On the 17th May myself and 3 of my family boarded the Independence of the Seas in a busy Southampton port which had 6 ships in that day. We were off on an 8 day Norwegian fjords cruise which we booked in March – so a fairly late booking. We had received letters from Royal Caribbean a couple of days prior to sailing, advising there would be traffic issues and that they would be doing a staggered check in depending on which deck your cabin was on, my allocated time was 2.15 and my sisters time was 1.15. We decided to ignore the letter and see if we were able to board early – the worst they could have done was turn us away and we would have to spend a couple of hours shopping in West Quay. We arrived at the dock at 10:30 and were able to proceed straight to check in. They had set up 3 lanes – the first lane was for Crown and Anchor society members level Platinum to Pinnacle, a lane for Gold members and a lane for non members. We are all gold members so went through this lane, checked in and were given priority board pass 2. They commenced boarding at 11am and as we were in the second group to board, by 11:15 we were on board and walking down the Royal Promenade.
We were on Independence 3 years ago so was interested to see the changes which had happened during its revitalization in April 2013. The changes we noticed is that they had changed some of the shops around and now have a cupcake cupboard on the Royal Promenade – the prices for the cakes are in the below photo and if you want to take part in their cupcake icing class then this cost $22 !!! – which I thought was a ridiculous price.There is also a big screen out by the pool deck which showed movies throughout the day and the football – so our boys were happy they could still watch the FA cup final, Champions league and also the play offs for the Championship. They have also added on digitial touch screens so help you locate where you are, tell you whats currently happening on the ship etc, which i thought was great and very similar to what we had seen on the NCL Getaway.
My cabin was an inside on deck 6 and my sister who had also booked an inside had been given an upgrade to a Royal Promenade view. Our cabin was a standard size and had plenty of wardrobe storage. We had asked our cabin steward for an extra big towel every day and this arrived when he remembered to do it, and on a couple of occasions we had to call for one to be sent to us – we found this quite disappointing and not sure whether this because he knew we had already prepaid our gratuities. We also had a glass we had used in the cabin sit there for 3 days without being washed. We had to speak to the guest relations desk one day and ask them why in our corridor there were breakfast trays from 7.30 am that morning still sitting there at 8 pm with food rotting away. This apparently was a house keeping issue and she called for them to be taken away – but why was this not dealt with earlier? We did get the towel animals in the cabin at the turn down service which is now expected on a mass market cruise.
Entertainment during the day seemed to have been cut back since 3 years ago, however there was still quizzes throughout the day, scavenger hunts, bingo was played on the two sea days and if i had been just one person back in the queue on the Jackpot must go session I would have won $1900, there was classes for the crafters such as scrap booking, jewelry making and watercolour painting. In the evening they had 3 of their own production shows in the main theater (we had seen them all before), they had 4 showings of their ice show – these tickets were free and you had to queue outside Sorrentos on the Royal promenade for them to become available at 08:30. My sister who is an early bird was second in the queue at 07:50 and they had started to give out the tickets early so my advice would be to get there from 8 am. We hadn’t seen this show before and we all enjoyed the 45 minute performance. They had also held two parades (which they had cut short due to other things going on in the ship) and two street parties. We also had on the last night a Queen tribute band which was the first time during this cruise we had seen the theatre at standing room only. Our cruise director was Joff Eaton who was on our previous sailing and had joined in Southampton the day we had, he was his usual jovial self and also happens to be from my home town.
We had opted for the My dining option which meant we could go to the restaurant on deck 5 as and when we wanted to. We had chosen to dine at 6.30pm and had prebooked this via the cruise planner before we boarded. Apart from one night we were able to sit at the same table with the same waiters which was good for my partner as they knew about his food allergies and were able to accommodate him without having to keep going through it every night. The one night we hadn’t got the same table (due to a mix up) we were allocated a table in the same section. The service in the restaurant was okay, nothing special and the waiters were to busy/stressed to talk to their guests unlike on other ships/cruise lines. Some of the choices were a strange combination and at times when you looked at the menu we struggled to find something we would eat. Our waiter always brought an extra plate of vegetables to have with dinner and he often asked if we would want another portion as he didn’t think the portion was very big.
For Breakfast and Lunch we ate in the windjammer which was often crowded and difficult to get a table, they often put out announcements asking people to give up their table once they have finished. For breakfast there was a choice of cereals, English cooked breakfast options, pastries, toast, american waffles and pancakes, and also eggs cooked to your liking. Lunch had a mixture of salads, make your own sandwiches, burger counter, curry, pasta and an Asian selection. The only downside was if you wanted vegetables at lunch with your meal then you would have struggled to find any.
We did go to Johnny Rockets (the american diner) one lunchtime and here you receive unlimited fries and onion rings whilst they bring your burger. They also do milkshakes and milk floats. There is a cover charge to go in and also drinks are extra. As a gold member of the crown and anchor we had a buy one get one free milkshake in this venue. When certain songs come on (normally one every half an hour) then the staff all stop serving and all dance to the song
Overall the cruise was a great break and I would give the cruise 4 out of 5. The ship hadn’t really changed and apart from a couple of tiny niggling points it lived up to expectations, it didn’t exceed them but was an enjoyable time. The ports of call were great and I will write about them on my next blog. The captain was fairly young for a captain and Norwegian and so was very proactive in making announcements pointing out the scenery and towns as we sailed through the fjords.
Have you cruised recently on the Independence of the seas and what was your thoughts? Have you been back on the same ship you have sailed on previously and been disappointed or pleased with the ship?