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


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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

T-1! 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

Day 2 After the overwhelming start yesterday, we used this day for settling in a bit. We got to meet our stateroom attendant Robert (from Costa Rica) who made sure we had everything we needed. Ea

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Hooked

As others have already posted the menu and remarked on the atmosphere I’ll limit this to our food choices and impressions. Gotta head off to the Mo5aic show soon – Aquanation was unfortunately postponed due to low temperatures and waves/wind.

 

For starters, I chose the Maryland Crab Cake, Michael got the Shrimp Cocktail. I loved my appetizer, Michael didn’t like his one very much. To be fair, this is mostly due to a misunderstanding. In Germany, shrimp cocktail is more of a shrimp salad and not just a few boiled shrimp with sauce.

Our second course was the New England Clam Chowder for me and should’ve been the House Salad for Michael. Instead, we both got the Clam Chowder and to make up for it, hubby got the House Salad after the soup. We both liked the Clam Chowder very much, unfortunately I can’t say it was the best one I ever had. This honor is reserved fort he one I had in Killarney on our honey moon – sorry Hooked 😁 Hubby also liked his salad with shrimp skewer.

As main course, Michael chose Surf & Turf while I got the Captain’s Platter – we both didn’t dare try the whole lobster that was also offered J Sides: fries and coleslaw for him, lobster mac & cheese form e. We both loved the lobster tail and hubby also liked his steak, although parts weren’t quite medium any more. I also liked the grilled shrimp skewer but didn’t care much for the fish fillet, I was full anyway. Regarding the sides, fries and coleslaw were fine, I didn’t like the mac & cheese – this has less to do with the mac & cheese themselves, I just don’t seem to get what Americans like about it but I had to try at least once.

Final verdict: We really liked Hooked, even though hubby is not a fan of fish. Food portions were way too much for us – we’d have prefered smaller portions in order to easily try out more different things. On the quality, taste & presentation side, we felt it was on a par with the TUI Cruises MDR (that’s indeed a high compliment). In the TUi MDR lobster tails are only available for an upcharge, so this could be a fair comparison. Hooked offers a daily special from the bar during happy hour – we might come back for lobster rolls.

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9 hours ago, melski94 said:

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!

Again thanks for all your kind words.

To answer your questions: 1. yes, the portions were way too big. Maybe it's more of a Hooked thing than an American thing? Only one way to find out 🤣 We're used to smaller portions that allow you to easily try a few courses. We already adjusted our ordering for this evening - worked much better.

2. Haven't tried one of the pools yet, it's 10°-14° Celsius (50°-57° Fahrenheit) with strong winds and I don't want to freeze to death - see above, I'm a wimp. Well, they also cancelled the Aqua shows today so I'm not the only one 😄 Looked like the pool all were the same size so I guess I'll just use the one with the least people in it once we have warmer weather. With short pools like this I don't count the laps and just do an hour - hope my fitness watch will allow such a small length, then it might count the laps half-decently. Look at the bright sight, these pools offer lots of opportunities to practice your turns.

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8 hours ago, GoodSmith said:

What's the no-elevator-rule?
Have you met twangster yet? If you do please take a photo of him, would love to see him in person!

No-elevator-rule means we don't use the elevator at all. Only allowed exemptions are travelling with luggage and -  since yesterday - when wearing heels.

Unfortunately no sighting of the twangster bot yet. Will only take and post a picture if he allows it, don't want to risk his bot status 🤣

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Day 2

After the overwhelming start yesterday, we used this day for settling in a bit. We got to meet our stateroom attendant Robert (from Costa Rica) who made sure we had everything we needed. Easy task, take the trash and empty glasses out once a day and leave some toilet paper and towels every few days and we‘re good. He was astonished he didn’t manage to catch us yesterday – no surprise there, we only use the cabin for sleeping and showering, well, on this cruise also for blogging. Though I had to promise hubby that I’d take the laptop to a bar for typing the blog and uploading the pictures next time. He needs to stay ahead on the drink package 😁 Not really a worry, I guess we’re ahead a few days already. We usually don’t drink any alcohol, but cruising and festivals are a completely different story.

 

As we were still quite full from Hooked yesterday, we chose a light breakfast in Park Café – very convenient from our Deck 8 stateroom. Afterwards, it was onward to the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle in Studio B. With more than 700 people registered, there wasn’t that much mingling going on – at least not if you didn’t know anyone. But we got to meet Captain Rob and the hotel director as well as the CD (Bobby Brown) and the AD (Katy …). I might be going out on a limb here, but I really like him. He’s funny (well, in a Scottish way so maybe that‘s more of an European thing) and for those that don’t like him: rest assured that he was put through his paces in the M&M raffle – Studio B is quite big and has countless steps if you’re greeting the winners at their seat 😈

 

Next stop was the cabin for the day 1 post, then we were on our way to Aquanation with a slight detour – Park Café to try a Royal Kummelweck. Yes, they’re delicious. We managed to get some drinks for the show from Trellis Bar when the announcement came that both Aquanation shows were postponed due to the weather. Instead, we went to Mo5aic who will leave the ship in Malaga. Not really our kind of music (we’re fans of melodic death metal all the way!), but wow they were talented! We had tons of fun and didn’t regret watching them.

 

All throughout the day we had some encounters with strange tastes. The waiter in the pub really asked if we would like to have ice in our beer – who would do such a dastardly thing? On an afterthought, serving Guinness from a can – in the PUB! - is blasphemy anyway. We’re also putting our drink package to use on the Freestyle machines to experience everything we’ve never tried before. Our least favourite so far is Root Beer – can someone please explain to me why you’d voluntarily drink copious amounts of something that tastes like a cough medicine? Maybe it’s just our European taste buds or the fact that I only try the diet versions?

 

We also went to Playmakers today, though only for drinks. It’s a nice venue and I see us returning quite often just to drink beer (craft beer is on the menu!), watch some sports and play some Jenga or Connect 4 (had to look that one up as the direct translation from German would be „4 wins“ ☺️). Guess we’ll also try some of the food in the future. Today we had to cut our visit short to prepare for formal night. On TUI Cruises there are NO formal nights so with no experience we decided to better go all out. This process took ages – mostly due to lack of practice. When I was finally finished (sorry hubby – didn’t want to keep you from drinking) we took some pictures on the promenade – hopefully there’ll be a few good ones in it. I’ll need them as proof for the family at home – this is the first time since my wedding that I wore a dress, heels and make up. We’ve been married for 9 years in case anyone wonders….

 

Dinner in the MDR was just WOW. After seeing so many pictures in live blogs I was expecting quite plain food presentation-wise and knew to be cautious with my orders – I’m a picky eater when it comes to meat. But boy did they deliver – all courses apart from the mushrooms were delicious, wine was refilled immediately, our assistant waiter Juan and especially our waiter Baptiste were fantastic. We’ll be requesting them for the few times we’ll be in the MDR – now I finally get it why you like to keep your waitstaff 👍 Our neighbours made the evening even more perfect – a nice couple from Atlanta with whom we had very enjoyable conversations. Our food choices: Wild Mushroom Vol-au-Vent, Duck Terrine, Baked French Onion Soup (yes, it is THAT good!), Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Teriyaki Salmon, Carrot Cake, Crème Brûlée, Apple PIe à la Mode, Royal Cheesecake. Good thing we didn’t went for lunch. All in all we’re truly impressed even though the overall quality is a bit less than TUI Cruises‘ MDR – we don’t mind at all. Were it not for the itineraries, I could see us switching to Royal completely. As it stands now, we’ll just have to book both.

 

The evening ended with a few more drinks and Adult Comedy in the Attic. Comedians on this cruise are Jim David and Robbie Prinz. Contrary to the warnings we had about this from fellow Germans, we were both able to follow the show quite easily and enjoyed it immensely. Guess if you can watch NCIS New Orleans without going nuts as a non-native speaker, Adult Comedy is a piece of cake. Hubby did also check out HUSH! Silent Party but as expected, the music just isn’t for us. Tomorrow is our last port stop before the crossing. The weather forecast is dismal so we’ll likely stay on board. If it rains as much as predicted, they might rename Symphony into Noah’s ark.

 

Side notes:

11k steps

Again no swimming – I signed up for a Transatlantic, not for an Alaska cruise!

Still no sighting of the Twangster bot – or were you periscoping sailaway on the bridge wing in Barcelona?

The app is quite shaky – sometimes you see your reservations, sometimes you don’t. A few reservations just won’t show up anyway – Izumi and Solarium Bistro namely. Guess that‘s what my trusty spreadsheet is for?

Another YOLO moment: we booked the All Access tour for Tuesday 6th by sheer luck. Didn’t see it advertised anywhere, we were at Guest Services because we had no idea on which sea pass card we got the arcade credit – and the guests next to us were just booking the tour. We just had to jump at this opportunity, I mean what ship could be better to do this tour on?

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I was really stunned when I read that you are not a native English speaker.  I had created a hypothesis that you were a transplanted [to Germany] English speaker.  WOW !  Your English is better than 99% of Americans' - especially your grammar, which is a hard nut to crack even after a lifetime of English language education.  Unfortunately Americans aren't taught grammar anymore (along with American history, cursive writing, civics and about a thousand other subjects...no offense to any of our beloved teachers on this blog !).  Congratulations on your excellent communications skills.  I am quite in awe.

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2 hours ago, ellcee said:

Root Beer is way better in it's non diet form. Still tastes medicine-y but something I'll crave every few years.

Guess I'll try the normal one in the next few days just to make sure I don't like it.

1 hour ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

I was really stunned when I read that you are not a native English speaker.  I had created a hypothesis that you were a transplanted [to Germany] English speaker.  WOW !  Your English is better than 99% of Americans' - especially your grammar, which is a hard nut to crack even after a lifetime of English language education.  Unfortunately Americans aren't taught grammar anymore (along with American history, cursive writing, civics and about a thousand other subjects...no offense to any of our beloved teachers on this blog !).  Congratulations on your excellent communications skills.  I am quite in awe.

Thank you so much! Happy I'm not embarrassing myself here. I'm born and bred German by way of what is now Poland (Silesia), but learning English was quite easy to me. In exchange I'm really bad at math 😂

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17 hours ago, Neaxan said:

Food portions were way too much for us

We went to Hooked on our April cruise (the third Symphony cruise) and when the came to ask us what we thought we said the same , it was very tasty but way too much. I guess  many other people said the opposite ... One of the issue/good thing is that usually you never come hungry to a dinner on a cruise  🙂   

By the way , excellent blog and pictures. 

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7 hours ago, Neaxan said:

Still no sighting of the Twangster bot – or were you periscoping sailaway on the bridge wing in Barcelona?

Well the @twangster is very elusive and you will need to work harder to catch a rare picture opportunity of him , here is how : 

First, go to all the bars on the ship and order Kraken rum until the barman will tell you he don not have anymore. Be sure to buy one bottle for later , you will need it.  Second collect some diet coke from the vending machine.  Wait until  4 am a, leave the bottle of rum and the diet coke on the pool deck were it is visible from an excellent photo ops location, it might help if you will hang  near the bottle a sign saying "the best Voom reception point on the ship"  . Now all you need to do is to wait and cross you fingers, with some luck you might catch a glance of his shadow.

Good luck.

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7 hours ago, Traveler said:

We went to Hooked on our April cruise (the third Symphony cruise) and when the came to ask us what we thought we said the same , it was very tasty but way too much. I guess  many other people said the opposite ... One of the issue/good thing is that usually you never come hungry to a dinner on a cruise  🙂

True, we skipped breakfast that day but had lunch in windjammer and an afternoon snack at El Loco Fresh - that didn't help much. By the way, your post on how to catch a Twangster bot is hilarious. We were reading it while standing in line waiting for Studio B to open and both had a laughing fit - imagine the looks we got 🤣  I'll keep your idea in mind but might try another approach first - depends on the bot's next posts.

6 hours ago, monctonguy said:

Silent disco!!.l..so much fun......sorry to hear they didn't have any music you enjoy......wish they had it on every Royal cruise....

 

Enjoying your blog.....a transatlantic/repositioning cruise is on my bucket list!

If you like the silent disco you'd love this crossing - it's on 3 nights!

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Day 3

Today is our last port before the crossing – Malaga. Due to the abysmal weather, we aren’t venturing out. It’s just not worth catching a cold with still more than 3 weeks of vacation in front of us. We’ve already got a trip to Spain on our list, we’ll visit Malaga then. We estimated many people would be on excursions today, so we thought we might give Windjammer a try for breakfast. Brilliant idea, now I’m really sold on Royal Caribbean – they have English bacon! Best breakfast item in the world.

 

While trying to flee from the rain by using the corridors to get from aft to fore, we noticed a lot of halloween decorations on cabin doors. Kind of strange to us, but we really love it. Really looking forward to Halloween with so many Americans – it’s not a big thing in Germany. By the way, I’ve kept my promise – Schooner Bar is my new blogging spot to facilitate hubby’s use of the drinking package. Not that it would be necessary, a quick calculation showed we’d already made up for half of what we paid by the end of day 3. Even if drink fatigue starts some time in the future, we’ll have made the packages pay already (and I’m certain drink fatigue won’t be an issue for hubby 😇).

 

After our depressing first try with trivia on day 1(Michael Jackson music quiz – we hadn’t planned on participating but were late finishing our drinks in Boleros and just thought why the h*** not), we gave visual trivia national flags a go. Luckily we teamed up with a couple from Belgium and got 13 out of 15 right –we didn’t even come close to winning. Apparently some people know the flags by heart, including Tonga and Aruba. This was followed by an impromptu surprise trivia – scored 3 out of 15 – no worries, best score was 8 or something. On to the pub quiz where we scored 14 out of 21. At least we’ve learned to take the provided answers with a grain of salt, we’re still not able to prove some of them no matter how much research we do. Guess the use of unsourced wikipedia articles is at an all time high with the cruise director’s team 😥 Trivia isn’t really a thing on German ships but we like it – even though we sometimes have to resort to leo.org for translation purposes. Doesn’t help much to write down the German answer if the team checking your sheet doesn’t speak the language 😂

 

As trivia makes hungry (it’s a sport after all), we headed to Park Café for a light lunch. We really love this venue, especially the create your own salad option and the Kummelweck. With all the heavy rain it was easy to get a seat and you had no lines at all. On to the next trivia in Schooner Bar – unfortunately just the two of us as the venue was packed and we couldn’t find our teammates. I don’t recall our score but short answer is we didn’t win. Schooner still was packed afterwards so we moved to Playmakers for more games of Connect 4 and some IPA. The goal is to try out each IPA available – current favourite is Stone IPA. Fast forward to dinner which was at Jamie’s and will be discussed in its own post.

 

Spoiler alert: dinner again was quite big portions, so we decided to walk some of it off on the running track. Looks like our torture devices handle walking on a moving ship completely differently. We both use Garmin vivoactive3 for torture devices (aka fitness watches) – still hubby’s device recorded not only his movements but also added the ship’s movement – while mine did subtract part of the ship’s movement! Quite unfair if you ask me… looks as if Royal isn’t the only company with a questionable IT department.

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Highlight of the evening was 1977, our first Royal production show. And wow, we were so amazed. As Twangster already said, it’s difficult to give it the credit it deserves in words or pictures. The drones were so cool, especially from a technical standpoint. Brilliant costumes and stage design and impressive ice skaters if you factor in the movement of the ship. The show might be lacking a storyline, but we didn’t mind one bit!

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That's a quick change!

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The end of the show coincided with our passage through the strait of Gibraltar so off we went all the way to the aft on the running track. We were quite surprised that nobody seemed to care but well, each to their own. It was quite a sentimental moment to me as it marks the moment I’m leaving Europe for the first time (if you don’t count one day in Agadir, Morocco on a shore excursion). With that it was time for bed.

Spain/GIbraltar

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Morocco

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Not sure if it wanted to catch a ride or chase us away?

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Side note:

13k steps

Hubby might have spotted the elusive Twangster bot – we’ll have to wait for his day 3 blog post to be sure. We didn’t want to disturb a few hundred people by shouting across the venue for confirmation 😁

PS: Was finally so annoyed with the way this board handles uploaded images that I switched to using imgur. At least I can now decide on the correct order of things.

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Jamie’s Italian

Welcome to speciality dining part 2 – this time not on the 5 night package because it would’ve left us one venue short and Jamie’s was the cheapest to book individually. Our original reservation was for 8 pm but that clashed with our entertainment plans. So we changed the dining reservation to 7 pm but it never showed up in the cruise planner. I emailed Royal and got the answer that they’d forward it to Symphony but when we boarded and did our package reservations, Jamie’s was still at 8. Luckily, booking dining was the first thing we did on board, so they were able to change the time.

 

Unfortunately no table mates this evening – in fact not even neighbours. Our waiter was Juan Carlos (no, not the former king of Spain!) and he was brilliant. We always went with his recommendations (might have added a dessert choice of our own) and were never disappointed – quite the contrary. I’ll have to write down the names of the crew who impressed us the most for WOW recommendations, currently on the list are Juan Carlos and Baptiste (MDR).

 

Onwards to the real reason you’re here for: the food. We wisely chose to have a meat plank for only 1 person and share that. Good thinking with the portion sizes coming later. The plank was good but nothing out of the ordinary. Our other choice was the Ultimate Garlic Bread which was really tasty and – by recommendation – the Crispy Squid. If you ever find yourself at Jamie’s, get the squid! Best dish we’ve tried the whole cruise up to now – it was so good that hubby had to get a second serving.

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For entrees we only went with Juan Carlos‘ recommendations: Lamb Chops Scottadito for Michael, Genaro’s Tagliatelle Bolognese for me. For sides we both chose a Caprese Salad and hubby added Crispy Polenta Chips. Hubby’s verdict: best lamb chops he ever had and he really enjoyed the polenta chips. Bolognese was also really good, though I also love my Maggi Fix glutamate and curry ketchup version 🤣

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We decided to share desserts because we both couldn’t decide between the same 3 choices: Epic Brownie, Amalfi Lemon Meringue Cheesecake and Tiramisu. We didn’t care for the cheesecake (guess there’s a first time for everything) but loved the tiramisu – it tasted really light with all the orange cests (I no it isn’t light J). Our favourite was the Brownie which really deserved the Epic.

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Verdict: although seemingly more ordinary than Hooked, we prefered Jamie’s. Might’ve been because we had less expectations and were truly surprised, but I can’t give a real reason. Food just sometimes is subjective.

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I saw some questions about ship motion in his highness' blog so instead of seizing the amazing bot's blog I'll give you my 2 cents on it.

We're currently experiencing  a lot of motion - as in 4m (~14 feet) waves, all pools empty, postponing of Hairspray, solarium closed motion... our cabin is the first inside stateroom from the front on deck 8 so it's especially noticeable in here. Luckily, we don't mind - no sea sickness or anything up to now - hope it stays that way.

The view from the running track (yes, you can get wet in the open spaces): 

 

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