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Currently viewing the category: "2017 – Independence of the Seas, 3 Night Taster, 21 to 24 Oct"

Last night pretty much followed the same routine as the night before, Diamond Lounge then dinner so once again no show in the theatre for us. Not that we religiously go every night while onboard and anyway it’s just we would rather be doing other things instead. I think the first night was a comedian, then a Take That tribute show and I believe last night was Grease which we had seen on Harmony of the Seas last year.
Cases were out by 11:00 and it was then time for some shut eye which seemed to go really quickly because the next thing we were aware of were the sounds of dockside activities at around 6:00 this morning.
Neither of us felt like breakfast this morning so we decided to lie in for an extra hour and just grab a coffee before getting off.

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We have enjoyed the last few days but without the Diamond status perks, I think its fair to say Royal Caribbean would not be one of our immediate choices to cruise with and out of the ones we have sailed with they might not even make it as high as 5th place on that list. We feel their modern ships are too big and in our opinion don’t have much connection to the seas as there are virtually no windows looking out in the public spaces on the lower decks of the ship. Many loyal RCI cruisers seem to love the Royal Promenade with its avenue of shops and bars but it’s a pain to walk through when busy as there are so many pinch points.

We liked the cabin which was very roomy with lots of storage and although the food started off pretty good it tailed off over this short cruise. We became very aware of a high salt content in the meals which was very evident to us even after just three nights.

Just to conclude then, we don’t believe their product is for us however that’s not to say we will never sail with them again as who knows what’s around the corner……..

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Picking up from where I left off yesterday, we left the cabin at 6:30 and headed once again for the Diamond Lounge for pre dinner drinks. It was much quieter last night as the first dinner sitting had already left and our drinks steward Fernando was constantly in attendance frequently topping our glasses to the extent I had no idea how many glasses I’d consumed.
We once again enjoyed the company of new friends and stayed until it was time to eat. It was a formal evening and I have to say the dress code was pretty much respected by everyone, there were the few exceptions but it was generally a good show by all.
We arrived at Zeebrugge just after 9:00 local time and took breakfast in the Windjammer which was virtually empty when we arrived. It soon filled up but we were pretty much done by then so I would say we had our timing spot on today.

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One grumble I have is I really can’t see the logic in having two time zones, it confuses the hell out of us at times, in particular when you have to get on and off the ship.
Anyway back to today, we have visited Zeebrugge on two previous occasions but have never ventured into Bruges itself so today we decided to put that right. With a little bit of research prior to sailing we eventually decided to pre-book coach shuttle tickets with a company called Cruise Express. A return ticket costing just €20 per person and all we had to do was just get to the pickup point. This was achieved by simply hopping on the free shuttle from the ship which drops you at the port gates and then a very short walk to the bus stop. From there it was a 30 minute ride to the drop off and pick up point. We timed our arrival with one of the ships coaches and all of a sudden there was this funny sort of race being run with 80 or so people all heading into town.

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We spent about 3½ hours all told wandering around the must see sights and found it a really pleasant place to visit. One place that we paid entry into was called Historium which is a historical-experience attraction that takes you back in time to the Golden Age of Bruges.
They cleverly take you back to medieval Bruges using cinematic sets, with music and special effects that take you through a love story, based on Jan Van Eyck’s painting ‘Virgin and Child. It’s all very well done and we very much enjoyed the experience.

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There are chocolate, lace & beer shops a plenty and we eventually caved in and parted with a few Euros in exchange for some of the local chocolate. Very hard to say no and the longer you are there the weaker your resistance becomes.
After that we had a spot of lunch before gently wandering back to the coach pick up spot and we were fortunate to just catch the 3:00 bus.
Back on board before 3:45 where we enjoyed some down time prior to our last night onboard.
We have to be off by 8:30 tomorrow morning so it won’t be a late night.

Early evening we ended up going to the Diamond Lounge which is an exclusive area for members of the Royal Caribbean loyalty scheme that have attained a certain level. The drinks were plentiful and company excellent so we ended up not going to the show as we had originally planned.
We stayed until just after 8:00 giving ourselves enough time to get changed for dinner before heading down to deck 4 to eat.
I have heard complaints about the food on Royal Caribbean but there was nothing wrong with last night’s fare. It’s by no means high end cuisine but considering it’s mass produced then it was very acceptable indeed.
Our departure was delayed until 10:00 last night and we were back in the cabin as we left Southampton.
The short crossing to France was a little wobbly last night and neither of us slept that well.
This morning we arrived at Le Havre at just before 8:30 but didn’t actually dock until gone 9:00. For some reason the decision has been made not to adopt the local time and for the duration of this cruise we will remain on UK (ships) time.

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So at 10:00 we made our way to the Windjammer which is where we considered would be the best place for Nicole to find something to eat. It was the right decision and she managed to eat really well. It was a really busy venue this morning and we thought that maybe there were not many going to get off today.

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The weather forecast for today wasn’t very clever and when we got back to the cabin it was pouring down so a quick check of the rainfall radar showed it would clear so we set off for a stroll round Le Havre. We have been here a few times and all we ever intended to do today was just walk which is precisely what we did. Shuttle service provided by the local authorities cost €4 and was valid all day. We spent about 2½ hours wandering around before catching the bus back and just in time for a spot of lunch.

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Despite the weather first thing the afternoon turned out really nice and even the wind dropped. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring parts of the ship we hadn’t already been to and then retired to the cabin for a couple of hours down time. It’s a formal night tonight so it will be interesting to see who wears what……

From about Wednesday on the Met Office began issuing weather warnings for today with strong winds and large waves being predicted along the south coast as Storm Brian arrives the UK. As a result, we set off from home not really sure what was going to happen. Our aim was to leave home around 10:00 and arrive at around mid-day which in the end turned out okay. The winds weren’t as strong as we anticipated and we arrived at 12:15. The only hold up being the queue of traffic wanting to get into IKEA. We had a swift check in courtesy of our Diamond status and the whole process from car to ship took about 40 minutes. Cabins were made available at 1:00 so we did a lap of the Windjammer before going off to investigate our lodgings for the next 3 nights.
We are pleased with our cabin, it has plenty of storage with plenty of space and has a good sized balcony.

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With stomachs rumbling we went back to the Windjammer for a bite to eat, Nicole was disappointed to see there were no food labels displaying allergens but there was a separate gluten free area. As is usual on the first day it was extremely busy and tables were not easy to find.
With batteries charged we set off to explore the ship and find our table in the dining room. We have a table for two in the Macbeth Dining Room which isn’t in too bad a position. Our table number is 111 and we were surprised to see there are four tables all labelled 111.

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Muster was at 3:45 and held outside on the prom deck. That was a surprise to say the least and it was after that we learned that due to the weather the itinerary had been altered. We are still going to both port’s but just doing them in reverse order.

Not had it confirmed yet but we also believe are departure time has been put back to allow the weather to improve.

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I’m signing off now for today to go and seek some liquid refreshments.

Had we not received 50% of our fare back in the form of two credit certificates from our Harmony of the Seas cruise in May 2016 then we would not be taking this cruise. With little time off from work left for the year and with the credit certificates use-by deadline fast approaching we picked this little 3 night taster cruise so that they didn’t go to waste.
However I do wonder what awaits us given that this sailing takes place during school half term and I have some concerns that potentially the ship could well be overrun with kids, and not to mention the prospect of numerous travel agents all out on a jolly because they seem to use these short cruises to try the product out. We have therefore decided to go on the premise that its nothing ventured nothing gained in a bid to appease our concerns and after all a cruise is a cruise!

Please don’t get me wrong because as we are still very much looking forward to getting onboard a ship and specifically one that will be completely unfamiliar to us as its a class of ship we have not sailed before.
This 3 night taster cruise starts and finishes in Southampton and visits the ports of Le Harve and Zeebrugge and at both places we aim to get out and do plenty of walking.

DATE LOCATION ARRIVAL DEPARTURE
Saturday, October 21, 2017 Southampton, England 04:30 PM
Sunday, October 22, 2017 Zeebrugge, Belgium 07:00 AM 05:00 PM
Monday, October 23, 2017 Le Harve, France 08:00 AM 10:00 PM
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 Southampton, England 05:30 AM

Our cabin selection was dead easy, because we had left it so late making the decision to go all the balconies had sold out, however all was not lost because I received a e-mail notification from the Cruisefish website informing us D3’s were back on sale, (Cruisefish is a cruise monitoring system that for a small fee will keep a check on prices for you, it sends e-mail alerts when prices drop, go up or even when category’s become available or sell out).  We quickly contacted one of our agents who responded by securing the one and only cabin which had just become available again. As luck would have it, the position is pretty much in the location we would liked anyway so we are more than happy with the result and because of the credits we bagged it for half price.

Fingers crossed Storm Brian doesn’t hamper our plans too much…………..

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