When Royal Caribbean launched the Symphony of the Seas in March of 2018, it officially launched the biggest cruise ship in the world. Playing host to over 6500 passengers, she’s currently cruising the Mediterranean Sea before making her way to the Caribbean in November. We had the opportunity to explore this impressive vessel and came back with plenty to report. If you’re considering a cruise soon, or just want to know what the biggest ship in the world has to offer, keep reading. Believe us when we say there’s something for everyone on board.
Featuring over 17 floors with 2,759 staterooms (6,680 guest capacity total!), there are seven different neighborhoods to explore, including our family-friendly picks—Central Park, the Boardwalk, the Youth Zone and the Sports and Pool Zone.
Central Park has open-air access that brings in a welcomed sea breeze, along with plenty of foliage, live music and several specialty restaurants: Chops Grille, Jamie’s Italian, Vintages and 150 Central Park.
The Boardwalk is filled with kid-centric fun, like the carousel, arcade, Sugar Beach candy store and Johnny Rockets diner, and it’s the home to the outdoor aquatic theater, where you can find live shows, outdoor movies and more.
The Youth Zone is where all the kids’ clubs are located. There’s even a techy-looking science lab, an art studio and a theater, all just for the kids. There’s also an indoor playground where parents can come to let their kids burn off steam, but it does require supervision at all times unless you drop your kiddos off in the kids club. The childcare staff is experienced, and the groups are divided by age: babies and toddlers (they have napping areas and will provide you an itinerary of what your tyke did all day), Aquanauts (3-5), Explorers (6-8) and Voyagers (9-11). There’s even a tweens and teens program for kids ages 12-17. The kids club is open free of charge until 10 p.m., and for anyone wanting a later evening (12 p.m.), there’s a small hourly charge.
The Sports and Pool Zone is at the top of the ship and offers three waterslides, three pools, a splash zone, mini golf, zip lining, rock climbing, the Abyss (a 10-story dry slide), basketball court and the FlowRider wave zones.
Cruises, after all, are known for their all-you-can-eat spreads, and Symphony of the Seas doesn’t disappoint. From the three-level main dining room (the lunch salad bar is a hidden gem!) with excellent service and impressive dinner menu and the morning fare at the Solarium Bistro to Park Cafe for hot-pressed sandwiches or fresh-prep salads and El Loco Fresh, located near the Sports and Pool Zone, there’s a food type for every appetite.
Insider tip: Don’t forget to look for the soft-serve ice cream cone bars in the Pool the Sports Zone.
If you opt to purchase a specialty dining package, you can choose from nine different restaurants including breakfast at Johnny Rocket’s, raw oysters and family-style seafood dinners at Hooked Seafood, truffle pasta from Jamie’s Italian, or elegant steak dinners with good wine at Chops Grille.
Our best-bet pick for specialty dining on board the Symphony of the Seas is Wonderland: where your dinner and evening entertainment intertwine. From the moment you enter the restaurant, which is filled with mismatched furniture (one dinner chair was an upside-down sofa) nothing is what it seems. The mixologist serves up creative drinks like Chesire Cat cosmos, the menus magically appear, and there’s a continuous flow of things that engage all the senses: They serve imaginative cuisine at Wonderland, which means you’ll be tasting things like liquid lobster for starters and meringue mushrooms for dessert.
Good to know: Be sure to make a reservation as soon as your cruise begins: current waiting lists are around 60 groups.
What to Do
Take an Excursion
When you board the ship, you’ll be given a package filled with all the different excursions that are available while you’re cruising. There’s everything from hikes and bikes rides to beach transfers and foodie destinations.
Plan on taking the kids? Be sure to look for the family icon in the shore excursion booklet. For example, the European cruise offers a pizza making academy in Sorrento, Italy. You’ll get a lesson from the pros, get to eat your creations and then stroll through the alley of Sorrento—a charming seaside village in Southern Italy.
Want to leave the kids on the ship? With all the fun excursions for adults, it’s easy to leave the kids on board in kids club while you explore with your partner. Anything with long travel times, thrills or lots of walking might be better solo or only with older kids, like in the Bahamas, where you’ll have the chance to hike Mount Liamuiga.
Stay on the Ship
Each morning you’ll receive a daily planner at your door, which details the port stop for the day, the weather forecast, the big events or deals that are happening, and an hourly rundown of everything you can do aboard the Symphony of the Seas. Want to play laser tag? Head for Deck 4. Feel like climbing the walls? Head for the back of Deck 7. There are movie nights, family mini golf competitions, face painting, family bingo, sushi-making classes, family science labs, dance classes, balloon twisting, and family basketball tournaments. Plan your own family game night in the card room, enjoy the open ice skating times, or just lay low with a cruise-approved Pina Colada on of the hundreds of lounge chairs available.
Insider tip: Be sure to enter (err … ride) the Abyss, which, at 10 stories high, is the tallest slide at sea.
You can choose from a different live show every night: high-diving thrills in the AquaTheater, see the history of aviation in reverse in Flight … Dare to Dream, at the Royal Theater, or ice skating, or follow an ice-skating, time-traveling jewel thief in 1977.
For anyone who wants to splurge, there’s the four-room Family Villa Suite or the Ultimate Family Suite (complete with slide, floor to ceiling LEGO wall and air hockey table for starters!) on level 17. There is also a whole range of staterooms to choose from: ocean-view balcony family rooms, two-room lofts, AquaTheater Suites, interior balcony suites and more.
The Symphony of the Seas will be cruising in the Mediterranean Sea until November 2018. Her 2018-2019 Caribbean cruise dates and locations can be found here. Rates start at $560 per person.
— Gabby Cullen
This trip was paid for by Royal Caribbean, but all opinions here belong to the writer.
All images by Gabby Cullen