We had the chance to try out Independence of The Seas after her refit as part of Royal Caribbean’s ‘Royal Amplified’ refresh programme.
Come with us as we check out the changes and give you our thoughts. Bring your swimwear and sunglasses!
Our cruise was in May 2018 and lasted three nights. We sailed from Southampton, had a day at sea, a day in Cherbourg and then back to Southampton. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and sea conditions.
Embarkation in Southampton
We travelled to Southampton by train – boarding at London Waterloo and disembarking at Southampton Central station. the journey time is approximately 90 minutes. The journey flies by when you’re sipping on a glass of bubbly from M&S, and gives you plenty of time to tie-up loose ends before you board the ship and turn-off.
Once you get to Southampton Central you’ve one of two options. If you’re feeling fit and have time to spare you can walk it – it takes about 15-20 minutes. On the other hand if you’re running late, or feeling lazy, it’s around five minutes and £8 in a taxi.
The cruise terminal was unusually busy when we arrived, in fact the boarding queue was out the door of the terminal and up the pier. But that was in part because this was a sold-out sailing to show off the new ‘Amped up’ Independence of The Seas. Luckily the weather was nice, and the queue moved quickly.
We were through security, check-in, and on the boat in less than an hour.
First impressions of Independence of The Seas
Independence of The Seas is the third of three Freedom-Class ships. She was christened in April 2008 by Elizabeth Hill – the founder of a children’s disability charity.
At the time of her launch Independence of The Seas (affectionately called “Indy” by her many fans) was the largest cruise ship in the world, that title has now been passed on to her Oasis-Class sisters.
Indy weighs in at an impressive 154,407GT, measures 339 metres long and 18 decks high, she has a passenger capacity of 4,560 and can cruise at an impressive 21.6 knots.
At the heart of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom-Class ship is the Royal Promenade – a three storey high shopping and entertainment street that goes most the length of the ship. Here you’ll find everything from champagne bars, pizza restaurants, sweet shops, guest services, designer boutiques and more.
Every inch of public space was looking brand new and immaculately clean, it’s clear that a lot of time and money had been put into Indy’s 10th birthday make-over.
At the time of booking we chose an Ocean View Guarantee, which meant we’d be guaranteed a stateroom with a window – but by picking a guarantee rate it means you pay less, but don’t get to say where on the ship it is.
Our stateroom was allocated a couple of days before the cruise. We had stateroom 2290, which is down on Deck 2 near the front elevators and conference centre.
The cabin was compact but plenty big enough for two people to move around in. We had the beds put together into a double and you both get a small nightstand unit.
The cabin also had a two seater sofa, small chiller-style fridge, and an interactive LCD TV.
The bathroom was again compact, but just enough room for two of you to bumble about and get ready. We were pleased to see a proper shower screen rather than the shower curtains on some other ships.
We were a little disappointed that Royal Caribbean chose not to refresh the staterooms during Indy’s ‘Amped Up’ dry dock. Newer ships are getting the much more contemporary navy and stone colour scheme, whilst Indy’s teal and terracotta colour scheme is looking dated now – and in places a little worn. It’s not a deal breaker by any means however.
One of the advantages of being way down on Deck 2 was we were pretty close to the waterline. This meant we got some amazing views and at night we could hear the sea.
Bars and Lounges
On a ship this size there are plenty of places to quench your thirst, and a vibe to suit every kind of passenger. We had drinks packages so were sure to try them all out… for you.
Starting on Deck 4 you have the Royal Theatre Bar, the nautical themed Schooner Bar, the Casino Bar, Playmakers Sports Bar (I recommend the wings here), and Boleros Latin themed bar.
Photo of Playmakers Sports Bar and menu. (click to enlarge)
Up onto Deck 5 and the Royal Promenade. Starting at the front of the ship and working aft we have: Ale & Anchor (the British style pub), Vintages Wine Bar, and the Champagne Bar.
We were slightly puzzled why Royal Caribbean hadn’t chosen to convert the Champagne Bar into their speakeasy style R-Bar like they had with other ships in the ‘Amped Up’ programme. Not necessarily a complaint as we love champagne, but just an oddity.
Photos of Ale & Anchor pub and Vintages (click to enlarge)
Up on Deck 11 we have the Solarium Bar (in the adults only pool area), the Pool bar, and the Plaza Bar within the Windjammer Cafe.
Deck 12 has the Sky Lounge bar which overlooks the main pool area.
Deck 14 is home to the Viking Crown Lounge which hosts the Olive Or Twist martini bar, the Suite Lounge and the Diamond Club.
There’s a mouthwatering array of places to eat on Independence of the Seas – both complimentary and speciality. You’ll never hungry aboard Indy.
Your complimentary dining options are:
- The Main Dining Room. This stunning three storey high dining room harks back to the glory days of ocean travel. Attention to detail is evident in everything from the furniture, the glassware and the chandeliers. The menu changes daily and we were never disappointed.
- The Windjammer Cafe. This is Indy’s casual restaurant and buffet. Located up on Deck 11 it’s open almost from early until late, serving hot and cold food, drinks, sweet treats and more.
- Cafe Promenade. Located on the Royal Promenade the cafe is open 24 hours a day serving tea & coffee, sandwiches and cakes.
- Sorrento’s Pizzeria. Right next to Cafe Promenade you’ll find Sorrento’s, also open 24 hours a day this little pizza shop serves freshly baked pizza – perfect for a late night snack after drinks and dancing.
Pictures of the Main Dining Room and Lobster (for an up-charge) (click to enlarge)
The speciality dining options are:
- Chops Grille. Royal Caribbean’s signature American steakhouse. This smaller restaurant up on Deck 11 aft feels intimate, beautifully decorated and the service was impeccable.
Dinner at Chops Grille aboard Independence of The Seas (click to enlarge)
- Giovanni’s Table. An Italian Trattoria where freshly made pasta, al forno and antipasti is served family style with beautifully paired wines.
- Fish & Ships. Fish, on a ship. What’s not to like? This poolside bar serves freshly fried classics such as cod & chips, as well as some new favourites like calamari.
- Johnny Rockets. A favourite on Royal Caribbean ships for years, this burger chain was founded in 1986 and offers up freshly grilled burgers and chilli dogs.
- Izumi. Serving up sushi, sashimi and tempura in a slick Japanese themed restaurant and sake bar. You won’t find fresh fish on the seven seas – well other than those swimming below you.
- Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade. This new concept for Royal Caribbean creates an energetic space where you can watch sports, take part in arcade games and grab a casual meal. This place serves up sliders, burgers, popcorn shrimp and wings – oh god the wings.
Activities on board
The Independence of The Seas has always made for an action-packed vacation, but after her Royal ‘Amped Up’ make-over there’s more to do than ever.
- Fancy hanging ten whilst cruising along at 21.6 knots 11 decks up? Indy has you covered. The Flowrider surfing simulator at the back of the ship allows you show off your skills, or learn some new ones with Royal Caribbean’s instructors.
- How does the rush of a waterslide sound? What about two? The Perfect Storm waterpark hosts the Typhoon and Cyclone water slides offering adrenaline thrills and even transparent sections offering sea views.
- Sky Pad is a new innovation from Royal Caribbean combining a trampoline park and virtual reality. Suspended by bungee straps, you slide on a VR headset and bounce your way through futuristic landscapes or candy lands.
- Ice Skating at sea? Yes, Indy has her very own real ice skating rink. The Skating Rink in Studio B is used for professional ice shows, as well as giving passengers the chance to don ice skates themselves and show off their moves.
- Laser Tag: Battle for Planet Z: when Studio B is not being used for ice skating it’s converted into a Laser Tag area. Contestants are kitted up with laser rifles and vests, and then split into two teams. You compete to win the crown for your team.
- The Escape Room up on Deck 15 sees you and your friends locked inside a mysterious observatory, and only your wits will get you released. Be sure to book this as soon as you get onboard as places are limited.
- Mini Golf is a staple of cruise ships, and cliched as it is it’s never not fun. Grab yourself a piña colada, a putter and score yourself a hole in one up on the Independence Dunes.
Activities onboard Independence of The Seas (click to enlarge)
Leisure on board
All of that sound like far too much effort for you? There’s plenty to do with your feet up.
- The Solarium. Our favourite place onboard any Royal Caribbean ship is The Solarium. This adults only retreat has its own swimming pool, loungers, bar and even two large whirlpools cantilevered over the edge of the ship. Perfect to get away from the hubbub of the ship.
- The Pool Deck on Deck 11 has two good sized swimming pools, five hot tubs, two bars and lots of loungers. You can take a dip, or kick back with a daiquiri as you enjoy a live act in the bandstand.
- The Vitality Spa located all the way forward of the ship offers pampering and relaxation with Elemis products and trained therapists.
- How about a relaxing stroll? The outdoor promenade on Deck 4 wraps around the entire ship, even allowing access up to the helipad on Deck 5 for some amazing sail-away views and incredible sunset vistas.
We really enjoyed our three night sailing on the Independence of The Seas. It’s not hard to see why Indy is regarded as one of the UK’s favourite ships – she got a wonderful vibe and incredible service.
Her recent refit as part of the ‘Royal Amplified’ programme really has given Indy a whole new lease of life for her tenth birthday and she feels no less feature packed and loved than some of the newer mega ships.
We loved the dining options, the food in the Main Dining Room was excellent and our dinner in Chops Grille was possibly the best steak either of us have ever had.
It’s great to see Royal Caribbean constantly investing it its existing fleet and we look forward to sailing on Indy again soon.
If this was helpful to you consider sharing it using the buttons below. Have you sailed on Indy before? Got a sailing lined up? What’s your favourite Royal Caribbean ship? Got a question I haven’t answered here? Feel free to leave a comment, or contact me on twitter at @CruisingWithTom or Instagram at @TomLovesCruising