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Royal Caribbean International: Independence of the Seas

Independence of the Seas Review

Introduced in 2008, the third and final Freedom-class ship, Independence of the Seas enjoys many of the popular elements of her sister ships and in 2013 received similar enhancements such as an outdoor movie screen on the pool deck, digital signage to make navigating the ship easier, a cupcake cupboard, and a new nursery.

Although they are no longer the world's largest cruise ships, the Freedom-class vessels live up to Royal Caribbean's reputation for creative thinking that results in features to stir the imagination and provide a resort-like atmosphere at sea. Whether you are hanging 10 in the surf simulator, going a few rounds in the boxing ring, or strolling the Royal Promenade entertainment boulevard, there's almost no reason to go ashore. The layout is more intuitive than you might expect on such a gigantic ship. A mall-like promenade is lined with shops and bistros, an ice-skating rink/theater, numerous lounges, and dining options, but these are not simply enlarged Voyager-class ships. With plenty of room, even the most intimate spaces feel uncrowded. A good fit for extended families, these ships have expansive areas devoted to children and teens and enough adults-only spaces to satisfy everyone.

Big, bigger, biggest! In the early 1990s, Royal Caribbean launched Sovereign-class ships, the first of the modern megacruise liners, which continue to be the all-around favorite of passengers who enjoy traditional cruising ambience with a touch of daring and whimsy. Plunging into the 21st century, each ship in the current fleet carries more passengers than the entire Royal Caribbean fleet of the 1970s, and has amenities—such as new surfing pools—that were unheard of in the past.

All Royal Caribbean ships are topped by the company's signature Viking Crown Lounge, a place to watch the seascape by day and dance at night. Expansive multideck atriums and promenades, as well as the generous use of brass and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, give each vessel a sense of spaciousness and style. The action is nonstop in casinos and dance clubs after dark, while daytime hours are filled with poolside games and traditional cruise activities. Port talks tend to lean heavily on shopping recommendations and the sale of shore excursions.

What You Should Know

Pros

  • FlowRider surfing simulator is exciting, even for observers
  • The H2O Zone is a fun place to beat the heat beneath a waterfall, in the fountain sprays, and along a lazy river
  • A sports pool accommodates water volleyball, basketball, and golf

Cons

  • The location of a self-serve frozen-yogurt bar near the kids' pool means that it often ends up messy
  • Hang on to your wallet—the malts in Johnny Rockets diner aren’t included in the price
  • On a ship this large, lines are inevitable, particularly at disembarkation
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 1,360
  • Entered Service 2008
  • Gross Tons 160,000
  • Length 1,112 Feet
  • Number of Cabins 1,817
  • Passenger Capacity 3,634
  • Width 185 feet

By John_CR

  • New

Mar 16, 2017

Western Caribbean

RCCL is Horrible ! I purchased a cruise for my son's BDay with a BOGO special + $200 in on board credit. They cancelled my cruise and basically said...pick another cruise but no bogo nor $200 credit. I asked RCCL salesperson Andrew Hiden why ? He said, "Sorry that special is not currently being offered." How do you tell your kid that the once in a lifetime cruise you had already promised him for his birthday was cancelled ? So I paid more money but

went from a seven night balcony suite to an inside in-order to stay within budget from regular price vs. bogo. I went on to ask, "Are there rowdy spring breakers ?" No he said, "That happens on Carnival, we are a family friendly cruise line." He lied !!! Ship was filled with drunk college kids on unlimited alcohol package RCCl vigorously promotes. Being that an 18% gratuity is already included, they provide rude customer service. I asked for a chocolate martini for my wife, bartender decided to make using one part Kahlua, one part Baileys and one part vodka...that is not a chocolate martini. When I brought that to his attention, he said, "Well, that's how we make it here." I went to another bar where drink was made correctly but not before stopping by the customer service desk to report my experience. Senior Customer Service rep Agata Appel promised to remove charges for properly done drinks as a courtesy. She never did !!! That let's you know the lousy customer service they provide when the senior customer service officer doesn't follow through with a promise she made...but it doesn't end there. They also double charged me for the on-board birthday cake I had ordered for my son...Stop, it get's better; I understand that to them, the bartenders, the servers and yes even the customer service officer, we're just one in a never-ending rotation of guest on there six month work rotation but to us, this is and was a vacation that we had planned and budgeted for over a year to celebrate our son's 12th birthday and RCCL failed every step of the way. While dining at the Windjammer buffet asked a server behind the counter, "Does this sauce contain seafood?" as my wife is allergic to shellfish. The server said, "No, read the sign." Guess what ? It did and my wife ended up in the doctor's office (on my son's bday) taking Benadryl for the last two days of our five day voyage thus ruining the remainder of our vacation. ok ok Horrible Customer service even before I got on board

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  • New

Sep 5, 2015

Western Caribean

Wonderful experience.. The staff was unbelievable. The ship was emaculate.. I am sold on Royal Caribean. Food: We Hail from New York so we are not excepting to be wowed. Considering the large volume of people it was fine. Cabin: We had a Grand Suite and we were more then pleased with the accommodations Entertainment and Activities: Something for everyone I love this cruise so much that I'm coming back Hats off to concierge

service. We enjoyed the suite concierge, the lounge, evening cocktail reception.

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By Jeff_CR

  • New

Jul 20, 2015

Eastern Caribbean

We sailed Eastern Caribbean July 5-12 and what a great time we had. It was the perfect vacation. I'm usually a hard to please traveler but there are no nits to pick on this trip. We have booked for next year in the same cabin on Freedom. We are already counting down the days. The food was outstanding. We ate in the dining room, Windjammer, Chops Grille, Sorrento's and room service. Special kudos to Aila in the King Lear Dining Room. She always

had a smile and knew just how to make us feel special at every meal. Stateroom was excellent. Plenty of room for 2. Nice balcony, full bathroom, substantial closet space. The location was facing aft which has a larger balcony. Lots to do. We do more with each cruise we take and this ship had plenty to do. We were never bored. Our favorite days were the sailing days. One suggestion- if you have the chance to go to brunch with a tour of the kitchen on the last day at sea, do it! You won't be disappointed. Our trip was outstanding from beginning to end. We had previously sailed on Allure but found that Independence was the perfect size ship for us. We had a Junior Suite which was wonderful. The food was outstanding. The shore excursions were excellent. The entire onboard experience was the best that we have ever experienced. We didn't want it to end.

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By Evan_CR

  • New

Dec 23, 2014

Western Caribbean

Overall, the most important thing I can say that should apply to everyone is that Labadee was, in my opinion, the absolute worst part of the trip--and a waste of time and money. Even if you're gung-ho about taking a cruise with Royal Caribbean, I'd urge you to check out an itinerary that avoids this lame excuse for either a resort or a genuine port stop. I looked through their port brochure, and am intrigued by some other places they serve such

as Puerto Rico and St. Maarten. The food quality was very poor, and dining options were few and unsatisfying. I actually touched on this more specifically above. Everything tasted frozen (ok, it's the best way to get food to last for 6 days), but was not prepared in a way that brought out any of its flavor. Things were bland, and drab. There were only a few ethnic foods, most of which were terrible. The sushi bar at the buffet was very disappointing (they had a variety of bad rolls, when they probably should've just had a decent California roll and called it a day). Everything was soggy. When we got off the boat, we'd always crave veggies and fresh foods. They should probably simplify the menu to more reliable things, and consider cheap foods that can hold up well and make people happy…why not have a decent lo mein or burrito bar? And the two premium restaurants were totally not worth it -- $25 per person for generic Italian food or $35 for a lousy steakhouse. They should consider getting a chain or established chef to set up a restaurant if they can source some decent-quality food that a real chef would accept. The stateroom was smallish, but not uncomfortable or unreasonable for 1 or 2 people. The "cold" water in the sink was tepid and tough to drink. The mini-fridge didn't really cool. The curtains were see-through, so there was no privacy...or you could shut the blackout shade, which defeated the value of having a window. Falmouth, Jamaica was a very vibrant place. The produce was so incredibly fresh and diverse. The people were friendly and hospitable. The mountains and sea were beautiful. The history was interesting and complex. The foods were tasty (we went on a culinary walking tour). Plus it's close to Montego Bay and Ochos Rios. I wish we could've stayed at port for a night so we had more time to enjoy this stop. I'd like to preface my review with some context. This was my first cruise, as cruising is not personally my ideal type of vacation. I prefer going somewhere and having time to explore -- maybe city- or country-hop if I can. But I'm not typically into tours or rigid itineraries. Still, I love tropical environs, water and sailing, and am ok with resorts in general even though they're not as authentic as the places surrounding them. So I tried to go into the cruise with a fairly open mind. In the end, I have decided that cruising is not for me. On the other hand, there are some people that love cruises. So the things that bothered me might not apply to everyone else. But I will try to be thorough and specific, so at least others can get a sense of what I experienced during 6-Night Western Caribbean Cruise on the Independence of the Seas with Royal Caribbean. As a quick summary, I found that there wasn't enough time to spend in the better port stops (Grand Cayman and especially Falmouth, Jamaica) and the other was completely artificial and run by the cruise line (Labadee, Haiti). Even in the stops that had some authentic culture, sights, and activities, Royal Caribbean tried to dissuade people from leaving the port area complexes where they take a cut of sales from vendors and luxury shops. They claim the towns and countries can be dangerous. If that was the case, why bother going? Why get off the ship? It's just a money grab. On that note, there were LOTS of upcharges from the alcohol packages to the souvenir cups and the added-fee restaurants that were totally generic and not much better quality than the regular dining hall. The food quality and preparation in the dining hall and buffet were pretty atrocious most dishes were mediocre at best, and some were appalling. There was also a lack of variety in foods, with one exception being the Singapore-Style Curry Noodles unfortunately, while they tried to offer an ethnic taste, they were comically bad (they tasted like ketchup, French dressing, and sadness). In general, the foods were bland, drab, and not particularly fresh. Exceptions were some of the pastas and the steak. The ship, while large, felt confining. It was like we were confined to what Royal Caribbean felt like giving us as a vacation, rather than getting to enjoy ourselves and make the most of the time and the places we visited. Now to get more specific: I'll start with the positive: *The staff members on the ship were incredibly friendly, warm, interested, and caring. They were the absolute best part of the trip. Whether in the dining hall, bars, lounges, or pools, they made us feel welcomed and taken-care of. They helped us enjoy the cruise as much as possible, and are a huge credit to Royal Caribbean for hiring and training them. They're truly outstanding. *The ship was well-maintained, clean, modern, and generally had a nice feel to its layout and in its venues. *There was one night with a stand-up coming guest performer and the show was great, although she might not have thought the crowd was into it due to rough seas at the time. I wish there were more established artists with some broad appeal. *Grand Cayman, while small, had some deliciously fresh seafood and lots of outdoor activities like snorkeling. *Falmouth, Jamaica was a very vibrant place. The produce was so incredibly fresh and diverse. The people were friendly and hospitable. The mountains and sea were beautiful. The history was interesting and complex. The foods were tasty (we went on a culinary walking tour). Plus it's close to Montego Bay and Ochos Rios. I wish we could've stayed at port for a night so we had more time to enjoy this stop. *Onboard activities were fun, and facilities were nice – this applies to pools, hot tubs, the surf simulator, rock wall, etc. The time on the boat was generally enjoyable when we werent in rough seas. *The alcohol package made things that much better as we got the ultimate package, which paid for itself after 4 or 5 drinks a day. That was a good call for us. And now for the negative: *Premium amenities and services were very expensive, for example massages and spa services. Royal Caribbean tried to squeeze more money out of passengers every chance they got. *The "cold" water in the stateroom was tepid and undrinkable. Of course, even with a drink package you could only get one bottle of water at a time. *The mini fridge was barely cool. So you kind of need a beverage package for a cool drink. *The curtains in the promenade stateroom were see-through and provided no privacy unless we used the blackout ones, which eliminated the view and any light from outside. They should've been sheer to let in light, but not prying eyes. It basically defeated the purpose of having the promenade window. *The drinks expensive. You can bring on wine, but not even a large-format beer. Basically if you enjoy drinking, you have to pay out the nose. *WiFi was expensive and unreliable. *There were incessant announcements on the PA loudspeaker system to announce "important" information like longitude/latitude, pre-scheduled port stops we already knew about, and opportunities to spend money at the overpriced duty-free and jewelry shops. These woke us up if we dared to relax during our vacation,and were obnoxious in content and volume. They woke us up at 6am on debarkation day even though many of us were not allowed off the ship until 10. Awesome! *The island stops were too short, and Royal Caribbean tried to mislead passengers that the only safe areas were the ports, where all shopping basically went back to the cruise line. I don't see the point of taking a ship somewhere beautiful in the Caribbean, but not getting time to actually experience these places. For people who enjoy the cruising experience aboard the ship, why bother stopping? It seemed like a lose-lose proposition for me. *Finally, while they're truly amazing people, the cruise staff are overworked, and abused by Royal Caribbean. While the option to work with a cruise line might be a better career choice than staying in their home countries, they should be treated fairly on par with American employment laws and not treated so horribly. It is depressing to see, and I felt ashamed that my family did business with Royal Caribbean. It was typical to learn that some staff members worked 15-17 hour days with no days off. And they are penalized without-pay if they happen to get sick. Sure, it's just business. But I think a company should be judged not only by how profitable they are, but also by how decently they treat the people who work with them to help them succeed. For the absolute best part of this company, the staff was not properly appreciated by Royal Caribbean. I hope some of this might help people make their cruise related decisions in the future as the bottom line is that if you already like cruising, you probably will enjoy this ship and itinerary with a few exceptions. And if you're not sure about the cruise experience, there are some downsides that are probably worth being warned about in advance.

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By Fred_CR

  • New

Feb 24, 2013

Eastern Caribbean

Overall, our experience was good. Our experience cruising is limited to 4 RCI cruises and 1 NCL. As a couple that likes to travel in luxury to many destination resorts, we have grown fond of cruising. We always get a balcony room and prefer suites, just because of the extra space. 2 years ago on Allure of the Seas, we had the Grande Suite which offered us upgraded amenities, access to private seating for shows and the pool deck and availability

of our own Cabana in Labadee Haiti. This cruise, we took our 16 year old daughter and her friend. We both had adjoining junior suites. We expected to receive the same "suite" treatment, but don't be fooled. The junior suite is not really a suite at all. Yes, the room is 100sf larger than the standard room, but no amenities are available. The first day of a 8 day cruise we attempted to get a cabana for Labadee but nothing was available. There were cabanas reserved for suite guests, but the junior suite is not a suite, I guess!!! They should call it an upgraded stateroom. So after spending 10000 on these rooms I was a little bitter from the beginning. The food in the Windjammer buffet was fairly good. We primarily used it for breakfast. Good selection of all breakfast items. You really shouldn't want for anything. If you can't find something you like, then I'm not sure what you eat at home. I had 2 issues with the buffet. First was inconsistencies with service. This was a trend throughout the ship. One day a waiter is right there to offer coffee, juice etc. The next day you will have to go get your own. I also wish they offered fresh squeezed fruit juices. Of course you can get fresh squeezed OJ if you pay for it. Dinner in the main dining room was pretty good once they got to know your wants and needs. Food was varied from night to night. I do recommend going to Chops or Portofino at least once for a great dining experience. It's like $20pp. My wife and I do the wine package. Nice to have a variety of wines each night with dinner. Although house wines are available at no charge. Junior suite is spacious enough for a couple to have plenty of room when getting ready for dinner or bed. Full tub/shower is a nice benefit not available in lower class rooms. Again, don't forget the junior suite does not offer suite benefits. If your card isn't gold...... Forget about it! Activities are ok. Didn't really care for the shows in the evening. Sorry, it's just that other RCI ships have had better shows. The cruise director was funny at times when he was "on". Otherwise, didn't really see him and when we did, he pretty much ignored us and others around us. I believe the cruise director should be "on" all the time. It's part of the job. Some of the typical activities were there. Bummed they cancelled the parade early in the trip. Allure and Oasis had great activities. Just check all the ships and reviews to get an overall feeling of the ship. As for excursions, we prefer to walk, visit the shops and have lunch. In St. Maarten, if you want to have a beach day, this is the place. When you cross to the island via boat, walk down the boardwalk to the left. Do NOT let the locals swindle you into a umbrella and chairs. Walk for a few hundred yards and look for signs giving good rates. We got swindled. 4 chairs and an umbrella for $40. Right near us was a sign for Lizzie's restaurant offering 4 chairs, 2 umbrellas and 8 Red Stripe beers for 40. Oops!! Most other stops like St. Thomas, St. Kitts, San Juan are all good for shopping. Labadee is great for RCI excursions. I highly recommend zip lining and the coaster. Jet skiing is ok if you have never done it. Ocean waves are fun and the guys take you to 4 different points for about 45 minutes. My 16 yo was scared to deaths as a driver. Oh we'll, live and learn.

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