In May 2018, Independence of the Seas (or "Indy" as the ship is known to its many fans), went through a massive refurbishment which saw a host of new features introduced onboard including Skypad, a VR trampoline, a Laser Tag Arena, a Puzzle Break Room, two new waterslides and a new kids aqua park, as well as new dining and drinking venues -- and 107 new cabins. The upgrade formed part of Royal's $90 million "Amplified" program, which will see similar features rolled out on nine other ships in the fleet.
Indy's last refurb took place five years previously, when the ship underwent a $7 million upgrade which saw a cupcake shop, an Italian trattoria called Giovanni's Table and a Royal Babies & Tots Nursery installed. On the technology side, the ship got new digital signage, bow-to-stern Wi-Fi and a poolside movie screen. And in 2016 Grease the musical was added, combining the best of the movie and the stage hit -- and for our money, one of the best shows at sea.
The digital way finding systems are excellent -- especially for new-to-cruisers who get lost on huge ships such as this. They offer maps and directions to everywhere on the ship using a board with a number keypad on which a passenger can enter their room number to find their way to their room. There are also features that display the menus for the ship's restaurants, lists of entertainment options and other onboard facilities. The large writing and quick responsive touch screen makes navigation around the ship so much easier than squinting at a laminated map.
Independence of the Seas is the third and final of Royal Caribbean's ground-breaking Freedom-class ships -- once the largest in the world before the launch of Oasis of the Seas and its sister ships. Though in its 10th year (in 2018), the refurb has gone a long way to giving it a fresh, contemporary feel and some excellent new features.
The ship has an extraordinary amount on offer for youngsters -- from kid-oriented entertainment and enrichment to recreational options that range from surfing and body boarding to ice skating -- making it a superb choice for family travelers.
However adult passengers will still find plenty of space for more grown-up pursuits, with a great selection of restaurants, a vast number of bars and almost limitless entertainment options. The fitness facility, complete with boxing ring, is excellent and always busy. Adults-only spots beyond bars and the casino ranged from the Solarium pool and boutique restaurants (which have a set age limit of 15) to a rather racy late-night comedy show. Travelers of many different stripes coexisted comfortably. (The ship also has outstanding facilities for disabled passengers.)
Sea days could feature a bit more substance in the lackluster enrichment department. (The chief workshop was advanced napkin folding.) The ship's vast sun deck, divided into three "neighborhoods," is colorful, whimsical and joyful -- but there's not enough effort to create events there after the sun sets.
If you're after an almost limitless number of activities and forms of entertainment, whether that's watching a Broadway show, enjoying movies by the pool, or perfecting your surfing skills; or if you want fine dining and a wide bar choice, or if you just want a great kids' club and kids' facilities -- Indy delivers, time and time again.