Mini Cruise on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas – Day 1
When we were given the opportunity to go on a mini cruise to review the newly-refitted Independence of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom Class liners, we jumped at the chance. Spending just one night on board the Independence of the Seas for our mini cruise was a great way to establish whether or not newbies like us would enjoy a full cruise. Royal Caribbean has invested £10m in the refurbishment, and we were very excited to see what Independence of the Seas had to offer. Especially as we have not cruised before.
Our sense of excitement increased when we arrived at Southampton Docks, to see Independence of the Seas towering above us. With a guest capacity of 3,634 looked after by a crew of 1,365 and a multitude of facilities, this is a seriously big ship with a great staff to passenger ratio that means guests should always feel well looked after.
Embarkation was incredibly straightforward, and all of the Royal Caribbean staff that we met were really friendly and welcoming. We were even greeted by the ‘sweet lady’ bearing gifts.
After receiving our ship’s pass and a quick passport check we walked alongside the ship. It’s at that moment you really realise how enormous she is towering above you like a massive tower block.
For those who are wondering whether a cruise is for them, this was the first major plus point. Boarding is much less stressful than travelling by plane, and you’re able to start exploring the ship and its amenities immediately.
Within half an hour we were settling into our well-appointed stateroom with balcony, spacious bedroom area and bathroom. The welcome pack includes all the information you need including daily schedules.
We spent the next few hours getting our bearings and finding our way around the ship and its facilities. With 14 decks and features that include an escape room, a climbing wall, laser tag and water slides, there was plenty to see and do.
Fortunately, there are interactive plans of the ship on every deck, ensuring that guests don’t get lost and don’t miss out on the many activities scheduled throughout the day.
We were hungry after our exploring, and so made our way to the Windjammer Marketplace. This is the ship’s culinary hub with an enormous buffet available at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Working in a hospital where we are constantly reminding people of the importance of hand hygiene I was pleased to see this was taken seriously on the ship. There are hand washing facilities at the entrance to every food areas – a good precaution when there are so many people living in close proximity!
For the launch of the newly refurbished ship, there was a massive celebration cake.
This part of the ship also houses the speciality dining restaurants Chops Grille; Giovanni’s Table and Izumi. We lucky enough to be able to sample delicacies from each of their menus.
We then enjoyed a lovely lunch filling our plates at the buffet, which caters for all tastes from burgers and chips to healthy salads, pizzas and Indian delicacies. Judging by the range at the condiments station there’s an extensive selection of food available.
We also took the opportunity to order drinks from the lively and well-stocked bar.
After some more wandering, we decided we ought to get some proper exercise in order to work up an appetite for our next meal and so headed for the Spa and Fitness Centre.
Again, the staff were incredibly helpful and welcoming, giving us some work out tips and explaining all of the facilities on offer. It was one of the best -equipped fitness centres we have ever attended, but the icing on the cake was the floor to ceiling windows giving incredible views of the sea ahead as we ran on the treadmill!
It was extra special for us to sail out past the Isle of Wight as we got a great view of our holiday home in Seaview. So, of course, we had to enjoy a post work out drink as we felt the pleasant breeze revived us on the deck.
In the evening, we donned formal wear in order to attend the gala dinner in the sumptuous Sapphire Dining Rooms. It was like walking into a scene from “Titanic” – 3 floors of tables; chandeliers and bow-tied waiters.
Not surprisingly when catering on this scale, there were limited menu choices, and this was compounded by our requirements for vegetarian and gluten-free meals respectively. It was slightly confusing as whilst the menu had food types marked it wasn’t always correct.
I was, however, provided with a great selection of gluten-free bread and the veggie options all sounded very pleasant.
It turned out to be a great experience especially as the wine kept flowing and was a good quality.
After dinner we enjoyed some of the extensive evening entertainment on offer. We found our way to the theatre which was as big as any London West End theatre I’ve been to.
Our entertainment for the evening started with a performance by the “Take That Experience” in the fully equipped theatre, which had the audience on their feet and in full voice.
Next was a trip to the casino, which could have been in one of the top Vegas hotels. We settled in at the roulette table and even managed to double our stake, which definitely added to the enjoyment of the evening.
We had heard there was a nightclub deep within the ships centre. We took a quick look and disappeared quickly. Not for us!
After enjoying a few drinks in the various bars ( well we did have to try them!) we got an attack of the munchies and went in search of a midnight snack. Needless to say, this is also catered for. We found Sorrentos pizza place on the ship’s main thoroughfare, the Royal Promenade, where slices of freshly cooked pizza, were being served to the party makers at 2 am! I was thrilled to discover they would cook me my own gluten-free pizza. A perfect end to our first day at sea.
On this particular trip, we were guests of Royal Caribbean, Independence of the Seas and I’ll be following up this post with another piece about what else we got up to on our mini cruise! Safe to say I’m a cruise convert now – especially with that fabulous onboard gym which gives me the perfect excuse to eat what I want while I’m travelling!
For more about travelling and trying a mini cruise with Royal Caribbean, check their website.
Thinking of trying a mini cruise yourself or a longer trip with Royal Caribbean? Why not pin this post for later
Disclosure – we travelled as guests of Royal Caribbean but all content is editorially given.