Symphony of the Seas Live Blog

Symphony of the Seas Live Blog - Day Five - Embarkation Day

In:
14Nov2018

When is the last day of a cruise not the last day of a cruise? When you are doing a back to back cruise!

Symphony of the Seas returned to PortMiami and while that meant the end of the 4-night sailing, I was staying on for the next 2-night cruise.

After waking up, I packed up my belongings and got myself ready to go.  My stateroom attendant would move my suitcases and clothes on a hangar to my new stateroom for me, so all I needed to do was get it all together.

It is a bit surreal being on a cruise ship on turnaround day when it seems everyone else is scrambling to get off the ship and go home.  In the 9am hour, when most guests are off the ship already, it feels like being in a store after they close.

At 9:45am, I reported to the main dining room on deck 4 to meet other consecutive cruisers.  I estimated there were roughly 100 or so of us.

After a bit, we were escorted off the ship and over to Terminal A for U.S. Customs.  Something different here was instead of talking to a Customs agent, we used faceless recognition machines.  You stare at this machine, it processes your face and then lets you go on your way.

After that, we were issued new SeaPass cards and made our way back onboard.

This new sailing is a 2-night preview sailing, provided by Royal Caribbean.  I’m sailing on this cruise as a guest of Royal Caribbean, which means it was provided without cost.  

Back onboard the ship, it felt like embarkation day with lots of new guests exploring the ship and plenty of celebrations going on.

My wife joined me on this sailing, so we spent some time walking around and exploring the ship.

On this sailing, we are staying in a oceanview balcony stateroom.  

The neat thing about this room is we are somewhat on the “hump” of the ship, so our balcony is a bit deeper than a standard balcony.

Sailaway brought us up to the pool deck for another dance party with the backdrop of a beautiful Miami sunset.  Say what you will about which port you prefer to sail from, but Miami sailways are among the most scenic.

We headed back to our room to get ready for dinner and the evening.

We attended a reception for members of the media in Dazzles, which featured a terrific jazz band performing.

Next it was over to Chops Grill for dinner.  

We rounded out our evening on the Royal Promenade and a street party event.

Tomorrow our ship will be in Nassau, Bahamas.

Stray Observations

  • There are lots of beautiful flower arrangements onboard the ship.
  • It looks like dry-aged steak is back on the menu at Chops.

Symphony of the Seas Live Blog - Day Four- Sea Day

In:
13Nov2018

The last day of my first Symphony of the Seas sailing is here, and being that I will be on the next sailing, it certainly feels odd with that notion that this sailing is almost over and yet I am still going back.

Like every morning of this cruise, I woke up earlier than I probably should have.  Despite some late nights, once I wake up and remember where I am, my mind starts going and sleep is no longer an option.

I spent my morning relaxing by the pool in the shade and with a nice breeze.  One thing I love about Symphony’s pool deck is there are so many spots in the shade.

The weather today was noticeably windier than previous days.  There was a slight chop in the ocean, which meant very, very subtle movement sensations onboard. Considering the first two days of the cruise had virtually no motion, today’s ocean waves were merely a footnote.

I probably had more grandiose ideas for how to spend my morning, but I decided to take it easy.  As lunch rolled around, I headed down to Central Park to enjoy Chops.

I asked the waitress if I should get the filet mignon or the dry-aged burger.  She recommended the filet.  I suppose the chances of something outranking a filet is quite low.

The entire Chops meal was great, and I was glad to sneak that in.

I stopped by Boleros to notice they have the Coco Loco on their menu.  The Coco Loco is the official drink of Coco Cay, and I suspect perhaps the inclusion on this menu is a tie-in to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

I stopped back in my room to find that I had received my consecutive cruiser letter. The letter explains what to do on turnaround day tomorrow and where to be. Moreover, it mentions Royal Caribbean will move my luggage for me to my new room, which is such a relief not to have to schlep my own stuff around until rooms are ready at 1pm.

As day turned to night, I spent some time down in Central Park.  Central Park is my favorite neighborhood and evening is the best time of day to hang around.  The contrast of lighting and flora really stand out.

After getting ready for dinner, I walked down to Deck 4 to check out the Diamond Lounge.  Of note, the Attic was being used as a Diamond Lounge overflow space.

One thing everyone needs to do on Symphony is see the Solarium art piece at night.  So beautiful.

Dinner tonight was at Hooked.  I was excited to try a new restaurant, but I will admit that I was somewhat concerned about the menu options for myself since I do not eat shellfish.

I was happy to see there were a few different options to consider, including the messy fish sandwich in which the staff puts a bib on you.

My tablemates indulged in some of the oysters and mussels, while I went with the grilled salmon.

Overall, I thought Hooked was a good restaurant and I certainly did not dislike anything about the meal.  We had a great waiter and I think we enjoyed everything we ordered.  Nonetheless, it just did not stick out as the kind of restaurant I really wanted to go back to again and again.  As I recall, I felt indifferent to Jamie’s Italian the first time I dined there and now I love it, so who knows how this will all go.

After diner we grabbed a few drinks in the Pub, but I think 3+ days of fun on Symphony had caught up with us, so we pulled a Michael Poole and called it an early evening.

Tomorrow is day one of a 2-night Symphony preview cruise for media and travel professionals.

Symphony of the Seas Live Blog - Day Three - Cozumel

In:
12Nov2018

We have reached our first port stop of Cozumel, and while it sounds cliched, I have plans for fun in the sun.

We were alongside the pier at about 8am, but I did not get of the ship (or up) quite that early.  My plan was to be off the ship by 9:30, and we managed to hit that goal.

Being in Cozumel today was somewhat different, because it was a Sunday and we were the only cruise ship in port.  I am not certain that has ever happened to me before in Cozumel.  Moreover, there was a triathlon event today and the cycling portion of the event meant they closed a lot of roads for the morning.  My taxi ride that should have taken 20 minutes or so ended up going over an hour due to detours and delays.

My plan today was to try a new all-inclusive day pass spot, El Cozumeleno Resort.  Not only was this a resort I have not been to, but it is also the first time I have gone further north past downtown.  All the day pass resorts I have been to have all been south of downtown.

Despite the traffic issues, we arrived and checked in at the lobby.   El Cozumeleno is a hotel that sells day passes to anyone.  The cost is $55 per person and I booked it via a third party website.

From the moment we checked in, I knew this was somewhere special because service seemed to be quite important to the hotel staff.  We were served welcome drinks, and the staff set us up at a perfect spot at the pool.

Our day pass includes all the food and beverages offered at the hotel, as well as access to the grounds.  The only thing not included was towels or motor sports.

El Cozumeleno is quite large, and has a beautiful and scenic beach area.  There are two beach areas that you can choose from.

The north beach has palapas, while the south beach area has hammocks and a more pristine view.

The thing that attracted me to El Cozumeleno is the pool, and it did not disappoint.  There are two pool areas, with the south pool area being expansive and impressive.

Between the two pool areas is a buffet and sit down restaurant. In addition, food can be ordered and eaten from the pool or beach.

There were waiters that roamed the pool area and took any food or drink orders we wanted. They were extremely friendly and always around to take an order.

As soon as I sat down, I knew this place was a good decision.  The grounds are lovely, and the wonderful service made the day so fun.

I stayed there for most of the day and left at 3pm.  I would have stayed a bit longer, but I was concerned that perhaps the triathlon event was still snarling traffic.

Luckily there was no traffic, so we explored the port area a bit.  I may have stopped into one or two of the (in)famous establishments along the water.

All aboard was 5:30pm, and we got back onboard Symphony of the Seas an hour or so before that. 

Back onboard, I headed up to the pool deck to watch sailaway and enjoy a beautiful sunset.

I headed back up to the room for a shower and to get ready for this evening.

I had no dinner plans for tonight, so I decided to check out Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade.  It seemed like a good opportunity to see how their food stacked up.

I ate with a group of friends from MEI Travel, and we ordered quite a bit from the menu.

I tried the buffalo wings and went with the hottest sauce choice and it was quite tasty.  Their burger is by far the best choice on the menu, but I did enjoy the chicken sandwich and the portobello slider.

After dinner, it was time to see the new AquaTheater show, HiRO.

Luckily, a friend is staying in an AquaTheater suite, so I was able to watch the show from there.  Honestly, while I enjoy the convenience of the AquaTheater suite, I think the show is best enjoyed from the seats from a pure visual standpoint.  Nonetheless, it was a fantastic show.

If you have seen an AquaTheater show, then you know these are performances full of skilled choreography, diving, dancing and some incredible feats of balance.

After the show, I saw the Quest in Studio B, where Instagram celebrity Cruise Life Rick managed to come out victorious.

We celebrated with some time in the Schooner Bar watching Billy Pando perform. Billy has a well-deserved reputation as being one of the, if not the, best piano singers on Royal Caribbean. It was a great way to cap off our evening.

Tomorrow is the last day of this sailing, and it is a sea day.

Stray Observations

  • Everyone onboard received two bottles of Symphony of the Seas themed Heinken beer.
  • My stateroom attendant asked if I was a consecutive cruiser, but I have not gotten any letter yet about the transition.  I will just head to Guest Relations to ask.

 

Symphony of the Seas Live Blog - Day Two - Sea Day

In:
11Nov2018

The second day of our cruise is a sea day and that means out first full day onboard Symphony of the Seas. 

We had a lot of fun last night, perhaps even too much fun last night, so it was kind of a slow morning.  I opted to grab Starbucks to kicks start my morning once I got up.

The creator of Izumi is on this sailing, and I had a great sit down chat with Chef Travis on Facebook Live and we talked all about Japanese cuisine and he surprised me with an authentic Udon noodle soup to enjoy.

After we wrapped on our chat, I was feeling the effects of not sleeping enough the last two nights so I headed back to the room for a much needed nap.

I woke up feeling much better and headed up to the pool deck for some time outdoors with a breeze. I found ample seating near Splashaway Bay and was treated to a glorious day.   

The weather was the kind of sea day weather everyone dreams of to enjoy by the pool.

As evening set in, I headed back to the room to change for formal night.

To start our evening, we went to Wonderland for happy hour.  We have the drink package, but it’s still a fun spot for drinks.  I would point out that from 5-7pm, you can get two of their cocktails for $15.

Dinner was in 150 Central Park, and this was my first time dining there since Chef Michael Schwartz ended his relationship with Royal Caribbean.

Being formal night, the restaurant was busy, but we were seated promptly at our dining time.  We started off the meal with their signature cocktail, the cucumber martini.

For our entrees, I tried the halibut and cauliflower steak.  Halibut was excellent, while the cauliflower steak was nothing special.

My friend ordered the steak and while the menu lists it as a steak for two, you can get a single portion.

After diner, we checked out the comedy show. We had no tickets, but managed to get in via the standby line.

The comedy show had the opening act and the headliner and both were great and this being the adult show, there was definitely nothing held back.

After the comedy show, we meandered around the ship seeking out a good time onboard.  It seemed like a lot more people were out and about this evening compared to day one.

Tomorrow is our first port stop of Cozumel.

Stray Observations

  • The Voom internet has worked quite well and performed as well as any ship I have been on.  Even my consumer grade VPN was able to connect.
  • Speaking of Voom, my phone was getting signed out from the Voom and I discovered having open browser tabs with the Voom login page may have been to blame. Lesson learned is after signing on, close the browser tab.
  • We received another gift in our room.  Symphony of the Seas sunglasses and a can of hairspray (in honor of the Broadway show onboard with the same name).

  • I tried the “new and improved” Sorrento’s Pizza and I can tell it is better than what it used to be.  The crust especially is quite good.

  • Not surprisingly, many of the soft drinks onboard are in the European forms.

  • The Starbucks onboard does not have the full red cup menu yet.  I was told by the time the Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise comes around next week, they should have it.

  • I asked at Guest Relations and it sounds like we will be able to stay onboard as a consecutive cruiser for the next sailing that I am on.

Symphony of the Seas Live Blog - Day One - Embarkation Day

In:
10Nov2018

After years of planning and excitement, Symphony of the Seas has arrived in Miami and that means time for my cruise onboard.

The night before, I drove down to Boca Raton from Orlando, Florida to help break up the three and a half hour drive.  The morning of the cruise, I woke up far too early (I was just too excited to sleep) and drove down to Miami to get going.

I had rented a car, so I returned the car at the Budget office that was fairly close to PortMiami.  I got to the office around 8:30am and as I expected, there was lots of people there who were picking up a car following their cruise ending.  Luckily, the return process was super simple and it only took me a few minutes.  They did offer a shuttle that brought me to the port.

I got to Terminal A at PortMiami far too early, but I figured I would rather wait there than my hotel room or on the highway in traffic.  The doors were closed until about 9:30am, at which point check-in began.

The check-in process at Terminal A was extremely easy.  I used the Royal Caribbean App’s digital set sail pass.  There was a line of port agents who expedited the check-in process, followed by a standard security screening. It was easy, fast and well-run considering it was their first few times actually doing this.

Terminal A is beautiful, and frankly a pleasure to be in.  Every cruiser I talked to spoke so highly of the beautiful nature of the new cruise terminal.  I think we were all impressed by the beauty of the building, and pleasantly surprised by the fact this cruise terminal was fundamentally different than any other cruise terminal we had ever been in before.

The boarding process began right around 11am and getting onboard Symphony I was so excited to see the ship I had read, heard and seen so much about.

The ship looked amazing and this being my first Oasis Class cruise ship in over a year, I had almost forgotten just how impressive and dynamic a ship of this size can be.

They were serving complimentary champagne to everyone boarding the ship, which was the first of many ways Royal Caribbean was celebrating the arrival of Symphony of the Seas to North America.

As is tradition for myself, my first stop was embarkation day lunch in the Windjammer.   

Properly fed, I started exploring Symphony of the Seas and walked the ship.  Naturally, my exploring of the ship may have coincided with some bar hopping.

I managed to exchange an old WOWband for a new one (I had an old WOWband from a previous Royal Caribbean cruise).  Something different about this WOWband is the muster station is not marked on the band. The WOWband sale location was in Boleros.

At 1pm the staterooms were ready.  On this sailing, I am staying in a Central Park balcony room.  I have stayed in this category of stateroom on multiple occasions, and I really enjoy it.

I had the 3-night dining package on this sailing, so I also went to make reservations for dining.  I found it a bit more difficult than on other sailings I have been on to get a reservation.  It seemed like a lot of guests had booked specialty dining on this sailing.  We managed to get reservations, but not at our first choices of times.

Following muster drill, it was time to head up to the pool deck for sailaway.  Our sailaway was a bit later than usual, for a very good reason that I will get to in a moment.  To start off, we enjoyed a picture perfect sunset over Miami.

At 6pm, it was time for another celebration of Symphony’s arrival, with a special fireworks send off.

We remained docked at Terminal A as the Miami Fire Department saluted the ship.

Then, it was time for an amazing fireworks spectacular.  The show must have lasted around 10 minutes and I loved every minute of it.

At last, it was time to sail away from Miami.

Dinner tonight was in Izumi, and it was a fantastic meal.  Some of the best sushi I have had in recent memory.

Following dinner, it was time to party and enjoy our first night onboard.

At midnight, there was a balloon drop on the Royal Promenade, which was a lot of fun.

Tomorrow is a sea day and that means lots more exploring!

Stray Observations

  • All guests were given a complimentary Symphony of the Seas inaugural season hat.
  • There are a few pieces of art in the stairway that have a three dimensional look to them, and they are very interesting and also a bit trippy to look at.
  • This is the first cruise I have been on with the no plastic straws or stirrers policy in place.  Paper straws all around.

Symphony of the Seas 2018 Live Blog - Cruise Preview

In:
06Nov2018

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas is nearly at her new home of PortMiami, Florida, and I will be onboard a few of the first few sailings and LIVE blogging every day of the cruise, to share with you what it is like to experience this amazing ship.

This is a somewhat different type of live blog, and cruise experience, for me.  I will be on three different sailings, separated by two days between sailing two and three.  Our cruise begins later this week, but here is a cruise preview to share with you what to expect on our trip!

The Cruise

As I mentioned, I will be on three different Symphony of the Seas sailings. Here are the three sailings:

  • November 9: 4-night Western Caribbean sailing
  • November 13: 2-night media sailing to Nassau
  • November 17: 7-night Western Caribbean Thanksgiving sailing

I did not intend to go on three different Symphony sailings off the bat, but I am certainly not objecting to it.  Originally, I booked the November 17 Symphony of the Seas Thanksgiving sailing to make it a Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise.  I figured a lot of other folks would want to not only go on the first full sailing Symphony offered from North America, but also enjoy a fun holiday sailing together.

Then I noticed the quick 4-night weekend cruise Symphony of the Seas will offer when she first arrives and opted to hop on that sailing since living in Florida we could make that happen fairly easily.

On top of that, Royal Caribbean invited me to come aboard a two-night Symphony of the Seas preview cruise, where members of the media, travel agents and other VIP's are invited to check out this new ship. Royal Caribbean Blog has been lucky enough to have been invited to a couple other preview sailings on Anthem of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, so to be honored with an invite for this sailing is quite gratifying.

The nice thing about going on these three sailings is that I should sufficient time to conduct research and collect information for future Royal Caribbean Blog content.  The group cruise is the icing on the cake, with the opportunity to enjoy Symphony of the Seas with a group of friends and have a great time together onboard.

Staterooms

We will be staying in three different stateroom categories across our sailings.

On the 4-night sailing, we have a Central Park balcony stateroom.  I have stayed in this room category multiple times across other Oasis Class ships and it is a favorite of mine.  I love the ambiance you get with this room category and the bonus neighborhood balcony perks really sweeten the deal.

On the two-night sailing, we will move to an oceanview balcony. This is a classic stateroom option.

On the Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise, our kids join us and we move up to a Grand Suite.  

I booked the Grand Suite on the first day sailings became available and the price only went up from there.  Having the suite perks is always nice, and we decided to splurge a little for a nicer room.  

Itineraries

Our first sailing is a 4-night cruise with one port stop in Cozumel, Mexico.

While in Cozumel, we will check out the El Cozumeleno Beach Resort and see how it compares to other day pass places in Cozumel.

Our 2-night preview cruise will visit Nassau, Bahamas.  I am not certain if I will get off the ship or not.  There is usually a lot going on during these media preview sailings, so I may just stay onboard and take advantage of what the ship has to offer.

For the 7-night Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise, we will visit four ports along the way. 

  • Roatan, Honduras
  • Costa Maya, Mexico
  • Cozumel, Mexico
  • Nassau, Bahamas

Our first stop is Roatan, where everyone who booked with MEI Travel on the Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise gets to enjoy the Mayan Princess Resort Beach Break excursion.

Next up is Ccosta Maya and I get to return to my favorite all-inclusive resort in Maya Chan.  In fact, we're taking all the Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders on the cruise with us! Maya Chan is one of the best all-inclusive day passes I have ever been to, so the day will offer more time at the beach, and unlimited Shirley Temple's for my older daughter.

In Cozumel, we get to try one of the most popular day pass resorts on the island, Mr. Sanchos.  I have never been there, but heard some really good things for many years so I just had to try it.

Our last stop will bring us to Nassau, and we may go with a few friends cruising with us to check out a flight simulator experience.

Three things I am excited to try

3. El Loco Fresh

As many readers of this blog are keenly aware, I am quite the fan of Mexican food and more specifically, Sabor.  Symphony of the Seas does not have Sabor, so this will be my first opportunity to try the new Mexican option, El Loco Fresh.

El Loco Fresh is complimentary and I have heard generally good things.  While it may not match Sabor's excellent margarita collection or its freshly made guacamole, I am hoping it can satisfy my Mexican food cravings onboard.  If nothing else, the fact it is complimentary is a blessing to my SeaPass account (and a curse to my waist line).

2. Laser tag

I think it has been roughly twenty years since I last played laser tag, but I am excited to try this out on Symphony of the Seas.  

Laser tag has become a go-to activity that Royal Caribbean has added to its ships, and I am excited to see what Royal Caribbean's version of this game ends up looking like.  

1. Return to Roatan

I have not been to Roatan since my Navigator of the Seas cruise in 2014, so this has been a port we have not visited in quite some time.  The opportunity to come back excites me, especially since it has been so long since our last visit that it almost feels like a new port stop.

What's next

Our Symphony of the Seas cruise begins on Friday, November 9th, and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels. Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for live updates throughout the day.

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have. I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!