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Royal Caribbean International: Independence of the Seas

Independence of the Seas Review

Insider Take

Overview

A Freedom-class ship that entered service in 2008 - upgraded in 2013 with Oasis-like amenities.

Best For People Who Want

A megaship experience with many sports, dining, drinking and entertainment options.

Decor

High tech decor dominates the ship - especially in the Royal Promenade and the atriums.

Clean, simple and tasteful, featuring a lot of Art Nouveau influence, seems just right for a ship this size. The atrium boasts the signature piece, hanging many yards from the atrium ceiling and reflecting the laser-like light beams projected onto it. Glass elevators in the vertical atriums at each end of the promenade make for breathtaking views of the interior of the ship.

Public Rooms

The Royal Promenade - four decks high, longer than a football field, wider than three lanes of traffic - has no windows to the outside, but several windows to inside (promenade view) staterooms. Those windows are almost always shuttered however, so people on the outside cannot see what is happening on the inside (picture). The mall is always dazzlingly illuminated, unless the lighting effects are turned on for the Mardi Gras-style parades complete with stilt walkers, a swaying inflatable dancer, streamers and confetti.

The enormous Casino Royale, through which passengers must pass on deck four to get to the main show lounge, is gilded to within an inch of its life, with nearly 300 slots and tables for blackjack, craps, roulette and Caribbean Stud Poker. The "Crypt" which is an '80s style gothic disco pulses into the wee hours. The well-stocked library, which feels like an urban bookshop, provides seating along its glass wall for an overview of the Royal Promenade. The Viking Crown Lounge is perched 14 decks above the ocean. You can get married in port in the ship's Wedding Chapel, bringing up to 60 of your closest friends and families.

The gorgeous La Scala Theater, a state-of-the-art 1,350-seat show lounge, features such decorative elements as a Murano glass chandelier and a jewel-bedecked velvet stage curtain.

That ice rink you hear so much about is two decks below the atrium and right in the middle of the ship, which means some fancy footwork is sometimes required to get to other public areas. In fact, the great and spacious interior of the ship is almost completely surrounded by private cabins, so to get any look at the ocean at all you'll have to head for the cluster of lounges on the upper decks or outside on the decks themselves.

Near the Ice Rink is a new area for Karaoke style fun called the "On Air Club." In addition to Karaoke, they have video toys that will take guests faces and project them onto a screen with cartoon-like bodies doing a variety of dance-like moves. All good fun.

Amply decked out with recliners, the pool areas bustle with activity and also are the staging area for fashion shows and planned games. The real action takes place on the sports deck, where fitness fans work up a sweat playing ping-pong or basketball or rock-climbing. Families flock to the open-air 9-hole miniature golf course.

The best spots for being alone with a book during days at sea are the sea view Seven of Hearts card room and Cloud Nine Lounge on Deck 14. Serious misanthropes can retreat all the way up the curving stairway to Deck 15's Skylight Chapel, where no one ever ventures, and where no music is piped in.

Fitness/Spa

The most noticeable thing is the boxing ring, a first on a cruise ship with sister ship Freedom. There was actually an staff boxing instructor during our cruise. The ship's well-equipped gym still draws serious fitness buffs with its full range of state-of-the-art machines. The two-level Steiner Spa, with its winding staircase, looks more like the lobby of a boutique hotel, albeit with a Greek motif. It houses a small attractive thalassotherapy-like pool in an airy glass-enclosed but private semi-circular room. The Solarium's serene outdoor pool area nestles behind the spa; you're surrounded there by fountains, foliage, and statues, with a retractable glass ceiling overhead. A obvious addition to this class of ships are the cantilevered jacuzzi spas that actually hang over the sides of the ship. They look most dramatic from the outside than the inside, still, its an interesting novelty.

Children's Facilities

Royal Caribbean has made a number of improvements to youth and teen programming. One new program is Adventure Theater, developed by Camp Broadway in New York City to give kids an immersion into the performing arts. On each RCI sailing, teens and kids can learn acting fundamentals, vocalization, and dance techniques during a series of three 45-minute Adventure Theater sessions.

Another innovative program is Scratch DJ101 classes, which are available to all ages, along with special two-hour sessions just for teens on Liberty of the Seas. After their lessons, teens can showcase their music mixing knowledge in a graduation performance that friends and family can attend.

RCI has added new activities for those three to five years old in conjunction with Fisher-Price. Some of the new themes include Chefs on Deck, which involves role playing for preschoolers; Dino Adventure; and Train-O-Mania.

Lastly, RCI unveiled a Youth Loyalty Program this summer. Children and teens can now also enjoy Crown & Anchor Society repeat passenger benefits. Rewards for youngsters on their second or more RCI cruise include Crayola Twistable crayons or a Royal Caribbean bag. All repeating youth receive a Youth Ultimate Value Booklet with coloring pages, games and discounts for onboard amenities such as Ben & Jerry's, Airbrush Tattoo, and arcade games. Parents can enroll their children (if they have already cruised with RCI) via the line's website: www.royalcaribbean.com/youth.

A new program for infants and toddlers 6 months to 3 years, in partnership with toy maker Fisher-Price, offers 45-minute playgroups for children accompanied by an adult, involving storytelling, creative arts, music and a variety of Fisher-Price learning toys and games.

Private babysitting is offered from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., provided sitters are available, for children from one year old. The rate is usually between $8.00 and $10 per per hour depending on the number of children in the family. Cash payment is made directly to the sitter. Arrange through Guest Services at least 24 hours in advance.

Attire

There are two formal nights per cruise. Maybe it's this ship's particularly festive reputation that induced most men onboard our sailing to don actual tuxedos for formal nights. A dark suit is just as appropriate. In fact, you will feel slightly out of place if you are not dressed appropriately on formal night. In general, though, this ship offers so much to do onboard that passengers don't all dress alike.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

People who prefer a quieter, small destination oriented ship.

Onboard Experience

Liberty of the Seas, at 160,000-ton, is officially one of two of the biggest cruise ships in the world. Indeed, as the sister ship to Freedom of the Seas, Liberty is a virtual clone. Yes, there are subtle differences, but not any that will have a significant impact on your cruise. Both ships are an expanded, though nearly identical version, of RCI's popular Voyager-class ships, but slightly longer for a more active "Royal Promenade" and with more happening on the top sports and pool decks.

The 2012 Upgrade brought the ship four brand new stage shows, the Cupcake Cupboard and Giovanni's Table for Italian food. Also - the Royal Tots & Babies Nursery.

One of the first differences you will notice between Liberty and the Voyager-class ships is the H20 Zone, a children's water park with enormous, brightly colored figurines spouting sprays of water. The adults-only pool area has two cantilevered whirlpools extending out from the side of the ship. Each holds at least a dozen people. There are also four hammocks in this area. The next added attraction is the "FlowRider" a water wave generating machine that sends a constant curl down a hill that an expert surfer can (supposedly) ride until the power runs out. The rock climbing wall is taller than on the earlier ships, with more toe-holds.

At 445 feet long, the Liberty Royal Promenade is a bit longer and a bit wider than the Voyager-class ships. Here you'll find the boutiques found on the Voyager class vessels, including a Ben and Jerry's ice cream stand ($2.50 per cone); a wine bar; Seattle's Finest Coffee ($2.50 per cappuccino) but plenty of delicious free pastry and sandwiches; A Close Shave, charging an outrageous $72 for a shave. The English-style Bull and Bear is for beer lovers, it features a live acoustic guitarist playing favorites, and Sorrento is a pizzeria.

One thing that is different with Liberty from Freedom of the Seas is the Book Nook, with best sellers and guidebooks for sale has been replaced with a "future cruise consultant's" office. This isn't really a significant change as both ships still have the library and pulp fiction paperbacks available in the kiosks.

The other significant change from Freedom is the ship's art. Naturally, art is by definition unique (otherwise, it is just decor). Liberty is full of very interesting pieces mostly reflecting samples and slices of modern media. There are 'toon cells, and peices that just look like toon cells. There is a wide variety of modern artists represented that would be at home in New York's East Village, as well as some notably visible pieces by the artist Miguel Chevalier who specializes in mixing colored light projections on broken or hanging canvases that change according to what an "electric eye" sees passing by.

This is a real people-watching ship; even those who can't do all of what the Liberty offers seem to enjoy watching those who can. The 40-foot-high rock-climbing walls are busy all day. There is an ice-skating rink for recreational skating as well as for Ice Capades-type shows. There's a three-story dining room, one of among the biggest casinos at sea, and a 9-hole miniature golf course.

There are a full three miles of public corridors, but the hallways are occasionally "jiggered" so you don't get a sense of the full distance, plus excellent signage precludes anyone getting too grievously lost. However, after a simple "let's go see the ship!" comment leads you out the door, by the time you return to your cabin you will feel like Marco Polo.

The 500-foot-long, over three-lanes-wide four-deck-high Royal Promenade is somewhat evocative of an onshore mall, but actually leaves you feeling more like you are outdoors on a walking street framed by inviting shops. The "free" food (included with your cruise fare) on the promenade from the 24-hour cafe for pizza and pastries and the Latte'tudes coffee shop make it especially inviting. Or you can visit the champagne bar or gift shops offering ship's logo items and designer merchandise by Versace, Bulgari, and Lladro inside.

There is a $4.25-per-scoop Ben & Jerry's. Pay-per-view in-cabin movies are $11.95, and there's actually a $3.95 admission charge to Johnny Rockets (although the burgers are free, and worth every cent). There's a $20 surcharge per person for each of two alternative restaurants Portofino's and Chops Grill. There is a clubby cigar lounge; the nautical-inspired Schooner Bar; a well-stocked library; the Card Room; the Champagne Bar; and the Skylight Wedding Chapel (at the highest point on the ship, on Deck 15). An Internet Center, royalcaribbeanonline, is open 24 hours. (basic charge is 50 cents a minute). Some rooms, if they are close enough to the Internet center, have wireless access available. There is no self-service launderette.

Cuisine

Mouthwatering descriptions on the menus notwithstanding, you just won't hear people raving about the food. In fact, some of the menu names can be downright deceiving, for example a chocolate fondue came out looking and tasting much more like a vanilla mousse. However, the service is surprisingly efficient for a ship this size.

Restaurants

The ship's elegant main restaurant features a crystal chandelier a grand, three deck staircase. The three decks it spans are separately named for famous artists; Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Botticelli.

The ship's second most popular dining venue (though it is more of a lunching venue) is Johnny Rockets, which now carries a $3.95 service charge, and in which you might have to wait to be seated.

The vast Lido deck restaurant for casual buffet-style meals is cleverly designed to look like two individual eateries, minimizing the sense of size and crowds.

Portofino, the alternative Italian restaurant, is a lovely intimately-lit venue, though you might, if you're not attentive, realize you've got your fork in an adjacent diner's salad; the tables are that close together. The other alternative dining venue, Chop's, is for grilled meats and large lavish desserts. Both are well worth the service fee, but if one must choose, go with Chops.

More complimentary options including Jade Sushi for Asian-fusion cuisine, Sorrento's Pizza and Cafe Promenade for coffee and pastries/snacks, and room service.

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream on the Promenade offers ice cream at a small price.

The Cupcake Cupboard, a vintage-style gourmet bakery with 30 types of cupcakes - also at a small price.

Giovanni's Table Italian restaurant.

Service

It's obvious that the multinational staff and crew enjoy watching their passengers enjoy themselves. They're uniformly cheerful, knowledgeable, and eager to help. The wait staff in every restaurant is noticeably solicitous and conscientious.

Cabin service staff is efficient but unobtrusive. The purser's desk is notably responsive, especially in view of how much troubleshooting they must have to do on a ship this size. Room service was surprisingly efficient, usually telling us delivery would be a lot later than it actually was. Be prepared to tip on delivery even though there is nothing to sign.

Tipping

Royal Caribbean suggests a per person per day gratuity of $3.50 for the stateroom attendant ($5.75 if sailing in a suite); $3.50 for the waiter; $2.50 for the Assistant Waiter; .75 Head Waiter. These gratuities may be paid in cash or charged to your onboard account. For children sailing as third or fourth passenger in the stateroom, tipping is at the parents' discretion.

A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Gratuities for room service, spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.

Entertainment

Complimentary Broadway-style entertainment in the Main Theater now boasts four brand new shows put up in 2012.

Complimentary ice-skating shows in Studio B feature some of the best performers on the ship, often ex-Olympians and performers from Russia and other countries where skating is considered an artform.

10,258 square foot Vegas-style Casino Royale with 273 slots and 13 tables.

22 bars, clubs, and lounges that never have a cover, including Boleros Latin-themed lounge, Dog & Badger English Pub, and Vintages wine bar.

Variety of name-brand, duty-free shopping on the Royal Promenade including jewelry, perfumes, apparel and shopping for teens and kids.

Cabins

Royal Caribbean is known for small cabins, inside cabins are just about big enough to turn around in. Hats off to Royal Caribbean, though, for not skimping on balcony cabins. Actually, cabins are roomier than elsewhere in RCI's fleet. Inside cabins do measure a stingy 160 sq. ft; but outside cabins range from 180 to 265 sq. ft. and suites from 610 to 1188 sq. ft. Moreover, there's lots of storage, especially nice for a ship that is essentially a destination unto itself. Standard amenities include flat panel color TV with CNN and movies; a safe; individual temperature controls for the air conditioning; and RCI's first hair dryers. There are tubs only in the highest category staterooms' bathrooms; most have just showers (though unexpectedly large ones).

Some of the more interesting cabins are the inside promenade cabins with (non-opening) windows looking down upon the interior promenade. During the day these add plenty of space to the room, although you have to sit on the couch to look out at the action. The problems occur at night when the light in your stateroom become brighter than what's outside, essentially making your cabin a fishbowl for the world to watch.




Ship Overview

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! Royal Caribbean has the largest modern mega cruise liners in the world, as well as some of the most innovative technology on its newest ships, from robot bartenders to the fastest Wi-Fi at sea. Its fleet of 25 and counting are all-around favorites of passengers—arguably the most multigenerational (and Millennial) crowd at sea—who enjoy traditional cruising ambience with a touch of daring and whimsy. Each ship in the fleet has action-packed activities such as surfing pools, rock-climbing walls, and on the newest ships, skydiving simulators, and 10-story slides.

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 17, 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 6, 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 21, 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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