Ship review: Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas

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(Source: Rosanne Coloccia) (Source: Rosanne Coloccia)
Aboard the Symphony of the Seas (Source: Rosanne Coloccia) Aboard the Symphony of the Seas (Source: Rosanne Coloccia)
Aboard the Symphony of the Seas (Source: Rosanne Coloccia) Aboard the Symphony of the Seas (Source: Rosanne Coloccia)
Aboard the Symphony of the Seas (Source: Rosanne Coloccia) Aboard the Symphony of the Seas (Source: Rosanne Coloccia)
Aboard the Symphony of the Seas (Source: Rosanne Coloccia) Aboard the Symphony of the Seas (Source: Rosanne Coloccia)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Traveling with a large group of clients is rarely a straightforward proposition -- coordinating flights and arrivals, arranging transportation for various numbers of passengers, etc. -- but add a very large and very new ship to the mix and we're all in for an adventure!

Months of planning and anticipation led up to sailing on May 27 departure of Royal Caribbean’s newest Oasis Class ship, Symphony of the Seas. (It set sail for its maiden voyage on March 31.)

Overall, I have to say it was a terrific experience. There are some genuinely innovative features on board (new online pre-cruise check-in procedures, the Royal Caribbean app, Fuel teen center, children’s pool area), along with the comfortable (great pools, the newish layout in the Windjammer Marketplace), the fun (two FlowRiders, the Bionic Bar, musical stairs near the Windjammer), and the familiar (the cruise line’s now-ubiquitous rock climbing walls, along with traditional shipboard lounges and entertainment venues).

There’s a lot to like about the Symphony of the Seas, which took three years to build and is the largest cruise liner (by volume) in the world.

I loved the color scheme, both in the main areas of the ship and the staterooms. Shades of gray and blue blended beautifully for a very relaxing feel -- and on a ship this size and with this many people (6,300 passengers on our sailing plus about 2,200 crew members), that’s no mean feat! The public art is also beautiful (except for the Volkwagen Bus rolled into a ball found on the Promenade. It engendered a nearly unanimous “huh?” among the folks looking at it) and I felt like a kid going up and down the musical stairs near the Windjammer Marketplace - so cool and unexpected! We also enjoyed the pretty three-deck-high Main Dining Room and, as with all the Royal Caribbean cruises I’ve experienced, the food was excellent. 

That said, I don’t think I’d sail on the Symphony of the Seas again. For my family and the way we like to enjoy a cruise vacation, this ship is simply too big. Although Royal Caribbean does an excellent job disguising the size of this mega ship while you’re onboard - strategically placed curves in long hallways, public areas spread throughout the ship - when you’re walking from the forward cabins to the Main Dining Room, located in the aft part of the ship, there’s no getting around it, it’s a hike.

[RELATED: How to choose your cruise]

Who would enjoy sailing on the Symphony of the Seas? Plenty of people, particularly young adults and families. There is SO much to do! The children’s pool, with a play structure right in the water, was very popular with the little ones. It was also great to see at least three lifeguards on duty at all times.

The Boardwalk area with the carousel was also a popular choice for the kids. Fuel, the teen center, was also well-attended. There were lots of digital media toys here along with a big selection of video games. And located between the kids' pool and the teen center - the new-to-the-cruise-line “fresh Mex” casual dining El Loco Fresh and free soft-serve ice cream. Perfect for the kids and teens frequenting that part of the ship! Two FlowRider surfing machines, water slides, and the zipline had a steady stream of passengers enjoying them.

On the Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean seems to have found a combination of activities -- in addition to the 22 restaurants and 24 pools --everyone can enjoy.

Additional observations

If you have time before a cruise home porting in Barcelona, I HIGHLY recommend coming in a few days early. There’s so much to see and do here, to say nothing of the yummy sangria!

Thanks to the highly encouraged (practically required) online pre-cruise check-in process, once we arrived at the pier, we hardly had to stop before we reached our stateroom. I’ve never had such a smooth boarding experience on any line.

The bathroom configuration on the newer Royal Caribbean ships is excellent. Who knew a rectangular sink would mean so much more space in that little room?


FUN FACT: The Symphony of the Seas is 1,888 feet long. That's longer than the playing area of five football fields end to end. It's also longer than the world's largest aircraft carriers; the U.S. Gerald R. Ford Class carriers are just over 1,100 feet.


A large ship means large numbers of passengers trying to disembark and embark when in port. Not all the port facilities had personnel on hand to make this a smooth venture.

[RELATED: How to find the right room on a cruise ship]

And one final, unhappy observation

Typically, when a cruise line launches a new ship, they do so with experienced personnel on board to make sure the process goes smoothly. This makes perfect sense. You’ve got staff used to the size of this mega ship who will hopefully know where any wrinkles will pop up. And for the most part on our sailing, we found that to be true, particularly with the cabin staff.

However, much of the dining room staff - the shining exception being our assistant waiter - made it clear they’d much rather be back on their previous (and smaller) ships. Even the head waiter for our section kept talking about how glad he was to be leaving in October, when his current contract is completed.

With an attitude like that, buddy, it’s going to be a long, long summer!

The Guest Services Desk wasn’t much better, with inexperienced and a few downright unfriendly staffers behind the counter handling passenger issues. This is hardly the image Royal Caribbean wants to project to a ship carrying 6,300 passengers and is a poor reflection on the cruise line overall.

Does this make me rethink my taking another cruise vacation? Heck no! I’ll just choose a different, more moderately-sized ship next time.

[MORE: Travel blog]

In fact, I’m already planning for that happy day, although it won’t be until October 2019. I’ve just secured group space on Royal Caribbean’s lovely (and smaller) Jewel of the Seas, sailing out of Rome (well, Civitavecchia, the nearby port town), doing a nine-day Greek Isles cruise. The itinerary is awesome - Crete, Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Messina (Sicily), Naples, and a few seas days, plus I’ll definitely come in a few days early. There’s no way to do justice to the magnificent Rome in just one day. I hope you’ll come with me!

Questions about cruise lines and ships of all sizes? Give us a call at Preferred Travel Services, 602-603-9300, or e-mail me directly at Rosanne@preferredtravelservices.com. You can also look for me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RoSaysGo.


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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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