We had never even considered going on a cruise before now, but after an introduction to the Symphony of the Seas from watching Instagram posts and stories from two of our favourite Dancing on Ice professionals, our interest was sparked.
My wife and I are fans of the TV show Dancing on Ice and follow several their professional skaters on Instagram.
Carlotta Edwards Demetriou and Alex Demetriou are professional ice skaters who appeared on the UK series Dancing on Ice and they also took a contract on Symphony of the Seas, appearing in the ship’s Ice-Skating shows.
We saw amazing videos and pictures of this amazing ship and not knowing many people who have been on a cruise and having never been on one ourselves, we were a little naive about what facilities were available so were really impressed by what we saw.
We started to look into this amazing ship and could not believe how much there was to do onboard.
After watching some YouTube videos showing tours of the ship, we were really excited and managed to get a good deal on a cruise leaving Miami for the West Caribbean on our 17th Wedding Anniversary, 28th September 2019.
The trip to Miami
Getting to Miami from Manchester airport required a stop in Atlanta and involved a flight with Virgin Atlantic to Atlanta then with Delta to Miami.
The Virgin Atlantic flight was over 7 hours but felt very much longer and was uncomfortable due to the narrowest seats I’ve even sat in on any plane which was very disappointing.
The entertainment system was terrible, the touchscreens caused a constant noise of people tutting and tapping the screen really hard trying to get it to respond everywhere you looked. The staff were great, and the food and service were great. Theses old 747-400 airplanes used for this transatlantic crossing are due to be replaced by a new fleet of Airbus A350-1000, the sooner the better in my opinion.
Our onward flight from Atlanta to Miami was delayed but once over the frustration, the flight was much more comfortable in a more modern Airbus with modern touchscreen entertainment system that worked flawlessly.
A word about US Border and Customs Protection
I remember from a trip as a child with my parents to Orlando Florida, back in 1991, being intimidated and scared by the Border Protection officers in the airport.
I completely support and understand why we have to be extremely thorough and careful these days more than ever, but I cannot believe it has to be done in such a rude and arrogant manner.
We were all shouted at all the way through customs and immigration and mocked if we didn’t know if for example a watch needed to go through the x-ray machine or not. I was shouted at for putting my laptop in a tray as instructed, because there was something else in the x-ray tray already?
Like I said, I understand that this needs to be done but I was really shocked by how rude many of these people were to tourists coming to spend large chunks of their disposable income in their country!
This experience reminded me of the long-forgotten experience when I was a child.
Sorry, to digress but I felt that I need to mention this as I know people who refuse to go back because they were treated so rudely at this point so at least if you read this before you go, are at least forewarned to what you might face.
Stepping Onboard the Ship
The minute we stepped inside the impressive new Royal Caribbean terminal at Miami to board the ship, things really started to change. We were treated completely professionally, efficiently and very politely and welcomed onboard very quickly without too much fuss.
Stepping onboard the actual ship, despite watching every available video tour of the ship on YouTube, the real thing was even more impressive than we could have imagined.
It’s true what you read before you go, your holiday starts as soon as you step aboard.
Within minutes we were ordering our first Cocktails at the Bionic Bar using an iPad and watching them being made by robots.
We took a walk around the Grand Parade and helped ourselves to the first few items of all-inclusive food such as slices of pizza and from the Boardwalk Doghouse stall for Hotdogs.
We felt that the ship had an ingenious design where the different entertainment venues were spread out across the ship and on different floors.
This meant that the heavy density of travellers were distributed across the ship rather than congregated in one central ‘entertainment’ area so it didn’t feel too crowded at any point.
We never had to queue long for anything really.
During the sunny days at sea we thought we may struggle to get loungers but they are spread out across a couple of decks overlooking the pools so we could always find a quiet spot to pitch up.
Our initial interest in this cruise was sparked by Professional Ice skaters that were working a contract onboard. There were 2 ice skating shows onboard, 1977 and Ice Skate 2.0
We went to both these shows and both were brilliant.
I was especially blown away by the unexpected synchronised drone display at the beginning of 1977, super impressive!
Hiro is an Aqua show that instantly became my favourite part of the entertainment onboard when I first saw it.
From the pre-show part where performers suddenly appear from under the water to the high divers and the high slack line walkers, this show is over 50 minutes of not knowing where to look so you don’t miss the action.
We were so impressed with this show we watched it twice and were lucky enough to catch the performers tirelessly practicing during the day too for added entertainment.
These guys work hardf and it shows in their super slick death defying performances
Hairspray and Flight were the 2 shows in the main Theatre, and both of these were great.
The individual performers that popped up in the many bars were also of a really good calibre and we especially liked the piano player Andy C in the Schooner bar.
In summary there is always something to do, the entertainments staff were top notch and the quality of all the performances and performers was superb.
Either any member of staff not found to be smiling and saying hello to guests were taken behind the scenes and electrocuted, or they are all genuinely just polite friendly and helpful.
Whichever it is they are all lovely and seem to not be able to do enough to help you.
To summarise, Infinite choice and excellent quality!
There really is something for everybody onboard.
The only paid option we chose was Johnny Rockets which was great value.
Personally, I just could not justify the extra spend in the speciality dining options like Chops Grill and Jamies’s Itallian when the inclusive options are so good. We didn’t try any of them so can’t comment from experience, but I heard from other passengers that Chops Grill was very good but only ever heard bad reviews of Jamie’s Italian.
We only went to the Main Dining Room once, we preferred the choice, availability, speed and convenience of the self-serve options like the Windjammer Marketplace. There was nothing wrong with the experience really, it just seemed that a 3-course meal we had wait for didn’t offer as much choice or convenience as filling your plate with as much a variety of foods as you liked!
We often went to El Loco Fresh or the Solarium Bistro for breakfast as they wee quieter and offered an alternative to the Windjammer which was busier at breakfast than any other time.
El loco Fresh offered different choices like Ranchero Eggs which were amazing!
We resisted the drinks packages right up until about 2 weeks before travel when the price went down by about 10%
At first I thought this was still too expensive but looking back it was a must have and saved us a lot of money.
Once you had the drinks package you could get pretty much anything you wanted including the $13 cocktails available.
The other perk was that we could get 2 bottled water from anywhere serving drinks for each card so we got 4 at a time when leaving the ship for example to save having to pay over the odds for water in the ports.
Each venue had it’s own cocktail list but the staff were so accommodating they would make you anything you asked for whether it was on the menu or not.
I think we tried most of the cocktails on offer any our favourites were the Pina Colada and the Strawberry Daiquiri
The excursions were very expensive, and we simply could not afford most of them after paying the cruise itself, the airfare, transfers, hotel costs etc
We did go on a glass bottom boat tour from Coco Cay which was $42 each and I have to say this was well worth the money. We were out for around 1.5 hours and the boat had a diver onboard so when we saw something, he would dive down and retrieve it for us to look at
Ports of call
We stopped at Roatan, Puerto Costa Maya, Cozumel and Perfect Day at CocoCay
We’ve never been to any of the places or countries before so it was great to visit them but without paying for an excursion, there wasn’t really much to do at most of them.
The one exception was Perfect Day at Coco Cay, this island is a true paradise island and teaming with wildlife.
The Glass Bottom Boat tour was brilliant, and we also hired a Kayak and paddled around the coastline.
There were fish everywhere and a massive Sting Ray inches from my feet.
We also swam up to a floating bar at beach for one of the most rewarding and relaxing bottles of beer possible, you didn’t need any cash or your SeaPass, just your room number!
This turned out to be the best holiday we’ve ever had and certainly convinced us to start looking for our next cruise.
I only hope we haven’t spoiled things by starting too big and going on the biggest cruise ship in the world with such fantastic facilities and entertainment, our next cruise sure does have a lot of work to do to compete with this one!
We could not fault the cabin at all.
We were on Deck 6 at the very front of the ship so we had a great view and only 1 neighbouring balcony. The balcony was not overlooked from any angle and offered a lovely place to sit and watch the seas go bye.
The room was more than large enough, in perfect condition, clean tidy and comfortable with great air conditioning that was also quiet.
The bathroom was small but perfectly formed and the shower was good with an adjustable spray.