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LIVE - October 28 - November 9 - Barcelona to Miami - Bringing Symphony home


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After more than a year of lurking in the forum, vacation time has finally arrived! With all the help I got from this board and all the live blogs I read to live vicariously through, I decided to return the favor. This will not rival Twangster’s quality live blog, but we’ll try our best and offer a new-to-Royal perspective. I’ll do the typing and hubby will provide the pictures. If you’ve got any questions, I’ll do my best to find the answer. So without further ado...


Who are we and why this cruise?

Kerstin and Michael, in our mid-thirties, from Germany (Bavaria to be exact) and on our first TA, first Royal cruise – and first time out of Europe. We’ve cruised before – 3 times with TUI Cruises (German cruise line, joint venture with RCI), once with AIDA. We usually cruise for the itinerary, but made an exception for this cruise. After a brilliant video of Harmony from our favourite German Youtuber – the Schiffstester – we knew we wanted to try Oasis class – and that really experiencing it would take more than 7 days. We’d originally planned to book a Med B2B and not leave the ship, but the price on the TA was just too good – YOLO! I hate flying so to make it worthwhile, we added a 14 night Caribbean cruise on Caribbean Princess (RCI itineraries just weren’t to our liking).


Cruise preview – Barcelona to Miami

Ports of call: Malaga (Day 2) – not sure if we’ll get off the ship, maybe just for a stroll; Port Canaveral (Day 12) – Kennedy Space Center Guided Tour with Royal to avoid the long lines for immigration

Food & Beverage: we both got the deluxe drinking package and 5 night dining package. Additionally reserved Izumi Hibachi and Jamie’s as we plan to check out all the options.

Entertainment: all shows reserved, we’ll participate in a few CC events (Meet & Mingle, mini golf tournament, pub crawl, scavenger hunt). We’re also planning to book the all access tour.

Cabin: 8411 - inside stateroom at the fore


Pre-cruise & post-cruise

We’ve already prepared everything we want to pack and will pack tomorrow. Friday morning, we’ll drop off the boys (our five coonies) at the cat hotel, rush home, throw the luggage in the car and drive to my parents. They’ll drop us off at the airport Duesseldorf for our evening check-in, we’ll stay at the airport hotel as our flight is at 6.45am on Saturday. We’ll stay at Hotel Catedral in Barcelona and have booked a walking tour of Barri Gótic for the afternoon.

Post-cruise we’ll stay at Sense Beach House in South Beach until we board Caribbean Princess on 11th. It’s our first time in Miami, so we rented a car to get a good overview and do the essential shopping – I might pillage the Disney store as my sister is expecting her first child on November 23rd.


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2 hours ago, Tim B. said:

I have not been brave enough to go past 7 days on a cruise so I look forward to your blogging. Have an awesome time!

We've done two 14 nights (Canaries and Baltic Sea), one 7 nights (Med) and one 5 nights (Metal event cruise). We prefer the longer cruises, albeit usually with many port days. Up to this cruise we thought sea days were a necessary evil. Guess this view will change - this is the first time I had to make a spreadsheet for a cruise so we won't be bored.

On another note, with cruise fever finally starting we decided to pack today. I can report we have been successfull - after a bit of reorganization (and sorting out an abundance of clothes) all lugagge is below or at the weight limit. All I can say is I have no idea how I managed 3 months in London with a limit of 88 pounds a few years back ?

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The car is packed (food for the cats) and our luggage is downstairs, ready to load. Don't worry, we won't take everything on the ship. Part stays in the car as we're expecting to come home to winter weather. Although Bavarians should know how to drive in winter conditions, they certainly don't, so you always have to prepare for the worst. The presents are for the soon-to-be mommy and daddy ?


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Thank god it’s Friday! Only two nights and we’ll board Symphony – it’s finally getting real!


The day started early for us as we had to drop off the boys at the cat hotel. Luckily, everything went way better than expected. Four of them have never been there but instead of hiding under an armchair, they just went and explored the rooms and sometimes passed by to get some cuddles in between. We shouldn’t have worried, they’ll also have a great vacation.


After rushing home and loading the suitcases in the car, we were back on the road and vacation mode really started to kick in – true German style – getting all annoyed with other drivers because the motorway was packed. Turns out Southern Germany had their last school day before the autumn holidays – and a few other federal states had their last day of autumn holidays today. Not the best conditions for 400 km (249 miles) to get to my parents, but what can you do? Slowly crawl, I guess – at least in comparison as Germany doesn’t have a general speed limit for motorways.


4 hours later we did the required pre-cruise family visits and then went to the airport with my parents. Cue another hour of – you guessed it – packed roads and traffic jams. Finally, my parents dropped us off at the airport and took the car home with them – instead of us paying the astronomical parking fees, we prefer to spend the money on some speciality dining ?


Evening check-in was painless – we got rid of the suitcases in 5 minutes and walked to the Maritim airport hotel. After dropping our carry-ons off in our room, we went back to the airport for dinner. Mussels for me and pizza for Michael at L‘Osteria. Sorry, forgot to take pictures (I’m new to this blogging thingy) – but the food wasn’t something to write home about anyway. We also had our first beer as a warm up for the ultimate beverage package – an original Bavarian Franziskaner. The other option would have been Duesseldorf’s alt bier and as a born Cologne girl I’d rather die from thirst than drink that. I’m sure there are similar animosities between neighbouring cities in the US? ?


After dinner we went to the spa – Michael for the sauna and me for an hour in the pool to burn off the alcoholic calories. Now it’s off to bed as boarding starts 6.15 am tomorrow.

Maritim Room.jpg

Maritim Shower.jpg

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22 hours ago, Neaxan said:

vacation mode really started to kick in – true German style – getting all annoyed with other drivers because the motorway was packed.

Ah yes, one of the first German words I learned when I moved there...Stau. I remember it once taking 9+ hours to drive from Munich to Kaiserslautern (should have been 5ish hours). Also, I love me some Franzisakaner.

Enjoy the cruise!

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Thanks for all the kind words, love to do this kind of interactive. Actually, the blogging is fun and not a burden. Will be nice ro relive this once post-cruise depression kicks in. Currently waiting for hubby to upload the pictures on the laptop. I'm way too clumsy to type the whole thing on the phone ?

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After a very short night’s rest we got up at 4.15 am. Thankfully the hotel provided some tea, coffee and croissants. Well, tea for Michael – I usually don’t drink coffee or tea, but if hubby doesn’t get his regular fix he really is unbearable. Airport security was a breeze and we boarded the plane on time. Can’t tell you how the flight was, I slept away most of it ?


The good news: all our suitcases made it to Barcelona (I had a bit of a panic over this) and we promptly got them. The bad news: apparently we are NOT the only ones with poison green suitcases, some others indeed had the same model. Well, we got that sorted and everybody left with the right suitcases even though the luggage handlers managed to lose one of our luggage tag covers (the ones that were recommended on this board) ? Luckily, we got one spare.


Taxi to the hotel was 45 € (tip included) and I even got the chance to practice my long forgotten Spanish skills. Our hotel is Barcelona Catedral right in the middle of Barri Gótic. We arrived at 11 am, room would be ready at 2 pm so we went to explore the Disney store we saw coming in. Looks like it will be quite difficult to buy something for a baby boy if you don’t want it to be Marvel themed – maybe Miami has a better selection. On the way back we got soaked by torrential rain and decided to wait in our hotel’s lobby for the remaining hours. Thanks Eurowings for the priviledge – our original flight would have gotten us to Barcelona at the right time, but a few months back they decided to cancel it and book us on this 6.45 am flight – of course forgetting to mention this detail to us… it sometimes pays that I have travel OCD and religiously check everything countless times.


2 pm sharp we could finally check in and got a room on the 5th floor – great, I’m already being punished for my self-imposed no elevator rule. After dropping off the luggage we went to Santa Caterina market to get some softdrinks for the day. The market hall is smaller than la Boqueria but also less crowded and touristy. Unfortunately no pictures as they didn’t come out right with our old camera – didn’t want to risk the DLSR in the rain. As the weather was only getting worse we decided to cancel the walking tour and switch to appropiate acitivites – watching sports! German football (Borussia Dortmund) for Michael and eventing cross country in Pau for me. Who am I kidding? We both fell asleep while watching ?


When we awoke, the weather seemed ok so out we went. Strolling through Barri Gótic and up and down Las Ramblas. On our way back to the cathedral we found a restaurant to our liking and got some tapas. I even remembered to take a picture! Not bad for someone who’s so forgetful that she forgets to breathe when sleeping ? The restaurant’s name is Colom and we can definetely recommend it – great food, nice atmosphere and reasonably priced.


Now it’s off to bed, thankfully we get an additional hour of sleep as Europe is setting back the clocks tonight. Taxi is already booked for 10 am.


Side notes:

14,5k steps today

Need to get my sister to explain Whatsapp calling to my parents (again) – apparently our crash course on Friday didn’t stick

No laps in the (rooftop) pool today – it was way too cold – and yes, I know I’m a wimp

Barcelona name tag.jpg

Colom Tapas.jpg


Las Ramblas.jpg

Catedral modern perspective.jpg

Catedral by night.jpg

Barcelona Catedral Bath.jpg

Barcelona Catedral Room.jpg

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22 hours ago, Traveler said:

Have fun in your cruise , 

If you want to try the laser tag , try it today , most of the chances you will have less lines than in any other times. Same for many of the other activities.

Unfortunately no laser tag on day 1 - they offered ice skating instead.

7 hours ago, lovecruising!!! said:

Great pics.. A helpful hint as to what I do with luggage tags is I don't put the luggage tags on my luggage until i get to my destination, sometimes it can be a bit of a pain to jhave to print out an extra luiggage tag, etc on cruise morning. Glad you made it   to Barcelona safe ?

Lesson learned. We thought we could use the wrapper for our contact details in case a suitcase got lost in transit, we only put the luggage tags in before leaving the hotel for Symphony.

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Here we go – embarkation day has finally arrived!


The theme of the morning was speed – our taxi arrived 20 minutes early, but luckily we were mostly ready ? Cue us arriving at the terminal about 10 am, but no need to worry, we by far weren’t the first ones. Symphony used terminals B and C for boarding, docked between Norwegian Epic and Sapphire Princess. Funny thing: if you arrive in the port you only see the front of the ships at first – and from that perspective, Epic looked even bigger than Symphony due to the front upper deck design (and the strange dark painting on Epic). Only when you start to see Symphony’s length you realize how big she really is. Unfortunately we couldn’t take pictures in the abysmal weather – we’re counting on Port Canaveral for that as the forecast for Malaga isn’t good either. At the terminal we got rid of all our luggage except my carry on with medication & medical aids. We stood in line for a minute for security and then got to check in immediately. Wow, placing the sea pass cards at the cabin doors works like a charm – we’ve never been checked in that fast! About 5 minutes from curb to the waiting area – and we didn’t even have expedited arrival.


We entered Royal Promenade at exactly 11 am. What can I say? I guess you’ve already seen the big wow on first timer’s faces when they embark an Oasis class ship. Royal Promenade felt wider than some of the ships we’ve been on! Now was the time to put everything I learned from you great people into practice. 1st step: Dining reservations! As we’re on the 5 night package, we couldn’t do reserverations online. We got to the nearest desk and apart from a 10 minute pause due to IT problems (imagine my shock!), we were good to go in a breeze. Step 2: making sure we got all the entertainment reservations – done.


After that, we decided to go the „Matt way“ – lunch in Windjammer. Wow, it was packed. We found 2 seats with a very nice couple from Texas and already experienced a massive pro of cruising with an international cruise line: you get to chat with people! We’re both introverts at heart so we’re not likely to start a conversation but we love to chat – that doesn’t work well on German cruise lines ? For lunch I only went with a salad but hubby had a got through the whole restaurant with his plate. His verdict: buffet food quality and selection is better than on TUI Cruises. No red velvet cake for dessert, but red velvet cheesecake – had to go with that for Sweety. We finished lunch a few minutes to 1pm, so off to the cabin next.


Our cabin is an inside stateroom on deck 8 – all the way to  the front. We usually spend the money we save on the cabin for excursions – this being a transatlantic with only 2 ports, we’ve invested it in speciality dining and drink packages. We were quite surprised with the size of the cabin – it’s more than adequate and even the bathroom is quite good for us chunky types. Even better yet – when we got to the cabin we could already see our poison green suitcases down the hall. We took them and unpacked immediately – finished at 2.15 pm and we even got everything in closets and drawers, the suitcases all fit under the bed – not bad considering we’re travelling with 2 suitcases, 2 travel bags and 2 carry ons! We later found out we were the lucky ones – there have been a few luggage mix-ups with suitcases placed in front of the wrong staterroms.


Some of you might remember from my older posts in other threads, that I had a „project zipline“ going on. I can report that I accomplished getting under the weight limit and managed to get on the zipline right before it closed for muster drill – proof in the pictures. Might do it again in better weather for better pictures. Next stop: Studio B for the German guests reception. There are actually German D+ on board who don’t even speak English – no idea how they manage as even we can’t understand all of the German menus and cuise compasses – right now we’re doing better with the English version.


Muster drill was quite uneventful other than that I could use the time waiting for a workout (we’re in A2, the gym). Afterwards, we explored the ship a bit and did people watching at the flowrider. Hope I learned something from it, I’m going to try it once the weather gets warmer. We watched sailaway from the wing next to the solarium. As we had to wait for Sapphire Princess to back up, we were late for the after-sailaway FB meeting in Boleros – no problem, we just got a drink anyway. Had to do another nod to Matt and got a Kraken Lavaflow. What can I say? We really loved it and are now officially hooked! Which brings us to our first speciality dinner – but that will be in its own post.


Dinner was just a bit too much for us, so we explored the ship a bit more and even threw in two rounds on the lovely running track for good measure. Being close to the water on the track is really nice and seeing the waves explained the rollingwe felt since leaving Barcelona – quite unusual for the Med. The rolling combined with too much food and the fact that we’re not used to that kind of food and drinks anymore brought us to bed early (11.45 pm).


Side notes:

15.1k steps

American food portions aren’t for us

No laps in the pool today – the water is ok but we were just overwhelmed with this beautiful ship and everything that’s going on – another reason why this blog entry is a bit late.

Aquanation (no reservations required) tomorrow – keep your fingers crossed that it’ll even happen with the cold temperatures and waves. Otherwise we’ll have to redo all our entertainment and part of our dinner reservations.

We LOVE international cruise lines – a bit of small talk everywhere! Restaurants, bars, elevators (no no-elevator-rule if carrying around luggage ?) – it’s unusual for us but fun.

First and only time hubby ignored the no-elevator-rule, he met the stowaway piano player. I feel cheated ?


Windjammer Dessert.jpg

Inside Stateroom.jpg


Zip Line.jpg


Kraken Lava Flow.jpg

Ultimate Abyss.jpg

Solarium Pool.jpg

Central Park by night.jpg

Central Park and elevators.jpg

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I'm enjoying your blog and beautiful pictures. I love learning from different people and so have a few questions:

1.  You said you don't enjoy American portions...are they too big?  What would you prefer?

2.  Which pool do you swim laps in?  How many laps?  As a former swimmer I think I push off the the wall and I'm already at the next wall without doing anything.  So I'm wondering how you manage.

Love your no elevator rule! I try to do this too except I would cheat for the piano guy too!

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