Symphony of the Seas

Why you should be excited about Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas arrival in the United States

In:
16Aug2018

In just about three months, Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas will be arriving at her new home port of PortMiami, Florida, and it will mark her debut in the United States.

Symphony of the Seas is not only the largest cruise ship in the world, but also marks a significant moment for many Royal Caribbean fans because this brand new cruise ship offers so many enticing options.

In anticipation of Symphony of the Seas' arrival, we are counting down the top reasons you ought to be excited to welcome Symphony of the Seas "home".

New terminal

Coinciding with Symphony of the Seas' arrival will be the opening of a brand new cruise terminal at PortMiami, colloquially known as, "The Crown of Miami".

The new state-of-the-art terminal at PortMiami will be home to Allure of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas. Terminal A will house an angular glass center and a parking garage with about 1,000 parking spaces at the northeastern side of the port, designed by England-based global architecture firm Broadway Malyan. 

The 170,000-square-foot terminal is nicknamed the ‘Crown of Miami’ because of its distinct shape. The design evokes the points of the symbolic headgear when viewed from the water; the ‘M’ of Miami when viewed from the east or western approaches; and a sense of waves rising or ships passing when viewed from the terminal side. 

New dining venues

I really love the specialty restaurants Royal Caribbean offers, especially on its newer ships.  When a new restaurant concept is added, it definitely gets our attention and Symphony of the Seas has a couple of new additions.

Hooked is Royal Caribbean's new seafood restaurant that features fresh seafood and a robust raw bar complete with oysters shucked to order. While other restaurants have had seafood items on their menus, having a dedicated restaurant to offer these type of dishes is a welcome addition.

Hooked is described as, "This is the ultimate catch if you’re angling for the freshest seafood. It’s a real taste of New England in a casual atmosphere — and it’s a brand-new addition on our newest ship, Symphony of the Seas. Introducing Hooked Seafood — taste bud-tempting fare to satisfy every seafood craving, including raw bar favorites, a variety of crab claws and a selection of just-shucked East Coast oysters. Plus enjoy classic apps, clam chowder, lobster and fresh caught local fish. It’s reel fresh, real good."

While Hooked brings a new sit down experience to Symphony of the Seas, there is also a brand new venue for hanging out and enjoying sports, drinks and games at Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade.

As a fan of the various incarnations of pubs on Royal Caribbean ships, Playmakers follows in that tradition of offering great drinks combined with plenty to see, watch and play. Located in the iconic Boardwalk neighborhood, this massive new venue is all about beer, chicken wings, skeeball, sports and hanging out.

Return of Hairspray

Symphony of the Seas will see the first Broadway revival at sea, with the Tony Award-winning show, Hairspray, headlining the main theater .

Hairspray was first offered on Oasis of the Seas and was the first Broadway show to be offered on a cruise ship.  Not only is Hairspray a favorite Broadway show, it features classic Broadway songs and a heartwarming story. 

Hairspray is set in Baltimore in 1962 where Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair, only has one passion – to dance. After winning a spot on the local TV dance program “The Corny Collins Show”, she is transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity. As a trendsetter in dance and fashion she goes up against the program’s reigning princess, wins the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin and plays a major role in the integration of the television show. Welcome to the 60’s!

Lots of WOWs

Building the largest cruise ship in the world is more than just about how large the ship is, because Royal Caribbean has packed Symphony of the Seas with so many exciting activities for the entire family to enjoy.

Symphony of the Seas will offer guests a wide variety of activities, dining options and places to relax.

There is no way to list all of the fun things to do on Symphony of the Seas in just one post, but here are the ones not tmiss:

  • Glow-in-the-dark laser tag
  • Ultimate Abyss slide (10 stories high!)
  • Waterslides
  • Two FlowRider surf simulators
  • Escape room game
  • AquaTheatre shows
  • Solarium Big Wonder art installation

Biggest ship in the world

At the end of the day, Symphony of the Seas' arrival is going to be an exciting moment because she is the largest cruise ship in the world and that alone signifies a big change (no pun intended).

In addition to the key features highlighted in this post, there is lots more to see and do to the point you will have to return a few more times to be able to "do it all."

Royal Caribbean designed its Oasis-class ships to be a floating hub of dining, entertainment and activities, and Symphony of the Seas is included in that mold of amazing cruise ships.

What are you most excited about to experience on Symphony of the Seas? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Royal Caribbean talks Symphony of the Seas, new app progress, big demand in Caribbean and more

In:
02Aug2018

During Royal Caribbean's second quarter 2018 financial call with investors, the company shared some interesting anecdotes, facts, and insight into the ever changing cruising environment.  While most of the information discussed in these earnings calls deal primarily with financial indicators, cruise guests can glean some insight into how Royal Caribbean runs its business.

Symphony of the Seas debut has been spectacular 

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) Chairman and CEO Richard Fain started off the call with investors beaming about the positive response Symphony of the Seas has received in her inaugural season in Europe.  Fain indicated that not only is the ship booked well, but guests are raving about the experience and the high level of service they are experiencing.

"Her performance for a first time ship in a new market. For her to perform so amazingly well when she is the fourth in a series, is a testament to the innovations the team has incorporated and the power of the Royal Caribbean International brand.

This ship has remarkable new wow's, new shows, and new activities, but what truly sets her apart is the careful execution and high level of service which have been pivotal in achieving these record-breaking ratings."

Smart phone update

Of particular interest to Royal Caribbean cruisers is an update was given on the progress being made with the cruise line's new smart phone app and technology innovation, known as Project Excalibur.

Fain offered an update on where the project stands, and seemed bullish on the prospects of rolling the app out to most ships in the fleet by the end of 2019, as well as the progress being made.  There were no specific updates in terms of when certain functionality will be completed, but it did sound like they wanted to get it right the first time, instead of just pushing out an app that may or may not work well.

"The program is on track and the progress is impressive. We have taken a methodical, hands-on approach to this implementation, rolling out new upgrades on a monthly basis or even more frequently. We're finding that this 'softly softly' approach allows us to move more quickly, but also to correct the errors early before they impact a lot of vacations.

We continually add features to the app, and we remain on our trajectory of having half the fleet connected by the end of this year and most of the rest by the end of next year.

The most complete version of the app today is on Symphony of the Seas, and in December, that distinction will be taken over by Celebrity Edge.

One interesting milestone is the introduction of frictionless arrival.  We have been rolling this out on a limited basis and expect that it will be operational on a large scale basis on Symphony of the Seas and on Celebrity Edge later this fall.

By the way, we recently trademarked the term 'frictionless', so don't expect to see that being used by any other cruise line."

Higher onboard revenue is up (again)

If you spend time listening to these earnings calls, one trend that continued again this quarter was higher spending by guests, namely in the form of drink packages and other packages that can be purchased online or onboard.

In short, a lot of Royal Caribbean's revenue can be traced back to guests not only booking cruises in droves, but also because they are spending more than ever once onboard.

RCL Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty spoke about onboard spending during his summary of the quarter, "The beat was driven by stronger than anticipated close-in demand, and better than expected onboard revenue spend.

Onboard areas, such as beverage, specialty dining and internet, helped deliver a 5.5% year-over-year increase in onboard revenue."

Mariner of the Seas singlehandidly helped drive up Caribbean demand

If there is one ship not named Symphony of the Seas that has hit a home run for Royal Caribbean, it is definitely Mariner of the Seas.  Mariner of the Seas has the distinction of being a very popular choice with consumers that are looking for short cruises, and has been a boon for the cruise line in terms of being booked well and driving up revenue.

In providing an overview of the Caribbean cruise market, Jason Liberty spoke about the impact Mariner of the Seas has had, "Demand for the Caribbean sailings has been strong, with bookings trending ahead of last year's very storng numbers. Our Caribbean capacity is up in the back half of the year, due mainly due to the addition of the reimagined Mariner of the Seas for the short Caribbean market.

Our strategy behind modernizing the Mariner of the Seas was to offer the best alternative for a short Caribbean getaway as a response to consumer trends. The younger generations are opting for shorter, more frequent vacations and the Mariner of the Seas is very well positioned for this segment with onboard activities, dining options, and entertainment similar to those on Oasis class ships.

Mariner of the Seas is booked very well and we are particularly excited about 2019. While we generally don't expect to recieve many bookings for short Caribbean sailings that are more than six months away, Mariner of the Seas' load factors in the first half of 2019 are closer to those of seven-night products than they are to shorter products."

Lessons learned from 2017 hurricane season

Towards the end of the call, an analyst asked Royal Caribbean's leaders about any lessons learned from the 2017 hurricane season that they can apply to the 2018 hurricane season.  This was an opportunity for Royal Caribbean to talk about the impact the cruise line had on the people affected by the storms, and the positive public relations and humanitarian response that Royal Caribbean saw.

Richard Fain spoke about the lessons learned, "We felt our response last year was really ended up being quite good. Probably built up a fair amount of good will from the way we handled it, and I'm not sure that from a pure financial point of view we learned much that would significantly change the outcome if you had, again, a hurricane that exactly tracked as our ships itinerary and exactly hit the ports of call on the days that they would be most impactful. So we constantly try and learn, and obviously there are always some lessons to be learned, but overall, I think we felt that last year we did pretty well.

I do think though that people should be impressed by how well the destinations responded afterwards. These were horrific events for them, but now people are reporting back and travel agents, which are always an important source of information as well as internet chatter, shows how well they've recovered and I think that may help us a little bit in terms of assuaging the concern that people had that if they went to some of these destinations afterwards they would encounter a bad experience. And that simply hasn't been the case."

Spotted: Interactive luggage departure form on Symphony of the Seas

In:
17Jul2018

Guests sailing on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas now have a new option for letting the cruise line know their luggage prefernces upon departure.

Royal Caribbean Blog reader Rich Freudenberg noticed this new interactive luggage departure form on his stateroom television.

Rich noted that when you turn it on, it instantly asks you about your luggage preferences upon departure.  

By taking advantage of this interactive option, it forgoes the need to fill out any forms.

Infographic: The impressiveness of Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas

In:
01Jun2018

Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, is certainly an impressive and spectacular cruise ship with a ton to offer.  Just how impressive, you ask?  Check out these two brand new infographics to get a sense of just how much Royal Caribbean has packed into this amazing new ship.

Royal Caribbean announces Godfamily of Symphony of the Seas

In:
10May2018

Royal Caribbean announced today that Symphony of the Seas will not have a Godmother, rather, a Godfamily by choosing Carlos and Alexa PenaVega, along with their 17-month-old son, Ocean.

This is the first time a family will be the Godfamily of a cruise ship. The selection of a new ship’s guiding spirit, customarily a godmother, is rooted in a longstanding maritime tradition. The role is often held by renowned athletes, celebrities and royalty.

Royal Caribbean says they picked this family because they have celebrated a number of family firsts on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships, as well as personify the spirit of the new ship, redefining the way families stay and play.

Royal Caribbean’s nearly 25-year relationship with Carlos began on his first cruise when he was just 4 years old, only to be beat by son Ocean, who sailed for the first time at 13 months.

“Carlos and Alexa have been an extension of our family for quite some time, and they truly personify our spirit of innovation and adventure in every way,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “We’re very excited to welcome them and their son Ocean as the first-ever Godfamily to officially name a ship. Their passion for cruising and commitment to family make them the perfect choice to serve as the guiding spirits for Symphony of the Seas.”

“Words can’t describe the overwhelming emotions we’re feeling,” said Carlos PenaVega, alongside Alexa and Ocean. “Royal Caribbean ships have been the backdrops to so many unforgettable moments in our life, and it means so much to us to be named Godfamily of Symphony of the Seas. Royal Caribbean continues to make amazing memories with our family, and this next adventure will be our best yet.”

The family will have the honor of formally naming Symphony when she arrives to her permanent home in Miami in November.

Royal Caribbean talks social media, Symphony of the Seas, Cuba, guest spending and more

In:
26Apr2018

During Royal Caribbean's first quarter 2018 financial call with investors, the company shared some interesting anecdotes, facts, and insight into the ever changing cruising environment.  While most of the information discussed in these earnings calls deal primarily with financial indicators, cruise guests can glean some insight into how Royal Caribbean runs its business.

Social media driving demand

Off the bat, Royal Caribbean's top brass was quick to point out that social media is crushing it in terms of raising the brand's awareness to consumers, assuaging myths about cruising and most importantly, driving demand.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke about the impact of social media, "I attribute some of the recent healthy growth and demand to our success in the social media environment. Our social media teams really are doing an amazing job."

RCL Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty also talked about how social media has helped Royal Caribbean this quarter, "Levers, like social media and so forth, are really helping break through stereotypes on cruise and we have seen a real change in our new to cruise volumes.  That is also suggesting that a lot of these past detractors are becoming fans of cruise."

Symphony receiving tons of good press for a sister ship

There is no question that Royal Caribbean is proud of the launch of its newest ship, but the executives were down right impressed by how well Symphony of the Seas is selling, especially considering she is the fourth sister ship in the class.

Mr. Fain spoke about the public's reaction to Symphony of the Seas, "The public reaction to Symphony of the Seas was surprising even to us. Even though she is the fourth in the amazing Oasis Class series of ships, she has so many new amenities and attractions, that our guests and the media were simply blow away. Rarely has a sister ship received such press, and rarely has it been so deserving of it."

Mr. Liberty expanded on the results Symphony of the Seas has brought to the cruise line, "Prices for Symphony have not only exceeded our lofty expectations, they have also been even better than we saw from Harmony last year."

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley shared an anecdote about Symphony of the Seas' early success, "The week after we introduced Symphony of the Seas, our bookings beat track by 50%. That is the week after we introduced the ship, so it's really performing well."

Consumers want shorter, more frequent vacations

A trend that Royal Caribbean has picked up on is the desire for short Caribbean getaway cruises.  As a result, Royal Caribbean has invested heavily in Mariner of the Seas and the improvements coming to CocoCay.

"We're seeing more and more people opting for shorter, but more frequent vacations. We are responding to that call by modernizing Mariner of the Seas, which is one of our Voyager Class ships, and we're raising our game in the short cruise market with this upgraded vessel, " Mr. Fain explained, "At the same time we also announced a major upgrade to our private destination in the Bahamas at CocoCay that we are calling, appropriately I might add, Perfect Day. Perfect Day in that destination will be another great addition to our Caribbean offering.  It is really thrilling to see the work take shape, and I'm certain that this destination will get tongues wagging just as much as our new hardware has done."

Michael Bayley also spoke about what Royal Caribbean is doing to meet customer demand, "We're very excited about Mariner as a product coming into the shorts market, and that's very much focused on new to cruise, and Millennial, and that really is the on ramp for that market.  That ship is literally like having an Oasis Class ship in the short product market, because its capacity is just over 3200-3400 every three or four days."

Guest spend & onboard revenue is up a lot

If you want to find the "secret sauce" to what is making the biggest difference in Royal Caribbean's quarterly growth, onboard revenue is a big factor.  This means the things guests spend on their cruise above and beyond the cruise fare.

Mr Liberty spoke about the growth the cruise line is seeing in this area, "The main driver of the positive earnings in yield was the continued strength in onboard revenue, which was up 6.3% for the quarter. This result is notable considering that it follows an 8.9% improvement from the first quarter of 2017."

"Guest spend from onboard activities has continued to shift towards areas that involve experiences over buying things, and this quarter was no different. Beverage packages, specialty restaurants and internet were the main revenue streams driving the quarterly beat."

Mr. Bailey also spoke about the onboard revenue growth that Royal Caribbean is seeing, "We've been really pleased with our pre-cruise sales, and we've seen a significant uplift year over year that's been increasing for the past couple of years and it's been a big driver of onboard spend.  We kind of figure, for every dollar that we earn pre-cruise, we'll see somewhere between a 30 and a 50% uptick in the onboard spend."

"And then of course over the years, we've invested quite heavily in new venues, new attractions onboard of our ships and many of those are revenue generating.  We're beginning to see a lot of those now yielding superior revenue because of the kind of services they provide."

Cuba update

Another area that we received an update on was Cuba and cruises there.  A recent leadership change alongside strong demand for cruises to Cuba generated an update on where the cruise line stands with regard to this newly offered destination.

Royal Caribbean Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein spoke about Cuba, "We've been commenting over time about the fact that the Cuban market has been a good market for us to enter. The customer satisfaction about Havana has been very, very high. But the reality is that there is still just one functioning pier that ships can go to on either side of the pier in Havana.  There is going to have to be some type of considerable infrastructure improvement that takes place over the next several years, that will probably take time."

"I think what we've been seeing lately is that the Cuban Government has gotten a little bit more efficient in maximizing the use of the pier on both sides, and our company has definitely been a beneficiary of that. We've been able to increase the number of sailings on a year over year basis, even though their capacity hasn't increased."

"For what it is, it's been terrific, but in the overall sense of our portfolio, it is still fairly small. And we haven't seen any change whatsoever in their attitude towards us or their dealings with us, as it relates to their change in government to this point."

A look at the state of digital marketing

Michael Bayley provided a look at how Royal Caribbean is leveraging digital marketing (as opposed to traditional marketing) to better reach customers.

"We think that there's better targeting, and it's a more efficient channel. And certainly, with our social media presence, we believe that we've maneuvered ourselves into a really strong position in our space. In fact, we just recently conducted an independent survey of where we are positioned in terms of the social media universe, and we came out of it exceptionally well, in terms of how people view Royal Caribbean through that lens and how they are engaging with Royal Caribbean."

"We are also seeing that with the response from onboard internet, and how people are using the accelerated internet to utilize social media to actually promote our brands, which has been really quite effective."

Video: Ultimate Family Suite Unveiled on Symphony of the Seas

In:
25Apr2018

Imagination brings the one-of-a-kind Ultimate Family Suite to life with 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 the 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.”

Video: Symphony of the Seas Arrives in Naples Timelapse

In:
12Apr2018

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas arrived in Naples, Italy, for the first time and there's a great timelapse video of the world's largest cruise ship.  

Video: Coolest Things to do on Symphony of the Seas

In:
06Apr2018

The largest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is the bucket-list-worthy vacation for all ages. Packed with thrilling adventures, delicious dining and jaw-dropping entertainment, it’s the ultimate experience you won’t want to miss.

Royal Caribbean names Symphony of the Seas 'The World's Most Instagrammable Ship'

In:
05Apr2018

Royal Caribbean declared its newest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, is the world's most Instagrammable cruise ship.

To help guests make the most of these Insta-moments, Royal Caribbean has appointed Russ Francis as the company’s first ‘Instagrammer-in-Chief’ as Symphony takes her first guests on their holidays in the Mediterranean from Barcelona, Spain.

Russ Francis’ Instagram skills were spotted by the company when he entered Royal Caribbean’s search for the first Instagram Intern-Ship at sea in 2017. His new role will be to help inspire guests to do the ship justice through their Instagram content and establish Symphony of the Seas as the world’s most Instagrammable ship.

“For something to be truly Instagrammable it has to be unique enough that people want to show off about it” comments Russ Francis, Royal Caribbean Instagrammer-in-Chief. “It’s so much more than being a pretty setting. Extraordinary Instagram content causes a reaction whether that’s jaws dropping in amazement or mouths watering at the very best dishes, it’s about capturing experiences that ‘wow’ the viewer. Symphony of the Seas ticks every single box making it the world’s most Instagrammable cruise ship.”

Russ has developed his guide to the ten most Insta-worthy moments that will help achieve the Insta-famous goal.

  1. Ultimate Abyss – The faces of those who have just survived the white-knuckle descents of the tallest slide at sea is not something you want to miss on camera… but can you capture the exhilaration just at the right moment for the perfect Insta shot?
  2. Central Park – Snap the lush greenery of over 12,000 tropical plants in this serene open-air neighbourhood. Packing this picture with as many beautiful and natural colours as possible will make it stand out on Instagram feeds.
  3. Ultimate Family Suite – For a shot at the most exclusive onboard content, make friends with the adventure seeking family staying in the Ultimate Family Suite! With 1,346 square foot filled with a plethora of features including an indoor slide, air hockey table and an eye-popping LEGO wall, you can take advantage of the mix of the bold colours and interesting shapes, making it the most brag-worthy content for Instagram.
  4. Vitality at Sea Spa – The tranquil spa is perfect for an ultra-smug Insta moment in between chilling out and being pampered. ‘Towel selfies’ are very in right now after all.
  5. Pool and Sports Zone – This part of the ship is teeming with action packed Instagram potential. Simply turn your camera towards one of the three colourful waterslides, two FlowRider ® surf simulators or nine-deck high zip line for adrenaline-fueled shots.
  6. Paradox Void– Discover an unusual and strangely captivating reflective art installation stretching high above you in the Royal Promenade. Made from 1,200 steel triangles, getting the lighting right here can work magic to the reflective surfaces, adding instant intrigue for your followers.
  7. AquaTheatre – Head to the aft of the ship to snap the dazzling amphitheatre-style theatre and experience stunning aquatic acrobatics and high-diving aerial performances. This will test your reflexes as you try to capture the live action against an unbeatable ocean backdrop.
  8. Royal Theatre – With unparalleled entertainment onboard there are umpteen content moments every evening, but for something really special just shimmy your way down to the Royal Theatre for a rendition of “Hairspray” to see if you can capture the excitement of live theatre in just one snap.
  9. Solarium Big Wonder (art installation) – A one-of-a-kind work of art comprised of thousands of dichroic acrylic elements is the first to be featured in the Solarium, spanning an area of 2,594 square feet and flooding the pool beneath with natural light. The poolside palm trees bathed in this contrast of light and shadow make it a must-capture shot for any serious Instagrammer.
  10. Hooked - Royal Caribbean’s first New England-style seafood restaurant will feature fresh seafood and a robust raw bar complete with oysters harvested to order. Located at the front of the ship in the adults-only Solarium, the casually sophisticated restaurant will offer expansive views of the open water – the perfect backdrop for a mouth-watering insta-shot.

To celebrate Symphony of the Seas being the world’s most Instagrammable ship, Royal Caribbean is launching a competition for all onboard guests to post in their best Instagram shots of the extraordinary ship. Using the hashtag #SymphonyoftheSeas, Russ Francis, the new Instagrammer-in-Chief will judge the best posts. The Instagrammers of the best ship shots will win an onboard treat from a massage in the spa to a bottle of Champagne in their suite.

Russ also shared some tips for anyone looking to use Instagram.

  • Take photos in a square frame - Instagram images appear as a square, so take your Instagram snaps in a square frame. This way, all of your picture will appear in the upload, and you won’t need to crop or zoom to ensure everything fits in.
  • Strong colours, shapes, lines and good lighting - To help your Instagram shot have the WOW factor; make sure it has strong colours and defined shapes and lines. If you’re struggling to make the lighting work and are flexible about timings then return to your shot at the ‘Golden Hour’, the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset, to capture something really shareable.
  • Use negative space - Negative space means the physical space that surrounds your image subject. Instagram photos that have the right mix of negative space and a tangible object can really stand out.
  • Reflections - Reflections are a quick and easy way to get an interesting and unusual effect on your Instagram picture. Water, mirrors and glass are three great surfaces to get you started
  • Use gridlines to balance your shot – Improve snaps by taking the photo outside of the Instagram app and using your phone’s gridlines function. Apply the ‘rule of thirds’ and ensure that compositional elements are placed along the nine lines and their intersections of the grid. Pros claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest than simply centering the subject.
  • Show some personality – Layering on words and stickers to an Instagram Story can add some fun and individuality to your extraordinary shots that usually encourages greater levels of engagement.
  • Use a great caption - These days, it isn’t just about the picture or videos. Captions play a big role in how many likes you get and how people engage with your Instagram content. Use emotive descriptions and humour to connect with your followers.

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