July 2015 - 7 Night Western Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Independence of the Seas
My daughter (age 10) and I enjoyed our July 12 trip aboard Independence of the Seas. Quick summary:
Boat - we found the boat clean and easy to navigate. The electronic compasses located at each elevator with ability to select and map each item were great. No need to carry around the compass. The promenade was also a welcome addition that we did not experience on Disney Magic.
Cabin - Were were in 7552. Balcony was larger than Disney cruise last year and we found we used it much more. Cabin itself seemed smaller, but we did not spend much time in there other than sleeping. Plenty of room for storage under bed. We had plenty of empty drawers and cupboards with just 2. I think storage would also be fine for 3 or 4.
Food - Tried Chops the first night. Service and view were outstanding. Steak was better than average but not outstanding. My daughter had spicy shrimp and it was neither spicy hot or spicy seasoned, disappointing. Used my time dining and made reservation for 5:45 every night on first day. This worked out really well for us. We had the same waiters who were great and we were in and out in an hour every night instead of 2. Ate dinner one night in Windjammer. It was fine but quality better in MDR. Breakfast each morning in Windjammer was the same but the choices were vast - pretty much all standard breakfast items. Made to order omellettes each morning. Lunch on island or Windjammer was our least favorite meal. Food was edible but not great.
Johnny Rockets for lunch one day was great.
Excursions - we did not book through RCI. We booked stingray city, snorkeling and starfish point at Grand Cayman. Wow! Highly recommend. We used Eco Adventures. Captain Kevin met us and one other family of 5 at the dock. We took a short ride to a marina and got on a large boat - around 40 feet. We were allowed to sit up front with our feet hanging off. We made it to the sandbar before all the barges with 50+ people and we had the sting rays to ourselves. We were done just as the crowd arrived. We then snorkelled on the reef which was amazing and then we went to startfish point where the big boats can't even go. It was absolutely amazing and the best day. Fresh fruit and waters also included. Soda available for $2.
In Jamaica we went to the Blue Hole, tubing and lunch at Schotchies. A day we will never forget. Private van and driver for the day from Marvyns Paradise Tours. Marvyn also made sure to introduce himself in person and make sure we were well taken care of. Best tour ever.
In Cozumel we went to Chankanaab to swim with the dolphins, interact with the manatees and sea lions. My daughter said this day was tied with the Blue Hole. We booked online and just took at $15 cab to/from the pier. We had an hour before the crowds arrived and thoroughly enjoyed our day leaving when we wanted.
Overall, a great trip. Sea days were our least favorite This is one area when RCI falls down seriously compared to Disney. Options for kids were limited. Although they had activities scheduled at all times, there were many times when nothing for kids other than standard swimming, etc... Mini golf and rock climbing were great but once you did it the first day no need to do again. Kids programs :sounded: great but if they had more than a few kids or any allergies, science activities or advertised activities were not done. My only other complaint is they are constantly trying to upsell and putting their hand out for additional fees. I think many cruise lines are moving in that direction but it was really annoying by end of the week.