Sunday, January 21, 2024

December 23, 2023 – Miami, FL – Mostly Cloudy – 67F

The room was indeed quiet and I slept better than I did on the ship.

I went down to the breakfast area around 7 AM and found a nice table away from everyone.  I had a bowl of oatmeal (good) and two ready-made pancakes (they didn’t look good but they tasted OK).  I tried the “scrambled eggs” and they were reconstituted and I didn’t like them.  The coffee was good and hot.  I didn’t spend a lot of time at breakfast – the TV and background music drove me back to the room.

I checked us in to the Independence of the Seas on line a while ago and yesterday and today I was able to complete the health questionnaire (pregnant? COVID?) and safety briefing on line as well.  Our check in time is 12 Noon to 12:30 PM and I got several texts reminding me of that.  When we get on the ship, we will need to go to our muster station and get scanned in (that will complete the check in process).  

We took full advantage of the 12 PM checkout and went down to the Lobby at near noon to call our Uber.  Marie, our first Uber driver bugged out and Karel took her assignment.  He picked us up at the hotel entrance in five minutes in a roomy SUV. Yes, he did not speak a word of English either but his GPS was in Spanish and he knew where to take us.  The ride was 11.59 miles and took 23 minutes.  The fare was 31.00 which include a $4.04 tip.  The shuttle offered by the hotel (a third party company) was $15 a person so we did a little better.  All of those surcharges and booking fees took the actual fare of $19.81 up by more than $10.  I also liked the fact that we wouldn’t be stuffed into a van with 20 other people and would probably stop several times to let them off at their terminals. 

The Independence of the Seas was docked at Terminal G.  There were probably seven or eight other ships – both large and small - docked in the Port of Miami today including the Crystal Serenity. There was a ton of traffic at the port today and G was pretty much the last terminal in the sequence.  Karel dropped us off right in front of a porter, which tagged our bags and told us where to go.  Once inside the terminal, we got into one of several lines.  Our boarding passes were scanned and then our passports were scanned – we did not complete this process at any desk.  I had checked in on line several weeks ago so the ship had all of our information (including a photo and our credit card info).  The whole check in time took less than 10 minutes and was all done electronically.  Our boarding passes were scanned again as we boarded the ship before 1 PM.  

The ship is sailing full so we can expect about 4400 people to join us at the Windjammer Cafe buffet.  It was controlled chaos in the buffet – this ship has hundreds of kids on board including teenagers so it’s a complex mix.   The Windjammer is organized in pods, which contain various food types.  There were lines at every station.  Ellen wound up getting a small salad and I got a “veggie burger” with some fries. I don’t know what the burger was made of (my guess was that it was an “Impossible Burger”) but it was great – better than the Beyond Burger on the last cruise.  We didn’t want to spend any more time in the Windjammer than we had to so we went to find our room.

We dropped our carry-on bags in our room.  Cabin 7223 is an interior cabin closer to the Starboard Side and in the forward section of the ship.  

It’s a nice room – seems spacious compared to the last ship.  It has a huge circular mirror instead of a window (and yes, they do towel animals on this ship).  

There is one problem – there is some soft background music.  I turned the room mic (for announcements) off and the music was still there.  We spoke to Guest Services about it and she told us that she would speak to maintenance later in the morning (after the crew drill is complete).

Our cabin is strategically located if you are going to the Royal Theater – just take the lift down to Deck Four or Five.  If you are headed to the Windjammer or Dining rooms get ready to walk between about 700 steps each way to get to the aft elevators and then up to Deck 11.  The ship has set up hand washing stations and some people are using them – I am using the hand sanitizers at the entrance.  I should also mention that we are wearing masks in the elevators and we are a rare breed. 

From our room, we explored the ship a bit.  We started with the fantastic Royal Promenade on Deck 5 – a very noisy venue with loud music and tons of people.  There is shopping and several bars and eateries.  

We stopped at Sorrento’s, a pizza place and had some of their very tasty cheese pizza (complementary).  Next we went to the Espresso Coffee Bar where I picked up my pre-purchased Coffee Card – I need to drink 15 small coffees or 7.5 iced coffees (they charge for two cups when you get iced coffee because the cup is larger – makes no sense since the iced coffee is mostly ice).  My plan is get some ice and turn my hot coffee into an iced coffee. 

We found the Solarium on Deck 11.  It's not a closed/indoor type solarium but it does have comfortable couches and a view and is far enough way from the pool noise.

We didn’t want to bother with the buffet for dinner so we went to the Dining Room on Deck 5 and spoke to one of the suits.  Although, I did not select it we are in “My Time Dining” with a 6:45 PM Seating.  Well, that is too late for us and messes with our ability to see any entertainment.  The suit told us to go to Dining Room Deck 3 at 5:30 PM tonight and see if they could make changes to our dining set up. 

We watched the sailaway from the Sky Lounge on Deck 12 – it seemed like we took a different channel to get out to the open sea.  We passed by expensive house, yachts, a USCG Station. And a fantastic ocean side park with walking paths and beautiful greenery.  We then hit the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. 

At 5:30 PM, we went to Dining Room 3 and stood in line to talk to the Maitre D’.  We spotted the suit we talk to earlier and he took us out of line and set us up with another suit who gazed at his computer a long time and then told us that we would have a permanent dining time of 5:30 PM and a permanent table, 350, which was a table for two with a window and against a wall.  We went there and the first thing that we noticed was that the couple sitting next to us were not talkers – always a good thing.  We are SET.

I ordered a Cesar Salad (good), the roasted tomato soup (excellent), and the Spinach Artichoke Dip (bad call).  Ellen had a Cesar Salad and we both had the Pan-Roasted Fish Fillet (we found out later that the fish was Sea Bass), which was very good.  I also tried the Vegan Herb-Crusted Stuff Portobello (another bad call).  Ellen had cheesecake and I had key lime pie for dessert along with tea and decaf coffee.  They were both very good. Our servers were very good - the food came quickly and was hot. 

The Dining Room connects with the Art Gallery – a little further forward is Studio B, which is the skating facility. We went in and the program was still going on – we also noticed that a couple had vacated seats up front so we took them and watched the rest of the show.  “Freeze Frame” had to do with the music of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.  The skaters, maybe five girls and five guys, were fantastic – fast with lots of jumps and other skating moves.  The songs were all familiar and were great combined with the skating.  In the fast, you had to get tickets to the ice shows and they were crowded.  No tickets this time round but there were still a lot of people in the rink.  A great show.  Here are some pictures.

On previous Royal Caribbean Ships, we have spent a lot of time in the Schooner Bar.  On this ship, the bar is smaller and located on Deck 4 next to the smoke filled huge Casino.  The only place to escape the smoke is to sit in the far corner of the bar, when you cannot see the entertainer.  We came early to get that smoke light seat.

The bar wasn’t full when Clayton started his set. I couldn’t see him but he sounded really young.  He “bantered” more than sung – only singing about five songs in the time we stayed.  He was no Tom Franick – a little too loud and not that great a singer.  He did some Billy Joel and Queen.  We eventually left and went to the room.  I needed earplugs to deal with the background music.

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