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  • Writer's pictureTara Wilson

Cruise Review: Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas

For an action-packed vacation filled with glow-in-the-dark laser tag, thrilling waterslides, one-of-a-kind virtual reality experiences, refreshing dips in the pool and impressive live performances (both onstage and on the ice rink!), look no further than Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas!
Royal Caribbean cruise docked in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay
Independence of the Seas docked at Perfect Day at CocoCay
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From the moment I first stepped foot on the bridge to the Promenade, my jaw dropped to the floor and pretty much stayed there the entirety of the trip. There were so many moments where I completely forgot that I was on a ship in the middle of the ocean! It really is mind-blowing how many state-of-the-art attractions there are on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas, especially when you consider the fact that she's not even close to being the biggest ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet (not even in the top 10)!

After her renovation makeover in 2018 as part of Royal Caribbean's "Royal Amplified" program, my family and I couldn't WAIT to hop onboard and explore everything she had to offer. Here is everything you need to know about sailing to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas!

Front of the cruise ship, Independence of the Seas

Activities & Things to Do

Royal Promenade

Upon your first few steps onboard, you'll most likely run into the massive "main street" through the middle of the ship on Deck 5 - this, my friends, is the Royal Promenade. It's very much like a shopping mall, with a walking strip connecting the forward (front) and aft (back) of the ship. Since it's very easy to find & access from pretty much anywhere on the ship, many of the attractions throughout the Promenade make for great meeting spots for families & big groups.

View of the Royal Promenade on Royal Caribbean cruise line
Royal Promenade, Deck 5

Here at the Royal Promenade you'll find duty-free shopping, restaurants, lounges, and bars, as well as multiple live performances. We especially enjoyed the "80's Night" performance that took place here, where the singers and dancers performed on the beams above the strip!

You can find the guest services and shore excursion desks on Deck 5 as well, in-between the Main Dining Room's entrance and Ben & Jerry's.

Pools & Watersports

One of the first things we did once we boarded the ship and grabbed something to eat was head straight to the pool deck! There is a total of 3 pools and 7 jacuzzis onboard on Deck 11, as well as a variety of watersports:

  • The Perfect Storm: two tunnel waterslides, Typhoon & Cyclone, that allow guests to race each other to the bottom. The fun part about these waterslides is that part of the ride down takes you outside of the ship and over the water! (Deck 13)

  • Flowrider: 40-ft-long surf simulator (Deck 13)

  • Splashaway Bay: aqua park for kiddos, featuring a splash pad, waterslides, pools, and water cannons (Deck 11)

Looking for a kid-free zone? The Solarium is made up of one pool and two jacuzzis that are adults only.

We really enjoyed our time at the pools onboard! Even though it was crowded (which I expected, since it was a Caribbean cruise in the middle of summer), we were always able to find pool chairs together for our group, and could chill in the pool without feeling like packed sardines. On days when you're out at sea instead of docking at a port, you'll definitely want to head to the pool early to snag some chairs.

I was also very impressed with the service at the pool! There was always a server nearby to take drink orders, which made it great to relax in the pool and not have to worry about getting out to stand in line (just make sure you have your room card with you to give to the server). With how busy it was at the pool bar and the pool deck in general, the wait for our drinks was always reasonable (I say this as a bartender that usually has more patience than most in these situations). We recently went on a cruise with a different cruise line, and not only were there rarely servers that came by on the pool deck to order drinks from, but the wait at every bar was pretty wild...which was not the case on this Royal Caribbean cruise.

I'm a big fan of waterslides, but not as big a fan of waiting in line, so I wasn't sure if there'd be a chance to ride them...but I found the perfect time to check them out without a wait! While we were docked in Nassau, our shore excursion got us back to the boat a few hours ahead of time. Instead of spending those few hours in Nassau, we decided to get back on the boat and head straight to the slides - and it paid off! Our group was able to ride the slides several times and "race" each other before more people started showing up.

**Helpful tip: you'll want to bring your sandals with you, at least on the walk to the stairs to the slides' entrance. The upper deck gets a lot of sun, and it is HOT to walk on. Luckily, most of the guests were still in Nassau and it was pretty empty on the deck when we went, so we felt comfortable leaving our shoes together down by the exit for when we got out. The stairs leading up to the slides were covered for the most part, so we had no issues being barefoot.

Sports & Athletic Features

One of the coolest features I was excited to try out was the Skypad (Deck 13), which is a trampoline with a bungee cord harness with the option to do one of three virtual reality experiences! This is one I really wanted to do but ran out of time and am SO SAD about it. It's complimentary and only lasts a few minutes, so if I'm ever on the Independence again - best believe I'll be heading straight to this.

My boyfriend & I had also wanted to play their 9-hole Mini Golf course while onboard (Independence Dunes, Deck 13), but the area was uncovered and we were hot just standing up there, so we knew if we attempted to play a whole game during the day, we might not make it to the end of the cruise. I had read online from several sources that said the golf course was open 24 hours, but when we tried to go after the sun went down, the course was roped off, so we unfortunately weren't able to golf on this trip.

If a virtual reality trampoline experience or mini golf aren't your thing, there's also a rock-climbing wall, a basketball/volleyball court, ping-pong tables, a jogging track, a state-of-the-art gym, and how could I ice-skating rink!!

Jogging Track on the Upper Deck

Onboard Entertainment & Other Activities

If sports and physical activities are not how you'd like to spend your vacation, there are still a bunch of other attractions on the ship to check out! There is a spa (deck 12) that offers a wide range of services, from massages to facials to nail treatments. There's also laser tag, an escape room, an arcade, a library, night clubs, movie nights at the pool, and of course, a casino!

Slot Machines in the casino onboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas
Slot Machines at the Casino Royale

We had a great time playing some games in the arcade as well as a game of pool when a table opened up in the sports bar. There were some big winners at the Casino during our trip - I wasn't one of them this time, but I still have hope for the next cruise!

The Royal Caribbean app was not only awesome & easy to use, but also crucial to keeping track of all the onboard entertainment scheduling on this ship (because there is something going on at all times every. single. day). If you wanted to catch a live performance of Grease, sing karaoke, go salsa dancing, compete in a gameshow, or jam out at the silent disco, the app helped keep you in the know so you could plan out your time on the ship.

Want to participate in theme nights? You could also find that in the app! I personally love theme nights - I think they add to the festivities and make dinner more fun, but they're not at all mandatory if it's not your thing. Some of our theme nights for dinner on this cruise were tropical night and formal night!

The Statesroom

My boyfriend and I stayed in an Ocean View Balcony cabin on Deck 8. This was our first time staying in a cabin with a balcony, and honestly now I'm not sure if we can cruise any other way! I was very happy with the size of our stateroom (188 square feet); we had plenty of space to store our luggage away and never felt like the room was too small.

Ocean View Balcony Room on Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Independence of the Seas

Ocean View Balcony Room on Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Independence of the Seas

The bathroom was more on the quaint side - there wasn't much counter space around the sink, but since it was just the two of us (and we tend to pack light), we didn't mind. I ended up doing my makeup and hair at the vanity rather than the bathroom. As far as soap products, there is a dispenser in the shower but it's a 2-in-1 Hair & Body wash, so I would recommend bringing your own products.

Sailing to the Caribbean with a balcony is seriously amazing. Is there anything that says "vacation mode" more than getting to wake up to views of turquoise, crystal clear water? Actually, yes - getting to wake up to views of turquoise, crystal clear water with room service breakfast delivered right to your door! Now you're on vacation. The balcony was spacious, and it was nice getting to roll out of bed and watch the ship pull up to the Bahamas in pajamas, as opposed to getting dressed and watching the view from an upper deck.

Ocean View Balcony Room on Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Independence of the Seas

Room service was super convenient, and since it was complimentary (they just charge a delivery fee of $7.95 and 18% automatic gratuity), we definitely ordered it more than once for breakfast and lunch. Room service for breakfast was especially clutch because you got to choose a time frame for the delivery the next morning; so you really could roll out of bed and wake up to breakfast & coffee, and enjoy it out on the balcony. So much better than getting dressed and walking up to the buffet! All you needed to do was fill out the room service slip and hang it on your door before 3am the night before.

Our stateroom attendant was also amazing - she came to the room daily and always made sure our cabin was clean and that we were well taken care of. Whenever we came back to our room, the bed was always made, the trash was empty, and any steaming/laundry service we needed was taken care of promptly. At the end of our trip, we were more than happy to leave an extra tip in the provided envelope!

Dining & Restaurants

There are thirteen different dining options to choose from on the Independence of the Seas, along with room service and two specialty dessert shops. Since specialty dining options on this cruise were extra, we decided to stick with the complimentary options: Windjammer Café, Café Promenade, the Main Dining Room, and Sorrento's.

The Windjammer Café is the buffet option, and it's what's immediately available when you first arrive on the ship. When we weren't doing room service, this is where we ate breakfast and lunch. Café Promenade is where we went for specialty coffee, since it was the only coffee shop on the ship (no Starbucks! Sad, I know). Unless you had a drink package, I believe specialty coffee was an extra fee. Besides room service, this is the only other food option that's available 24 hours (just keep that in mind for my late, late-night snackers). Sorrento's is the late-night pizza spot, so we definitely made a stop there to satisfy cravings after a night out on the dance floor! I believe they closed at 2am, but the last night on the cruise they closed down earlier, which was a bummer (but probably better for our waistlines).

The Main Dining Room, which is beautiful and spans across three floors, is where we ate for dinner. Since we had a large group, we decided to do a set dinner reservation for our trip, which means every night our table was ready for us at the same time, and we had the same server & server's assistant helping us. Very convenient. They had four Classic menu items that they offered every night, as well as a rotating menu that changed daily, so you always had plenty of options to choose from (and if you can't choose just one, don't worry! It's all-you-can-eat)! There were also three premium entrees listed at the bottom that were available for an extra fee (like surf & turf), as you can see on the menu below.

One of our nightly dinner menus at the Main Dining Room

One of my favorite things about the Main Dining Room is on the last night of the trip, all of the chefs from the kitchen do a parade through the dining room, and all of the guests can wave their napkins & cheer on the chefs as they walk by! I love it and look forward to it on every trip with Royal Caribbean.

If you don't mind paying the extra fee for specialty dining and would like to try them out, you'll definitely want to make a reservation in advance (either in the app or at their host stands), since they tend to book up. The specialty dining venues are: Chops Grille (steakhouse), Giovanni's Table (Italian), Chef's Table (exclusive pre-fixe experience), Izumi Hibachi & Sushi (Asian), Johnny Rockets, Fish & Chips, Playmaker's Sports Bar, Ben & Jerry's, and Sugar Beach (candy & sweets - not really "dining" per se but I guess it could be for some, and who am I to judge?).

Food Quality

I almost feel like I need to include a few disclaimers here, since there seemed to be contrasting opinions amongst our group on the quality of the food, and I found even more when doing some research on this ship online. As someone who's worked over a decade in 5-star luxury hospitality (both hotels & restaurants), I'm pretty good at keeping my expectations reasonable for the price. The higher the price tag, the higher my expectations, and vice versa.

Chandelier in the Main Dining Room of Independence of the Seas cruise ship
Chandelier in the Main Dining Room

So with that being said, I for the most part enjoyed the food and found it to be a good value. I loved room service - I enjoyed the convenience of having it brought to the room so we could eat it on the balcony. I'm not sure how far the servers have to travel with the food to get to the rooms, but our food was always brought on time and the food temperatures were always perfect. I wasn't that impressed with the buffet options at the Windjammer Café (hence the room service), but I also don't have high expectations for free food in a cafeteria setting.

We tried eating breakfast in the Main Dining Room once, and I'm not going to lie - that was kind of a let down. However, I thoroughly enjoyed dinner every night at the Main Dining Room. It was still mind-blowing to me that an elegant dinner experience was available every night to us at no extra charge - nevermind the fact that you could order as much as you wanted every single night and oh yea, we're on a ship!! I had read about some folks complaining about the portion sizes, but to me it seemed appropriate because if it was too small a portion...just order another one. And for the folks who are ordering one of everything just to try it, there's minimal food waste.

Surf & Turf Premium Dinner Option

Now for my second disclaimer: though I am a world traveler, I'll admit I'm relatively new to cruising still, so I can't relate to those who've said the food quality has gone down since they first started cruising with Royal Caribbean. I can only really compare it to other cruise lines in the present, not how it compares to itself in the past.

So far, I've appreciated the magic of cruising every time (I hope I don't ever get numb to it!), but for now, the quality of the food met my expectations and the variety of food exceeded my expectations.

Also the service on our ship (as well as previous Royal Caribbean cruises) was beyond exceptional. There's a clear emphasis on great service and guest satisfaction, and the Main Dining Room was no exception.

Ports of Call & Shore Excursions

Our Ports of Call for this cruise was a day in Nassau and then a day at CocoCay (both in the Bahamas), and we thoroughly enjoyed our time at both stops. In comparison to other cruise lines, we felt like there was plenty of time at each stop for us to explore - we never felt rushed to get back onto the ship.

Our Shore Excursion Tickets Delivered to our Door

Since my boyfriend & I had been to Nassau before, we decided to purchase a shore excursion through the app before the cruise. We went to a private island with a beach called Blue Lagoon Island (click here for my travel guide!), and booking through Royal Caribbean made everything a breeze! Since we booked before the cruise started, there was a little bit of a discount and we were able to snag tickets before the excursion sold out. If there are any spaces available for the shore excursions once the cruise starts, it's still possible to purchase tickets at the Shore Excursion desk, but the prices are usually higher. Our tickets were also delivered to our Stateroom the night before the excursion, which had all of the info we needed for the next morning.

Our Private Cabana at CocoCay

For our time at Perfect Day at CocoCay (Royal Caribbean's private island), our group decided to do the Private Cabana excursion, which turned out to be awesome! There was shaded seating inside plus four lounge chairs with an umbrella, a cooler for beverages, a lunch menu (food was included), and our very own server, who was great at checking on us and on our things when we weren't at the cabana. None of us had been to CocoCay prior to this trip, and we all had a really great time! There were plenty of beach activities to do, the water was beautiful & the perfect temp, and there was even a pool with a swim up bar! Another great bonus: since my boyfriend & I already had the alcohol drink package, all of our drinks on CocoCay were covered!

**Helpful tip: If you get the cabana package at CocoCay, don't order the tuna salad sandwich. Since it was so hot out, me & one other in my group opted out of the hot sandwiches/burgers and got the tuna salad (it sounded refreshing!), and we're the only two, made frequent trips to the restroom that evening. Everyone else loved their food & had no issues.

View of the Waterpark at CocoCay

Final Thoughts

Overall, my family and I had a fantastic time on this 4-night Bahamas Cruise on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas. The ship was always clean, easy to navigate, and seriously so huge. I felt like we did a lot during our stay but there is still so much more that I'd like to experience on this ship! The various attractions & features were impressive on their own, but the top-notch customer service you come to expect from Royal Caribbean was the cherry on top. The complimentary dining options for breakfast & lunch were alright, but dinner was always a good time with great food and we thoroughly enjoyed room service on our balcony.

I personally think the Independence of the Seas is a perfect ship for groups of young & middle-aged adults, families, and couples. It's also a great ship for first-timers to experience without jumping straight to the megaships. Since the ship is so big and there is quite the variety of things to do, it's great for large groups because everyone can split up and do their own thing as well as plan activities together - however, it's not so massive that people can get overwhelmed and lost easily.

Would I sail on the Independence of the Seas again? Absolutely.

Ready for your adventure on the Independence of the Seas? Click here to compare upcoming itineraries, competitive rates and last minute deals! Some rates are as low as $40-60 a night!


Quick Ship Facts

Quick Ship Facts for Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas, including ship specs, restaurants, & onboard entertainment

**It was kind of wild how much the guest capacity for this ship fluctuated among Royal Caribbean's site as well as other reputable travel sites, so this was the closest window of accuracy I could find in my research.

All opinions in this review are entirely my own, and both this trip & post are not sponsored by Royal Caribbean.

Have you sailed with Royal Caribbean before? I'd love to read about your experiences in the comments down below!

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James Nguyen
James Nguyen
Nov 09, 2023

Great review! I've only been on one cruise before (with another cruise line), and I loved it. So I've been wanting to go on a cruise again, and Royal Caribbean was top of mind. It's definitely something I want to try and do in 2024!

Tara Wilson
Tara Wilson
Nov 11, 2023
Replying to

Thanks for reading, James!! Highly recommend Royal Caribbean if you decide to cruise in 2024! We always have a great time and the service is impeccable!

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