We are Platinum C&A with RCCL so are familiar with their quality of service and food. Our last cruise 2 years ago started me wondering about the quality of the main dining food but we booked once again with friends and selected My Time dining which we thought would be most convenient. First night we were told that reservations would be needed for My Time dining, however, no reservations only meant long waits for a table. The service proved to be either extremely slow or as we noted on formal night, a rush to get us out even when we told them to hold dinner until we have had a chance to enjoy one cocktail first. We had to get very stern with them and had them take back the food until we were ready for it. The quality of food was definitely not up to RCCL main dining standards. More like the Windjammer cafeteria style food. Lobsters provided 3-4 bites being that small. Most meats were without flavor. We booked Chops and Portofino as alternates and enjoyed exquisite dining. Yes we had to pay extra but when spending $2500 on a cruise, what's another $200 for exquisite food instead of the slop being served in main dining? Now having said that, yes, RCCL should be providing suitable food in main dining so Chops and Portofino is just an option, not a daily dining experience, but until they clean up their act, we will avoid main dining. We ended up giving our pre-paid gratuities for Head Waiter, Waiter, and Assistant Waiter to Chops and Portofino and NOT to main dining staff. Yes, it was that poor of service. We did book Oasis for 2011 and took the early seating, choosing to avoid pre-paid gratuities and will most likely book most nights in the new restaurants and our favorites, Chops and Portofino. Bottom line is this. If you have booked My Time dining on Independence (and I would caution all other RCCL ships as well), check the main dining menu first and seriously consider the alternatives for a much better experience. In fact, book one or two nights in Chops and Portofino anyway on formal nights to be sure of fine dining as it should be. With the exception of the fillet in Chops which had no flavor, the other selections WOWed us, especially the rack of lamb!! The rest of the ship and crew were great. I have provided this feedback to RCCL in their on board survey as well as a call to the C&A desk. We think the economic situation has put RCCL in a situation to pull back on many services. This was also evident in no longer chocolates on pillows, very thin toilet paper, fewer on board activities, as well as few staff for My Time dining. we heard many people complaining of the food in main dining this trip. BEWARE!!
D1 cabin was great. More room and larger bed, nice balcony, same small bath and shower. Life jackets stored inside closet, not on top as in some ships. Refrigerator is not a true refrigerator. It's a electronic coolatron type that only cools to 20 degrees F below ambient. Hard to hear announcements with door closed. AC worked very well. Hot water all the time. Hair dryer needs to be replaced. It worked for about a minute, then overheated and shut down until cooled. Take your own instead.
Shopping - Nothing special about Belize except for their Cashew Wine. Tastes like a port being sweet and flavorful. Found most places at $7 - $12 per bottle. Port prices listed in USD, not Belize dollars. Exchange is 1USD = 2 Belize$). Shops are tightly packed in a small area at dockside. Shopping will take about an hour or two at the most. Best deals are made around 3PM or after before the last tender departs at 4:30PM.
Excursion - We did the Zip Line and Cave Tubing using Jaguar Paw resort. We booked on our own for less than half what RCCL Excursions wanted. They took extremely good care of us, provided a nice Belizian lunch and returned us to the pier an hour before the last tender so we could do some shopping. I HIGHLY recommend them!! They provided more than enough staff to to keep groups small (8) and provide very personal attention. I cannot give Kudos to any one person as they were all superb. I left a very generous tip to be shared among all the staff. If you are considering this excursion, I recommend that you consider Jaguar Paw. You will be treated like royalty.
Shopping - Having been here several times prior we did not do any excursion here. Shopping was a disappointment. Could not find a truly high quality vanilla. Most were extracts with loads of alcohol, water, and other chemicals. Read the labels carefully. They all smell good but are definitely all different.