This was a seven day Western Caribbean cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida calling at Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth and Labadee.
Independence of the Seas was the thud ship built in Royal Caribbean's Freedom class. Her sisters are Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas. The Freedom class ships are an enlarged version of Royal's Voyager class so there is a great deal of similarity. Although the Freedom class are no longer the world's largest cruise ships, they are quite large, larger than most cruise ships.
This ship is very much core Royal Caribbean, It is focused at young, active families and is equipped with not only a rock climbing wall but a surfing simulator, waterslides, bungee jumping and various other sports facilities. Running down the centerline of the ship is the Royal Promenade, a multi-deck high mall with shops, bars and eateries, which is also used for theme parties and entertainment. There is also an ice skating rink, which hosts ice show spectaculars and laser tag. It is the Royal Caribbean emphasized in the line's advertising.
But if that is not the kind of thing that interests you, all of that can be avoided. T here are places where you can be by yourself, nice specialty restaurants, and for those who are in the upper tiers of Royal Caribbean's loyalty program, comfortable lounges with nightly social hours.
It follows that Independence attracts a wide variety of passengers. There are young families with children, older couples, first-time cruisers, seasoned travelers, people who are very well-off and working class individuals. On this cruise, most of the passengers were North Americans but there were quite a few Europeans.
Independence has a large almost fanatical following in the United Kingdom. She was based in Southampton for many years. But it is more than that - - there is some undefinable quality about Independence that appeals to the British cruising market.
Now that she has been re-located to the Caribbean, most of Independence's British trappings have been removed. There are no more tea kettles in the cabins, no tea dances and no enrichment lectures. One thing that does remain, however, is the efficiency of the staff. British cruisers expect good service and they are used to receiving it on Independence.
We were impressed by what we found to be uniformly good service on Independence. Moreover, the people were always helpful and friendly. Of course, it all depends upon who you run into but on this cruise we did not come into contact with anyone who just does not understand the concept of service or anyone who was just having a bad day.
Independence has numerous dining venues ranging from casual outlets to specialty restaurants. However, on this voyage, we had breakfast and lunch in the Diamond Lounge and dinner in the main dining room.
The Diamond Lounge is open to members of Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor loyalty program who are Diamond level and above. Although the Diamond Lounges on the various ships are supposed to be the same, some are operated better than others. For breakfast, Independence had an array of fruits, cereals, pastries and specialty coffees. For lunch, the Diamond Lounge had a selection of delicious sandwiches and various cookies. The staff operating the lounge were both friendly and efficient.
On Independence, guests can choose between traditional set time dining in the main dining room or a flexible dining system. We selected the flexible dining program. Even though you are not guaranteed to have the same table or the same waiters each night, Royal makes an effort to do so. On this voyage, we had the same waiters each evening. Once again, they were friendly and efficient.
We enjoyed the food. Indeed, on two nights, we had more than one entree. In addition, we had requested a low salt diet and the staff provided us with low salt versions of the menu items.
Independence has two large entertainment venues as well as a number of bars and lounges offering live music and various activities. In the main theater, the production cast performed a version of the Broadway musical “Grease” as well as revue shows. The ship's ice cast performed a skating spectacular on certain nights.
On this voyage, we opted for having good conversation and drinks with people we met on the cruise rather than attend the passive entertainment. Independence has a lot to offer but you can choose to do as much or as little as you want. It is big enough to gives you option so that you can design your own cruise experience.
We found the internet on Independence somewhat disappointing. With the Voom Surf and Stream internet package, we have been able to stream movies to our computer on other Royal Caribbean ships. However, here, the connection here was too slow to allow streaming without interruption. Furthermore, the system required numerous tries when we attempted to upload video to the Beyondships website, a problem that we had not experienced on other Royal Caribbean ships. Perhaps these problems were due to the ship's itinerary - - there might not have been enough satellites in orbit over the places the ship visited. However, the aforementioned problems continued in waters we have traversed on other Royal Caribbean ships.
Independence is a very stable ship. We encountered a severe storm leaving Cozumel but there was no noticeable motion.
The ship was never designed to be a speed queen. However, she can maintain an average speed comparable to that other cruise ships.
For a ship of her size, Independence is quite maneuverable. Backing into her berth at Falmouth passing shoals that loomed nearby just under the waves was impressive.
The ship appeared to be well-maintained with no visible signs of rust.
Although not as luxurious as those on Anthem of the Seas or Symphony of the Seas, our balcony cabin was comfortable and clean.
Overall, we enjoyed our voyage on Independence. The ship is a city at sea with numerous offerings. However, you are not forced to do anything and the offerings are not so in-your-face that you cannot avoid the parts that do not interest you. In addition, we found the ship to be very efficiently operated.
Cruise ship review - - Royal Caribbean International - - Independence of the Seas