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Ken

Age: 49

Occupation:Military

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Independence Of The Seas

Sailing Date: 01-4-2009

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

This was only our second cruise; the previous one was on RC also, but on the Radiance of the Seas. The Independence is a beautiful ship, and lives up to all the hype it gets. Our previous cruise wasn't bad, just a couple of hiccups and even though we had a couple of small hiccups on this cruise, it was still so much better. We flew into Miami the day before the cruise and after talking to a RC rep, we waited a few minutes for our shuttle. It only took about 30 minutes to get to Ft. Lauderdale from Miami. We stayed at the Embassy Suites, which is only 5 minutes from the port depending on the traffic. The Hotel is nice, they have a pretty big breakfast buffet in the morning, and there are few things to do and see within walking distance. We took a cab to the airport and rented a car so we could be more mobile. We stayed here last time and think it's worth it, just so you're not rushing from the airport to the port. Departure day was excellent. There were only a handful of folks on our shuttle to the port, so getting our bags loaded wasn't a problem at all. Traffic at the port was crazy, but our driver did a fine job of getting us there. There were people sitting all over the place at the port, but no one was checking in, which we found a bit strange. Our first cruise we had no clue as to what we were supposed to do when we got to the port and the porters were badgering everyone for tips, this time we knew what to do and the porters weren't asking for tips this time. We gave our bags to the porter and headed off to the terminal. Once in the terminal, we were able to use line for people who had suites, we got checked-in and got to the pre-boarding area in less than 5 minutes . We were in the boarding area maybe 10 minutes when we were told we could board, but, we couldn't go to our state rooms since they were still being cleaned. We went up to the Wind Jammer and had lunch (last time we didn't know you could do that) and just sat and talked for while until we could go to our room. At 3 pm we were allowed to go to our stateroom (Rm. 1251 Grand Suite). The room was set up almost exactly like the Radiance, but was a little bit bigger. The balcony was quite a bit larger, and the bedding was a lot nicer on the Independence. The room also had a LCD TV mounted on the wall. The bathroom was really nice and even bigger than on the Radiance. Dual sinks, a huge tub, just an all around a very nice room. We got a briefing by our state room attendant, then we read all the material left for us, then got ready for the "drill." After the drill we started to explore the ship and get a feel for where everything was. We also went to the main dining room and found where we would be sitting. A little before 5 we went up on deck and watched as we pulled out of the port. Once we were officially "at sea," the activities started, but the shops didn't open until later in the evening. We selected the first seating for supper as we both are early eaters. We were the first ones at our table for eight. We were a little concerned that we would be at a table with small children, fortunately that wasn't the case. We ended up sitting two other couples that were our age and one of them brought their grown children with them. The son had a great sense of humor and we all enjoyed each other's company the entire week. During our conversation at supper we had asked the others if they had gotten their luggage yet. The family got all of their luggage prior to 6pm, while we had not. We weren't concerned though. Because last cruise it was delivered to our room before we got back from the show. That was the case for this cruise also. The crew does an excellent job of sorting all those bags and getting them to the right rooms. In most cases you will have your bags before 8:30 in the evening. I'm not a very good food critic, because anything tastes better than military MRE's, but, we both enjoyed everything we ate all week long and the waiters do such a great job of taking care of you. If you have a special request (like if you can't choose between 2 appetizers) they'll bring out both of them. Before the week was up, our waiters knew what kind of bread we liked and what drinks we wanted. Two thumbs up to them for being so helpful. On both cruises there were 2 formal nights where they ask you to dress up for supper. On this cruise I brought my dress uniform for one night and hoped to rent a tux for the 2nd night, but was never able to find the tailor. Also, there are photographers all over the place to take your picture at scenic spots on the ship and with backdrops. We found out on this cruise that they will make custom photos for you. We had one picture taken that we really liked, but didn't like the background, so we had them change it to a different background that had a picture of the ship, the dates of the cruise and what ports we went to. We were very happy with how it turned out. You can also purchase a video that highlights the entire cruise. After dinner, we headed to the theatre to catch the 1st show of the week, the welcome aboard show. We really enjoyed all of the shows in the main theatre. The Independence also has an ice skating rink and does a show on ice. Because this arena is smaller they limit the number of people who can go. Suite holders just have to show their seapass cards, everyone else has to get tickets. There is no charge to see the show and no assigned seats; they just don't want it too crowded. We were really impressed by these performers; it's hard enough to skate on ice, then you add a rocking ship to the mix, and it's pretty amazing what they did. We recommend you see this show. Also, the Love and Marriage game show is hilarious. Both cruises did this game and we were rolling on the floor laughing both times. We have never really had a desire to visit Mexico or the Western Caribbean; we chose this cruise because of the ship and not the ports, but we still had a good time. Our first port was Belize City, Belize. Of the three ports, this is the only one where we were tendered (not at a pier), you had to take boats from the ship to the port. I worried about this thinking that you would have to wait a long time, but they did an excellent job of getting folks to and from the ship. We purchased a snorkel/beach get away excursion online prior to the cruise. Everyone who went on excursions had a special exit and boat to use to make sure you got to your place on time, which was very helpful. We have always wanted to try snorkeling, but we didn't have a very good experience. It had nothing to do with RC or the company that did the excursion, it was just us. Once I got in the water my goggles fogged up and never could see anything. I tried everything to get them cleared up, but nothing seemed to help. My wife had a little better luck she got one of the guides to help her so she some of the coral and fish, but when she got back to the boat, she started feeling sick. She said she swallowed a lot of salt water and thinks that's what caused it. After the snorkeling, we went to a little island where you could swim, drink, eat, play volleyball, or just walk around. I walked around while my wife laid in the sun and let her stomach settle down some. We were there for a couple hours then we got back on the boat and headed back to the ship. We went to the Wind Jammer to eat lunch then quickly showered to get the salt off of us then caught the next tender to the Belize port. Like most ports there are a ton of shops around where you can spend money, and if you leave the secure area of the port, the locals have set up shops where you can just about anything you want. Our next stop was Costa Maya, Mexico. The ship pulled up to the dock here, so getting off the ship was even faster than Belize. We also purchased an excursion prior to the cruise for this city. This time we stayed on land and went to see the Mayan Ruins. After loading up on a bus, it took about 1 and 1/2 hours to get to the ruins. We had a tour guide who did a very good job of explaining the history of the ruins and what they used them for. You do a lot of walking on this tour, but, you also get another 1 and 1/2 bus ride back to the ship to rest your feet. We also got a sack luch which was unexpected, but appreciated. Our last port was Cozumel, Mexico. Again, the ship docked at the port. We didn't know what to do here, so when we first got on the ship we went to the concierge and asked what he recommended, and he said the dolphin, push, pull, swim was very good. We told him we did the swim with the dolphins on our last cruise, but he explained you got to interact with the dolphins a lot more on this one. So we went ahead and got ticket for it. After a short taxi ride (included in the price) we got to the park and got into our swim suits and got our life jackets on. We had about 12 in our group, and we each got to dance and kiss our dolphin. But, we also got to be pushed by it, and ride on its belly as it swam to the dock. Plus we got to just play with the dolphin too, so over all, I think it was better than just swimming with them. Caution though, both times we were surprised as to how cool the water was. You get used to it, but the initial shock is a little breath taking. Also, they take plenty of pictures and video of your group. Afterwards, they show you the video and you can purchase it and the pictures if you want them. There was also a botanical garden at this park so we got some very scenic pictures before going back. Some of the things we did on the ship, we tried to go to the trivia contests every day at the schooner bar, those are always fun and we met some nice people. We did the couples Swedish massage at the spa, that was very nice and relaxing. We went to the food carving demonstration; it was really interesting seeing how the chefs make those amazing designs. We don't gamble, so we didn't spend any time in the casino, but there were plenty of people there every night. On the Royal Promenade there are a ton of shops and cafes. They have a Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop that you have to pay for, but, there's also a pizza place where the pizza is free. They also did a couple of parades down the Promenade and those were pretty good. They have an internet cafe on this ship, and for a fee you can get online and check your email. On this cruise we also tried one of their specialty restaurants, Chops, which specializes in steaks (Porto Fino is the other one and does Italian food). We were very impressed with Chops, because you pay, I think $25 a person, but you get WAY MORE than what you pay for. We were full after the appetizer, the steaks were tender and juicy, the sides were huge. They tried to make us get desert, but we were just full full to eat anymoret. Our table mates went to Porto Fino and had the same experience there. So if you want to eat somewhere besides the main dining room you can try these. Or, you can go to the Wind Jammer, we didn't see many people eat there, but there were a few. We did have a couple of small complaints: 1. I had ordered chocolate covered strawberries to be delivered to our room for our anniversary (on Thursday), well, they were delivered to our room before we even left port, 4 days early. 2. We had purchased 2 excursions online long before our cruise. When we got to our state room on the 1st day, we noticed the tickets weren't there. When they didn't show up the next day we went to our concierge and explained the situation and he was able to print the tickets up for us. If this had been our 1st cruise we would have never known that we even needed tickets. So if you pre-purchase excursions prior to your cruise, make sure they are delivered at least the day before the excursion. 3. The last thing is kind of minor, but still, I found irritating. Our first day on the ship, I went to the logo shop to buy a polo shirt that had the Independence logo on it. I was told those wouldn't be sold until the last day of the cruise - why????? And then they sold them outside by the pool where it was incredibly windy and everything was getting blown around. And, as nice as the ship was, the polo shirt didn't match the elegance of the ship. I was disappointed, but purchased one anyway. 4. If you have sailed on RC before you may have had the opportunity to see their Grand Buffet in the main dining room. We were telling our table mates about this, well, they didn't have it on the Independence, I'm not sure why though. The Radiance did it and it was spectacular. The last day is always the saddest day is returning. When I woke up, we were just pulling into the dock in Lauderdale. We had packed our bags the night before and left them in the hallway, they were gone by morning. We got up and went up to the Wind Jammer for our final meal. We went back to our room gathered our last bit of stuff and headed to the theatre to wait for our departure time. On our 1st cruise you sat anywhere on the ship and waited for your color to be called, this time, everyone had designated waiting areas, this seemed to work out much better. When our time came we exited the ship, found our bags (eventually) and cleared customs all within about 30 minutes, pretty fast really. We found our shuttle that took us back to Miami and back home. The airports are crazy busy on cruise return days. Last time we flew out of Lauderdale and waited well over an hour to get to the ticket counter. It wasn't much better in Miami, but, this isn't the cruise lines fault. You have several ships all coming into port on the same day; you're going to have to wait. We are looking forward to our next cruise on RC and we're hoping some friends will come with us next time.

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