Having sailed on all three prior Oasis-class ships, we had been looking forward to sailing on the newest member of the fleet, Symphony of the Seas. We began planning this cruise over a year ago, and of course, we had some pretty high expectations for this largest ship in the world. After sailing a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise, we are back with our Symphony of the Seas ship scorecard. Continue reading to see if the ship met our high expectations.
Being the world’s largest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas accommodates over 6,000 passengers. The good news is that the brand new, state-of-the-art Terminal A in Miami, FL offered a seamless and speedy embarkation despite the number of eager cruisers. Our entire check-in process took only a few minutes. Getting off the ship a week later was a pleasant surprise as well. Disembarkation was just as smooth and effortless with improved processes, technology, and plenty of staff.
If it isn’t broken, why fix it? That is the case with Symphony of the Seas, as Royal Caribbean did not change up much when it came to the outdoor sports decks. Oasis-class favorites like the FlowRider, a zip line, a 9-hole mini-golf course, the Perfect Storm waterslides, and a children’s Aqua Park are all present on Symphony of the Seas. The Ultimate Abyss which debuted on Harmony of the Seas is also onboard this brand new mega-ship. If you are a thrill-seeker, you will want to test out all these fun-filled activities.
There are 2,200 crew members onboard to take good care of you during your trip. Like many large cruise ships, some venues did seem understaffed especially during peak times. For the most part though, the crew was friendly, attentive, and helpful. Our wait staff at dinner were nice but always appeared rushed as was the case in many of the bars and lounges as well. Chito, our stateroom attendant, was excellent and definitely a standout for service on our cruise.
With all the bells and whistles, you will not be bored on Symphony of the Seas. Along with four pools, the sports decks, and other amusements, there are also your typical cruise selections. Trivia, seminars and classes, the cruiser favorite Belly Flop Contest, and more. Nothing stood out to us as different or innovative in this category. We spent most of our daytime hours enjoying the various neighborhoods, the sports deck, and lounging by the pools.
Main Dining Room
We dined in the main dining room five out of the seven nights of our cruise. After a glitch on the first evening, we were able to acquire a table for two in a different section for the remainder of the nights. Our waiter and assistant waiter met our service expectations but were not overly memorable. The menus on this sailing were a slight departure from the typical Royal Caribbean menus, but the food was on par with past cruises. The one exception was the lobster tails which were some odd hybrid species and unlike anything we have ever seen served on a cruise before.
Did Not Meet Expectations
Over the recent years, we have been testing out more specialty restaurants while cruising. On this sailing, we sampled three restaurants. Besides our lunch at Playmakers which was great, we were a bit disappointed with the new Hooked seafood restaurant and our dinner at Wonderland. Compared to the main dining room, the seafood at Hooked was better, but still not on par with what we New Englanders have on land. We have dined at Wonderland on two other ships and have to admit that the food during this trip was the least impressive (the menu has been changed a bit as well); although, the addition of the “host” (the Mad Hatter) was a great touch.
Where the specialty dining suffered during our trip, the casual restaurants shined. While the Windjammer was underwhelming for us, the rest of the options were great. The new El Loco Fresh is a nice replacement for the old Wipeout Cafe. Our favorites, including the Park Cafe and the Boardwalk Doghouse, as well as the new and improved pizza at Sorrento’s provided plenty of diversity for casual eats throughout the day. Even during peak times, these restaurants never had long waits for breakfast or lunch.
Night Time Activities
Similar to the other ships in the fleet, Symphony of the Seas is home to several venues with regular entertainment. The performers in these venues ranged from Billy Pando in the Schooner Bar to the house band that tended to be found in Dazzles. When there wasn’t a signature show to catch, there were other activities including parties and parades in the Royal Promenade, the Quest adult game show, the Love and Marriage game show, and the RED party in Studio B. With so many options, there is really something for everyone to enjoy on this new ship.
Even with our very high bar when it comes to entertainment on the Oasis-class, Symphony of the Seas still surpassed our expectations. Hairspray was top notch and one of our favorite Broadway musicals found at sea. The Royal Caribbean original production of Flight was spectacular as well with several state-of-the-art stage pieces that truly enhanced the show. Along with two ice shows, two Aqua Theater productions, and comedy shows, the seven nights were packed with high quality entertainment.
We booked an ocean view balcony stateroom on Deck 11 (11210). The room was laid out in a typical fashion with plenty of space. Among the amenities were added USB outlets near the desk and a power outlet near the bed. The room boasted a well positioned flat screen television and two closets offering plenty of space for our clothing. After sailing on competitor cruise lines, the size of the balcony was also a breath of fresh air.
Bars and Lounges
With several familiar venues, it was surprising that the cruise line didn’t add anything new to the ship in terms of bars and lounges besides Playmakers. For the most part, the bars on the ship offered reliable service but did seem slightly understaffed at times. Finding seats at popular venues did not prove to be too much of a problem. Our favorite go-to lounge was the Schooner Bar for its specialty martinis and live piano music. Other venues with signature menus included Boleros, the Bionic Bar, and the Rising Tide Bar.
There are a lot of cruisers onboard Symphony of the Seas, but you should know that when booking a cruise on a ship of this size. With that being said, we were pleasantly surprised that wait times for elevators were never a problem. Even on disembarkation day! Getting pool side loungers was also not as difficult as expected. We would have rated this category as exceeded expectations if it wasn’t for the crowds at shows. Even with reservations, there were lines forming as early as 45 minutes prior to showtime. If you want a good seat, plan to show up early.
Symphony of the Seas Ship Scorecard – Special Categories
Battle for Planet Z
Did Not Meet Expectations
One of the new additions to this class of ship is laser tag. Occurring in Studio B on select days of your cruise, this is a first come, first serve activity. The line for the game got quite long, and the staff seemed unorganized. The execution could have definitely been better, perhaps having a sign up for specific time slots to avoid long wait times. As for the game itself, it is a bit dark and tough to see, and the technology seemed dated compared to laser tag on competitor cruise lines. Still, it is a family fun activity as long as you are willing to wait.
The Ultimate Abyss
Another exclusive to Symphony of the Seas is the “enhanced” Ultimate Abyss slide. While we did do a test run on Harmony of the Seas, we gave this slide another go. The addition of lighting and sound effects didn’t really change the experience for us. As thrill seekers, we were expecting a bit more from the slide. Although, it does feel like this version is slightly faster than its predecessor on Harmony. As an activity that is included in your cruise fare, it is worth at least one ride on this slide to test it out for yourself.
As one of the most innovative cruise ships, we were expecting a lot from Symphony of the Seas. We are happy to report that the ship delivered an exceptional vacation. Royal Caribbean is still the leader when it comes to entertainment, and this ship truly embodies the line’s commitment to productions that blow the competition out of the water.
Generally speaking, food, staterooms, and bars and lounges were on par with what we have come to expect from mega-ships. One area we found a bit lacking though was specialty dining, especially for the expensive price tag.
When it comes to mega-ships, you can’t get any bigger than Symphony of the Seas. So, there is something to be said about the crowd control and seamless embarkation and disembarkation processes. Symphony of the Seas definitely ranks near the top of the best options for vessels of this size. With a little bit of planning, your family can have an unforgettable time on board this world record holding ship.
Have you sailed on Symphony of the Seas? How would you rate this brand new vessel? Drop us an anchor below to share your review of the world’s current largest cruise ship.