Video: Symphony of the Seas Brings Outer space into the Theater with Flight

By: Matt Hochberg

Get a look at the real-life inspiration behind Royal Caribbean’s newest original show, Flight: Dare to Dream, a chronicle of the evolution of air travel and an imaginative take on what the future may hold. Follow the show's creators as they visit Space Center Houston in Texas to gather ideas and develop the vision for the first theater production to be set in space.

New shows on Symphony of the Seas combine high-energy with high-tech

By: Matt Hochberg

Guests on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas will have the opportunity to see brand new shows that were produced for the largest cruise ship in the world, including a headliner show that combines high-energy with high-tech.

Headlining the playbill will be the all-new show ‘Flight: Dare to Dream,’ a one-of-a-kind journey through the past, present and future of air travel and space exploration that will make history as one of the most ambitious stage productions to date. Guests take off on a spectacular adventure through time, chronicling key milestones in aeronautics, beginning with the first leisure voyage to Mars and ending with a stunning homage to the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk.

A Royal Caribbean Productions original, ‘Flight: Dare to Dream’ introduces cutting-edge 3D flying technology, video and automation to the 1,401-seat Royal Theater. Going where no stage has gone before, space and zero gravity will be simulated as actors “float” within a detailed replica of the International Space Station (ISS). The first theater set piece of its kind, the detailed design of Royal Caribbean’s ISS was informed by Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson, who lived 167 days in space and completed 38 hours and 28 minutes over 6 spacewalks in two separate missions.

“I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to relive my five months aboard the International Space Station for this out-of-this-world Royal Caribbean production,” said Clayton C. Anderson, U.S. astronaut, author & speaker. “I worked with Royal Caribbean to ensure the show’s zero gravity simulation, and appearance of the ISS replica were as true to life as possible to further enhance the show’s wow factor.”

Royal Caribbean Productions is the first team to consult with an astronaut that lived in space for a live theatrical production. Complex, high-impact choreography and production also take form in 3D flying with a custom built recreation of the Wright Flyer that will take off into the house; the set piece will have a 22 foot wingspan and single seat “cockpit.”

“We continue to push the envelope with high-tech, immersive entertainment at Royal Caribbean, and we couldn’t be prouder with how ‘Flight: Dare to Dream’ has brought to life the awe and wonder of flying,” said Nick Weir, Vice President, Entertainment, Royal Caribbean International. “Guests from 5 to 95 years old will not believe their eyes, as all our shows onboard Symphony of the Seas capture their imagination and create jaw-dropping I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened moments they won’t soon forget.”

Clayton Anderson & Nick Weir. Photo by Nick Weir.

Three additional headline shows across three distinct stage venues on Symphony of the Seas, include:

  • 1977 in Studio B is the continuation to “1877,” the ice-skating show introduced on sister-ship Harmony of the Seas, featuring the time-traveling hero, Tempus. In his latest adventure, Tempus heads to London where a mysterious jewel thief with special powers has stolen the Queen’s crown jewels on the eve of her Silver Jubilee. Timing is everything in this imaginative original ice show, featuring high-tech projection mapping images that bring the ‘70s to life on the ice.
  • Hairspray, a guest favorite, gets a makeover for Symphony of the Seas with new choreography and staging of the Tony Award- winning musical. The larger-than-life, Royal Caribbean Productions’ original introduces revolutionary set design, taking the story of loveable teen Tracy Turnblad in 1960s Baltimore, to the next level.
  • HiRO raises the bar on Royal Caribbean’s aqua shows with more high flying feats, unexpected stunts and extraordinary acrobatics than ever before. Brought to life by the world’s best extreme-sport athletes, HiRO pushes the limits of a theatrical production at sea with cutting-edge technology and choreography and. No two shows are the same, making it worth seeing twice. The show features 3D flying technology used by aerialists as they literally soar above the crowd, plus acrobats and professional divers. 

Aerial photos of Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas is a truly impressive looking cruise ship, but aerial photos really give you the perfect perspective for appreciating her grandeur.

Royal Caribbean shared these new aerial photos of Symphony of the Seas, taken during her voyage between the shipyard in France and her summer home in Spain.

Photos of Ultimate Family Suite on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has released new photos of the Ultimate Family Suite on Symphony of the Seas, which promises to offer a family suite experience unlike any other.

This one-of-a-kind stateroom has some "swoon-worthy" features, whimsical color schemes and a whole lot of awesome.

The 1,346-square-foot interactive space is designed for both the young and young at heart, providing a space for families to come together during their cruise vacation, while also offering enough room and amenities to relax during that special “me time.”

Royal Caribbean helping to test new satellite system

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Ovation fo the Seas is helping test a new satellite tracking system that aims to be even more precise and accurate than any system before it.

Ovation of the Seas is testing the highly accurate positioning technology, as part of the trial of a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) for the Australasian region. Standalone GPS positioning is giving you five to 10 metre level positioning, whereas SBAS allows for corrections at the 10 centimere level to the entire area.

SBAS technology was used by Acoustic Imaging in consultation with the Port Authority of New South Wales to help dock Ovation of the Seas on its most recent visit to Sydney Harbour.

The Chief Operating Officer of Port Authority of New South Wales and Harbour Master, Philip Holliday said Ovation of the Seas is one of the biggest cruise ships to dock in Sydney Harbour during the cruise season.

"Sydney is extremely busy during the cruise season; we have enormous cruise ships coming in virtually every day and intermingled into all of that is ferry and recreation traffic. It's a busy working harbour," Mr Holliday said.

The lead scientist of Acoustic Imaging's maritime programs, Nicole Bergersen said the docking of Ovation of the Seas, which is over 330 metres long and too tall to sail beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was a unique opportunity to test how the use of SBAS technology could potentially benefit the ports of Sydney Harbour.

"The berth box inside Circular Quay is marginally smaller than the Ovation of the Seas, so the Ovation of the Seas is actually parking with nose protruding out in front of that parking spot. We're on a level where metres matter, and centimetres matter." Ms Bergersen said.

"What SBAS is allowing us to do is have the pilot rely just on the information on the computer screen and if we can enable instrument navigation, then the pilot no longer needs visibility to be able to steer a ship.

"That's going to allow the Port Authority of New South Wales to bring in more ships, more frequently and in adverse conditions."

Video: Royal Caribbean Welcomes World's Largest Ship, Symphony of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

Thirty-six months, 4,700 shipbuilders and crew, and one common goal: to deliver the ultimate family adventure. Royal Caribbean International honored the instrumental project team of Symphony of the Seas during the highly anticipated delivery event at STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. Michael Bayley, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Laurent Castaing, General Manager of STX France, led the traditional flag-changing ceremony, which symbolizes the ship’s official delivery from the ship builder to Royal Caribbean.

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 7- Sea Day

By: Matt Hochberg

Our last day is a sea day, and I always try to remind myself that it is still better to be on a cruise on your last day, than not on a cruise at all.

After three port days in a row, the family all slept in this morning.  We also had our clocks go ahead an hour to catch us up with local time in Tampa, so in short, we had a slow start to our morning.

Not many breakfast options past 9am, so we rolled into the Windjammer for breakfast and coffee.

After that, we took the kids up to Adventure Ocean while my wife and I enjoyed some relaxing time on the pool deck.  

I started off with a Bloody Mary at the pool bar.

We then made our way to the Solarium for warmer temperatures.

I was talking to Royal Caribbean Blog reader Jacob about a deal he spotted for Izumi in the Cruise Compass, where you could pay $25 and get a $50 credit to use at Izumi.  I immediately ran up to Izumi and they honored the deal, so lunch would be at Izumi!

Izumi is on deck 11, a half deck above the Viking Crown Lounge.  It is a very odd spot, but also a beautiful area.  The vantage point Izumi offers in this location means some really nice views of the ocean and decks below.

They have a special kids menu, and the kids ate free.

I went for a suhi-rific lunch selection, while my wife opted for chicken karage and dumplings.

After lunch, my wife and oldest daughter went to see The Greatest Showman in the theater, while I took my youngest daughter to have her own lunch (room service pizza).

The movie and pizza both wrapped up right at 2pm, which meant an afternoon session for the kids in Adventure Ocean.  It also meant we (read: my wife) could start packing.

I noticed this mail box near Guest Services.  I do not recall ever seeing a mail box before on Royal Caribbean, but I might be forgetting one or two.

As afternoon turned to evening, we picked the kids up from Adventure Ocean and I took an opportunity to get one last nap in on our balcony.

We also got one last great sunset, that I took in from the comfort of the Concierge Lounge.

Dinner was back in the main dining room.  I was really impressed by the fact I had a plate of savory bites on the table.  I had asked my assistant waiter if they had savory bites on day 1 or 2, but to my delight, they had made some for us on the last night.

After dinner, we enjoyed some music with friends in the Schooner Bar. I also managed to use up all of my drinks on my drink card.

Overall, this was a great cruise experience for all of us.  It was relaxing, we spent a lot of time together as a family, and I think each of us really enjoyed our time onboard.

As this was my first Vision class ship, I liked being on this class of ship.  Like the Radiance class, it is easy to get around. We rarely waited for an elevator, easily got between the forward or aft areas by foot, and even on port days never had issues with embarkation or disembarkation.  For tendering, it is simply the best.

Our room worked out really well for us.  While we have stayed in suites before, this may have been the best overall suite experience we had. 

The crew on Rhapsody were excellent from start to finish.  We had a great collection of wait staff, stateroom attendants, Adventure Ocean counselors and everyone inbetween.  The suite concierge alone was incredible with his friendliness, charm, and attention to detail.

Alas, this cruise and live blog must come to an end now. Thanks for following and sharing comments with me along the way.  I really have enjoyed reading them, and responding.  I cannot wait to share my next adventure on Explorer of the Seas to Alaska this summer!

Royal Caribbean takes delivery of Symphony of the Seas

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean took delivery yesterday of Symphony of the Seas and celebrate the occasion with a special event at STX France in Saint-Nazair, France.

Michael Bayley, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Laurent Castaing, General Manager of STX France, led the traditional flag-changing ceremony, which symbolizes the ship’s official delivery from the ship builder to Royal Caribbean. The maritime ritual was followed by a celebration of the industry’s best, the crew whose hard work and meticulous collaboration came together to create the world’s largest cruise ship.

Symphony of the Seas is the 25th ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet, and is listed at 228,081 gross registered tons, measures 238 feet tall and spans 1,188 feet long. She will welcome 5,518 guests at double occupancy in 2,759 staterooms, including 28 additional balcony rooms that overlook the ocean or signature Boardwalk neighborhood. 

“Symphony of the Seas is the latest example of how our people work to push the envelope of innovation with each new ship,” said Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard D. Fain. “The Oasis Class has been a trend-setting design, but the team has evolved the design to build on that success to provide even more incredible family adventures. We’re thankful to have a partner in STX France that is every bit as ambitious as we are about building technologically advanced ships.”

“It is a proud and exhilarating moment to welcome a new member to the family. Thanks to our stellar crew and partners at STX France, we now are ready to embark on this new boundless adventure that comes to life on Symphony of the Seas,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “Symphony will take family vacationing to an all new level with energy and options never before found in one place. This ship is the perfect blend of our greatest hits we know guests love and a lineup of vibrant, new restaurants, activities and unparalleled entertainment – all purposefully designed around vacationers’ preferences.”

Symphony of the Seas will welcome her first guests on Saturday, March 31 for a one-time-only, 5-night preview sailing, calling on Naples and Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy.

The ship’s maiden 7-night Mediterranean voyage departs Saturday, April 7 from Barcelona, Spain, where the crescendo of thrills will be brought to life by the 2,200 international crew members who proudly represent 77 countries around the world. Symphony of the Seas will homeport in Barcelona for the summer, visiting Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Provence, France; and Florence/Pisa, Rome and Naples, Italy. Beginning Nov. 10, Miami, FL. will become the ship’s year-round homeport, making Symphony of the Seas the first new Oasis Class ship to sail from the cruise capital of the world using Royal Caribbean’s new state-of-the-art Terminal A.

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 6 - Costa Maya

By: Matt Hochberg

Our last port stop brings us to Costa Maya, Mexico.

I have been to Costa Maya once, but it was back in 2010 so clearly a lot has changed since then.  We also had odd hours in port, being there from 7am to 4pm.  Not a ton of time, but it does require us to get up early to make the most of it.

We got ourselves ready and on the dock by about 7:30am and walked through the maze that is the Costa Maya port.  The pier is quite long, and then once in the terminal area, it is a labyrinth of shops, bars and restaurants.  Finding the exit is no simple task.

We had pre-booked our day at arguably the best all-inclusive day pass in the Caribbean that I have been to, Maya Chan.  We had to walk out of the port area and a few hundred yards up the street to meet the Maya Chan represenative.

Maya Chan arranges the transportation, so they immediately hailed a cab for us.  Prior to getting in, they informed us the beach (and frankly the whole area) is dealing with an influx of sea grass that has covered the beach.  They have staff actively working to clear it, but it is there and graciously offered to let us cancel for a full refund.  We considered it, but thought it would still be a good use of our time to go there, so went ahead.

The car ride is about 30 minutes and we arrived at Maya Chan.

Upon arrival, the staff greets you and escorts you to your private area.  You will find a palapa, with chairs, hammocks, tables and more.  A welcome drink is provided and once you get situated, you can use any of the facilities available.

A day at Maya Chan is about enjoying the area, such as the bar, beach, kayaks, games, and more.  A full bar is available and the staff regularly walk around asking how they can help.  I loved how the staff was  always around to help.

A full buffet lunch of make your own tacos was available as well.  Everything was made from scratch and it was excellent.  

Despite the beach conditions (the staff set up a floating bar in the ocean with floating chairs for fun), we had a great time relaxing on the beach.  My daughters were content sipping on Shirley Temples and playing in the sand.  Plus, Maya Chan has a few dogs and a cat roaming around that they enjoyed playing with.

Eventually, we had to head back to the port.  I took my oldest daughter for a detour when we got back to the Costa Maya port area for a short swim in the pool they have in the terminal area.

Back onboard, it was time to get showered and changed.  It is actually our second formal night tonight.

Since it worked so well yesterday, we ordered dinner from room service for the kids rather than taking them up to the Windjammer. Just like yesterday, they enjoyed their meals and ability to mess around a bit more than if they were in the Windjammer.

We had hoped to get another photo session in, but the photographers were on break by the time we got to them.  Instead, we enjoyed part of a movie by the pool while we waited for Adventure Ocean to open.

Once Adventure Ocean was open, we headed down to the theater for a ballroom dance show.  My wife thinks she has seen this show on another ship, but did enjoy the performances.

Dinner this evening was in Chops Grille on deck six.  It was a great meal all around.  While my 9oz filet mignon was wonderful, the tuna tartare was still my favorite.

After dinner, I convinced my wife to go to the casino for a bit.  Unfortunately, that's where my luck ran out.  We were in and out of there quite quickly.

We rounded out our evening with drinks and music in the Schooner Bar.

We would have stayed out later, but I got a page from Adventure Ocean and it turns out our youngest daughter had fallen asleep, so we had to come pick her up.

Tomorrow is our final day onboard, and it is a sea day.

Stray Observations

  • This is the first time I have been docked in a port and the ship still rocked a little due to the ocean waves.
  • We had a little friend waiting for us in our stateroom tonight.

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 5 - Belize

By: Matt Hochberg

Our third stop is Belize City, Belize and it is just my second time going to this port.  The last time was on Navigator of the Seas back in 2014, so it has been a while.

Just like last time, our ship anchored off the coast and operated tenders to bring guests back and forth.  The tender ride was 15 minutes each way (although I thought it was a longer ride from our past time).

We set our alarm and got the kids ready.  Just like yesterday, I went up to the Windjammer to bring food back to the room.

We had booked a private tour through Royal Caribbean, known as Private Journeys.  Just like all excursions booked through Royal Caribbean, you get tender priority.  All we had to do was go to the theater by 9:15am and we were escorted to a waiting tender. Very simple and easy.

The tender ride over 15 minutes and we immediately spotted our tour guide waiting for us at the pier, near all the other shore excursions.

Our driver, Freddie, drove us around in a large van that had plenty of air conditioning (a top priority for any tour I go on) and he provided interesting narration of nearly everywhere we drove around.

We started out with a 30 minute ride to the Belize Zoo, which is the national zoo of Belize.

The zoo has a number of exhibits featuring the animals native to Belize.  Freddie took us around the zoo and talked about the different animals we saw, explaining what the animals are best known for and if they were endangered or not.

Many of the exhibits offered viewing platforms to gain a better vantage point.  

There were more animals on display than I thought.  Most of the animals were there after being rescued from various terrible situations. 


The dense foliage around the zoo provided plenty of shade, and kept things cooled down.  

The kids really liked going from exhibit to exhibit and trying to find the animal there.  The jaguars and monkeys were of particular interest to them.

It took a little more than an hour to walk around the zoo and see most, if not all, of the exhibits.  We hopped back in the van and headed to our next stop.

Next was a beach break at Kukumba Beach, which was half-way between the port and the zoo.  Prior to  going to the beach, we opted to enjoy lunch at a restaurant near the beach.  There was a lot on the menu, especially for the kids.  

Our waitress mentioned the special was the catch of the day, which was red snapper.  I opted for that and it was really, really good.  

After we ate, we spent about an hour at the Kukumba Beach. The beach is basically a large lagoon of ocean water, with some inflatables to climb on, a giant water slide, and a swing.   

We could have stayed longer, but we prefer to get back to the ship earlier than necessary just to be safe. 
A short ride back to the pier and we said goodbye to Freddie.  He was a terrific guide, and I really appreciated his knowledge of the places we visited.  He brought photo slides to better explain the history of where we went, and was always accommodating for the kids.  

The reason we booked this tour primarily was to have flexibility with the kids and move at our pace. It certainly achieved that, and I think we all had a great time.  I told Freddie after the tour he could tell we had a great time because none of the kids cried and they took a nap during one of the car rides.

We lucked into getting back to the pier area just in time to hop on a tender back to the ship.  We were back in our room by 4pm.

Each night, the main dining room menu is delivered to our suite because as a suite guest we have the option to order from the main dining room from room service. My wife looked over the dining room options, and determined there was not much she wanted to order, so gave that look only a wife can give her husband that says “Let’s go to Giovanni’s Table tonight.”  

We also changed things up by ordering dinner for the girls from room service.  They liked munching on their dinner while playing with their dolls.

We dropped the kids off at Adventure Ocean and enjoyed some pre-dinner drinks in the Concierge Lounge.

Dinner was at the aforementioned Giovanni’s Table, located on deck 6 near the Schooner Bar.

My wife went for the steak, while I ordered a few different appetizers as a kind of tapas approach to my meal.

Overall, we enjoyed everything we ordered.  The caprese salad and eggplant parmigiana were my favorites (although the eggplant was thermonuclear in temperature).  My wife has her Giovanni’s ordering down to a science, and loved what she got.

We have an early start tomorrow, so opted to go to bed early and grab the kids.  It makes logical sense, but it pains me to end my evening early.

Tomorrow is our final port day, and we will be in Costa Maya, Mexico.

Stray Observations

  • The Tui Mein Schiff 6 was with us in Belize today. TUI is partially owned by Royal Caribbean’s parent company and this ship looks a lot like a Quantum class (from the outside) to me.
  • The “struggle” of the cruise life: taking a shower at around 4pm and deciding if I should get dressed for dinner early, or put on regular clothes for like an hour. Woe is me!
  • We got a survey from the FCCA about our visit to Belize with our Cruise Compass.
  • I spotted this Royal Caribbean jewelry in one of the onboard shops.
  • They were showing Coco by the pool tonight.
  • The drink card appeared today! 10 drinks for $85 (plus 18% gratuity).

  • The coffee card is available at Cafe Latte-Tudes and specifies it is one hole punch per shot of espresso.
  • The best, worst kept secret about Costa Maya is the Krazy Lobster bar.  What I mean is guests and crew alike all talk about it like it's a secret spot, but I've heard about it from a good 3-4 people on this sailing.