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Independence - 14th-28th July Med - Live(ish) Blog

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C minus 1 day

One day before we embark upon our second RC cruise on Independence of the Seas. Packing’s all done, documents are good to go, so I thought I’d kick off my first Live Blog with a bit of a pre-amble:

Our History

I’ll be sailing with my husband, we’re both in our 30s (just about for one of us!), from England and this will be our third cruise in total. My husband used to be in the Royal Navy and loves being at sea, but since leaving the Navy, had always fancied sailing in a bit more luxury than on a warship. My mum had always wanted to try a cruise so we booked a family one – me, husband, mum, step-dad – for her 60th in 2016 on Navigator of the Seas doing a 14 Night Western Med from Southampton. Long and short of it, we all loved it! Husband and I loved it so much we went on another family cruise in 2017, this time with my dad, his wife, my sister and my auntie. It was a 7 night Scandinavian itinerary on Crown Princess from Southampton. It too was a great cruise and whilst there were some things we felt were better on Princess (pool deck layout, rooms ready on arrival at 11am, more large  lounges), overall, my husband and I preferred the experience on RC.

We have this cruise booked on IoS and then we have another family cruise, this time with mother-in-law booked for next year on P&O’s Azura.

 

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Ship & Itinerary

Husband was adamant he wanted to go from Southampton as it’s so much less hassle than flying, and that he wanted to go somewhere hot. We also wanted a good balance of sea days and port days so that we’ve got time to relax and enjoy the ship as well as to explore the ports. We also wanted to try a different ship and needed to sail during my holiday from school (I’m a teacher) so Independence fits the bill. We booked it before we knew about the refurb it was getting so it was a bonus to hear about the new added features.

The ports we’ll visit are:

Gibraltar – having done the tour of ‘The Rock’ last time, we’re planning on visiting the siege tunnels

Ville Franche – our only tender port. Last time we visited Monaco, this time we’re heading for Nice and have booked a transfer with RC

Civitavecchia – we don’t plan to visit Rome as we’d like to go for a weekend to see all the sites. Last time we went on a wine tasting tour which was ok but not something we’d want to repeat so we’ll be staying on board to make the most of the slides with no queues, although we might take a stroll to the nearby beach.

Livorno – last time we visited Pisa so this time we’re heading for Florence and again have booked a transfer with RC.

Toulon – We don’t have any firm plans, we’re just going to get off the ship and explore the port.

Barcelona – I’ve been to Barcelona twice before and my Husband once but not as a cruise port. It’s a beautiful city and we’re looking forward to going back. Again we don’t really have any firm plans, although I’m keen to explore the gothic quarter as I didn’t see much of this when I visited before. We may or may not book a bike or Segway tour.

Lisbon – We visited this port on our first cruise and loved it so we’re looking forward to returning. We did a tuk-tuk tour last time which was great fun so we’ve booked another but this time it’s a food tour with stops to try different local delicacies!

Vigo – our final port and again we plan just to explore the town.

We booked a GTY Balcony as it was quite a bit cheaper than choosing a balcony and our room was allocated a week or so after final payment – we got 6666: apparently lots of people are reluctant to book the 666 cabins but it doesn’t bother us and we’re happy with the overall location. It’s above the top floor of the MDR so I don’t anticipate there being much noise when we’re sleeping.

On our previous 2 cruises, we had MTD with the same waiters each evening which we enjoyed. This time, as it’s just the two of us, we’ve opted to try the traditional dining so that we’ve got other people to talk to! We’ve gone for the late sitting as we usually eat quite late and wanted to have enough time to get ready for dinner after days in port.

We have both bought the Ultimate Drinks Package. We definitely got value out of it before – it will interesting to see if we still do with it just being the two of us. We’ll certainly give it our best shot!

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On-board Activities

Despite having the drinks package, we’ve booked a wine tasting for our first sea day as we both enjoy wines and have participated in several wine tastings before and found them to be informative. There were a few dates available, all sea days, but we decided to go for the first day so that we’re more educated about the wines on offer on board and can then take full advantage of the Vintages wine list throughout the rest of the cruise!

We’ve also booked a ‘behind the scenes tour’. This is more for my husband than me due to his nautical background. I had the idea of buying the experience as a gift for his birthday but I foolishly told my mother about the idea. She then hijacked it and bought it as her gift to him so I had to go back to the drawing board! Oh well, he’s very excited about it.

I’ve also booked chef’s table for us on what I think will be our final formal night. Husband doesn’t know about this – it’s my thank you to him for paying for the cruise.

I hope to also try Giovanni’s Table as we didn’t try this restaurant on Navigator. We may well try it for lunch on a sea day as lasagne is possibly my favourite food (if it’s possible to choose just one!) and I’ve heard so many good things about it from Matt that I’m keen to try it.

I think that’s enough for the pre-amble. Time to go to bed now ready to drive down to Southampton tomorrow before sailing on Saturday. I’ll post again tomorrow and will attempt to periscope the ships leaving port (weather permitting – our 50 day heatwave is threatening rain for tomorrow afternoon) but I don’t have a fancy mic and have never scoped before so please bear with me…

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1 hour ago, hayley_bopp said:

I don’t have a fancy mic and have never scoped before so please bear with me…

hayley,

This is your VACATION, don't worry about the periscope! Have fun.....and plan your next cruise while you're on board!:27_sunglasses:

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Hey Hayley! 

I hope you and your hubby have a great cruise! Looking forward to your live review as three of your ports (Livorno, Villefranche, Civitavecchia) are on my Western Mediterranean cruise next June from Barcelona 🙂 

Safe travels to Southampton! 

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Pre-Embarkation Day

So today we travelled down to Southampton from our home in the Midlands. Blogging will now be done via my phone so please excuse any typos!

Although it's only a 2.5hr drive, we decided to book a 'stay and park' with Holiday Inn for a more relaxed start to our cruise than driving down on embarkation day - we're doubly glad we did as there were a couple of accidents and very heavy traffic that made our journey over 3.5 hrs long today! At one point Waze diverted us around a gridlocked motorway down an unclassified road. Cleary we weren't the only ones making use of this diversion and we ended up in a traffic jam on a single track road!

When we finally arrived, I was extremely excited about the view from our room as Cunard's Queen Elizabeth was there to greet us. 

After unloading the car, we went to get a drink and some food as we were famished after our drive. My husband enjoys craft beer and I'd found a brewery near to the hotel called 'The Dancing Man' . Unfortunately they weren't serving food so we just had a drink and some bar snacks - IPA for him, lager for me. 

As we were leaving in search of more substantial food, we noticed that QE was just pulling away so I took the opportunity to do my first periscope! Thanks to @Lovetocruise2002 for tuning in. 

After watching her sail away, we found a lovely traditional pub for food, The Duke of Wellington. The prices were good, the portions were huge and the service was friendly. It really hit the spot. 

Feeling stuffed, we took a stroll down to the Ocean Village Marina to walk off dinner and have a look at some not-too-shabby yachts. I've yet to spot the newly launched super-yacht Elandess which has been in the area today but I'll keep an eye out tomorrow. 

We're now back at the hotel bar having a quick drink before getting an early night and hoping that excitement doesn't keep us from sleeping! Hopefully, when we wake up in the morning, we'll be able to see Independence from our window...

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34 minutes ago, hayley_bopp said:

As we were leaving in search of more substantial food, we noticed that QE was just pulling away so I took the opportunity to do my first periscope! Thanks to @Lovetocruise2002 for tuning in. 

Just watched the replay of your scope. You and @DocLC are going to be tricky for me to watch, since you'll probably be broadcasting most often when I'm still logged in to work and nowhere near my lunch hour. But at least replays are an option for when I'm in the clear (like right now).

And always fun to finally put a voice to the writer! Now when I read your posts I'll hear your voice in my head. 😊

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11 minutes ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Wow!  You have a great view of the port from your hotel room!  Seems like it's right next door...literally.

It is. We'll still.be getting a taxi to the port in the morning though because

a) it's included in the cost of our deal

and

b) husband says there's no way he's hauling 'all my luggage' on foot! 😅

 

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@hayley_bopp So sorry I missed your  posts and first live scopes. Been off line for a week or so and have some catching up to do. But I do have to say after watching the replay--OMG, how I love your accent!! I mean that in the best possible way and although to you, I'd be the one with an accent, I think I could listen to you all day!

Safe travels, happy sailing, etc. etc. Looking forward to the rest of your blog and scopes.

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On 7/13/2018 at 2:05 AM, accio7 said:

 Looking forward to your live review as three of your ports (Livorno, Villefranche, Civitavecchia) are on my Western Mediterranean cruise next June from Barcelona 🙂 

All 3 are great ports in terms of where you can visit but Villefranche is beautiful! We'd like to spend some time just sitting next to the harbour there but our tour time didn't allow for that last time. Fingers crossed for this time...

If you have any questions about the ports let me know and I'll do my best too answer them. 

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Embarkation Day - Morning

Woke up to an awesome view this morning! Well, I say 'woke up to' but I doubt she was there when I actually awoke at 5:13am (too excited to get back to sleep!) but when I finally allowed myself to get up at 7, she was there and I could see the poor unfortunates who were having to disembark!

Have just been for a quick 30min session in the hotel's gym - my strategy for helping to balance the cruise calories. Time to get ready for breakfast then our taxi for the long trek to the port is booked for 10:30

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Embarkation Day - We're on board!😁

After a short queue getting through the terminal,  we were onboard and in the Schooner bar with a drink in hand by 11:36 - Tom Collins for me and a Heineken for The Captain. 

There's no 'drink package' sticker on our sea pass cards and when I asked at check-in the lady there said the 'DX' code printrd on them 'might' mean drinks package and to check at a bar on-board. We duly headed straight for the first bar and weren't asked to sign for anything so hopefully that means our packages are loaded correctly but I'll double-check when we can get into the cabins which today will be at 2pm. 

We're just in Playmakers where we're pleased to see they're showingthe England vs Belgium play-off and the Wimbledon finals. 

They've also just made an announcement that the deck 3 MDR will be open for buffet lunch until 12:30 today. Cruise is sold out so I'm wondering if that's why to help control the crowds. 

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In the terminal do you recall seeing various queues for different C&A levels?  Was there a separate entrance for suites?  Very much of a waiting area once checked in?

It's not that important, just trying to discern any differences how Southampton is operated.

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