Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas refurbishment: a sunny day checking out what’s new on the family friendly cruise ship

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas refurbishment: a sunny day checking out what’s new on the family friendly cruise ship

A buzz of anticipation hung around Southampton’s City Cruise docks. It was cruise ship turnaround day, and we’d been invited to spend a few hours visiting the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas, before she headed off on a cruise around the Mediterranean. The family friendly cruise ship has gone through a multi-million pound upgrade. Over 4,000 guests can sail on The Independence Of the Seas, and she’s popular with families. I was keen to see all the new features designed to keep youngsters and their parents entertained.

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

The Independence of the Seas, docked in Southampton for turnaround day.

My son and I drove down from London, equipped with a towel, swimsuits and plenty of excitement. I’d already seen inside another Royal Caribbean cruise ship: the Oasis of the Seas. My son, on the other hand, had never stepped foot on a cruise ship before. He was eager to find out what all the fuss was about.

This is the verdict, from eight-year-old Austin*:

“I really loved this amazing experience! The staff were lovely, and the food was delicious! I will highly recommend the Skypad bungee trampoline with the virtual reality headset on. When you put on the headset it takes you into a game. To move in the game you have to jump quite high, and to get to the ground on top of you, you have to jump really high.

There is a surfing machine. You need to be over six, and 52 inches high for the boogie board, and any age for the surf board, but you need to be 58 inches tall. They have lots of things for children to do, and child friendly meals. My favourite part was surely the Skypad! My mum gave it a 10/10 and I gave it an 11/10! I wish I could come back!”

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

Austin, on the top deck. The ‘eat-as-much-ice-cream-as-you-like’ machine was a big hit!

Family friendly dining in the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas Windjammer restaurant

We ate lunch in the Windjammer. As it was turnaround day, not all the eateries were open yet, so I didn’t experience the meals anywhere else on board. But if the Windjammer was anything to go by – oh, boy. A family friendly cruise ship has to cater for all different tastes. The Windjammer did just that.

We walked in to see a huge four foot-long cake decorated with strawberries, chocolate and the words ‘Welcome on board’. Behind the cake lay the bar, where mixologists concocted delicious-looking drinks. It was only 11.30am, but waiters walked round the restaurant with trays of the pretty cocktails, bellowing, “It’s never too early to relax when you’re on holidays!” But we had swimming to do, so instead I joined Austin in grabbing a refreshing lemonade crammed full of ice.

Windjammer Restaurant Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

The first treat inside the Windjammer restaurant was the piquant scent of Asian food. Noodles were being tossed up in woks, together with stir-fried chicken, soya or shrimp. Around the corner, a chef carved slices off an enormous hunk of beef – which guests loaded onto their plates, along with a choice of about six different vegetables, crisp roast potatoes and gravy. Austin made a b-line for the American section, choosing a couple of plump sausages, together with a tasty looking cheeseburger in a fresh brioche bun.

Windjammer Restaurant Independence of the Seas

Tucking into a cheeseburger in the Windjammer

Austin and I ate our meal next to the restaurant’s panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows. Southampton looked fetching in the sunshine, but I can imagine the Med, or the Caribbean, would be a heavenly backdrop for lunch. Mine came from the large gluten-free section, which was packed with healthy options, like salads and soups. I ate a piece of tender swordfish, accompanied by rice and a fava bean stew. But any attempt at virtue was thrown out of the window when I saw the cakes lined up on the counter. We were on holiday for the day, right?

Cakes in the Windjammer Restaurant, Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

Who could resist these cakes in the Windjammer Restaurant?

The Perfect Storm waterslides on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

After dashing to the changing rooms to put on our swimming kit, Austin and I climbed up to the top of the three-storey Perfect Storm waterslides. The staff on board the Independence of the Seas take the safety of passengers very seriously, and a lifeguard asked me to put my GoPro back in my bag. That was fair enough – it’s better to be safe, and nobody would have wanted a rogue GoPro rattling around inside the waterslides. It just meant I had to capture the experience in my head, rather than on camera.

The new Typhoon and Cyclone waterslides whirled and twisted around, and my son and I floated down at a pleasantly gentle pace. We rode in tandem. One of the waterslides was dark, with jazzy stripes that flashed as you slid down. Both had see-through sections. It was thrilling to look down fifteen storeys through the clear perspex, to the water below. After splashing out at the end, Austin and I headed straight back up for another go. Four times. It was so much fun.

FlowRider on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

FlowRider on Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

Independence of the Seas’ FlowRider is a surf simulation, which went through a refurb when the rest of the work was done on the ship. Austin was the first in line to try it out – and he loved every minute. He wasn’t quite tall enough for the surf board, but the friendly instructor helped him onto the boogie board, and gave him a gentle push out into the path of the simulated wave.

FlowRider on Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

Austin did take a tumble off the boogie board at one point, but it didn’t hurt. The water was so shallow he managed to get back onto the board with only a little help from the instructor. A proud moment for this Mum!

FlowRider on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

Skypad on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

The Skypad was Austin’s favourite experience. The new virtual reality trampoline park is open to children over seven with the VR headsets, or those over five who just want to bounce. Set at the top of the ship, the views from the bungee trampoline park were spectacular enough. But Austin told me the game he played was THE most fun. Burly minders made sure he was bouncing in the centre of the trampoline, as he made his way past green dancing figures, down a dark hall, bouncing higher when the game told him to. Skypad runs three different games through its headsets, so game-heads like Austin would have plenty of variety. The smile on his face at the end was almost as broad as the Channel.

Skypad on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

Skypad: THE best experience on board The Independence of the Seas, according to Austin

After the Skypad, we chilled out for a few moments underneath, on the tangerine and citron coloured hammocks. Austin then decided to go monkeying around in the netted climbing frame. Safer than a crow’s nest, but with equally spectacular views out to sea!

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

Safer than a crow’s nest, but with the same spectacular views.

Splashaway Bay on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas Splashaway Bay

With slides, hot tubs, water fountains and cannons, and a huge yellow bucket that tipped water onto people’s heads, Splashaway Bay was a fiesta of water play. It all felt very safe. The fountains and slides were in clear sight, right in the middle of the deck. This area of the family friendly cruise ship had a Fish and Chips bar in one corner, a bottomless ice cream machine in the other, and brightly coloured loungers all around. I went into a little fantasy about sitting, cocktail in hand, while my two children played and splashed around nearby. The reality, though, was that Austin told me I just HAD to join him in the fantastic hot tubs. He was right: it was a lovely place to sit for a few minutes, with the water bubbling away under the sunny blue sky.

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas Splashaway Bay

Austin told me I HAD to try the hot tub in Splashaway Bay. I was glad he did.

Laser tag, Escape Room and mini golf on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

As well as all the water-based action, after a quick round of mini golf, Austin and I headed to the cool laser tag room. We’d boarded the ship in sandals. Players need to wear covered shoes, so instead we watched from the galley while the aliens battled it out with the robots, stalking each other with laser guns through an inflatable neon maze.

Laser tag on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

The new Independence of the Seas laser tag room.

Even though we crammed a lot into a few short hours, one day just wasn’t enough to experience everything for families on the Independence of the Seas. If we had another chance to see the ship, I’d like to check out the new escape room, and the shows at the theatre. Grease is on the line-up for 2018. D would enjoy hanging out in Playmakers Sports Bar. And I’m sure Austin and Gwen would be in heaven in the Sugar Bay Candy Store. A whole room, just filled with sweeties!

mini golf on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

A round of golf on board the ship

Verdict

For a family friendly cruise ship, The Independence of the Seas was mega-exciting. I can’t comment on the accommodation, as there simply wasn’t time to see and do everything. But Skypad, the Perfect Storm waterslides, FlowRider and Splashaway Bay alone were enough to keep our children happy for days.

For more details of the attractions on board The Independence of the Seas, the sailing schedule, prices and destinations, check out the Royal Caribbean website.

*Austin isn’t my son’s real name. The children learn at school not to use their real names online. In our family that includes the blog!

We were invited on board The Independence of the Seas for the purpose of this review, and I was compensated for my time. All views are my own.

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36 Comments

  1. WOW it looks incredible! I love that there is so much to do for older kids – my three would absolutely adore the VR trampoline experience and laser tag!

    • Nell
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 7:25 pm

      It was pretty special in catering equally well for both younger AND older kids.

  2. July 3, 2018 / 11:38 am

    Oh my goodness, this looks so good! I honestly had no idea how much there was onboard for children. I’d love to take my two on a cruise, it would be so exciting for them to see different places and if the boat itself has so much going on it would be a dream holiday. That flowrider and the water slides all look incredible, I’d want to play too!
    Nat.x

    • Nell
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 7:25 pm

      I need to go back so I can try them out for myself 🙂

  3. July 4, 2018 / 1:50 pm

    What a crazy amount of fun! Good work Austin riding the waves and wow – that cake! I’ve never in my life seen a cake so huge! You’ve made me all excited about this cruise ship, yet I’ve never been on one. The more I read about them though and how well they cater for families makes me realise I’m seriously missing out. Need to correct that.

    Oh – and Austin writes so well! I’m very impressed.

    • Nell
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 7:25 pm

      He’s a natural, I reckon!

  4. July 5, 2018 / 10:59 am

    I love how child friendly this beautiful ship looks. I have been on a few that weren’t at all child friendly and it really put me off, I might reconsider my thoughts for this boat! Love the sound of the restaurant too! x

    • Nell
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 7:32 pm

      There were SO many families on board for the Med cruise. I reckon they were all about to have an amazing time, the lucky things.

  5. July 5, 2018 / 9:08 pm

    It’s an amazing ship. Love your photos Nell, looks like you had so much fun and lovely to see you x

    • Nell
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 7:33 pm

      And you! xxx

  6. July 7, 2018 / 1:10 pm

    What an awesome experience to have. Hopefully Austin will head off on an adventure again on this cruise ship one day.

    • Nell
      Author
      July 9, 2018 / 9:12 pm

      He would absolutely love that!

    • Nell
      Author
      July 9, 2018 / 9:12 pm

      We were so impressed.

  7. July 8, 2018 / 7:01 pm

    What a great opportunity to get an early view of the refurbished Royal Caribbean. This is a much bigger cruise ship than we normally travel. So great to get an inside view. It looks like your son had a great time. Certainly something for us to remember when we travel with kids.

    • Nell
      Author
      July 9, 2018 / 9:08 pm

      My son LOVED it!

  8. July 9, 2018 / 7:01 am

    Looks great for kids and big kids alike, wouldn’t mind having a go on the FlowRider myself. I’ve heard about the great food on these ships and it does look good. You were lucky with the excellent weather, you could imagine yourself in the Carribean and not just Southampton.

    • Nell
      Author
      July 9, 2018 / 9:07 pm

      Yes, the weather really helped set the scene!

  9. July 9, 2018 / 9:05 pm

    wow this looks INCREDIBLE!!!! I love how much there is to do for the kids, the Flow Rider would be very popular with my girlies 🙂

    • Nell
      Author
      July 9, 2018 / 9:09 pm

      It really was amazing for children. We were blown away.

  10. July 10, 2018 / 7:30 am

    The Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas Cruise looks majestic. We have never been on a cruise so it would be a dream come true. The waterslides and Laser Tag room are amazing, looks like a great choice if traveling with kids.

    • Nell
      Author
      July 10, 2018 / 10:12 am

      Yes, it really is a splendid ship. We only saw a small fraction of what was available on board.

  11. July 10, 2018 / 3:12 pm

    What an exciting day for your son, having not before been on a cruise ship. It sounds like he had an very fun day.

    The meal you had in the Windjammer sounds rather tasty. I’m still getting over there is a wave machine on board the ship!! That’s incredible.

    • Nell
      Author
      July 10, 2018 / 3:57 pm

      I know! It really was brilliant.

  12. July 10, 2018 / 5:28 pm

    It looks incredible. I love the splash park and the flow rider, there’s definitely enough on board to keep active families busy during sea days

    • Nell
      Author
      July 10, 2018 / 8:28 pm

      It really was an incredible ship. So good for families.

  13. July 10, 2018 / 8:43 pm

    Looks like you really had a great time. It should be an exciting experience for Austin. He has the potential to be a travel blogger. He is good in describing the experience.

    • Nell
      Author
      July 10, 2018 / 8:58 pm

      I agree! I might give him a guest slot a bit more regularly 🙂

  14. July 10, 2018 / 10:42 pm

    This looks so amazing! It seems like such a fun experience to have with a family. I don’t often see the family-friendly side of cruises, but it looks like they would certainly keep them entertained!

    • Nell
      Author
      July 11, 2018 / 10:30 am

      I think some ships are more family-friendly than others. This one has to be tops!

  15. July 11, 2018 / 9:05 am

    I have never been on a cruise, but as I’ve got older I’ve really fancied it and your post has confirmed it! Those cakes in the Windjammer Restaurant looks delicious too, and it seems really set up for families, which is great – plenty to do like that waterslide!

    • Nell
      Author
      July 11, 2018 / 10:29 am

      I think it must be a really relaxing, fun way to travel.

  16. July 11, 2018 / 9:35 am

    Woaahh!! So many things for children to do! Love it!!! My aunt works in a cruise ship and she has been bombarding me about going! I am totally sold!

    • Nell
      Author
      July 11, 2018 / 10:29 am

      I bet it’s fun to work in that environment.

  17. July 11, 2018 / 2:46 pm

    I absolutely love cruises and Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas sounds pretty awesome. I’d love to try the bungee trampoline with a VR headset, that sounds like it would be such a rush! Also, the food looks pretty awesome and the surfing place looks cool too. I can see your kid had an amazing experience.

    • Nell
      Author
      July 11, 2018 / 2:54 pm

      He absolutely loved it.

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