Symphony of the Seas

Video: It’s Showtime All the Time on Symphony of the Seas

In:
08Jan2019

Royal Caribbean continues to push the boundaries in entertainment with the debut of cutting-edge productions on stage, in the air, under water and on ice on board Symphony of the Seas.

Category 2J Central Park View Balcony Stateroom on Symphony of the Seas Photo Tour

In:
05Jan2019

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas has a lot to offer, including a number of staterooms.  Today, we will look at the category 2J Central Park View Balcony Stateroom, which will take you through the cabin to provide an idea of what to expect if you book this category stateroom.

Central Park Balcony staterooms have two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, a Central Park view balcony, a sitting area, and a private bathroom. These rooms are designed to accommodate up to two guests.

A Central Park balcony offers 187 square feet of living space. The room also has a rather large sofa to sit on during the day.

Being a Central Park Balcony stateroom, you have a private balcony that offers views of the Central Park neighborhood on Symphony of the Seas.

Symphony of the Seas family cruising guide

In:
31Dec2018

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas offers a lot for families to enjoy on their Caribbean cruise vacations. When we took our daughters on Symphony of the Seas, we sought to enjoy the very best activities, entertainment and things to do for a family. 

If you have never been on an Oasis Class ship, these are incredible vessels that pack as much into a cruise vacation as any ship in the world.  In fact, it is the largest cruise ship in the world and that means plenty to choose from onboard.  Family cruising on Symphony of the Seas means there is something for everyone and always something else to do or see, regardless of your age. 

Signature Activities

Prior to booking Symphony of the Seas, you may notice certain offerings onboard prominently advertised.  Royal Caribbean has built a reputation for itself by offering some of the best things to do onboard its ships.

A few activities and shows stand out as the premiere options that Symphony is well-known for.  The good news is that many of the activities are available to children of many ages. Some of the physical activities may have a height requirement that are best suited for children who are older elementary-school aged children or older. If your kids do not meet the height requirements, there is no need to worry as there is still plenty of other options to enjoy.

Families can enjoy these wonderful activities together:

  • The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea, is a duo of racing slides where guests spiral down a 92-foot drop in about 13 seconds
  • The zipline crosses the open-air Boardwalk neighborhood at nine decks high
  • Two FlowRider surf simulators
  • Perfect Storm: three waterslides
  • Splashaway Bay aquatic adventure park
  • Escape from Planet Z laser tag
  • Escape room

Adventure Ocean

The heart of children's programming on Symphony of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's award-winning Adventure Ocean program.  

Adventure Ocean is divided into three age-appropriate groups

  • Aquanauts (ages 3 to 5)
  • Explorers (ages 6 to 8)
  • Voyagers (ages 9 to 11)

Adventure Ocean is complimentary, but kids need to be registered with Adventure Ocean and fully toilet trained to take part in activities. There are dedicated spaces for each age group, plus specialized areas like science labs and a theater for enhanced programming.  

Adventure Ocean is open most of the day, but their hours vary depending on if it is a port day or sea day.  On Sea days, Adventure Ocean can open as early as 6:30am.  Guests that have Royal Caribbean excursions booked and need to drop their children off earlier, can arrange with Adventure Ocean for that benefit.  For lunch, kids are brought to Wipe Out Cafe or Windjammer between noon and 1pm, and then again to the Windjammer for dinner between 5pm and 7pm. Adventure Ocean programming is included with your cruise fare.

Adventure Ocean closes at 10pm, but parents can leave their children with Adventure Ocean until 2am for an hourly fee.  The Late Night Party Zone runs from 10pm to 2am in Adventure Ocean, and is billed at $7 per hour, per child for children who remain after 10pm.

Tweens and teenagers also have their own club, plus a variety of activities onboard such as the FlowRider surf simulator, rock climbing walls, an ice skating rink, a mini-golf course and a zip line. Teens meet at the Living Room, on Deck 15 aft and also have exclusive access to their own night club, known as Fuel on deck 15. Teens are free to come and go as they want, and curfew for all cruisers younger than 18 is 1 a.m. unless they're supervised by a parent.

Royal Babies & Tots Nursery

Any parent with a toddler or infant will find the Royal Babies & Tots Nursery an absolute blessing.  Royal Caribbean offers a nursery for children up to 36 months old.

At the nursery, you can drop off infants and toddlers off in a supervised environment, where the kids can watch TV, play with other children, explore and nap.   

The nursery will offer parents a drop-off option in the daytime and evening, while always maintaining an optimum staff-to-child ratio.

For a modest fee per hour ($8 at the time of this blog post), parents can reserve time for their kids here to give parents some time alone to enjoy what Royal Caribbean offers or explore a port.

The nursery staff are trained child care professionals and they will make sure your child is taken care of in the time they are there.  Parents also get a special mobile phone to use on the ship in case the nursery needs to call them or if the parents want to call and check in on things.

Entertainment & Shows

Symphony of the Seas offers shows that appeal to kids and adults, with its evening shows being real highlights. Depending on your kids ages and preferences, these shows may or may not be of interest to them, but Royal Caribbean designs its evening entertainment shows to be open to be family friendly.

You will find Symphony of the Seas' biggest shows across three venues: The Royal Theater, Studio B and the AquaTheater.

Here are the must-see shows on Symphony of the Seas and where to see each show:

  • Hairspray (Royal Theater)
  • 1977 (Studio B)
  • HiRo (AquaTheater)
  • Flight (Royal Theater)

Prior to your cruise, be sure to make reservations for each of these shows via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.  Reservations for these shows are complimentary and while it does not guarantee a specific seat, it will ensure you will be able to get into the show.  Guests without a reservation can wait in a standby line and take up any remaining seats, but it is simpler (and a whole lot easier for families) to make reservations before the cruise.

If you are wondering when you can make reservations for shows on Symphony of the Seas, it really depends.  If entertainment is available to reserve for your cruise, we have typically seen shows become available for booking around 75-60 days prior to the sail date, but your experience may vary.

Dining

Symphony of the Seas offers 23 dining venues for guests to choose between when eating onboard. Some of these restaurants are included with your cruise fare, while others have an additional cost.

Complimentary dining options are included with your cruise fare and guests can enjoy as much food as they like from these locations.  There is at least one complimentary option open at anytime during the day or night, with often quite a number of great choices. 

The alternative dining option are specialty dining, in which there is an additional cost to dine there.  Specialty dining costs can come in the form of cover charges (pay one fee and get all the food included) or a la carte charges (pay for only what you order). In general, specialty dining offers food and cooking styles not available elsewhere on the ship for guests that choose to indulge in them.

If you are looking for great choices for kids to grab something quickly, you will find some great options throughout the day for families at:

  • Windjammer
  • Park Cafe
  • Sorrento's Pizzeria
  • El Loco Fresh
  • Johnny Rockets (breakfast is complimentary, cover charge for lunch and dinner)
  • Boardwalk Dog House
  • Room service ($7.95 per order fee, complimentary for suite guests)

When it comes to dinner, you might want to look into My Family Time Dining. My Family Time Dining is offered in the first seating time in the main dining room for children ages three to eleven.

Here is how it works

  1. You arrive at the dining room with the kids and let your server know that the kids will be headed to Adventure Ocean as part of the My Family Time Dining program.
  2. The kids order and are served right away so that they can finish their meal within the first 40 minutes.
  3. After about 45 minutes, the Adventure Ocean staff arrive in the dining room lobby to sign in and hand off the kids.Parents will need to escort their children to the designated Main Dining room entrance doors at 6:45 pm to check their child in with the Adventure Ocean counselors. Once checked­in, the Adventure Ocean counselors will then escort their children to Adventure Ocean for ongoing evening activities.
  4. Adults return to their table to enjoy the rest of their meal at a more leisurely place.

Prior to the cruise, you can can contact Royal Caribbean or travel agent to book it. Alternatively, guests can sign up onboard in the Adventure Ocean area. Pre­-cruise reservations are encouraged.

Staterooms

When booking a Symphony of the Seas cruise, you will need to find the right stateroom for your family. Symphony has staterooms that can accommodate three and four passengers easily, along with some stateroom configurations that can handle even more guests.

Depending on your family size, age of your children, and your comfort level, booking multiple staterooms can often be the same or cheaper than booking a large room.  Multiple rooms provides not only additional living space, but extra restrooms and separation from parents and children. Royal Caribbean does offer some rooms with a connecting inside door between rooms.  

If you are cruising with young children, you should pack your own diapers, bottles, and other supplies.  There is milk available to all guests without an additional charge (skim or regular).  Some parents prefer to bring their own kid-friendly snacks and food, which is permissible by Royal Caribbean. Refer to our Taking an Infant on a Royal Caribbean cruise article for more information.

More cruising with kids info

You may have additional questions about cruising with kids on Royal Caribbean, or simply would like to learn more tips and advice.  Here are some good resources to consider:

Your thoughts

Now that you have read over our guide to taking kids on Symphony of the Seas, let's hear from other parents. What tips do you parents think are most important? Which advice we shared do you agree with? Where do you disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Video: Symphony of the Seas' Godfather goes surfing on world's largest cruise ship

In:
18Dec2018

Check out Carlos PenaVega as hangs ten, onboard the world’s largest ship, Symphony of the Seas.

Photo tour of Grand Suite on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas

In:
08Dec2018

The Grand Suite (Category GS) on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas is a popular choice for guests who want to indulge in a suite experience. It offers a lot of living space, and the Sky Class benefits of the Royal Suite Class.

This photo tour is from stateroom 12254 on Symphony of the Seas during a November 2018 sailing.

The Grand Suite measures 371 square feet and has a balcony that is 105 square feet.

Grand Suite staterooms on Symphony of the Seas have a bedroom area with two twin beds that convert to a Royal King.

The full bathroom has a tub and two sinks. There is a living room with a sofa that converts to double bed.

The private balcony has a seating area and private dining.

Top 10 Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas hidden secrets

In:
06Dec2018

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas is an amazing cruise ship that offers guests so much to see and do onboard. It is one of the largest cruise ships in the world and with so much going on, we present our list of the best secrets that are easily to overlook on Symphony of the Seas.

Jogging deck ping pong tables

Photo by Twangster

The running track on deck 5 is somewhere you will find other guests getting some laps in walking or jogging around, but there is also a hidden location for a game of ping pong.

On each side of the forward deck, you will find two alcoves where you can enjoy the view of the ocean and even some lounge chairs.

One side of the deck has a shuffleboard court, and the other had ping pong tables. These alcoves are not only great spots to find seclusion, but they offer something to do with very likely no wait.

Aft chairs with a view

If you are looking for a quiet spot to watch the ocean, many guests are unaware of an area right below the first Aqua Theater suite balcony on deck seven.

Just behind the rock wall, you can find comfortable Adirondack chairs to sit in with the perfect view of the ocean.  Rarely will you find other guests here.

Best spot to view Flight

One of the signature shows on Symphony of the Seas is Flight, a musical tribute to mankind's endeavors to achieve flight and it is held in the Royal Theater.

Based on recommendations from the show's tech team as well as our own experience, the ideal spot to sit for this show is around the sixth or seventh row center.  The reason being is these seats will provide the perfect vantage point for the show's finale.

You can check-in with the mobile app

Royal Caribbean's new smart phone app provides a lot of new functionality, but did you know you can check-in via the app as well?

Just like the airlines, you can use the app to complete the online check-in.  Then, once at the beautiful Terminal A in PortMiami, you can breeze through the check-in process with your app in hand.  The app will contain your Set Sail pass and everything you need to get from curb to ship as fast as possible.

Find the stowaway piano player

When sailing on Symphony of the Seas, you have to take some time to find one of the best forms of entertainment Royal Caribbean offers that is not in a theater: the stowaway piano player.

This highly entertaining performer takes his piano on wheels and can perform nearly anywhere the ship. Most often, he can be found in elevators or the Boardwalk neighborhood.

You never can tell where or when he will be around, but if you spot him, be sure to take a few minutes to enjoy the show.

Embarkation day lunch spots

We love the Windjammer for the sheer variety of food offered, but on embarkation day it can get busy in there.  The good news is there are some excellent alternatives to consider that will be much less crowded.

Park Cafe, Playmakers, Johnny Rockers and El Loco Fresh are open on embarkation day for lunch and provide quick and easy meals to get your cruise started off right.  If you prefer a more relaxed first day meal, Chops Grille, Solarium Bistro and Jamie's Italian are also open for embarkation day lunch.

If you happen to be staying in a suite, Coastal Kitchen is also available for day one lunch and open to guests in a Grand Suite or above only.

Bridge wings

One of our favorite spots on any Oasis Class ship are the bridge wings. Located on deck 14, these viewing platforms extend out from the ship to provide the absolute best view of what is around.

To get to the wing viewing areas, go to the Solarium and proceed all the way forward

Book entertainment before you board

When sailing on an Oasis Class cruise ship, one of our best tips for guests is to pre-book their entertainment before going on Symphony.

Right after booking a cruise, Royal Caribbean allows guests to register their cruise on their My Cruises section of the Royal Caribbean web site and manage their reservation, with the option of booking dining, entertainment and other purchases prior to the cruise.  

The best reason to book certain activities, entertainment and dining in advance is to guarantee a spot for you and your family, as well as break up the total cost of the cruise.

There is limited capacity for shows, dining and other activities and Royal Caribbean tends to offer guests the option of reserving them prior to their cruise. 

By booking these activities early, you can ensure you have the time and day that you want all lined up.

See the Big Wonder in the Solarium at night

One of the most impressive pieces of art on Symphony of the Seas is the Big Wonder in the Solarium.

New York's SOFTlab's Big Wonder is an architecturally integrated work of art in the Solarium. Comprised of thousands of dichroic acrylic elements, containing over 3,800 facets and covering an area of 241 square meters, this monumental, one-of-a-kind installation expands perception and explores the concept of infinite space as an ever-changing occurence.

At night, this piece becomes even more of a must-see as it is lit up beautifully to provide some amazing photo opportunities.

Augmented reality art

Royal Caribbean loves to include interactive art on its ships, and you will find two distinct opportunities to explore sight and sound on Symphony of the Seas.

The "Sound Wonders" come alive with sound when you step into them.  These three interactive sound "havens" - Daniel Canogar's all embracing Sound Shell, Alejandro Marote's out-of-the-ordinary, meteorite-inspired sound chamber and dEmo's memorable Drier-Wig sculpture - invite you to activate, contemplate and appreciate one of life's most scintillating senses...sound.

On deck 12 forward, you will find art work require the user to turn on their Royal Caribbean app and then activate X-ray vision. The app allows the user to take a live virtual view around the bridge of Symphony of the Seas. This is a live video, and you can look as long as you would like.

Did we miss any Symphony of the Seas secrets? Share them in our comments!

Video: Take a Tour of the Family Adventures on Symphony of the Seas

In:
05Dec2018

Royal Caribbean International’s new Symphony of the Seas is a “playground” for guests of all ages. From glow-in-dark laser tag, an escape room adventure and multistory waterslides, to the one-of-a-kind Ultimate Family Suite – featuring an in-suite slide, air hockey table and a private cinema – Symphony’s collection of bold, new thrills make this TIME magazine “World’s Greatest Places” winner the ultimate family vacation.

Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade restaurant review on Symphony of the Seas

In:
28Nov2018

From time to time, Royal Caribbean tries out a new specialty restaurant concept, with Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade the latest addition to the fleet.

The idea is simple, capitalize on the popular sports bar and pub food trend and offer Royal Caribbean guests some simple, yet tasty food with plenty of opportunity to watch or play.

Royal Caribbean felt so strongly about Playmakers, that the restaurant is at the heart of the re-deisgn of the Boardwalk neighborhood on Symphony of the Seas.  With as much buildup as this restaurant as had, I had to try it out for myself.

Atmosphere

When you hear of a sports bar that offers great food, tons of televisions and games abound, undoubtedly land-based restaurants of similar ilk must come to mind.  It is only natural for any new restaurant one may try to be compared to other similar venues.

Located in the Boardwalk, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade takes up one entire side of the neighborhood and features an open-air venue that is designed to tempt guests to walk in and check things out.

The restaurant features plenty of seating, inside and outside.  The outdoor seating is your typical table and chairs, while indoors there is a variety of seating.  Bar seating, booths, benches, high tops and more.  This is a casual dining venue, first and foremost.

At each table, you may find a game like Connect 4 or a peg game board.  Speaking of games, Playmakers is also home to a mini-arcade.  Skeeball, video games and more are part of the restaurant experience.  

Given the name, it should come as no surprise that there are lots of televisions around the restaurant to watch sporting events. Royal Caribbean says there are 30 televisions around Playmakers.

Eats

Playmakers wants you entertained while you are there, ordering plenty of food and drinks.  Royal Caribbean created a whole new menu to enjoy while you spend time inside.

When you talk about a sports bar, beers and cocktails are going to be a big part of the experience.  Playmakers offers a lot of domestic and international beers, including a good amount of craft beers.  

If beer is not your style, there is a full bar at Playmakers as well.  Any guest can drop in by the bar and grab a drink without having to dine there.  A large bar allows guests to stop in to get a drink and go, or stay and enjoy a game or two.  You can also order food from the bar, which provides flexibility if “just one drink” turns into “I can’t believe this game went to double overtime!”.

While the drinks are a big component to what Playmakers offers, the food served up is what will likely bring many to try Playmakers.

Being a sports bar, Royal Caribbean came up with a menu that reflects the kind of casual comfort food you might find at popular restaurants of a similar theme.  Burgers, wings, fried chicken and the like are at the heart of the menu.  No surprises on this menu, but that should not be a surprise in itself.

The Playmakers menu is priced a la carte, which means you only pay for what you order.  Like Izumi, that means you can drop in for a snack, or opt for a full meal.  That kind of flexibility is a major strength of Playmakers, since not everyone who wants to enjoy specialty dining wants a drawn-out meal.  

We stopped by Playmakers on a few occasions to sample some of the menu.  Depending on if you are going for just a small bite or a big meal, there is plenty to choose from.

The best item on the menu has to be the Playmakers Burger.  A double beef patty on a brioche bun makes arguably the best burger served on Royal Caribbean’s fleet.  Yes, better than even Johnny Rockets across the Boardwalk.

If wings are your thing, you can choose between 12, 24 or 50 wings across four different buffalo sauces.  If you are feeling dangerous, try the Playmakers Challenge: 100 of their hottest wings to be eaten in 45 minutes or less.  If you can do it all by yourself, you can get a special t-shirt to commemorate the accomplishment.

A perfect option for eating at the bar for part of a game might be their sliders. Choose between a portobello mushroom, pulled pork or meat patty, or go for a combination of them all.

In addition to all of that, there is still nachos, loaded potato skins, chicken sandwich and more.

In addition, there is a mini-arcade that comprises part of the restaurant.  The appeal may be a combination of giving the kids something to do while their parents watch a game, or perhaps an opportunity for adults to engage in some competitive shenanigans after a few drinks.  Eitherway, there are plenty of games 

Overall

Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade is not a revolutionary idea, but it is a great representation of what a modern sports bar is all about.  Royal Caribbean seemed to have read the tea leaves of what is popular these days, and came up with a fun casual experience that fits nicely into the Boardwalk.

What we love best about Playmakers is the extensive menu, ample television viewing opportunities, and inclusion of games.  It is a dead simple concept, and it works.

Price-wise, there is decent value with the offerings on the Playmakers menu.  Other than the sliders, everything on the menu offers a large serving and I think in many cases, you can easily share the food with others.  

Without a doubt, the experience is as critical to the draw of Playmakers as the food.  Royal Caribbean bills Playmakers as the spot to watch your favorite team play.  

While there are a lot of televisions and ample spots to watch a game, the realities of television contracts, blackout rules and international viewerships limit how much you might want to actually watch.  Without getting into a lengthy discussion of how Royal Caribbean can legally show a game, it is important to note that the television programming tends to show primarily international competitions that most Americans may find less than enticing.  Cricket, soccer, and international basketball are quite commonly shown.

Thanks to Ron Hiller for this photo.

That being said, on football Sundays, college football Saturdays and other evenings, you will find more familiar games shown.  It is impossible to know which games will be shown on your sailing, but Royal Caribbean does make an effort to showcase the more popular sporting events, especially during the playoffs.

In a nutshell, Playmakers is a good choice for a casual meal, preferably while watching a sporting event.  The clichéd saying, "come for the game, stay for the food" holds up, and I think the food stands on its own even if there is only cricket or curling on the TVs. 

What are your thoughts on Playmakers? Leave us a comment and tell us about it below!

The Bahamas celebrates Symphony of the Seas inaugural call on Nassau

In:
17Nov2018

Royal Caribbean’s brand new Symphony of the Seas sailed into Nassau November 14, marking a momentous occasion for both Royal Caribbean and The Bahamas.

On board for the inaugural cruise of the sleek white-hulled ship were a handful of invited guests including 200 members of international media who joined dignitaries, local VIPs and sailing guests for a lively ceremony in the ship’s iconic amphitheater at the stern.

“We are very excited to welcome you onboard Symphony of the Seas,” said Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley. “It’s the newest ship in our fleet and of course the largest cruise ship in the world. Today marks Symphony’s inaugural visit to Nassau, Bahamas, a destination that we visit also with the three sister ships of Symphony, that’s Oasis of the Seas, Allure and Harmony.”

Mr. Bayley cited Royal Caribbean’s strong ties to The Bahamas, recalling that the cruise line’s first ship made Nassau its first port of call in 1970.

“Today 25 of our ships are registered here in The Bahamas. We bring over 1.2 million vacationers to your beautiful islands so thank you for hosting us. We plan on keeping coming back to The Bahamas. Our plan by 2021 is almost 1.75 million visitors to The Bahamas coming with Royal Caribbean. We also plan to extend the amount of time spent in port so our guests can do, see and spend more in your beautiful islands.”

With ships like Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean hopes to increase the number of visitoris to more than 1.77 million by 2021.

She arrived with invited guests only on board, including travel industry partners, international media and high-ranking officials to a rousing welcome hosted by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism which pulled out all the stops. Dignitaries including Cabinet member Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands and Environment and Housing Minister Romauld Ferreira, Senators, Members of Parliament, officials including Defence Force Commodore Tellis Bethel, Director of Works Melanie Roach, former Cabinet ministers and heads of nearly every department of government along with vendors, attractions operators, leading business people, hoteliers, Bahamas Taxi Union, Musicians’ Union, Straw Market and Hair Braiders Association representatives were treated to musical performances and a three-course luncheon. Dignitaries including Miami- Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez were ushered aboard by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force Band. Inside, the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band entertained along with the Gerald Cash Rhythm ‘n Youth band. Travel partners and guests rushed with Colours Junkanoo, capping off the ceremony that included a key, gift and plaque exchange between the ship’s agents, United Shipping, and Captain Rob Hempstead.

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