several cafes and bars on this level. The food quality was mixed but generally acceptable. Our cabin was bright and spacious this, with the balcony, comprised more than enough room for the two of us. We had sufficient hanging space. As for cleanliness the ship is probably one of the cleanest places I have ever been. This care did not extend to our room. I don't think our carpet was vacuumed during our entire trip. Our attendant just didn't seem to be bothered. My mother, in the next cabin, took to cleaning her own bathroom. Our attendant just did not meet her standards. Having said that he was a likeable enough guy. The rest of the crew were a delight, helpful, cheerful, nothing too much trouble. We did not go to any of the shows in the main theatre, not our cup of tea, but we did go to the ice show which was pretty good. I made good use of the well equiped gym. Food quality was patchy. Feeding 4000 people meant that the quality of the food in the main dining rooms was indifferent. By the time it got to us it was invariably tepid and dry. A huge contrast with the self service Windjammer which served a large variety of fresh, tasty, well presented food. So that is where we chose to eat. This ship is an incredible feat of engineering. To put an ice rink, a shopping mall and a flowrider surfing machine on a ship is just plain awesome. But it is just too big and unmanageable. Crowds of people everywhere lining up for everything. We will avoid the new 220,000 monstrosity like the plague. On balance however we enoyed our trip and have booked again for December on a somewhat smaller vessel Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Firstly when booking, infant prices on Royal Caribbean vary and can be steep - suggest you negotiate if using an agent as we did.  We booked a travel cot which was very smart, clean and acceptable - no linen however so you may wish to ... Read More
Firstly when booking, infant prices on Royal Caribbean vary and can be steep - suggest you negotiate if using an agent as we did.  We booked a travel cot which was very smart, clean and acceptable - no linen however so you may wish to bring asheet and baby sleepbag (I guess they woudl have provided linen if we'd requested it but we were using a baby sleepbag anyway.Embarkation took some time at Southampton and compared with other cruise lines wasn't as efficient - be prepared for a bit of a wait in the car and then again in line.We didn't book a balcony cabin as I was concerned about safety, we booked an outside cabin on a low deck and it was very good - good value for money and reasonable in size (as ship cabins go of course).  Bring a lightweight fold up pushchair if you can so it can go under the bed when not in use.  Other people left their larger pushchairs outside the doors of their cabins.  Actually now having seen the balcony cabins they are fine so I'd book one of these in future.The Windjammer is great with a toddler - usually easy to get a highchair and the staff are terrific - helpful, friendly and endlessly pateint and fun with the chidren.  We used it for breakfast, occassionally lunch and sometimes for dinner.  The pasta to order is especially good for children and there are plenty of sugar free dessert options too.  We found the formal dining room quite a challenge with a toddler - the staff were just as great but depending on how good your toddler is, it can be stressful.  We went to formal nights and a few others and stayed for as long Emily could reasonably manage.  There is a lot of glassware, cutlery etc. so it can be tricky.  If you have cruised with P&O as we have, we found that the food and service were nowhere near as good on Royal Caribbean. All the snack eateries were good and useful with a toddler - pizza, coffee shop and ice cream self serve on the pool deck.The rules about swimming pools are a real pain - you cannot take babies in nappies/diapers into the pools.  There is a tiny baby splash pool with barely an inch of water.  Good for play but not for swimming.  Only one adult per child in the splash pool which was also irritating when there are two parents and a child!The Fisher Price baby programme is outstanding - I cannot recommend it enough.  A parent does need to accompany the baby but we found it fun and Emily loved all the sessions.  There is a schedule of themed sessions - three a day and extra on sea days.  The staff were exceptional.  The toys were all in good condition, there were lots of them and every toy was sanitised at the end of each session.  The children were encouraged to share.There is a babysittign service for one year plus babies but we didn't use it.There are lots of details on the ship which are fun for children - the red dog on the balcony for example.  The ship is truly exceptional and vast.  The majority of places including the bars are child-friendly, there are a few which are adult only after 5pm which is perfectly reasonable.Overall, we found it worked well with a toddler and we wouldn't hesitate to do it again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We took our first cruise on Independence of the Seas (June 20-July 4, 2009) and loved it. I thought most of the voyagers would be in bath chairs so was surprised to be lapped on the jogging track by an ancient mariner in running ... Read More
We took our first cruise on Independence of the Seas (June 20-July 4, 2009) and loved it. I thought most of the voyagers would be in bath chairs so was surprised to be lapped on the jogging track by an ancient mariner in running shoes.Embarkation at Southampton was easy. We stayed in the neighbouring Holiday Inn right next to Dock Gate 8 so the ship was right at our door. We drove the 100 yards to the terminal at 10.30am and were on the ship around 11am. We weren't sure what to expect but it lived up to our expectations in all except one way. The public accommodation was stunning, we often stay in four star hotels in the UK but this was better. Our promenade cabin was a little larger than we expected and there was no noise from parades or anything else in the Royal Promenade. The bathroom was small and functional. All the facilities, the lounges, bars, sporting facilities like the Flow Rider were first class and the staff were also attentive and very keen to please.The ship was spotless and cleaning was going on unobtrusively all the time. Where we did have a problem was the temperature of the food and I'm going to take this up with Royal Caribbean. I've seen quite a number of complaints in other reviews that the food was often only tepid and unfortunately this was our experience too. Sometimes, in the restaurant at night it was excellent, when it was hot, but too often it wasn't hot and certainly in the Windjammer it was lukewarm a lot of the time. On one occasion I had a slice of meat carved from a new joint and it was nearly cold. We didn't see anyone testing the temperature of the food with probes either.Bit of a safety risk I think. However, we did enjoy a lot of the food so don't think that it spoiled our holiday because it didn't. We understand that mass catering isn't always easy but we think that if RCI invested in more powerful warming cabinets there would be less waste as people were leaving food because it was cold before they had finished. Occasionally it was hard to find seats in the Windjammer and sometimes we ate breakfast and lunch in the main restaurant for a change. The ice shows were superb, didn't mind queueing for tickets for those, and we enjoyed many of the shows in the theatre too. We were usually too tired to go to the bars but from what we could see they seemed popular. The cruise director Graham Seymour jollied things along pretty well but I wish he would switch the banal muzak off sometimes although my ears tuned it out after a while. We usually rose early and had the ship more or less to ourselves while docking in places like Gibraltar and Livorno. In the early evening you could also stroll around in the warm sunshine as the decks were deserted. It was difficult sometimes to find two sunbeds together but we usually managed it. The pools were cold though but we enjoyed the jacuzzis. The ports were great, we booked too many trips really, it would have been very easy to do them ourselves but as it was our first time cruising  we weren't sure how easy they would be to do. If you go to Florence then book the longest trip you can so that you can really explore. We didn't have anything like enough time in an hour and a half. Also, the Barcelona trip wasn't very good but the one to Obidos from Lisbon was superb, well worth the price, as were the ones in Gibraltar and Malaga. Cannes was our favourite place and the only one where we didn't book a trip so we enjoyed wandering around on our own. Seven trips is really a few too many, I couldn't make the final one to Santiago as I was too tired so we had a long walk around Vigo where we got involved in a workers' demo (not sure what that was about) and watched some men fighting in a turf war over handbags. It sounds rough but Vigo was charming and we loved it. We met some lovely people and had some long chats down at the bow with Arnold and Pat and in the restaurant with Billy and Denise who we are still in touch with. Also had a long talk about the Jersey Militia with Barry so there were people with hugely diverse interests on board. We didn't try the specialist restaurants, not sure why, we just didn't get around to it. Neither did we try the spa as it was very expensive for northern folk. Goodness knows what it would have cost to shampoo the whippet. If you want to buy bargains on board wait until the second week as we bought a lovely Eco Citizen watch for the equivalent of £70 and a $106 handbag for $26. We didn't think drinks were expensive, we'd bought a seven bottle wine package before leaving the UK and the cocktails at $6.95 were OK if rather sickly. We thought the prices were about the same as a four star hotel in the UK and they seem to have dropped the 15% drinks gratuity. There is tea (of a sort) in the cabin but it doesn't go well with the coffee creamer they provide and you need to take a small jar of instant with you as the free coffee is a little tasteless. Take a small box of Yorkshire Tea if you want a decent cuppa and get a carton of milk from the Windjammer each morning to keep in your fridge. There is free iced water and lemon or cherry squash available pretty much all day in the Windjammer so you don't need to buy a soda package. I was told there was 500 children on board but they seemed to be in their own area most of the time or in the H20 zone. No misbehaviour at all that I could see. Most passengers were Brits with a few Canadians and Americans. Afraid some older Brits were a little rude in the lifts pushing their way in while others were trying to get out. A word of warning..... check your Seapass account on your cabin TV screen every day. Two days in to the trip we had bought one item and found it had been double charged. Apparently it was due to a computer error but it was only after I had gone to guest relations and queried it that I was told it was an error. There didn't seem to be any way of deducting a double charge automatically, I was told they had lots of complaints about it. We had My Time Dining which we loved as we could book a table every night for two. There were no drawbacks and you paid the gratuities up front so that on the last night our steward delivered envelopes and vouchers. Apparently all the waiters' vouchers went into a pot and were divided up which was good because our waiters changed half way through the cruise and we were pleased they all had a share of it. Disembarkation was a little chaotic. We had to wait in the Alhambra Theatre until our colour was called and we were about 40 minutes late leaving. The arrivals hall was pandemonium as our five heavy cases (we travel light) were not in one place. However, once we had retrieved them we were on the road home within 15 minutes. Despite the tepid food, we loved the Independence of the Seas, the itinerary was great and we are booking the same trip again next June.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
IOS is a truly magnificent ship to look at.  The facilities on board are also great. Had a nice 14 night stay on board (albeit the last 2 days were really rocky on way back to Southampton), so holiday really ended on day 12, as we felt ... Read More
IOS is a truly magnificent ship to look at.  The facilities on board are also great. Had a nice 14 night stay on board (albeit the last 2 days were really rocky on way back to Southampton), so holiday really ended on day 12, as we felt very sea sick.Now for the complaints.....  A few things really got my back up:Plastic plates and glasses in the self service restaurant - What is that all about?  We are adults paying thousands of pounds to stay on this ship!!!!Prices of beer and cocktails are over the top - why are RC so greedy?Room steward only started making an effort with fancy towels etc on Day 8 (prob building up to his tip).  When on Fred Olsen last year, we had fancy towels every day and a choc on our pillow each night (along with a plate of canapes every evening delivered to our room).RC guidelines for tips was outrageous.  They suggested nearly £160 per cabin (and we had 4).Now for the nail in the coffin ...We were a party of 8 (paid full price for the 2 kids as there were no family cabins).  We were allocated 6.30pm dining in main rest which was of no use to us whatsoever as no-one wants to eat that early on hols. We kindly asked the Maitre De on day one if we could change and he said he would check.  After 6 days we heard nothing and only used the main restaurant once.  My sister phoned him and asked if he managed to get us a few nights on the later sitting.  He left a message shortly after saying yes and giving new table number.  However he then called back and said, actually no, there was too many of us.  All in all, we only ate in the main restaurant 3 times because of the early sitting.  On the last night of the cruise my sister was clearing the messages and on listening to his message again, we were absolutely astounded to hear him swear at the end of the message.  He called us "f...king b....tards".  My sister promptly contacted guest relations who also listened to the message and were totally appalled by what they heard.  To their credit, they did pay $400 dollars towards my sisters room bill.  Overall, a nice cruise but nowhere near as personal and classy as Fred Olsen (albeit their ships are smaller).   Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
This was our first cruise on Indie and before we go any further just to say while on board we booked another with her for Xmas 2010 so that should say it all.  It was a great idea to register for the "meet and mingle", well ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Indie and before we go any further just to say while on board we booked another with her for Xmas 2010 so that should say it all.  It was a great idea to register for the "meet and mingle", well organised by RCL staff, great prizes in the free draw (up to $75 free internet) and the opportunity to identify a cohort of travellers to bump into and share experiences with.  Some became firm cruise companions and we feel they have the potential to become longer-standing friends.  We also then went on to arrange other joint activities such as meeting for drinks, dining together and organising our own slot tournament.  It is great now we are home to share photos and videos. The ship is just magnificent and so much to do and see one looked forward to sea days.  As we are not into sports, water or sunbathing all that was out of our equation yet still we were never bored.  The highlight for us was the Promenade, the High Street that runs almost the length of the ship, with shops, cafes, bars, etc.  It was a great place to people watch and bump into cruise companions.  Pick up a late night snack or coffee and wind down at the end of the day.  On four occasions the Promenade was the venue for parades which were well organised and magnificent entertainment. Food in the Windjammer buffet was of very high quality with a great choice and always hot and fresh.  Johnny Rockets was a great 50's diner experience, the staff being very cheerful and helpful.  One member deserves a special award; Yolanda was a natural for thee Johnny Rockets Dance with great personality and the gift of getting others up and going. Some of the downsides were common to many cruises.  The ubiquitous "photographers" who on the whole just take "snaps" of questionable quality.  New staff doing too much learning on the job that could have benefited from some pre-cruise training, particularly in projecting a personality.  Our cabin steward was good at his job but not prone to exchanging pleasantries.  For people cruising without a group of friends a friendly greeting form the steward can make all the difference.  Not expecting anyone to be servile but to return a smile, a greeting and a friendly word would go a long way.We had worried about so many children but on the whole they were polite, well behaved and mainly contained in the entertainment areas catering for under 20's.  Perhaps better behaved because they were mainly Scottish school children, the Scots holiday starting sooner. Food in the main dining rooms uninspiring and nowhere near the standard of that in the buffet.  The choice for vegetarians was poor in main dining, more often than not a small ramekin of watery curry with a ramekin of rice.  In the windjammer the vege options were plentiful. Re the quality of food there was the general excuse of serving so many passengers at one time but the sister ships in the Celebrity suite manage it so why not RCL?  One thing to watch out for - although your agent might "confirm" your table request it is only the "request" that is confirmed and you may not end up with what you expected.  For us a table for two turned into a table for FOURTEEN.  Fortunately they were a good bunch of people and we got on well but not what we asked for.  For the next cruise we have opted for "my time dining" with cruise friends we made this time. The shows were excellent, the ice show unique to RCL.  Having done a few cruises I am at a loss as to why entertainers are labelled "cruise ship" as a pejorative.  All the companies we have seen are so talented and versatile and those on Indie were superb.  My favourite was Preston, singer and all round entertainer, would buy his CD if he released one.  Excellent singer and great comedy timing, a male 'Judy'. We did a couple of shore excursions due to the distance from the ship and the security of knowing the ship will wait if you are late.  We had been warned of wildcat strikes on the Italian rail network and not to be disappointed the night before we docked we were advised the train to Pisa was off due to a strike.  In other places we take local shuttles or open-top tour buses and as the cost of ship tours is rising astronomically I would advise anyone new to cruising to check the location of the ship to the town and availability of other local tour options.  The tours we did were good and the guides pleasant, friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. Celebrity Eclipse in May and Indie again 12/10 so will keep you posted. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
When we went on Explorer this Christmas out of New York things didn't go exactly to plan. Embarkation would have been illegal if we were cattle, Diamond Crown & Anchor privileges were all but done away with and a host of other ... Read More
When we went on Explorer this Christmas out of New York things didn't go exactly to plan. Embarkation would have been illegal if we were cattle, Diamond Crown & Anchor privileges were all but done away with and a host of other niggles very nearly made it our last vacation with the company. A family break with a party of 13 which included loads of kids meant we ended up booking Independence sailing out of Southampton. For most of the group it was their first cruise but I wasn't sure we were going to have a particularly good time. Day 5 and I can't contain myself any longer. I have to let everyone know what a great time we're having and how Royal Caribbean seem to have waved a magic wand over their cruising experience. It's as though someone has listened to every one of my previous moans and sorted them out. Embarkation was an absolute breeze. Port staff were courteous, friendly and above all efficient allowing us to sail through, (at exactly the same time of day we arrived at Port Liberty). The ship it's self has used the extra space over Explorer to create some wonderful areas. An H2O zone to lessen the impact of kids on the main pool areas. A pair of well policed adult only Solarium Hot tubs which overhang the side of the ship. I know the waters around Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight like the back of my hand so sailaway gazing at the landmarks from the comfort of the tub was just fantastic. There are a number of amusing follies dotted around the ship which give it a human touch and lessen the impact of being on a 160,000 tonne vessel. The removal of many Diamond member benefits was one of my biggest gripes at Christmas, those little bits which added an extra bit of sparkle. All sorted. Our own Diamond Concierge lounge with outside seating as well as the inside lounge. A full range complimentary bar and canapes for a pre-dinner tipple and a natter. The coffee machine, ticket services, in fact all you would have previously enjoyed in the Concierge lounge, only bigger. Coupon books have been upgraded. Back comes a free photo rather than a bit of discount. Casino matchplay vouchers were never taken away, a drink on the house when you buy one yourself and so on. There is also a 75% discount on all your ship to shore phone calls. $2 from $8. I know Carnival are trialing $0.99 calls (read on here from memory), so some may argue even $2 is too high but it's a lot better than $8 if you find yourself needing to place a few calls. I'm not saying you book your next cruise based on what's in the coupon book but it's a nice gesture. An added bonus was finding out we had Joff Eaton and some of his team including Steve from Jewel of the seas with us. I've got a soft spot for Joff. As someone who's been cruising for a number of years I tend to think of cruise directors as over tanned rather slimy individuals slightly little less genuine than used car salesmen and with more concern for kickbacks from on shore traders than the welfare of their passenger's enjoyment. Joff, whilst being extremely talented and super slick has a lovely self deprecating way about him and to say he's hard working would be something of an understatement. I saw him walking through the Promenade at 8.00am the other day (after we put the clocks forward last night) and he's still there last thing at night. His enthusiasm rubs off on all the other members of his team as well because they all put in the effort when going about their duties. One of my niggles for the past 15 years of cruising has always been the appalling selection of Karaoke songs, (and the way the whole thing is usually handled). Suddenly a vast manuscript of songs to choose from and a lovely sized space on deck 3 called On Air. Little things like the ice cream machine on the pool deck being open all day (actually there are 2 of them on Independence), means the mad rush during previously limited open hours is gone. With kids in mind there is also a noticeable but discreet junior cruiser policing on board which is a pleasant change from Christmas on Explorer. It may be that UK youngsters are generally a bit behaved than their cousins from across the pond but we haven't had to deal with a raft of over cocky teenagers this time even though there are over a thousand junior cruisers aboard. Dining room has never been a problem and continues to impress this time round. I had a chance to chat with Derek McKnight, the executive chef at a crown and anchor function today and he seems a really down to earth chap, although a fairly hard taskmaster I would imagine! Haven't ventured into the speciality venues yet but will do. A few people have moaned about the entertainment on here. Well I'm not sure what happened for those weeks, we've just had the most stunning ice show this afternoon, we were crying with laughter throughout Pete Matthews' show, there was a note perfect Beatles tribute band on the other day, the ship's stage productions are so good I'm thinking we'll need a taxi home on the way out of the theatre. Anyway, I've written far too much already. I don't know how much of the improvements are fleet wide and how many just on Independence but if this is the future I'm a happy camper. Keep smiling, and I can tell you that 40 something isn't too old for the flowrider, step aside kids - old man coming through - although I do ache like hell now!! Henry Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Left Southampton on time embarkation was a little slow but not to bad. Cabin was very nice and clean with a decent size shower. Food in the windjammer was quite good and very varied so there was always something to our liking, although the ... Read More
Left Southampton on time embarkation was a little slow but not to bad. Cabin was very nice and clean with a decent size shower. Food in the windjammer was quite good and very varied so there was always something to our liking, although the food was never that hot. We did go for the main dining room in the evenings and at first the service was very slow, we were always served last it seemed. I did suggest it was because we didn,t order wine at our table and the waiters always seem to look after th Wineos.We did pay $25 a head surcharge to eat in the Chops Grill and it was well worth it , the quality of the food was very good and the service was superb. The shows on board were ok , something like you would get at Butlins.We also went to Johnny Rockets for $4.50 surcharge, food was good and so was the floor show by the waiters and waitresses, Good Fun! Now for the bad bit, The shore excursions as a whole are expensive and not very good. We had an excursion to a beach in Sardinia and was a tip. What they do on board the ship is frigthen you into doing there trips, They tell you if your late back the ship will go without you and it will cost hundreds of dollars etc etc. Second problem...The alcoholic drinks are very, very expensive and to top it off they add a 15% gratuity to your bill as well. They actually put a $1 gratuity on every drink you buy, if you work this out it actuaaly comes out at about 18.5% gratuity. I wrote to Royal caribbean pointing this out, there reply was and i quote..."With regards to the gratuities added these are as per our terms and conditions charged at 15% any extra charges are to do with the european taxes charged to us as if in travelling in the EU, not duty free"I always thought a gratuity was like a tip for good service. We purchased bottles of whiskey on the ship for about $9.50, a glass of whiskey on the ship, including the gratuity was $6.25. Rip Off! do you agree or am i being naive. PS They did send me 2 £25 vouchers to use if i sail with them again, they have been dispatched in my filing system under B...for BIN. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Well, where do I start!! (sailing dates 18/7 to 1/8)We are a couple in our early 40's with three children girl-8, girl-5 and boy-3. This is our second cruise, we cruised with the kids on Carnival Freedom last Summer in the Med, so ... Read More
Well, where do I start!! (sailing dates 18/7 to 1/8)We are a couple in our early 40's with three children girl-8, girl-5 and boy-3. This is our second cruise, we cruised with the kids on Carnival Freedom last Summer in the Med, so had some idea of what to expect.Drove down from Midlands to Southampton which was easy going although the traffic was a little busy as we approached Soton. We had a boarding time of 2pm, the parking and waiting to dump your cases was all pretty easy, embarkation was a little hectic, although they did let us jump the queue as we had three kids with us, one of which was in a push chair, so that was was ok as well. We had some form filling to do re swine flu, but nothing too taxing.Once on board, we couldn't wait to explore, we found our cabins, and our cases had already been delivered. We booked two outside, aft, interconnecting cabins, myself and my husband had a double bed in ours and the kids shared a room with two single beds and a bunk that folded down from the ceiling. As we only booked in May, this was the only option, i do believe you can get a family room for 5 with a curtain dividing the sleeping areas and a sofa bed. Not sure how you'd cope with wardrobe space though, but I'm sure they've thought of that.  To be honest, we booked interconnecting last year as well and it worked really well for us. The use of two two showers came in really rather handy. Also we could put the kids to bed and have a drink whilst watching TV without fear of waking them. The cabins are quite spacious and well equipped. Lots of little storage areas, an easy to use safe, tea and coffee making facilities, first moan!!  paper cups, would have been nice to have china! The ship itself was truly amazing, huge and very grand also very clean. There was generally always someone cleaning some thing as you walked around. The public loos on board were always well maintained as well. All the bars looked great, the Promenade was great as well, just like walking down a street with shops, cafe's, a pub, places to eat etc.We had an 8.30 dining sitting, but didn't really plan to take the kids to eat with us, as this is a little too late and the 6pm is too early for us. So we'd feed the kids at about 6pm and then place them in the kids clubs whilst we had our meals and a drink in whatever bar we chose that night. Freddi in the champagne bar was great and even remembered my husbands name on our second visit, one sure way to get us to go back again!!We had breakfast in our room every day, as we couldn't be bothered with the crowds in the Windjammer or with getting all three kids and ourselves dressed. There are breakfast menus in the cabins, they will deliver cereal, bacon, egg, sausage, pastries, fruit plates, tea, coffee, to your room and whatever time you allocate on the menu as long as you place it on your door handle by 3am, great hey.The Windjammer does get busy, but then what do you expect when feeding nearly 4000 people. We never had any trouble finding a table and even managed to sit at the same one pretty much every bight with the kids, which was good as we got to know the waiters and they were great with the children and would bring them nutella pots and things. The fruit punch and still lemonade are free in the WJ and are very nice. We don't really allow the kids to drink fizzy pop so didn't bother with the soda package as it's for fizzy drinks only!! Some one moaned on a previous review re the plastic plates and plastic glasses in the WJ..............so........does it really matter as long as they are clean, infact I was quite please they were plastic, three kids and china..............mmmmmm. The food in the WJ was really good and there was plenty to choose from. There always appeared to be a roast of the day, with plenty of veg and pots etc. The salad bar was always fresh, they also did Irish stew, Shepherds pie, chicken casseroles and there were burgers, hot dogs if you like that sort of thing. Also, just before you get to the main WJ area, there is a smaller section called 'Jade' where you could get a mix of indian, thai, chinese etc, My husband even said they were some of the best curry's he'd had for a long time. My husband and I also had a night at Chops Grille, which I will say was fantastic. We do eat out quite regularly and have eaten at many michelin starred restaurants, and although it was manly steaks, they are pretty ardn good, mine was fab, I had a 7oz fillet cooked medium which was perfect, the service was very good indeed. You do have to pay a cover charge and I did hear some one moan that they should expect that kind of service every where onboard, but to be honest, it was worth it. It was also quieter than the WJ and main dining rooms, so a little more romantic.  The main dining rooms are good as well. The portions are not that big, but I never left the table feeling hungry at all. Remember, you can get food 24/7 if you wanted to. Our waiter karen was very friendly and looked after us well. The food was ok, not a huge choice but there was always some thing on the menu to suit. We only actually ate in the main dining room 7 times out of the 14 and attended all the formal nights. We also took the kids to Johnny Rocketts a couple of times, which is great fun, they loved it, a real feel for the 50's, the waiters even have little dance routines going, also a small cover charge for this, but a real treat for the kids.All our children attended the kids Ocean Adventure clubs, which they all loved. They all asked to go at some point during the two weeks and our 8 year old would have stayed in all day if we'd have let her. Once on board we headed there to register the kids, if you have children in the 3 to 5 club, you can ask for a phone which you then keep for the entire cruise, so if you want to check on the kids or the club need to get you for any reason, they can. We never needed to use it, but it was a great piece of mind. All the youth staff have funny made up names, Hubba Bubba Helen, Razzle Dazzle Ryan, Maniac Mike, Einstein Ed, Dizzy DJ Dennis, Starburst Sam, Cheese!!!! to name but a few, they were all great fun and the kids loved them. On their first visit the kids get given funny names too. They even managed to calm our 3 year old down, although it did take them the two weeks, he's a very busy boy and very inquisitive!!!!! They also do a talent show which you get to see, very funny!!! We didn't use the club that much during the day, as the kids had fun with us, but we used them every night whilst we had a meal, saw a show, sat in a bar etc, so we had some very relaxing child free time as well. Our 8 year old did stay in one night until 1am as they had a trash the room party, It was hard work staying awake that long to go and fetch her!!! The kids also loved the Pirate night and got to dress up as Pirates and were taken to look for treasure, they even did a Pirate Parade down the Promenade. You pay a $5 fee per hour after 10pm.  They all loved it and didn't want to leave the ship. The H20 Zone also proved very popular with the kids, it was fab, there is a large walk round pool thing which we named kid soup, you'll know what I mean when you see it. Infact all the pool areas are very good and with chlorinated water and not see water as on some ships.The entertainment on board was of a good standard. We saw a couple of shows which were good, we didn't get to the ice shows though, but I have heard that they are excellent. There is generally live musicians playing in the bars during the evening as well, so some thing going on to suit every one. Drinks on board are really no different in price to those you'd buy in a 4/5* hotel, but have read lots of reviews of Brits moaning they are too high!! And if you have the cocktail of the day, ($6.95) you get to keep the RC glass, yes a real glass, not a plastic one, unless you are out side in the one the pool bars, they tend to be plastic for safety reasons.  They also have street party's in the Promenade on some evenings, which we didn't go to as they looked a little crowded and without sounding like a complete snob!! holiday camp-ish!!Was Graham Seymore the Cruise Director a Red Coat in a previous life!!! I'll let you decide!! There seems to be loads to do during the day if you want to, Bingo etc.............or not if you don't. We did use the gym a couple of times as well which is wonderful and has all the up to date equipment.We didn't book any excursions, (they do seem a little on the pricey side) the kids are really not into site seeing yet, so didn't bother. If you get off the ship in Gibralta, the town is walking distance, we took all three kids off and had a walk around, even went to Next Sale to buy long trousers for ice skating, (you need them if you plan to ice skate on board). Cagliari, Sardinia, you have to get on a shuttle bus to get to town, but there were plenty and it's only about 5 mins away. We had a wonder with the kids and bought fab Italian ice cream. If you are travelling with kids then Cannes is great, you have to get to shore by tender, but there are beaches within walking distance, so remember to takes the ships pool towels, we bought buckets and spades and just had a day at the beach although last year we walked around the town which is close by as well. We left the kids on board whilst we went off for the evening in Barcelona as we've been there twice before, so we just had some tapas and sangria and got back on board. We stayed on board for Livorno and Malaga, took an open topped bus ride in Lisbon, right out side the ship terminal and Vigo is very easy reach/walk as well.All in all a great holiday, I'm just thinking if we have any moans..............................if you can call these moans...and I know some will................we didn't get towel animals every night, then when we did they were only in our cabin and not the kids. No choc on pillow. last year on Carnival we had lots of little bathroom freebies, such as tooth paste, deodorant, Bic razors. RC give you soap and shampoo in a dispenser. But I will say all the staff are really friendly and the service every where was wonderful.Disembarkation was easy, we were the last lot off at 8.50am and as we reached our designated meeting point we just had time for an orange juice before we were told our luggage was now in the terminal and waiting for us. We found 4 of our cases alright, but the 5th, the one with all the washing, kids summers clothes, underwear and the RC cocktail glasses I'd been collecting was now where to be seen!!  I ended up completing a form and was told to phone monday morning. We arrived home to a message saying our missing bag had been returned to the docks and that some one had taken it by mistake!!  Do people really not check they have the correct bags when there are loads that look exactly the same!!!!!  I have called today, was given another number to the London depot and am currently waiting for them to call me back, still swaying a little. Hope this helps and have a very happy cruise.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
In May, we took a ten-night Canary Islands cruise on the Independence. We enjoyed it so much that we came straight home and booked onto the next available voyage. After a few weeks of a cold and wet English summer, we were more than ... Read More
In May, we took a ten-night Canary Islands cruise on the Independence. We enjoyed it so much that we came straight home and booked onto the next available voyage. After a few weeks of a cold and wet English summer, we were more than ready for the prospect of some sun. The journey from the midlands to Southampton was very easy, even for the first Saturday of the English school holidays. Slight congestion as we approached the port, but no real problems, Luggage drop off was quick and efficient, and then we headed for the car park. We had pre-booked to ensure a space, and because our driver is entitled to a blue badge, we asked for a disabled space. On previous cruises, we had been found space on the car park just opposite the check-in area. This time we were directed to a disabled parking area at the furthest point from the terminal building. Not a good start, but Royal Caribbean has no control over parking. So to check-in. A quick stop to complete the health questionnaire, then into the line. As Diamond Plus members, we do have priority at check-in, but this was hardly needed. Check-in as always went smoothly, and ten minutes later, we were through security and onto the ship just after noon. Our cabins were not available until one o'clock, but a buffet lunch was available in the Windjammer. We decided not to drag our hand luggage round with us but took the opportunity to check out our table in the Macbeth dining room. We had been allocated the table for two requested, and the Maitre Di was kind enough to switch us to a window table. Then we went up to the library to select some books sit in comfort until we could go to our cabin. From then on, we were in total holiday mode. Bay of Biscay was relatively calm for us, and although the English weather was with us for the first day, as we cruised down the English channel, we were happy to spend time reading and checking out the on board shops. From then on, temperatures soared, and we were able to make full use of the sun beds in the solarium. On the subject of sun beds, the policy of removing belongings left on sun beds for more than thirty minutes is finally being implemented. A knock on effect of this seems to be that on sea days people do not linger in the Windjammer after they finish eating, so it was easier to find seats that on our previous cruise. We only left the ship at those ports we had not visited before, for organised excursions. Except for Cannes, disembarkation for tour groups worked well. Cannes however is a tender port, and the logistics of moving over four thousand people to land via tender needs to be revisited. Queues for tenders at one point stretched right around the ship. That said, the excursion we did to Monte Carlo was, for me, the highlight of the cruise. Excursions in general were expensive, and in most ports, the ship docked some way from town centres, so those passengers not on tours needed to buy transfer tickets, or use local taxis. Entertainment was the usual mix of production shows, mostly quite good, and "headline" entertainers. With exception of a Beatles tribute band and "Tenors unlimited", the latter were best forgotten! The ice shows were superb! We ate dinner in the dining room, and were very well looked after by our waiting staff. They thoroughly deserved the excellent ratings we gave at the end of the cruise. The Headwaiter for our section of the dining room was very charming, and visited each table every night to ensure that things were running smoothly. Food was always cooked to our personal preferences, and well presented. The portions were good sized, and the menu varied. Staff throughout the ship were generally pleasant and helpful, and for the first time in several cruises, I had very little to complain about. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Independence of the Seas (July 18th - August 1st, 2009) This was our first ever Cruise and it proved to be a fantastic experience! We loved it! Boarding at Southampton was really smooth and quick. Arrived at the docks around 12 ... Read More
Independence of the Seas (July 18th - August 1st, 2009) This was our first ever Cruise and it proved to be a fantastic experience! We loved it! Boarding at Southampton was really smooth and quick. Arrived at the docks around 12 Midday and our suitcases were taken straight from the car and onto the boat on arrival. We then went and parked up the car and had a 3 minute walk back to board the ship with our hand luggage. We then went through security, which was very efficient , issued our boarding cards and we were on the ship within 20 minutes of arriving at the Port. Once on ship our 8 year old daughter was given a wrist band which was given to all children in case of emergencies and we were told we could look around the ship until our cabin was ready at 13:00. We were in awe of the size and beautiful surroundings we found ourselves in. It surpassed anything we were expecting. The ship was very clean and remained so for the entirety of the cruise. Our stateroom was on the second floor and was very comfortable. We had two queen sized beds pushed together and our Daughter had a bunk bed which came out of the ceiling above us. There was also a sofa and flat screen television. The Bathroom had a good deal of storage space and the Shower was just right. It was extremely quiet for the whole of our holiday and we were not disturbed at all by noise. Our stateroom attendant was great. The room was always kept tidy and my daughter got great delight in discovering what animal he had created out of a towel each evening! Everything on the ship was great. The sporting facilities - Climbing Wall, Flow rider, Gym, Ice Skating Rink, Cray Golf, All Weather Pitch to name a few exceptional. The Theatre and Ice Skating shows were all really good and there were numerous other things going on in other bars throughout the ship all day and night! There were a number of parades down the main Promenade and also a Pool Party. There was something for everyone on board. Quizzes, films, shopping, dancing, spa, casino, bingo, exercise classes, craft classes, karaoke, art exhibitions, library, internet cafe to name but a few! The children's clubs were fantastic and very secure and well run. They were open for most of the day and well into the night. After 10:00 p.m. a reasonable $5 per half hour was charged which we used once so that we could go to the Adult late Night Comedy Show. My daughter made so many friends by the end of the holiday that was all she wanted to do. We were even able to leave her on ship when we went on a trip to one of the ports of call! There were also clubs for the teenagers with their own area and disco as well. However by the end of the holiday they were beginning to become a nuisance by gathering in groups on stairs etc. However,this wasn't too bad as the ban on alcohol to under 21's, (18 to 21 year olds could drink if their Parents signed a waver) did mean there wasn't any drunkenness as well. The Main Dining room experience for our Evening Meal was fantastic. We used the 'My Time Dining' and on the first night were seated by a window which was floor to ceiling glass. On a number of nights throughout the Cruise we were lucky enough to spot Dolphins as we were eating our meal which made the whole experience even more exciting for our daughter. The Waiters, John and Olare were very attentive especially to her, and we tried to book in with them every night. The 'My time' just meant we could be a little more flexible with our times if we wanted but we mostly stuck to an 18:00 slot. The food was exceptional and there was plenty of variety. We discovered that if it wasn't on the menu you could always ask and it could normally be sourced. Contrary to other reviews, we found the food in the Windjammer restaurant to be extremely good too. The variety was extensive for both breakfast and lunch and throughout other times of the day. Additionally there was always plenty of free Tea, Coffee, Water and Ice cream available. We didn't try the specialist restaurants as we just didn't have the time. But I am sure they would have been great. Our daughter did visit Johnny Rocket's with the Kids club one evening and she said that was great too! There were three formal evenings and people looked great in their smart dinner suits and dresses. Many of the teenagers looked fantastic in their suits and proms dresses too!!! My daughter loved dressing up. It was great to see!!! The rest of the evenings were a mixture of smart casual and casual which showed up what peoples different ideas of casual are. We tended to stick to smart trousers and shirts and blouses and smart trousers, but many people wore jeans. On days when the sun was at its hottest it was sometimes impossible to get a sun bed in the H2O Zone and the Family area but normally there were plenty of beds available in the Adult only area or the Solarium area which were great for us to relax in when our daughter was at kids club. All the Pool and Jacuzzi areas were great. Very clean and for the children the H2O zone was great fun. They had a great time playing with their new found friends! The shore days were good. We had pre booked trips for each of the Ports of Calls as we were first time cruisers. This meant we didn't fall out over what we were going to do at each location and waste time trying to decide. Gibraltar - Upper rock Walking Tour - Excellent really good ex pat tour guide who knew the place inside out. Sardinia - Beach Trip - Wouldn't do again as was not really a good stretch of beach. However live and learn! Livorno - Leaning Tower of Pisa - Really good trip. Good tour guide and if you want to go to the top of the tower this is the only way to do it as we had a pre booked time slot to climb it as part of our organized trip. We were talking to some Australians who went to Pisa on their own and they weren't able to get a slot as it was fully booked that day. Well worth the experience and my 8 year old really loved it! Cannes - Monaco /Monte Carlo - This was the one stop where we experienced tender boats! All three resorts were brilliant. Very clean, lots of shops and Monaco showed how the other half live! Lots of fantastic cars and very exclusive clothes shops! Well worth the trip. Would well consider visiting again one day. Barcelona - Picasso trip - Very interesting. We had visited Barcelona before and experienced the football stadium, magic fountains and Las Ramblas. This was a little more cultural this time, but we managed to go off on our own after the tour had completed and took a stroll up Las Ramblas and also around the Quay side. Lovely day. Malaga - Marbella- This was the one place I would never really want to visit again. It was very commercial and seemed to be one continuous sprawl of high rise hotels and buildings. Still a well organized trip. Lisbon - Walking tour - Well organized tour and an excellent very entertaining guide. A real laugh! Vigo - Our daughter decided she didn't want to come with us on this tour. We knew 48 hours before so were able to cancel it and get our money back! It was much cooler than Southern Spain and we had a nice trip to a small fishing village. It was really ideal for a good walk. Certainly somewhere I would visit again. If we went again we would probably do some trips ourselves, now we know which ports are easily accessible. However for first time cruisers' or first time visitors to these ports then pre booking trips is definitely the best option. We could always cancel any 48 hours before if we wanted and it definitely stopped us arguing over where what we were going to do once we were on shore! Also if you have young children then the children's clubs were always open all day on shore days and they would arrange the children's lunch etc so it was an ideal opportunity for them to stay on board with their new friends and for the adults to explore. TIPS _ Pay your gratuities up front. You then get an envelope and vouchers to give out to your waiters and stateroom attendants on the last day. Really easy. - Check your Seapass account on your Stateroom TV screen every day. It helps you keep track of your spending and if there is a mistake it can be easily rectified. I overheard one person on the last morning who hadn't checked their account at all and had had a bit of a shock when they had discovered how much they had spent!! At the end of the holiday the disembarkation was superb. We were given a guide explaining what would happen and at what time we would be leaving the ship. Our slot was at 8:50 in the Alhambra Theatre. We arrived at 8:45 and within minutes we were off. Our cases were retrieved easily once we had got off the ship and we were back in our car and on the road home by 9:15 a.m. Overall, an absolutely fantastic trip. I would recommend the Independence of the Seas to anybody. Here's to the next one!!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Once again this year we were able and lucky enough to enjoy another cruise upon the Independence of the Seas out of Southampton. This time a secret surprise for my mum and daughter, and it was just fabulous. Once again ease of access at ... Read More
Once again this year we were able and lucky enough to enjoy another cruise upon the Independence of the Seas out of Southampton. This time a secret surprise for my mum and daughter, and it was just fabulous. Once again ease of access at Southampton, fabulous assistance from the ground staff at the port, upon the Ship and throughout. Mum had to have a wheelchair, and Indy staff could not have been more accomodating, aquiring one for us for use on board, assisting on pushing etc, and making room for her where ever we went. The weather was not good whilst away, but that did not dampen the spirits. The Alhambra theatre shows and the ice shows were fabulous, and the cocktails to die for. Once again the members of crew were very attentive, assisting where needed, and very friendly and very very efficient. our thanks especially to Leondra in the Labrynth, Alex and Jeffrey in My time, all of whom looked after us so well. Food on board was very very good as per normal, and the menu varied, for all tastes. Nice to see some familiar faces again and be welcomed back like we were old friends. My daughter enrolled in the teen program, and we really didnt see much of her the whole time. She made some nice new friends, and has had a wonderful time, so much for her to do. She had the ships total layout sorted in one day and was easily directing us around! Thanks to Graham Seymour who kept us all entertained Would we go on Indy again ? - most certainly I look forward to our next trip on Indy in November 2009 Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Just back from a four-night taster cruise to Cork on the Independence of the Seas. Not sure what to expect, having read various reviews, and it was clearly marketed as a family cruise ship. We did not like the Ventura a couple of years ... Read More
Just back from a four-night taster cruise to Cork on the Independence of the Seas. Not sure what to expect, having read various reviews, and it was clearly marketed as a family cruise ship. We did not like the Ventura a couple of years ago. Embarkation was smooth (on a day when there were record 5 ships in port) - disembarkation the least hassle we have experienced. We (late fifties) both enjoyed the ship very much. There was a wider variation in the ages and the social background of our fellow passengers, compared to the P&O, Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean cruises we've been on - and in our opinion, all the better for that. Nobody did or said anything that offended our sensibilities. We found the children no problem at all and from what we heard they were having a great time. The ship was spotless and generally more restrained in dEcor than we anticipated. The Royal Promenade was much less over-the-top than we expected, and we found it a pleasant place to spend time. Wouldn't want a room that overlooked it though - with lights on, you could see into the rooms, so curtains would need to be closed most of the time. The evening meals in the main dining-room were perhaps not terribly exciting, but were of a very good standard. The lunch meals never looked interesting enough for us to bother. We didn't find it any more difficult to get a seat in the buffet (Windjammer) restaurant than other buffets on other ships - with a very wide selection of food. We enjoyed the shows and particularly the ice show - but then we're not terribly critical about such things when we're cruising. Staff were universally friendly, polite and attentive, without any servility (thank goodness) Rooms (we had a balcony) were, we think, larger than on any other ship we've been on. Designed for families, there was a six-foot wide double bed, and a three-seater sofa, which presumably made another double. The sitting area was larger than we remember elsewhere. Bathroom with shower perfectly adequate as was storage space. All in all, a very good product. A few cautionary notes: Some of the staff said that the week before, there had been another 1,000 children on board, and that it had been somewhat crowded. Perhaps for older passengers, school holidays should be avoided! There was surprisingly no indoor swimming-pool, or one with a retractable cover. The "Solarium" was a small outdoor adults-only pool, and the weather and the water were too cold for my wife to even try a swim - one of the major pleasures for her on a cruise. The company policy of reserving front rows at shows for Concierge guests was unwelcome - to us the "all in this together" aspect of cruising is one of its appeals. We don't travel on Cunard because of what we see as their "class" system and this has the same feel - a real pity. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We spent the night before in Southampton at the Holiday Inn, very convenient and excellent service. Arrival at the port at 10:45 was confusing as the guards on the gate did not really make their instructions clear, but we managed and it ... Read More
We spent the night before in Southampton at the Holiday Inn, very convenient and excellent service. Arrival at the port at 10:45 was confusing as the guards on the gate did not really make their instructions clear, but we managed and it was actually very simple. Baggage drop off was quick and easy, the porters friendly and helpful. We used the ABP car park but were dissapointed that there was no disabled parking despite being asked if we needed any - again no real problem - just made arrival slower and physically more tiring. The queues through customs and security were long but quick to clear. Check in immeidtae - we had a junior suite and are diamond C&A members. The usual delay to have our security photograph taken was a pain and took far too long. Why can't RCI get this better organised. The cabin was excellent, deck ten and very convenient. The ship is wonderful and the different amenities also fabulous. The shows were very good and the overall experience was wonderful. We ate in my time and managed to get the same wait staff each evening we were there. They were al Romanian which gave me a chance to practice my few words of their language. We won an auction - for the Steve Redgrave charity - to let us be on the bridge at sailaway from Cobh and what an experience. Captain Teo and his team were all welcoming and made this a once in a lifetime experience. Cobh / Queenstown was a pleasant place to spend time but we only ventured briefly ashore. The weather was appalling, but this was not why we stayed on the ship - the ship has so much to offer. We met so many new friends and enjoyed every moment onboard. Leavignt he ship took 11 minutes from leaving our cabin - not bad. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
This was for me and my wife plus our girls (aged 9 & 14). Thanks to the comments and tips on this site, including the forums, we learnt a lot, and virtually avoided all newbie cruiser traps!! As the title says planning is everything. ... Read More
This was for me and my wife plus our girls (aged 9 & 14). Thanks to the comments and tips on this site, including the forums, we learnt a lot, and virtually avoided all newbie cruiser traps!! As the title says planning is everything. We arrived at the dock around 11.30 (would have been earlier but the M27 was a car park!). Very easy unload of baggage, and then car parking virtually next to the ship made this a breeze. The actual check in desk was well organised, and quick, and we were on-board just after 12. We all stood in awe of the scale and glitz on the ship!! First stop was My Time Dining on Deck 5. We had tried to book this on the RCCI website, but were on a waiting list. However, in less than 5 minutes we had cancelled our 18:00 table and opted in to My Time, and then booked our table for Saturday night. My Time was excellent - we booked for 19:00 each night and were promptly seated. We did see queues when we left at 20:30 each night, so early booking was definitely beneficial!! Our waitresses (Katarina and Ana) were excellent each night, and great with the girls. Food was amazing every night. We order a bottle of wine a couple of times ($22 +) and the waitresses would cork it over night so you didn't have to drink the whole bottle in one go!! This worked out better value than an individual glass (around ($6 +). Entertainment was a bit mixed. We queued at around 8:45 for the ice show tickets; the queue was long as described, but moved quickly and I had 4 tickets in my hand by 9:05. We went to the early session of the ice skating and got on the rink for 9.00. A comfortable hour of skating followed with perhaps 20 others on at the same time. Rock climbing - again we arrived early at 9:45 and were kitted up and climbing by 10:10. Mini-golf was easy to get on with minimal queuing. The evening entertainment was OK, but not really suited for our 9 year old. A young disco would have been good but we didn't find one (no doubt someone will tell me were it was!!). Crazy horse were quite poor - the act was too long, should have kept the comedian on longer. Food - amazing always - Windjammer excellent, although finding tables could be a challenge!! Were seated in Chops once, but left as too far from food!! Johnny Rockets - excellent - well worth cover charge. Our waitress from My Time was there again (Katarina) and organised some good impromptu dancing to include our daughter with the waiters and waitresses!! Amazing portions as well, especially the chips and onion rings on tap!! Didn't realise until day 2 or 3 that the pizza etc. at Sorrento's and the snacks at Cafe Promenade were included as well!!! Girls had the soda packages - good value; even better when we realised you didn't have to use the 'flasks' provided, and could get drinks in glasses as well. We used this to get some drinks for us adults as well!! Beer was OK priced - Becks $5.50; Miller Genuine Draft (330 ml can) $4.50 etc. H2O was amazing, and weather kind to enable visits on 3 of the 4 days. Organised our own tour of Ireland via Butlers Coaches (www.ecoach.ie). Took us the Blarney for 2 hours (Castle and/or Woollen Mill - our choice), coach tour of Cork, and then 2 hours in Kinsale, plus some good commentary from the driver, and all this for 20 Euros each - much better than RCCI's excursion prices!! Room, sorry cabin, sorry stateroom was good. Had a balcony, great for leaving Cork and waving off. Size was comfortable. It has two American style sockets (two flat pins) and one European (round pin). We took only European adaptor, but coped. We could have bought a US adaptor on-board for $6 if it was a real issue. Dismemberment was a breeze. Had an 8:05 slot but went to Windjammer first and left the ship around 8:30; was in our car by 8:40, shocked at the speed of ship to car - bit different to a plane!! An amazing cruise overall, we are still full of it over a week later. Keep looking to book a longer trip for 2010 or 2011 but the prices are scary!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We booked this holiday at the beginning of 2008, a suite at the rear of the ship on deck 9. That's where we wanted to be. Unfortunately when we arrived at our suite, we realised what a huge mistake we had made. The view from our ... Read More
We booked this holiday at the beginning of 2008, a suite at the rear of the ship on deck 9. That's where we wanted to be. Unfortunately when we arrived at our suite, we realised what a huge mistake we had made. The view from our balcony was diminished by this incredible amount of steel designed around the rear of the ship. It was probably the largest balcony we had ever been on, but unfortunately it was also overlooked by deck 10, so we had no privacy and very little sunshine. Considering we spend allot of time on our balcony when cruising, this was a major disappointment. We did speak to the concierge about changing room but this was not possible. We went for dinner that night, we were in the Romeo and Juliet restaurant on deck three, we were astounded to find there was no silver service, and the food served plated reminded me of school dinners. I ordered a rare steak, it came cremated. I ordered the same meal for three nights and not once did they get it right. I complained every night, I didn't eat the food and on the third night when speaking to the resturante manager, I was comparing the food to P&O's. I said how incredible P&O's food was, he said to me "that's because you have to pay more money with P&O." I have cruised with P&O 6 times, and this cruise was the most expensive I had ever been on. We tried one more night in this restaurant giving it another chance and the food was worse than the previous nights. So we all agreed that it wasn't good enough. It seemed the only time we experienced quality, was when we got off of the ship, because this restaurant had none. The first full day of cruising, we took our 3 year old daughter to the children's club 'Aquanaughts'. We stood in a narrow corridor for 10 minutes in a queue. When we got to the entrance there was a rope across the doorway and a 6ft 3" male greeting my child. My daughter was petrified and immediately started to cry. I asked the gentleman on the door whether there were any young females around, the only other person there was another rather tall male. When we tried to leave my daughter with them, she wouldn't stop crying. When we asked if we could go into the club with her to see if we could calm her down, they would not allow any adults in. I said "how do you expect me to leave my child in a state of fear with you?" He sarcastically replied "You don't have to." I tried to explain to him one of the main reasons we cruise is because the other cruise lines we have been on offered incredible child services. Which P&O do. His reply was "this is not P&O." I spoke to the manager to make my complaint, in her defence; she told me all of her staff were qualified. I asked the question "why would you employ such large males to look after such small children?" All she could say is that her staff was qualified. Needless to say our 3 year old child didn't go in the children's club at any period of the holiday. So that left me and my wife no longer had the holiday we thought we had booked. So you can imagine after 4 days now, we didn't go back into the restaurant, our child wasn't in the kids club, we couldn't use our balcony and our 13 and 14 year old children, that were hoping for a structured teenagers club found to their disbelief that there was no structured activities to take part in as a group. So everything I had experienced with P&O I thought I was going to get and allot more by sailing on the Independence of the Seas, and so far my holiday is now in turmoil. We had waited so long for this cruise, we had virtually complained to everyone that would listen to us, when I then realised that it was all a waste of time. One thing about the ship that we all liked was the Wave rider but having to queue for half an hour for a 1 minute go wasn't much fun. The live entertainment reminded me of a holiday camp I worked in as a very young man. The high street in the centre of the ship, had windows above the shops, sometimes it looked like it could have been the red light district and I thought the space could have been better utilised. I think there is a lot more to say about the ship that we are not happy about, but I think that I will be here too long. I never checked any reviews of the ship which I should have done. When I first seen the ship it looked incredible. I was expecting from my holiday to have fantastic food, good company, good entertainment, outstanding service and children's club with great facilities to give some freedom and quality time with my wife. We only got one of these..... We have only cruised with P&O; we thought that maybe this ship may offer everything we had before and maybe more. I was totally wrong. I think this might be a little bit like the BT sinario, other companies pretending to offer better quality services and better rates, and for most people that didn't happen and now you find BT welcoming their old customers back and so will P&O. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Cabin Our cabin was smallish, but perfectly formed, and with a bit of creativity we managed to store away the entire complement of luggage we brought (which amounted to 7 pieces!) and fit four people into it reasonably comfortably. ... Read More
Cabin Our cabin was smallish, but perfectly formed, and with a bit of creativity we managed to store away the entire complement of luggage we brought (which amounted to 7 pieces!) and fit four people into it reasonably comfortably. This was helped by the fact that our cases were of the holdall type, which allowed us to compress them, stack them inside each other, and slot them under the sofa. We did take extra hangers which came in useful, although I am sure that our very helpful cabin steward would have provided extras had we asked. Dining Options We ate most meals in the main dining room, and chose to do the My Time Dining option (which we booked once onboard) This worked well for us, as it allowed us to decide each day on a dining time and fit our day around that. It meant we were able to see most, if not all of the shows, at a time of our choosing. It also meant that if we wanted to take our time on a Port day we had that flexibility. To take advantage of this option we had to pre pay our tips, which we did happily, and also tipped extra on top, as we received excellent service from all the service personnel. The quality of the food in the dining room was good, and the choice varied and we were very satisfied with all aspects of our dining room experience. We did try to book in at Chops, but could not secure a suitable reservation so we paid extra from the MDR menu and had the Filet Mignon from the Chops menu. To be honest this was not worth the extra, it was a steak but nothing to get over excited about, maybe we had been seduced by the hype surrounding Chops or maybe there is nothing so historic you can do with steak! We also ate in Windjammer on occasion, and although the food was good, and very varied, we had issues with finding a table, and I personally disliked the plastic plates, glasses and mugs. I understand the issues with taking proper plates, glasses etc out onto the deck, but as drinks on deck were sold in ordinary glasses it seemed strange to use melamine tableware in Windjammer. This gave it the ambience of a school canteen for me, although I think I may be in the minority here, as others seemed very happy with it. We paid extra for the Murder Mystery Dinner, and although it was a pleasant experience, the quality of the acting, and the overall dining experience (quite cheap plonk was served) did not, in my opinion, warrant the $50 per head charge. The menu was probably not representative of Portofino's per se, but rather a mass catering experience, not that it was bad, just that it was not out of the ordinary Drinks We had no issue with the drinks prices, they were similar to the prices charged in good hotels/city centre bars, and were good measures. Worth noting may be that a half of lager is only 50 cents less than a pint, so from a value for money aspect it is worth ordering the larger measure, and maybe ask for two glasses, if you are not happy drinking pints (thinking of the ladies here!). We also bought the 12 bottle wine package (only available on boarding day apparently) this was value for money as opposed to buying an individual bottle every night at dinner. When buying this though, do be aware the person selling may try to steer you toward the top of the range package,(platinum) rather than giving you the option of the lower priced Gold one, which we found perfectly acceptable, so do ask to see the range before committing yourself, as there is quite a price difference. For those who do not drink alcohol the soda package is also good value, unlimited soft drinks for kids was $64, which as they are $2.50 each works out as a good buy in my opinion. Although it was fountain coke, rather than the real deal. Entertainment We enjoyed the entertainment, the shows were very professional and slick, and were obviously expensive productions. The ice shows were excellent, and five minutes on the skating rink makes you realize how good these skaters are, it is not easy, and they make it look very easy indeed. Queues for ice show tickets were long, but quickly cleared and they are really worth seeing, so don't be put off by the queue. The individual performers were also mainly good, and seats for the shows plentiful. The hypnotist is very entertaining, although some people felt his adult only show was a bit too near the knuckle, and some parents actually allowed their kids to remain in the theatre to watch, which, given the content, I found amazing. We enjoyed the tribute acts, and if you didn't want to go to see a full show, most of the other venues had some form of entertainment on. All in all everyone was well catered for entertainment wise. The parades were odd to me, a bit Disney, but serving no real purpose, and people were almost on each other's head so tightly packed onto the Promenade were they. We watched from the vantage point of a Promenade cabin, and were glad we were not down there in the crush. Lots of afternoon quizzes, both sporting and trivia, and Jackpot Jen was very vocal with her bingo sessions, we never attended one of these but plenty of people seemed to enjoy them. Try to get to the Quest "show, it was very funny, and the best of the game show type entertainment. The cruise director Graham Seymour was very good at his job, and really made the events go with a swing. Ports of Call We enjoyed most of the ports of call, although in places like Rome and Florence we felt that time was too limited as the Port was quite a distance away from the centres. As we have visited both before it was not too much of an issue for us, but we heard many other passengers saying it was not worth the travelling time each way for the time actually spent at the sites of interest. Gibraltar is not somewhere we would rush back too (although our youngest son loved the monkeys) and I feel the tax free haven card is overplayed, we didn't find the prices significantly lower than anywhere else. I feel another port of call could be found to replace this one as many other passengers expressed a similar negative opinion about it. Also, the ship only gave info about its own shuttle buses, not the fact that at most ports the hop on hop off bus was nearby and a better option. Perhaps this was understandable but nevertheless it felt less than honest. We found that at most ports it was considerably cheaper to DIY. Take Rome as an example, there was a trip from the ship on a private train for 59 euro, they took passengers to the station which was 10 mins walk from the port gate, saw them onto the train and waved goodbye. We did the same trip on a normal train for 9 euro, as a family of 4 that was a huge saving. Similarly, in Livorno we had arranged car hire via Salacar, a 5 seater Ford Focus for 80 euro inc GPS (which we needed!) they were great, the car was waiting at the side of the ship at the appointed time, and the man who dropped it off was so helpful. We paid by credit card dockside and were off to Lucca (we have done Florence before). We had a great day, at a fraction of the cost of the shuttle bus, taxi or organized trip. When we returned we left the car right by the ship and got back onboard, no hassle, no fuss, Well worth doing, and I would recommend Salacar to anyone. Shopping The shops onboard were pricey, and had quite a lot of high end clothes, which could have been useful if you had forgotten to pack for formal night, or were in the market for a $300 handbag. The stalls which were set up every evening were the other extreme, market stall tat in the main, or perhaps more kindly gifts for those you want to get "something" for but do not want to spend too much! ! Photos. Lots of different photo ops, different backdrops, including dinner table shots on formal night, good photos and a nice memento of the cruise but quite expensive at $19.95 per print. Good system of viewing photos though, input your sea pass and up pop all the photos associated with your party, it removes the tedious trail around the photo boards looking for your shots. We bought the cruise DVD (specific to your cruise) for $29.99, not sure if it is good value, but it is a good souvenir. Pools, Outdoor Space etc. The pools were amazing; we are not pool people so we didn't really use them too much. They were however, as was to be expected, crowded. Sun bed hogging was a problem, as people put down the towels, and went for lunch or a sleep, or to any of the other activities seemingly oblivious to the rest of the ship who may have wanted a sun bed. I never saw anyone remove a towel despite the time limit supposedly being 30 mins. The Solarium was popular and a nice place to read, if you could find a spot. The addition of cushions to the swing seats would be an improvement though, the wooden seat was quite hard and not conducive to relaxation. Dress Codes We observed the suggested dress code every night, as did most people. Some however did their own thing and as far as we could tell were not turned away from the dining room. Formal night was a mix, Tuxedos to suits, to shirt and tie, our kids wore formal but some kids did not, but to their credit they realized that more were conforming than were not conforming. Blazer, school pants and tie, is sufficient for pre teens if you don't want to go to the expense of a suit, but remember the school shoes,.... trainers look so odd with formalwear, but we saw them!! The ladies wore a variety of formal wear, short, cocktail length, full length, formal trousers and tops, but take less shoes, one pair of black heels is enough, trust me!! As is one pair of black pants......no one knows they are the same pair. In fact, my one piece of advice would be pack less, save time and space and stress. General Observations The other passengers onboard were predominantly British and most of them were great. As with anything a small minority can spoil it for the majority though. Why do some people seem to leave their manners at home when on holiday? Most of us I assume generally wait for those getting out of a lift to do so before getting in ourselves, not here. As soon as the lift stopped passengers surged forward to get in, paying no attention to those who wanted to get out.....we saw this happen to disabled passengers too, it sometimes appeared to be every man for himself. We did see some bad behavior from teenagers too, stemming from the fact that some people clearly abdicate parental responsibility when on holiday, and let them run wild. The majority of teens/kids were well behaved and well catered for though, and caused no problems, considering there were 1300 children onboard. Although the ship was full, there were always places you could go to find a quiet spot, the library, the numerous bars, and the card room. The ship is very impressive, the promenade is stunning, and the shops well stocked if a tad pricey. The wait staff, cabin staff and bar tenders were excellent, and most of the guest relation staff were also very professional, however, I have to say that in my opinion the female guest relations staff were better, less brusque, and more polite than their male counterparts. The Guest Relations Manager was excellent, and a credit to RCI, but hand on heart I could not say this was true of her male subordinates. Our Issues The reason we had quite a lot of interaction with the Guest relations staff was that on day eight our eldest son was diagnosed with Chicken Pox,(we had thought they were mosquito bites!) and had to be quarantined. This was, as you can imagine quite a blow to the whole family, but I must stress that we understood and fully complied with their request to observe a quarantine period, and in fact we were thanked for our complete co operation at the end. Apparently many people simply ignore the instruction and try to get around the isolation and carry on as normal. Guest relations arranged for him to be moved to another cabin, but as the ship was full, he was placed in an interior cabin, overlooking the Promenade, which meant he had no fresh air for 5 days and was looking at others enjoying their holidays whilst he was stuck within four walls. It was at this point that I first experienced indifference, bordering on rudeness from the male guest relations staff. I understand the fiscal need to fill cabins, and the ship was full, but I expected RCI to have a few balcony cabins kept in reserve to cover this type of eventuality, (we would have happily paid for our son to have a balcony cabin to ensure he had access to sunlight and fresh air). Two guests died during the cruise, and one party left for personal reasons, hence a cabin became available. No cabins are kept in reserve for the quarantine of contagious guests. I would have assumed that RCI would have covered this base, especially in the light of the Swine Flu issue. Apparently not, and my polite questioning about this lead to stony faces and gritted teeth! When I put my complaint into writing to the Guest relations Manager, she handled it very differently, and agreed that it was an issue which needed to be addressed by RCI and promised to forward my letter on to the appropriate department at their head office. She also arranged for my son to have some perks during his confinement, (free movies, coke, and Internet access) which alleviated the boredom a little. Another issue which arose was the length of quarantine, we believe he was kept in quarantine for too long, as the chicken pox had reached the stage where he was no longer contagious (according to the internet, and our GP whom I telephoned from the ship) yet the medical centre refused to see him and insisted he remain confined for the remainder of our holiday. I understand the need to protect other passengers, but they also needed to understand that we wanted to salvage as many days as possible of our long awaited holiday. It was only when I asked point blank if they were prepared to stand behind the fact that he was still contagious legally, that the doctor agreed to visit and take a look at his spots. When she did so, she agreed he was no longer contagious, as the spots had been at the same point for 2 days we feel that had she done as requested and visited earlier, our son could have had another two days of freedom. For this medical service, we received a bill of $210, which considering it was of benefit to the ship that we report such an illness we felt this charge should have been waived, although to be fair, it is repayable by our insurance. From this experience I take the following, the fact that RCI have not really thought through the needs or ramifications of an illness onboard which requires quarantine, the fact that the needs of the individual passenger are (perhaps understandably) secondary to the needs of others, and the failure to realize that although we as passengers want to play fair. and help the ships medical crew to contain any such outbreak, we also want to be assured that our interests are kept forefront too, and quarantine time kept to a minimum. We did not feel our needs were really given much weight in this instance, and really had to fight to be heard, which is not what you want when you have paid a considerable sum of money for an annual holiday. Would we be as quick to visit the medical facility again?.......probably not, which is not the desired outcome for any of us. The next issue which arose was the inclusions on our folio of all the items which we had been assured were free by Guest Services. This necessitated me standing in line at 6am on departure day whilst yet another less than polite male guest relations officer removed the charges individually. When I complained that this should not have been necessary he was dismissive, and stated he did not have the information to hand that the charges should not have been levied. How could that be correct when it was guest services who agreed the perks at the outset? All in all this was a stressful experience, made worse by the seeming suspicion (again only from the males we had dealings with) that we wanted something for nothing, which could not have been further from the truth. Ironically, as we approached the ship when docked in Cannes, and before our quarantine issues, we were approached by a young woman, who asked were we worried by the illness onboard, she was a reporter for a French radio station, and had got wind,(erroneously) that Swine Flu was onboard and wanted a comment. Naively, I stated that although we had not heard of any outbreak, I felt sure that RCI would contain and control the disease, and put into action their pandemic contingency plan. How wrong could I be!!! So, it seems very ironic to me that I had been an ambassador for RCI on the very issue that we were later to realize they had not got covered, as no contingency plan for the quarantine of infected guests exists.....c'est la vie! Despite all of the above we (those of us not in quarantine!) managed to have a good holiday onboard IOS. We cannot praise the ship and her amenities enough, nor could the service staff (with the exceptions noted above) do enough for us, and those are the memories we will take with us. A special mention must go to our waiters Cherino and Karla who were wonderful, and to our favorite bartender Rendell in Olive or Twist, who was excellent at his job and very entertaining, and to Matt from Manchester, Amy , and Augusto of the entertainment crew, who were also really good at their jobs. Despite the problems we encountered (most of which were beyond anyone's control, but which we feel could have been handled more sensitively by some) we wouldn't hesitate to sail onboard IOS again, and indeed hope to do so. I hope readers will feel that despite our problems this is a fair and accurate review, and that the pros are not colored by the cons we experienced. I have attempted to make this a balanced and true account of our experience and hope it will be received as such. I do welcome your comments and perspective on the situation we found ourselves in. Outcome of Complaint I received a very well written and sympathetic response from RCI customer services regarding the issues outlined above. I felt that they had listened and taken onboard my comments. They responded to every individual point raised, and gave me satisfactory answers and details of the actions they have taken to resolve some of the issues. The point about balcony cabins being kept in reserve for quarantine situations (in the light of the pandemic) is under review by their Head Office. The issues with Guest relations staff have also been addressed. They also made a financial gestures which we considered fair, (OBC for a future cruise for our son). I feel happy with the outcome and am satisfied with the weight given to our complaint. As I had given chapter and verse on the problem, I felt it only fair to include the detail of the resolution. Sorry for boring anyone, and thank you for reading this far!!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
My wife and myself are fairly experienced cruisers, mainly Celebrity (when we are on our own) and RC (when we are with grand children). This time we were a family group of 6, including 5 year and 7 year old grand daughters. We booked ... Read More
My wife and myself are fairly experienced cruisers, mainly Celebrity (when we are on our own) and RC (when we are with grand children). This time we were a family group of 6, including 5 year and 7 year old grand daughters. We booked the cruise many months back, but as this was our first time aboard IOS, leading up to our departure date, we read the many CC reviews and became a little concerned regarding some negative vibes. However we should not have worried, the total experience was first class and way beyond expectations. Yes, there were minor niggles, such as, the price of bottled water on board, headliners at some shows only average in our opinion, noisy younger pasengers in the corridors at 2 a.m., BUT the ship, the quality of service, the excellence of the Kid's Clubs and so much more, more than compensated. If you are due to join IOS in the near future just go "a little prepared". Plan meal times especially in the Windjammer to avoid "peak" times, as it can be difficult to find a free table, at other times, not a real problem, despite the ship operating at full capacity. Choose alternative venues for some meal times. Take some small bottles of water on board, refill on board and use the fridge overnight, this way you should be ok for shore excursions. With children make sure to use the clubs for at least some of the time. Dip in and out as best for your family. Be selective as to how you use the on board entertainment, there is so much to do, shop around to find what suits you! Make sure you see the Ice Shows, truly amazing, get in the queue for tickets early, say 30 minutes before they are available, do not miss out. Embarkation, get to the port early, perhaps by 12 noon, you should avoid longer delays that way. Disembarkation appeared very easy, if travlling independently carry off your own cases and leave when you wish. IOS is huge and has more than 4,000 passengers at full capacity. If you want a smaller ship, with lower numbers on board, maybe you should not travel on IOS. However, our experience was that you do not often really notice the numbers of people, passengers are spread out over a massive area. Yes there can be crowds, but again simple, sensible planning, can overcome this issue. So our comment is "give it a go". Go with a positive attitude and enjoy an amazing vessel. Well done IOS and RC, thanks for a great holiday. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Wow what a fantastic start to our cruise, luggage dealt with very easily and was - onboard in no time at all. Got to our stateroom and was disappointed that room was not as described (two queensize beds) but one queensize and a pull out ... Read More
Wow what a fantastic start to our cruise, luggage dealt with very easily and was - onboard in no time at all. Got to our stateroom and was disappointed that room was not as described (two queensize beds) but one queensize and a pull out sofa but was comfortable enough. The children were thoroughly entertained on the ship and the activities are fantastic. We have a child who is autistic and we had no worries at all because he was in very good hands in the children's club - big thanks to Trevor! The only thing felt was wrong is that there was not a toiletry pack in the bathroom. There was handsoap and shampoo in a dispenser but had to ask for shower cap which attendant was happy to get. However on a ship of this rating really expected these extras to be in the room. The only other small niggle we had was with the photographer who lost some of our photos - they weren't too good at helping us but I suppose it saved us some money! Apart from that everything was really good - would definitely go again and would recommend it to anyone of any age because it seemed there was something for everyone. Happy cruising Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
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