Cruise Ship: Independence of the Seas
Cruise Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Cruise Dates: November 29 December 7, 2008
Guest Contributors: Mary and 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: The 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 marvel!
Embarkation on the Independence of the Seas
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 crew members.
Independence of the Seas Cruise Ship
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 located aft.
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 28ft tall by 46ft 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, and 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 "Concierge Club".
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