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Independence of the Seas Live-ish Blog, January 23-28

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Hi all, 

 

This past week I adventured onto a 5-night cruise on Independence of the Seas. Even though this is a one week delayed "live-ish" blog, I wanted to share my experiences on board and in our ports of call. I hope you all enjoy! 

 

Before our cruise: 

 

We booked this sailing early last year during the WOW sale, and got a heck of a deal. This was my first cruise in almost a decade, and my fiance's third cruise in just 2 or 3 years. The thought process on choosing this particular sailing was a combination of the price being right, and getting to visit ports that neither of us have been to before (Labadee and Falmouth). Since we had to fly in to Florida from Missouri, the 5 night sailing was the perfect length of what we could fit in to our schedules while just taking a week off from work. 

 

Our cruise plans: 

 

During this cruise, the plan is pretty simple: explore, relax, and have fun. We did not book any specialty restaurants, but are both huge fans of the MDR and look forward to the awesome meals available there each evening. Shortly after booking early last year, we purchased the Premium Drink package, which we later re-booked as the Deluxe drink package whenever drink packages were on sale in the cruise planner (I think during the fall WOW?). For Labadee, we plan to simply walk around and find a nice beach spot to enjoy a few drinks and possibly get in the water a bit. In Falmouth we have the Rois Lagoon Kayaking Adventure booked, still leaving a bit of time in the day to find my favorite Jamaican coffee. On board, I am incredibly excited to see Grease, as well as a few of the other signature productions. 

 

Pre cruise travel: 

 

The day before our sailing, we flew from Kansas City to Atlanta, had some pretty extreme delays before our flight to FLL due to the storms coming through, but eventually made it to Fort Lauderdale in the evening. Leaving FLL we attempted to use Uber, but kept having drivers drop our trips, and had a string of drivers who were caught at an intersection where a train was crossing. After about 20 minutes of trying, we went to the taxi queue and got into a cab immediately. We stayed a bit north in Ft Lauderdale at the Downtown/Las Olas Hampton Inn. From the hotel we were able to book a shuttle to Port Everglades for $8/person, which we booked for the sake of ease. At this point we were exhausted from a long day of travel and turned down pretty early to rest up for our sailing.

 

Please stay tuned for the next 5 days as I take you through our awesome journey (and photos, eventually) on Indy!  

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We were on Indy for a 4 night earlier this month and stayed at the same hotel. The first Uber driver cancelled, but the second took us to the pier for $8 total for two people.

Look forward to the review.

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Day 1 - Embarkation day

 

The day is finally here! After months and months of anticipation, the morning I've been waiting for is here. Woke up at 7:30 AM, bright eyed and busy tailed after a (surprisingly) great night of sleep. We dragged our feet a bit as we packed up our carry-ons for the day and got ready to eat breakfast. At 10:00AM sharp we left the hotel in the shuttle we booked the night prior. We were the only two people taking this shuttle for Indy, although it looked like a large group was gathered at our hotel getting ready to head to Serenade. On our short drive to Port Everglades our shuttle driver offered shuttle services on disembarkation day from the port to FLL, at whatever time we chose to get off the ship. At $10/person we decided this was a fine enough deal for us, and went ahead and paid for that and jotted down the phone number for the shuttle. One less thing to worry about later on.

 

We arrived at beautiful Terminal 18 shortly before 10:30 AM, dropped our bags off with a porter, and got through security and checked in in a matter of 10 or 15 minutes. Due to the heavy storms that came through the night before, we were unable to take our security photos whenever we checked in, and instead were told to have our passports ready during boarding and would have our photo taken then. Boarding began right around noon, but since we are lowly Gold members, we didn't get on board until shortly after 1:00PM.

 

With several hours to explore before the Muster drill, we decided to grab a drink from the Champagne bar then head up to the Windjammer for lunch. At the Champagne bar, the cocktail menus listed drinks all priced at $13, but what I found nice was that the bartenders were upfront that it would be x-dollars above the drink package, and asked if that was okay. Overall, we found the extra $1-2 per occasional drink to be a non-issue (especially because we had a bit of onboard credit to cover the difference). After a quick lunch at the Windjammer - honeystung chicken, of course - we dropped off our backpacks at our stateroom and began touring around the ship.

 

Overall, the ship on embarkation day did not feel crowded, and I felt that the navigation around the ship was super simple (especially compared to finding my way around Carnival ships in the past). After the muster drill, our luggage was still not at our room, so we headed up to Olive or Twist for a view of the sunset and Miami as we sailed past. After enjoying these wonderful views, we headed back to our stateroom and, since our luggage had arrived, got ready for the intro show and our late seating at dinner.

 

At dinner we were sat at an 8-top table with other young people, although two of the seats remained empty throughout dinner. Out of the 3 groups, we were the only ones to purchase a drink package, although one couple did take advantage of bringing on their two bottles of wine. Dinner in the MDR was delicious, per the usual, and I enjoyed the seafood soup, mojo pork chops with root veggies, and finished up dinner with the classic chocolate sensation and an espresso.

 

After dinner we took a little time to get some fresh air and walk around the pool deck outside, before heading back inside for one final drink in the evening. The ship was moving pretty fast and I was surprised how much movement we were feeling on night 1. Our final drink of the evening turned into a final couple of sips before ditching them and heading to bed to rest up for our first full day at sea.

 

Day 1 drink count: 9 alcoholic beverages, plus one espresso at dinner

 - Although this may sound pretty high, it honestly didn't feel too extreme, especially as we toured several bars during our exploration period of the day and spread them out until almost midnight

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 The ship was moving pretty fast and I was surprised how much movement we were feeling on night 1. 

That can definitely happen, and as you noted that front came through the night before, which tends to churn the ocean.  I suspect it will be short lived, especially once you get out of the Atlantic.

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Day 2 - Sea Day

 

I woke up this morning promptly at 7:30 AM in desperate need of some caffeine and breakfast, as I knew this day would be jam packed with activities. As many have suggested in the past, we brought a highlighter to select events we were interested in attending in the Cruise Compass each night whenever it arrived. If I recall correctly, we had about half of the compass highlighted....I may have been suffering slightly from "gotta do it all" syndrome. We made our way up to the Windjammer to fuel up for the day, and noticed it was still pretty empty at this time (7:45-ish), and we were able to grab a 2-top by the windows with ease. As expected, the ship was feeling a lot more stable this morning and my tiny bit of fear of experiencing seasickness as I have in the past dissipated.

 

After eating and getting changed into pool-ready clothes, I grabbed a bloody Mary (the drink I really should have taken my count on..) and headed out to the Solarium. Again, since it was pretty early in the day, the area was not jam packed yet. We found two chairs in some decent shade and spent some time laying out and enjoying a few frozen cocktails before it got too warm. We headed back to the Windjammer for a quick lunch before going back out to the pool deck to watch the Sexiest Man Competition. If there was one place on board that seemed the most crowded throughout the sailing, it was the pool deck, especially during events such as the competitions. We saw several of the pop-up bars selling beers and simple mixed drinks throughout the pool deck. The best place we found with open seating was in the area of tables just outside of the Sky Bar. Not only did it mean we weren't totally cramped in between others, but we had a pretty good view from being up a little higher.

 

After being outside in the hot sun for awhile, we took things back inside to Boleros for our first trivia session: "Who Am I?". Let's just say this trivia was a little tough, but it was our first one and we were just getting warmed up. Shortly after that we migrated to the Schooner bar for Food & Drink trivia, and we did a lot better this round. By this point it was mid-late afternoon, and I started to realize just how late the late dinner seating is. Afternoon snacks were a necessity, so we sampled a variety of sandwiches and wraps from Café Promenade, then ventured back to our stateroom to get dressed and ready for formal night.

 

Even though getting our photos taken wasn't a huge priority for me, my fiancé convinced me to take some formal photos on the bridge and staircase areas of the Promenade while the photographer had some time. I thought they turned out a little forced, and didn't end up purchasing any (although I'm still glad we at least took them). We spent a little time at the wonderful Champagne Bar (seriously, Billy, you were right, these bartenders are amazing) and headed to the theater for the early showing of "Once Upon a Time". The actors in this show were the same cast that would be in Grease later in the week, and after hearing this first show, I knew we were in for a great production later in the week as well. We had time for one more pre-dinner drink, then made our way to the dining room.

 

For the second night in a row, our 8-top remained only 3/4 full, as the couple that didn't come on the first night was not there again. During our dinner conversation, we got on the topic of food allergies/intolerances and discovered that our table had members with gluten and poultry intolerances, as well as a nut allergy. They all made mention that the ship seemed extremely accommodating, they enjoyed the variety of choice, and that it seemed like a non-issue to find options that worked for them. My food selections for the evening were lobster bisque, shrimp cocktail, roasted duck, and strawberry cheesecake (and I think some sort of coffee?). It was so delicious and I scarfed it all down so quickly that I completely forgot to get any photos.

 

Post-dinner we had one more drink before heading to the Love and Marriage game show. As expected, it was totally hilarious. Immediately following this, the late night comedian came on stage for his show. Unfortunately, the humor in this show wasn't really my cup of tea, so we left after only 15 minutes or so. While I totally understand that this is designed as "late night" comedy, there is still a clear divide in my mind between funny/raunchy and simply being vulgar for the sake of being vulgar. I say no more. We took a little time to walk around the Promenade (and maybe grab another small sandwich from the café) before turning in for the night.

 

Overall, this day was jam-packed. I never felt overwhelmed or busy - and why should I? It's vacation. There were several things we wanted to do but never made it to, but I didn't feel any sort of disappointment about it. I did realize, though, that I only took about 3-4 photos throughout the entire day...it honestly was the last thing on my mind at most points. Even though it was only night 2, we agreed that walking the promenade late at night was an awesome experience...it felt oddly calm and serene, and it gave ample time to gawk and just appreciate it all.

 

Day 2 drink count: 12-ish. We started to notice that we accumulated some melting drinks or half-consumed martinis in our stateroom. Not that we didn't like them, but rather, didn't feel obligated to finish them if we were ready to move on or simply didn't feel like drinking it anymore

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For the second night in a row, our 8-top remained only 3/4 full, as the couple that didn't come on the first night was not there again. 

This has become fairly typical of my experiences. On Brilliance of the Seas, we had a 8 or 10 top table, and it was always just me and my wife and another couple. 

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Day 3 - Labadee

 

This morning we woke up promptly at 7:30 again, with room service knocking on the door about 2 minutes after that. With the knowledge that we would be docked at Labadee fairly early in the day, we wanted a bit of light fare delivered so that whenever we headed up for a full breakfast, we could go directly from the Windjammer to deck 1 for disembarkation, without another stop at our stateroom. After chugging some coffee, getting dressed and packing a light backpack for Labadee, we headed up to the Windjammer for a bit more sustenance, then got ready to head onto shore.

 

For our day on Labadee, we didn't have any excursions booked, but planned on exploring for awhile, finding a beach to post up on, and of course, enjoy a Labadoozie. Walking past the Labadee sign, it was pretty packed with people taking photos, so I decided to wait until later to snag a few photos of the sign and the ship. With no real preference of where to post up for the day, we first took the time to walk all the way around Labadee, checking out every area. Along the way, we ran in to some of our dinner friends on the beach! After trekking around the entirety of Labadee, we settled on a fairly empty area on Adrenaline Beach. We purchased a beer (because, refreshment) and dragged some chairs into the perfect spot. Soon I heard some whirring noises and faint screams, and looked up, only to realize I was sitting directly below the zipline. For the next hour or so we watched as people soared down the zipline, and then it was time for a Labadoozie. I will simply say this about the drink: my lovely fiancé went up to the bar to get us each one, and whenever he handed it off to me, I thought it had melted, not realizing that the rum was simply floated on top. It was a stringent first sip.

 

By this time it was almost 11:30, and despite the fact that lunch was offered on shore, we decided we would be better off heading back to the ship and having a bit more variety (and space, and less sand) for lunch. I snagged some great photos on the way back to the ship, and before heading to the Windjammer, we stepped out on deck 4 for a couple more photos of the mountains and the beautiful blue waters. Following lunch, we took advantage of the near-empty Solarium and enjoyed a few drinks and the pools/hot tubs until it was getting too warm outside. This afternoon in the Schooner bar there was a trivia offered that we knew we could dominate...Science. As I had hoped and dreamed about, we won and collected our very nice RCL highlighters.

 

Around 5-ish we headed back to the Champagne bar to visit our favorite bartenders and to have a few more refreshments. Today they had a "chocolate decadence" cocktail menu with dessert martinis being offered, all at $13 (also, these paper menus were in R-Bar menu holders). At this point I was in desperate need of a little time to lay down and a snack, so we headed back to our stateroom and ordered a couple of small plates through room service and enjoyed some quiet time. Before heading to evening trivia, we took a stroll through the casino to take advantage of the one free slot pull my fiancé got from his C&A coupons.

 

Dinner tonight was Italian - I had caprese salad, chicken marsala, and tiramisu -  and unfortunately, this was most underwhelming meal I had in the MDR all trip. This, however, was partially my fault. I realized after biting in to my entrée that it wasn't that great, but I continued to eat it rather than asking for something else. Following dinner we headed back to the Champagne bar briefly, took birthday shots with a lady we met right then, and headed off to see Britain's Finest, a Beatles Tribute Band. The band was, overall, very entertaining. The crowd seemed to enjoy the first half of the show more (and I agree) and some began to leave with just 1 or 2 songs left in the set. After the show let out, we headed up to the pool deck to check out the party happening up there, walked around to get a little fresh air, then headed back to our stateroom to call it a night.

 

Day 3 drink count: 14 (not including specialty coffees or bottles of water). I found that starting off with a few drinks on shore, followed by a couple mimosas with and shortly after lunch really drove up my count. At least I knew at this point I was more than ahead on the drink package.

 

Also noted in the evening: Izumi Express was available for purchase at Sorrento's. We saw a few people at a bar eating some sushi, so we followed it to the source. I opted not to buy any, but kinda kicked myself for that whenever we didn't spent all of our onboard credit by the end of the cruise...

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 I will simply say this about the drink: my lovely fiancé went up to the bar to get us each one, and whenever he handed it off to me, I thought it had melted, not realizing that the rum was simply floated on top. It was a stringent first sip.

I fall prey to this occurrence quite often. Nothing wakes you up quite like an unexpected shot of rum.

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How'd you do with trivia? And what was the trivia topic?

Science trivia we won in the afternoon (definitely my wheelhouse) and we did the general evening trivia as well. I think we were 2 or 3 points off of the winners, so not bad for a duo team. Next time I'm making more friends at trivia

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 Next time I'm making more friends at trivia

I've learned it's best to come a few minutes early and introduce yourself to someone and ask to join their team. It's kind of weird at first, but you get over it and most people are open to increasing their team size, but too shy to ask.

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Day 4 - Falmouth Jamaica

This morning we woke up a bit later than usual, sometime shortly after 8. With our shore excursion not meeting until 10:45 AM, we were in no rush to get around or to get off the ship just yet. We took our time getting around, packing a bag to bring on shore with us, and grabbing some breakfast at the Windjammer. We checked out one towel on our way off the ship, and headed into the port. I had only ever been to Jamaica once before (Montego Bay in 2008) and my fiancé had never been. Falmouth was a lot different than what I had experienced before, in a good way. We took a little time to walk around to the various shops, stepped foot in the Margaritaville gift shop, then headed the way of our excursion meeting point. Our excursion for today was the Rois (sometimes spelled Rios) Lagoon Kayaking Tour. Our tour group remained small with only ourselves, one other couple, and one older woman. We took the short bus ride to the Rois Lagoon area, had a brief session in safety, then we were on the water.

For the next hour or so, we took a fairly fast-paced kayaking tour through the lagoon, seeing tons of mangrove trees (and paddling through some tight tree tunnels), tree crabs, birds and even some jellyfish (which we got to hold - they don't sting!). The water was very calm and shallow here, and I was pleased at how much we got to see. While this excursion was marked as "strenuous", I wouldn't quite call it that, although the paddle back to the dock was probably the most tiring part of all. After our kayaking tour, we hopped on another shuttle down to the Blue Waters resort where we were provided lunch, one drink ticket, and the wifi password. Lunch was decent, nothing to write home about, and the drinks were strong. We only stuck around for about an hour before catching one of the shuttles back to the port. Here we went to a few shops to find some coffee for me to buy, and some rum for my fiancé to purchase. We got ready to head back to the ship, walked right through customs (seriously, is that normal? we didn't even have our bags checked or scanned) and went to shower, drink some coffee and relax for awhile.

Once feeling a bit reenergized, we swung by the Champagne Bar to see the bartenders and grab a cocktail. Tonight was "Speakeasy" night, and their menu contained two pages of delicious sounding drinks, all priced at $12. Between my fiancé and myself, we tried a total of about 6 of these drinks throughout the evening; they were all delicious. Next up was one of my most anticipated events of the cruise: Grease. They ran this straight through, which meant it was over and we were out of the theater in exactly 90 minutes. The show was fantastic, the singers were great, and the crowd seemed to really enjoy the show. While there were a few errors in the first few minutes with some of the singers' microphones being at the correct level, everything was adjusted and the show went on. Immediately after the show, we changed into our dinner clothes and headed back to - you guessed it - the Champagne Bar for a drink, and mostly for some people watching.

Dinner tonight was lobster night. I started off with the crab cocktail, which reminded me mostly of coleslaw, followed by the "Fisherman's Platter" and finally, the Grand Marnier Souffle. Although we only had two people out of the six at our table order the lobster, we somehow ended up with about 6 plates of lobster by time dinner was all said and done. No complaints here. At this point we had about an hour to kill before The Quest so we walked around a bit, grabbed a drink to go from the Champagne Bar, and headed up to Studio B for The Quest. This game show is amazingly hilarious, and I'm proud to say I even participated. After this let out, we grabbed another drink, walked around both inside and outside a bit more, had a slice of Sorrento's (my first and last of this cruise), grabbed some sweets from Café Promenade, then called it a night. I was feeling a slight tinge of sadness that tomorrow is the last full day of the cruise. However, I took this as a bit of a challenge to have an extra awesome last day.

Day 4 drink count: 7 alcoholic beverages, plus 2 specialty coffees. Today we spent a lot more time on shore and had a drink included with our excursion, plus I was simply feeling drained from the sun and kayaking.

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Did you take photos from the excursion? It sounds kind of interesting, but I'd love to see photos of it (assuming you took any).

Unfortunately, I didn't! I was kind of afraid to take my phone, for fear of it getting wet, and I didn't bring a GoPro which I think would have made for some awesome photos or videos. I was pleasantly surprised at the area, though. After booking I read some negative reviews of the excursion on cruise critic (go figure) but I found it serene.

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