I’ve just disembarked a cruise on one of the biggest cruise ships in the world that can hold well over 8,000 people. The ship I was sailing on was Symphony of the Seas, which cost 1.3 billion dollars to build and is as long as 16 tennis courts.
I’ve been cruising since I was a child, but this ship blew my mind in every single way possible. I saw and did things that I never knew were possible on a cruise ship.
Something about the Mega-ships has always interested me. I was already a fan of cruising so I hoped that a really big ship would just be everything that I loved – but on a grander scale.
I was a little worried this Mega ship would feel overwhelming, and I didn’t know if it would be so busy that it’d be impossible to do the things that I wanted to do.
Royal Caribbean are very much a family cruise line too so I knew there would be literally thousands of children onboard.
Planning and Embarkation
When I saw that the ship was sailing from Barcelona which isn’t too far from my home in England, I decided that this would be my chance to give it a go.
The cruise wasn’t cheap but I hoped that I’d get what I paid for. We boarded in Barcelona and set sail for a 7-night cruise around the Mediterranean.
I’d heard about the ship having an ice skating rink, a zip line, waterslides, theatres and even a park in the middle before I boarded – but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when the bus pulled up alongside the ship.
Symphony of the Seas is the same height as 18 buses standing on top of each other, and 30 buses stood in a line. She is one of the biggest cruise ships in the world.
Embarkation was very fast and easy. Royal Caribbean are keen on their technology, so I’d already uploaded my security photo and attached my credit card on the Cruiseline App long before I got to the ship.
All they had to do in the terminal was scan the QR code in the app and match it to my passport.
From the door to the ship took a maximum of 10 minutes – which I didn’t expect. You’d think that as over 6,000 people were boarding the ship it would take ages, but I’ve been on ships that had less than a sixth of the passengers where embarkation took 2 or 3 hours.
This was a great sign and it did put my mind at ease a little bit about the number of people onboard the ship.
We were boarding later than planned as our original flight was changed and then we were delayed, but the positive of that was that our cabin was ready when we boarded the ship.
After a quick stop off at our muster drill we found our room up on deck 11 and I got my first look at what Royal Caribbean call a “neighbourhood.”
The neighbourhood that my cabin looked over was called “The Boardwalk” and I was blown away by this space. The two slides at one end looked amazing, and beyond that was an area called the Aqua Theatre.
I was so excited to get to see a show here later in the cruise. I’d heard about people flying through the air and diving into the pool but I couldn’t quite believe things like that could happen on a cruise ship.
That really was the theme of this cruise. I didn’t believe something was possible – and time and time again this ship surprised me.
It was a little after 2 pm that we boarded the ship, and having started our journey at 5 am we were very hungry.
Cruise ships are all about the food for me, so we headed up to the buffet on deck 16. It turned out that the buffet had closed at 2 p.m. – which was a shame, but I’m still glad we went up because it gave us our first look at Central Park.
When you hear that a cruise ship has a park you might be thinking an area with a few plants, but my goodness this park looked far cooler than any park I know on land.
Searching For Food
As my tummy was still rumbling, we decided to head on with our quest for food. We went to the “Main Street” and found Sorrento’s pizza. This is included in the cruise fare and is open every day from mid-day until 3 am.
It was very busy in there, and I hoped that it wouldn’t be this crowded during the rest of the cruise.
I think it was just because it was embarkation day and the fact that they were embarking guests meant that there wasn’t the usual seating area to the side of Sorrento’s, so everyone had to sit inside.
I’m happy to report that I never saw it that busy again.
I had a couple of slices of pizza – with ketchup of course – and it tasted so good. I do often get comments about how ketchup shouldn’t go with pizza, well if that is true why was there a ketchup machine there? I think Royal Caribbean agree with me on this one…
In Sorrento’s there are a couple of drinks machines, and as I had bought a drinks package I was able to use these throughout the cruise.
In Central Street, we found the area where we could pick up the cups for the machines, and we had our first of many drinks.
I paid $13 per day for my soda package – but if you were to come on board and buy it it would be $19 per day. It’s definitely worth pre-booking it if you know that you will want it.
My drinks package meant that we could have unlimited soda from the bars onboard as well as from the drinks machines.
Exploring The Top Deck
We headed up to the top deck, and it was here that I was really able to get an idea of the scale of this ship.
We walked around the area with the slides and the pools. and it almost felt like a normal cruise ship for a moment, until you notice a big space in the middle.
If this was a smaller cruise ship this would probably be it – but beyond these pools, there were more pools and there were still other huge areas at the front and the back that I hadn’t seen yet.
To walk around the ship is almost half a mile!
There was a sailaway party happening up here when we sailed away from Barcelona, and we headed backwards to have a look at the Sports Court area. (By backwards I mean to the back of the ship – not us going backwards)
Here we found a full-sized basketball court, a golf course, two “Flow Riders” (Surfing simulators) and the top of the slides that we had seen earlier.
I hoped that I would get up the courage to have a go on the slide before the cruise was over but I wasn’t making any promises!
I had been on a Flow Rider before on “Independence of The Seas”. I managed to get to my knees and was very happy with that! The water comes at you at 30mph and the bottom of the pool is actually pretty hard when you do fall off.
It was tiring work walking around the top deck in the heat – so we decided to head to the buffet for some dinner.
The buffet opened at 6 pm and I was really impressed by the size of it considering how many different food options there are onboard.
In total, there are 9 included places where you can eat onboard – which is just crazy.
On a lot of cruise ships, you’ll find that just the buffet and a main dining room are included in the cruise fare. On this ship we could eat in a new place every single day – and I was determined to try as many places as I could.
The buffet was split into three sections with two on the sides and one part at the back. It was quiet when we visited, probably because we were relatively early for dinner.
There was bar service in the buffet and it was always really fast, I’d never been sat down more than a couple of minutes before a waiter came over – and sometimes multiple waiters would appear.
They also had free water, tea, coffee and juice in the buffet all of the time.
Although we were tired from our 5 a.m. start, I knew that I wanted to go to the theatre to see the show “Hairspray.”
I’d booked the show on my phone in the App, and made sure I arrived early for the show.
All the theatre shows are included in the cruise fare but you need to book your space, so I’d suggest doing it as soon as you get onboard.
If it’s fully booked on the App you can still show up and you’ll probably be able to get a seat – some people just book and don’t show up – which is annoying.
I think they should have a confirmation system. There were lots of empty seats during our performance.
I knew that Royal Caribbean often won awards for their musicals and their entertainment – and the show didn’t disappoint. It was an hour and a half long and every bit as good as watching it on Broadway or in the West End of London.
The singers and dancers were incredible, I never saw a foot out of place and the props and sets were amazing.
I’m somebody who likes lots of colours and special effects to keep myself interested and this show had everything and more.
The only thing I didn’t like about the show was how Royal Caribbean don’t ever close the doors to the theatre – which meant that we had people constantly coming in and out throughout the show.
I understand you might sneak in late and stand at the back, or a couple of people might want to leave – but full families of 6 or 7 people would show up an hour late and decide they needed to sit right in the middle. The groups coming in and out were distracting for me – so I can’t imagine what it was like for the performers.
If I had my way the doors would close when the show starts, shutters would come down like on a shop and people could try sliding under if they wanted. I’m definitely on team “Close the doors”
Later in the cruise we also saw a show called “Flight, Dare to Dream.” During this show, a plane literally flew over my head – not a paper plane – a huge plane, with a guy inside! The visual effects were incredible.
We decided to head to bed after the show but I knew that I still hadn’t seen the majority of the ship. I hadn’t seen the Park, the Ice Skating Rink, The Solarium, any of the restaurants, or the bars – If I had to estimate I’d say that at the end of day one, I’d probably seen about 20% of the ship.
I was determined to see as much as I could during the week but I’m convinced you could spend a week onboard and miss entire areas if you weren’t looking. My “to-do” list was full of things that I wanted to see.
Our second day onboard Symphony of the Seas started with a doughnut from the buffet, which I think is a very strong start.
There were lots of other options too of course, but the doughnuts did become my go-to. The buffet was open until 11 am for breakfast which was fantastic, on some ships it’ll close at 9 or 10 which doesn’t suit me at all.
Most of the time we would take our breakfast outside and sit and eat it by the pool deck. That gave us a chance to have a look around, to see where we were – and at breakfast time the temperature outside was still bearable.
A Heatwave Called Cerberus!
We took this cruise during a heatwave called “Cerberus.” when countries like Italy and Greece shared countrywide warnings about the extreme heat.
I’m from the UK and we are not built for heat at all, so if people from Italy were saying that it was too hot, I knew that meant it would be way too hot for me…
Riding the “Tide” Bar
When I had boarded the ship the day before I noticed a bar in the central street that looked a little strange. There was a sign on the entrance that said ‘Next Flight Time’ and I knew I had to see what that was about.
I could see where the bar would move up and could see the park at the top.
As we hadn’t seen the park yet this seemed like a great way to get there. I have to admit I did expect it to be faster than it was – I wasn’t expecting it to be like a lift, but a little noticeable movement perhaps.
There is a video of me on the platform when it’s moving, and you really can’t tell it is moving at all.
Still, it was great fun, and I liked how the people in “Main Street” would stop and look at us go past!
When we got to the top and into position they opened the doors and we were free to explore Central Park.
Central Park Area
This was another one of those places that really took my breath away.
The park was beautiful, and the fact that it was inside a cruise ship – it’s just impossible to get your head around.
It was really warm and humid and I could hear birds chirping! These were of course just recordings of birds, but they made this area feel very calming.
We took a stroll around the park and took the time to look at what was there – there were a few restaurants, a bar and a cafe.
We would often sit outside the cafe in the day or would wander around the park at night which was always relaxing and peaceful.
They had clearly paid a lot of attention to detail with little things – like the benches and the art.
The cafe food in Central Park was also included in the cruise fare so we decided to stop here for lunch.
The most popular thing to get here is a beef sandwich with gravy, and they have pre-made sandwiches and fruit too.
There were a couple of soda machines here, which was great. If we didn’t have our cups with us, we could get a drink in a regular grown-up glass from the bar.
More Drinks – And Cookies!
You don’t have to use the soda package cups – but I certainly appreciated having them.
I would often fill up my cup if going back to my cabin and would drink it on my balcony.
There were so many soft drink options to choose from. All the ones you’d expect like Coke and Lemonade but also things like Dr. Pepper, Cream Soda and Ginger Ale
Sometimes I liked to mix them all together to make a kind of fruit salad mystery drink.
It was in this cafe that I found the first cookies of the cruise. I’m happy to report that the cookies were brilliant and they were also available in the buffet and the promenade cafe.
I think they might be my favourite cookies at sea after this, and I tested plenty to make sure.
To walk off our lunch we decided to find the Promenade deck to do a few laps.
It was great because it was out of the direct sunshine and it went all the way around the ship.
There were a few areas off to the side where people would play Shuffleboard or Table Tennis.
There were encouraging rhymes displayed all of the way around – one said “Spend it now, you may not last!” That definitely sounded like a threat to me, but it’s actually about not using up all your energy at once.
The view wasn’t great, it was mostly the side of lifeboats but I still appreciate a promenade deck that goes all the way around the ship.
Find out more about Promenade decks – their uses and their history here:
One thing different about this promenade deck is that the Gym actually opened straight out onto it.
I didn’t step foot in the Gym – but I imagine that if you wanted to go for a run, and then do something else in the gym afterwards this would be great.
While wandering around the promenade deck, I was able to peer into the main dining room.
I picked early dining before the cruise and was assigned table 930. I hoped that this wouldn’t be a shared table because although I’ve had some great table-sharing experiences in the past, I do prefer to dine just with whoever I came on the cruise with.
When I was peering through the windows I was able to find my table, and it was a table for two.
The App told me that it was “Formal Night” so I wasn’t planning on going to the main dining room, as this is where the dress code is enforced. We didn’t fancy getting dressed up when the temperature was well over 30c. (That is 86f if you’re from the US, Cayman Islands or Liberia!)
Men would have had to wear trousers, which seemed mean – if I had my way, shorts would always be okay even on Formal Nights. If skirts and dresses are okay, nice shorts should be too – but that’s a conversation for another time….
Royal Caribbean’s App
Royal Caribbeans App was very good, we could use it to see the daily schedule, our onboard account, and to work out what was happening where and when.
Screen Shots of the Royal Caribbean App below:
There’s also a chat feature so you can message others on the cruise for free – which is good because when you’re at sea you can’t really use your phone – unless you’ve paid for WiFi. Staying in touch can be tricky, particularly on such a big ship.
You don’t need to buy Cruise Lines WiFi to use their Apps. Find out more about that here:
In addition to the 9 included places to get food on board, there were also nine restaurants which are called “Speciality Restaurants.”
These cost a little extra, and we decided to have our dinner in one called “Johnny Rockets.”
I know Johnny Rockets is a common thing in the US, but it hasn’t made it to the UK yet. I was really craving some onion rings…
Our dinner in Johnny Rockets was good, I tried their veggie burger and ate my body weight in onion rings. I think onion rings are unappreciated, they are so good, that I think I should start an onion ring appreciation society.
From our table outside we could watch people wandering up and down the Boardwalk.
Some people would have a ride on the Merry-Go-Round and others would play Jenga at the Playmakers Bar.
Central Street Area
As we had some time before dinner we decided to explore Central Street. Here we found lots of shops, a bar called “On Air ” where they often did trivia – and a pub.
Being a Brit, I was naturally drawn to the pub so we decided to stop for a drink so that I could catch up on my emails.
I had bought an internet package pre-cruise which although not cheap was worth it to me, I managed to finish all the work that I needed to do on this cruise and my internet was normally around 7 Mbps.
That’s still about 50 times slower than my internet at home, but for a cruise ship that’s pretty good.
I did manage to do a live stream on the internet from my cabin which worked okay – sometimes the quality was better than other times – but it did work.
I loved sitting in the chairs to the side as I could watch people wandering along the promenade.
From here it really was impossible to tell that you were on a cruise ship. I did wonder if the whole cruise would feel like this.
I often hear criticism of cruise ships that say you’re “disconnected from the ocean.” I’ve never really felt that before – but on this ship I definitely did.
It felt as though this ship was the destination itself, and there really wasn’t any need to go outside.
After all, if I wanted to go shopping, or to the park, all of that was onboard! I did decide to get off the ship the next day though…
One day when I was sitting in the pub a parade started on the street outside.
I had no idea that this was the plan, I just all of a sudden saw Vikings and Pirates running around their ships with lots of dancers and music.
I was amazed by how many people were in the parade, but I suppose you add together the theatre dancers, the ice skating team and the aqua team, that’s a lot of people. Royal Caribbean certainly don’t scrimp on their entertainment teams.
Heading up a level to the Schooner Bar we took part in our first trivia. There were multiple trivia’s happening every day onboard, with themes like “Musicals” to “Cartoons.”
We didn’t do particularly well – but not terribly – and I loved looking at the menus as they had old photos of Royal Caribbean cruise ships in them.
They did have a piano in here too. There was one other place where I saw a piano – It was In a lift, because why not?
“Lift” of course is the British-ism for what a lot of people call an “Elevator.” That is too simple to be your British-ism of the week though so here’s a more interesting one.
In British English the bottom level of a building, the one that’s on the ground is called the ground floor, then we have the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors as you move up. In a lot of other countries, the ground floor is floor 1.
On this bottom level, which was just below my cabin, there was a hot dog stand where we got hot dogs later in the cruise and a sweet shop.
It was the type of sweet shop where nothing has prices though – and I can’t trust things with no prices…
I think the attitude is ‘If you have to ask you can’t afford these things” – well then I can’t – and that’s fine. No pick a mix for me!
From here we could also see people rock climbing on the two rock climbing walls, and I had a chance to look around the Aqua Theatre.
I had the aqua show booked for a couple of days time and was so excited. I’d heard rumours that people would be flying around upside down – I wasn’t sure how much of that I could trust – but only time would tell…
Ice Skating Show
On this day I had a different kind of show booked. It was an ice skating show called “1977” and it was so much better than I expected.
When you say “Ice Skating Show” I tend to think of something like “Dancing on Ice” – couples dancing around and lifting each other up, which although is very impressive – the reality was so much better.
The show started with a show of light put on by lots of little drones, you know when that’s how things START that it’ll be a good evening.
The ice skaters were incredible, I can barely skate in a straight line so I was impressed! It wasn’t just the tricks that they could do, including lots of fast costume changes but it was how close they could skate to each other.
The ice skating rink did feel pretty big, but being inside a cruise ship I’m sure it is small in comparison to rinks on land.
You can actually skate here too at certain times of the cruise, and they use this space for laser tag and gameshows too.
A little later in the cruise we saw another ice skating show and managed to get a seat in the front row.
Being so close made me realise just how close the people’s heads were when they were being swung around – terrifying but incredible.
Luckily all I had to do was watch and drink my diet Coke from the bottle that I’d bought with me.
Up next on the schedule was the “Silent Disco” which is a popular event on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean Cruises.
I’ve been to lots in the past and basically, you get headphones that play music and you can tune into one of three channels.
Each channel has a different song playing and you can see who is listening to what by the colour of their headphones.
Tonight’s silent disco was happening on the Boardwalk just below my balcony.
We went for a little while and then decided to call it a night. I love people watching so I sat on my balcony with my cup filled with soda and watched everybody dance and sing.
Although it’s called a “Silent Disco” it definitely wasn’t silent. Everybody was singing so I could make out every word and sometimes people would clap along or stamp their feet to the songs.
It was great to see everybody enjoying themselves so much – and it felt as though I was a part of it – without having to be there.
If you do need a quiet cabin, I wouldn’t recommend the one I had because even with the door closed I could hear every word of the singing at the silent disco – and we did hear all of the aqua show performances until around midnight.
I have created a separate video about the cabin so make sure you check that out here:
Your weekly piece of cruise Trivia is that this Symphony of The Seas was the first cruise ship to have a two-level suite aimed at families with a slide INSIDE in the cabin.
It looks absolutely incredible and costs between $45,0000 and $80,000 dollars for the week!
I can’t help but think the rest of your life would be disappointing after you sailed in a cabin like that – it definitely would be hard to go back to an inside cabin.
So Much More To Explore!
One area that I’d heard a lot about – but hadn’t seen yet – was the Solarium. I’d also heard about robot bartenders, a piano staircase, a famous employee called Chris and a Mexican restaurant.
I put these on my tomorrow’s “to-do” list – along with the aqua show – and then remembered that I also wanted to get off the ship sometime too.
I was having so much fun onboard that it was easy to forget that the cruise ship was sailing – perhaps even more so than usual. My cabin faced inwards and there was no clear view of the ocean.
That has definitely never happened to me on a cruise before.
It was 34c (93f) when we visited La Spezia.
I had a message from a friend that I used to work with that said ‘Are you on that big ship? I’m in La Spezia!’ Talk about a coincidence.
My friend joked how it’s hard to meet up with me when we’re home because I’m always travelling, but we managed to meet up in a random part of Italy by accident. It’s funny how things work out sometimes…
Le Spezia was my favourite port on this itinerary, and it was lovely to wander around the harbour and along the seafront.
Heading back to the ship we decided to go to The Solarium. This was an adults-only area that we hadn’t explored yet with a bar in the middle and what they call a ‘Bistro’.
We visited the Bistro for lunch a little later in the cruise, and it was like a cut-down down calmer version of the main buffet which could get busy at peak times. I loved the big windows and the decorations in there.
The Solarium was split over two levels, and it was much smaller than the solarium that I spent time in on “Anthem of the Seas.”
Still, we never struggled to get a seat here and it was always a nice place to sit with a drink. This was one of the few places on the ship where I felt like I could really see the ocean.
Up near the Solarium is an area that just has vending machines where you can buy things like deodorant!
On cruise ships, the main shops can only be open when the ship is sailing because of tax reasons. If you desperately need a new hairbrush or a charger or something, you’d usually have to wait until the ship sails – but with the vending machines, you can buy them anytime.
There were also free phone chargers, complete with all the wires that you need. I’ve never seen that on a ship before.
For lunch, we decided to have a Mexican meal at a place called “El Loco Fresh.” It was a little outside buffet near the sports court where you could get burritos, tacos, nachos, that kind of thing.
There was another drinks machine here too, and snacks like melon – which I enjoyed. There’s something nice about melon when it’s so hot, I’m not sure what it is, I suppose it’s just like a drink, but solid.
Ultimate Abyss Slide
I decided it was time that I braved the ultimate abyss slide. I’d been looking at them for days and had read all of these posts that made it sound very scary.
I figured I’d been on lots of slides before, how scary could it be?
It was actually a lot scarier than I expected. Not so much because of the speed but because it was in the dark and there were weird alarm sounds going off.
Picture being in the dark with red lights flashing and an alarm going off – it was just weird. I’m glad I did it, but I didn’t rush back to do it again..
In total, the 92ft drop takes only 13 seconds but you do go down in a little bag which is nice, it was fairly comfortable.
I’m not sure if this robot could be counted as a piece of art, but it was good fun to watch.
Personally, I’d never pay for a robot to make me a drink, it does cost extra, but it was fun to watch other people’s orders being made.
Robot bartenders are becoming quite popular on cruise ships, MSC has them too. (The robot on MSC Virtuosa is called Rob.)
Main Dining Room
We headed to the main dining room on deck 5 for our dinner. Dinner in here is included every day.
There’s definitely no need to spend extra on food on a cruise if you don’t want to. We ended up eating in the main dining room on “UK Night” and later “Italian Night.”
There was lots of choice on the menu and the food was always good. The portions were bigger than I’ve found on other cruise lines, and our waiters were very friendly and helpful.
I Met Chris Wong
I was wearing a Red Dress when I finally found the famous Chris Wong.
Chris is a brilliant YouTuber who works onboard in the Casino, he shares what it’s like behind the scenes and I recently watched a video where he talked about the Aqua Show “Hiro.”
If you haven’t seen Chris’s videos check them out.
I was so excited because I had the show to watch, next but first I wanted to get changed out of my red dress as it was “White Night”
On White Night the suggested dress code is white – and I’d say around half the guests participated in some way.
“Hiro” was absolutely incredible, it was so energetic and there was so much to see.
The performance didn’t just happen in the pool but also on the ropes above.
We saw another aquashow later in the cruise too called “Aqua Nation.” The strength and rhythm that these performers have is bonkers.
I tried to hold my breath when the synchronised swimmers were underwater, and I could only just manage that – without any of the moving about.
It definitely felt crazy that this was on a cruise ship – but I’ve recently done something crazier.
I actually went go-karting on a cruise ship where I raced around a track that was over 3 decks. To find out how that was, and how I did it without the speed limiter on, check out this video next.
Before You Go
Another very interesting cruise cabin I recently stayed in was on Celebrity Edge. Instead of a standard balcony, the ship has “Infinite Verandas.” To find out more about them, read this article next:
I was lucky enough to take a recent trip on Norwegian’s new Mega Ship, Norwegian Prima. It was very different to Symphony of the Seas! Find out all about that trip here:
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