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Symphony OTS Live! - Transatlantic Oct. 28, 2018 "Coming to America"


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I haven't really addressed our cruise director on this sailing - Bobby Brown. I have to say a CD doesn't make or break a cruise for me.  I like some more than others but it's not a deal breaker f

Day 2 - Sea Day Moving South and West as we somewhat hug the coast of Spain.  Windy today, top decks closed.  The ship is handling great, minimal movement. After staying up into the wee hour

With that our tribe begins to appear unified and equal. Each is wearing a common tribal outfit. I've seen all of the aqua theater shows and this is my favorite.

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On 11/8/2018 at 3:43 PM, twangster said:

The Bistro on Anthem is good, make no mistake, but it wasn't the same experience.  Still enjoyable but Symphony's Bistro is in a different league.  

We loved the Bistro on Quantum, and found it lacking in comparison on Harmony.  We had a heavy handed chef with the salt that week.  Our only gripe on Quantum was that they told us no butter when our kids asked for it for their potatoes.  

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The U.S. Coast Guard performs routine and periodic inspections of all ships.  When a ship arrives from outside of the region or in the event of new ship arriving those inspections are more thorough.  Inspections today had begun.  The crew was also exercising a fire drill throughout the morning witnessed by the USCG inspectors.

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My destination today was very close, Grills restaurant where local Florida members of the RCPeriscopers.live group were meeting those of us from Symphony.  Located right behind Terminal 1 it's a great location to get pictures of the ship as well.

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With many guests already off the ship I took advantage of taking more photos with fewer people around.  

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Our cruise director had been making periodic announcements including frequently that port officials had requested they hold guests to avoid over crowding the terminal.  At 11 am I headed down to join the queue waiting to debark.

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Once inside the terminal I eventually reached a point where they separated Canadian and American guests into their own queue for Customs and Border Patrol officials.  Just before noon I was outside the terminal on my way next door to Grills.

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They had life boats down exercising them.  All life boats are lowered and operated on a periodic basis.  

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They were also touching up the paint getting ready for the grand debut in Miami.  Who knew there was a 'Baby' Symphony of the Seas?

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A great time was had meeting other members of the RCPeriscopers.live group all of which were extremely jealous that they weren't guests on board Symphony.  It's always great to meet people and put internet usernames to faces.

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After several rounds and some food it was time to get back on board.

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I am new to the blog but I wanted to provide some info on the ‘Crazy Ivans’ where the ship turned south and then west again.

We were on the same cruise and during a bridge tour we asked why the ship moved like that.  The officer said that because the wind from from the east at about 23 knots and the ship was moving about 21 knots they turn the ship like that to use the incinerator.  If not the ship would have ash rain down on the ship.  When the incineration is finished they would head back to the set course. 

There was also a turn for the Suite helideck party on Tuesday.  Bobby said that Captain Rob slowed and turned the ship so the Helipad would be more comfortable.  That said, it was probably the nicest Oasis class Helipad weather experience.

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Day 12 - Port Canaveral Sail Away

Our sail away was the highlight of the local news.  The largest cruise ship in the world coming to America was a big deal. 

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With a water cannon salute we pulled away from the pier with news helicopters flying overhead and a blast of the ship's whistle.

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A lot of people came out to see us off.

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We slowly made our way back into the Atlantic for our final night on board this wonderful ship.

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Looking back at Port Canaveral we had a beautiful sunset tonight to send us on our way to Miami. 

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Day 12 - Evening

Our last night on board.  Sigh...

Our progress so far:

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With 4,551 nautical miles behind us we hug the coast just far enough out to be outside the territorial boundary.

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Dinner tonight would be in Playmakers.  Since it's Thursday, football was on.

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I had wanted to see what their wings are like so for $8 I ordered the hot wings.

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They are pretty good and it's a great place to hang out and watch the game.

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Shortly after I ate they announced a hot wing challenge.  The winner got this super sized beer dispenser delivered to their table.

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Perfect for when the doctor or wife says you can have only one beer. 

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While I'm back here I thought I take a few more pictures.

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I'm not normally one to take pictures in a bathroom, but I wanted to show you some of the bathroom art:

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Back in Playmakers for a last night of Jenga with friends.  Not bad on a moving ship doing 20 knots.

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Ugh.  What a horrible thing to see.

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Day 13 - Miami and Debarking

Since I was up late with friends I slept as we arrived into Miami.

Our progress:

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Cruise total, 4,701 nautical miles.

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Still dark I ventured up to deck 16 to see what I could see.

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True to his word, Captain Rob had delivered us to Miami.

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A first look at the now complete new Crown of Miami terminal building.

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Since I was up here already I zipped into the Windjammer for a final breakfast.

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Since I was up here and it was dark outside I thought I'd share another new feature that can be found on Symphony of the Seas.  Electronic vending machines.

I tried taking some photos mid-cruise but the glare from the outside light coming through the windows made picture taking pretty hard. 

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While the machines are disabled when in port due to taxation and other retail regulations at any given port, these machines are generally available 24 hours a day when not in port.  That makes them a great alternative from the retail shops on board if you need something after hours.  

I know what you are thinking.  What kind of ungodly money do they charge in these vending machines?  Actually they are pretty reasonable.  I looked at an Over-The-Counter medication that was one of the more expensive items at $17.25.  The same item for the same size was $17.01 on Amazon (U.S.).  

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This is not Costco or Walmart of the Seas so I wouldn't expect prices to compete with land prices on everything but they didn't appear to be very different compared to drug store prices for a few items I looked at.   

The electronics do appear to have a higher premium compared to Amazon but realistically it's not fair to compare prices coming off a European transatlantic cruise to pricing at Amazon.  Few retail stores in America are the same price as Amazon.  

Are these going to be the cheapest prices for any item?  Not likely but the machines were very popular on this sailing any time I dropped by to try to take some pictures.  When you consider there is no additional tax collected as there would be (or should be) on land it's not that bad.

There is also a free charging station where you can securely store your device using a PIN you create.
 

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After breakfast I went down to deck 5 to have a look at the new terminal.

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There is another new terminal that has just started construction.  If I recall this is for another cruise line.

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That's Mariner of the Seas back down at terminal G.  She was using this new terminal for almost two weeks, testing it out and getting it ready for Symphony.

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There were a number of loyal guests transferring from Symphony to Mariner as well as Serenade today.  Royal Caribbean very generously offered a free transfer for us and that was greatly appreciated.  We were instructed to had down to Studio B at 9:15am as our meeting place.  Luggage tag #75 were distributed to us (the last of the luggage tag zones).  I placed my bag outside of my cabin the night before as instructed.

Can you figure out what the mess is on the floor of Studio B?  It's the inflatable laser tag from the night before.

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There were over 110 guests transferring to Mariner and Serenade today.

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Mariner guest count was in the mid 80s and Serenade guest count around 30.

Sometime around 10:15am were led out to be scanned off the ship and down the gangway into the terminal.  We didn't get the full terminal experience but it certainly looked great and had that new building smell to it.

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No customs processing here.  I found my bag and exited the terminal.

The pick up and drop off area is under cover of the building and it was pretty busy.  

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There was a little confusion at this point with respect to where we were to find our shuttle bus.  

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I found some fellow luggage tag 75 people and discovered they were also transferring to Serenade so we hung out as a group on the assumption there would be safety in numbers.  Eventually a Mariner bus was called and not long after another motor coach pulled up for Serenade.  Safely on board our bus we settled in for the short ride up to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.  

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The transfer could have been a little better organized but it was free and greatly appreciated so I'm not complaining.  I checked Uber and Lyft and both were in the $45 range.  Loyalty does pay.  I don't think this is normally offered as a free service so if you are planning a side-to-side cruise I wouldn't count on this.

One last look at Symphony as we drove away in our bus.

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Sometime around noon I was onboard Serenade using terminal 18 in Port Everglades.  

My 'office' here on Serenade as I finish with these last few posts.

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Cruise Summary

Symphony is a fantastic ship.  The evolutional changes and differences compared to her sisters including Harmony have been well thought out and executed.  The Solarium is outstanding and my favorite of all in this class.  The changing colors of the art in the Solarium day and especially at night is pretty great.

Playmakers is a hit and from my deck 8 boardwalk balcony very nearly on top of it I never heard any noise from Playmakers.  

The main shows such as Hairspray, 1977, Flight and HiRO were also fantastic.  Flight was very well done and I look forward to experiencing it again on the 50th birthday cruise.  The enhanced projection technology even in HiRO was noticed.  I appreciated the artistic nature of HiRO more and the symbolism of equality and unity.  

The crew were all top notch and I can't recall a single poor crew interaction.  Like all Oasis class the crew can be very busy at times but they always had a smile on their face.

I was pleasantly surprised how well the O3b Voom held up across the Atlantic.  There are times when poor weather or satellite switch-over can impact even the best satellite technology so it's not the same as internet on land but it never really let me down.

This was my first transatlantic but it won't be my last.  The days flew by and before I knew it I had to think about packing.  

Next cruise - Serenade of the Seas from which I am writing this post.  Ten days in the Eastern Caribbean.

I hope you have enjoyed following me on this journey and I thank you for viewing.

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1 hour ago, KathyC said:

@twangster Will you be doing anything from Serenade, or taking this sailing off? 

If they offer, you have to attend Diego's Italian hand gestures "class."  He's hysterical. 

I'm going to sit this Serenade out.  I've got a lot of work this week, won't be doing very much in port most days.  I've been to all these ports several times so no loss.  

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1 hour ago, twangster said:

I'm going to sit this Serenade out.  I've got a lot of work this week, won't be doing very much in port most days.  I've been to all these ports several times so no loss.  

I would have loved to know your opinion on how smaller ships compare to an Oasis class when there are limited choices for activities and dining. Really wanted to see this ship through your lens.

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I found your previous blog on Serenade, unfortunately most of your great photos are deleted, but I got this nice summary:

 

On ‎4‎/‎9‎/‎2018 at 1:13 PM, twangster said:

Cruise Summary

I really enjoyed my first Radiance class experience.  Compared to the Vision class it is greatly improved.  With all the glass around the Centrum you definitely feel connected to the sea.

Things I liked about Serenade:

  • Aft outdoor seating in the Windjammer where I ate most of my WJ meals.
  • Vintages wine bar with awesome seas views
  • Pub with live music
  • Centrum with different music at different times
  • Solarium especially when the roof was opened
  • Decent Voom experience (despite some issues with throttling)
  • Easy to get around 
  • Glass outward facing elevators
  • Good MDR experience
  • Great service (except Chops)
  • Helipad access

I have sister ships Brilliance and Jewel on my future cruises list and have no concerns now about booking these ships.

I enjoyed each port and was happy with the excursions I booked.  

Ten nights is a nice length.  

I'm keeping an eye on a Serenade cruise in the fall as I'd have no issues sailing this ship again.

 

 

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Thanks, Twangbot.  Great blog as always.

Disappointed to hear that the vending machines are closed while the ship is in port.  I understand why...it's just that I thought that the entire reason for having the vending machines was to make these much-needed items available when the ship's stores were otherwise closed.  Thanks for making that clear.

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On 11/5/2018 at 7:04 AM, twangster said:

Day 8 - Sea Day

Plants used within Central Park and subject to the agricultural restrictions of each country visited.  Even though she was first built out in Europe they had to choose plants that are approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for her arrival in America.  Upon our arrival they will send inspectors to the ship to check each and every plant to confirm it meets USDA regulations.  

Many countries do the same on a periodic basis, even some smaller Caribbean nations although Laszlo suspects some of them just want to see the ship and enjoy a lunch aboard.  None the less protocol requires they allow these inspections to occur for every country the ship visits.

Australia has some of the toughest agriculture regulations and for this reason it is unlikely they will ever send an Oasis class to Australia because they would pretty much have to strip Central Park bare and start all over with local Australian vegetation.   

Certainly true about Australia - as an island nation (but it's a pretty big island!), we have a very unique ecosystem and yes, we're very strict on flora/fauna crossing our border. 

Guess if I want to sail on an Oasis-class ship, I'll have to do it from the US. Factoring that into my super sweet 60th trip in 2022 as we speak!

Great blog, @twangster - RCI should have you on the payroll, given how many people you convince to cruise (more) with these blogs! 🙂

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