I have wanted to experience a cruise on the largest cruise ship in the world. Symphony of the Seas had planned a couple short voyages that fit the bill. I was able to book August 31, 2019 - September 3, 2019 and not miss a day of work ... Read More
I have wanted to experience a cruise on the largest cruise ship in the world. Symphony of the Seas had planned a couple short voyages that fit the bill. I was able to book August 31, 2019 - September 3, 2019 and not miss a day of work (off on Tuesdays and Fridays and this Monday was a holiday). Perfect!
Then in the few days preceding this cruise, tropical storm Dorian became Hurricane Dorian. We were to depart Miami Saturday August 31st, spend Sunday September 1st in Nassau, a day at sea, then home. Many ships were having changes made to their schedule as the storm grew stronger. At 10pm Thursday I packed late, checked the RCCL website at 1am and saw my cruise was eliminated since the extended the August 24th cruise until Sept 4th. I cancelled my airline reservations just after that post. With an overwhelming feeling of disappointment, I went to sleep. By morning, to confirm this really happened, I looked at the website and to my surprise, no listing for my cruise. I called the helplines at RCCL. They found nothing. Luckily I screenshot the website and had it to email the representative. For 90 minutes he searched while I was on hold. Finally I got a text message with word the ship we depart early and be extended a day. I knew before the rep did!
RCCL did an amazing job. I rebooked a new trip at the last minute (paying way too much) but I made it there.
Embarkation: WOW. I handed a staff member my preprinted boarding passes, she scanned the barcode with her iPad and we walked to the ship. The keys are waiting for you at 1pm in your cabin door mail slot. We didn't much more than pause our walk to get scanned and we were on the ship in 10 minutes. NO WAY could this be easier or better.
We went to Boleros to buy the WOW band. It was $5 and cool to have. It worked great as cabin door key, it was OK as a way to pay for drinks. Sometimes I just chose to use the card as it was easier to hand over. The readers in the bars worked ok most of the time but of course walking servers do not carry readers. Grabbed a Mojito to kick off the cruise by 11am.
We dined for lunch at the Park Cafe - the Kummelweck roast beef sandwiches. Yes, they are as good as everyone says plus a nice custom bowl of salad. Delicious.
Our room had good and bad. I am never one to complain. Room 14-577 was top of Central Park in the very front. Glad i tried it but I won't do it again. If you happen to book these neighborhood balconies, be aware that it is not like an ocean view. There is no privacy so your curtains will likely be closed all the time. Be aware that the 15th floor is the pool deck. You will hear foot stomps when kids run across that deck. While not bad at all, we did notice that. Be aware that in this cabin the ship's framing is a roofline just over your balcony so the great part is - always shady. I didn't care for keeping the key card inserted in a slot to keep lights and air on but I understand it's a good idea. Not a lot of normal TV to watch but who really cares to watch TV? The bed was extremely firm and our steward says they no longer offer the egg-crate pads, I also understand. We managed just fine. Plenty of room, plenty of storage, bigger shower than most ships too. But I will never choose 14th floor neighborhood balcony again. Oh it did include a bottle of red wine and two coke packages (refill cups).
The shows? WOW. I have often thought NCL Epic had the natural win in this category but when I saw HAIRSPRAY, I loved everything about it. Then we saw FLIGHT and that was entertaining in a usual cruise ship show kind of way but well done with a mix of technology and live action. The ice show was 1977 and though I wonder what that year had to do with anything, there was excellent skating, beautiful costumes, and it all started amazing drones flying over the performance area giving us a light show. Loved it. Finally HIRO - what an amazing show. I would say that the price of the cruise was worth it just to see this show! Swimming, diving, dancing, arial performances, a lot like Cirque on overdrive. I am still blown away.
Food. I would say it was good. Some of it was excellent, some just OK. I was shocked that the prime rib was just OK. I love prime rib. But the tenderloin and short ribs were outstanding. Salmon was better than OK but not the best. Lasagna was OK but not too good. I did order a beef stroganoff dish but sent it back because it was unlike any I had ever had...more like a pasta dish with a light brown garlic based gravy. Not a complainer - everything was edible and decent. But for the quantity served, it is still impressive. Early traditional seating is my choice. Always kind, if we wanted to rush to a show, they put us on fast pace. Wine was plentiful and they kept me with a drink at all times.
Activity: WOW. Zip line - long wait for a short thrill but very cool to do. Abyss....long line and awesome anticipation for the thrill. Loved it - especially the que to actually get on the slide being all glass way up there. I ran out of time but would have body surfed the flowrider. Lines were not bad at all. PuttPutt was always in use and looks like fun. the court was half basketball half soccer. They all seemed to love it. I rode the carousel. It's been years since I had done that and well, it just makes me smile.
Artwork. another WOW. Some cool stuff. A lot of weird things too. Loved the piano stairs. Didn't quite get the sound art and light art but OK. Plenty to see. Interactive art is always cool.
The cruise director Ricky was fun. Led many street parties and works his tail off. They had a balloon drop at midnight day one, they had a Caribbean street party, an 80s party and a pirate parade. We sat in a sing along with a guitar player that was fun (crowd was a blast - singer was excellent). Saw a little piano playing in Schooner but I do tire of the same old 70s and 80s pop songs. Oh another cool thing on this ship is the stowaway piano player - he may be in an elevator (that's where we saw him) or anywhere on the ship at any time. Very cool!!
Did I mention we were to be in Nassau on September 1st but Hurricane Dorian decided category 5 would just sit over the Bahamas and destroy...so RCCL sent us to Costa Maya Mexico instead. We were out of harms way, mostly in the hot sun. RCCL added a 4th day to our cruise so we had to get new airfare home but they didn't add any extra cost to our beverage package or Voom package. I think they actually gave us $50 On Board Credit too. I didn't care for Costa Maya but that's just me. I was glad to be there! We did not excursion there either.
Just to add to controversy, I will tell you that in my opinion, all cruises should be non-smoking. I won't go in to a casino so long as there is smoking - so I didn't even visit it on this trip. Celebrity has no-smoking in their casinos. A different vibe for those of us that don't like the smell. But to each their own and I was just fine without it.
I didn't plan to buy a NextCruise certificate but I did because this was my new favorite cruise.
Finally getting off the ship - WOW. We chose late as possible because our flight was 12:30pm. We got tags #69 9:00am. Teh drink package still got us premium coffee drinks for free the day of departure. We waited it our in the Cafe Promenade. When we left the ship we walked into the terminal, chose our bag from the 100 or so still left there and walked to customs. No need to even bring out a passport of fill out the declaration papers...we walked up to an iPad that took our picture, waited a few seconds, got a green check mark and we were out to the taxi line. No more than a couple minutes to get in and no more than a couple minutes to get out. Way to go RCCL and US Customs! Read Less