This is the third and final post of my cruise review which covers days 11 to 14 including three sea days and a visit to Cadiz. Click here for part 1 and here for part 2.
Independence of the Seas, Spanish Med – Day 11 – Sea Day
Oue eleventh day on board brought a much needed sea day after a port intensive four days. This really is a fantastic itinerary with a wonderful mixture of beautiful beach destinations, vibrant city breaks and just the right number of well timed lazy sea days – who ever designed this alternative to the more frequent and common Italian Med route needs a promotion! The ports of call combined with a stress free sail away from Southampton really has made this one of the most enjoyable and relaxing holidays we’ve ever taken. We’ll most definitely be sailing from the UK again where possible and can’t wait to see which lines will be sailing from Liverpool next year.
We were determined to sample the al a carte lunch today so we skipped the usual breakfast options and I popped down to the Royal Promenade to replenish our soda package coke cups and grab a few small pastries for myself and Finn. We had an incredibly lazy morning in the cabin, reading, relaxing and writing yesterday’s blog post. We’ve spent so much more time in our room this voyage, mainly because of our beautiful corner aft balcony that seems to catch the sun all day long and from which we’ve had the pleasure of dolphin spotting most days.
Around 10am our phone rang and it was Amon, one of the hotel management team in response to the comments I’d written on the mid cruise survey about our disappointing experience at Chops Grille. He apologised profusely for our experience and by way of compensation offered us a complimentary meal for three in Giovanni’s Table, the speciality Italian restaurant. We gladly accepted and I was really impressed to see that Royal Caribbean take customer service so seriously. Our meal at Chops Grille has been the only disappointment of the trip and I was delighted that they resolved this so efficiently. We reserved a table for 7pm this evening and looked forward to checking out the other paid for restaurant on the ship.
At 12 noon we made our way to deck 3 and the Romeo and Juliet section of the spectacularly impressive three tiered dining room. On sea days they serve an al a carte lunch called Brasserie 30 where they guarantee your main dish within 30 minutes. For starters there is a create your own salad bar from which Andy concocted a delicious looking chicken, rocket and asparagus salad. Our waiter arrived, served us two glasses of red and took our orders. I opted for the steak sandwich, Andy chose the Royal Burger with Cajun fries and Finn enjoyed the chicken fingers from a reduced children’s menu. We really like an al a carte lunch while at sea, it’s a lovely, leisurely treat but only available on Indy’s sea days. On Oasis and other ships we’ve had the pleasure to sail on such as MSC Divina it was an option each day and we’d often return early from a morning in port to indulge. The lunch was absolutely delicious and we’ll definitely be returning during our final two sea days as we make our way back to Southampton.
After lunch we went back to our balcony which has a small table, two chairs and two sun loungers, the latter being like gold dust on top deck with everyone onboard. At 3pm Finn was insisting on a visit to the H2O zone so we slapped on the sunscreen and went up to deck 11. We grabbed some towels and amazingly found a few loungers in the sunshine where we left our things as we splashed in the lazy river and swam in the pool. Both were beautifully warm and it was a pleasant way to spend half an hour escaping temperatures that have rarely dropped below 30 degrees all cruise. Finn’s doggy paddle is improving nicely and I’m hopeful we’ll have fully cracked this swimming thing by the end of the holiday.
After his swim I dropped Finn off at kids club where it was Splish, Splash, Splosh – basically water games out on a closed part of the deck adjacent to Adventure Ocean. The kids daily planner (delivered each night along with the Cruise Compass guide) instructed attendees to arrive in swimwear with a towel which was handy as no changing was needed.
At 5pm I collected Finn who’d had a fun few hours drenching the youth staff and playing with new found friends. The quality of kids clubs on Royal Caribbean is far superior to those on any other cruise lines we’ve sailed with and RCI is just a perfect choice for family cruising in our opinion. There’s so much for everyone of all ages to enjoy.
At 7pm made our way to Giovanni’s Table on deck 11 adjacent to the Windjammer and directly opposite Chops Grille. We were warmly greeted on arrival and escorted to a lovely table for three by the window with fabulous ocean views. I was delighted to see our wine package worked fine in the restaurant and two glasses of delicious Italian red were set before us and refilled at regular intervals throughout the meal. Finn was given a special Giovanni’s kids menu and our waiter Nelius amused him with a napkin duck. The service from all staff was exceptional, very attentive and quite the opposite to the service we had endured at Chops. A big thank you has to go to Moses the restaurant manager for such an enjoyable experience.
The food was outstanding, I ordered the mozzarella and prosciutto bake which was in effect a very posh ham and cheese toastie, Andy had two huge scallops served in their shells and Finn had pizza bites which I helped him with as they were so tasty! For mains I had a steak in a Borolo red wine reduction with garlic fries which was too die for, Andy had a trio of lamb chops which were beautifully presented and Finn had a fresh tasting pasta with tomato sauce. The big shock of the evening was that Andy succumbed to his first dessert of the holiday, an Italian custard with layers of cherry sauce which he loved. Finn opted for a rich, moist chocolate cake which he wolfed but I declined as I couldn’t eat another thing.
We went up to the Sky Bar for a little fresh air but the sea breeze was picking up on deck so we chose the Olive and Twist for a drink. Finn then wanted to go to kids club so we dropped him there for an hour as we began our usual hunt around the ship for some live music. Sadly there was none to be had anywhere as once again we were between set times so we strolled to the Pyramid Lounge but there was a top tier Crown and Anchor event on in there – sadly our names weren’t on the list but we’ll be eligible next cruise! Eventually we settled in the Dog and Badger where guitarist Phil Bond was starting a Shadows inspired set. Andy picked up Finn at 10 and we wandered back to our room to drop Daddy off to read his book whilst Finn and myself went to watch the Mad Hatter parade on the Royal Promenade which started at 10.20pm. We found a space in front of Cafe Promenade and had a great view of the entertainment which featured spectacular costumes, stilt walkers and dancers together with performers on the bridges above the promenade. It was huge fun and Finn loved it, particularly the climax with inflatables and confetti cannons. I’m pleased we made it as it’s the first one we’ve seen all week and I think there are three or four of these shows across the fortnight’s cruise. I also wanted to catch the infamous Quest game show but it was in Studio B, the ice rink on deck 3 which has probably around 300 seats and was already full to capacity. Oh well, they were filming it so I can always watch it on the TV tomorrow…
Finally it was time for bed, we made our way back to the cabin after another lovely day to rest our heads before Cadiz, our final port day of this cruise.
Independence of the Seas, Spanish Med – Day 12 – Cadiz
Our twelfth day of the cruise marked the last port we’d visit but as we docked beneath the beautiful skyline of Cadiz with its cathedral and imposing medieval walls, I couldn’t help think maybe we’d saved the best till last.
Cadiz is easily overlooked as a gateway port where many cruisers board coaches and head for Seville, one of Andalucia’s most famous and spectacular historic cities. That said, several friends had told us Cadiz was a great destination in itself and when you have a six year old to entertain sometimes the simplest options are the best.
The beauty of Cadiz is that it is one of those delightfully easy ports as the ship docks literally a hop, skip and jump from the old walled city. No need for shuttle buses, just a short stroll through the terminal and you’re there. Even the HoHo bus has just one route and only 12 stops here. It’s a compact city that can easily be covered on foot so following a little breakfast we disembarked, grabbed a free map from the tourist information within the terminal building – avoid paying for one off the reps just outside the port! – and set off walking.
Andy has a good sense of direction so I happily follow his lead and his plan was to navigate the city walls then head towards the Cathedral. The sun was out as we strolled through beautiful tree lined avenues and squares, shady cobbled streets and well tended parks full of fountains and secluded benches. The locals were fishing from the sea walls and we passed a woman practising flamenco guitar beneath the trees, it really was idyllic. In yet another serendipitous moment we stumbled across a green oasis called Parque Genoves lined with sculpted trees and topiary, a real highlight of the city that we’d seen on line when doing a little research on Cadiz. At the top of the boulevard which runs through the park we took a seat at a small outdoor cafe and enjoyed a chilled glass of vino tinto. It was incredibly good value at just 2 a glass and such a gorgeous setting. If you want to do the same turn right out of the port to the sea walls and follow them round to the left for 10 minutes or so and you’ll see the gated entrance to the park with the cafe’s umbrellas and tables ahead of you.
After our refreshments we continued on through a small kids play park where Finn tested the climbing frame and then just beyond that we stumbled upon a fortress and a beach on a boat filled bay. Every inch of the sand was busy with local families and the occasional cruise passengers enjoying the sun and the sea breeze. There were numerous beachfront cafés and bars but we resisted the temptation, had a quick paddle and felt the sand between our toes before making our way back into the heart of the city.
We wandered through a maze of narrow streets keeping an eye out for a toy shop but we only found Imaginarium, a Spanish style early learning centre whose toys are now a little too young for Finn. He still enjoyed entering the chain’s trademark child size door but we escaped without spending any money this time and headed deeper into the city and to another square and yet another pavement cafe. Another very reasonable glass of Rioja later, Cadiz was declared one of our favourite ports on this trip and we set off back to the ship.
We knew we were heading in the right direction but did have to consult the map a few times until we took a final turn and glimpsed The Indy perfectly framed at the end of the street. We were soon back at the port and after a small queue through security, quickly back on board. We went straight to deck 11 and the Windjammer / Jade for a lunchtime glass of red and a delicious Moroccan lamb curry.
Finn was eager to see his friends at kids club so we dropped him off and spent the afternoon on our aft balcony enjoying the sunshine and fabulous panoramic view of the city. At 5pm I collected Finn as our ship set sail out of Cadiz. He had $5 worth of fun in the arcade (surprisingly our first expenditure in there so far) and then we went back to the cabin to change for dinner. It was the final formal night of the cruise’s three so suitably suited and booted and all dressed up we made our way to the main dining room. As it was formal night there were a few specials on the menu including surf and turf. I ordered the carpaccio of beef served with a rocket salad and then rack of lamb (actually three lamb chops) which was gorgeous. Andy went for the surf and turf, the steak was good but the lobster seemed undercooked so he avoided it. Our waiter Vicky did notice and offered to replace it for another but instead Andy had his second dessert of the cruise, a strawberry and kiwi pavlova which he loved.
It was another PJ Movie night at kids club so we popped back to the room so Finn could get his pyjamas on and dropped him off at Adventure Ocean. We went to a slightly chilly sky bar for a quick drink then to the Alhambra theatre to catch a bit of the show. It was a little too musical theatre for us so we escaped to the Pyramid Lounge to watch Undercover, the rock / pop covers band who are excellent and far more our thing. Following the group’s set there was a music quiz hosted by Alison the entertainment manager which was fun. Despite being ready for bed we had to stay up as Finn had insisted on attending Late Night Party Zone again, the paid for late night kids club session which is charged at $7 an hour and runs between 10pm and 2am. We had one more red before collecting him around midnight and returning to the cabin for some much needed sleep ahead of two final sea days as we make our way back towards the UK.
Independence of the Seas, Spanish Med – Day 13 – Sea Day
I awoke feeling a little fragile and as I pulled back the curtains the sky was grey and the sea was noticeably choppier. The ship was rocking for the first time all holiday, so much so I was feeling a little green. Andy quickly reminded me that it was probably more red wine related rather than anything to do with the sea conditions and I suspect he was right. As a result we had a lazy morning in the cabin with Finn cozied up in the covers watching a film.
By lunchtime I was feeling a little more human and we ventured to the Romeo and Juliet dining room for the a la carte lunch. Andy began with a huge chicken and rocket salad from the create your own salad bar followed by a Vietnamese rice and shrimp stir fry. Finn had chicken strips with lots of ketchup and after a burger and fries, a glass of red and lots of water I was finally feeling human and ready to face a day at sea!
On top deck, the sun was finally out although it was noticeably chillier than the previous day – we really can’t complain as we’ve enjoyed amazing weather this cruise. These two final sea days are a great opportunity to tick off all the things we haven’t yet done so we made our way to the Independence Dunes, a free and family friendly mini golf course on deck 13. I picked up a pencil and scorecard however as Andy rightly pointed out when playing with a six year old it was never going to be a competitive round so we negotiated the nine holes with a loose interpretation of the rules and about a thousand shots between us. Tiger Woods has nothing to fear but thankfully we didn’t launch any balls overboard!
After our round of golf we watched a bit of boogie boarding on the flow rider where a young boy nearly lost his shorts much to everyone’s amusement. We then walked to Johnny Rockets as Finn wanted a milkshake. We timed it perfectly as the music increased in volume and the waiters began their impromptu dancing in the diner. They then made their way outside to perform Staying Alive with Finn, myself and several other customers joining in and having a wonderful time dancing on the deck. A real memorable highlight of the holiday.
We had a quick drink in the Sky Bar as the sun had briefly reappeared and then Finn wanted to go to kids club. We returned to our beautifully sheltered aft balcony to enjoy what was probably our last chance to feel the sunshine and read a few more pages of our books. Our final mission of the afternoon was to enjoy one of the cantilevered hot tubs in the adults only solarium section, a gorgeous pool on deck 11 / 12 at the front of the ship. It wasn’t as hot as I’d hoped (in fact the kids hot tub was hotter) and was also occupied by a few teenagers so not quite the peaceful experience I was hoping for but an enjoyable way to spend half an hour.
There are lots of teenagers and kids on board as is to be expected on a summer holiday cruise and on the whole they’re really well behaved and appear to be having an amazing time. They’re well catered for with their own spaces so apart from the odd bit of lift riding (which they appear to love) you don’t tend to see that much of them. We did spot a table of teens having a sophisticated lunch in the al a carte restaurant which made us smile. I guess we were all young once and as parents we have the joys of a teenager and those potential cruise romances ahead of us!
We collected Finn ahead of the ice skating show with him wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey top we picked up last year on a non cruise trip to the Canadian city. It was a very apt choice and much commented on throughout the day. We’d collected our free tickets for the two different ice shows early in the holiday and tonight’s was entitled Freeze Frame, a hugely enjoyable 45 minutes of multiple costume changes and astounding ice dancing to music from the 50s, 60s and 70s. My heart was in my mouth on a few occasions and the troupe are so talented and professional especially performing such stunts on a moving ship.
After the show it was straight to dinner. I had pate with duck and a little brioche roll which was wonderful. Andy enjoyed a duck consommé and then we both sampled the prime rib of beef with jacket potato and Yorkshire pudding for our mains which was very tasty. Finn had a pasta off the kids menu and ate the lot. Determined to make pudding as a much needed post cruise diet will be starting on Monday I ordered the Baked Alaska, three flavours of ice cream in meringue but it was a little disappointing and I didn’t finish it. The service was once again excellent but our waiters were unnecessarily reminding us to complete the guest survey and clearly chasing tips as the cruise was drawing to a close. We’d already opted to pre pay our tips so we could enjoy the my time dining however we always wonder how much of that actually gets through to the staff so do like to give a little bit extra when we’ve had great service.
After dinner we went to the Alhambra Theatre to watch a 7pm performance of a Motown / Soul show by Soul Satisfaction. They were exceptional and had the whole audience up on their feet dancing and clapping along, Finn however wasn’t their biggest fan and declared kids club was more fun so I dropped him off and returned to enjoy the rest of the show.
From there we did a little duty free shopping to buy gifts for our team back at work and friends who have been cat sitting and then it was time for Undercover in the Pyramid Lounge where we enjoyed another exceptional set that featured a bit of Kings of Leon, Nirvana and The White Stripes. Just before the group took to the stage they delighted a young girl and her family by posing for photos and then performing a request especially for her. Fabulous customer service.
Finally it was time for bed with me feeling much less inebriated than the night before thankfully! We battled our way through the crowds on the Royal Promenade who were waiting for the Rock Britannia parade and grabbed a few slices of Sorrentos pizza and a nightcap as it was starting. it looked like amazing fun but probably not with a sleepy six year old so we got to bed ahead of our final day on the cruise.
Independence of the Seas, Spanish Med – Day 14 – Sea Day
Finally it was our last day at sea. I love to finish a cruise on a sea day, it seems like such a relaxing end to a holiday and this itinerary spoiled us by giving us a full two as we sailed slowly back to Southampton.
Grey clouds and the light drizzle of a typical British summer greeted us as we pulled back the curtains but it couldn’t put a dampener on what has been a fabulous holiday. We enjoyed a lazy morning in the cabin, breakfasting on pastries from Cafe Promenade, checking our bills on the interactive TV and starting to pack. The bill was thankfully small due to the reasonable drinks packages we’d pre-purchased and the fact we’d also pre-paid the tips. So nice not to have a shock to the credit card when departing. – Andy never let’s me book the next cruise until the credit card is cleared in full so the good news is I should be booking again by the next credit card statement : )
This being the final post on our Indy cruise I thought it may be helpful to add a few thoughts and notes on our cabin which was room 7408 on deck 7, sleeps three and has a huge corner aft balcony with a wide view behind the ship and a large porthole facing starboard. We booked a guaranteed balcony and really got lucky with this cabin. The bathroom is well designed, surprisingly roomy and the shower is in a proper cubicle with sliding doors rather than an awful, clingy shower curtain. Provided toiletries include shower gel and bars of soap but I always bring half of Boots with me so not an issue for me. For any Americans reading this, Boots is like a UK version of Walgreens and I’m sure we’re all just as guilty of that pre-cruise shop! Towels of every size and face cloths are provided and those we used were changed twice daily. There’s a hair dryer in the room which is actually quite powerful, tea making facilities (although no coffee but you can order this from room service) and three power sockets which are easily accessible, two US style and one European. There’s a free safe just big enough to get a small laptop or a couple of iPads in plus passports etc and also a mini fridge stocked with water and soft drinks although you need to pay for these if you drink them. We managed to make a bit of space for our own things quite easily. Storage is good with lots of hangers and drawers and a large wardrobe and two bedside tables. There’s a sofa and coffee table too and a drop down bunk above the main queen size bed although Finn slept with us as I didn’t fancy the idea of him falling on me in the middle of the night! Delores, our room attendant, kept the room spotlessly clean and well stocked throughout the holiday as well as delivering a steady stream of towel animals.
At midday we headed for lunch at the Windjammer, walking through the entrance to be greeted by a huge farewell cake that was causing quite a stir. We sat close to the bar and Vicky who is also our assistant waiter from the main dining room arrived swiftly with the reds and diet coke. I had a burger, a Cajun chicken breast and garlic roast potato wedges, Finn had a predictable hotdog and Andy the curry. During lunch there was a PA announcement by the manager of the Windjammer thanking us for our custom and talking about the team effort that goes in to feeding us each day. He asked everyone to show their appreciation for the catering team and the whole of the restaurant went rightfully crazy with their applause including ourselves. The manager then cut the huge cake and Vicky delivered a slice of this Black Forest gateau type thing to our table without us asking. Well I had to have a try!
Back in our room we watched the Rock Britannia parade from the previous night on the cabin TV which looked a lot of fun and by 2pm Finn wanted to go to the kids club session which meant I could finish the packing without distractions.
Once packed Andy and I decided to go to the Alhambra Theatre to catch the karaoke superstar final. This featured the best of the best from the weeks karaoke competitions none of which we saw but the standard was surprisingly good and it was great entertainment. Following the show we had a quick glass of wine in the champagne bar, a lovely quiet spot just off the MDR end of the Royal Promenade, opposite customer services.
We collected Finn and at 6pm made our way to the main dining room for the last time. Annoyingly there was a delay in seating us, almost every evening on arrival they seem to think we were a party of 5, dining with a family called Delgado who we’ve never heard of. I explained this on numerous occasions and even went to reception one day to mention the mix up. Interestingly on arrival when we first checked in two weeks ago they produced five sea pass cards for our room (presumably the Delgados and ours) and I noticed their name was also on our bill this morning – thankfully they hadn’t spent anything and we can only assume they originally booked our room then cancelled. It wasn’t a massive issue just a little frustrating having to explain time and time again at the main dining room reception that there were only three of us. I shouldn’t complain as I suspect their cancellation resulted in me getting a gorgeous aft at a bargain price!
Finally seated in the usual place for three not five our waiting team eagerly greeted us so we quickly got the tips out of the way for the fabulous service we’d enjoyed each evening. We tipped Edwin and Vicky our waiters, Mary the head waiter for the constant supply of strawberries for Finn and of course Didier our wine waiter who we’d kept particularly busy in the past two weeks. It was good to see the main dining room so full on the last evening and there was a lovely atmosphere.
I ordered a Spanish tapas plate as a starter, which was tasty but a bit large for me. Andy had scallops followed by French onion soup. For mains we both had the New York strip steak which I was looking forward to accompanying with a few chips as a pre diet treat. You can imagine my disappointment to find out they only had sweet potato fries so I ended up with a jacket. Oh well chippy tea it is when we get home!
Finn was insistent on one last kids club session but as we had a really early departure at 6.15am we warned him it wouldn’t be a late one. We decided against the farewell show with a BMX acrobat in the Alhambra and returned to the champagne bar to enjoy a final glass of red and a cup cake while putting the world to rights. A lovely, relaxing final evening and well planned as this would be the first night in 14 that we’d need to set an alarm clock.
We all got an early night sleeping soundly until we docked rather noisily around 5am in Southampton. I’m sure they just do that to get you up and off the ship : ) We’d chosen to do the self assisted disembarkation which allows you to carry off your own cases between 6.15 and 7.15am. That said you could have departed up until around 10am if you’d put your cases out the night before for collection in the arrivals building and I did note than Royal Caribbean offered a late departure option at around $50 a person for those on later flights who could enjoy the ships facilities until 3pm.
We were off the ship, in the car and on the road by 7am. The traffic gods were smiling on us and we were home just after 10.45am having stopped for a McDonalds breakfast on the way – the diet starts Monday I promise! Cases are now unpacked and the second lot of washing is on. Oh and the red wine is poured – well we’re still on holiday until Monday : )
A relaxed drive certainly beat the stress of hanging around airports and was a civilised end to possibly one of my favourite holidays ever. We’ll definitely sail from the UK in future, in fact I may struggle to get my husband on a plane again. It was fourteen nights (well fifteen actually if you count the journey down) of fabulous family time filled with lots of laughter, adventures, new experiences and fun. One of those perfect holidays, a big thank you to Royal Caribbean, we’ll be back before long I’m sure – now just need to work on Andy…… Glass of red anyone!
Thanks for taking the time to read these posts, we hope its given you a flavour of The Independence of the Seas and our Spanish Med itinerary. If you have any questions do leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help.