Having never been on board a cruise ship before; approaching the Royal Caribbean ship The Independence of the Seas, I was blown away by just how huge it was. Grand, and multicoloured at one end; as the popular top-deck water park Splashaway Bay could be seen even before I reached the terminal.
On a ship this size it only made sense that we were greeted by the largest cake I’d ever seen, but I was saving room as there were plenty of food options ahead such as the amusingly named ‘Fish and Ships’ bar, and the pool side ice cream parlour. I had done some research into the ship before I boarded but I didn’t quite realise how many options for things to do there were. For example, did you know there was an ice rink? On a cruise ship? Crazy fun right?
The Independence of the Seas is like a giant floating city, and indeed it has more to offer than many towns. Even the harshest of cruise cynics wouldn’t run out of things to do. Everywhere you look there are signs to fun activities, places to eat, or simply areas to relax and take in the views. Even in Southampton there were some great views to be had on the top-deck, so one can only imagine what it’s like when approaching a beautiful port in the Med.
There’s a full undercover shopping mall, reminiscent of the grand Dubai centres with their designer shops selling Michael Kors, and brightly coloured sweet shops sure to draw the attention of the kids.
Of the many dining options I chose to eat in Chop’s Grille, a smart steakhouse with a refined menu. I started with the prawns served with a spicy horseradish salsa, as it felt appropriate to eat seafood being ‘at sea’. I followed that with the Filet Mignon, which was rich, tender and generously portioned. Obviously just for this article’s purpose I had ALL the sides, asparagus, a tasty ‘Mac n Cheese’, chips & mash. If you’re not feeling like steak, the options are plentiful; a trendy sushi bar, coffee shops and bars along the ‘shopping street’ and a number of top deck eateries to serve you by the pool. Even on the ‘shopping street’ there are cute cafes and diners with street art style designs above them.
As well as the colourful Splashaway Bay with the numerous loungers surrounding it so parents can always keep an eye out, there are a number of pools and Jacuzzis. Some of these areas host live music, and speakers pumping out Ibiza chill-out tunes make for a fun atmosphere to drink a cocktail in while cooling off in the water.
For those wanting a little more strenuous activity there’s a top deck marked jogging and walking track that heads round the ship, as well a large gym, a basketball court and a climbing wall. No need to worry about eating all the delicious food when there are so many sporting options to keep you busy.
For the kids there are numerous brightly coloured play areas, vibrant climbing frames with netting around so parents need not worry, plus a huge arcade on a lower level spanning numerous rooms. The arcade area is large enough to keep kids (and big kids) occupied for hours, with old classics such as Sonic and a dance mat as well as new games and prize claw machines.
For when the kids are asleep there’s a giant flashy casino, with favourites like roulette and blackjack along with the Vegas style slot machines. There’s even a full sized theatre. The ship is clearly designed to keep guests entertained throughout the day and night, yet it’s not too in your face. Those just wanting to relax are able to do so in great comfort, in the plush lounges and the jacuzzis dotted around the ship.
I didn’t want to get off and a turnaround day isn’t nearly long enough to experience all that the ship has to offer, however it was a lovely taste of what to expect on board. I’m positive those lucky enough to have been sailing off that day will be smiling just as much as I was.