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I should mention that I've only been on one other cruise: P&O Britannia You might want strap in, this is gonna be a long one. Check In - We checked in online and provided photos prior to arriving at Barcelona from Gatwick so it was relatively smooth in terms of boarding the ship. No complaints there really. In terms of initial thoughts of the ship, it was hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer size of it. It was like entering a small city, truly impressive as we entered on to the Royal Promenade on deck 5. We boarded the ship at around 2pm and headed straight to our rooms which were on deck 11 near the front of the ship. First thing we noticed was that our luggage had not arrived yet which we thought slightly odd, purely because when we boarded Britannia, everyone's luggage was already there, but it wouldn't be fair to expect this every time. What did strike me as puzzling is that my luggage arrived 2 hours afterwards, and my brother's suitcase, who was in the same room, did not arrive till half an hour later despite us dropping off ours bags together... Restaurants - Now I know America isn't known for fine dining and as RCI is an American company, I didn't expect michelin star quality, but the food at the main dining room, izumi and the windjammer buffet was average at best and for the most part, a bit disappointing. Windjammer - Some food items at the windjammer buffet, as previously mentioned, could have been hotter, and made me concerned about health and safety. On top of this, there was almost always a queue for the buffet at dining times as it suffered from a severe lack of seating, something I didn't see onboard Britannia. We had to get up extra early to get our breakfast in without having to wait in line. In addition to this, it was quite a cramped seating area with tables quite close to one another meaning you often have to take a long way round or squeeze past people. Main Dining Room - Bit of a disappointment to be honest, again, there was a bit of organisational disarray as service was slow due to the amount of people and not enough staff. Little things about this places bothered us such as plates being left on our table for some time which meant our other courses were delayed, having our after meal coffee/ tea served in a mug instead of a cup and saucer - we're not in a diner here. Our meals were hit and miss, with all our duck with orange sauces being incredibly dry, tough and over cooked and yet the starter of beef carpaccio being exquisite. We did complain about this, but whether anything will change, we don't know. Also, broccoli and carrots were done to death as they were paired with almost every meal choice in different restaurants. Wonderland - Our first select restaurant, which impressed me with the creativity of the chefs. The dishes were unique and unlike anything I had before. The menu is slightly confusing due to nature of the restaurant, however, the waiters are on hand to help.This coupled with the ambience and the presence of a mad hatter who also can be found at the windjammer buffet, made dining there very entertaining. Izumi - To be honest, I was quite disappointed with this place. Why on earth there were so many fried variations of sushi is beyond me. Again, we chalked it down to catering to the American market. The tonkotsu ramen, from what I tasted was incredibly bland and tasteless, the broth was not thick or creamy enough and the noodles were over cooked. In short, this was the worst ramen I've ever tasted in my life. The 'Japanese pancakes' looked like American style pancakes and we ended up getting them struck from the bill after commenting on how disappointed we were with the pancakes. Honestly, not a good restaurant and also could do with some artwork on the bare black walls. Hooked Seafood - Well these were certainly American portion sizes with the restaurant aiming to replicate a New England seafood restaurant. They were generous with the lobster portions and the food for the most part was OK, however, they seemed to go for quantity over quality and my plate of mainly brown, deep fried seafood, left me incredibly thirsty and regretting my choice. Whilst flavour was lacking in that dish, the sides were a consolation as the lobster mac and cheese was good as was the - yep you guessed it - broccoli and carrots, although this was a slight variation of tenderstem broccoli and baby carrots. Solarium Bistro - We dined here twice, once for lunch, which we were in the queue for 20 minutes and once for dinner, which we booked a place for dinner and was still waiting in a queue for about 10 minutes even though there were plenty of spaces. The food was better than the windjammer buffet although only marginally. The restaurant was supposedly meant to have healthier food, yet I didn't see much difference in terms of health choices and when we asked for some fresh fruit, the waiter acted like he was hooking us up with something special. In fact, one waiter came back with strawberries only they were covered in chocolate...How is this any healthier than windjammer which at least provides some fresh fruit albeit not much? Everything is served on smaller plates, so maybe you eat less that way... El Loco Fresh - This is like a mini buffet area near the pool area on the top deck, I think it's a Mini Bites on the Harmony of the Seas but as the name suggests, this place did Mexican food. For some reason, depending on where you sit, you get stuck in a bit of a wind tunnel, which can be a bit annoying as it gets surprisingly windy there. The food itself is fine for a quick snack on the go. One thing that annoyed me was that most food places stopped serving food before 10pm which was annoying as there was no way I could eat anything after dinner. The only places that were open were the promenade cafe, for sandwiches and Sorrento's Pizza, neither option appealing that much to me and they always had a long queue being the only places people could get food at a later hour. Again, not an issue on Britannia as their buffet opened till about 2am. Entertainment - There's plenty to do on Symphony of the Seas so you're rarely bored. From theatre and ice skating shows to just strolling around the ship, there's always something going on. Due to our excursions being long ones for the most part, I didn't really have time to enjoy all of the activities but certainly would suggest this ship for a longer cruise. One thing I would say is that I wish they had more movie screenings. Only one film was shown and that was on the last sea day, a shame really, however, perhaps on a longer cruise, they would show more. The zipline seemed a bit pointless as you're on it for about 5 seconds and you're moving so slowly while you're on it. It just didn't seem like it was worth the hassle of queuing and putting on the gear for such a short time. Seems like they kind of just shoehorned that activity on the ship just because they could. The ultimate abyss slide was quite fun and be warned, you do actually go quite fast if you lie back. Be careful though, things in your pockets could call out if you keep your knees too bent as I did. The Gym AKA my second home - Kitted out very well with the necessities, although it lacks enough benches. It opens early and shuts at about 1am, perfect for working off that buffet food or fried platter. It's never really too crowded, although I recommend going later in the evening when it's quieter. Palma de Mallorca - We chose to see the drach caves which were beautiful. It houses the world's largest underwater lake but it does tend to get very crowded, and you're often in a stream of tourists, just plodding along. I advise you to hang back to get a quieter, less busy time for yourself. There is a 10 minute concert where a string quartet and pianist play in the lake on a boat for people. Unfortunately, this was marred by some stupid fucking tourists who can't follow simple instructions. PLEASE DO NOT TAKE PICTURES WITH FLASH. They tell you not to do this as it distracts the performers, but no, apparently that's too hard for some people who would rather take a horrible picture of 4 people in a boat playing instruments. If you're one of these people, question your life. Marseille - We took a tour to Cassis which, to be honest, didn't offer too much. It's a sleepy little town with a small population. It has a nice harbour with lots of boats, but that's about it. The coach journey took us along a very scenic route along Calanque de Port-Miou where we stopped to take pictures. La Spezia - Portovenere and Monterosso al mare were our destinations. These beautiful coastal towns are filled with colour and quirky little shops. There are plenty of stores selling pesto, bread, olives and pasta so if you want to stock up on italian foods, these places are a good spot. I have to say I tried Spaghetti Ala Scarpara in Monterosso for the first time which is a dish local to these areas and it was the best tomato sauce I've had. Simple, yet astonishingly satisfying. We didn't have too much time after the meal to look around, however, it tends to be more of the same kind of streets, so whilst there aren't too many sights to see in town, it is nice to just walk around. Be warned, however, tourist season will see these towns absolutely packed. Rome - We stopped off in Civitaveccia port which is just under an hour's drive from Rome. Opting for the Rome in a day excursion, we packed quite a bit into the day so it did feel quite rushed. First stop, the Coliseum, however, we were told not to go in as we wouldn't have time to queue up, so we just walked around. We hit the Spanish steps and Trevi fountain next, followed by Vatican city. One thing is that whilst Rome itself may not be too busy, as soon as you get anywhere near these landmarks, it's full of tourists, keep that in mind if you plan on visiting near Summer as it was already pretty crowded in May. Naples - Possibly my favourite stop of the holiday purely for the sake of visiting Pompeii which is very well preserved in some areas. Sadly, tourism is again destroying it slowly as there have been reports of vandalism. For that reason, you're not allowed stickers in there as people stick them to the walls, although why is beyond me. You could easily spend a day there soaking up the history and looking at all the houses and places of business, but alas, we were moved on after about an hour and a half. After a brief lunch which was included in the tour, we next visited the Amalfi coast which unfortunately, due to the small cliffside roads and the amount of traffic, took us ages to get through and whilst we enjoyed the view, we didn't have much time to walk around Solerno. The region is known for it's lemon producing for limoncello so there are plenty of lemon products and snacks. Ultimately, I recognise that some complaints are down to personal preference, however, there are some things Royal Caribbean just can't get away with, mainly with food quality and service. It seems like a ship which is thwarted by its own size when it comes to the dining service as they need more waiters for the amount of people they have. We thought it was suffering from teething issues as this was the third journey, however, they have ships these sizes in their fleet and all the crew we spoke to were veterans, so it's not like they hired an entirely new crew. There were no free room service options which seemed odd given how Britannia had at least a few things you could order for free - spaghetti or a burger etc. I chalk a lot of these differences down to the American taste and idea of cruising, but it is a shame that there was no balance. I will say that the Central Park and the Boardwalk areas are a really nice idea on a cruise ship. These outdoor spaces make you forget you're on a ship and give you, at times, a peaceful place to relax and enjoy the good weather. There was often a classical musician playing in Central Park as well which made it even more relaxing. The ship's design and layout was well thought out and although it's the largest ship of its kind, I was able to navigate it easily in a few days. All the staff were friendly as well and we all appreciate that they were working at full capacity given the number of people to service. As the title suggests, it's a hit and miss, while I enjoyed the overall holiday, there is still plenty they can improve on.

Hit and Miss

Symphony of the Seas Cruise Review by howag93

16 people found this helpful
Trip Details
I should mention that I've only been on one other cruise: P&O Britannia

You might want strap in, this is gonna be a long one.

Check In - We checked in online and provided photos prior to arriving at Barcelona from Gatwick so it was relatively smooth in terms of boarding the ship. No complaints there really.

In terms of initial thoughts of the ship, it was hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer size of it. It was like entering a small city, truly impressive as we entered on to the Royal Promenade on deck 5. We boarded the ship at around 2pm and headed straight to our rooms which were on deck 11 near the front of the ship. First thing we noticed was that our luggage had not arrived yet which we thought slightly odd, purely because when we boarded Britannia, everyone's luggage was already there, but it wouldn't be fair to expect this every time. What did strike me as puzzling is that my luggage arrived 2 hours afterwards, and my brother's suitcase, who was in the same room, did not arrive till half an hour later despite us dropping off ours bags together...

Restaurants - Now I know America isn't known for fine dining and as RCI is an American company, I didn't expect michelin star quality, but the food at the main dining room, izumi and the windjammer buffet was average at best and for the most part, a bit disappointing.

Windjammer - Some food items at the windjammer buffet, as previously mentioned, could have been hotter, and made me concerned about health and safety. On top of this, there was almost always a queue for the buffet at dining times as it suffered from a severe lack of seating, something I didn't see onboard Britannia. We had to get up extra early to get our breakfast in without having to wait in line. In addition to this, it was quite a cramped seating area with tables quite close to one another meaning you often have to take a long way round or squeeze past people.

Main Dining Room - Bit of a disappointment to be honest, again, there was a bit of organisational disarray as service was slow due to the amount of people and not enough staff. Little things about this places bothered us such as plates being left on our table for some time which meant our other courses were delayed, having our after meal coffee/ tea served in a mug instead of a cup and saucer - we're not in a diner here. Our meals were hit and miss, with all our duck with orange sauces being incredibly dry, tough and over cooked and yet the starter of beef carpaccio being exquisite. We did complain about this, but whether anything will change, we don't know. Also, broccoli and carrots were done to death as they were paired with almost every meal choice in different restaurants.

Wonderland - Our first select restaurant, which impressed me with the creativity of the chefs. The dishes were unique and unlike anything I had before. The menu is slightly confusing due to nature of the restaurant, however, the waiters are on hand to help.This coupled with the ambience and the presence of a mad hatter who also can be found at the windjammer buffet, made dining there very entertaining.

Izumi - To be honest, I was quite disappointed with this place. Why on earth there were so many fried variations of sushi is beyond me. Again, we chalked it down to catering to the American market. The tonkotsu ramen, from what I tasted was incredibly bland and tasteless, the broth was not thick or creamy enough and the noodles were over cooked. In short, this was the worst ramen I've ever tasted in my life. The 'Japanese pancakes' looked like American style pancakes and we ended up getting them struck from the bill after commenting on how disappointed we were with the pancakes. Honestly, not a good restaurant and also could do with some artwork on the bare black walls.

Hooked Seafood - Well these were certainly American portion sizes with the restaurant aiming to replicate a New England seafood restaurant. They were generous with the lobster portions and the food for the most part was OK, however, they seemed to go for quantity over quality and my plate of mainly brown, deep fried seafood, left me incredibly thirsty and regretting my choice. Whilst flavour was lacking in that dish, the sides were a consolation as the lobster mac and cheese was good as was the - yep you guessed it - broccoli and carrots, although this was a slight variation of tenderstem broccoli and baby carrots.

Solarium Bistro - We dined here twice, once for lunch, which we were in the queue for 20 minutes and once for dinner, which we booked a place for dinner and was still waiting in a queue for about 10 minutes even though there were plenty of spaces. The food was better than the windjammer buffet although only marginally. The restaurant was supposedly meant to have healthier food, yet I didn't see much difference in terms of health choices and when we asked for some fresh fruit, the waiter acted like he was hooking us up with something special. In fact, one waiter came back with strawberries only they were covered in chocolate...How is this any healthier than windjammer which at least provides some fresh fruit albeit not much? Everything is served on smaller plates, so maybe you eat less that way...

El Loco Fresh - This is like a mini buffet area near the pool area on the top deck, I think it's a Mini Bites on the Harmony of the Seas but as the name suggests, this place did Mexican food. For some reason, depending on where you sit, you get stuck in a bit of a wind tunnel, which can be a bit annoying as it gets surprisingly windy there. The food itself is fine for a quick snack on the go.

One thing that annoyed me was that most food places stopped serving food before 10pm which was annoying as there was no way I could eat anything after dinner. The only places that were open were the promenade cafe, for sandwiches and Sorrento's Pizza, neither option appealing that much to me and they always had a long queue being the only places people could get food at a later hour. Again, not an issue on Britannia as their buffet opened till about 2am.

Entertainment - There's plenty to do on Symphony of the Seas so you're rarely bored. From theatre and ice skating shows to just strolling around the ship, there's always something going on. Due to our excursions being long ones for the most part, I didn't really have time to enjoy all of the activities but certainly would suggest this ship for a longer cruise. One thing I would say is that I wish they had more movie screenings. Only one film was shown and that was on the last sea day, a shame really, however, perhaps on a longer cruise, they would show more.

The zipline seemed a bit pointless as you're on it for about 5 seconds and you're moving so slowly while you're on it. It just didn't seem like it was worth the hassle of queuing and putting on the gear for such a short time. Seems like they kind of just shoehorned that activity on the ship just because they could.

The ultimate abyss slide was quite fun and be warned, you do actually go quite fast if you lie back. Be careful though, things in your pockets could call out if you keep your knees too bent as I did.

The Gym AKA my second home - Kitted out very well with the necessities, although it lacks enough benches. It opens early and shuts at about 1am, perfect for working off that buffet food or fried platter. It's never really too crowded, although I recommend going later in the evening when it's quieter.

Palma de Mallorca - We chose to see the drach caves which were beautiful. It houses the world's largest underwater lake but it does tend to get very crowded, and you're often in a stream of tourists, just plodding along. I advise you to hang back to get a quieter, less busy time for yourself. There is a 10 minute concert where a string quartet and pianist play in the lake on a boat for people. Unfortunately, this was marred by some stupid fucking tourists who can't follow simple instructions. PLEASE DO NOT TAKE PICTURES WITH FLASH. They tell you not to do this as it distracts the performers, but no, apparently that's too hard for some people who would rather take a horrible picture of 4 people in a boat playing instruments. If you're one of these people, question your life.

Marseille - We took a tour to Cassis which, to be honest, didn't offer too much. It's a sleepy little town with a small population. It has a nice harbour with lots of boats, but that's about it. The coach journey took us along a very scenic route along Calanque de Port-Miou where we stopped to take pictures.

La Spezia - Portovenere and Monterosso al mare were our destinations. These beautiful coastal towns are filled with colour and quirky little shops. There are plenty of stores selling pesto, bread, olives and pasta so if you want to stock up on italian foods, these places are a good spot. I have to say I tried Spaghetti Ala Scarpara in Monterosso for the first time which is a dish local to these areas and it was the best tomato sauce I've had. Simple, yet astonishingly satisfying. We didn't have too much time after the meal to look around, however, it tends to be more of the same kind of streets, so whilst there aren't too many sights to see in town, it is nice to just walk around. Be warned, however, tourist season will see these towns absolutely packed.

Rome - We stopped off in Civitaveccia port which is just under an hour's drive from Rome. Opting for the Rome in a day excursion, we packed quite a bit into the day so it did feel quite rushed. First stop, the Coliseum, however, we were told not to go in as we wouldn't have time to queue up, so we just walked around. We hit the Spanish steps and Trevi fountain next, followed by Vatican city. One thing is that whilst Rome itself may not be too busy, as soon as you get anywhere near these landmarks, it's full of tourists, keep that in mind if you plan on visiting near Summer as it was already pretty crowded in May.

Naples - Possibly my favourite stop of the holiday purely for the sake of visiting Pompeii which is very well preserved in some areas. Sadly, tourism is again destroying it slowly as there have been reports of vandalism. For that reason, you're not allowed stickers in there as people stick them to the walls, although why is beyond me. You could easily spend a day there soaking up the history and looking at all the houses and places of business, but alas, we were moved on after about an hour and a half. After a brief lunch which was included in the tour, we next visited the Amalfi coast which unfortunately, due to the small cliffside roads and the amount of traffic, took us ages to get through and whilst we enjoyed the view, we didn't have much time to walk around Solerno. The region is known for it's lemon producing for limoncello so there are plenty of lemon products and snacks.

Ultimately, I recognise that some complaints are down to personal preference, however, there are some things Royal Caribbean just can't get away with, mainly with food quality and service. It seems like a ship which is thwarted by its own size when it comes to the dining service as they need more waiters for the amount of people they have. We thought it was suffering from teething issues as this was the third journey, however, they have ships these sizes in their fleet and all the crew we spoke to were veterans, so it's not like they hired an entirely new crew.

There were no free room service options which seemed odd given how Britannia had at least a few things you could order for free - spaghetti or a burger etc. I chalk a lot of these differences down to the American taste and idea of cruising, but it is a shame that there was no balance.

I will say that the Central Park and the Boardwalk areas are a really nice idea on a cruise ship. These outdoor spaces make you forget you're on a ship and give you, at times, a peaceful place to relax and enjoy the good weather. There was often a classical musician playing in Central Park as well which made it even more relaxing. The ship's design and layout was well thought out and although it's the largest ship of its kind, I was able to navigate it easily in a few days. All the staff were friendly as well and we all appreciate that they were working at full capacity given the number of people to service.

As the title suggests, it's a hit and miss, while I enjoyed the overall holiday, there is still plenty they can improve on.
howag93’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Ocean View Balcony
Cabin 6D 11 458
The first thing we noticed when we entered the rooms (balcony rooms) was that my brother and I were given a double bed despite requesting 2 single beds. This, however was quickly rectified.

Something that struck me as odd was that there was no kettle for tea or coffee - a slight disappointment as this is something that even budget hotels offer - we pegged it down to it being an American thing and after some research it seems like it is. It's a shame though as it would have been nice to have the option to make our own tea or coffee in the morning or whenever we were relaxing in the room.

Be warned that the bathroom, while a good size, does not come with shower gel, only a bar of soap at the sink and a 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner, which again seemed odd. If you're going to provide one, why not provide the other? The shower is a good size and overall, it's a nice bathroom.

The rest of the room was fine - very spacious balcony and seating area although the sofa was mainly used as a suitcase holder. The safe, however, was about the size of a matchbox. You can get some small items like a watch and your passports in there but if you brought a laptop or any larger items, forget it.

The TV entertainment was a slight disappointment with no free films, instead charging extortionate prices to rent films, unlike Britannia.

Being at the front of the ship, on deck 11, there was no noise from the above or below decks, unlike if you were below the gym or near any of the music venues such as the aqua theatre/ boardwalk near the back.
Deck 14 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Barcelona
    We stayed here most of the day after getting off the ship at the end of the cruise. We took the arranged shuttle bus to the airport, dropped our luggage off in the storage facility and took the train back into the city. We mainly walked around the main tourist sights but as it was Sunday, none of the markets were open which was a shame.
    View All 2,257 Barcelona Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Barcelona Cruise Port Review
  • La Spezia (Cinque Terre)
    Portovenere and Monterosso al mare were our destinations. These beautiful coastal towns are filled with colour and quirky little shops. There are plenty of stores selling pesto, bread, olives and pasta so if you want to stock up on italian foods, these places are a good spot. I have to say I tried Spaghetti Ala Scarpara in Monterosso for the first time which is a dish local to these areas and it was the best tomato sauce I've had. Simple, yet astonishingly satisfying. We didn't have too much time after the meal to look around, however, it tends to be more of the same kind of streets, so whilst there aren't too many sights to see in town, it is nice to just walk around. Be warned, however, tourist season will see these towns absolutely packed.
    View All 295 La Spezia (Cinque Terre) Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's La Spezia (Cinque Terre) Cruise Port Review
  • Cassis Walking Tour
    We took a tour to Cassis which, to be honest, didn't offer too much. It's a sleepy little town with a small population. It has a nice harbour with lots of boats, but that's about it. The coach journey took us along a very scenic route along Calanque de Port-Miou where we stopped to take pictures.
    View All 33 Cassis Walking Tour Reviews
  • Amalfi Coast
    Possibly my favourite stop of the holiday purely for the sake of visiting Pompeii which is very well preserved in some areas. Sadly, tourism is again destroying it slowly as there have been reports of vandalism. For that reason, you're not allowed stickers in there as people stick them to the walls, although why is beyond me. You could easily spend a day there soaking up the history and looking at all the houses and places of business, but alas, we were moved on after about an hour and a half. After a brief lunch which was included in the tour, we next visited the Amalfi coast which unfortunately, due to the small cliffside roads and the amount of traffic, took us ages to get through and whilst we enjoyed the view, we didn't have much time to walk around Solerno. The region is known for its lemon producing for limoncello so there are plenty of lemon products and snacks to buy as souvenirs.
    View All 265 Amalfi Coast Reviews
  • Caves of Drach
    We chose to see the Drach caves which were beautiful. It houses the world's largest underwater lake but it does tend to get very crowded, and you're often in a stream of tourists, just plodding along. I advise you to hang back to get a quieter, less busy time for yourself. There is a 10 minute concert where a string quartet and pianist play in the lake on a boat for people. Unfortunately, this was marred by some stupid phucking tourists who can't follow simple instructions. PLEASE DO NOT TAKE PICTURES WITH FLASH. They tell you not to do this as it distracts the performers, but no, apparently that's too hard for some people who would rather take a horrible picture of 4 people in a boat playing instruments. If you're one of these people, question your life.
    View All 26 Caves of Drach Reviews
  • City Tour
    We stopped off in Civitaveccia port which is just under an hour's drive from Rome. Opting for the Rome in a day excursion, we packed quite a bit into the day so it did feel quite rushed. First stop, the Coliseum, however, we were told not to go in as we wouldn't have time to queue up, so we just walked around. We hit the Spanish steps and Trevi fountain next, followed by Vatican city. One thing is that whilst Rome itself may not be too busy, as soon as you get anywhere near these landmarks, it's full of tourists, keep that in mind if you plan on visiting near Summer as it was already pretty crowded in May. We did feel that we were quite rushed as we were some of the last people to get back on the coach and some people even had to meet us at the next destination.
    View All 322 City Tour Reviews