Independence of the Seas
Jan 31, 2015

Started our 8 night cruise vacation with a 1 week working vacation in Clearwater Fl where my mother lives 6 months a yr escaping the winter weather in upstate NY. Her home was in desperate need of repair as I haven’t visited in 3 years. Didn’t mind the work much as the weather was not much more than high 60’s most days and not beach weather.

Day1 - Saturday FLL

Up early at 4:15 for the 1/2hr ride to Tampa International for the 45 minute flight to FLL. No lines in the airport at all and looked empty. Flight only had 30 people on it so it was very pleasant. We arrived in FLL around 9 and much too early for the short taxi ride to the pier. We sat on some semi comfortable couches at baggage claim for an hr and then headed to port. Arrived by 10 and on board at 11. Windjammer opened early at 11:15. I headed to the meat carver where they almost if not always have a bottom round being served on the first day. That and the fries were very good. Wife had some excellent seafood paella and moist chicken. Very good. Deserts were only ok.
Wife sat in the solarium for awhile waiting for cabins to open at 1 while I took a walk down to the dining room to get our waitlisted dining changed to early. No problem at all. Not like last yr when we had to jump through hoops. After changing dining, back to the solarium and watched boats going up the channel. Only 60’s today.
We walked a bit and back to the cabin for a short nap before muster. Then got ready for pre diner drinks in the diamond lounge on deck 14. Got there right at 5 and not a seat in the place. They didn’t mind you getting a drink and leaving with it and enjoying the views in the Royal Crown. We just went back and forth grabbing drinks and snacks all week. Worked fine for us.
Dinner tonight as all first nights is casual. Less so for many. Were seated at a deck 4 table overlooking deck 3. Very nice location. Met Colleen and Lonnie and also Peg and Gary from Minnesota. Had a great time sharing stories with them through out the week. Appetizers were smoked fish, shrimp cocktail, and cesaer salad. For main we both selected prime rib and found just ok. For desert, choc almond cake. Not good. Also had chocolate ice cream and our excellent waiter brought without asking by the 3rd night. Back to our inside cabin 7357 in prime aft location. Luggage had arrived and we quickly unpacked. Wife has been on this class so many times, she knows were everything goes. To the welcome aboard show at 7:45 where we met our cruise director Jaime. Wife did not care for him at all. I wasn’t sure yet. Comedian Dave Burleigh also did a show and was pretty good. After the show we headed directly to the Pyramid Lounge where “Rock the Boat” was playing. A great band that has been on this ship for nearly 7 years. Easy to see why as they are EXCELLENT! Lasted too short as they were interrupted to play some game show. Ship is rocking as it’s quite windy. Called it a night

Day 2 - At Sea

Wife is up at 6:30 to see sunrise, but was so cool and windy she didn’t stay long. Tried out the solarium hot tub and not hot enough. Later we headed for the windjammer for breakfast. The usual RCL affair. Not much change. Donuts are gone but stale pastries aren’t. Afterward we headed to deck 10 concierge lounge to see our concierge Raj and pick up ice tickets. Still pretty chilly out and headed to Royal Crown for some reading. On this cruise, there were a group of 800 interesting people. A few had their guitars in the card room playing and singing. Last yr was a bike cruise. This was a nerd cruise. This was the reason it was so hard to get early seating as they had the entire deck 3 early seating. Name of the group was JOCO (Jonathon Coulton) Seems they go on lots of cruises. They were not hard to spot as in their dress, colored hair, demeanor. I called them “walkers” after the 2nd or 3rd day. They had their own speakers and entertainment and didn’t bother anyone for the most part. Wasn’t cool taking over much of the Royal Crown Lounge at peak before dinner hours though.
For lunch we headed to the windjammer at 11:30. Wife most always heads for Jade and was really good today. I had the beef stroganoff and was good as well. Still a little too windy and cool to be comfortable outside. Wife not feeling well, so she laid down while I checked out the casino. Tried my luck with a $20 square purchase for the Superbowl tonight. Had 3 or 4 cards filled and still no numbers drawn. Found out they drew numbers once before the game and put them in the same positions on all cards. Stupid, stupid!
Diner is formal tonight and we enjoy pre dinner drinks in the lounge again. For appetizer we had the scallops in garlic (yum). For mains, we had the duck and tenderloin. Very good but portions could have been a little larger. For desert, cheesecake and mile high lemon meringue pie. All good. After dinner we head to the promenade where the captain’s reception starts at 7:45.
The main show is Royal Caribbean’s Invitation to Dance. Excellent! Singers and dancers are all excellent. Even if you’ve seen it, it is different on other ships. Always different singers and costumes. To the Pyramid lounge hoping to see the scheduled Rock the Boat group, but the super bowl was still on so no go. Looked like a lot of fun if it wasn’t formal night. Hot dogs, wings, and taco stuff being served. Left at 10:30 after the Patriots won. Wife hit the sack and I checked out the casino some more.
Clocks ahead 1 hr tonight.

Day 3 - At Sea

We are really late this morning, partly because of the time change. At 9 we ate breakfast in the windjammer and then head to the solarium for some quiet. At 10, wife walked a bit taking in the archery contest. Too bad wife’s sister wasn’t along. She was New York State Champion in her younger days. Checked out watch sale. Even though it’s warm out, it’s still very windy and the promenade was full. Walkers had a “Fancy Pants Parade” at 9 which we missed. Dressed in full body costumes such as animals.
At noon, wife ate in the windjammer, all Jade selections and was very happy. Said was excellent. Linzer cake was good. I had pizza.
The welcome back party was at 5:15. Not great as there was no food and warm watery drinks such as Champaign with grenadine, rum punch, and Curacao punches. Orchestra played but no appearance from the captain. Would have been better off going to the diamond lounge.
Dinner is casual. For appetizers, we had the fruit medley, mushroom soup, and crab cake. For mains, chicken cordon blue. Not great. For desert we both got the Jaffra cake. Not good. Cherries Jubilee was good.
Went to “Guess That Tune” in the Schooner bar after dinner. Very crowded for these events there. For the main show at 9, “The Unexpected Boys” played. Excellent show and standing ovation. After that we went to the promenade where the 70’s dance party was. Very good and the crew were very energetic. At 11:30 we took in Max Dolcini for the adult comedian. Just ok.

Day 4 - St Martin

Docked around 8:30. It’s warm but cloudy. Breakfast in the WJ as almost always. As there are no longer announcements on the ship, you had to pay attention as to when you could disembark. We were off by around 9 and off to Orient Beach. $7 pp with more than 5 in your cab bus. We were dropped at Galion Beach. Ok, but a little quiet. We stayed at “Kontiki” and for $25 you got 2 very thick cushioned chairs with umbrella that weren’t on top of your neighbors and free wifi. Rained briefly after we settled in and was misty. Beach was crowded more so that were used to. After awhile the weather cleared up and was very nice. Left around 3 and browsed the stores at port. Wife bought a beach hat.
Back on the ship we showered and headed to deck 14 diamond lounge (which we never actually sat down in) for our food and drinks. Shrimp, chicken legs, spring rolls, and chocolate covered strawberries as well as some other candy. Yum!!!!
For dinner theme was tropical dress. For appetizers we had spring salad and cocka leekie (meh). Also cheeses sticks that were very good. Baby shrimp were slimy and not good. For mains we had mustard covered beef and Singapore Noodles, both good. For desert we had the choc cappuccino cake and pecan pie, both good also.
No main show tonight so we took in “Frozen In Time” the ship’s ice show. We’ve seen many many ice shows on the ship and this was ok, but not the best. A few very good skaters and good music. Last years show on this ship was much better. At 10:30 is the deck part so we head there right after skating. It’s warm with a full moon. Rock the Boat was playing and as always, excellent. Left at 11:15 and to bed.

Day 5 - St Kitts

Ate in the WJ again. I’m not a big breakfast eater. I usually have Rice Krispies and maybe some bacon, sausage and donut. Wife loves breakfast and looks forward to her muffin, eggs, and fruit.
The ship docked at 7 but we didn‘t manage to get off until 9 or so. Vendors were pushing Cockelshell Beach and weren’t interested in taking us to Carambola Beach. Maybe it’s just easier to take people there. Cockelshell beach is St Kitts’ tourist trap beach such as Megans is on St Thomas. We’ve been there and found a dirty beach were horses and dogs do their thing and not in a good way. Carambola is very nice without the crowds. In fact it’s in our top 3 beaches in the Caribbean. You’ll find a great place to eat with bar and food there.  Nice soft sand too. Took at least 30 minutes to get a taxi there as it‘s more expensive if there are only 2 going. We rounded up another couple (Erin and Matt from Canada) and ended up getting put into the Cockelshell group to be dropped off anyway. Cost was $4 pp. Erin and Matt snorkeled and said it was pretty good. 2 heavily padded lounges and umbrella were $30. Don’t forget to go see the monkeys and mongoose down the beach at noon. Stayed as long as we dared. We try not to cut it too close in getting back before sail away. Left at 3.
Dinner is smart casual tonight after our pre dinner drinks on 14. For mains we got the Eggplant Parm (not good) and the Chicken Marsala which was good.
At 9 is “Center Stage”, Royal Caribbean’s production show. Very good. At 10:30 was the “Love and Marriage” game show. Always a hit with us, but too tired tonight. You know how laying around at the beach tuckers you right out.

Day 5 - San Juan

We are off by around 8:30 and decide not to go to Isle Verde Beach today even though it‘s a beautiful day. We walked along the water to Morro Castle instead. It’s about a mile each way and easy walking on the paved path along the ocean. Lots of cats along the path as there is a rescue very close by and they are very happy living around the area after release. On way back to ship from the walk there are a few venders selling their crafts. No pressure selling here like some other islands we visit. All are very friendly and many retired to San Juan from the states. We needed to be on board for sail away by 1:30 so we headed back early and on at noon. Headed for the windjammer. A Love Connection  for my wife at sail away and then she went back to cabin for some rest as I stayed out and about. Went back to cabin at 4:30 and I mentioned that the diamond event was at 5:15. She completely forgot and was in the shower quickly to be ready.
The diamond even seems to be more and more lackluster every time we attend. This one is no different. Consisting of only cheese, olives, Prusciotto, rolls, etc. No shrimp like the old days. Drinks such as yellow birds, champagne, and punch were nothing special. If you can catch a waiter that is about finished serving and ready to go get another tray, they will get you most anything you want.
Dinner is formal tonight. Appetizers included scallops (good but only warm) and French onion soup (not good). Mains were Lamb shanks for both of us and were good. For desert I had the strawberry soufflé and wife had the key lime pie, very good. 
For the main show, Tracey Shield a Celine Dion imitator took the stage. She was a contestant on an English talent show and did well. She tried way too hard to imitate Celine and I didn’t like it. She has a great voice however, and I would have rather she just sang a show. After the show we sat in for a few minutes listening to “Rock The Boat” in the lounge. When done we listened to Robbie McKay. Said he was the 5th Beatle and played with some famous bands in the 60”s. He was ok. Afterwards wife to bed and me to casino (won $2) for awhile. Clocks back tonight.

Day 6 - Labadee

Wife is up early for sunrise but 5 or 10 minutes late as the planner had it listed wrong. Took pictures anyway and then to hot tub which she said was perfect. We both then went to windjammer and wait for our 10AM arrival in Labadee. Not nice so far as it’s very cloudy and windy. Arriving we found the Grandeur of the Seas was already docked, a surprise to us as we’ve never been here with 2 ships. We were sure that our favorite places were already taken. We were off by 10:30. Still cloudy and windy.
We sat under tree near “Barefoot Beach Club” sign. Wife liked it there as it was close to restroom and stayed shaded all day when the sun did eventually come out. So called improvements have taken a toll on the beach paradise. Now barriers of rocks on the beach keep people from walking it. For lunch it’s the usual barbeque fare. Hot dogs, burgers, chicken, ribs, salads, cole slaw, rice and beans, corn, grapes, apples, cookies, pineapple upside down cake, etc. We took a long walk around before leaving at 3:30. We showered and back to 14 for appetizers, drinks, and sail away. Sunset over Haiti.
Dinner is smart casual tonight. I had the seafood salad and caesar for starters and wife had the corn pepper soup (never again) and caesar. For mains we had the fisherman’s plate consisting of a nice size lobster tail and 3 small shrimp. Very good. I also got that but intended to give it away and the strip steak off everyday menu. Very good.  For desert I had the white choc mousse cake and ice cream. Good. Wife had Grand Marnier soufflé, not great. We walked around a bit before the show.
The main show tonight is “Once Upon A Time” by the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. Singers very strong but not our favorite. Afterward we headed to lounge to see “Rock The Boat’. They were doing 50’s - 60’s hits tonight and were excellent as always. We stayed there for a long time and skipped Quest.

Day 7 - At Sea

Looking bleak out this morning. Cloudy, windy, and cooler.  Breakfast in WJ and off to the bridge tour at 9. Security there to wand everyone. Didn’t want pictures of the procedure, but oops. Got one anyway. Lasted for about 20 minutes. Was interesting. At 10 we did the galley tour. The executive chef Josef Blum from Switzerland gave a full 1 hr talk. Very interesting and all business! Said they made 60000 to 70000 meals every day. Also said that if you get cold food, it’s not on them. Plates are picked up by waiters within seconds of coming out and are very hot at that time.
Ate lunch as soon as the WJ opened. All those tours give you an appetite. Found a place that wasn’t too windy between gym and solarium on deck 11. Only chairs there though. Had the usual happy hr on 14 and then to casual dinner at 6.
Starters were shrimp cocktail, caesar, spinach dip, and clam chowder (MEH). Waiter brought sample of Shitake appetizer and was good. For main we had the lamb chops, very good. For desert, I had ice cream only, wife had strawberry meringue something. We both liked. After dinner we packed till we had to leave for farewell show at 9. CD was really happy as his wife was on this week before his vacation starts at the end of the cruise. He sang and the Latin dancers danced. Very good. Comedian Jim David did a routine and was hysterical. Then up to Pyramid for a last listening to “Rock the Boat”. They are now on Anthem of the Seas after being on this ship for 7 years. Listened till 10:30 then the suitcases went in the hall and I went to casino to cash out. Won 2 more dollars!!!

Day 8 - Ft Lauderdale

Never fun at all the last day. It’s off to breakfast in the dining room this time at 6:30. They were very fast this morning. French toast that we always go here for was excellent. We were off by 7:10 and at the airport before 8. Will Wheaton, one of the walker speakers on the cruise checked in in front of me on his way to Long Island.

Another cruise is history

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