28 APRIL – 1 MAY 2017:
MS Independence of the Seas is a Freedom-class cruise ship operated by the Royal Caribbean cruise line that entered service in April 2008. The 15-deck ship can accommodate 4,370 passengers and is served by 1,360 crew
Walking on Water – Independence of the Seas
With my Aunty’s birthday approaching, we thought a mini cruise would be nice treat for her, particularly as she was a cruise virgin. It started off with a mere few of us going but quickly that had increased to 11 of us.
Departing from Southampton, the itinerary included one day in Bruges – Belgium and then a day in Paris – France. In fact it’s not really a day in each place as whilst the boat docks early in the morning, you have to be back on the ship at some point in the afternoon. Therefore time really is quite limited. The night before we were meant to set sail, we received an email from Royal Caribbean to inform us that we could no longer stop in Paris due to strikes that were occurring. Instead we would go to Rotterdam, Netherlands. We were disappointed by the change of itinerary, however I’d never been to Rotterdam before so I personally didn’t mind too much.
I’ve been on another RC cruise previously (Allure of the Seas), so I knew what to expect. I was fully aware the Independence of the Seas is a lot smaller but sometimes a more intimate ship makes a better experience. However the ship really wasn’t on par with Allure. Not just in terms of size but none of the decor, food, service etc was of equal standard. Also as it was April, sailing the North Sea was never going to provide the same experience as when we were on Allure travelling around the Caribbean.
My mum had been on Independence years ago and said she felt it had really gone downhill. The decor wasn’t as elaborate or attractive, and the food didn’t seem to be as interesting or diverse. However if you have no previous experience to compare it with, you probably wouldn’t have any negative thoughts.
The waiters in the main dining hall were very attentive and accommodating, allowing us to order as many dishes as we wanted for dinner. We didn’t have to choose between main courses as we could easily order 2 or 3 mains each – not great for the waistline! For lunch we often ate at the buffet which had a good range of food to suit everyone, although finding a table for a large group seemed impossible. Even when we split into smaller groups, it was still a case of holding your plate whilst scanning the room and hoping someone would leave their table so you could be the first to claim it.
In terms of entertainment, there was a good range of quizzes, shows, classes and activities on offer. It’s entirely up to you how much or little you would like to participate in. The ship has a full size theatre and on the first night they did a Beatles tribute act which I missed but heard was very good. On the second night it was Grease, the musical. I thought the production was fantastic and of equal standard to the West End production in London. We all thoroughly enjoyed singing along to all the iconic songs, making it one of the highlights of our trip.
Whilst food is included there are a few things to note:
- Onboard there are some speciality restaurants which do require booking and are chargeable restaurants
- The restaurants serve a couple of drink options – water or squash / juice so any additional drinks are chargeable
- There are a number of places onboard where the food is free/inclusive but sometimes it wasn’t always clear. Whilst the main dining and buffet are clearly inclusive, it can be hard to determine with the smaller eateries such as the cafe’s what is/isn’t included
Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium, is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Its port, Zeebrugge, is an important center for fishing and European trade. In the city center’s Burg square, the 14th-century Stadhuis (City Hall) has an ornate carved ceiling. Nearby, Markt square features a 13th-century belfry with a 47-bell carillon and 83m tower with panoramic views.
Rotterdam is a major port city in the Dutch province of South Holland. The Maritime Museum’s vintage ships and exhibits trace the city’s seafaring history. The 17th-century Delfshaven neighborhood is home to canalside shopping and Pilgrim Fathers Church, where pilgrims worshiped before sailing to America. After being almost completely reconstructed following WWII, the city is now known for bold, modern architecture.
In the words of the group Beautiful South…’This could be Rotterdam or anywhere, Liverpool or Rome. Because Rotterdam is anywhere, anywhere alone..anywhere alone.