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499 Royal Caribbean Southampton Cruise Reviews

This was 'The Navigator of the Seas' first 14 night cruise into the Mediterranean entitled 'Mediterranean Treasures' May 5 to May 19. Embarkation processing was efficient and smooth at Southampton. Our luggage was ... Read More
This was 'The Navigator of the Seas' first 14 night cruise into the Mediterranean entitled 'Mediterranean Treasures' May 5 to May 19. Embarkation processing was efficient and smooth at Southampton. Our luggage was being delivered to our cabin at the same time as we negotiated this vast ship to find our cabin! An excellent start. We did some unpacking and then decided to visit the Windjammer Restaurant for 'embarkation snacks'. An absolutely superb choice of hot/cold food for a first meal. In no way could the choice be called snacks. We then went on to meet our cabin steward who was excellent in every way. He had a great sense of humor, politeness and a genuine interest in us. This quality of service was maintained throughout the whole cruise. The first hiccup occurred at dinner in the main restaurants on the first night. We had asked for 2nd sitting at 8.30. There was a problem and we didn't get into the restaurant until 9.00 pm and the service after that was slow and very poor. We advise asking for 1st sitting at 6.00 pm. The efficiency of the service improved after the first night. The quality of the food in the evening restaurants was only just adequate. All meals are served 'plated up' and in a 'designer' presentation ie a little squiggle of gravy or sauce in a artistic fashion. Virtually no vegetables as the British would like. A lot of people abandoned the main restaurants and went for the Windjammer Buffet Restaurant on Deck 5. A huge choice of excellent food where you could mix and match, choose whatever you desired and go back for more. Overall, this is an amazing ship. Kept beautifully clean and hygienic. Pros: Very smooth cruising. You forget you are in the middle of an ocean. Nice cabins (recommend you pay the extra for a balcony). Superb choice of food in the Windjammer restaurant for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and even dinner. Brilliant ice show extravaganza. Not to be missed. Very helpful crew. Cons: Ship too crowded (3,200 passengers) for the space available. The American tipping culture. DON'T pay for tips in advance. DON'T allow your onboard account to be automatically debited for tips. Request a form from the Customer Services Desk to signify that you may tip as you please. The pathetic alcohol policy. You find a nice bottle of local wine in Barcelona or elsewhere that you would like to enjoy on your balcony. On getting back on board all baggage is X-rayed ( Good for safety and feeling of security). However, if your bottle of wine or spirits is spotted then it is confiscated until the last day of the cruise. There is an alarming group of heavyweights waiting to take and store your alcohol. All designed to make you spend more on board. Overall a good cruise experience but P & O do better for the British. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
Navigator 3 night cruise Southampton to Cork review We travelled down to Southampton on 1 June, the day before. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, about 10 minutes drive from the docks. We arrived at the dock at about 10.30 and were ... Read More
Navigator 3 night cruise Southampton to Cork review We travelled down to Southampton on 1 June, the day before. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, about 10 minutes drive from the docks. We arrived at the dock at about 10.30 and were guided to the car parking area. We dropped of our luggage (no tipping needed in Southampton) and walked to the terminal (less than 5 minutes walk). At that time it was, to say the least, still very quiet. There were no queues whatsoever, plenty of check in desks open. We had done the online check in so it all went very swiftly. We were told to go to the waiting area with a group 1 boarding ticket and that boarding would start at about 11.30. My sister and her husband and my parents had a bit more difficulty checking in. As this was a cruise within the EU, they didn't have a passport, just an ID card. The ladies at check in didn't quite know how to sort it out, but eventually managed. Cake, cookies and refreshments were provided in the waiting area. Boarding didn't start until 11.45, priority passengers got to on first, then it was our turn, group 1! We were onboard by midday! Cabins weren't available until 1pm, but we managed to drop of our hand luggage in the cabin straight away. Straight away we noticed something different about this cruise: where were all the Americans??? The only accents we heard were British ones, and we could tell by the drinks that were being ordered it was a distinctly British crowd. It felt a bit weird, not what we're used to. We had booked an inside cabin. This was our first 'real' inside cabin. We had a promenade cabin on one of our previous cruises. The cabin was tiny compared to the promenade cabin and balcony cabins! To get into bed, you had to sit at the end of it and just crawl up as there was no space to walk round the sides due to the desk and sofa being to close to it. Our cabin steward was Marlon, he was great! Provided us with bath robes and was really friendly (even checked with my husband if the birthday decorations were to our satisfaction). One thing was missing though from our room: the big blue binder with all the phone numbers, room service details, … We heard from other cruisers they didn't have one either. Still no idea why it wasn't there. The other disappointing thing was that there was no camera on the bow of the ship that was shown on the cabin tv. Inside passengers had no way of finding out what the weather was like outside (there was a cam on the promenade though). The new bedding is great, soooo soft. We slept wonderfully all 3 nights. The ship is very good condition. Throughout the cruise, small areas were cornered off for maintenance and a spot of painting. The covers on the loungers in the solarium had seen better days, but that's the only thing that wasn't in pristine condition. Due to UK licensing laws, the general store was closed throughout the cruise, which was a shame. We had dinner in the main dining room every night. The food was delicious, especially the fillet mignon and duck. They always asked if we wanted more of anything and were very fast in provided seconds. Service again was excellent and our head waiter was the best one we've ever had. One night, chilled strawberry bisque was one of the appetizers. I loved it so much I wanted it as a desert too, so our waiter quickly went to check if it hadn't been chucked out yet. Luckily it hadn't and he came back with 2 extra portions. 2 things however were seriously disappointing. The wine list! We don't know what happened, but it was just 1 piece of paper with a very very limited list, not what we're used to. We asked at reception why it was so limited and were told it was because when they're in Europe they can't always get hold of the same suppliers (or something along those lines) hence the limited list. Personally I find this hard to believe. The other thing that as different was that there was no salad course, it was just listed under appetizers. I'm sure we could have asked for it, but it was odd that it wasn't standard as usual. Entertainment seemed more limited than on longer cruises. We caught one of the production shows and really enjoyed it (it's the ballroom dancing one). We also went to see the ice show and as usual it was amazing! There were 2 parades, didn't completely watch them, but had fun. Didn't go to the captain's champagne reception, but heard it was very quiet compared to other cruises. We were still in port, so I guess a lot of people were still on shore. Arriving in Cobh. I think disembarkation started about 15 minutes late, not that it mattered too much for us as we were just planning a leisurely day in Cobh. The Cobh Maritime Music Festival happened to be on that weekend. There was a pipe band competition going on, which could be seen from the ship (great sailing into the harbor and being welcomed by pipe bands!). The weather was sunny and warm, and the atmosphere in Cobh was delightful and very welcoming. There were even posters in town that said: "Come see the great ocean liner". We just did a walking tour, vaguely based on the Titanic Heritage Trail. We walked all the way to the old cemetery (with the graves of the Lusitania victims) which is a lot further than they make you believe it is, but well worth the walk. Formal night: no shortage of champagne on the promenade. Even though this was a short cruise, it was nice to see that people had still made an effort to dress up properly. There was no midnight buffet on this cruise. This was my family’s first cruise and it would have been nice if they could have seen the grandeur of it all. We had 1 sea day. The weather in the morning was gorgeous and we just spent it being lazy on deck. There were a couple of chair hogs by the solarium pool, neatly folded towels with a book. I felt like removing them, but gave the benefit of the doubt. More than 2 hours later, the towels and books were still there. It wasn’t busy in the solarium, but I did feel that the crew should have discouraged people from chair hogging. Breakfast that day in the Windjammer was very busy as the dining room wasn’t serving breakfast that day. The dining room did have a brunch from 10.30 until 2pm. We had lunch at Johnny Rockets on the sea day. We did have to wait about 20 minutes for a table. I guess with it being a short cruise, a lot of people wanted to try it out. Disembarkation in Southampton was very efficient. We were allowed to stay in our cabins until 8am. According to our time sheet we were supposed to go off the ship at 8.30. Our color was actually called out at about 8am, but we stayed on a bit longer and left just after 9am. It’s nice that you don’t have to go through immigration, so it all went very smoothly. We all had a fantastic time, my sister and her husband were afraid it might not be their cup of tea, but wanted to give it go. They are now looking into doing a cruise to Norway, they were surprised they liked it a lot better than they expected. My parents too had a great time, but I’m not sure if they’ll venture on a cruise on their own. They don’t speak/understand English that well so it isn’t that easy for them. We loved being onboard again, but were disappointed that some of the usual things were missing (the wine list, salad course, midnight buffet, blue information folder in the cabin, …) and felt that because it was a short cruise they limited some of the services. Can’t wait to book another cruise (well, we have 2 booked as it is)! Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
14 nights of non-stop partying really sums up what this is ship is all about. We arrived late about 4pm since traffic in Southampton is pretty bad on a July Saturday. Embarkation was busy but smooth and simple. We were on board by 5pm and ... Read More
14 nights of non-stop partying really sums up what this is ship is all about. We arrived late about 4pm since traffic in Southampton is pretty bad on a July Saturday. Embarkation was busy but smooth and simple. We were on board by 5pm and had dinner at 6pm - main. Fortunately we were seated with another family of similar ages and also from England which was good, we all seemed to get along pretty well. Couldn't help but notice that many guests sported lots of tattoos and seemed a little out of place... Food is not the strong point of this ship. Service was great both in the dining rooms and on deck so no complaints there - except perhaps room service in the cabins which seemed to vary from 30 - 50 minutes. Again room service meals were bland and breakfast variable in terms of what was delivered. Main dining room food was bland hotel style food, usually edible but sometimes barely edible at all. Soups were almost always horrible. main courses just about adequate. Desserts bland and cheap. All this poor/average food was served with a smile in a pleasant dining room which helped somewhat. Wine was ok and cost around $35-$45 a bottle at the lower end and was reasonably good for the most part. Only 3 formal nights in 14 days, many diners v.casually dressed. For more casual dining, there was a massive complex at the rear of the navigator on deck 11 which went under the dual names of Jade and Windjammer. lots of choice but way way to many people for comfort. Mealtimes here are a little like feeding time at the Zoo with thousands of people all walking around in a frenzy trying to find a tasty morsel or two to eat and then a drink to go with it - a truly unpleasant atmosphere to eat in. Food quality here was variable, an good roast brisket but a poor salad. Lots of choice of bland style food but no decent Asian cuisine at all and V.poor sushi. We tried the a la carte restaurants which are actually just adjacent to the Windjammer/Jade complex. Chops grill was a steak house which owing to its smaller size felt a little more intimate charge for the $20/head included food but not drinks. Again steak was just ok many in the US would say its not nearly as good as most steakhouses. Again setting and service were way better than the food. Similar comments apply to the Portofino restaurant, great service albeit to keen to pour the wine and get rid of the bottle, nice setting but the food... Whoa! not in the least bit italian as far as we were concerned. Diner next to me was complaining bitterly about his poor food and didn't like the service either. Staff are v.friendly and try but they simply do not understand anything about the food they are serving or the wine. Jonny Rockets was a rather nasty restaurant that smelled of old food and garbage - fries way to oily. atmosphere a bit lacking. Burgers fatty, juicy, greasy and horrible. Served by people who clearly didn't really understand the food and had little interest in it - cost us $30 for 4 Decks were best usually crowded and it can be hard to find a space on days at sea, bit like sardines in a can. And always music in the main areas. No on deck bar service after 9pm anywhere which was disappointing if you like to watch the sunset with a drink in your hand. Our cabin had a balcony and was good, clean and quiet. Cabin Steward was excellent, bed v.comfortable and we certainly slept well. No alcohol in the minibar. Library usually full of noisy kids. Gym - lots of running machines were badly in need of maintenance, aircon not adequate. excursions - they get you back on the boat for dinner and drinks so no time to enjoy a leisurely dinner at ports of call - usually only a few hours at each port so little time to do much. For us this ship is was about entertainment, people and most of all seemed to be a booze cruise - if we asked for a beer or cocktail at any time in almost any place that was fine - but just try and ask a waiter to get you a decent cappuccino or a latte and no chance at all. The public areas have v. attractive decor and are inviting. The entertainers could be good, a pub with a good folk singer was enjoyable, the shows were fun and there was live music in most bars which were all usually fairly busy if not crowded. So we boozed and talked and enjoyed ourselves and met lots of plumbers and builders and so forth - we had a great vacation on a beautiful ship. However, I think we would prefer better food, less people and a slightly more laid back atmosphere with less emphasis on heavy drinking and yes perhaps a bit more upmarket. Oh, nearly forgot to say that all the drinks and a couple of meals at chops and portofino cost us about $500/week per person Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Jewel of the Seas left Southhampton October 30th and arrived in Fort Lauderdale November 11th. We visited three ports of call, Le Havre, France; La Coruna, Spain; and Funchal, Madeira, with sea days interspersed followed by a six day ... Read More
Jewel of the Seas left Southhampton October 30th and arrived in Fort Lauderdale November 11th. We visited three ports of call, Le Havre, France; La Coruna, Spain; and Funchal, Madeira, with sea days interspersed followed by a six day Atlantic crossing. This was the second such crossing for us, we had traveled to Europe in April aboard HAL's Westerdam from Ft. Lauderdale to Rome. We are experienced cruisers having traveled on seven cruise lines and 11 different ships in the last five years. Embarkation/debarkation: Among the smoothest we have experienced. No long lines. Pleasant staff; warm greetings and send offs. Ports of Call: Future cruisers may want to note that free WI-FI access was available in the welcome center at the cruise ship dock in Le Havre (you had to have your own laptop) and that Funchal has a free municipal internet center at Rua de Ferrieros. It is open M-F 12:00 - 19:00; Sat. 10:00-17:00; closed Sundays and holidays. A hop-on and hop-off double-decker tour bus operated in Funchal with a stop a quick walk from the cruise ship dock. Cost was 10E to ride until evening and then the ticket could be used on the yellow city buses - far more time than we needed for the one-day visit. Ship/room: The Jewel had been in dry dock prior to our departure. We were surprised then to have a series of plumbing problems, sink stopped up, shower didn't drain and on two evenings water flooded the bathroom floor. All were quickly attended to and corrected. Guests from at least two other cabins had similar flooding problems. The ship and our room were kept immaculately clean. Staff was attentive to detail. On two more stormy days, seasick bag dispensers were quickly hung at each landing and placed in common area bathrooms. Our room provided plenty of space for storing suitcases (we had two 22' inch suitcases and a carryon of similar size) under the beds. Speaking of beds, they were short. Designed to come to a point in the center when the two twins are pushed together, the closer you get to the side of the bed, the shorter the bed becomes. Dining: The quality of the food in the Tides Dining Room and the Buffet, may have improved since the professional critic (see professional review) first ate in them, but we found it to fall short of RCL's competitors. A blandness, sameness and lack of creativity was noted by several fellow guests. Perhaps expectations were too high, but to have frozen potatoes in the potato salad at lunch not once, but twice, had us wondering when they had been cooked and when the salad had been made; green peas in scrambled eggs marked Mexican scrambled eggs, left us chuckling. Unfortunately, it appeared that more creative talent went into the design of the laminated menus than the food preparation itself. Portofino's was well worth the additional $20 per person surcharge, so much so we dined there twice. The food was excellent and it easily took two-hours to savor the many courses presented to us. Seaview Cafe was a welcome change from the ship's buffet. Great snack bar grilled sandwiches and salads. Coffee bar: Unlike HAL and Princess Cruise lines, we were told on the first day that we were unable to purchase a punch card to reduce the per cup cost and/or earn a free drink. The fifth day of the cruise, and after the purchase of several lattes (Seattle's Best coffee) we were given a 'buy six and get the next one free' card. Alcohol: RCL's policy on alcohol is that you are not allowed to bring any alcohol on to the ship for consumption. Anything brought aboard will be confiscated and held until the night before disembarkation. This was a disappointment as it has been fun on other lines to purchase a bottle of wine in the country we were visiting to take to dinner and consume while traveling. There were several reasons - none the same, by the way - given by staff for the policy, but it was a definite 'ding' in rating this cruise. The on-board per glass wine prices ranged from $4 a glass for wine from cardboard boxes (put into a wine barrel) in the buffet to $24 per glass Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon. RCL also prohibited the bringing of food on board and confiscated that as well. We were allowed to bring fresh flowers on board. Telephone: Those who have Verizon wireless service are able to make phone calls from international waters at far less money than the $7.95 per minute charge for using the ship's phone. We were quoted $2.49 per minute by Verizon. Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
This was a repositioning cruise with unusual ports of call on RCCL Navigator of the Seas Nov 5, 2007- that's what attracted us. 13 night from Southampton, one sea day to La Caruna Spain, Lisbon, two sea days to Madiera Island, Las ... Read More
This was a repositioning cruise with unusual ports of call on RCCL Navigator of the Seas Nov 5, 2007- that's what attracted us. 13 night from Southampton, one sea day to La Caruna Spain, Lisbon, two sea days to Madiera Island, Las Palmas Canary Islands and 6 sea days transatlantic to Ft Lauderdale. While we enjoy RCCL, it's been about 3 yrs since our last one with them. This cruise was a vivid reminder that RCCL is 'all about the marketing'. They start selling you the minute you board and don't stop till you're in the luggage bay. Even RCCL TV in your stateroom is loaded with their commercials selling you logo items, photos, drink of the day, excursions, ad nauseam. Someone said they are known as Royal Cash Register Cruise Lines...it fits. This cruise needed only three things - An Italian chef to better cook pasta and a red sauce that is less like tomato juice. Their pizza was not good at all-- reminded me of the drive-in movies as a kid (remember that?) Pizza was tasteless, the dough was rigid and the cheese like glue. tasteless. They should trade a chef with Costa Cruises. Hmmm? They also needed better management of the excursions. Shore excursion choices were very limited. They admitted that they had never been to a couple of ports, and it showed. Badly organized, tour guides but came up short, and bus drivers could care less. At the volcano stop on Madiera,4-6 tour buses arrived together - all from our ship. we ran to the museum shop for the bathrooms and found it closed. We waited another forty minutes for 'Jose' to show up and open the doors. Local Vendors were overwhelmed, like the wine tasting shop - in his home. He couldn't fit hundreds of people, so we had to wait on the roadside until each bus finished their wine tasting in turn. Similar situation at the pottery shop. We couldn't all fit in the museum or the gift shop. And so on… Lastly, I would have added one Caribbean port before reaching Fort Lauderdale. A beach day at Labadee or Nassau or Puerto Rico would have been the cherry on top. Entertainers were good - especially comics. Their production shows were lack luster, but the ice skating shows were great. Daily entertainment was sparse - bingo, trivia, napkin folding. No dance lessons at all, and few games. Despite my barbs, this was a great trip. The staff were exceptionally pleasant – servers, stewards, cruise staff, and crew. Perhaps that was because most contracts were ending with this cruise and they were happy to be going home – still it was nice to have happy people on board. Would we do it again? Probably, but I’d check the excursions first. Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
This was our third cruise, second TA, and 3rd cruise line. There were six of us in the party. Overall we had a very nice time. Embarkation was a breeze. No one helped us to the room, but I do pretty well around ships so no problem getting ... Read More
This was our third cruise, second TA, and 3rd cruise line. There were six of us in the party. Overall we had a very nice time. Embarkation was a breeze. No one helped us to the room, but I do pretty well around ships so no problem getting to the room. Room was excellently appointed and bed was very comfortable. Enjoyed having the bed adjacent to the balcony slider. This trip had 3000 passengers. Navigator did a pretty good job absorbing the crowds. Occasionally, the buffets were packed at peak times. The Promenade was very nice with 4 decks of open space and again handled the crowds fairly well. Everyone seemed to enjoy the entertainers in the various lounges. However, I found a couple of them fairly small and when they tried cramming trivia game (or the like) they were just too cramped. The theatre was terrific and the shows as good as you can expect. Navigator has an ice skating rink and a couple shows. Ticket availability for the first one was hard to get and people waited 45 minutes to pick them up...the second show later in the cruise was a little easier...The entertainment staff were personable and made life fun during the at-sea day events. Port calls were nice and relaxing for those of us who go on our own and walk around. Excursions seemed to be well received, although we didn't use them. One area I was disappointed was the food. Buffets were ok, nothing special. I found the main dining room a disappointment. They screwed up our seating for 6 and had to "find" us a table before we sailed, but it was ok even though stuffed out of the way. Food was unspectacular and sometimes bad. Lobstertails turned into big prawns...meat was under or overcook. Maitre'd was personable, but shallow with all the right words and no action to back them up. Our wait staff was adequate, asst waiter was on his second cruise and tried hard. Overall I'd give them a "C" for food. Disembarkation seemed a bit slow and chaotic at the luggage pick up, but nothing to get too upset with...we heard that someone had a heart attack during the process, so I'm sure that didn't help things. Overall, I'd give the cruise a "B-". Navigator is a beautiful ship which does a reasonable job absorbing the many passenger. They cruise after ours had over 3500 and that may have tipped the scales a bit. Since TA's are a lot about dining, this was my hot topic. I must admit to be more the fan of smaller ships. However, with the right itinerary and price, Navigator would be a lovely ship to revisit. Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
This was myself and my BF's third cruise. We are in our late 30's/early 40's and took our first cruise 3 years ago and are now hooked! This was our second time on Royal Caribbean and we have also sailed with Princess. We ... Read More
This was myself and my BF's third cruise. We are in our late 30's/early 40's and took our first cruise 3 years ago and are now hooked! This was our second time on Royal Caribbean and we have also sailed with Princess. We live just outside of London so the journey down to Southampton didn't take us too long. We arrived early so drove straight in to Mayflower Park where we caught our first glimpse of the ship - WOW! It is huge and looks fantastic - we were so excited to get on! We parked at the port at 11:30 - we had pre booked a parking space. Embarkation could not have been better - we dropped our luggage off with the porters, parked and were on the ship by about 11:45. I went and checked our table assignment in the main dining room and as per our request had been given a table for 2. We went up to the Windjammer for some lunch and relaxed until our room was ready at 13:00. Stateroom - We had a cabin with a balcony on deck 9. It was great! Balcony was roomy. Bed was wonderful. The mattress topper and bedding made it so comfortable. Having the tea and coffee making facilities was a big plus! I had read about this just before we left so we took a jar of our favorite coffee with us so we could have a cup whenever we wanted. The bathroom was fine, shower really good, the fact that it had the wrap around doors rather than a shower curtain is so much better. Just a note, there is no body lotion or conditioner in the bathroom - I always take my own but thought I would let others know just incase! They do provide shampoo and bars of soap though. It was also nice to have a flat screen tv - it took up less room. Our stateroom attendant was OK and if we needed anything he would get it for us. Dining - the food in the Windjammer was fine. I always really enjoy the breakfasts and there was a good selection. We ate lunch in the Windjammer most days and Dinner a couple of times. Having the Jade section there was really good as I had some lovely rice and curry dishes from there! As always in the buffet, peak times are really heaving and it is quite difficult to get a seat - we always located somewhere to sit first so that our food wasn't cold by the time we got to a table! We ate in Johnny Rockets once - we really enjoyed it - burgers,fries and onion rings were all good. It was a fun atmosphere and they play music and dance for you! We were in the Macbeth level of the dining room on deck four. Our Waiters were fine. The food in the dining room although good, and I certainly have no complaints, was not quite as good as our first time with RCI - although there were a couple of main courses that we thought were exceptional. We did not book the speciality restaurants on this cruise. We had room service a couple of times - used the TV to order and the service and food were both good. Entertainment - The shows that we went to were mostly very good and the theatre itself is lovely - we particularly enjoyed the Motown Band and David Copperfield (not the illusionist!) The Ice Skating shows were fantastic - much better than I had imagined they would be. Also, the parades down the Royal Promenade were a lot of fun. There were so many bars and lounges to choose from that we did not manage to get to all of them! The Pyramid Lounge was really nice and the live band that they had there most nights were very good. They played a varied selection of music and had a different theme each night - 50's and 60's, Blues, Country, 70's etc. They also had a Big Band night one night. We went in to the Labyrinth nightclub and I loved the decor! It was really gothic with big crushed velvet chairs, dark booths with curtains, gargoyles etc. The music was quite a good selection as well although I never saw it really busy in there. I think that this may be have been because the average age on this cruise was a little higher than the last two that I have been on? In various other bars around the ship they had Jazz, Latin American music - the Bar with the Pianist seemed particularly popular and there was also an entertainer in the dog and badger pub who was great fun! There really is something to suit everyones taste. The Ship itself is beautiful. I know that it helps that it is brand new, but really, we thought the way that it has been designed and furnished is just lovely. For us it was the perfect blend of being fun with lots to do without being tacky. i loved the Royal Promenade. The fact that you can just go and get a coffee and a slice of pizza or pastry or a drink in the pub and look round the shops is brilliant. They had free coffee/hot chocolate and tea in both the Cafe and Sorrentos as well as the for fee lattes etc. The Casino had a good selection of slots and I did go in there a few times - I tried to limit myself to the low 1c bets though! The pool areas are great and I thought it was good that there is a whole separate area where kids can have fun. The solarium pool was nice and looked great lit up at night. It is a shame that we could not make more use of the pool deck at night but unfortunately it was a bit cold! I loved the cantilevered whirlpools. We played mini golf - great fun and also shot a few hoops in the basket ball court. My BF wanted to have a go on the flowrider, but we just never got a chance - it did look good though. Itinerary - we liked Madeira - it was very pretty. We didn't care much for either Tenerife or Gran Canaria - as we had never been to either of these places we just opted to get off the ship and walk around - if I ever did go back I think I would opt for a shore excursion. In Lanzarote we went on a camel ride and then a drive through the Timanfaya national park - we really enjoyed this! I just wish that we could have got off the coach a bit more and actually had a walk through the park as it was stunning! We had been to Lisbon and Vigo before and like both of these ports. The weather wasn't that great, but that was the only downside. Disembarking was just as easy as embarking. All in all we both loved this ship! I remember the first time that my BF said that he had booked us a cruise - I was really worried and thought it would be a big mistake and that I would hate it -how wrong I was - I am addicted, and am now busy trying to persuade him to book the short break to Cork for later in the year! If any one has any questions that I can help with please let me know. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
My husband daughter (16years) and myself went on the 10 days RCC trip out of Southampton on the cruise to Madeira/Canaries/Spain then back to Southampton. The ship is huge (having already been on 2 other RCC ships) I found this ship ... Read More
My husband daughter (16years) and myself went on the 10 days RCC trip out of Southampton on the cruise to Madeira/Canaries/Spain then back to Southampton. The ship is huge (having already been on 2 other RCC ships) I found this ship exactly the same as the Voyager of the Seas but on a larger scale. The service was good the food was good. However our waiter was not as attentive as the previous ships we have been on, we had to keep waiting for him and waiting for our wine/drinks and it wasn't as if he had lots to do as some of the tables were empty, he was particularly upset when one night none of us turned up, he seemed to sulk the next evening! The Windjammer was always packed, and quite often in the morning you had to walk round quite a few times to get a table, or if there was a waiter nearby he directed you to a table with people on it, to share, not a problem to us but could be to some people. Our daughter went to the teenager club, she loved it, met loads of kids the same sort of age, they all tend to stick together all week doing their own thing. We went to the ice shows (there were 2) they were fantastic,superb, but the shows in the theatre were ok... the RCC dancers and singers are so cheesy....don't sit near the front as it really spoils the illusion. I felt all of their shows were the same, just different songs but same tunes. Some of the acts were really good, but not all. If you get to the theatre too late then you have to sit upstairs and you cannot see anything in fact we were late once and in the end we left the theatre as the seats upstairs are awful and if you are sitting in front of the poles then forget it. The ports that we stopped at were not really very good, Madeira/Funchal was ok and the weather was quite nice, but when we stopped on the Sunday at Las Palmas (i think not sure) all of the shops were closed, why on earth did we bother to stop there was some kind of market on, but it was full of rubbish think car boot sale/jumble shop not somewhere you really want to go. The port of Vigo in Spain is a town, and yet again more shops to be honest the ports were not that well thought out, but we all said we knew why they were chosen, so that they could take this huge ship. It was great travelling from Southampton (but even the service of unloading your bags from your car to the get them on the ship was a nightmare as machine had broken....) but you are able to get on the ship from 11am (even if they do tell you 2pm onwards)and you need to get there early as all of the parking spaces were filled up really quickly. If you live locally go in a cab and you are dropped off at the front and just drop your bags in, so much easier. I don't think we would go on a ship this big again (lots of movement when we left Southampton - well I thought so... and was boring being on a ship for over 2 days in the awful weather as you could not go outside due to the wind, no way could you sunbathe far too cold even in May)but I do like RCC and would def book another one of their cruises... Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
My wife and I, plus 2 grown up children and their partners approached this trip with real excitement, lot least as we had waited over a year to go on one of the "worlds largest ships"! So we were not surprised when we first set ... Read More
My wife and I, plus 2 grown up children and their partners approached this trip with real excitement, lot least as we had waited over a year to go on one of the "worlds largest ships"! So we were not surprised when we first set eyes upon her, she is enormous. Joy and I have cruised on many occasions, so had an idea what to expect, my daughter and partner were on their third cruise and my son and wife on their second. First of all, embarkation was very well handled; from parking the car to getting handed a glass of champagne on the ship was less than half an hour, which is very good indeed. Our luggage was with us 1.5 hours later that is a record, so well done RCCI that is as good as it gets in our eyes. This was only a mini cruise, but we sure packed a lot in; Day One, explored the ship, easy as we had been on a Voyager class ship previously, and found the layout and most of the interior to be almost the same (that was surprise number one), but being new it did have that extra dimension with a few little changes. We were dining on main sitting in the dining room as a family of 6, but having checked our "sea passes" found we were not together (surprise number two), but on two different floors and two different tables, so we joined the queue to see the restaurant manager who changed this to a table for six very quickly(blaming H.O. in Miami)so we could sit together. Upon arrival at our new table that evening (cards delivered to stateroom, with table number) we found that it was a table for four! Now that is just not good enough RCCI (I know you read these reviews), we expected better organization than this, particularly as we had taken the trouble to changed it on boarding the ship ourselves, the food was fine, not great, but good all the same. The first nights show (Centre Stage) was very impressive, and of the very highest quality, the musicians were just incredible, top quality playing and we can say without any hesitation that they were the best we have ever come across in 36 other cruises. The quality of the singers and dancers were also of such high quality, we were asking ourselves if we were on Broadway, or the West End of London - it was that good! We tried several bars and found the drinks to be well priced (unless you are from the USA, where $13 - $14 for two standard drinks may well turn you into a non drinker), but service was slow at times - this is a busy ship! Entertainment was good all around the ship. Day Two morning at sea, afternoon in Cobh; got to see the ship in all its glory, tried the rock climbing (me and grown up children - not my wife), it is very high and great fun. The flow rider (surfing machine) is just incredible, so much fun to watch, and I guess even more fun to try. Lots to do for families on this ship, and lots of places to spend money if you wish, just like any other holiday resort; and this is a resort! Arrived in Cobh at 1430; Cobh is a lovely little town with lots of history (Titanic etc) and of course Guinness (it really does taste better in Ireland)! The people are friendly, but after an hour or so we found that there was not much to do in Cobh except drink Guinness. Back on board we had dinner (just two of us), which was fine, except we had to then explain to the waiter, assistant waiter and assistant head waiter (all at different times), that the rest of our party were ashore in Cobh enjoying the town (we were staying over night), and it was not the service that kept them away. Did not see the show on day two, it was an Irish singer (just singing is not to our liking), so we found several places around the ship to entertain ourselves (there are lots). There is non-stop entertainment if you want it, and as this is a family ship so lots to do for families of all ages. Day Three went to Cork, had lunch and enjoyed it very much (there are better reviewers than me to review this great city). Back on board got ready for formal night, and had a wonderful time, the show again was just fantastic, but the queues for formal photographs were long and there were people everywhere in Main Street, far to many to say it was relaxing, but you can find quite places if you look. Day Four at sea, just relaxed and enjoyed the facilities of this great big ship, and got to know and enjoy the sheer size and quantity of the facilities. Now we of course knew it was large, and of course we knew it was a family ship, so no surprises there, but it was just so busy at times we just were overwhelmed! The lifts (elevators) were always busy, and many a time had to wait for another one to arrive, and the main street was at times so full, you could just about walk down it, but this is a family ship, and families like to keep busy we kept telling ourselves, so maybe this type of ship is not for us. Did we enjoy ourselves? Yes we did! Would we go on this size ship again? No we would not! It just lacked a little bit of class, and we kept saying to ourselves "it is a family ship", my daughter (mid twenties), also said she preferred Celebrity, again it was just down to that little lack of class, and the feeling of being rushed all the time. There were some negatives and some positives, and I know its down to personal taste, it's just not to ours. So well done RCCI it's a great ship, not for us, we will enjoy some of your other great ships, and there are many. David and Joy May 2008. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
Background. This was our debut cruise as Crown and Anchor Platinum members and we travelled with my mother, a sprightly 91 and our daughter. We made our own arrangements getting to /from Dublin to Southampton, which included a two hour ... Read More
Background. This was our debut cruise as Crown and Anchor Platinum members and we travelled with my mother, a sprightly 91 and our daughter. We made our own arrangements getting to /from Dublin to Southampton, which included a two hour delay on the flight out and a long wait at Southampton Airport on the way home. Still, it was better than going through Heathrow with the road transfer to follow. Embarkation. The taxi dropped us at City Cruise terminal at 1p.m. As we were travelling with a wheelchair, we bypassed even the Express check in for Platinum/Diamond members and were directed to a special desk for checking in passengers with wheelchairs. Unfortunately, neither of the parties in front of us had checked in online, so we had to wait about 20 minutes to be processed. We were onboard by 1.30p.m. Credit to RCI for the efficient operation at Southampton. Other ports take note, especially Miami. Staterooms. We had a junior suite on deck nine, 9558. It was forward on the port side, close to the elevators. My mother and daughter had an inside on deck six, 6531, also near the elevators, so it was easy to commute between the two. The JS was excellent, with lots of space including a great walk in wardrobe. Our balcony was large with a recliner as well as the usual table and chairs. The inside was fine, bit tight on space with the wheelchair, but the ladies had absolutely no complaints. Both room stewards were very efficient and low key. One of them recognized us from the Jewel of the Seas, which was nice. The bedding was SO comfortable, it was difficult to get up some mornings. Restaurants. We were main dining on deck 4, Macbeth, table 413. Up to now we had always taken late seating, so it took a day or two to acclimate to the earlier times. The table was right by the window with great views. We were fortunate enough to visit the Indy in April as part of the launch process, and quite incredibly, the table we sat at that night was the same one we had for the cruise. Our waiter was Sandu from Romania, assisted by Larry from the Philippines. As usual, we had great banter with them both, and every evening Larry would give us a number puzzle to solve by dinner time next day. I am still not sure if the standard of food on Indy is as good as other RCI cruises. There has certainly been a shift in emphasis on a number of fronts, namely the size of the portions (smaller) and menu choice. There was quite a bit of repetition, and the 'reserve ' items such as steak and chicken now appear as first choices every single night. As our waiter said one night, in a few years time we'll be given a pill with 'Chicken' or 'Steak' on it. We spread breakfast between free seating in the dining room and Windjammer. Credit where its due, Windjammer wins hand down and I have never said that before. The range available was much better there, with the dining room offering a smaller menu than usual. Because it was a mainly British cruise, the dining room was very busy, more so than I have seen on any other cruise. They even had a 'self service' section set up to speed things up. We went to Chops Grille on one night and it was superb. Well worth the extra $25 cover. Tried Johnny Rockets late one night as well. It was pretty good. Entertainment. Ken Rush was the CD. It was his last trip before a vacation, relief on other ships and then Oasis of the Seas. Its not hard to see why he gets to bring out all the new ships. He is a real pro, who was everywhere on the ship. The two Ice Shows were probably the pick of the shows. Strings was about the history of a violin through the centuries and Freeze Frame was a musical journey from the 1940's through to 1980. Spectacular is the word for both shows. The Alhambra Theatre was busy every night, with full houses for most of the shows. First night clashed with the Champions League final and it was probably the worst attended night, with a very good comedian, Jeff Stevenson. Next up was Elton John impressionist, Jonathan Kane, who was really good. The first production show was Under the Big Top, which we saw on the preview visit. I thought it awful then, but a little adjustment here and there worked wonders and it was a vastly improved show.. Saturday night was the now infamous Love and Marriage Show. Have to say it didn't work this time around. Ken had to prompt the contestants too much and it lacked the spark of other shows. Day 5 saw a good comedian impressionist called Gary T Thompson, who includes singing over videos of the likes of Tom Jones, Freddie Mercury and Frank Sinatra. he overan on time and we could hear him having a little spat with the Cruise Director while still on stage. Next night was another new production called Centre Stage which was basically a musical review featuring just about every musician and dancer on the ship. It was o.k.but that type of show leaves me cold anyway. We were now on the home run so a little bit of comedy was very welcome in the form of Liverpudlian John Martin, who was great and will be featuring on a lot more cruises. If there is one thing you can be sure of on a cruise, its the American Drifters, and sure enough there they were on day 8. I have nothing against these guys, but its the fourth cruise I have seen them on, and thats more than enough. Day 9 was another new production called Once Upon A Time, which as you can guess had a fairytale theme. Again, pretty good with lavish sets and costumes. The last night was a Farewell Show with a very good magic act called Philip Hitchcock and a balancing act called Fulcrum who literally defied gravity. Ken Rush brought on all the entertainment staff and a sample of all the various departments on the ship for a richly deserved accolade. It was an emotional night for Ken, you could see he was sorry to be going, and he is being replaced by Graham Seymour. Apart from the main shows, there were some very good musicians on board. Chris McCann in the Dog and Badger springs to mind, but the pick of the bunch for me were 'Rock the Boat', a band from Toronto who played some great rock and pop all over the ship. They are on till November, so check them out. The bass player is a real showman. All in all, the entertainment on the Indy was excellent. Ports of Call. Probably not the most exciting aspect of the trip, but some interesting stops, none the less. After almost 3 days at sea, it was nice to see dry land in the shape of Madeira. We did the 'Taste of Madeira' tour. It's a very hilly island with spectacular views and some lovely gardens and vineyards. It was 'Navy Day' when we were there, lots of old sailing ships and Navy warships. Big crowds on the quayside for arrival and departure. Next day was Santa Cruz, in Tenerife. We hired a car and drove over to Santa Cruz and around the northern part of the island for a few hours. We decided we'd better send a few postcards from Gran Canaria and spent 2 hours searching for the Post Office. Other than that, stayed close to the ship. In Lanzarote, we took a taxi to Puerto del Carmen for a walkabout. Early departure here so not much time. When we got to Vigo, the weather had changed for the worse, with some heavy rain. Did a quick run around the nearby Shopping Centre and that was it. Independence has now moved on to the probably more interesting ports around France and Italy General Points I'm going to be negative here on a few issues, some important some probably not, but here goes. As I said, we brought a wheelchair with us for my mother. During our April visit, I enquired from Guest Relations whether ships wheelchairs would be available for our then forthcoming cruise. The answer I got was an emphatic ' NO', bring your own was the advice we got. This we did only to find no shortage of wheelchairs on the Indy. I will be taking this up with Royal Caribbean, because we had to go to some expense and bother to bring our own when it was not really necessary. Small point, but annoying all the same. The next gripe is the manners of a small percentage of our fellow cruisers. It appears that out of 3700 passengers, 2700 were first time cruisers.. While making allowances for the newness of the experience to most of these people, some of them were downright rude and inconsiderate to their fellow passengers. Examples of this are jumping the line at the elevators to get on in front of a wheelchair, and then not making room when the elevator did arrive. In Windjammer, I saw one passenger shouting at a server to get her some item that was not even available at that food station, and verbally abusing him when he suggested she went to the right station. It was often difficult to get tables at peak time, and its amazing how many people want tables for 2 beside the window and were very reluctant to share a table. Small examples, I know, but in all our cruises, I have not experienced so many incidents of bad behavior. Hopefully , it was a once off, and again, it was a VERY small percentage of passengers causing problems. The majority were perfectly behaved. Debarkation, Incredibly smooth. From color call to taxi in less than 10 minutes. It doesn't get much better than that. Again, other ports take note from Southampton's initiative.. Only thing, it meant we were off and running too early, and had to wait 5 hours at the airport. Overall. We all really enjoyed the cruise, but in hindsight we probably prefer slightly smaller ships such as the Jewel.. It was the first cruise we really experienced congestion, both in Windjammer, on the Royal Promenade, and at times in the theatre. And the ship was NOT full. RCI have done a great job as always, but I think in future, will probably go a bit smaller Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
We were on the July 26th sailing from Southampton - a family of 2 adults and 2 teenagers (boys 15 & 14)travelling from North Wales. We had one previous cruise under our belts (Princess Emerald, July 07) We stayed the previous night ... Read More
We were on the July 26th sailing from Southampton - a family of 2 adults and 2 teenagers (boys 15 & 14)travelling from North Wales. We had one previous cruise under our belts (Princess Emerald, July 07) We stayed the previous night at a hotel in Winchester -(Norton Park) - highly recommended. Book in advance for good rates. We were so glad we had made the trip down the previous day, as traffic was horrendous (even from Winchester to Southampton) on the Saturday morning. I heard that others only living 2 hours away from Southampton took over 4 hours to get to the port. EMBARKATION This was an absolute breeze - park your car, enter the port building, show your cruise documents (prior completion required online) and you are on! It was 20 minutes maximum. ACCOMMODATION We were pleasantly surprised at the size of the staterooms (deck 2 - 2308 & 2310) The beds were not in the correct configuration - but that was soon remedied by the cabin attendant. He was efficient and unobtrusive. SHIP The ship is beautiful, and although VERY big, it's strategic layout of restaurants etc, made navigation around pretty easy. One problem encountered (due to the sheer volume of passengers) was slow elevator service. It was very often quicker to walk up/down a few flights of stairs (not all together bad)! than wait for an available elevator. The Promenade is wonderful..such a fantastic concept on a ship. Something for everyone in every shop......although the airbrushed tattoo service offered was not in keeping (or necessary) IMHO?? There were a few occasions where jewelry and bags etc were on special offer along the promenade. Some seemed good value. DINING ROOM (My Time Dining - Deck 5 - King Lear) We were the first sailing on IOS, which offered 'My Time Dining' - a concept that we had experienced on Princess last year, so we knew what to expect. You had to prepay gratuities in order to be offered this option. You could specify a time at which to dine, or turn up without reservation. We did the latter, but we were slightly pressurized into trying to establish the same dining time for the whole 2 weeks - slightly missing the point I fear. Being able to do 'My time' meant we could eat when we wanted, as we prefer to vary the time according to ports etc. We did not fail to secure a table at any time, and we were graciously accommodated nightly. The wait staff were very friendly and always aimed to please. FOOD This is a very subjective matter, and we have only one other cruise to compare it to, but RCI dining room food did not come up to par. It was inferior to Princess, in both presentation and quality. The steaks were very 'grizzly.' Our two teenage boys also made comments about the inferior food quality (without prompting)Having said this, all the food was edible, some of it better on some nights. Hit and miss would best describe the food. Disappointing in all. The Windjammer food on the other hand, was always very tasty especially the curries at Jade, the Asian section of the buffet. However, at peak times it became very busy, and finding a table was a bit tricky. You would always need to find a table first before filling your plates. We ate at Chops one night - $25 surcharge. The food here was far superior, service was second to none. ENTERTAINMENT We aren't usually into shows etc, but we made an effort to attend the nightly shows, and we were pleasantly surprised. The production shows were very good. The comedians and entertainers were all very professional. Our teenagers particularly enjoyed the comedy! Ten out of ten for entertainment value. SWIMMING POOLS We had previously heard that sun loungers were at a premium, and this was the case. On one day we went round two or three times around the deck, but could find no two loungers together. The adult pool throughout the 2 weeks when we checked had no available chairs, so we never got to experience it. This meant that we had to attend the 2 main pools, which at best were dominated by teenagers congregating and playing ball games and hitting people with flying footballs. A few complaints were made. There were 700 teenagers alone on this trip!!Swimming was an impossibility due to the sheer number of people in the pool at one time. This was rather disappointing. There is a pool for young children, which looked like good fun. CHILDREN'S FACILITIES There are fantastic facilities for children - Flowrider, wall climbing, arcade (all chargeable games - parents beware)!!! Mini golf, table tennis etc. PORTS OF CALL Gibraltar - RCI upper rock walking tour. Highly recommended. Barcelona - took shuttle into Barcelona and took the elevator ride up the tower of the Sagrada Familia. Walked Las Ramblas. Villefranche - took bus to Monaco and train to Nice. Lisbon - Panoramic Lisbon (RCI) very informative trip - highly recommended. Cagliari - took a local 30 min tourist 'train' ride around town. Sunday - shops closed. Vigo - RCI trip to Sant Iago de Compostella - beautiful place. Malaga - did the Hop On Hop Off local bus tour - very good for a brief visit. Takes 1.5 hrs and is good value. CONCLUSION The Independence is a beautiful ship - well organized and can only be commended. However, for me to use this ship again, despite having teenagers of my own (hopefully well behaved and polite)I would not return at peak time of year, when the ship is at full capacity. Despite its size, it did seem overcrowded at some venues as previously mentioned. We enjoyed our trip tremendously, but are considering Princess again on the new Ruby Princess for next July. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
We have cruised on the Freedom fleet once before and loved it so planning a 2nd trip felt like the right thing to do. After a transfer from the airport, we flew through check in and was walking around the vessel by 12 noon. We made it ... Read More
We have cruised on the Freedom fleet once before and loved it so planning a 2nd trip felt like the right thing to do. After a transfer from the airport, we flew through check in and was walking around the vessel by 12 noon. We made it into our room by 1:00 pm and it was nice as expected. We ate in the dining room the first night and was disappointed to find that we did not have a small table which we had requested a full year in advance. We have three teenagers and they put us at a table with two families with children under the age of five. We immediately asked to be reassigned but were told they could not accommodate us. Needless to say, that was the only night we ate in the dining room. Besides the table assignment, the food and the service was average. Instead of the dining room we ate in Windjammer, Johnny Rockets, Portofino and Chopps. They were each wonderful and the specialty dining options, Portofino's and Chopps, were well worth the upcharges ($20-$25 per guest). Important Tip: Do not pay in advance for your gratuities, wait until the end of the trip so you can be sure your tips go exactly to the people who provide you good service. I saw a lady very upset that she paid upfront and did like us, only ate in the Main Dining room once and of course those gratuities are not refundable. Luckily we waited so we were able to generously tip the waiters who actually served us. We had a planned excursion for all but two ports. You get exactly what you pay for. The more expensive excursions were the best. The description given by RC is pretty much what you will get. Also they will happily refund your money within 48 hours before the day of your excursion if you change your mind. Gibraltar by Mini Bus: This was fun and the Barbary Apes were very interesting. The driver gave us the option to go back to the bus or be dropped off in the middle of town to shop a bit, which we decided to do. There was a short walk back to the ship. Cannes/French Riviera: A bit of a disappointment because we spent much time walking and heard very little about the areas we were visiting. Pisa nd Florence on your own: Pisa was great and Florence was nice, but we should have taken a more structured tour since we did not know the language or where to go. The Essence of Rome with lunch: This was a very expensive excursion but well worth it. We had wonderful guides. We happen to see a wedding at St Peters Basilca which was gorgeous and a special treat. Our bus driver was fantastic, he took us right up to the sites and minimized the walking. Sardinia: No excursion, in fact we stayed on the ship. Cadiz, Seville transfer. We visited the Cathedral of Seville and this was incredible. Do not miss this. Lisbon, Portugal Panoramic Lisbon. Great and easy excursion, very beautiful and did not eat up the entire day. My husband and boys went on the bike ride and they said that was good also. Vigo, Spain. I just got off the ship and walked around to the little shops and had a nice relaxed adventure. Entertainment: The Ice Shows were the best. Strings was by far the strongest. The nightly shows in the Alahambra were average to good. I would have liked to have seen more Broadway style shows. We played BINGO a few times which was fun, but the girl in charge was a bit fussy, she even corrected one of her staff members during a game, telling them to be quiet. That made the guests uncomfortable. We went to the casino almost nightly and they were so friendly. The casino offered tournaments for blackjack and slots. The casino was fantastic and everyone there went out of their way to speak to you especially Paulo, one of the hosts who always said hello. Whether you wanted to gamble a lot or just a little, the casino was fun. There were penny slots and $25 slots. There were many table games with a range of minimum bets, but most guest were not serious table players. The casino was a real highlight of our trip, Thanks so much! My teenagers really enjoyed Fuel and the Living Room. I always felt my kids were well supervised and yet they felt much freedom. The arcade was fun for them, but the SuperNova DDR machine was not working up to par. That is the main game my kids like and it was frustrating to play having to pay for each game. One of the arrows did not work. Wash and fold laundry was offered once a week for $20 a bag. This was the small stuff, underclothes, socks, shorts, bathing suits, nightgowns. The dry cleaning service was expensive and a few of my husband shirts returned snagged. Our stateroom attendant was wonderful and kept our room very clean and we were happy to leave him a tip. We had two rooms and we were able to open up the divider between our balconies. This was great to walk back and forth to the rooms without going into the hallway. The last night we had to pack our luggage and place it outside our stateroom. After we exited the ship we walked into a large warehouse where the bags were stored according to color. We had eight bags total and found each one. I hope in the future to pack much lighter. The transfer got us to the airport in plenty of time for our flight at 1:20pm. Our first cruise was on the Freedom to the Caribbean and it was a blast, but this was a different because it was more sightseeing than beach activities although there were water activities offered. Our plan was to get an overview of these ports and we did get that. We will definitely cruise again with RC but will probably go to more tropical destinations. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
We have just returned from a short, 4 night cruise on Independence of the Seas to Cork and back. We have cruised before but this was our first time on RCI and we thought this short trip would be an ideal taster of the RCI experience. My ... Read More
We have just returned from a short, 4 night cruise on Independence of the Seas to Cork and back. We have cruised before but this was our first time on RCI and we thought this short trip would be an ideal taster of the RCI experience. My husband and I were accompanied by my mother who is disabled, though not a wheelchair user. Embarkation This was our first time leaving from Southampton. We drove down and it took about 4 hours from our home in Nottinghamshire including a short stop. There were very bad traffic jams leading into Southampton as there are road works on the approach roads. We cut through the town center rather than following the motorway route and avoided the worst. We had prebooked car parking and it was very straightforward. We arrived just after 11am and followed the signs. A porter came and took our cases from the car and we drove round to the departures entrance where we were able to stop to let my Mum and I out. As we had completed our SeaPasses online and registered our credit card check in was very quick. I had requested assisted boarding but when I mentioned this at the check in desk I was told that we should have asked when we first entered the building. This created some confusion while they decided what to do. We eventually got fed up with waiting and my mum decided she would walk and just take it steady. This was okay because we were early and the terminal was very quiet but it would not have been so good if it had been busy. After having our photos taken for security we entered the ship on deck 4 by 11.45am. First Impressions We have been on big ships, but Independence is massive, towering over the dock when you look up. This ship has clearly been designed to impress and it certainly succeeds. The dEcor when you enter the ship is beautiful, clean, fresh and bright without being garish, with specially commissioned art work adorning the walls. On our other cruises we have been given small cards with basic deck plans and we would have found this useful, but we soon get used to referring to the deck plans and models of the ship placed near all the lifts. Although this is a large ship we actually found it was very easy to navigate, once you realized that you can't make you way from one end of the ship to the other on decks 2 and 3, because of the ice rink, and that there are glass doors on some decks separating the port from starboard sides. This caught us out at first and we know others found it frustrating. There are 2 lift positions, midships and forward, with lifts on both the port and starboard sides. These go to all decks from 1 to 14. Some lifts are fully enclosed and others glass sided with views through the ship. Accessed on deck 5, running almost the length of the ship, is the Royal Promenade. On first sight rising 4 decks this is really spectacular, and it is hard to believe you are actually on a ship. The Promenade is lined with shops, an English pub, pizza restaurant, cafe and a wine bar. The lighting in the promenade changes during the day to create different effects and 'sky bridges' are lowered to provide entertainment platforms. It was from one of these that the captain gave his speech and introduced senior officers on the formal night. Very clever and very impressive. Duty free was not available on our cruise as we did not enter international waters; in fact 17.5% vat was added to shop purchases. Cabins This was our first experience of an inside cabin and we have now decided our last. If we can't have at least an outside we would rather not go. We were on deck 10, the highest passenger deck, and also the deck with the most expensive suites. The cabin was very cramped. When we first arrived the beds were in a twin configuration and we asked for them to be changed to a queen. The steward asked if she could do this later when she turned the bed down for the night. Unfortunately the cabin is not really designed for this bed layout. There was insufficient room to move to the side of the bed without climbing over the bed end. We now know why the beds in outside cabins and balconies are actually rounded at the ends! If the cabin had been just a few inches longer or wider this problem would have been solved. The corridor on our deck was so wide I'm sure this would have been possible. I don't think someone who is physically challenged or on the large side would be able to manage. We had a look in an outside cabin and there was a little more room round the bed but not much. The narrow width of the cabin also caused problems when accessing the wardrobe. Apart from this the cabin fittings were well designed and the dEcor was very tasteful and relaxing. The shower, though small, was excellent. There was adequate storage and hanging space for our short cruise but we don't travel light and I think we would have struggled on a longer cruise. We also struggled to stow our case under the bed, I'm not sure where we would have put it had it been any deeper? We had a look in the Royal Suite, which was just along the corridor from our cabin. It was very, very big and beautifully decorated with a grand piano and massive balcony stretching the length of the hump. My mum was on deck 2 and had an inside cabin for the disabled. This was very big and very well adapted for someone in a wheelchair. The bathroom was designed as a wet room with a seat in the shower area and telephone for emergencies. Food We only used the Windjammer buffet restaurant twice and did not like it on either occasion. The tables are tightly packed in places which results in you being constantly knocked as pax try to walk through. There was a reasonable selection of food available which was well presented but the taste and quality was not as good as we were expecting. We have been on Ocean Village and both of us thought their buffet was better! One thing we noticed was that RCI tried to cater for British tastes - steak and kidney pie, British style bacon. We were on late 8.30 club dining; we requested a table for 8 and were allocated a table in the Romeo and Juliet dining room on deck 3. There were 2 further balcony levels on decks 4 and 5 to this very large dining room. The dEcor is once again beautiful with crystal chandeliers and art work on the walls. We had 2 lovely dinner companions but the 2 further seats remained allocated but unfilled, perhaps they didn't like the look of us! The first night's food got off to a bad start. We were very hungry but it was nearly an hour before our first course arrived. We were very disappointed with this meal. 3 of us had pork and it was too tough to eat. The other 2 had steak and it was very ordinary. When the head waiter introduced himself and asked if we had enjoyed the meal we told him of the problems and he said no one else had complained (not the right response!). We later found out this was not the case. He said he would make sure we enjoyed the remaining meals and he did. The service improved considerably as the cruise went on with the waiters remembering our likes and dislikes. The food was good, but fairly ordinary, not as good as we had on Carnival Destiny last year. I love prawn cocktail (its my age!) but it was very poor, just 3 small rather dry prawns on a few leaves. We were surprised that there was no fish course offered just 3 courses plus standard coffee. We ordered wine evening. A good selection was offered but not all of it was available. I think there were some on offer at about $25 but we normally paid $38 - $45 for a reasonable bottle. There was also a connoisseur selection available closer to $100. We also took breakfast in the Romeo and Juliet dining room as it was easier with my mum than using the buffet. The quality of the breakfast generally was very good with a wide selection available. The exception was the toast which was either soft or like cardboard. I like grapefruit juice but there was only orange or if you were quick enough asking, apple. There was also a small buffet set up if you wanted to help yourself. The service was variable with some items failing to arrive as ordered. We also used this dining room for lunch on our second day and it was relaxing. Once again a small buffet for salads was available with lovely smoked salmon and juicy prawns. We had a very nice lunch. For our other lunches we got either got sandwiches from the Promenade Cafe or pizza from Sorrento's, both on the Royal Promenade. Both were very good and fresh. We did not eat at either Chops or Portofino. Our diner companions tried to book when they first came on board at 2pm on the first day and were unable to get a table. It would probably be best to book online to be sure of a table. It was our table companions' wedding anniversary the last evening and the waiters sang them a special song. Cobh A street market had been arranged by the local council and this together with the ship docking on a Sunday resulted in a very large number of local people coming to Cobh. This combined with a full ship meant Cobh was packed. We visited the local heritage center by the dock, partly to escape the rain and the crush. The displays, mainly about emigration to the new world, were very interesting. We found out when we got back on the ship that we would have got in for half price if we had shown our SeaPass. We stayed overnight in port and on the next day we went on a ship's excursion, a scenic ride to Kinscale. We chose this excursion because it was advertised as suitable for disabled but I was disappointed that no consideration was given to my mum who had to struggle to the back of the coach as she could not keep up with others determined to sit at the front. This made a nice outing but we did not think the scenery was as nice as where we live so would not wish to go back. We did go in a local bar and had Irish Coffee and Murphys beer which went down well. We did not buy very much as we thought the prices were high compared with the UK. Entertainment The shows in the theatre were outstanding, particularly the 2 production shows. We went to the shows every evening, there were 2 performances and for late dining we went twice before dining and twice after. The Cruise Compass newspaper delivered to the cabin each evening advised the best time for each sitting. All the shows were accompanied by an extremely good live band. For the production shows it was necessary to get to the theatre about 10 - 15 minutes before the performance to ensure a reasonable seat. We generally sat in the balcony accessed from deck 4 as we found the view from the lower level not so good. This is a lovely comfortable theatre with a very large stage but the view from some seats is impeded by columns. There was also live music in various bars round the ship mainly in the evening. We also went to the ice show which was brilliant and well worth making the effort to see. Although there is no charge it is necessary to get tickets for the ice show prior to the performance from tables set up near Sorrento's. The time for this was announced in the theatre and also advertised in Cruise Compass, though the start times were different by 30 minutes. My husband got there about 10 minutes before the earlier advertised time and was first in q very long queue. They have 700 tickets available for each performance and they did 4 on our cruise. On the second evening a parade was held along the Royal Promenade at 11pm. This was rather like the sort of parade you expect at Disney. It was entertaining but too busy with over 3,000 people in the same place at the same time. Using the lifts afterwards was interesting! Dress codes There was 1 formal night and the others casual. On the formal night the majority of people dressed up and most men were in tuxedos. We were surprised, we like dressing up but heard before hand that this is patchy on RCI, well not on this cruise, and although men removed ties people did not change to go to the shows. In fact every evening there were women in full length evening or cocktail dresses and they did not seem out of place. We had photos taken on the formal night but they did not take as much care as on our previous cruises. This was not because of the long queues as they were fairly short. Nonetheless my mum still bought 4 photos which came with a nice album for $19.95 each. Photos were only taken once in the dining room. Sports facilities We only used the crazy golf; we had a game everyday and really enjoyed it. The roll of the ship combined with the wind made playing interesting! There is also a large games court and a very high climbing wall. There is no charge for these activities and only once did we find a short queue for the crazy golf. You just picked your sticks, balls and score cards up at the entrance. The flow rider is good to watch with relatively short queues but few managed to surf, most crashed straight into the back wall! We had a brief look in the fitness area and spa but did not use these facilities either. There really was not time on such a short cruise. Debarkation As usual cases were put outside the cabin by midnight, though you could carry off yourself if you wanted to. Times were allocated from 6.15am with everyone off by 9am. The time for our cabin was 6.15 - 6.45 and for my mum's cabin 8.30 - 9! We thought is unwise to desert her so we had breakfast in the dining room and then left the ship at about 8.30. We found our cases easily laid out according to the color of luggage tags delivered to the cabin the previous evening. Collecting the car from the car park was straightforward as the car park was right next to the ship. We were given permission to bring the car close to the terminal to avoid a long walk for mum. We got lost coming out of Southampton as we missed the turning, but apart from that the drive home went well taking under 4 hours including a short stop. Good Bits The production shows with live music. The décor, particularly the glass bridge on deck 5 near Customer Relations Nice seating areas, particularly Olive and Twist on deck 14 and the library on deck 7 Beautiful art - look out for being watched as you leave Romeo and Juliet! Evening dining service waiter Bad Bits Waiting for lifts - we walked when mum was not with us Very cramped inside cabin No toiletries provide in cabin, only shampoo and soap Long queues for dining room breakfast Too many people in one place, particularly Royal Promenade Windjammer buffet - cramped tables, cold plastic plates, soggy burgers Having to pay in Johnny Rockets to get decent burgers etc. Charge for good coffee and ice cream 15% service charge on bar Obligation to tip - constant reminders, we don't mind tipping but like to make our own choice. Some were even having their photo taken presenting their tip envelope, weird! Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
We had an enjoyable cruise, not fantastic but I am not going to harp on about our experience but just mention some things which I think are worthwhile bringing to people's attention.We are British and this was our first experience of ... Read More
We had an enjoyable cruise, not fantastic but I am not going to harp on about our experience but just mention some things which I think are worthwhile bringing to people's attention.We are British and this was our first experience of sailing out of Southampton in the school holidays albeit in the final week. We did not realize this when booking but had sailed in the Caribbean during the US spring break so weren't unduly concerned, how wrong were we ? . So please, if you don't want to sail with hundreds of kids double check the UK school holiday dates. Pool towels- There are 2 pool towel 'stations' on deck, one one each side of the ship in the main pool area. You will need the seapass cards for each person in your party to obtain a maximum of 2 towels per person, your seapass card will be swiped before issue of towels. Signs clearly state $20 will be charged for any missing towels. This was our first experience of a computerized system and on the first day I went to get 4 towels for myself and husband and was given a lecture by the pool attendant that ALL seapass cards had to be shown. I told him ,politely , I wasn't going to walk the length of the ship again to get hubbie's card when he could check on the system how many people were in the cabin !! I did show both cards after that but did witness many problems with lines for the towels due to the numbers of children onboard. Wet/dirty towels could be exchanged at anytime. The pool attendants were not pro-active in removing belongings from 'reserved' lounge chairs though to be perfectly honest we never had a problem finding one so long as you did not want to be frontline by the pool Promenade parades/events- there are 3 'bridges' over the promenade. If you want a first class view of the activities position yourself forward of the middle bridge. I was absolutely amazed to witness this middle bridge come down from the ceiling with the cruise director and his staff on it ready to entertain us, fantastic. We missed the start of the first event on the parade and were too far away to see this happen, apparently the Captain arrived on this descending bridge to do his 'welcome aboard' talk but we also missed that. If I had known beforehand I would have have been there !! We are Diamond plus C & A members and had access to the Diamond lounge looked after by Ricardo and his assistants Richard and Dennis. Excellent service from all. Some people did not realize that the key to access the Diamond lounge was also your 'ticket' to the ice shows , it says it in small writing on the bottom of the key. You no longer need to have a paper ticket, just show your key at the door and it is good for all members in your cabin. Our cabin was an inside on deck 7, aft of the midship elevators. It was very comfortable but was lacking in storage compared to the other RCI ships we have been on, which are many !. With the new flat screens you lose a storage cupboard above, now replaced with a narrow, shallow glass shelf, you do gain some countertop surface though. The safe was now in the wardrobe, losing another shelf. There was still plenty of hanging space for 2 people. We liked the ship and especially the 2 venues on the Royal Promenade for getting snacks and coffee. Never a problem getting a seat except at parade/street party times. If we consider Independence again I will definitely double check the school calendar. There were 400 teenagers, 500 in the middle age group, I don't know how many were in the younger age groups but have never seen so many prams and buggies on a ship !! Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
Our first cruise, a belated 25th Wedding Anniversary present to ourselves. Booked back in June 2007 before the ship was launched, via Reader Offers. Went to see Independence on her christening at Southampton, breath taken away by the sheer ... Read More
Our first cruise, a belated 25th Wedding Anniversary present to ourselves. Booked back in June 2007 before the ship was launched, via Reader Offers. Went to see Independence on her christening at Southampton, breath taken away by the sheer size and presence. Much has been written already about the ship - it IS fantastic so here goes with some 'supporting' info..... BOOKING/GRATUITIES Had been mailed updates via Reader Offers and what came across was the topic of (and pressure) paying advance gratuities to staff on board. One of the last mailings offered a special flexible dining package (we were on a set 8.30pm)whereby you could dine at any time provided that you paid your gratuities in advance.....I called Reader Offers and said about the focus on paying gratuities up front and is was not 'British' to do so, we like to pay upon good service after the event not before, I was met with indifference and that they 'couldn't comment' I moved onto the flexible dining package saying that the offer was only open to pre payers and therefore we felt disadvantaged and discriminated against if we did not pay in advance and could not enjoy flexible dining. They disagreed in an offhand way so in all Reader Offers you weren't much help nor were very customer focused or friendly! Advance gratuities is the subject of much debate - check out the websites, as some cruise lines try it and others don't. Pay the staff the right amount and you wouldn't have to screams in my ears! We paid our gratuities in cash on the last night, apparently if you do pre pay, you are delivered envelopes and vouchers to the value of the suggested amounts which you can give out, those who receive will have that amount in the pay packet at month end. Call me cynical but I bet they don't get the full amount, there's no doubt an admin fee docked off... TRIPS Naturally you are encouraged to take organized trips but as a couple of the ports are distant from the city attractions ie Rome and Florence it's too much travelling especially if you want a relaxing break. They are not cheap. Worse is the implication that there is 'nothing' in Cadiz or Vigo (probably because they are short walk like Gib and don't need a tour bus) which is nonsense, Cadiz is a delight, good shops and beaches, many people said they would holiday there. Our port and shopping girl Victoria just harped on about jewelry that hardly anyone had heard of.... SECURITY It would have been easier to sneak on an AK47 than a bottle of spirits! You are scanned again and again especially when returning from trips. DON'T expect to take booze on board, the bars on ship are obviously a huge revenue stream and nothing will interfere with that (15% gratuity goes on every bar purchase by the way) ENTERTAINMENT/FACILITIES Great if you like that sort of thing, the Elton John tribute was good but the ice skaters fell over 5 times....Warnings flash up about not videoing or using flash photography which is even printed in the daily programme, does anyone take notice? Does anyone enforce it? You guessed it - No. Cruise director Graham's morning 10 minute TV review was hilarious, what some would have made of it from an older generation goodness know! Brilliant. If you did fancy staying on ship when most head off for a trip so that you can enjoy all the facilities don't bank on it! The Flow Rider kicks off with the easy stuff ie body boarding about an hour before departure so most are back by then and so it's a busy as ever likewise the climbing wall...Loads of things to do but looking at the daily list of events not many you'd partake in, cigar club, wine tasting too early in the day, the obligatory Bingo, vitality talks (I felt too tired to go!) etc OTHERS... Oh dear. A certain generation that have lost the ability to smile, say please or thank you or pass the time of day. 'I've paid for it so I'm going to have it all and more' is there obvious reason for being. The public displays of greed and gluttony have to be seen to be believed, no wonder there is a high propensity of walking sticks on board just to cater for failed load bearing hips and knees. Rude, arrogant individuals who are old enough to know better, they will move their sunbeds constantly so they are dead in line with sun, encroaching walkways, blocking you in and shoving themselves into your personal space. Pushing in et al. Yes there were a few children and babies on board, a couple of older kids wanted sorting out particularly as there are no pool attendants to enforce the rules poolside that no one takes notice of. The food is brilliant considering how many the ship caters for, yet people still moan (even in these reviews) I find it astonishing. Go stay in a top Dubai hotel if you must have bespoke, overfussy culinary delights but on ship be realistic. We had a good time, wasn't the holiday of a lifetime as we had expected but perhaps there were too many rude people on board for that. Just do as much research as you can before booking. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
We joined the ship at Southampton and the facilities for parking and embarkation were smooth and really quick. In no time we were on board and settled into our cabin; having sailed with RC before our cabin was almost identical to suites on ... Read More
We joined the ship at Southampton and the facilities for parking and embarkation were smooth and really quick. In no time we were on board and settled into our cabin; having sailed with RC before our cabin was almost identical to suites on other RC ships, only much newer. Overall the vessel was comfortable and the ship was extremely stable even when the sea was a 'little bumpy'. On sea days the upper decks were almost full to capacity, but somehow one was able to secure a spot. The H2O feature was well used by youngsters who seemed to enjoy the experience. We have sailed on several RC vessels, but this was our first on the Independence of the Seas. Compared to the Navigator of the Seas, we found the vessel too large for our liking. Being relatively new it has to be expected that some time is required to ensure that everything can, and will, work well. We are not trying to be negative about the vessel, it is obviously perfect for families with young children, but the facilities seemed to be geared that way. We ate in Chops, Portofino and Johnny Rockets all of which were first class in both food and service. The same cannot be said of the dining room where the service was sometimes 'iffey' and the food presentation was many times poor. Very few dishes included enough vegetables, for our liking and as a result we ate in the Windjammer where the food and service was excellent. Choice was abundant, vegetables were generous and the meat from the joints were very much better than in the dining room. We like to sit at larger tables so that one can meet with other passengers and so that was our request. However as soon as we were on board we were informed that our table had been changed. On seeking the reason why, we were then informed that we were moved as a result of us choosing to sit on a table for four. Apparently this change took place at 11 am, sometime before we actually boarded the ship. We were not alone with table mess-ups and other passengers found themselves on a large table with no other diners. I believe this results from the 'My Time Dining' experiment; I think that RC should either adopt a full freestyle dining program or revert to the normal table and seating allocation. Our cruises on other RC vessels have been excellent and the food in their main dining room has been of the highest order; we were on the Legend of the Seas in May 2008 and the culinary experience was outstanding as has been cruises on the Navigator of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas. The Concierge facilities and Lounge on the Independence of the Seas was, as expected, of a high standard emulating similar facilities on other RC vessels. So that's the dislikes of our chests. The cruise itinerary was good and it was interesting to see just how a large ship copes with passengers leaving and returning to the ship, some lines, but in the main no waiting was experienced. The crew were pleasant and helpful, the bars and lounges were also good and the shows were of a high standard especially the Ice Shows. We would certainly recommend the ship to travellers with young families and it appeared to be a very accommodating ship for disabled passengers, as for us we prefer the smaller Royal Caribbean ships. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
We cruised from Southampton to Ft. Lauderdale on this mega-ship's first Transatlantic crossing. The Independence had been in Europe since being put into service in May '08, and was still as good as new. Our midship balcony ... Read More
We cruised from Southampton to Ft. Lauderdale on this mega-ship's first Transatlantic crossing. The Independence had been in Europe since being put into service in May '08, and was still as good as new. Our midship balcony stateroom on deck 8 was fine, with the practical and pleasant layout and abundance of storage found on most newer ships, kept tidy by a friendly attendant. In general, it's a well laid-out ship, and despite its huge size easy to move around on. It's fun to walk around the multi-story center "mall", which provides a community feeling, no matter how temporary it may be (although the shopping opportunities are not better than on less extravagant vessels), and it's also a nice stage for some of the cruise staff's elaborate evening parades. The ship offers very good sports and workout opportunities; I especially loved the Flow-Rider surfing machine and couldn't get enough of it. (I'm 61 and had never surfed before.) However, the dance floors are much too small, especially in comparison to Princess and Cunard ships with the exception of the temporary dance floor which sometimes covers the ice skating rink; it's of good size but very sticky and, therefore, uncomfortable to dance on. This was a shame because there was a decent band playing ballroom music as well as a good Latin band. Also, far too few dance lessons were being offered by the excellent professional Russian dance couple (3, on a 13 day cruise with 10 days at sea). Dinner service as well as room service were good, food quality average. We attended a Crown & Anchor wine tasting, and I would strongly recommend against it: The four wines presented were of sub-par quality, and the wine steward must have been the worst presenter on board; he dragged out for an hour what could have been explained in a few minutes. My wife and I consoled ourselves by digging into the accompanying cheese platters. The variety shows in the theatre were uneven two excellent ones, others less so. Both ice shows were very good, with highly professional skaters who, to our surprise, also doubled as rink attendants during passenger skating hours as well as support personnel in the ports. The cruise director was possibly the best one we've experienced over the 13 cruises we've taken in the past dozen years; all his people were very personable, and there were plenty of activities for every taste, including the famed Quest, which we, contrary to our preconceptions, enjoyed enormously. There was only one truly weak spot on this ship, at least for us: Customer / purser service did not live up to our expectations and was considerably below what we've experienced on other cruises most recently a Transatlantic crossing on the QM2 and a Transpacific crossing (Alaska to China) on the Sapphire Princess. Calls to their "0" number were often not answered (ring-ring-ring forever), and several times we were given outrightly false information worst in Funchal, Madeira, concerning car rental opportunities: We were advised to purchase RC's bus tickets from the dock into town, where there would be car rental places nearby. This proved to be completely wrong: After taking that bus and losing nearly an hour asking around ("no, there is no Avis or Hertz or you-name-it here"), a rare cab driver who did not try to convince us that he was the only "car rental" in town ferried us from the city center in the opposite direction to the Lido area (which we could have gotten to from the ship's dock in under 5 minutes by cab or maybe 20 minutes walking), where one can find every car rental agency imaginable, all near each other and priced very reasonably. When, upon our return to the ship that evening, I complained about the wrong information that had caused us to lose time and spend extra money, the person at the purser's desk (not the same who had given us the faulty info to begin with) told me they hadn't known, and she would see to it that we were at least reimbursed for the unnecessary bus trip into Funchal's city center. The reimbursement never materialized (and I didn't want to lose more time by again standing in line at the purser's desk to follow up with a complaint). Also, their feigning ignorance with regard to the location of car rentals in Funchal is not very believable, considering that RC and the Independence of the Seas have been regulars in that place. Otherwise, we enjoyed the crossing, including the three first days of cool mist and rain (Southampton to our first port: Vigo, Spain) and, of course, the magnificent weather and mostly calm seas from Madeira to St. Maarten and finally Ft. Lauderdale. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Our first ever cruise.  This was a present from my partner and I to my Mum and Sister.  As it was the first cruise we wanted a WOW factor and the ship delivers this in buckets. Good points:  Boarding at Southampton could not be ... Read More
Our first ever cruise.  This was a present from my partner and I to my Mum and Sister.  As it was the first cruise we wanted a WOW factor and the ship delivers this in buckets. Good points:  Boarding at Southampton could not be easier- out of the car and on the boat in 10 minutes. Interior stateroom well laid out, spotless and not as small as we imagined. Beds incredibly comfortable -attendant (Brenda) was superb. Huge ship, loads to do.  Royal Promenade is superb for strolling and looks stunning. Main Dining Room food choice very good and waiters very flexible in changing things for us.  We ate on My Time Dining, always got the time we wanted and had two waiters over the 2 weeks.  Both were superb.  Had window seats almost every night.  Loved Main Dining Room for lunch on sea days but breakfast was somewhat disorganized. Formal nights were good and most seemed to make an effort or went to the Windjammer instead. Good choice at Windjammer (but see bad points below) Great Pool Deck -  love the ice cream machine Ice shows were superb - outstanding even. Embarkation/disembarkation in ports was smooth with short queues. Did one ship excursion - Pisa and Florence on your own.  Very good, great guide and well organized if somewhat expensive. Theatre is a great venue with good sightlines, sound and lighting (but see below). Weather - from the moment we arrived in Gibraltar to reaching Cadiz 9 days later on the way back we had lovely weather for this time of year.    Bad Points: Windjammer way too busy.  Had to fight for a seat and despite constant announcements to vacate tables after eating many did not and just sat there drinking.  A very stressful place to visit. No labelling of vegetarian dishes in Windjammer. My partner is vegetarian and if you are a strict veggie then you will have problems in the windjammer.  Meat dishes are next to veggie ones and there are no main veggie dishes to speak of except pasta.  We asked why they couldn't put 'V' symbols on the buffet labels and they said it would be too much work across all ships - a poor excuse.  Guest Relations and our Head Waiter both said this had been raised many times before. Drink prices - Way too high.  Apparently they increase them about 25% for Southampton sailings.  Everyone was moaning about the prices and were hardly buying drinks.  E.g. Beer $7.50, House Wine $6.95 a glass or $27.00 a bottle.  Most felt like they were being ripped off as other regular cruisers confirmed prices on other ships where no way near as high. Theatre entertainment very average. Mainly one man shows from unknown acts. The Elton John tribute act was spot on though.  The last night was a 'variety night' and included the CD singing a song and then the worst comedian ever. About half the audience left during his act and the others sat there and cringed.  How the CD thought this was entertainment we have no idea. Also on 2 evenings before sea days they showed a film in the main theatre.  This is just cheap and we expected better. We were told we were only at 2/3rds of capacity.  We would not like to be on the ship when full.  Windjammer would be impossible to eat in and the queues for lifts would be intolerable.  This was quite an aged lot of passengers so everyone wanted the lifts which meant waits of up to 10 minutes on occasion.  Very few kids on board but in high summer I expect it could be bedlam everywhere. If the weather is poor you will struggle to find somewhere to go.  The bars all become full of people reading their books or playing cards even when the weather was good so I would hate to imagine the scrum if you couldn't go out on deck. Bills - apparently the bills have been changed. They used to show a breakdown of the price of the drink, the tax and the tip with a total. Now they just show a total and have a box for an additional gratuity. Many thought they had to fill in this box so the waiter got a tip when in fact the tip had already been included. This felt like a con and we sensed a difference in service if you didn't give an extra tip. Hassle - on a sea day by the pool expect a waiter prompting you for a drink about every 2 minutes - very annoying. Although there are a few gripes above, overall we enjoyed our first cruise immensely.  We are glad we have experienced such a huge ship and all its amenities however we all agreed we want something a little smaller and more personal next time and hopefully one where we didn't feel like we were being ripped off on drink prices.   From chatting to other regular cruisers it appeared they preferred previous smaller ships too and would not be returning to the Independence.  Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
After 4 wonderful days in London, our group embarked in Southampton for an 11 night, Best of Europe Cities cruise with RC.  This was our 2nd cruise with RC.  We were so happy with our 1st experience (11 night Southern Caribbean cruise on ... Read More
After 4 wonderful days in London, our group embarked in Southampton for an 11 night, Best of Europe Cities cruise with RC.  This was our 2nd cruise with RC.  We were so happy with our 1st experience (11 night Southern Caribbean cruise on Empress of the Seas) with RC in December 2007, that we had to do another cruise, and this time my mother and her friend joined us.  I was somewhat disappointed with this cruise and could tell in the 1.5 years since my last cruise that the quality of the food has plummeted.  It was bland, and tasteless.  The same food that is served in the Windjammer, was served in the dining room, was served for room service.  The steak was tough (how hard is it to grill a steak medium well?).  When I asked for the steak to be cooked medium...it came out medium well, and was still tough and dry.  The Windjammer is now offering what appears to be less options.  Also, while in port, at times, there wasn't anywhere to get any food except through room service, and their menu is sparse to say the least, and what you get is not that great. But, the interesting thing was, you could get a drink around the clock.  No food, but I can buy alcohol; such BS!!   It's obvious we were HIGHLY disappointed in the food.  I kept telling my mom and her friend how much different it was on our last cruise (almost apologetically).  In the Dining Room, our waiter and the assistant waiter (Eduardo and Andres) were nice, friendly, and provided excellent service.  However, our head waiter, she came to our table only twice during an 11 day cruise!!  And, the 1st time wasn't until the 3rd night.  On our last cruise we saw our head waiter every single evening we ate in the Dining Room.  Needless to say...we didn't tip her.  In fact, we took what we would have tipped her, and added in to the tip we gave the Waiter and assistant waiter.  I rate the food, during dinner, in the dining room 3.75 stars.  Max!!  The only real vegetarian options (my husband is vegetarian) they had was always Indian food; as if the Indians have cornered the market on Vegetarian Food.  As I mentioned before...the quality of the food, and the selection has plummeted since my last cruise with RC. I didn't see any of the shows, even though I heard the Ice Show was excellent.   I did hear complaints about the pool being closed and repair work going on while people were trying to lay out.  The running track was being repainted, so you had limited access to that.  All things that were being done on our dime/time.  I think this is unacceptable.  Don't use the pool as a selling point (which they do) if it's not available for use!!  Our favorite bartender (Christian Ferrari) was in the Aquarium Bar.  He seemed to be the only bartender on the ship who knew how to consistently make a good Grey Goose Cosmopolitan.  LOL.  Oh Yea...there was a bartender in the Schooner bar who wasn't bad as well.  But, the others, it was hit and miss.  Even with my Fav bartender being in the Aquarium Bar...the best place on ship is the High Note bar on deck 14.   We ate at Portofino's one night.  The food was good, and the service was impeccable.  I would highly recommend spending the extra money for this experience. Oh Yea!!  I did use the Spa and got a $65 pedicure!!!!!  $65 for a freakin' pedicure!!!  But, you know what?  It was one of the best pedicures I've had in a long time, that girl worked my feet over, and afterwards...I felt it was totally worth it. The ports on this cruise were wonderful (the main reason we chose this cruise).  We stopped in Vigo, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Gibraltar, UK; Cagliari, Sardinia; Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy; Livorno (Pisa/Florence), Italy; Villefranche, France.  Both Vigo and Cagliari were a welcome surprise, as was Gibraltar.  I HIGHLY recommend NOT using the ships cruise tour in Rome and Florence, and going with a company called Limo in Rome (limoinrome.com).  We used this company in both ports and we were extremely pleased with the personalized service and the experience.  These tours are private (meaning just your group is on it), the small vans they use are roomy and get you right up to the sights you want to see, without having to walk great distances, and you're on your time (you see what you want, for the time you have).  Our driver in Livorno even arranged for a private tour of a vineyard in Chianti.  In both Rome and Florence we were taken to restaurants that were both reasonably priced, and were where the locals ate.  We LOVED it!!  And, the best part of all of this (as if it could have gotten any better) was that it is actually cheaper than what the ship charges for the similar tour, and with the ship excursion, you're on a big tour bus, which has limited access on the small narrow streets you find in Rome and Florence, with a bunch of other people.  Compare $345 per person for the ships excursion to the 500 Euro for all 4 of us on our private tour. It's a guarantee ours was a better bargain and a better experience. While Rome, our drive through the Tuscan countryside (via our private vineyard tour) on our way to Florence, and Florence, were the highlight of our trip; I wouldn't do this trip justice if I didn't mention Cannes!!  We LOVED it!!   During our stop in Villafranche, we rented a car and drove to Cannes.  Why?  Because the 62nd Annual Cannes Film Festival was in full swing.  The energy was palpable, and, the drive along the French Riviera was awesome.  It was easy to rent the car;  109 Euro (with tax, insurance, etc. included) and we were on our way.  On our way to Cannes we stopped and strolled along the beach in Nice, oogled yachts that screamed "I'm a weathly _____ (fill in whatever you like)", and enjoyed views of the Mediterranean that were just breath taking. My overall rating for this cruise 4.5 stars.  The ports of call receive 5 out of 5 stars and the food 3.5 stars.  Royal Caribbean really should do something about the food.  Seriously!!!  It was tasteless and cheap.  If you're a fast food eater (and I'm not)...you may enjoy it...but, if you have any idea what quality taste like...you WILL be disappointed.   We enjoy the cruise experience.  But, now, RC has given me compelling reasons to try another cruise line.  Next time...maybe Princess Cruises? Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
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
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
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