We arrived at the City terminal at 10am. I was surprised to see so many people there already unloading their cars and making their way to the check-in area, but was told boarding does start earlier than P&O at around 11am, and infact, I did see people boarding at around that time. I queued for my day pass along with 140 invited people from all over the Country who were going on this ships visit. We were given a ‘comfort bag’ by the RCI team, which was nice. It contained a bottle of water, disposable camera, notebook, pen and other promotional bits and bobs.
Independence of the Seas is a new ‘Freedom class’ ship, a massive 158,000 tonnes and has only been sailing for 8 weeks or so. She was looking very good when we boarded, and I was impressed with the furnishings and décor. Today will be a big test, the first cruise of the school summer holidays with lots of children due onboard a sell-out cruise.
We started at the Casino, wow! There must have been 200 or more fruit machines in rows in there, it’s a well known fact that the Americans like to gamble, and prefer to be in there spending their money than on deck like us Brits on a sunny sea day, but I’m not sure us Brits would be using it as much.
As you walk through, you are aware she is big… and when you look up you can see many decks above. We made our way to the ‘Royal Promenade ‘ a 4 storey mall lined with bars and shops… plenty of eateries and a pub here including a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlour. You can see the ‘PR
grade’ promenade inside cabins above the shops, which are available to book if you fancy looking down on the mall instead of looking at the sea, I have taken a photo for you, and its on the photo site.
We got in the lift and went to deck 11, the sun was shining and it was easy to imagine we were on a cruise. The pools looked lovely. Plenty of sun loungers were lined around the tiered areas, and we made our way to H20 Zone, the children’s pools, this is a colourful water park with ground geysers, waterfalls, pools with currents and fountains. I am sure many of the children will stay in this area for their water fun…. If you want to avoid this family area then there is an ‘Adult only’ pool area which was very impressive. There were two lovely whirlpools on the sides of the ship with glass lookouts to sea, it is clearly posted ‘adult area’ and I was told this was policed well…. The adult only pool area (photos on site) also had good padded sun beds, and even swing benches. That’s where I would head if I was onboard for hopefully a relaxing time.
Alongside the H2 Zone are the children’s clubs, linked to a children’s arcade. The kids can have their own charge cards and can play the machines (Ooooh dear! Could get expensive?) but if you do no want to give your child unlimited funds, a daily charge of $20-30 for example can be added to their cards by their parents. Here in this area are the separate clubs for different age groups. The younger ones have art and craft tables, TV’s and toys, the older ones internet computers, a non-alcoholic bar, disco, and even their own Jacuzzis where their can sip their mocktail cocktails! Near here too is Johnny rockets, an American burger bar designed in a 1950 rectro style.
Food? Well I was impressed with the eateries onboard and the quality of the food.
Firstly, the Windjammer’ self service restaurant, here the food displayed looked very appetizing, a few photos taken for you, the sweets looked good I must say, but we had to move on (and with a promise of lunch in the restaurant later I was happy too)
The furnishings here looked lovely, much better than Aurora or Arcadia and great views as well. Off to the side were ‘Portofino’ a $25 supplement Italian restaurant serving such delights as ‘Skewer of Maine Lobster, scallops and salmon served with sun-dried tomato beurre blanc and Ligurian potatoes, or perhaps Grilled Fillet of Atlantic halibut over a citrus, crab and shrimp risotto, finished with salad verde and lemon butter sauce…the desserts included Pistachio panna cotta with strawberry-champagne ragout, and Tiramisu.
Also, the ‘Chops Grille’ was here, where you can have T Bone steaks, Veal chops and other meaty dishes cooked the American way.
On deck 12 there is a running tack if you fancy some exercise to burn off some of the calories!
Outside again on deck 13 I saw the ‘FlowRider’ which was empty when I photographed it for you, but looked great fun - this wave simulator allows you to surf or body-board. Alongside that is a 9 hole small-scale golf course, sports court and the rock-climbing wall. Plenty of things to do for the children here.
The games room was well stocked with board games and plenty of games tables for bad-weather sea days.
I was very impressed with the touch-screen maps around the ships to help you navigate this 15 deck ship, what a good idea!! You just key in a place, say the H20 Zone and it shows you the location and deck, much better that the maps onboard other ships which always seem so small and confusing to read.
I saw the Ice-skating rink, which was slightly smaller than I expected, but had lots of seating, I am told you need to queue up for the ice skating shows and get your tickets before going, and also in the day, it is used as a normal skating rink for everyone.
The theatre was big with plenty of seating – it needs to be – but nothing stood out here for me to comment on.
Surprisingly there is NO dedicated cinema on this family ship !!
Okay now the cabins…..
I loved all the cabins on this ship. The décor was modern and quality of linen and furniture the same as P&O. I saw many types of cabin and have photographed them for you. The Royal suite had a grand piano, and balcony with full size Jacuzzi and lovely bathrooms, and one suite I saw, I think it was the Presidential suite would accommodate 14 people ! Ideal for a large well-to-do family, it was magnificent, with a massive balcony, again with Jacuzzi and wooden thickly padded lounges and chairs and a long wooden table for al fresco dining. There was a sauna room with a gold sink and a full size shower, a lovely bath with whirlpool, very large screen TVs that swivel between bed and lounge, amazing.
The food, all food I saw looked wonderful. We dined at lunch in the magnificent 3 tier main dining room. A dramatic staircase connects all 3 levels with huge fat support pillars. All three restaurants have the same menus and food. And the tables seat 2,4,6,8,10 or 12.
I had a lovely lunch of duck terrine and smoked duck slices, a massive sirloin steak cooked as requested with jus and a potato quiche accompanied by 2 carrots and 3 asparagus spears cooked to perfection. I knew and expected a lot of meat and a small quantity of vegetables, and that’s what I got. Although I expect you can request more vegetables if you would like them. Funnily, one Gentleman on our table asked for ‘English Mustard’ to go on his steak, the waiter returned and said he only had French !!! and offered us that. A bit strange for a Ship based in the UK? !!!
The sweet was a light pastry Apple pie and ice cream..
And that’s it… I won’t go on anymore, or I will write a book.
A large brand new ship, ideal for families with young children or teenagers, with plenty to occupy them. I am sure couples without children would enjoy this ship too, there are ‘adult only’ areas and plenty of bars and eateries onboard.
I loved all the cabins, the food looked good, the theatre seemed very big, and of course you could go to an ice show as well for a change one night.
I would cruise on her tomorrow, husband not so keen. He said it was ‘too big’ a floating resort at sea not a cruise ship which attracted him for his main holiday.
As with any ship, I think we all need to try it once and make up our own mind. Next cruise for me, a mini 2nighter on Ventura. (A couple on the tour who have been on Ventura said IOTS beats Ventura by miles). Then in 2009 I am trying Oriana and Oceana, I also have a ships visit booked on Artemis at the end of Sept 08, interestingly the IOTS visit was free, and the P&O one costs £15pp, but there you go…
For anyone booked on this big baby – have a great time! Wish I was coming with you!
Over 75 photos of Independence taken on the visit can be viewed on this website:
To see them at their best, when loaded, press SLIDESHOW for bigger photos.
VISIT DATE SATURDAY 26th JULY 2008