This is our 20th Royal Caribbean cruise, 32nd over all. Left home from upstate NY at 6:30AM and it’s 15 degrees, brrr. We have a non stop flight to FLL for our cruise next day on Independence of the Seas. Was a bit bumpy at times but arrived early around noon. It’s 75 and humid, yes! Took a little extra time to get to our booked Sea Club Resort on Ft Lauderdale Beach because of traffic. Taxi cost was $28 plus tip. Upon arriving we find the hotel under renovation and are not particularly happy about it. When we booked, we were told it was done. We quickly settled into room 420, magic marker indicating room number on door. Found 2 doubles and very new carpet as well as a 32 in flat screen, but little else good. It’s a very dated hotel and their idea of renovation aside from new carpet and TV is new caulk in the bathroom. Numerous small issues such as broken ironing board, loud ac, etc. We won’t go here again. Great location though across the road from the beach.
Got dressed for a walk on the beach even though it’s very overcast. We seem to miss great weather when we get a hotel on the beach. Tomorrow is to be 80 and sunny. Across the road is beautiful and long Ft Lauderdale beach. We took a very long walk. After, we headed south a few blocks to an outdoor mall where we walked around and then ate at Hooters. Afterward, we hit the CVS and bought our allotment of soda and wine. It was about a 10-15 minute walk back to the hotel so that stuff got heavy quickly. After dumping our liquid refreshments in our room, we head back to the beach to people watch. Should have brought towels to sit on the seawall (sandy & wet) as there is nowhere else to sit. Back inside for a shower and stay put for the night. Nice day, but disappointed in our accommodations. The place is functional, but no more than a 2 star IMO.
Sat - Day 1
Up at 7 and anxious to get to the ship. Hotel offers no free breakfast or coffee unless you booked on the hotel website for more $$$. We made the in room coffee which wasn’t too bad. Wife had a granola bar that she had with her and I had a couple donuts purchased at CVS the day before. We’ll eat much better in a few hours. We went outside for another walk along the beach. It’s a perfect sunny day. Back and sat by the pool for awhile relaxing while renovation workers walk back and forth. Back to the room for final packing and out by 10:15 am. Took a good 10-15 minutes to flag a taxi from the street, so now we were a little late. The ride to the port was $18 plus tip and we arrived at 10:45 am. The priority line was long. Might have been faster in the regular line. Checked in, pictures taken and walked right on at 11:10 am. As we’re walking across the walkway between terminal and ship we looked down and counted 29 motorcycles ready to be loaded on the ship as this is a biker cruise. This cruise also has several service dogs from “Paws for Cause” .
Headed straight to the Windjammer where doors weren’t open yet. At 11:30 am the backed up crowd headed in and it quickly became extremely crowded. Wife had the seafood rice paella and enjoyed it, along with peas and carrots. The fish she selected was very dry and not good. No lemonade that I found. Chose iced tea and strawberry water. I had the beef from the meat carving station and fries. Was all I needed for now and very good. Deserts, nothing to scream “wow” about as seems to be the norm the last several years. Had the soft serve from sprinkles and found not comparable to Carnival. They offer soft serve ice cream and yogurt 24 hrs and both are more tasty. After lunch we sat in the solarium until 1 pm when cabins are available. Nice cushions and nice breeze.
At 1 pm we headed to our Ocean View Family (OS) cabin 7500 on deck 7. Royal released these expensive cabins to anyone about 2 weeks before sailing and we quickly upgraded from our deck 3 ocean view. The cabin will sleep 6. Cabin has a king bed, a pull out sofa, a set of bunks, and 2 sitting chairs with ottomans. 3 closets too. The cabin measures 23 by 11. I believe some other FO cabins are a little larger. Has a great forward view of the helipad.
Changed into suits and headed back to the solarium for more relaxing. Wife had her first Love Connection drink of the cruise. Starting early for her. At 3 pm we walked around the ship waiting for muster at 4:15 pm. Our station was in the Pyramid Lounge on deck 5. Good thing we went 15 minutes early as late arrivals had to stand. Back to the cabin and found our luggage had arrived.
Tonight’s dinner being the first night is casual of course. We had no seat assignment for first seating so I had previously spoken to the Maitre’D about seat assignment and all he had were tables for 2 which we did not want. He gave us the 2 seat for now and said he’d work on a large table as the day went along. Our table on deck 3 was not that great in our opinion. Our neighbors (another 2 person table) were so close we could share conversation easily if we chose. Chairs are either worn out or cheap. There is about an inch and a half at most padding in the seat and after an hr or two you are really feeling it, and not in a good way. For dinner I had shrimp cocktail and caesar salad, both available every day. Wife chose escargot. Was very salty and not hot. For mains we chose prime rib and salmon, both good. For desert I had the choc almond cake and wife the carrot cake. Both ok but nothing exciting about either one. An issue came when wife wanted Earl Grey Tea. Named brand teas are gone on RCL. Now just generic stuff. Not even Lipton available. Pretty cheap there RCL?
After dinner we headed for the welcome aboard show at 7:40 pm. Really happy there was one for both early and late sitting. When there is only one for the night, it’s almost always about 10:30 pm and often we’re too tired to go. Met our cruise director Joff Eaton. Didn’t like him much off the bat, but he quickly became one of my favorite cruise directors over the course of the next 8 days. He really is excellent. Comedian was good. Went back to cabin to unpack and then off to the parade at 10:45 pm. The forward part of the ship was rocking gently, more than midship. Don’t book your cabin here if you are the least bit queasy. Slept great.
Day 2 - At Sea
Up around 8 and off to the windjammer. Pretty crowded being a sea day and this being a popular time to eat. After, we headed to the solarium and grabbed 2 great sitting chairs and turned them around to face the sea. We ate lunch separately to save the chairs for the rest of our time there. Wife ate at Jade, Royals Asian cuisine, and I grabbed pizza at Sorrento’s and brought it back to our solarium stake out. Today deserts were nothing to run for once again. Not saying there is nothing at all good, but didn’t consider anything outstanding. Not like it used to be 15 - 20 years ago.
Walked around a bit later in the day and then got ready for formal dinner. Headed to the Diamond Lounge at 5 and found that it had been expanded into the Viking Crown Lounge. This was great. No more crowding and much more comfortable. They had the usual hot and cold Hors d'oeuvres that you could help yourself to. Including chocolate covered strawberries, other candies, shrimp, egg rolls, cheeses, etc.. I had a couple whiskey sours and wife had a fuzzy navel after waiter getting permission from supervisor.
Something happened on second night there. Seems they have a problem making a mixed drink with peach schnapps in it? Refused a Baileys on ice also. One person sitting across from us had an expensive cognac every night we saw them. Why that and not Baileys is a good question I‘d like answered. After an hour there we headed to the dining room to our newly assigned table, 377 and no one knew where it was. After checking the seating chart we were escorted to the captains table, where they have apparently put other 2 seat tables who have complained. Found nice people there and enjoyed conversation, but impossible to carry on conversation with others on the opposite side. Had a live duo playing violin and piano close by. They played every night. For appetizer I got the shrimp cocktail and caesar salad and wife got the scallops which came prepared like escargot. Liked a lot. For main I ordered the tenderloin (excellent) and wife ordered the duck and disappointedly found it to be dry. Desert was cheesecake and chocolate souffle. Just ok.
After dinner we had pictures taken and got a couple free champagnes on the promenade. Then headed to the Pyramid lounge where a rock band was playing. Don’t see that on Carnival. Turns out this band “Rock the Boat” was one of two rock bands on the ship. See short videos of both. Really good !
At 9 PM was the first of the ship’s production showtimes. “Invitation to Dance”. We’ve seen before but from past experience, you find differences if you see a show on a different ship. The show was very good. Singers and dancers all strong. Afterward, went back to the cabin and to bed. Sniffles that I have been starting to get are much worse. Sneezing and headache too. Turned clocks ahead tonight.
Day 3 - At Sea
Wife is up at 7 am and off to the hot tub. Said water was sloshing around as the seas were a little rough. Had breakfast in windjammer when she got back and then off to the diamond lounge to pick up ice show tickets. Afterward, we went to the solarium to find seating. All lounges on the window sides are saved, either with body or book. We ended up turning around a love seat to face the sea. I ended up liking it better anyway. That was until the big screen started playing loud rap. I’m sure everyone else liked it? Wife took off to “Walk For Wishes”. The donation is only $10 and you get a T-shirt besides. It is a 1 mile walk around the ship (4 laps) if you wanted to participate. Our cruise director Joff did not walk, but handed out the t-shirts and gave everyone high fives as they passed the sky bar. Liked him more all the time as the cruise is progressing.
For lunch I stayed and saved our seats while wife went to eat at the Jades area. She loves Asian but does not eat in restaurants at home because I’ve told her what I’ve seen in some of their kitchens. We figure the ship’s restaurants are all much better at cleaning and food handling. When she returned, she brought a couple hot dogs, fries, and a good chocolate desert. I’m not that picky. We stayed until around 2:30 pm. By then the sun was directly on us through the glass making it uncomfortably warm. Ship is gently rocking and a great day at sea.
The repeaters party is this evening at 5:15 pm. Drinks were nothing to get excited about unfortunately. Trays consisted of red and white wine, champagne, and a yellow drink we thought had pineapple juice in it. No whisky sours, rum punch, etc. And not enough waiters. The Captain, Arnolf F. Remo spoke and was painful to listen to as he was an extremely poor speaker. Then the ship’s loyalty ambassador Emma Laycock spoke. She had her act together.
At dinner tonight another couple (who didn’t like their table for 2 either) joined making 13 total. Too big. Can’t hear the other side unless voices are raised. Appetizers tonight were caesar salad, mushroom soup, and crab cakes. I had chicken cordon bleu. Thought it was dry and wife definitely makes it a lot better. Wife had 2 crab cakes for main. Not hot enough for her unfortunately. Deserts were chocolate sensation from the everyday menu (not good) and Jaffa Cake which was good. After dinner we headed to the Pyramid Lounge for awhile where “Rock The Boat” was playing. Very good band.
At 9 pm was our seating’s main show, The Ultimate Entertainer, Finis Henderson. Very good impressionist singing modern as well as Country, and Sinatra, etc. Afterward we headed for the promenade where the 70’s show was to held. The cruise director and staff really rocked for over half an hr on one of the bridges. A lot of fun. Wife got a mojito in souvenir glass for $6.95. Good deal. At 11:30 pm was the adult comedian, Richie Minervini. Almost could have passed for a PG show. He was OK . To bed at 1 AM and still ship is rocking. Nice
Day 4 - St Maarten
Wife is up and out at 6:40 am hoping to get a peek at the sunrise. No dice today as it’s cloudy, cool, and windy on deck. Then it started to rain. Then on to the hot tub for some bad back relief. Nice and hot and empty! She came back awhile later and we were off to the windjammer for some of the fabulous food there. We took our time as we were not docked yet. Ship is cleared around 8 and we are off to one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, Orient. Taxi is $7pp with a full taxi, $18 total if there are only 1 or 2. Price the same each way. We settled in at the only dry lounges at an area close to Le String with 2 lounges and 2 drinks for $7 each. Good Time Charlie bar is in back of us. Unfortunately today is not as nice as we hoped for in the Caribbean. Very windy, so much so as the beach was not very enjoyable. Stayed 3 hrs and back to the windjammer for lunch. I grabbed the beef at the meat carver and wife headed for Jade (again). Sat out for awhile and then had a nap. Got ready for pre dinner drinks in the diamond lounge at 5. Wife asked for a fuzzy navel and the waiter balked again. Said have to go check with supervisor. Did come back with it. I had my usual whiskey sours. No problem leaving here with our free drinks so I got a fresh one for dinner.
Dinner tonight is casual. I had shrimp cocktail and caesar salad and wife had BLT salad which she liked. For dinner I had the strip steak which was just ok, and wife had sea bass and shrimp. Excellent! Tonight dinner was very slow (2 hrs) and table mates complained. Last to take orders and last to leave. After the complaint we had much faster service but waiters were still not very good. They put the wrong dish in front of someone almost every night. Desert for us were Drunkin Kahlua Cake. Not too good really. I ordered ice cream and was served a scoop not much larger than the size of a quarter. Really???? What do I do with that? At least I got it tonight though, as all previous nights I ordered it and I never got it. Thought I’d see how long it took for the waiter to wake up.
After dinner we headed for our 8:30 pm ice show, “Strings, A World of Adventure On Ice”. No falls and one of the guys could do triples like nothing. No plot to the show at all. One of the weakest ice shows we’ve seen as far as theme. Much of the show‘s music was played by a solo violinist. She was excellent!!! Would still go again though. At 10PM was the Love and Marriage Game Show. Always a hit with us. The cruise director makes or breaks this show and this show was really good. We have one of the best CD’s we’ve cruised with in Joff Eaton. . After the show Joff said the deck party was extremely windy, so we didn’t bother going up. Bed instead.
Day 5 - St Kitts
Wife is up and out early again at 6:30 am hoping to catch that sunrise. Not great today again as it’s cloudy and sprinkling as the ship approached the pier in St Kitts. Took some pictures, then the hot tub, then back to get me for breakfast.
We are off the ship by 9 (cleared at 8:30) and off to Carambola Beach Club. Taxi was $4pp if you had 4 people so my wife grabbed the first 2 people who looked like they were in for a beach day and we had our 4. As we approached a scenic area on the way to our destination, the skies opened up. We’d have to try again on the way back. Arriving at the beach club we found that this place is very nice. A nice open air restaurant, bar, and great facilities. You could actually come here on a rainy day and just hang out inside. The beach is gorgeous. We walked it and found less expensive chairs to rent all the way down to the left. Here is the Shipwreck Bar area that isn’t as nice. Didn’t like the outhouse type bathroom there either. Walked back to the beach club and rented 2 lounges and a very large umbrella that was really large enough to cover both lounges. Cost was pricy at $10 per lounge and another $10 for the umbrella (pay inside) but worth it as the lounges had very thick cushions and were very comfortable. Walking toward the right side of the beach, you could spot pelicans diving for fish and goats on the hillside. A great place for families to go. Sand is clean, water warm, and no loud annoying music. We’re the only ship in port so it’s not too crowded.
At noon my wife walked back to the Shipwreck Bar where she had read somewhere that the staff feeds the monkeys in back of the parking lot at that time. They put out sugar cane and bananas for what they called “green monkeys” although they looked more yellow. Also put out scraps for the mongoose who also come out to eat. They are not tame but a good crowd of them showed up for the free eats.
It’s a great day with a gentle breeze and very warm. Saw our cruise biker group had their bikes parked in the lot. We stayed until 2:30 pm, but had to get back as the ship won’t wait. On the way back we stopped at the scenic photo stop, St Timothy’s Hill where we got some great shots of nearby Nevis.
Back at the port, my wife wanted to go hunting for sea glass as we had a little extra time. She had read that if you go out to the main road that goes along the water, and turn left, there is a beach full of it. It’s true. Lots to choose from. I suggest you walk past anyone working on the beach and down a ways or they will want to “help” ( $$$) you find the glass. Then work your way back towards the ship.
Back on the ship we’re both tired, thirsty, and hungry. Showered and then headed to the Diamond Lounge on deck 14 for food and drinks during sail away.
Dinner is “smart” casual tonight. For appetizer, I had the usual. Wife had the mushroom balls (good) and insalata (not good). For main we both ordered the eggplant parm. Now I’m a really big fan of salt, but this was almost inedible as it tasted like they spilled it on the dish. We both ordered something else. Desert for us was Tiramisu. Also got my ice cream. Seems Royal has cut back on this too. Received only 1 scoop (always 2 in the past) and no cookie on top. Good service tonight (complaint previous night) as the head waiters were helping to filling water glasses etc.
At 7:45 pm was the top tier event to be held in the solarium. We arrived a bit after starting time and the place was mobbed and no place to sit. Drinks and Hors d'oeuvres didn’t look very good and so we left immediately. Too hot there ( and windy)anyway. We likely would have stayed awhile if there was a place to sit, this was a very poor choice of venue. We headed for the lounge where “Rock the Boat” was playing. Excellent again. Wish we had at least an hr to really sit down and listen to them, but the entertainment on this ship is so plentiful, just never happened. At 8:30 pm we headed for the Alhambra Theater on deck 3 and 4 below. Tonight’s production was “Once Upon A Time” with the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. Wife liked it a lot more than me. After the show I headed to the casino for some time while the wife went to cabin to rest her back.
Day 6 - San Juan
Wife is out early and no good sunrise again. Very cloudy but warm. She did get some nice shots anyway of the clouds. Enjoyed the hot tub and then back to cabin to pick me up for breakfast. Not a very nice day today as it’s threatening rain. We decided to forgo our planned beach day at Isla Verde, our favorite beach in San Juan. We walked around town instead. Many stores not open until 10 or 11. Got nabbed by a gallery owner who got us into his store. Found he was retired from teaching in NYC. He could talk your ear off. A very personable fellow. Bought a small picture from him. Still a little early for all the stores to be open and it looked like it was going to pour any minute so we started back. Of course we didn’t make it and we were quite soaked by the time we made our way back.
We changed and headed to the solarium to relax. There was a taco buffet on deck for lunch that there was a pretty good line for, but that didn’t interest us at all. Wife headed for Jade and when she returned, I ran down to Sorrento’s for pizza. Watched sail away at 2PM and then took a nap. So tiring being on vacation.
Tonight is formal. Got ready early and my wife headed to the diamond lounge to save me a seat while I went off to find a bar to make her a Chambord Champagne Cocktail. Knew we weren’t going to be able to get it in the lounge. I had a couple drinks while she sipped hers.
At dinner, wife and I ordered the seafood salad (nothing great) and escargot which she liked. For main we ordered the prime rib. Just ok. Wife ordered the Baked Alaska for desert and thought it was excellent. Walked around after dinner looking at pictures and shops.
For Showtime, “Horizon” played the Music of Motown. Not biggest fans of Motown, but we went anyway to at least give it a chance. Was not bad and I actually liked it. After the show, we went outside before turning in. Really nice out as it’s not too breezy. Wife decided to go to bed and I headed to the casino for some live dealer holdem. Didn’t win but had a great time. Back at 1AM.
Day 7 - Labadee
Wife is out early and finally got to see a sunrise. Really nice out and warm. Decided to try dining room for breakfast this morning. We always go at least once to get the French Toast. Something off with it this morning. Maybe sat around too long or something as it wasn’t as good as it usually is. Coffee not very good either.
Back to the cabin to get ready to go ashore at 10 am when the ship docks. We are a little early so we headed up to deck 12 for a good view coming in. Off the ship very quickly as you can disembark on deck 0 either forward or aft ( for all ports). Staked out a couple lounges under some shade and stayed all day. Great sunny day and a great view of the zip line in front of us in the distance. Our barbeque lunch consisting of ribs, chicken, pasta, coleslaw, etc. was good and wife really enjoyed it. Desert was cut fresh fruit and cake. We walked around the Labadee area after lunch taking pictures and exploring. We stayed away from the overly aggressive sales gauntlet along the back path. Back to the ship about 3 pm taking our time. Got ready and back to 14 at 5 pm for snacks and liquid refreshment. By this time we realized that the 2 bottles of wine we brought aboard were going to be unused and we’d have to pack them to bring home. Being able to drink all you want in the lounge and take one to dinner made it unnecessary to open any wine. I like beer in the evenings and wife goes for frozen cocktails.
Dinner tonight is casual. Wife had the Beef Carpaccio and clam chowder for appetizer and I just had a salad. For mains we both got the rack of lamb which was delicious. Wife also tried a pork dish. Came with crab meat on top. I remember her saying it looked bad, tasted worse. We both got a chocolate dish (name escapes me) that looked like mousse which was good. Wife also ordered the strawberry meringue desert. Sorry, can’t remember name of it exactly; she liked it though.
After dinner we walked around window shopping waiting for show time “Center Stage” with the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers at 9. We both agreed this show was excellent including the 2 great violinists. At 10:30 pm was Quest. It was great to see this scheduled somewhat earlier than on some other ships. We sometimes miss it because of the lateness. CD Joff did a great job with this too. Another show where the CD makes or breaks it. After wife went to bed, I took off to the casino again. Ship is rocking gently.
Day 8 - At Sea
Our last day. Not too excited about that. It’s cloudy but warm. Breakfast in the windjammer at 7:30 am then out on deck to find chairs for the day. Found a nice area aft by Adventure Ocean where there is an overhang and shade. Sun eventually came out and it got much warmer. Wife took off for Jade at lunch time again. Thought it was really good again. Deserts, not so much. I grabbed pizza at Sorrento’s again. By 1:45 pm it was getting to be too hot and we decided to move. Decided to sit in on the art auction featuring Colleen Black. Nothing too exciting there as we didn’t see any deals to be had. Wife decided it was time to order her last Love Connection of the cruise. They don’t make them as well as they used to. Years ago the mixers had more authentic fruit flavor and so were a bit more colorful, in her opinion. That doesn’t stop her from getting them though. Back to the cabin to begin packing. sigh
At 5 pm we headed for the Diamond Lounge for the last time. Dinner is casual as almost always on the last night. Many of our table mates ate in either Giovanni’s or windjammer as the menu in the MDR wasn’t that appetizing tonight. Only 4 of us at the huge table now and our waiter still screwed up orders. Won’t miss him in the least. We both had the onion soup and agreed we’ve had much better in the past. For main, I had the steak and wife had the pasta, both off the classics part of the menu. Neither was very good. One of our table mates got the Chops steak. Came over done and dry. He gave me a piece and it was bad. He should have sent it back, but didn’t want to delay dinner. For desert wife had the key lime pie which she liked, and I the banana crème brulee which I didn’t like.
After diner we finished packing and then to see “Rock The Boat” one last time in the Pyramid Lounge. Had to leave way too soon to get to the farewell show downstairs in the Alhambra Theater. Started out with about 10 minutes of the cruise video that you can buy. The orchestra did their thing as well as the singers and dancers. Then CD Joff did stand up for about 15 minutes. He was very entertaining IMO. Then came a comedian juggler who was pretty good. After the show we went to the Karaoke Idle final. Several singers went for the big prize. All excellent, but some more so than others. Time is now 11:15 pm and we’re tired. Luggage out in the hall and off to bed for the final time on the Independence.
Day 9 - Debarkation Ft Lauderdale
Dock by around 5AM, we had tag #16 which we traded for #37 at customer service the previous day. Tags were out and you can take any number you want. Ate breakfast in the windjammer and then to the theater for the short wait. Number was called at 8 am and off to find our luggage which was not difficult. Taxi back to the airport was $18 including tip. We always go inside to check luggage. Often the lines are shorter. You can check luggage as much as 4 hrs ahead on Southwest. Check in complete we headed for security and have never seen the line so long. I estimated over 200 people in the line. Through and sitting at our gate at 9:45 am. For our 12:20 pm flight.
The bad begins now. Our flight is late leaving. Very late. We didn’t board until well after 1PM and no way we were going to make our connection in Baltimore. We arrived about 20 minutes after the flight would have taken off. And then to boot when we arrived at the gate, everyone stands up getting their stuff out of the bins and pilot comes on and says everyone must put all their belongings back, sit down and belts latched. We need to move to another gate. Oh fun!!!! Another 10 minutes pass until all this is done. Finally off and to a counter where we are rebooked to a 9:35 pm flight. Fun, only 5 more hours till we take off. And now it’s starting to snow too. Glad Baltimore has reasonably fast ,free internet and was able to pass time on my netbook. Lots of places to walk, shop, and eat as this airport is huge. 5 hrs actually passed pretty quickly. Home at 11:30 pm and tired.
In closing I can only tell you what a great time we had cruising on the Independence. It’s a beautiful ship. The 8 night itinerary is great. We’d go again in an instant. I know I’ve done lots of complaining, mostly about the food, but it’s the same on all the lines and should not detour anyone from going on this ship, or any other.
Great entertainment and lots of it
Diamond lounge extended into Royal Crown Lounge
Great incentives for being loyal
Hot Tubs comfortably hot
More and better bands
Live music in dining room
Repeaters party pales in comparison to Carnival’s
Food still declining in quality
Didn’t like not being able to get some drinks in Diamond Lounge