My wife and I chose this cruise as our honeymoon. She has sailed with Royal Caribbean before, but I never had. This was my first experience cruising and overall we both had a great time. Specifically we wanted to go to Norway, somewhere ... Read More
My wife and I chose this cruise as our honeymoon. She has sailed with Royal Caribbean before, but I never had. This was my first experience cruising and overall we both had a great time. Specifically we wanted to go to Norway, somewhere neither of us had visited before, and we both felt seeing five locations in Norway, from the sea, and cruising through some of the longest and most beautiful fjords in the world, would be a great experience. Ultimately it was and we had a wonderful time.
We didn't take up any of RC's excursions, because in my opinion you pay through the nose for them. Something similar or the same can easily be booked separately, for much cheaper, which is exactly what we did. We had wonderful plans for each of our five days in port. And we definitely maximised our time in the cities and towns we visited. Across the five days we trekked around beautiful Norwegian cities, went up a funicular and had a lovely walk and canoe on the mountain (and lake) overlooking Bergen, had a thrilling RIB ride around Alseund and the surrounding islands seeing grey seals and lots of sea birds, kayaked along the Geirangefjord to see the magnificent Seven Sisters and Suitor waterfalls up close, and even took some llamas for a walk in Skjolden. Seeing Norway in this way was the main reason why we decided to do this cruise.
On the boat, it was a very interesting experience. I have never seen anything that floats that’s quite so massive! The ship was a whopper (but not even the largest in the fleet!). We had a balcony room, which was a great decision; I’m not sure I’d want to downgrade to either an internal room or even an ocean view room if we were to cruise again. It’s amazing being able to pull open your curtains in the morning to see where you are the next day and then be able to have breakfast on the balcony overlooking beautiful scenery. I’d definitely recommend it! However, it was quite confusing when we first arrived on the ship. Even though the boarding process was easy – much easier than dragging yourself and your luggage through an airport terminal – it became a little bit confusing when we were actually on board for the first time. We didn’t really know what to do, where to go, how to find our room, or even what was free or not (food and drink in particular). The staff we spoke with weren’t amazingly knowledgeable or helpful at this point unfortunately. However, there was no rush and nothing to really worry about. And now, in hindsight, if we ever to go cruising again, we’d both be far more familiar with the processes. As it turned out, we basically spent most of the first afternoon (as we boarded at about 3pm) exploring the ship – and there was a lot to explore!
The ship is vast – if you think it looked big from the outside, just wait until you get inside and see what it has to offer… basically everything you can imagine. I won’t go into detail on what facilities were available, because you can find that info out pretty easily elsewhere, but there’s a lot to do, which is lovely, albeit quite intimidating. If you were hoping for a quiet holiday – this isn’t really it. Don’t get me wrong, the balcony cabin we had was generally very quiet and peaceful, but the ship itself is busy – there are over 4,000 guests on board, let alone staff, so you are constantly close to people and you can’t really take yourself away from this. Nevertheless, most people were very friendly, particularly the staff, who you’ll be speaking to often.
Unfortunately the main downside was the issue(s) we encountered with food. My wife is a vegetarian and is very careful about what she eats. Only on the second night, this time eating in the posher Dining Room (the main alternative is the grab-and-go buffet restaurant called Windjammer), we had issues with food. Although she chose the veggie options for starter and mains (there were no veggie dessert options), she was served a chicken pie! This basically put her off her dinner on that particular night and it was the start of a series of unfortunate incidents which eventually became laughable later in the week. Ultimately the ship does not cater well for people with dietary requirements. Although the staff (Head Waiters in particular) did try to resolve the issues for us, we got the feeling that communication between staff was poor and generally there was a lack of understanding, knowledge and respect amongst waiting staff about dietary requirements. If they can’t cope with or cater for vegetarians, I have no idea how they do with more serious issues like allergies.
Overall, the food problems we had throughout the length of our trip would not be enough to stop us from cruising again, and even on the Independence of the Seas with RC. I think given the right price and destination, we would cruise again, as we both had a lovely time. However, the food issues did leave a scar across the trip to some extent, which was a great shame. For people without any dietary requirements, you probably wouldn’t notice any issues, and actually the food quality was generally good (except for bread that was often verging on stale, and poppadums that were bendy). We were unlucky, but with over 4,000 guests on board, there must have been a lot of other people who had dietary requirements and encountered similar issues. For example we met a couple who ate Kosher food, and they had some issues with this as well. We were both shocked at how – in our modern multicultural world, where dietary requirements are far more common, understood and respected – Royal Caribbean were not set up to deal with requests such as these. They’re a massive cruise company, the biggest in the world I believe, transporting thousands of people around the world’s oceans and seas every year, and yet they cannot understand or accommodate dietary needs successfully for all of their paying guests. These holidays aren’t cheap after all. We expected a lot better. Read Less