Back in April I sailed to the Western Caribbean for 4 nights aboard Royal Caribbeans Independence of the Seas. There is so much to review and information I want to provide, I thought I would break up my review into a few different post. This way you don't get sick of me half way through. But in all seriousness, I want to not only provide you with my review but information about the ship. Today I am starting with Embarkation in Port Everglades and dining/food.
One of the most stressful parts of the cruise can be embarkation. It has nothing to do really with the cruise line or the ship just that everyone is trying to go the same place at the same time. For the most part, nothing was different about this day.
I flew into FLL the day of the cruise because I really don't like driving in South Florida. Now I normally would not recommend flying in on the day of a cruise but I came from Jacksonville so the flight was a straight shot and only about an hour. My back up was pretty solid.
I took the Royal Caribbean shuttle from the airport to Port Everglades. Although it was quick, I only wish I had taken an Uber. The representative at the airport said Uber will not be able to get into the port until much later so I waited. Found out from others, they were at the port at 9:30. Would have been better to be at the port rather than sitting in baggage claim.
Once we arrived at the terminal, I dropped my luggage and went right in. They have expedited check in so its just a series of individuals with scanners to check you in. I sat for maybe 5 minutes and went right on the ship. The sail and sign cards are at your door like Carnival does so if you need to buy a drink, just use your boarding pass. They are very strict about cabins being ready at 1:00 so stick to this.
Dining / Food
So what is the first thing you do when you board the ship, get food. I headed up to the Windjammer Cafe so I will begin my food and dining review there. Now, a little tip for embarkation day. You can hit Sorrentos on the Royal Promenade for lunch if you don't want the crowds in Windjammer. I'll talk more about Sorrentos in a bit.
Back to Windjammer. Located on Deck 11 Aft is the Windjammer Cafe or otherwise known as the Lido Buffet. I really liked the set up and the space here. You walk in and on each side there several sinks for hand washing and you are greeted by the Washy Washy singers who are awesome. There are several food stations including a carving station for lunch and dinner. They usually had a variety of dishes ranging from international like Indian to good ole american hot dogs & hamburgers. There is also a bar in the front and plenty of desserts. There was lots of seating and plenty with an ocean view on both sides of the ship. The one thing I was dissapointed in was the lack of outdoor seating at the back. Other ships I have been on had seating overlooking the rear of the ship. Overall, the Windjammer is high on the list of buffets with Horizon Court on Regal Princess.
Main Dining Room
I only ate in the main dining room one time and that was on the last night and I will explain. For this cruise I was cruising solo and had My Time Dining. I went to the dining room the first night and asked for a shared table but was told no. They advised me they do not sit singles at shared tables and my only choice was a table by myself. Now, I have been on both Carnival and Princess traveling solo and was able to be seated with no problem. I don't believe this was the policy because I did mention it to the Guest Service Desk and they assured me I should able to be seated at a shared table.
Fast forward, I had met a very nice couple, Andrew and Tricia as part of a Facebook Group and they joined me for dinner the last night. I gotta say, I missed out on some outstanding food. For an appetizer, I had to get escargot which was really good, probably because it was loaded with butter and garlic. For my entree, I had a lamb shank which was tender and lots of flavor plus the mint sauce which I had never had. The service was outstanding and the waiters sang and danced after dinner.
Lets jump down to Deck 5 on the Royal Promenade. Here you will find two great places to get food, Sorrentos Pizza and the Promenade Cafe. After having Sorrentos a few times, I think I can say its the best pizza I have had on a ship. Sorrentos is open late until around 3AM and you can get either pizza by the slice or a full pan. The options included cheese, pepperoni, veggie and an everything pizza. Of course the options do change up.
Also located on Deck 5 in the Promenade is the Promenade Cafe The cafe is open 24 hours and here you can get coffee, a small selection of sandwiches and desserts. Specialty coffee is available for purchase plus free coffee.
On the Independence there are a few specialty and up charge restaurants for your choosing. Unfortunately, I did not get an opportunity to try any of the restaurants but wanted to provide some information on them anyway.
Located on deck 11 inside the Windjammer is Chops Steakhouse and Giovonnis Kitchen. For these restaurants, you pay a per person charge for dinner.
On Deck 4 is Izumis Hibachi and Sushi. For the Hibachi, you pay a per person charge and the sushi is al a carte. For Chops, Giovonnis and Izumis, reservations are highly recommended and can be booked on board or on the planner prior to your cruise.
Also on Deck 4 is another al a carte restaurant, Playmakers which is a really big sports bar. Here you can get bar kind of food like sliders and wings and its a great place to go to watch your team whatever sport it is. During this sailing it was packed because it was NFL Draft Weekend.
Up on deck 11 close to the Kids Splash Pad is where Fish and Chips is located. They are al a carte as well but prices seemed pretty high. I really like seafood but will stick with the Seafood Shack on Carnival. Other ships on Royal like Mariner have the Dog House in that location.
For snacks, you have the free soft serve ice cream but keep in mind its not available 24 hours a day. If you want to step up your ice cream, on Deck 5 is Ben & Jerry's Ice cream but there is a charge. And if candy is your thing, Sugar Beach candy store is also located on the Royal Promenade.
Head back to the 50s up on Deck 12 at Johnny Rockets. This is another up charge restaurant at $9.95 pp and that gets you all the food you want from a long menu. But, milkshakes are extra unless you are eating and have the drink package, then its included. They are open for lunch and dinner with indoor and outdoor seating and of course a show. Although, I did see the show ans the waiters danced to a 70s song but a little confusing there.
One thing I did fail to mention was room service. For everything besides a continental breakfast, there is a $7.95 charge per order. You do have the form you can complete for continental or full breakfast you place outside your door for morning delivery.
So as you can see, the dining is extensive on the Independence and there would be no way to try it all on a 4 night sailing. Be sure you check out my YouTube Channel for videos from the Independence of the Seas. Right now, there is a Cabin Tour up and more is to come.
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