Maiden Voyage with Symphony of the Seas of Royal Caribbean
Life is better at sea! Especially when you are on the largest cruise ship in the world, Symphony of the Seas from Royal Caribbean! Just over a week ago (7th-14th April 2018), the kids and I boarded this amazing new cruise ship with 4,500 other guests and 2,000 cruise staff on its maiden voyage in Europe.
So why Royal Caribbean? The answer is simple. They are just the best! It might sound biased, but it is true. From the cabin design, onboard entertainment, activities, friendliness of the staff, food, and excursions, which are the things I normally look for in a cruise, and they excel in every area. Let me explain...
1. Relax, you are going on a cruise, not a flight.
To start with, when you are going on a cruise with Royal Caribbean, you can check in weeks before your journey starts. They know how excited and curious guests can be about their cruise, so they give you all the information you need to learn about the cruise ship and what it offers on its website. You can sign the waivers, book your shows, reserve a table at your favorite restaurants, etc. And don't panic, if you are a first-time cruiser and have no idea what to do: everything you can book online before the journey, you can also do on board. You won't miss out on anything. But I do highly recommend you check out the website before you go, so you will be less overwhelmed once you are there. The ship is massive and you will need some time to learn your orientations.
And come the big day, time to board! I have to admit, I was so surprised how easy the check-in and boarding procedures are! It is so different from boarding a plane with all long check-in lines, extra security measures, border controls, change of gates, etc, etc. I am always super stressed when I am at the airport. But it is a totally different story at the cruise terminal. There are plenty of staff to give you directions, take care of your luggage, and welcome you. It is actually hard to go wrong when boarding a cruise since everything was just so well organized.
2. Cabin: I have never thought we could get such a spacy room for a family of four on a cruise ship, with a decent size bathroom, too. I love the fact that there were lots of storage space in the room, so we could really put our things away. We also had a large balcony with a beautiful ocean view. If you were to choose a cabin (you can find the floor map on Royal Caribbean's website), I recommend choosing one that is in the middle of the ship, so it is not too far to walk to all the restaurants and entertainments.
I must also tell you about the Ultimate Family Suite that I got to see while I was on the cruise! Seriously, this is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. A two-story family suite with built-in slides, climbing net on the balcony, play corners, swing chair, and your own popcorn machine. And more! It was just wow! Here are some snaps for you.
3. Restaurants: If there is one thing you don't have to worry about on a cruise ship, it is the food.
Being on a cruise ship for a week is kind of like being at an all-in-inclusive hotel. You can get food pretty much anytime throughout the day. Your packages have already included meals, but not limited. There are still many specialty restaurants on board that are really special, but you have to pay extra for these services (but well worth it!!! I will go into Symphony of the Seas details later). The standard restaurants included in the package are very good - you have proper sit-down dinners and buffets. Both are delicious, with a good variety of dishes and excellent staff service. I would have thought since the meals are already covered, they can just offer whatever, like most all-inclusive resorts. But not at all, you can really see how the cooking and serving staff making a big effort to make guests feel comfortable and welcome. I could see them constantly checking on guests to make sure they are happy with the food and the service. On Symphony of the Seas, we have been to almost all the free-dining restaurant, Windjammer (buffet, free), Solarium (buffet, free), main dining room (free), etc. They are all really, really good.
And now we move on to the specialty dining. This is another big step up in terms of dining experiences on the Symphony of the Seas. Many of you might think they not worth going to because it is not free. But in fact, they are actually really good value for money and you get a really special meal in the end. For example, "Jamie's Italian" (and neighboring "Tapas") is a restaurant from Jamie Oliver's and its Italian dishes are just exceptional. You pay $39 per person, but you can order anything from the menu and their portions are huge. Because the menu looked so good, I wanted to try many dishes, so I asked the kitchen to prepare a smaller portion of each dish and they did it. Soooo satisfied and stuffed after that! ;-) "Wonderland" is a gourmet restaurant that turns your restaurant visit into a trip to Wonderland with Alice. The interior, the menu (and how it was presented!!!), the plating of the dishes, the staff... OMG! I don't want to give too much away, but you will be there for a real treat! If you want to have a super fun and delicious meal with the kids, I would highly recommend "Izumi." I went there with the kids and we joined Teppanyaki. It was so much fun! The chef made the lunch interactive and fun. We pretty much laughed through the entire meal (which lasted about an hour). It is $39 per person, and we were so full in the end that we just couldn't stuff a single grain of rice in us anymore.
3. Activities and Entertainment: I personally think this is one of the strongest selling points of joining a Royal Caribbean cruise. There is just so much to do on the ship that is not just for one particular age group, but everyone! If you were to go on holiday with family members or friends with different age groups, you will find it is challenging to find something that is suitable for every generation. But on Symphony of the Seas, that’s not a problem. They offer such a wide variety of activities and entertainments that to see and experience them all is actually the real challenge. You will never find yourself bored on this cruise and if you want to stay up and play for 24 hours, not a problem! I mean, who needs sleep nowadays?
As for my kids, their favorite activities were Ultimate Abyss (the tallest slide at sea), Water Slides, Laser Tag, Ice Skating, Adventure Ocean (kids' club), rock climbing and hanging out with other kids on the sport's court.
As for me and the kids, we loved watching the shows. The set, the costumes, and the performances are just amazing. I highly recommend watching the Magic Show, Hairspray, 1977 ice skating show and Aqua shows. And these are just the small parts of what is offered on the ship. I really tried to go to more of them, but unfortunately did not have enough time. Well, next time!
4. Excursions: This is probably one of the main reasons that I chose this cruise. The route of Symphony of the Seas is covering some of my bucket list places in Europe. It would have taken me weeks to visit all these places on my own. But with the cruise, every day we woke up to a different location (even a different country for the first three days), spent the day exploring, and then went back to the ship to, rest and enjoyed the good food and fun shows. The cruise basically did all the hard work of roaming for us. ;-)
We joined at least one excursion at each stop and here are the break-downs of our week.
- Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Our first stop is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe, Mallorca, which is also where the Spanish royal family spent their summer vacations for the past years. We visited the Drach Caves (Similar Excursion: PJ38), which has the largest underground lake in the world. At the end of the tour, there was an orchestra performing on the beautifully lit boats, which was truly mesmerizing and magical. After this, we went to visit the Palma City (Similar Excursion: PJ03) and walked around the magnificent Bellver Castle and Le Seu Cathedral.
- Provence, France. We took the excursion to visit Cassis and Marseilles (Similar Excursion: MRB5). Cassis is a charming seaside village, which we casually walked around with fresh French baguette on one hand and flower-like ice-cream on the other. We also enjoyed a scenic boat ride admiring the rocky, sheltered inlets called Calanques, whose white cliffs pair spectacularly against the turquoise-blue Mediterranean Sea. On the way back, we had a quick stop in Marseilles, where we drove along the breathtaking coast and visited, Notre Dame de la Garde and Palace Longchamp.
- Florence/Pisa (La Spezia), Italy. We visited the coast of Cinque Terre (Similar Excursion: LL90). To visit these stunning seaside villages in the Italian Rivera has been a dream of mine. Unfortunately, we encountered a huge rain in the morning, which made our tour slightly difficult, but our spirits were high nonetheless. In the afternoon, after the sun came out, the real beauty of the towns just came through and we were completely in awe of this place. I definitely would like to go back and explore more next time.
- Rome, Italy. When in Rome...there is just so much to see in this ancient city (Similar Excursion: CVQ9). Walk around Colosseum, toss a coin into the famous Trevi Fountain, get a proper Italian gelato and follow your Guide for an exterior visit to the Roman Forum. Then roam around independently at St. Peter’s Square.
- Naples, Italy. We have always wanted to visit Amalfi coast, especially the stunning Positano (Similar Excursion: NP08). We drove along the scenic coast and had a relaxing time at the beach of Positano. We were told that the best pizza in Italy is in Naples. So of course, we ordered ourselves two right by the beach!
- Cruise Day. Don't even think for a second that we will be bored on this day. On the contrary, this is the busiest day of our cruise week because we were packed with several different activities (swimming, rock climbing, going down slides, ziplining, FlowRider, laser tag, etc), visiting restaurants, watching shows and the parade, and so on. Seriously, there were just so much to do and so little time!
Just like they say, all good things will come to an end, so did our cruise. The kids and I were so sad to leave because it had been such an incredible week. Thank you, Royal Caribbean, for providing us with such a wonderful experience and we can't wait to sail and adventure with you again!
*This post was sponsored by Royal Caribbean, but all opinions are based on our experience and my own.