Just wanted to write down a few thoughts about our recent cruise to the Eastern Caribbean on Symphony of the Seas. There were 5 of us on this sailing, my wife and I, my kids (14 year old son and 10 year old daughter) and my Mother. We had two connecting cabins.
This was our first sailing on an Oasis class ship. We booked a Boardwalk balcony cabin, since it’s unique to this ship class. I’m glad we did, but if I sail on an Oasis class ship again I think I will look for an ocean view balcony cabin, more towards the bow. The noise from Hiro and movies in the evenings was very loud in our cabin, and I missed seeing the ocean. It’s almost doesn’t feel like you are on a cruise ship when you are on an Oasis class ship.
Door between connecting cabins is better on Anthem compared to Symphony. On Symphony it doesn’t fold back all the way and is held open by the door closer locking. If you accidentally touch it, it will close. From what I recall, Anthem was held open by a magnet and was flush against the wall. Still, I’m glad connecting cabins are available. It’s not an option at all on Radiance class ships.
Finding good beer on Royal continues to be an issue, even on the bigger ships. They lost the wrench they needed to change the Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin key in Playmakers, and they were out of a bunch of their more interesting can/bottle beers, even on Day 2.
Solarium was loud and crowded on the first two sea days, it was (slightly) quieter and (slightly) calmer out on the pool area where the kids where. But that was also a crowded mess. The pools looked almost as crowded as they do on DCL. Almost, but not quite. On DCL I think they only fill the family pools up halfway, the rest of the volume is taken up by all the kids in the pool.
Chair hogs/seat saving was out in full force everywhere (as usual). There were many large groups onboard, so two or three people were saving entire rows. On the bright side, at least for the shows, their family members generally did all show up eventually. I find it particularly annoying when people save seats for people that never come.
Our itinerary had to be changed because of the hurricane. Because of the change, we had beautiful weather in all of our ports. Instead of St Maarten on day 3, they moved up San Juan from Day 4 to Day 3. Then we went to Labadee on Day 4 instead of day 5. Day 5 was a sea day instead of a Port Day. Day 6 was a Port Day instead of a Sea Day. At first we were supposed to be re-routed to Coco Cay, which would have been amazing. I was looking forward to comparing the newly updated Coco Cay with Labadee. But because of the hurricane, Coco Cay had to be evacuated, so we instead went to Nassau. And our full day at Nassau was eventually shortened, because of concerns about the Port of Miami closing because of the hurricane, so all aboard time was 1:30 instead of 4:30.
We made the best of things, and we were able to have a quick visit to Pirate Republic brewery in Nassau for some flights of beer, after we went Laser Tag on the ship. I had booked Laser Tag for the sea day, but it turned into a port day because of the hurricane. We probably would have skipped it if we had visited coco cay, but i’m glad we didn’t -- we all had a great time doing laser tag. Well, my mother skipped it, but the rest of our participated. Even my wife enjoyed it, and she was a bit skeptical going in. I managed to get 2nd place on my team, which I thought was pretty good for an overweight 45 year old.
This was our first visit to Labadee, and everyone had a wonderful time. We booked a bungalow. I enjoyed having the bungalow on Labadee even more than the one we had on Coco Cay 16 months ago. I preferred being able to walk to the buffet for food, instead of getting the box lunch delivered. I felt the cabana attendants were much more attentive and faster. The beach in front of the bungalows was also better at Labadee vs Coco Cay. When I did the pre-check-in at the information desk near the ship, we were directed to the tram, but one of the golf cart guys ended up taking us off the tram and taking us to our bungalow, which was very nice. The cabana attendants were also able to call us a golf cart driver for the trip back to the ship. This was a nice surprise, as I wasn’t expecting this service.
We had the photo package, so I was always on the lookout for photo opportunities. One of the ships photographers was in the water at Columbus Cove, taking photos, so I was able to get a few photos of myself and the kids swimming, with our ship in the background. It reminded me of the time when I was at one of the Disney waterparks, and a photographer was stationed in the lazy river.
Three sea days meant three opportunities for the Tutti Salad station for lunch in the MDR. I’ve been disappointed recently with this on other ships, as I have noticed fewer options available. I’ve never seen chicken available on Anthem, just shrimp. And on one our our Anthem cruises, they even left the tails on the shrimp -- I had to try to pick shrimp tails out of my salad. Well, on Symphony the Tutti Salad bar lived up to its name, and did have everything available. They even had steak available for your salad, not just chicken. My wife and I were quite pleased. One of the waiters running the salad station was Eric, who was our waiter on Anthem 16 months ago, so it was nice to be able to say hi to him again.
We had early seating in the main dining room, and our waiter and assistant waiter took great care of us. We ate dinner there every day except for the first night. We somehow ended up with a complimentary specialty restaurant meal, so we ate at 150 Central Park the first night. I had the lamb wellington, which was quite nice. I also enjoyed the fried cheesecake for dessert. There were several young kids there crying, which was mildly annoying. At least they weren’t that close to our table. I would have been more annoyed if I was paying for the meal. On DCL I like that the specialty restaurants are adult-only restaurants.
Overall we had a wonderful cruise. It was fun to finally experience an Oasis class ship. It’s not my favorite class of ship, but I could certainly see myself sailing on one again in the future. I prefer ships that have public spaces with windows that let you see the ocean. I’ll book an ocean view balcony next time, which I think will help. The ship certainly had some great entertainment available, which I think is the big advantage to the larger ships. We all enjoyed Hairspray much more than we expected, and Hiro was also lots of fun. But sometimes I wonder how they come up with some of the things they include in the shows. I imagine Nick Weir in a conference room with a bunch of other RCL executives. When they were planning “The Gift” on Anthem, someone asks “What do kids like these days?” Someone says that their son saw some kid on YouTube jumping ramps on a BMX bike, and now keeps asking for one for Christmas. Nick Weir then declares, well we need to add a BMX bike trick scene in The Gift. For Hiro, someone mentions their kid had their birthday party at a trampoline park -- Nick Weir then declares, Hiro must include a trampoline segment, since that’s what the kids are into these days… 🙂
RCL also ended up giving everyone a FCC of 1/7th of the cruise fare, to make up for not going to Coco Cay, which I thought was very nice. They certainly didn’t need to do that. I think I'll be able to do put my immediate families credit towards our already booked cruise on Anthem next April, but my mother isn’t coming with us on that trip. So in order to use up her credit, I guess I'll need to look into booking all of us another cruise on Royal Carribean soon…