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Independence of the Seas Cruise Report - 2 Jan 2020 - 7 Jan 2020


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2 hours ago, KWong said:

Quick note: I'm working on scanning the Cruise Compasses and assorted sheets they gave us. Should I include it here or somewhere else?

You can include them here but I'm sure @Matt would appreciate it if you emailed them to him so he can add them to the Cruise Compass collection on the main blog site:  [email protected]

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Day 4 - Cozumel

The itinerary today found us coming into Cozumel around 10:30. Later than I’m used to, but with only one other ship in port (I think it was Disney Dream), not a big issue. Due to being in port on a Sunday, a lot of the popular beach clubs were closed. As a result, our plan was to go to Paradise Beach, but the backup plan was to stay in and around the port area.

Once we got off the ship, we headed out to the taxi area. The stand captain mentioned that the waters were pretty rough along the beach, but we were willing to risk it. Taxi rates were clearly listed at the stand, so that was good. Overall, it was $20 (incl tip) either way, and was about the same to just about any club in that area.

Paradise Beach has both an all inclusive and a la carte option, and seeing as we weren’t looking to eat and drink too much, the a la carte option (which involves a $3 cover and $10 food/drink minimum per person) seemed like the better option. After confirming this with the host, we headed out to the beach area. Sure enough, the waters were choppy and the floating obstacle course was still on the beach.

We took some beach chairs, and a waiter came by and took our $12 admission. Seeing as it was close to noon, we also ordered some food – guacamole and coconut shrimp, as well as some drinks for the kids. The guac was actually pretty good (although I prefer the one at Nachi Cocom better) but the shrimp was just so-so.

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Hannah wasn’t actually feeling great on this day so Olivia and I headed to the pool. The pool area was busy but not crowded, so it was easy to maneuver around and enjoy ourselves.

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We decided to leave the club around 2pm.  We were there roughly 3 hours, so at the end of the day, we weren’t there not long enough to truly take advantage of an all-inclusive package, so going a la carte was the best decision for us.

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Dinner on this night featured a souffle. Back in 2006/07, we went on a Princess cruise where the dessert chef made souffles every night, even doing a savory souffle on one occasion. To this day, I feel like that spoiled us because whenever we get a souffle on a cruise, we’re inevitably comparing it to something from (now) 13 years ago. Unfair? You bet it is.

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In this case, the souffles were a bit overcooked. It still tasted good, but you could almost imagine Gordon Ramsay throwing a fit and inventing about 20 new curse words to describe the not-perfect souffles. The mains, however, were on point. Kids aren’t big fans of alfredo sauce so we asked to get a red sauce for the linguini – no issues with that substitution.

 After dinner, we went to see the revue show, “Once Upon A Time”. This was a song and dance show with sets based around popular fairy tales. In a sense, it’s similar to what DCL does with their “Wishes” and “Believe” shows, subtracting Disney songs and any semblance of plot, while adding contemporary music and more choreography. Including what I think was an original disco song to open and close the show. The less said about THAT song, the better.

 I will not say that it was the most enjoyable show ever, but it wasn’t the worst I’d seen either. But certainly not a show I’ll need to see again, whereas I happily rewatch Blue Planet (Allure) and Columbus: The Musical (Harmony) again.

 So on my own again, I took another loss at the casino, and then I decided to take in the late night curiosity known as The Quest. I’d heard a bit about this, and after some time to digest this, my main impression is

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I mean the host calls out some task like “I need 5 different shoes attached together by their shoelaces” and suddenly shoes are raining down onto the Studio B floor and I’m all

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 So yeah, this game is nuts. There are points awarded. But I think, like in Whose Line Is It Anyway, the points don’t matter.

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I tip my virtual hat to those of you with enough guts to be the captains. My team won, I think. Only the captains win a prize, so I guess I had a moral victory. So, yay?

The next day was our final full day on board, as we headed back to Fort Lauderdale.

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One thing I neglected to mention about Cozumel was that, going into the terminal from the ship, they had dogs out to sniff out contraband. But they weren't looking for drugs - they were looking for fruit! I mean, it makes sense that you don't want foreign fruit with potential foreign pests getting into the country, but it's kind of funny (in a serious way) when you're faced with the realization that, yes, this is actually happening.

So as much as you might want to bring in a banana, don't do it!

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Great review.  We also went to Paradise Beach this past December.  It's a great option with the choice of the $3 entry fee + $10 food.  And the pool is great plus the beach. We also had a very windy day.  Luckily I was dressed in my Toronto clothes (we're also from there) in my sweatshirt material cardigan and then covered my legs with the towel..but was determined to have some beach time.  Looks like at least the air wasn't as chilly for you?

It shows you how tastes are different.  Once Upon a Time is one of my favorite "Royal old style production shows" (i.e. non-Oasis class shows written by Royal).  I liked how they mixed the fairy tales with the known music.  

Lol... I like your Quest reaction.

Btw...who is your cruise director?

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3 minutes ago, WannaCruise said:

Looks like at least the air wasn't as chilly for you?

No, it wasn't as windy, but the water was definitely choppy. A little chilly, but nowhere near Lake Ontario-in-summer frigid, if you know what I mean.

14 minutes ago, WannaCruise said:

Lol... I like your Quest reaction.

To be honest, I had stronger feelings, but I was trying to keep it PG. 

 

17 minutes ago, WannaCruise said:

Btw...who is your cruise director?

Cruise Compass says it was Cuddy. But in my mind I saw him as Not James Corden.

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Day 5 - At Sea

Final day. I hate final days, because you know you have get off the ship and head back to the Real World. Unless, of course, you’re Super Mario. But I think even he gets off the ships every once in a while.

Despite the late night, I was up relatively early, and we ate breakfast at WindJammer. The lack of speed in the MDR made us give up on them as an option, and besides, the buffet never seemed crowded. The only real drawback is that one could easily overdo things at breakfast, so I tried to limit myself to one pass at the buffet. Seemed to work, as I was able to load my plate but not to excess.

After breakfast, we took Olivia up to Adventure Ocean and… there were no kids in the 9-11 room. Curious. Since it was exactly 9 we figured that maybe some kids would come in later. Olivia didn’t want to be the only one there, so we took a walk around the upper deck and came back about 10 minutes later. Still no kids. Looking into the 6-8 club, there were very few kids in there as well. As a result, Olivia opted to hang out with the rest of us by the pool.

This was, to be honest, a bit of a strange phenomenon for the kids. During our August cruises, the kids clubs were usually full, so there wasn’t much concern about meeting new kids and having fun. But here it was the opposite, and I can see why Royal has started to move towards a merged 6-11 program.

Since Hannah and I had sushi making mid-morning, we opted not to swim and instead played a round of minigolf – something that I’d yet to do on a cruise. It was fun, as far as minigolf goes, plus the views were really nice at the front of the ship.

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On A Roll took place, unsurprisingly, at Izumi. The idea here is that all the items you need to create your sushi are mise en place, and the chef instructs you on how to assemble each item. We made a California Roll, Shrimp/Avocado Roll, Spicy Tuna Hand Roll, and two Ebi Nigiri. As you can see from the pictures (and Matt has described before in the blog), this is a massive amount of food, which we then got to eat!

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Note: We were not allowed to take the food out of the restaurant (apparently there is a health regulation against this), so I highly recommend you bring along a “non-participant” to “help dispose” of the sushi.

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Once we were stuffed to bursting, we headed back upstairs to meet with my wife and Olivia. They were now hungry, so we headed over to Windjammer. Hannah and I weren’t all that hungry due to maki overload, but we still grabbed some veg in order to balance out our food pyramids.

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I should note that at Windjammer they have an assistant waiter there with a guitar whose sole purpose is to sing songs featuring “washy-washy”. They are not great songs, but I definitely appreciate their attempts to hammer the point home about washing hands.

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After lunch, we decided to try out the Perfect Storm waterslides. During minigolf, we were talking to a couple of older teens from Michigan about the slides, and they thought that the slides weren’t great, and that they were slow to the point of almost getting stuck in the tubes. But after we went on a few times, I have to conclude that they perhaps adjusted the water flow, because while the slides weren’t as fast as what you might find at an onland waterpark, they had more than enough speed to get you to the bottom in a hurry.

 If I had a gripe about the slides, it’s that there aren’t enough clear panels to let you see out of the tubes, especially where you travel to the edge of the ship. Really felt like a missed opportunity.

 After we went on the slides, the kids wanted to hit the pool, so they went there while my wife and I relaxed. While we were there, we had the fortune (misfortune?) to witness the Sexiest Man contest. This was definitely… something. Still not sure what, exactly, but it was something. All I will say is that the guy in the Rey Mysterio mask was robbed.

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Our final dinner featured Rack of Lamb and Steak Diane, both of which were wonderful. It also featured “Asian pork tacos”, which based on the description, we guessed was actually pork bao. And that’s exactly what it was. I can’t say it was great.

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An interesting note was that for the last day, they were trying to get people to go to Chops at a 50% discount. It was tempting, but at the end of the day my wife and the girls wanted lamb chops, and why forgo the included lamb chops in the MDR in order to pay for lamb chops at the specialty restaurant? For us, the value add was simply not there.

 After dinner, we did our final packing and set the bags outside the room. After everyone else went to sleep I took a final trip across the pool deck, where it was pretty quiet.

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Going back downstairs, I went to the theatre to watch the comedian, Anthony Acosta. I had a bit of an incident where I wanted to exercise my 2-for-1 beer voucher (I think everyone gets this?) and the bartender was utterly confused by this, thinking I wanted a Diamond happy hour drink. We did get it sorted out and before the show started he came over to apologize to me. Which was nice, but completely unnecessary, since we weren’t arguing – just trying to sort out what voucher I was redeeming. In any case, he gave me another beer, so I ended up with 3 beers for the price of 1. Yeah, that was a lot. Thankfully it was a macrobrew as opposed to something with a lot of flavour, so I got through them all.

The comedian, Anthony Acosta, was pretty good I thought, but his style is quite edgy, self-deprecating and plays a lot off of his ethnicity, and could easily rub people the wrong way. If you watched his act and did not enjoy it at all, well, I wouldn’t blame you one bit.

After the show, I went over to Sorrentos to wash down the beer with some food, and headed to bed.

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Thank you for the great report!! I noticed everyone was wearing helmets at the ice rink. Is it a requirement? Do you recall if there was any kind of waiver you could sign to choose not to wear it? (Asking on behalf of my figure skater daughter, who will moan and groan and act like she can't possibly skate if she's made to wear a helmet. 😂 ) I don't remember that being the case several years ago...

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On 1/24/2020 at 1:17 PM, gailecn said:

Thank you for the great report!! I noticed everyone was wearing helmets at the ice rink. Is it a requirement? Do you recall if there was any kind of waiver you could sign to choose not to wear it? (Asking on behalf of my figure skater daughter, who will moan and groan and act like she can't possibly skate if she's made to wear a helmet. 😂 ) I don't remember that being the case several years ago...

The helmets (which I believe were skateboard helmets) were a requirement.  I don't recall there being a release waiver for the helmets. I sympathize with your daughter though - I'd not wear a helmet if I could avoid it.

With that said, there were enough first timers on the rink that I took the stance that the helmet would help protect me somewhat from them. I saw a lot of wipeouts, and thankfully I didn't add to that total.

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Apparently I forgot to add this:

Day 6 – Debarkation Day (aka You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here)

I know people don’t like talking about this day, but I’ve always found it helpful to know how people got home, especially when you have to fly. For us, we had a 2pm flight back to Toronto, so realistically we had plenty of time to get off the ship.

For this trip, we were assigned tag number 32, with an estimated debarkation time of 9:30am – about as middle of the road an assignment as one can get, I think. This gave us, in theory, plenty of time to get ready, pack up and leave.

When we woke up (roughly 6:30-ish), I looked outside and discovered that we were in the process of docking, so barring any unforeseen clearance issues, we’d be getting off the ship shortly.

We got dressed (in our travel clothes… le sigh), and headed up to Windjammer one final time. The buffet was actually not that busy, perhaps a testament to our going up a little later than the norm. And this worked out well for us. Not that we were going to overdo it on food, but certainly we weren’t “fighting” the masses to find a seat.

After breakfast, we went back to the room to do finish packing our carry-off bags and do a final sweep of the room. After exchanging goodbyes with our attendant, we headed down to the Promenade to wait.

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 While we were waiting, we saw some of the charter cruise workers come in with display boards for their t-shirt stands. In hindsight, I should’ve taken a picture and/or bought a shirt. Not that I’m a huge metal fan or anything, but “70,000 Tons of Metal”? You know you’d want a shirt with that on it as well.

 Regardless, we were called ahead of schedule, around 9:15, and dutifully made our way to the 4th deck and the exit ramp. Unlike previous Oasis class cruises, we headed straight down to the baggage area – a nice surprise, given that I was expecting a 30-60 minute wait to go down. The lines were indeed kind of long – I estimated about 45 minutes for the Suites, 60-90 for everyone – but since we have NEXUS, it was a simple matter of picking up our bags, showing the officer in the centre exit our cards, and heading through customs. Our debarkation, from ship to outside the terminal, took us under 10 minutes.

 With so much time before our flight, we debated going somewhere else for an hour or two, but we decided just to go to the airport. Bit of a misstep on our part, because we were at the terminal well before 10am, and the 3 hour bag drop window was still over an hour away. So that meant some waiting.

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Once the window opened, there was somehow only one Westjet employee at the counter helping three separate lines (special assistance, check in and bag drop). So this was… interesting, but eventually some other agents made their way to the counter to help out. This was not ideal, but since we’d checked in on the ship and had TSA Pre-Check, we had very little concern about making our flight. And indeed, we were through security around 12. A little later than I expected, but still nothing to worry about at all.

We got a pre-flight meal at Shula Burger (note: onion rings look much better than they taste), and with little fanfare, got on the flight home.

Once at Toronto Pearson, we went over to the NEXUS line, where there appeared to be only a few NEXUS kiosks working. Fortunately, there were several of the standard kiosks available, which we used to breeze through customs. Easy peasy, and after picking up our luggage and car, we headed home.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm so enjoying your blog! We are heading out on Indy April 13th for the same itinerary with 3 grandparents in tow. This is giving me some great ideas and information!

Where do you sign up for ice skating? I was thinking I had read that it was just first-come, first-served at Studio B when it was happening? 

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44 minutes ago, SSprouse said:

I'm so enjoying your blog! We are heading out on Indy April 13th for the same itinerary with 3 grandparents in tow. This is giving me some great ideas and information!

Where do you sign up for ice skating? I was thinking I had read that it was just first-come, first-served at Studio B when it was happening? 

I believe the compass had an item about signups. Happened roughly 2 hours before the first skating session in Studio B. 
 

thanks for reading! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

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