Two years ago I had the opportunity to take a cruise with my mom, brother, and sister. We had such a great time that we planned another cruise the following year. Unfortunately, my mom had a stroke and we had to cancel the trip. A year later my mom has fully recovered and we planned another cruise, on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas Royal Caribbean. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and stayed at the Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Marina. We got in very late, so I didn’t have time to enjoy Florida. The next morning I relaxed at the pool for a bit until it was time to go to the ship. I used a van shuttle company to transport us to the port. I don’t know the name of the company, but their number is 954-234-7856. The cost was $6.00 per person for a private car from the hotel to the port, and $7.00 per person from the port to Ft. Lauderdale airport. On the way to the port we stopped at a wine store to pick up some bottles of wine for the cruise. I learned that Royal Caribbean does not charge a corkage fee in the Main Dining Room, and they will hold the bottle for you in the main dining room and bring it to your table every night.
The process to board the ship is very organized and smooth. We dropped our luggage off with the porter, and then went inside to show our documents and get our picture taken. This entire process took less than 30 minutes. Once on the ship we went to the Windjammer for lunch. Following lunch we just walked around while we waited for the assembly drill. Following the drill we had planned to meet a group of cruisers at the Sky Bar. I met these people on cruise critic (look up your ship sailing date in the roll call section and meet others who will be cruising on your ship). It was so great to meet so many fun, happy, and outgoing people that I had spoken with online over the past 6 months. We signed up for the early seating for dinner (6:00). The service is great, and there are so many wonderful choices. After dinner the first night we went to the Alhambra Theatre for a comedy show with Al Katz. He was hysterical. Then we went to Majority Rules game, which was so much fun. After that we went to the adult comedy show with Al Katz and then to the Schooner bar to watch David Curtis perform on the piano. What an incredible entertainer. I was getting so tired but he was so entertaining I couldn’t pull myself away. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much in one night. We hung out at the Schooner bar the most because of the piano player, David Curtis, and also the bartenders Lorenzo and Mark always made us feel so welcome.
There is a great variety of ways to spend your time on the ship. There is a really nice fitness room with great equipment and machines and a beautiful view of the ocean while you work out. I was motivated to work out every morning due to all of the great food I was eating every day. I spent most of my free time lounging at the pool with the live music and then enjoying the different activities such as the belly flop contest, sexy man contest, Love and Marriage, Quest, Majority Rules, and The Battle of the Sexes, to name a few. I even attended my first live auction. The auctioneer was really entertaining as she explained the different pieces of art and got the audience involved in different activities and giveaways. I’m still amazed by how fast she can speak.
Our first port was San Juan, Puerto Rico. Since we didn’t arrive until 4:00, we just walked around the city a little bit and did some shopping. We returned to the ship for dinner and to see the headline show starring Joel Mason, an Elton John impressionist. He was so wonderful--a great singer, very funny, and just an all-around great entertainer. After the show there was a dance party on the deck. People on cruises really know how to party.
St. Martin was our next port and a wonderful island to visit. Once we departed the ship we walked a very short way to the water taxi. I paid the $7.00 round trip ticket and boarded the water taxi, which took us across the water to Phillipsburg. Once we departed the water taxi there were people there asking if we wanted beach chairs and massages. The guy set us up with 2 chairs and an umbrella for $15.00, which included free Wi-Fi and restrooms at Antonio’s restaurant. Once we were situated we took a walk down Front Street to do some shopping. When we returned we had a lovely day relaxing at the beach. People would come up to us selling clothing, jewelry, and massages. We opted for a massage on the beach and really enjoyed it.
Our next port to visit was St. Kitts. Once we docked we were able to walk off ship and the shopping was right there. After shopping we took a taxi to Carmbola Beach Club. The cost of the taxi was $4.00 per person. It took around 15 minutes to get there. I had read about this beach ahead of time and reserved 2 lounge chairs and an umbrella for $30.00 total. There is free Wi-Fi on the property (and sometimes on the beach). If you e-mail Daislyn or visit their Facebook page ahead of time and reserve your lounge chairs and umbrella, you will be guaranteed a spot. They had me set up front and center so it was very nice and enjoyable. There were a lot of taxi drivers waiting to take us back.
The evening’s entertainment was a musical production called Once Upon a Time. I really enjoyed the singing and dancing. The following night Mosaic performed. They were on America’s Got Talent. They have incredible voices, but not only that, they create the musical instrument sounds using their voices. The audience was thoroughly entertained. Our last evening’s show was the Farewell Showtime, starring The Acrobatic Artistry of Valentyna and Sergiy. Such beautiful acrobatics, followed by comedy with Sam Fedele.
There are specialty restaurants on the ship that you can visit for dinner for an additional fee, but we really enjoyed the Main Dining Room. There were wonderful selections every night, and you are welcome to order as many dishes as you would like. Artemio, our server, was such a great guy. He took wonderful care of us and we looked forward to seeing him every night. He really went above and beyond to make sure we were happy. The cruise line allows each cabin to bring 2 bottles of wine on board. They also allow you to bring your own bottle of wine to the main dining room for dinner. They do not charge a corkage fee and you can leave your bottle at the restaurant and your server will bring it to the table every night for dinner.
For those of you who need to stay connected while away from home, you can purchase internet packages. The cost was $20/day for the first device, and an additional $10/day for a second device. The great thing about this was that my sister and I were able to communicate via iMessage using the internet to find each other easier on the ship.
This was my third cruise, and every time I am blown away by how smoothly everything goes, how many fun activities there are, how many nice people I meet, how amazing the food is, and how great the staff is. This is such a great way to enjoy a vacation with your family, as it gives you a great amount of time to be together yet a variety of activities so you can also do things on your own that interest you. Can’t wait for my next cruise. I want to thank Royal Caribbean for providing me a discount on this cruise.