Travel

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas review: cruise ship wow meets high tech entertainment

VR rides are fast becoming a theme park staple, and now Royal Caribbean has gone one better and included the most audacious of VR attractions on The Independence of the Seas, as part of a multi-million dollar refit for the popular family ship. Naturally The Luxe Review team were eager to try it out…

The Sky Pad dominates the aft of the ship, a huge globe which houses four trampoline VR rigs. To ride it, you’re harnessed up and wear goggles. A guide encourages you to bounce ever higher (although in VR you’ll have no idea just how high this is), in order to take part in a number of games.

Our VR adventure involves making our way through a cartoonish landscape.

“Bend your knees, BEND YOUR KNEES!” instructs a disembodied voice.

I duly bend and then bounce into the air. At least, I feel like I’m airborne. It’s difficult to tell. Below me, a winding cartoon road slowly unfolds, above me hang huge Candies (they look like Smarties), waiting for me to propel into them. When I do, they splinter into pieces.

“That’s good” says the voice. “Higher, HIGHER.”

I crash into a candy house, and there’s sweeties everywhere. I try and jump higher, but my stocked feet slip and I head off in a different direction. Suddenly my feet are grabbed by invisible hands, and my trajectory corrected.

When I reach the end of the candy road. I’m told to sink to my knees and my VR headset is released. The experience has been exhilarating and even a little addictive.

Harnessed up with VR goggles

The VR Skypad is just one of a number of imaginative attractions on board the Independence of the Seas.

In the Observatorium Escape Room, players randomly enter a steampunk styled room and have an hour to unlock its secrets.

The ship’s design team took what was originally the ship’s chapel and replaced it with a steam punk quiz room. The space is Captain Nemo meets The Crystal Maze. This isn’t the first escape room we’ve seen at, but it is one of the best.

The Independence of the Seas outdoor cinema

The Independence of the Seas spans 15 decks, carries 3,858 guests at double occupancy and features 1,929 staterooms.

The Splashaway Bay interactive aqua park is for younger visitors, and offers two racing waterslides called Cyclone and Typhoon, as well as the Flowrider surf machine.

Also making its debut on any Royal Caribbean ship is the seafood restaurant Fish & Ships. It’s a rather decent chippie, which also offers battered sausages, fried calamari and lobster rolls and deep fried chocolate bars (I didn’t dare). Once you’ve had your fill, there’s plenty of comfortable lounges around the pool and top decks.

The atmosphere onboard is lively and fun. During our cruise, Reading rockers Valeras played a lively set around the pool. Cruising staid? Don’t you believe it. A huge video screen, used for sports and movie screenings around the pool has no problem cutting through bright sunlight.

The ship itself isn’t short of traditional wow: the lounges and panoramic Oceanview staterooms offer opulence, while at the heart of the ship is the Royal Promenade.

The Observatorium Escape Room

This avenue is home to a variety of bars – from a Cuban-themed dance floor to the Ale & Anchor English pub. There’s also the Izumi Hibachi and Sushi restaurant, which claims to offer the largest Teppanyaki dining experience in the fleet, Sorrento’s pizza parlor and Ben and Jerry’s.

The promenade also leads to another Royal Caribbean exclusive, the Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade bar. The interior décor here is absolutely authentic: high stools, cozy corners, a video wall of sports. We appreciated the addition of vintage arcade machines and foosball.

The Independence also has an intimidating rock wall, basketball court, and ice rink that doubles as a nightclub. And if that’s not enough, you can always while away some time playing glow-in-the-dark laser tag.

As for us, we’ll be sipping cocktails around the Solarium Bar…

To book your cruise on the Independence of the Seas and upcoming sailings, visit Royal Caribbean here.

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About Steve May

Creator of Home Cinema Choice magazine, and editor of The Luxe Review, Steve muses and reviews for Trusted Reviews, T3, Yahoo UK, Home Cinema Choice, Games Radar, Ideal Home, Louder Sounds, Channel News and Boat International. He’s also the editor of professional home cinema website Inside CI. He's on Twitter and Instagram as @SteveMay_UK

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