After sailing for ten years, Royal Caribbean recent refurbishment of Independence of the Seas has unveiled a sparkling new facilities and stunning interiors that will make you feel like it's a whole new ship altogether!
I stepped on-board for the grand unveiling on 13 May for two-nights of thrills, fun and excitement to find out what this multi-million pound makeover had in store...
Independence of the Seas was the first cruise ship I've been on and it didn't disappoint. From the minute we entered the cruise terminal, staff were smiley and friendly, guiding us to our rooms and helping us find our way around.
We arrived to a modest-sized inside room with plenty of space for two and amenities including: a large bed, TV, telephone, small table and couch. The bathroom included a shower and vanity area and hair dryer. In all, there was sufficient storage space with bedside drawers, dressing table and a wardrobe in the room.
Leaving our luggage unpacked, we were keen to get out and explore the ships new facilities...
Sunday 13 May
We headed straight for the Windjammer, a buffet-style venue with dishes to suit everyone's tastes. As it was coming to lunchtime, the counters were laden with salad, pizzas, build-your-own-burgers, fries and desserts. During breakfast, you would typically see these counters packed with an array of cereals, fruit, pancakes, waffles, bacon, eggs and a made-to-order omelette section, and dinner features similar items to those in the main dining room.
After some food, we sought out some of the ship's new features, starting with the SkyPad and Escape Room. The SkyPad is not for the fainthearted, as users don a virtual reality headset and disappear into a world of gravity-defying fun. Attached to a harness, you bounce on the trampoline as you experience soaring through a virtual world.
Way up on deck 15 we found the Escape Room. Though this wasn't fully open during my stay, we still got to explore the main room and see what's in-store for future guests. The room had a scientific-discoverer feel with a telescope, virtual window out to space and luminous blue lighting. It would definitely be worth a visit to test your brains while on-board!
In our room was an invitation to dinner in the Main Dining room, with sittings at 6pm and 8pm. The room is split across three decks, with each given a Shakespearean name; The King Lear on deck 5, The Macbeth on deck 4 and the Romeo and Juliet on deck 3. No matter which deck you arrive at, this is a grand venue to enter, complete with a live pianist on most nights and an intricate chandelier in the centre.
Once seated, we began browsing the menu where items such as broiled lobster tail, duck a l'orange and escargots a la bourguignonne featured on the menu. I ordered lobster bisque with cream, dry sherry and sauteed lobster pieces to start, beef tenderloin in a morel cremini mushroom sauce for main and apple pie served with ice cream to finish. Had I been staying on-board longer, I would have definitely made another visit or two!
To round off our first evening, we visited the Vintages bar, which features a wide range of premium wines to enjoy, and enjoyed entertainment along the Royal Promenade from 90s icon, Rozalla (remember 90s tune 'Everybody's Free'?) and a late night DJ set from radio and TV star, Mark Wright in the Studio B nightclub!
Monday 14 May
Our only full-day on-board was met with blissful sunshine as we cruised the English Channel. We took some time to visit the restaurants on-board, including the new Playmakers Sports Bar and Izumi, the teppanyaki Japanese speciality dining venue.
New to Independence of the Seas, Izumi is an exotic, Asian-inspired dining experience offering fresh sushi and hibachi cooking with chefs cooking tableside on teppanyaki grills. Dishes include chicken kara-age, champagne lobster in yuzu wrap and signature sushi rolls.
Playmakers Bar & Arcade is another new addition to Independence of the Seas and offers guests the chance to kick-back and catch their favourite sports on TV. With plenty screens, pool tables and retro arcade games - as well as the occasional sports quiz - there's plenty to enjoy here. As for the food, refuel on wings, popcorn shrimp, slider burgers and sundaes - all perfect for quick nibbles or sharing-style dining.
The two speciality restaurants, Chops Grille and Giovanni's Restaurant, also offer delicious menus - with Chops Grille offering American steakhouse dishes and Giovanni's Table including an Italian flair with beef carpuccio, grilled octopus, beef carpuccio and a range of fresh, homemade pasta dishes.
Outside, next to the pool area, Fish & Ships is perfect for batter-fried favourites as the new seafood spot on-board Independence of the Seas. Enjoy British classics such as lobster rolls, calamari and plenty other seaside treats!
We visited Johnny Rockets for lunch, opting for a double cheeseburger, onion rings and fries served with a ketchup smiley face. The American 1950's decor and classic malt shop feel is relaxing and fun, with staff donning bow-ties and diner hats to add to the ambience. Burgers, fries, hot dogs and milkshakes are the stars of the show for this restaurant, with sittings for lunch and dinner.
Further exploring led to us partaking in the new Laser Tag, which is situated in the multi-use Studio B - also used as a nightclub and ice skating. This inflatable arena is kept in darkness with glow-in-the-dark neon lights and intergalactic themes. After a short wait we were suited up with light-up vests and equipment, ready to partake in the battle for Planet Z!
After a gruelling 20 minute battle for the galaxy, we retreated to the Playmaker's Sports Bar and Arcade for a quick sports quiz and fiery chicken wings. This venue is ideal for quick snacks and relaxing fun with plenty arcade games and televised sports events to enjoy. We sampled the loaded potato skins with cheese and bacon, twelve wings drenched in buffalo sauce and pile on nachos, complete with cheese, chopped tomatoes, onions and jalapeños.
Our last night on-board was spent enjoying the Broadway show, Grease, including all the famous hits from the 70s movie with plenty to sing and dance along to in your chair and a late night comedy show starring British stand-up comedian, Mick Miller.
Tuesday 15 May
Our final morning on-board was short-lived, with us required to leave the room by 8.30am. We packed our cases and left for the gangways where we were easily checked out and guided back to the car park. Had this been a typical cruise, this is where you would me reunited with your cases in the dock after leaving them outside your door the night beforehand.
Independence of the Seas is a ship for all, with plenty activities to enjoy and places to relax, it caters to all moods and personalities effortlessly. The food is varied and the service while on-board was second-to-none, with friendly staff eager to help with any request no matter how big or small.
My favourite new features were the laser tag and the Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade, offering new spaces to relax and fun activities to enjoy with family and friends. There is so much to see and do on-board that I felt no two days would be the same. Alongside the breadth of destinations you can visit while sailing with Independence of the Seas, it makes a fantastic ship to enjoy for your next cruise!
We had so much fun on-board Independence of the Seas, with amazing cruises and fantastic itineraries on offer from us here at Cruise118.com!
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