Independence of the Seas
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Sail Date: 8th September-22nd September 2018
Ship Capacity: 4370
Route: Southampton- At Sea- Vigo- Lisbon- Seville- At Sea- Lanzarote- Gran Canaria-Tenerife- La Palma- Madeira- La Coruna- At Sea- Southampton
Why We Chose This Ship
We were very excited to get onboard the new and improved Independence of the Seas, as it had undergone a huge renovation just a few months earlier. It also had an amazing itinerary made up of 14 nights, which was the longest duration we've cruise so far. And accommodating around 4300 passengers, it was also the largest ship we had been on. Thanks to the recent updates, there were plenty of things to do on board, so we’ll start with an overview of some of our favourites activities on the Independence, as many are the
real highlights of the vessel.
Skypad: This is a one of Royal Caribbean's latest innovations at sea, and great addition to the ship. It's basically trampolining with a VR headset, with a choice of fun cartoon landscapes to explore (we recommend the candy themed landscape in particular, just watch out for the giant Gingerbread man). Sessions last about 10 minutes and with four trampolines available, we were able to do it at the same time. This activity is included in the price and if you try it out on a port day you won’t find much of a queue.
Waterslides & Flowrider: We’ll be honest, as neither of us are surfboard proficient (in fact, we are complete novices), we gave the latter activity amiss on this occasion! But if you are in to surfing, the Flowrider is a great activity which again comes at no additional cost. For those not familiar, its static surfing either stood up for the more experienced or kneeling down for those less confident. You can absolutely have a go as a complete beginner but just be aware you will need to sign a waiver and some cruise travel insurance policies won't cover this activity. If you'd rather just watch others have a go, there are place to stand and observe by the side, so it makes this area at the back of the ship a very busy place on sea days. The ship also has two reasonably fast single rider waterslides, which are open on both port and sea days. On the latter you may find a bit of a queue, but its worth it for a nice cool down and a break from sunbathing.
Ice Skating: This was a perfect indoor activity to try out on the first sea day, as the weather out of the UK wasn't the warmest. We had a great time making our way round the rink, though granted at a very slow pace! On certain days this space becomes a laser quest course but unfortunately limited timings and unexpected technical difficulties leading to early closure meant we missed out this on this sailing.
Other staple Royal Caribbean activities are also present on the Independence, such as rock climbing, mini golf and a basket ball court.
There are a good range of places to eat onboard, with the usual Royal Caribbean options of the Windjammer buffet and main dining room. The latter served the fabulous standard of food we’ve come to expect with Royal Caribbean, and with a UK departure, there were a range of typical British dishes available and as well as some international favourites. My only criticism is the distribution of vegetarian dishes across the nights- sometimes there would only be one option per course whereas other nights there could be 3 or even 4. A couple per night would be better to balance out the meat on the menu. The Windjammer was lovely as usual for casual dining, but we were a bit gutted to find the outdoor seating had been removed in the renovation, one of our favourites spots to eat breakfast on previous ships.
The three staple Royal Caribbean speciality restaurants can be found onboard, that of Giovannis, Chops Grille and Izumi. For a detailed review of each, check out our earlier ship blogs, as the offering and standard is consistent on all ships. We also enjoyed Johnny Rockets on this sailing, choosing to sit outdoors with our burgers (best decision ever as that’s where we spotted dolphins!). Big thumbs up to Royal Caribbean for putting a tasty and well textured soy burger on this menu, rather than a typical veggie patty. There's also a relatively new speciality outlet on the pool deck called Fish & Chips. The menu offering is pretty self explanatory, and it cost a few dollars per dish. If you have a sweet tooth, definitely try out the deep fried chocolate bar!
The Independence has a great range of bars onboard, which helped us take advantage of our drinks package. We particularly loved Playmakers for beers during sports games in the daytime and cocktails at Boleros in the evening. The Champagne Bar is also lovely for pre dinner drinks and the old faithful Schooner bar has made it through the renovations, great for an early evening quiz.
We’re somewhat torn reviewing this aspect of the ship. Some of the nightly offerings were brilliant, particularly the ice spectacular and the traditional cruise director lead shows such as Love and Marriage and the Quest. Our cruise director Joff was fantastic, with a very dry and quick witted British style of humour which was perfectly suited to this sailing. However, we felt some of the shows catered too much to the British audience and lacked some of the glamour and finesse of other sailings; in particularly the boardwalk performance verged on tacky and the themed evenings felt overdone and tired. For this reason, we tended to avoid the big musical shows and enjoyed the smaller, live music performances instead, which were great.
This was the first time we had ever sailed from the UK, and so we read up on what turned out to be horror stories regarding this route. We were lucky in the sense we didn’t encounter any severe weather at sea, however the first and final two days weren’t pleasant in terms of motion sickness. The temperature on these days also meant the pools were a no go, but luckily there are plenty of other activities to do instead on this sizeable vessel.
Overall, we absolutely loved this route, and ticked off some great places. There was a nice mix of busy cities such as Lisbon and more chilled port days like Gran Canaria, which we just spent on the beach. We highly recommend booking a tour like we did in Lanzarote, as the landscape is incredible but also because you'll find some of the most popular attractions are a distance from the cruise port.