This was my fourth time sailing on this magnificent ship and while I appreciate that she isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, she is the perfect brew for me and my family!
A range of factors combine to make Independence of the Seas my favourite family-friendly ship sailing from Southampton, the most important of which for me are the incredible choice of entertainment and activity options onboard.
Whatever the weather, whatever the time, there is something happening somewhere and not just the usual bingo or quiz, but outstanding shows in the Theatre or incredible “dance capades” on ice!
Royal Caribbean don’t do ‘cruise’ shows, they just do shows! This is plain to see when watching their creations. For example, you can go and watch a full 90-minute Broadway production of Grease! Other Royal Caribbean ships have ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Chicago’ and ‘Hairspray’, to name just a few. The shows tend to run for a good 5 or 6 years, so this does lead to some repetition, particularly if you like to sail on the same ship a couple of years in a row, but in all honesty the level of production and effort from the cast is so good that it doesn’t cause us any upset at all!
I love that – whatever your tastes – you can find plenty to keep you busy on this ship. For the sports lovers out there, you can try your hand at surfing or rock climbing, go for a round of crazy golf or hit the basketball courts. For the little ones, there is even a climbing net where they can have a climb too. And not forgetting one of the newest features on Independence of the Seas, the SkyPad. This techy feature encompasses a Virtual Reality experience (for children over seven) and bungee trampolines (children over five can bounce). Strap on the VR headset and launch yourself into ‘Candyland’, something which involves leaping over marshmallows and dodging gingerbread men. It’s one of many story options you can choose from and promises brilliant fun for all the family. Another great area for the little ones is the waterpark. Added as part of the amplification of Independence of the Seas in 2018, they have created slides and additional fun zones for the younger sailors. Hours of fun are to be had and, with lifeguards on standby at all times in each of the pool areas, you have that added safety net for your precious ones.
For those who just want to relax, you have a plethora of sunbathing areas, outdoor across the deck spaces and if the weather isn’t great, you can head to the indoor solarium (adults-only) too; no matter what the temperature outside is, there’s always a tropical feel in here. As well as a generously-sized pool and the usual hot tub, a very special feature in the Solarium is the cantilevered jacuzzi which extends out off the side of the ship with incredible views over the sea – what a glorious setting to relax and while away a few hours!
Another huge enticement to me with Royal Caribbean is the dining. Independence of the Seas’ Main Dining Room is simply stunning. Sleek and stylish with one of the most beautiful chandeliers I have ever seen, it really feels like you are dining in a Michelin type restaurant, rather than on a cruise ship. Attentive and friendly staff guide you through the dining experience, offering a recommendation from the menu each evening. Children have their own menu which comprises the usual favourites like pizza, spaghetti bolognaise, chicken etc, and does change slightly each evening. I have never had a bad meal on Royal Caribbean. They seem to be able to retain consistency across the fleet, which is impressive.
Of course, if you prefer the more relaxed feel of a self-service/buffet, you can head up to the Windjammer café. Royal Caribbean have one of the most impressive selections at sea in their buffet restaurants. Ranging from pastas where you can choose your preferred type of pasta and then add your own choice of sauce, to super-tasty curries, burgers you can load with your favourite toppings and so much more, you’ll never struggle to eat here.
They also have a fantastic ‘Free From’ section; anyone who needs special dietary provisions like Gluten Free or Dairy Free would be very happy with the selection available here. There are chefs at all of the other stations in the Windjammer café on hand to give advice about the contents of dishes as well.
There are plenty of alternative dining spaces across the ship and one of my favourites is Sorrento’s. Located on the Promenade Deck, this is a pizza palace! It’s included in your fare at no extra cost too. Help yourself to freshly-baked pizza at almost any time of day – perfect for a midnight snack or post-party pizza!
Another great place on the Royal Promenade is the Promenade Café, where you can help yourself to tea or coffee virtually 24 hours a day, grabbing a sandwich, scone or delicious cake while you’re there. If you prefer a speciality coffee, you can also get your mocha or latte here, although these are chargeable or included within the drinks package.
Along with all these incredible places to eat included in your cruise fare, you can also opt for a speciality restaurant, of which there are several. These venues are charged additionally to your cruise fare but are well worth it for an extra treat or special event. Chops Grille offers some of the finest steaks at sea. I have dined here previously and had the nicest filet mignon served with sides such as mac ‘n’ cheese, asparagus, tater tots and loads more.
We decided to head to Jonny Rockets for our last night on Independence of the Seas. For $10pp, you can choose anything from the menu and as many sides as you like. We opted for the classic burger, with sourdough onion rings and American fries with bacon & cheese. Oh, and not forgetting the chocolate shakes! Fantastic value for money and burgers that literally melt in your mouth.
So, until next time Indy, once again we had an amazing cruise and made many treasured memories together!