of the Seas
Nov. 29 – Dec. 7, 2008
by Mary & Vincent Finelli
The Royal Caribbean International (RCI) Independence of the Seas,
with her sister ships Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas,
are the biggest cruise ships afloat. They will hold this title until
December 2009 when the 220,000 tons Oasis of the Seas will be
launched! This Saturday morning she sat alongside another renowned
cruise ship who previously held the title of “Biggest Cruise Ship”:
Queen Mary 2 of the Cunard Line.
Captain Teo Strazicic of Dubrovnik, Croatia is very proud of his
beautiful behemoth, which although larger than RCI's Eagle Class
(Voyager, Explorer, Navigator, Mariner, and Adventurer of the Seas)
she still uses only the same number and types of engines, but more
efficiently. Bravo RCI this awesome ship is a true engineering
Saturday noon, the I-95 traffic was bearable and we arrived
at Port Everglades at 12:00pm, however, it took thirty minutes to go
through traffic control. Many passengers were surprised at this
delay, since other ports are more efficiently handling security.
Once in port, things moved along more quickly. We were through
Check-in in five minutes, but had to wait for another wheel chair
for Vincent for twenty minutes. The ramps to the ship were not too
steep, but there was a very long one. Mary's motorized wheel chair
handled them easily!
We checked on our dining arrangements and found we had a nice table
for two at the rear of the Romeo & Juliet Restaurant near the
magnificent triple deck staircase. We kept this table because of its
proximity to the live music. Now, we were off to the Welcome On
Board Buffet: which was overcrowded, but even with courteous
assistance we had an unusual dispersal of hot potato soup!
Embarkation was good considering over 3,600 were boarding along with
The Independence was launched May 2008, so it is in pristine
condition. Hotel Director Darren Budden (Newfoundland, Canada) has a
right to be proud of the Independence: she is immaculate, well run,
service is pleasant and immediate. He kindly gave us a book: “Art
The Collection” on board. There are 15 decks with many eclectic
pieces of art which merit a detailed overview.
Deck 1 is mainly for crew except that the Medical Facility is
Deck 2 forward has the Alhambra Theatre with a beautiful Austrian
crystal beaded curtain. The design has five dark haired Flamenco
dancers with their gorgeous ruffled skirts spread: all forming a
13-paneled 28 ft tall by 46 ft wide spectacular display. Midship is
the Ice Skating Rink a RCI innovation, which allows passenger
skating and show opportunities. There are also staterooms on Deck 2.
Deck 3 again forward is the Alhambra Theatre. Then toward midship is
the Labyrinth night club with its Harry Cardross stained glass
windows featuring the “Raven of the Tower “ (Legend has it that if
the ravens ever leave the Tower, the British Monarchy and the
country will fall.) The second window features the “Raven of the
Battle.” Midship is Studio B, On air Studio and the Art Gallery.
There are also staterooms and aft is the Romeo and Juliet
Restaurant. At the entrance is a marvelous all white 3D bust of
William Shakespeare, which follows the viewer as s/he walks by. It
has the effect of motion. Very cool!
Deck 4 forward has the balcony of the Alhambra Theatre; then towards
midship is the Schooner Bar with its nautical décor and a ship model
of the “Flora of Tjomo,” one of RCI's founders Gjert Wilhelmsen'
first barques. Then there are the upper level of the Labyrinth, the
spacious Casino Royal, the Photo Gallery and Shop, and the Boleros
Lounge. All the way aft is the Macbeth Restaurant.
Deck 5 forward has the Pyramid Lounge with the entrance flanked by a
series of imposing Pharaohs and inside is a stunning black and gold
statue of King Tutankhamen based on the one found in the boy King
Tut's tomb in the King's Valley, Egypt. Also located here are
Clarissa Parish's two frescoes of Egyptian women.
This deck has the unique Royal Promenade with its many shops and
eating venues: “Sorrento's Pizzeria” features antipasti, pizzas,
garlic toast, and panini, daily; plus Italian biscotti, macaroons
and amaretto cookies. There are logo shops, “A Clean Shave” barber's
shop, men's and women's boutiques, a perfume shop, a general store,
“The Dog & Badger English Pub” and “Ben & Jerry's” ice cream. Also
there is “Cafe` Promenade” serving excellent coffee and tea,
sandwiches, scones, RCI's terrific cookies and doughnuts.
The star exhibit of the Promenade is the blue 2008 Morgan V6
Roadster hand made on commission by RCI. Aft suspended is Larry
Kirkland's Greek Drinking Vessel featuring dolphins—a
good omen at sea. Kirkland modeled his huge cup on a 550 BC work by
Exekias in Athens. Also here are located the Guest Relations Desk
and the Explorations Desk. All the way aft is the King Lear
Restaurant, which completes the third tier of the dining complex
with a gorgeous crystal chandelier visible from all three tiers.
Decks 6,7,8,9, & 10 are all staterooms and located nearby the aft
elevators on each deck are the Business Services, the Library with
open stacks, the “Royal Caribbean Online” computer center and the
Deck 11 has many guest facilities. Forward is the State of the Art
Fitness Center with beautiful views of the sea while using
treadmills, etc. In the Solarium are two huge whirlpools one on each
side of the ship, cantilevered over the sea, and a swimming pool
just for adults. Near here are two Barsanti Mosaics named “Tigers in
the Jungle” based on the works of a French Post-Impressionist
painter Henri Rousseau. In the forward stairs portside is the Robert
Silvers' head of Venus inspired by Botticelli's unforgettable “Birth
of Venus.” This artist creates his work by computer using thousands
of tiny photographs to form a larger image—you
must look at this up close, rather than the usual admonition to
“stand back in order to get the full import of a picture.” Here, you
must go up close to see how this was made. Amazing!
Deck 12 forward is the Day Spa, the Sky Bar, and the jogging track.
Toward aft is Johnny Rockets a 50's style diner and the Challengers
Arcade, Adventure Ocean children's area, and the Surf Teen Disco.
Deck 13 has the Rock Climbing Wall, the Sports Court (basketball,
volleyball, tennis), the Golf Simulator and the Dunes Mini Golf. The
most unique sports opportunity is the Flowrider which allows
passengers to surf standing or kneeling.
Deck 14 has the “Olive or Twist & the Viking Crown Lounge, the card
and game rooms and Diamond Lounge where we met the Diamond Member
Concierge Columella Arandia.
Deck 15 has the nearest thing to heaven on the sea: the Skylight
The Independence of the Seas is decorated with art work inspired by
the Old Masters, but executed by modern artists—very
This ship is huge at 160,000 tons and 208 feet tall (double the
height of the Statue of Liberty) and its Royal Promenade is longer
than a football field. Its enormous size allows RCI to offer a more
SERVICE & FOOD
The state of the economy has finally done what years of
begging from us could not accomplish. The over abundant portions
have finally been reduced to appropriate sized portions. We are so
happy not to waste food—we could rarely
finish those too ample entrees. It does not restrict those with
gargantuan appetites, since they can still order as much as they
want. RCI has brought eating back to normalcy. Thanks to Executive
Chef Ivo Jahn, we enjoyed dining in the Romeo & Juliet Restaurant.
Maitre D' Dominic Barr gave us a nice table and our Waiter Sabit
Majaki and his Asst. Waiter Chantelle John made every night a dining
pleasure. Head Waiters Jason D'Silva and Francesco Orlando made us
Sunday formal night we dined with Captain Teo Strazicic (a very
erudite gentleman, who had insightful ideas on education (Vincent &
Mary are both university teachers) and other world topics. It was a
fantastic dinner only surpassed by Chef Ivo's Almond Brittle Hand
Made Chalice filled with wild berries and cream! The food is of good
quality and available all over the ship: from Sorrento's Pizzeria on
Deck 5, to self serve frozen yogurt on Deck 11 at Sprinkles. We also
dined at the Chop's Grille where both food and service were
excellent. Food & Beverage Director Joao Mendonca oversees a complex
system with dexterity. Bravo! Room Service all week long was prompt,
hot and appetizing.
Wheelchair accessible cabin #7324 is bright with light pine
wood and the RCI trademark blue and aqua colors. When entering on
the left there is the oversized bathroom with a 4'x4' shower with
safety rails and a fold away seat. There is one sink with a large
medicine chest for amenities. Next, there is a sofa and a queen bed
flanked by two night stands and reading lamp sconces; the head board
is the traditional aqua suede.
When entering on the right, there is a triple armoire with shelves
and both high and low cross dowels for hangers and a private safe.
This last is the handiest item since cruisers may lock up valuables
and go wallet and purse free all week. There is a lighted mirror on
the desk/vanity, a LCD TV and a hair dryer in the first of four
The far wall is all glass and has a door to the extra large balcony
with two chairs, a small table and a chaise which our excellent
steward Lenore Reid brought for Vincent. Our week was perfectly
restful thanks to the lovely Lenore.
On the Independence there is no shortage of opportunities to
be “amused.” Sunday evening from our balcony there was a beautiful
sunset with a clear view of the slenderest crescent moon in the SW
sky. Above the moon shone the planets Venus and Jupiter. All three
heavenly bodies were close to each other—picture
perfect and brighter than 1st magnitude stars. However, as we looked
at other balconies, we were astonished to find that we were the only
audience for this phenomenon; so we took a picture of it! This is
why we love to cruise.
For other more typical activities, Cruise Director Allan Brooks does
his very best. The RCI singers and dancers perform in production
shows like “Center Stage” in the Alhambra Theatre along with
comedians like Michael James; ballroom dancers Olga & Dimatri have a
dance competition. The Ice Show “Strings” with world class
performers on ice and an extraordinary violinist from Canada (so
sorry we haven't got her name.) This is only the beginning, for the
athletic minded the “Flowrider” and the “Rock Climbing Wall” are
musts. Don't forget golf, basketball, shuffleboard, ping pong,
swimming, Bingo, Casino games and tournaments, etc. etc. Oh, just
get out there.
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale: Sail Away 6:00pm
Day 2. At sea
Day 3. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Arrive 1:30pm, Depart 8:30pm
For first timers this port has an interesting “Old & New San Juan
City Tour”(2.5 hrs, $32.) Try the “Fortifications Segway” touring
the old city on a Segway (3.5 hrs, $95).
Day 4. St. Thomas, USVI: Arrive 7:00am, Depart 5:00pm
This is one of the best shopping ports in the Caribbean. A tour
especially designed for the handicapped is “Accessible Scenic Island
Drive and Mountain Top” (2.5 hrs, $64).
Day 5. Philipsburg, St. Maarten: Arrive 6:00am, Depart 5:00pm
One of the most fascinating tours here is the “America's Cup Sailing
Regatta” (3 hrs, $89) A sailing competition with famous yachts like
Dennis Corner's “Stars & Stripes,”
“Canada II” and “True North.” After the exciting race participants
are treated to complimentary rum punch.
Day 6. At sea.
Day 7. Labadee, Haiti: Arrive 8:00am, Depart 4:30pm
This is RCI's private island where passengers may enjoy the white
sand beach and swimming or snorkeling in the sparkling clear water.
For those who love water sports there are many choices: “Kayak
Adventure” ( 1.5 hrs $38.); “Personal Watercraft Experience”,
enjoying the thrill of speeding on a Waverunner (1.5 hrs, $95 adults
$29 children); “Snorkel Safari” (2 hrs, $46), etc.
Day 8. At sea.
Day 9. Ft. Lauderdale: Arrive 6:00am
We had a terrific going home breakfast in the main dining
room at 6:30am and went back to our stateroom. At 8:30am a
wheelchair came for Vincent and we were taken down and off the ship
to baggage pick up, customs and passport control. We were out on the
port at 9:00am. This is quite good for the biggest cruise ship with
so many passengers.
This was another great cruise. As “Frequent Floaters” with 37
cruise credits on RCI ships and Diamond Plus membership in the Crown
& Anchor Society, we enjoy all the repeaters benefits aboard,
including the use of the Concierge Services, the Diamond Lounge,
evening cocktails, reservation for special restaurants and tickets
for the ice skating show and other favors. That is the reason RCI is
our favorite cruise line. However, we are addicted to cruising and
we also cruise on other lines. Until now we have never experienced a
bad cruise, although some cruises have been better than others.
Now we look forward to cruising on the Norwegian Pearl on Jan. 4 and
on the Ruby Princess on Jan. 24. We have also booked transatlantic
crossings on the Celebrity Solstice in April and Queen Mary 2 in May
Dec 12, 2009
inaugural cruise on the Oasis of the Seas. Happy Cruising!
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