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Marc Van Niekerk

25th Anniversary on Symphony Post Cruise Not Remotely Live Blog - Eastern Caribbean Feb 2-8, 2019

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I'm going to make my first attempt at this and as I say in the title, this is not even remotely live.

We booked this cruise the day that Symphony sailings became available.  The plan all along was for our 25th wedding anniversary, although in out family we refer to February celebrations as Annivaleirthday as both my wife and I as well as one son have our birthdays in the month along with our anniversary and Valentines.  We mash them into one main celebration. The cruise itself was just prior to our anniversary but did encompass my birthday.

The itinerary when we booked was out of Miami with 2 sea days, followed by St Kitts, St Thomas, a sea Day, and finally Nassau before returning.  Somewhere alon the line it changed to be Nassau followed by a sea day, St Thomas, St Kitts and 2 sea days.

Part of the reason this is so late is I didn't bring a computer with me and managed to take nearly 800 photos not counting those on my phone.  It is quite a daunting task to cull that many photots while getting back to regular life and work.

I will leave it there for now with a photo from the Toronto airport on the day we left.


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Departure Day and Pre-Cruise Hotel

Our departure had some interesting hiccups along the way but it all worked out in the end but highlights why we prefer to fly out the day before a cruise. 

We had made an appointment for my wife to have her NEXUS Global Entry interview the afternoon of out flight so we arrived at the airport in plenty of time.  After the interview concluded we took an airport train to the correct terminal and went through security.  As we were going through security just after we had passed through the metal detectors there was a power outage in the airport.  Thankfully our bags had already passed through the machine as anyone whose bags were in the machine and those who were waiting for the metal detectors needed to wait about 15 minutes for the systems to reboot.

As we approached the customs agents they closed the doors to clear the backlog created by this power outage but about 5 minutes later the doors opened and we were quickly through customs too.  For those who have never travelled from Canada to the US, you pass US customs in Toronto airport creating much simpler arrival at your US destination.

After security we found that our flight had been delayed by several hours because of weather 2 flights upstream from ours.  Our plane was delayed leaving Washington DC for Miami due to de-icing which delayed the Miami to Toronto leg and therefore our Toronto to Miami.  We made the most of it and found some nice lounges with outside views and relaxed in the airport knowing we had plenty of time.

Once in Miami we made the long walk through the airport to luggage claim where we quickly found our bags and headed out to catch a shuttle to the Hotel.

For this cruise we used points to get a free stay at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Miami - Airport West.  We had never stayed at this hotel before but I'm never going to complain about free.  One note was that due to our late arrival (after 11PM) the room I had requested was no longer available and we were given a room on the main floor about as long a walk from the hotel entrance as there could possibly be.  The room was quite spacious though and we quickly settled in for whatever sleep we could get before a cruise.

In the morning we made our way to the included breakfast and then for a quick relax in the warmth of the pool as it was still only 8am.  Below is a photo from the pool area of a let passing over the hotel.


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We elected to take an UBER to the port and while the process was relatively easy I will note that our driver was not to familiar with where the new terminal was and didn't complete our ride until he passed the older terminals (without us in the car).  This resulted in a slightly higher charge than expected which I resolved with UBER directly.

Embarkation at the new terminal is the most streamlined process I could ever imagine.  Everything happens so quickly and easily I didn't have time to stop and take many photos of the facility.  I have a couple of snaps from my phone.

The area outside where you drop your bags is well designed ans seemed to flow well.  All signs of passengers who had left the ship before us were gone at 10:45 when we arrived.  Te left all our bags except my camera bag with a porter and proceeded inside.


Inside the terminal was a vast space with escalators up to the embarkation area.  The space is punctuated by the huge gold propeller sculptures.


From the escalator we were directed to a series of agents and there we were quickly checked in and directed to a line for the next escalator.  Here we were waiting briefly but not even long  enough to consider visiting a restroom.

Up the escalator appeared busy enough but not overcrowded.  The were already arranging for Suite and Key guests to embark.  After barely visiting the restroom, the called Emerald class and just like that it was time for us to board.

On feature of this terminal I really appreciated was that because we had used the escalators inside the building we were already level with Deck 5 and there were no additional ramps to climb.

Once aboard we headed directly to the MDR to arrange our speciality dining.  We had pre-purchased the Ultimate Dining package and wanted to get our reservations made.


Due to some large groups it was not as easy as we would have liked to get the times and restaurants we wanted but with a little work all was arranged.




Finally it was time for lunch and my much anticipated Kemmelweck sandwich.




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Just now, Marc Van Niekerk said:

Once aboard we headed directly to the MDR to arrange our speciality dining.  We had pre-purchased the Ultimate Dining package and wanted to get our reservations made.

Did you find a long line up of people during this time?  This is our plan too as we purchased the UDP for SY and this is our first stop after getting on the ship.

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Just now, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Did you find a long line up of people during this time?  This is our plan too as we purchased the UDP for SY and this is our first stop after getting on the ship.

Yes, there was a bit of a lineup and at the time, only on person helping passengers at a computer terminal.  I know Matt mentioned someone taking reservations on Brilliance with a piece of paper.  In our case there was a massive group from ABC Supply aboard and they had booked entire speciality venues some nights so that was the primary challenge.

If you are in a suite and or higher C&A level and get on sooner you may have a better experience.

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Embarkation Day Continued....

After lunch we headed to the Solarium to check things out.  I really appreciate the changes to the solarium compared to Harmony.  The addition of the pools resolved what we think was a big oversight. The seating options are also very attractive.


We moved along to the aft of the ship and the Wipe out Bar for our first drinks of the cruise.


After enjoying our drinks we moved down towards deck 10 in anticipation of the announcement that cabins were open.  As we made it there the doors were already open even though there had not yet been an announcement.  For this cruise we had selected a Boardwalk View balcony second from the end of the hallway with an obstructed view of the Aquatheatre.





Much to our surprise there were 12 bottles of water, a can of Diet Coke and 2 Heineken in the room besides the case of water we had purchased through the cruise planner.  I know the water is generally there as a C&A perk but never have we gotten so much.  The Heineken was kind of a creepy surprise.  It is one of my default beer choices when no speciality beers are available but how did RCL know that?  Please do not interpret this as a complaint.

Most of our luggage was already in the hallway so we took the opportunity to get unpacked before muster. 

Muster was uneventful as it should be and afterwards we headed to the Sports Deck (deck 16 AFT) for sail away.  We were in port with several other ships and here are a fe shots of them departing and as we departed.





Dinner was a Jamie's Italian.  We have dined here before on Harmony and honestly we weren't blown away but we decided to approach it fresh and we were incredibly pleased we did.  Sadly I didn't take photos of our food but things were great.  We shared a Classic Meat plank, Arancini Margherita, and Tomato Bruscetta to start.  My wife ordered Generro's Tagliatelle Bolognese and I had the Mushroom Fettuccine.  I have lost track of what we had for dessert, but suffice to say everything was excellent and the venue redeemed itself.

After diner we went to our cabin to relax for a bit before we would attend HiRO.  the show itself will be a separate post that I will work on tonight.  At that show I took nearly 300 photos.  I will share some selects what I feel show the essence of the program.  While in the cabin I took some photos looking down to the boardwalk and as we got to the boardwalk I took another.





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Day 1 - HiRO

This post will be photo heavy.  I had gotten a new camera on Black Friday and was very excited to try it out in a low light performance and the 300 shots I took proved that.  I have whittled it down a little.  The performance is breathtaking.  The athleticism, artistry and technical calibre were second to none.
































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Here ends Day 1

We left the performance and relaxed in the Schooner Bar with the  delightful piano playing of Billy Pando.


This was a heck of a day for Day 1 and left us with an love of the ship.  We couldn't wait to spend the next 6 nights aboard.

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Day 2 - Nassau Bahamas

I pick up on Day 2 where we were scheduled to be in Nassau from 7 am to 2 PM.  This was a rather short day and since we have been to Nassau several times and are scheduled to be there twice more this year we elected to stay aboard.

I got up fairly early to try to catch the sunrise as we came in to Nassau only to find that we were already tied to the pier.  Thankfully the lighting was agreeable for some photos.






We chose breakfast at Johnny Rockets.  JR is probably my favorite place to grab breakfast on an OASIS class ship.


Since we weren't going ashore we visited the hot tubs.


While there we noticed that the crew were practicing their lifeboat drills.


Our day was rather leisurely and I took a little stroll to grab some photos of the scenery and activities aboard and to sneak a shot of my wife on our balcony reading.





Set sail was rather uneventful and I managed a couple more photos as we left port.





There was some setup going for the massive tailgate on the Boardwalk for the SuperBowl including this Ice sculpture.


I was also able to watch the tightrope walker practicing from our balcony.


Dinner was at Chops and as usual was fantastic, punctuated by my favorite appetizer the Tuna Tartare.  


Not being much of a football fan, we had arranged to cap the night with the ice show 1977 in Studio B






Tomorrow is a Sea Day.  We will pick it up there.


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3 hours ago, Matt said:

Really enjoying these photos, although it's lacking Dianne giving you the disapproving looks I have seen all too often on group cruises! 😄

What can I say Matt?  No Drink Package, no bad influences on a Group Cruise (and yes, i'm looking at you) maybe there is a reason....

In truth, we had a great cruise just the two of us.  I will note that I got on her good side by waking every morning and heading down to Cafe Promenade to get her a Soy Latte.

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Day 3, Sea Day

First I want to commend the others who do this live blog thing.  Not nearly as easy as it seems.

Our sea day was spent quietly aboard.






Caught the stowaway piano player on the boardwalk.


More tightrope practice which I personally found fascinating and kept being drawn to watching.



Jazz Quartet on the Boardwalk


And finally the performance of Hairspary.  We had never seen this show before or really looked in to the story and we enjoyed it very much.  The performances were fantastic.





We had dinner tonight at Wonderland and I did not bring a camera which was a shame as they had the Hatter making the rounds.  What an interesting character.  He found out it was our anniversary during the cruise and brought a dessert and sang for us.

Tomorrow is the island of St Thomas and we have an excursion to Megens Bay for a Beach Break.

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Day 4 - St Thomas

Our day in St Thomas got off to a relatively quiet start. We were scheduled to arrive in port at 10 AM and so we had a nice breakfast before heading out to take some phots as we arrived. 









After the ship had docked we got ready for our excursion.  We had booked the Magen’s Bay Beach Getaway.  This consisted of a van ride to a lookout overlooking the beach and then on the the the beach, some free time at the beach and a ride back to the port.  The vans were an open air type where you ride in the back of a truck converted to a bus. Note to self for next time, get a picture of the vehicle.....

Here are some photos from the ride to the lookout.




As you can see from the photos there were 6 ships in port.  There was actually still one to arrive.  This was going to make for quite a busy day at the beach.  

Once at the lookout we could see the beach and it’s unique heart shape.


After a brief stop to allow for photos we made our way down to the beach itself.




On the return to the ship our driver stopped briefly so we could get a better view of Symphony as we approached.


Back aboard the ship we were greeted with some chocolates and treats for my birthday.


Dinner was a Chops.  The food was great, unfortunately the service was a little off as there was a large group dominating the staff’s time and there was a family with two young children who didn’t really want to be in a restaurant and weren’t afraid to make their unhappiness known.

After dinner I caught a sunset photo as we left port as well as an evening shot of the Big Wonder.



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On 2/28/2019 at 3:19 PM, Marc Van Niekerk said:

We chose breakfast at Johnny Rockets.  JR is probably my favorite place to grab breakfast on an OASIS class ship.



Is this "included" as "free" breakfast on Oasis class ships? and is it buffet style or order from a menu?

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