Friday, 20 October 2017

Cruising With Kids: Our 2 Week Trip On The Independence Of The Seas

If you're a long-term reader of my blog or anybody who knows me even slightly, then you'll know that I am a HUGE fan of cruise holidays!

We took the boys on their first cruise last year around the Norwegian Fjords which we all really enjoyed as Norway is honestly the most stunning country I have ever seen, but sadly we weren't too fond of the ship we chose and so as soon as we arrived home we were really keen to book another cruise...this time with a different cruise line who were more to our taste.

The first cruise Jon & I took together was back in 2012, a year before our first child was born, and it was onboard Royal Caribbean's Independence Of The Seas...I think perhaps this first cruise experience set the bar a little too high and spoiled us, and we learned from last years slightly disappointing ship experience that although other cruise lines may cost a lot less...they simply don't seem to be able to offer as much of what we enjoy as Royal Caribbean do.

So we booked our 14 night trip around the Mediterranean onboard the "Indy"...the ship we first fell in love with...and we were so excited to set foot back on board with Tyne and Noah in tow (Sailor didn't come along this time as I didn't feel comfortable taking 3 children so young on board for safety and logistical reasons, plus it would have cost almost an extra £2000 to take him which I just couldn't justify given his age!)

After a particularly nasty bout of shingles hit me the week before we were due to travel I was worried that we wouldn't make the holiday at all, but luck was on our side and I was well enough to soon as we first caught sight of the ship in Southampton docks, I instantly felt a million times better! The boys were both in absolute awe when they saw the size of it...even Noah gasped "Oh wow!".

What I love most about cruises is that you feel as though your holiday has begun from the minute you step on board the ship at Southampton - no flights to worry about, no luggage restrictions - you step on board and thats it! Vacation started!

To start our cruise itinerary, we had 2 full days at I know a lot of people worry that they'll feel trapped or restricted on a ship and that they'd struggle to find things to fill 2 full days but honestly, that just isn't a problem on a ship like the Indy! There is SO much to do that we struggled to fit it all in to a 2 week holiday.

The ships are so big that despite the fact that they carry around 4,000 people - they never feel crowded. They really are a floating resort and the staff on board do everything in their power to make you feel pampered and relaxed.

What Is There To Do?

The Independence Of The Seas on board amenities include: A kids water park splash zone, a dedicated childrens pool, 3 other swimming pools and lounging decks with poolside bars, a poolside cinema screen and help-yourself ice cream, 6 hot tubs, Flowrider wave surfing, a rock climbing wall, a mini golf course, a basketball court, a running track, a huge gym, a spa, a hair salon, a video arcade, a kids zone and kids clubs, an ice skating rink, a theatre, a casino, a shopping promenade with shops including Michael Kors, a library, a nightclub, numerous bars and restaurants, karaoke lounge,  Ben & Jerrys ice cream parlour, and a 50s style diner.

As we were cruising the med we were blessed with clear sunny skies every day and temperatures between 25-30 degrees which made it perfect pool weather - we spent most of our days enjoying the pools and hot tubs, and I even managed to do some relaxing on the sun loungers too with a cocktail in hand which was the perfect medicine after a stressful couple of weeks.  The kids absolutely loved the splash zone and pools, and I adored the whirl pools...the recent addition of free kids swimming vests and lifeguards stationed at every pool made it much easier to relax too.

On the warm evenings, our favourite thing to do was enjoy a poolside movie - we watched La La Land under the stars one evening which was my idea of absolute heaven, we also enjoyed tons of other poolside movies such as the latest Pirates Of The Caribbean movie, Goosebumps, Despicable Me 3 and Cars 3 and classics such as Runaway Bride and Beetlejuice (which Tyne now loves!) - blankets are given out to snuggle under if you get a bit chilly later on and there is free popcorn and ice cream too which is a lovely touch.

The Entertainment

Every evening on board, a Cruise Compass newsletter in delivered to your stateroom which contains a list of all the activities and entertainment the following day - there is always so much to choose from - quizzes, bingo, casino offers, talks and lectures, spa offers, sales in the stores, shows, dance or fitness classes, family activities etc - or you can just choose to do your own thing and enjoy the beautiful bars and lounges on board too.

We loved taking part in some of the quizzes (and I even managed to win the 90s music quiz on the last day!) and the family activities such as the discos and video game tournaments, and the kids loved having a go in the arcades too...unfortunately we didn't get around to ice skating this time but Jon & I did on our last cruise on board and it is such good fun!

Another highlight of life on board the Indy is the quality of the shows and the parades/parties on board - on the first night they do the Olympus Rocks parade on the main promenade which sees hundreds of the staff put on a fantastic display with costumes and dancers, then throughout the cruise there are party nights such as the 60s & 70s disco, and the Rock Britannia street party night featuring the best of British pop hits with the Royal Caribbean dancers which is such good fun!

The shows in the theatre are fantastic too - Royal Caribbean have recently introduced their Broadway At Sea shows, the one on our cruise was Grease and honestly it was just as good as anything I've ever seen on the west end! The sets were amazing and the cast were incredibly talented...there were other shows too, including the Once Upon A Time fairytale themed show complete with dancing teddy bears...Tyne was actually asked to take part in the opening of this show with one of his little friends from kids club which was really sweet...he absolutely loved being up on the stage and did such an amazing job! No nerves at all!

Other shows during our cruise included comedians, a ventriloquist from Britains Got Talent, a hypnotist, and ballroom dancers.

There were also two ice dancing shows during our cruise too - we went to both with Noah and they were absolutely incredible, even Noah loved them and asked to see them again!

Food On Board

As for the food on board, well it's true when they say that people board a cruise ship as passengers and leave as cargo! You are VERY well fed on board and the quality of food is really exceptional.

For breakfast you have the option of eating in the A la carte restaurant for dishes such as pancakes, french toast, eggs benedict etc or the buffet in the main dining room for continental or cooked breakfasts. You can also choose to eat breakfast in the Windjammer self service restaurant on deck 11 or you can opt for room service.

For lunch, the Windjammer buffet offers TONS of different options or on sea days the main dining room opens for lunch too - room service is also available 24 hours a day for a one off tray charge of $7.95

And for dinner your 3 course meal is served in the main dining room which is a beautiful 3 tiered restaurant...the food in there is fantastic and not to be missed, although if you prefer to eat more casually you can opt for the Windjammer buffet.

There are also two speciality restaurants on board which you can dine in for an extra charge - a steak restaurant Chops Grille or an Italian restaurant Giovannis Table - and there is also Johnny Rockets, the 50s themed American diner complete with dancing waiters and the best burgers at sea!

If you're peckish at any other time don't worry - the Windjammer is open until 9pm, or there is also Sorrentos Pizza on the promenade which is open until 3 am every day or Cafe Promenade which serves sandwiches and cakes 24 hours a day!

All of the above except for Chops Grille, Giovannis Table and Johnny Rockets are included in the price of your holiday and you can eat as much as you like.

There is also a Ben & Jerrys store and The Cupcake Cupboard too for a small extra fee.

Formal Evenings

One of my favourite things about cruising is the formal evenings - I know they're not to everybody's taste but I just think that its so incredibly rare in life that you have a reason to get all dressed up, and so I really enjoy the opportunity to go all out glamour with evening gowns, jewellery and up-dos ... most people on board go all out for the formal evenings too, and there are photographers set up all over ready to capture you in your finery too....Tyne loved posing for them!!

If you are travelling with little ones, it is really worth including them in the dressing up too as they tend to get such a lot of fuss made of them by the other cruisers and if they're anything like mine they'll love the attention!

Kids Club

Another great thing about this cruise was that the boys absolutely LOVED the Adventure Ocean kids club - there was a different theme for each of the 3 daily sessions they had, and they were so excited for all of them! They came out with their faces painted most days, and Tyne in particular couldn't wait to go there every day...he made friends with so many children and I think it really made the holiday for him.

Kids club also gave Jon & I the chance to enjoy some aspects of the cruise that we otherwise wouldn't be able to such as the casino...we're not big gamblers but we do like to have a little flutter on roulette when we're cruising!

Our Favourite Things On Board

I really do feel that there is something for everybody on board the Indy - when I asked the boys what their favourite parts of the holiday were Tyne told me that kids club was the best bit for him, and Noah said his favourite thing was the pools and the H20 splash zone.

Jons favourite thing is the fantastic food and the casino, and as for me I think it has to be the shows and the poolside movies under the stars.

We had an amazing 14 days on board - 7 of which were spent at sea, and not once did we ever feel bored.

I really think that Royal Caribbean ships put an end to the myth that cruises are for the elderly or those who want to spend their holiday doing nothing - the days on board are filled with non-stop entertainment, with so much to enjoy. The Indy is not only a fun ship, but a stunning one was an absolute pleasure to spend a fortnight on board and I can't wait to get back on!

We all cried on the last day which I think is always the sign of a really good holiday, isn't it?!

The Independence Of The Seas is about to do her last cruise from the UK for 2017 but will be returning for more cruises from Southampton in May 2018 with some brand new features following a refit ... including water slides, laser tag and an escape room as well as new restaurants and some other surprises too! I can't wait to try it all out!

I'll be back next week with a post all about the places we visited during our trip!

Have you ever cruised? Do you have any questions about cruise holidays? Feel free to leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer!

If you'd like to see how we spent the first 3 days of our cruise at sea, take a look at the video below!

There'll be more videos showing the ports we visited and our time on board coming soon!

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