Independence of the Seas
The 3,634-passenger Independence of the Seas launched in 2008 as the third in Royal Caribbean's Freedom class, and you'll find it sailing popular routes from Fort Lauderdale to the islands of the Caribbean in the winter, and out of Southampton, England, to ports around Europe during the summer. The high-energy, family-friendly ship offers plenty to keep everyone entertained during sea days, including active pursuits like rock climbing and surfing. An extensive, $7 million refurbishment in 2013 added a giant poolside movie screen, a cupcake café, and the specialty Italian restaurant Giovanni’s Table. The ship's Wi-Fi also got an upgrade to the line's Voom system — the fastest at sea.
What We Love
It’s Got Character: From lovable green ogres and honey-haired princesses to the wild bunch from "Madagascar" and "How to Train Your Dragon," this ship has a merry band of DreamWorks Experience characters to greet kids of all ages.
"Grease": Royal Caribbean has upped its game when it comes to stage shows, especially with the high-energy production of this hit musical. The elaborate set (including an actual car for "Greased Lightening") and costumes for hand-jiving Danny and Sandy and their friends from Rydell High are leaps above what you usually find at sea.
The Relaxation Factor: There are six whirlpools — including two spacious versions that cantilever 12 feet over the edge of the ship in the adults-only Solarium — and an expansive Vitality Spa with a menu of more than 100 treatments.
Best Known For
Family-Friendly Activities: Independence of the Seas has many ways to keep you fit, challenged, and entertained: Putt a few rounds on the mini-golf course; go one-on-one on the rock climbing wall, FlowRider surf simulator, or boxing ring; practice your three-point shot on the full-size basketball court and your figure eights on the Studio B ice rink. And if foosball’s your thing, this ship has that, too.
Social Layout: The Royal Promenade — lined with shops, bars, and eateries — carves through the center of the ship, serving as a magnet for passengers looking to mix and mingle. It's also the site of of some major events on board, including the sailaway party and a DreamWorks character parade.
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Who It's Best For
Movers and Shakers: Everything about this big, revitalized ship gets your pulse racing, meaning those who are not content with just sitting by the pool will feel right at home. Independence of the Seas does have four pools, though — in case you decide to take a break.
Families Traveling with Babies: Not all ships have drop-off nurseries that will take kids under the age of three. This ship's Royal Tots and Royal Babies was added during the 2013 renovation and will take little ones as young as six months to play with toys and have story time while parents get a real vacation. You can also pre-order Huggies diapers and Gerber baby food to be in your cabin when you arrive.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Foodies Beware: Independence of the Seas may be a big ship, but there are just eight restaurant options, which is actually a small number for a ship of this size.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.
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Independence of the Seas at a Glance
- Line: Royal Caribbean
- Class: Freedom
- Number of Passengers: 3634
- Ship Size: Mega
- Launch Date: 2008
- Refurbish Date: 2013