Cruise Adventures on RCI’s Independence of the Seas
By Candyce H. Stapen
Our rock climbing instructor encouraged us, saying “Just reach up. First your right hand and then your left.” That’s how my husband and I came to be hanging next to each other on a rock wall, our fingers grasping pairs of brightly colored, knob-like protrusions and our feet positioned atop other bumps.
“Use your legs to climb, not your arms,” our coach said. We managed to stretch up one more level before ending our session for the morning. Next, we went downstairs, laced up our skates and glided on the ice rink, more sure of ourselves on the slippery, horizontal than on the vertical wall.
After lunch we contemplated surfing, but decided to observe more before attempting to boogie board or hang ten ourselves. And we hadn’t even made port yet.
Rock climbing, ice skating and even surfing—care of the FlowRider, a clever contraption that generates waves—are just some of the adventures onboard Royal Caribbean International’s Independence of the Seas, the third in the line’s triumvirate of activity packed mega-ships.
The Independence offers alternating eight and six day Caribbean voyages from Fort Lauderdale, FL, through mid-April 2009. Following a transatlantic repositioning, the ship will sail 14-night Mediterranean cruises May through August 2009.
Like her sister ships, RCI’s Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, the Independence, weighs 160,000-GR tons and carries 3,634 passengers double occupancy. These vessels rank as the largest cruise ships currently afloat.
With increased size come additional activities. After all, cruising has changed. Sailings are no longer just for the “newlywed, overfed or nearly dead.” Activities abound, especially aboard the Freedom class vessels.
What else do the Freedom ships feature? Gradeschoolers through granddads and moms shoot hoops on the basketball court and passengers of all ages play miniature golf, each game made more difficult by the sea breezes and the ship’s movement.
Also available are extensive children’s facilities for ages 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14 and 15-17, including the Living room, a teen-only hang-out and Fuel, a teen-only disco. Families with younger kids splash at the H20 zone, a water park with whimsical fountains, bucket dunks and water sprays. (We liked romping through the jets too).
Also aboard the Independence: Nintendo Wii. I discovered that I play tennis as poorly in virtual reality as I do on a real court. However, lobbing balls proved much more fun without the hot sun or heavy running. My husband rolled spares in a Wii bowling tournament.
When RCI’s Oasis of the Seas debuts in November 2009, the ship, weighing 220,000 GR tons and carrying 5,400-passengers double occupancy, will take over the title of largest cruise vessel in the world. Among her “get out there” additions: a second FlowRider, a sports pool for morning lap swimming and afternoon water polo and badminton, as well as the first zip line at sea.
In anticipation of the Oasis, my husband and I have “yahooed” our way through a Mexican zip line and practiced our rock climbing. We happily look forward to hoisting our butts a few rungs higher on the new ship’s rock wall.