This was our first ever cruise, we spent a fair bit of time researching different cruise company's and reading reviews on here, we are a family with 3 teenagers and my wife is in a wheelchair so we needed a range of activities, once we settled on Royal Caribbean and the Independence of the seas we then had to choose a stateroom we were offered the family ocean view on deck 9 which sleeps 6 so we booked it, but after some more research we discovered the same stateroom on deck 8 was much bigger so we switched.
We traveled to Southampton the day before and stayed in a travelogde, on embarkation day we arrived at 10am after ten minutes we were unloaded, parked and in departures and onboard by 11am, we headed for the top deck to start our excited first look and we were not disappointed it was huge and spotless clean, soon after we headed for the windjammer which was a little busy but nothing like others have stated.!!
My wife and I love the London west-end shows so we went to everyone onboard and all were very good infact we would have paid to see any one of them even our sons started to go. Our youngest joined the teens club so we never saw him he loved it there was always something for them to do, we spent most evenings in the pyramid lounge as the rock band (Rock the Boat) were just great and the quiz in between there performance was good fun for all. There was so much to do you should never be bored. My wife went to the spa she had three treatments and was never pressured into buying anything.
The service throughout was second to non the staff always spoke and in the MDR it was better than most restrunarnts I've been in the UK the food throughout this ship is far far better than any all-inclusive holiday out there we never had chips once, our stateroom attendant was always on hand if I wanted to know or want anything and kept our room clean and tidy.
Dining we had room service every morning they are very prompt on time always within the 30 minutes to ask for, used the two cafes on the promanard for lunch and the MDR most evenings with the occasional visit to the windjammer.
Prices, there seems to be a big difference in reviews about this, a 1 litre can of fosters $7.99 = £5.20, cocktail of the day $6.75 = £4.30, bottle of Stella $5.50 = £3.50 and a glass of house white $7 = £4.40 these are what you would pay in any hotel or night club so I don't understand why people complain..!
We also got the soda package well worth it at £4.80 per day for over 18s and £2.50 for under 18s
We brought two watches and my wife got 3 new handbags, ring, gold neckless,and other stuff all of which were very well priced.
Ports we planned to do our own thing we did the sightseeing bus in Lisbon €15 each, Gran Canaria we headed to the beach it's only a 10 minute walk and in Madeira we prebooked a whale and dolphin cattermarn trip online €30 each this turned out to be a highlight for my wife she loved it, all of these trip were all very wheelchair friendly.
Our stateroom 8200 was just fantastic it's located at the front overlooking the helipad, it's got two bedrooms a living area and bathroom the 2 TVs were handy especially with kids and a big plus was the electric wheelchair fitted through the door without folding it down.
Disembarkation we choose the last time 9.15 all very smooth until we got into the baggage hall someone had taken one of our cases by mistake, there was one case left that looked like ours without a tag on, but yet again the staff were great I filled a form out and they said the person who took ours will have to get it to us before they can get there's, later that day a phone call from the offender all very polite and sorted next day.
Would we cruise again.?
Yes yes yes we all loved it, we will cruise on any of the Royal Carribean ships, please bear in mind me and my wife worked at Butlins back in the 80s and believe me this ship is not (butlins at sea) like someone stated it's more like West end Hilton at sea.