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Independence of the Seas relaunch – a first look at the new cruise ship

Originally launched back in 2008, the new look Independence of the Seas, part of the Freedom Class with Royal Caribbean has had a multi-million-pound makeover and was relaunched over a 3-day trip from Southampton for Travel Agents to try it out before then starting its sailings around Europe for the summer of 2018 and then heading over to the Caribbean for the winter season.

Having never been on a cruise ship before, I was beyond excited to find out I was going on the trip with my colleague Jemma to try out all the new elements of the cruise ship. I was intrigued to see just how big these “floating hotels” are and if it matched up to its advertisement as the Extra Extraordinary Independence of the Seas.

Day 1 – Docking the Independence of the Seas in Southampton

I have only ever been to Southampton to watch Leicester City play against Southampton. So just travelling to the docks was a new experience, travelling down early on a Sunday morning meant there was no traffic and we made good time getting there in around 2 hours 45 minutes including a quick stop en route.

Nearing the docks, we caught our first glimpse of the new Independence of the Seas cruise ship, and it was big! My immediate first thought was when in Las Vegas I saw the Vegas Strip themed hotels and thought how massive they were.

Check-in to the cruise

We managed to find our car parking at the City Cruise Terminal, it was well signposted and then took a very short transfer over to the Independence of the Sea via bus. I hadn’t really considered the checking in process for a cruise but felt very similar in a way to an airport, once we walked in to the terminal building there was a row of check-in desks and we handed over our passports to the Royal Caribbean staff member who then took our photo to link to our cabin door card. We then headed through security and then walked out to the ship and got straight on.

We had been allocated an Ocean View Balcony Cabin on Deck 8 – cabin number 8318, located in a mid-ship position. To be honest over the course of the few days we were on board I didn’t feel the ship move too much.

Things to do on the Independence of the Seas cruise ship

Having dropped our bags and hung up our formal wear for that evening, we headed to Deck 5, the Royal Promenade for a bite to eat and tried out Sorrento’s for their Pizza! Afterwards, being a sampler cruise for travel agents, we were signed up for a task called Mission Indy where we were sent riddle clues and then had to visit that part of the cruise ship and be given a code word and answer a few questions to be given the next riddle. It gave us a good understanding of the ship and just how much there was on board to do.

From the ten riddles, we visited the water slides, escape room, spa & fitness, Splashaway Bay (the aqua park for kids), Fish & Ships (a Fish & Chip seafood spot near the pool areas), Sugar Beach (a sweet shop), Izumi (Sushi restaurant), Playmakers Bar and finally the Laser Tag: Battle for Planet Z game room.

There was an assembly drill, which happens on all cruise ships, and everyone had to head to their specific meeting point. We only had to take our room key, but sometimes on the longer cruises, this also includes life jackets which are in your cabin.

Evening entertainment on the Independence of the Seas

Dressed up in our formal wear, we headed to dinner at our designated time of 6pm in the Sapphire restaurant and was an A La Carte restaurant where we could choose three courses from a selection of starters, mains and desserts. All were very tasty!

There was plenty to do after dinner in the evenings on the Independence of the Seas. From Karaoke, an Ice Show, watching a live theatre show of Grease, watching a movie poolside, DJ Parties plus live music in most of the bars on board.

Day 2 – Cruise ship around the English Channel

Waking up and looking outside to see a sunny day somewhere in the English Channel with Plymouth somewhere to the North of us (according the Maps app on my phone!) was brilliant and probably one of the plus sides to having a balcony cabin on the Independence of the Seas.

After breakfast, we went up to the pool deck and sampled the pool areas with the hot tubs and slides and the Fish & Ships seafood bar as a lunch snack. The weather was good, so we were lucky we could have a cool drink by the pool!

Cabin grade guide on the Independence of the Seas

In the afternoon, we took advantage of Royal Caribbean opening a selection of different cabin grades and seeing the difference between them. You can definitely get fit on board these cruises as we walked up and down the decks where they had cabins open to view (there is also a running track on deck 12 if you like running!).

From the Interior to a Grand Suite, it was a good opportunity to see what you can get with each grade – if you are going to go as a family, there are cabins that sleep up to six including a Spacious Promenade View Interior where although classed as an inside room, had two windows where you could overlook the Royal Promenade on Deck 5.

We had dinner again in the Sapphire Restaurant again choosing from the A La Carte which had different options to the previous evening.

In the evening there was again so much to choose from to do including live music in most of the bars, Grease was also being performed again, movies on the pool deck, a comedy show, and we also attended a Rock Britannia Street Party to end the last evening on board.

Day 3 – Arriving back into Southampton on the cruise ship

Sadly, everyone had to be out of the cabins by 8am so it was an early wake-up call to get up and ready! Once out of our cabin, we went up to the Windjammer Café which was serving breakfast until 08:30. They offered a wide range of food and after filling up we reluctantly headed off back to the car to drive home.

Review of Independence of the Seas

I thoroughly enjoy being on board and think it matches up to their advertisement of being ‘extra’.

I would also consider having a cruise holiday in the future as there is so much to experience on board, let alone the different places you can visit on the cruise itineraries.

From what I saw with Royal Caribbean, it would also be great for families with the kid’s clubs and pools and depending on the ship and cruise company’s activities can range from go-karting, mini golf, rock climbing, basketball, ice skating and so much more. The activities on board would differ depending on who you are sailing with but there are cruise liners for everyone.

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