The two-deck Royal Theater (Decks 4 and 5) is multipurpose, but most passengers will head here for Symphony's evening performances. The first is a reimagined stage production of "Hairspray." Royal Caribbean has already featured the show on previous ships, but it's back due to popular demand, and with all new costumes, sets and style.
The second theater show is an original production, inspired by humanity's relationship with air travel. "Flight: Dare to Dream" begins by transporting the audience to Mars in the future, and then travels back in time, documenting each major milestone of space and sky. The Royal Caribbean entertainment team hired a former astronaut who lived on the International Space Station for five months as a consultant so that the set, along with interpretations of zero gravity, are as accurate as possible. The show was also developed to maintain a high degree of historical accuracy. The performance ends with a recreation of the Wright Brothers' first flight -- and you just might witness a 22-foot plane land on stage before your eyes.
* May require additional fees
All theater performances are included in your cruise fare.
Royal Caribbean has taken everything -- rock-climbing walls, FlowRiders, zipline, dry slide, waterslides, ice skating -- from its other Oasis-class mega-ships and turned the volume up to 11.
When Studio B, the ice rink, isn't being used for its new ice shows or free skating, it becomes a glow-in-the-dark laser tag arena on most days. "The Battle for Planet Z" pitches robots against aliens for control of the planet. The arena is basically an inflatable maze with "command station" tents, but it's good fun -- especially for the low, low cost of free (don't forget: tennis shoes are required). Passengers should make a reservation to ensure they get the time slot they want. Children of all ages are welcome to play laser tag, but they must be accompanied by an adult and avoid the very tempting compulsion to run.
We're told that there will still be open sessions for ice skating throughout the cruise in Studio B.
Puzzle Break is back, and this time players will have to escape Rubicon, a submarine. Modeled after the escape rooms on land, the latest Royal Caribbean version takes players to the very bottom of the ocean (and in reality, just to Adventure Ocean on Deck 14) to correctly -- and quickly -- solve a number of puzzles and riddles in order to emerge victorious. The cost has not yet been determined, but we're told it will range from $8 to $12 per person.
Beyond the aforementioned fun, Symphony of the Seas also offers hosted trivia, bingo, games in the card room and the Challengers' Video Arcade (Deck 15) and competitions in the casino.
Passengers looking to move around a bit can join a game on the Sports Court, a dance class (usually held in Boleros) or train to receive a PADI diving certification on the Pool Deck (handy if you're looking to dive in one of your ports of call).
Table tennis is set up near the Sports Court on Deck 15 as well as in an alcove off the running track on Deck 5.
Games hosted by the cruise director or entertainment staff around the pool area might include silly competitions like a belly flop contest.
While Symphony of the Seas is a vibrant and thrilling ship all day long, it lets its proverbial hair down at night. Live music, nightly comedy shows in The Attic, stage productions, performances on ice, casino play and more than a dozen bars and lounges keep the good vibes going late into the night.
Adding to the festive atmosphere onboard are the parades held along the Royal Promenade, which is essentially the Main Street of the ship. Symphony of the Seas features a spectacle called "Anchors Aweigh," with more performers and bigger floats than any other parade in the fleet. In an homage to all forms of boats and ships, the Royal Navy makes an appearance, but you'll also find pirates, and even a dragon -- what else?
Riffing on Royal's renowned '70s-themed deck parties, Symphony also hosts "The Greatest '80s Party Ever!" The celebration, centered on one of the best decades for party music, is sure to bring out neon, big hair and spandex -- we're told even "Don Johnson" shows up on a makeshift Ferrari.
Even without a parade or party marching down the promenade, Deck 5 is a fun place to be at night. The house band jams from a Deck 6 bandstand right above you, light projections illuminate the floors and walls, and passengers spill out from the bars and late-night eateries to shop, drink, eat, see and be seen.
Passengers won't want to miss an all-new, state-of-the-art ice show in Studio B called "1977." Royal Caribbean has a bit of fun with the storyline, bringing back Tempus, a time-traveling hero, from Harmony's "1886" ice show. This time, Tempus and his assistant travel to London in 1977 during the Queen's Jubilee to catch a jewel thief who's stolen the crown jewels. The pair follow the thief on a trail that leads to places -- and incredible numbers -- around the world. While the characters are familiar, there's nothing recycled about the staging, which is a jaw-dropping combination of the latest visual projection technology and -- get this -- drones! The costumes, the sets and above all, the talent of the ice skaters, combine to make this one of the best shows we've seen at sea.
A second ice show called iSkate 2.0 is inspired by the actual performers, the music they listen to, and some of the choreography they've developed.
The AquaTheater, an impressive venue at the back of the ship behind the Boardwalk on Deck 6, has two new shows for Symphony of the Seas passengers to "ooh" and "aah" over. "HiRo" takes the passion of the performers for extreme sports and translates it into a high-diving, high-energy acrobatics show with a storyline. "Aqua Nation" is the second new show in the AquaTheater and was developed by drawing inspiration from the performers' favorite stunts. According to the line's senior vice president of entertainment, "It's cool people doing cool things for 45 minutes."
Onboard Symphony of the Seas you'll find a well-balanced mashup of traditional bars, some innovative drinking concepts and a lounge for just about every taste. Journey to Latin America with the energetic atmosphere of Boleros, or to the United Kingdom for a round at the Copper & Kettle Pub. Live music can be found in every neighborhood, from the solo performances in Central Park to dedicated spaces within Entertainment place for jazz and club music, or even serenade your friends with your best impression of Cyndi Lauper at On Air on the Royal Promenade. On the Boardwalk, we anticipate that Playmakers, a barcade with tasty plates, will be a game-changer.
The Attic (Deck 4): Imagine if you turned an eclectic living room into a night club, and you more or less have an idea of the ambiance you'll find in The Attic. This is Symphony's comedy club, as well as its late-night space. Comedians typically bring an adult brand of humor, so this is not a place for the entire family. Even later into the night (say, around midnight) The Attic hosts a DJ spinning dance music for all to hear, or a silent disco -- a dance party where everyone wears headphones and grooves to their own tunes.
Jazz on 4 (Deck 4): If The Attic seems too loud and trendy for passing the time at night, then Jazz on 4, right across the hall, is the perfect antidote. A nod to classic jazz clubs, this space is pretty subdued, except when the house jazz band is performing…and then it starts to heat up.
Casino Bar (Deck 4): Wind through the maze of jingling slot machines and game tables in the Casino Royale, and you might come across this spot to grab a drink while trying your luck.
Boleros (Deck 5): Dressed in fiery reds and oranges, Boleros -- Royal Caribbean's signature Latin club -- is hard to miss. A lively band can be found here most nights playing Latin music, and drink specials include a tempting list of specialty mojitos.
On Air (Deck 5): Cruise karaoke is a staple, and the On Air karaoke bar provides a proper stage for families and revelers to perform their favorite songs. Family-friendly karaoke sessions are held, as well as late-night, anything-goes singalongs. Music trivia is held here on some days.
Copper & Kettle (Deck 5): Continuing the Royal tradition of "this & that" British pub-style names, Copper & Kettle serves as Symphony's "local" -- a place to meet friends, grab a beer and maybe listen to some live guitar.
Bionic Bar (Deck 5): Spectacle is the key ingredient at Bionic Bar, where your bartenders are Rock 'em and Sock 'em, two robotic arms that can be programmed to make cocktails using tablets. Patrons must verify their age using their Seapass cards or Wow bands, and can then choose from a selection of neon Bionic creations, classic cocktails or the ultimate attraction, which is creating your own concoction. Drinks you've ordered or created throughout your cruise are saved to the program, so it's easier to find or recreate them later in the sailing.
Rising Tide Bar (Deck 5): For those who need to be on the move -- even while enjoying a drink -- Rising Tide is an open-air bar within the ship that traverses the decks between the Royal Promenade and Central Park via a vertically rising platform. A few cushioned seats and tables are scattered around the oval space. Times of departure are posted on digital screens at each entrance.
Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade (Deck 6): Playmakers, a "barcade" running the length of the Boardwalk, makes its debut on Symphony of the Seas, and we can already tell how popular its going to be. It's not hard to imagine why; it's one part sports bar, one part arcade, with a little bit of a gastropub thrown in. Big-screen TVs located throughout the space show a robust list of sporting matches, from professional tennis and NBA basketball to soccer and more. Even outside of the arcade portion of the bar and restaurant, games line the tables (Connect 4, Jenga) and well as the back walls with bean bag tosses and shuffleboard tables. An adjacent arcade features classic games like Ms. Pacman, SuperMario Racing and Skeeball.
Schooner Bar (Deck 6): Nautical decor that's tasteful and not over the top defines Schooner Bar, which is perched above the Royal Promenade, in a prime location close to the entrance of the Boardwalk. One of Royal's signature bars, Schooner's offers piano entertainment and trivia during the evening. We've heard the scent of oiled rope is intentionally used to help create a sense of authenticity -- see if you can detect it.
Vintages (Deck 8): If you fancy a glass of vino, Vintages is Royal Caribbean's dedicated wine bar. Come here for a varietal by the glass or bottle and enjoy moody indoor seating or a table al fresco in Central Park. A la carte tapas are available here, from $3 to $5, brought in from Jamie's Italian next door. Order bites like olives, garlic bread, crispy squid or a meat board.
Trellis Bar (Deck 8): If you're looking to grab a pre-dinner drink in Central Park before heading into one of the neighborhood's many restaurants, Trellis Bar is a wonderful option. Live music such as classical piano or Spanish guitar is often being performed in Central Park in the evenings, and a cocktail or glass of chilled Champagne is a perfect accompaniment.
Dazzles (Decks 8 and 9): One of your nightclub options on Symphony, Dazzles offers live music, a dance floor and great views to the back of the ship through its two-story window. However, the setup of the tables and chairs makes it slightly awkward for catching a show here.
Solarium Bar (Deck 15): The Solarium Bar provides something to quench your thirst when enjoying the tranquility of the Solarium. It's a focal point of the eye-catching Big Wonder sculpture overhead.
Pool Bar and Sand Bar (Deck 15): The Pool Bar is located on the port side of the ship while the Sand Bar is aptly located near the Beach Pool on the starboard side. Both offer a few stools for stragglers.
Mast Bar (Deck 16): This outfit near the very top of the ship is one of the only bars where you can light up. Plus, there's really nothing else around it, so it's a good place to hide from the kids while still maintaining a view to the Pool Deck below.
Wipe Out Bar (Deck 16): This bar -- as it is playfully named -- is intended to let passengers grab a drink while they root others on at the FlowRider surf simulators…or wait for them to wipe out. However, with its aft location, patrons can also take their drinks across to chairs set up facing the wake. You'll have to negotiate your views from either side of the gaping, fish-mouth entrance to the Ultimate Abyss slide, but apart from that it's your best shot at wake views.
Royal Caribbean listened when passengers complained about the lack of a pool in the Solarium onboard Harmony of the Seas (the previous Oasis-class vessel). The addition of this adults-only pool brings the Symphony of the Seas total to four pools -- all on Deck 15. All have a lift chair for accessibility; and the three main pools have lifeguards during open hours.
Outside the Solarium on the Pool Deck, families will find a pool with a beach theme (brightly colored chairs and umbrellas with a rock wall), and two other pools known as the Main Pool and Sports Pool but they're both relatively interchangeable. Maximum depth is less than 5 feet, but only toilet-trained children can enter the pools. There is no kiddie pool, but a splash area for little kids and babies is right nearby at Splashaway Bay. Hot tubs flank each pool and a leaf-like tarp overhead provides shade from the harsh sun.
Symphony of the Seas is head of its class when it comes to top-deck activities, and everything out here is included in the cruise fare.
The back of the ship is flanked by two massive rock-climbing walls with an entrance on Deck 7. Cruisers as young as 6 years old can accept the challenge of the rock wall -- it's worth it for the incredible views of the AquaTheater and the wake. A much tamer "Luckey Climber" can be found on the Boardwalk next to Johnny Rockets -- with wide platforms and a safety netting -- for little ones itching to scale the walls.
There is also the line's signature FlowRider surf simulator -- one on each side of Deck 16 -- where passengers can try their best to surf (port side) or Boogie board (starboard side). (The minimum height for Boogie boarding is 52 inches; stand-up surfers must be at least 58 inches.) Lessons are available, for a hefty fee. Between the FlowRiders is the Ultimate Abyss slide, a 10-story drop through light- and sound-effects, ending on the Boardwalk. The entrance on Deck 16 is a through the open jaws of a massive and unmistakable anglerfish -- probably the most terrifying part of the whole ordeal, as the ride is over in a matter of seconds. Mats are used to make it a smoother ride, and all loose bags and jewelry must be removed and tucked away. (Must be at least 43 inches tall to slide.)
Zipping right across from one end of Deck 16 diagonally down to Deck 15 is the zipline. Doing it once is a thrill, as you have a great view of the Boardwalk below, but the ride is super short and easily hampered by unfavorable weather conditions.
Up on the pool deck on Deck 15 are the Perfect Storm waterslides. The blue and yellow slides, named Typhoon and Cyclone, can be used to race, while the green-and-yellow slide on the other end -- also known as SuperCell -- features see-through sections for riders to look out or spectators to gawk at those flying (and screaming) through the tube. (Must be 48 inches to partake in waterslide action.)
Little cruisers can enjoy the pool deck attraction Splashaway Bay, an aquatic activities area for kids with a section that's just for babies still in swim diapers. The maximum depth for each area is less than 2 feet. Brightly colored elements like a giant bucket that dumps water or a flower that mists combine to create an enticing atmosphere for kiddos to play in and cool off.
Elsewhere on Deck 15 is Symphony Dunes, the mini-golf course. It's a festive set-up with cartoonish surfboards, turtles, seashells, palm trees and a light house.
The sports court is a large netted area with a clay floor, basketball hoops and plenty of room for a soccer competition or a pickup game of basketball.
Table tennis is offered just outside of the Fuel teen club and El Loco Fresh on Deck 15.
Symphony of the Seas utilizes all of its free open-deck space surrounding Decks 15, 16 and 17 with various loungers and chairs.
Mesh blue sun loungers and chairs surround the Main Pool and Sports Pool on Deck 15, while striped loungers surround the Beach Pool. Some umbrellas are peppered around the Beach Pool area, otherwise most of the pool seating is directly in the sun. Some loungers line either side of the ship, protected by a roof overhead. We loved the tiny upright chairs found near kid-favorite Splashaway Bay.
Sun worshippers looking to avoid the smell of smoke should be wary that the port side of Deck 15 and Mast Bar on Deck 16 are two of the only places available to light up on the entire ship. Be vigilant of which way the wind is blowing those fumes.
Deck 16 overlooks the pools, and as the middle of the ship is open to the decks beneath, it also overlooks Central Park below. For anyone who doesn't want to be right in the middle of the pool action (or close to the Windjammer), this deck offers plenty of sun loungers as well as a few upright chairs along the very back of the ship near the entrance to the Abyss slide, that overlook the wake.
Deck 17 is the Suite Deck, available to passengers in Sky-class suites and above. A private bar, sun beds with wicker clamshell covers, a hot tub and padded loungers make this exclusive spot extra-cushy. We'd book a suite just to gain access to the unparalleled views, especially from a platform at the very front of the deck providing incredible visibility over the bow.
The multi-deck Solarium starts on Deck 15 and provides its own semi-covered oasis to adults-only sunbathers (aged 16 and older). The calming space offers plush sun beds in wicker clamshells, tan sun loungers, lots of whirlpools in scenic locations and -- after an uproar over its omission on Harmony of the Seas -- a dedicated pool. Exclusive to Symphony's Solarium is a large ambient art installation called the Big Wonder.
Guest services and the Next Cruise alcove aren't tucked away as they are on some other cruise ships, but located right along the Royal Promenade. Shore excursion information, along with the photo gallery and portrait studio are just one deck above, on Deck 6, easily accessed by two open staircases on the promenade. This makes it a breeze to stop by each venue with any fleeting question. Before you can even make it to the actual guest services desks, a guest relations member with a tablet will more than likely greet you to see if they might be able to resolve your problem right then and there. Due to the central location, there's often a lot of background noise created by the crowds, live music and parades -- if the problem is serious, having it heard might add to the challenge.
Right nearby is the tech station, solely dedicated to troubleshooting Royal Caribbean's Voom internet service. We found the internet to be fast and reliable without any need to seek out assistance.
Booking shore excursions has been brought into the modern age with six terminals of shore excursion tablets (four screens at each station) on Deck 6, and more right below on Deck 5. There is still a staffed shore excursion information desk, but these self-serve stations allow you to explore shore tour options, book and even print your tickets all in one go. They reminded us of the automated checked baggage stations in airports (but way more exciting).
Next to the shore excursion area, you will find the Focus photo gallery and Picture This portrait studio. Browsing, selecting and purchasing the shots you want to print and take home is also digitized using a computer terminal; it's a highly efficient way to capture and take home your favorite cruise memories.
ATMs are located on Deck 5 at the beginning of the Royal Promenade. Two machines flank either side of the Entertainment Place sign near Boleros.
As with all Royal Caribbean ships, there is a Park West art gallery, but compared to the spectacular and cutting-edge art displayed as part of Symphony's onboard collection. It's a total letdown to find that nothing like the eye catching, inspiring art that's displayed throughout the ship is available in the gallery, which is more of a passageway than a standalone space. The same tired paintings are for sale as they are on most other major cruise ships; this is a missed opportunity to market the type of art that Royal Caribbean itself finds valuable.
Shops are scattered throughout the ship, but you will find most of them along the Royal Promenade on Deck 5. Solera Beauty sells perfume and cosmetics, while Port Merchants and the Royal Shop sell logo and sundry items. The Collection replaces the standalone Kate Spade and Michael Kohrs locations with one shop that lets you browse and compare designer bags from a variety of those and other brands. Regalia is a watch and jewelry retailer (with two storefronts). Four oval counters are also set up in the middle of the promenade selling a little of this and that from glittery baubles to branded Teddy bears.
High-end designer stores Bulgari, Hublot and Cartier can be found in Central Park on Deck 8.
The Surf Shack is a surf-style clothing and gear outlet located on the Boardwalk (Deck 6) between Sugar Beach and Johnny Rockets.
Passengers will find Seven Hearts, a small card room that doubles as an internet cafe, on Deck 14. The community bulletin board is located outside the room, but if you really wanted someone to see your message, chances are this isn't the best place (nothing else is on Deck 14 but cabins). There are chess tables, a handful of computer stations and a few shelves for books, but not enough that we would call it a library. The room is dark and quiet for anyone looking to escape the sun's rays.
There are no self-service laundry facilities onboard Symphony of the Seas, but you can send out your clothing to be laundered or dry-cleaned for an additional fee.
Smoking is only permitted onboard Symphony on Deck 15 port side near the pool, one deck up at the Mast Bar and in a small, designated starboard section of the casino.
The Vitality at Sea Spa is a complex that begins on Deck 6 forward. As you walk in, past a distinctive flower-faced statuette, you'll pass the Vitality Cafe on your right, and the salon on your left. The salon offers hair, nail and lash/brow services that range from about $50 for a "Fire & Ice" manicure to a Keratin Express blowout starting at $149. A beard trim for men is $15.
Continue into the main lobby and there is a front desk, display cases of Elemis, Kerastase and timetospa products to your right, and a seating area to the left that precedes the entrance to the fitness center.
The spa is large, with 25 treatment rooms, including a number of treatment rooms exclusively for couples. Choose from a long list of facials, massages, body treatments (salt scrubs and seaweed wraps), or treat your teens to a menu of treatments just for them like a styling session or a 45-minute pedicure. A standard 50-minute Swedish massage starts at $116 and a 50-minute facial at $110.
Specials are run throughout your cruise, and typically include discounts like 10 percent off your first signature treatment, 20 percent off your second and 30 percent off your third (when you buy three at once). A visit to the spa during a day in port is usually discounted because most passengers are off the ship.
After every treatment your therapist is trained to sell you products that you can use for a home care regimen. If you're not interested in purchasing anything else, politely mention this at the beginning of your spa experience.
A day pass to the thermal suite is $30 per person, $119 per cruise or $199 for the length of a cruise for a couple. Inside you'll find a dry sauna, a steam room and a handful of heated ceramic loungers. Capacity is controlled to ensure a relaxing experience, so if you're interested in a pass be sure to book in advance -- the spa limits thermal suite passes to a maximum of about 45 couples at any given time. Unfortunately, even if you have a treatment booked, no discount is offered to the thermal suite.
A couple's bathing suite is in a separate location, featuring a sunken tub and special amenities like Champagne and rose petals. This experience costs $95 per couple, or an additional $49 tacked on to a couple's pass, which will buy you access to the thermal suite and the bathing suite for the length of the cruise, for about $248. However, because the bathing suite is private, access is by appointment only.
To the right of the front desk on Deck 6 you'll also find a Medi Spa for cosmetic services like Botox and a Smile Spa for teeth whitening. The thermal suite as well as treatment rooms and changing rooms for men and women are downstairs on Deck 5. Take a daring glass staircase or an elevator.
Hours might vary, but the spa is typically open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Behind the spa on Deck 6 is the Vitality at Sea Fitness Center. Even on a busy day, we can't imagine this wide-open space being overcrowded. An impressive amount of LifeFitness machines and workout areas are evenly spread out, and equipment includes ellipticals, cardio machines, stationary bikes, a rowing machine and more. Treadmills face porthole windows for ocean views. All machines are equipped with the latest technology including USB ports and headphone jacks for charging up or rocking out.
Separate areas are designated for free weights and bench pressing; yoga, Pilates or stretching; and a cycling room for spin classes. RYDE indoor cycling classes run $20 for 45 minutes, but a class called Tour de Cycle is $12. Yoga and Pilates classes are also $12, while personal training and nutritional counseling will cost a bit more: $85 for an hour. Private consultation areas are located in the gym to discuss a personal fitness plan.
Dasani vending machines are located throughout the fitness center, along with one or two water fountains. We were surprised there isn't a more modern bottle refilling station for such a carefully considered gym.
Fitness Center hours of operation vary, but accommodate those up before the sun and those awake and looking to break a sweat long after its gone down.
A clever design element on Symphony of the Seas is the stairway that leads from the gym to the two-lane running track on Deck 5. (One mile is 2.4 laps; one lap is 2,197 feet and there are mile markers for long distance runners.) There isn't much of a view for those looking for a scenic stroll (try the upper decks), but for those looking to get in a solid run, the area is shaded from the sun and largely protected from the wind. Those who need a break will find alcoves with seats and table tennis along the route.
Many cruise lines offer outstanding kids' facilities and programming, but it's hard to beat Royal Caribbean's offerings, especially on its Oasis-class ships.
Symphony borrows the same blueprint as its three classmates, but with a few small tweaks. One of which is the absence of natural light in the kids' rooms due to the expansion of the Solarium (there are windows, but they are of frosted glass) -- this is a great pity. The other change is the lack of a DreamWorks tie-up, which means no character parades. There are parades, but they are more generic and might include a mix of nautical themes, such as mermaids and pirates. There is also a Puzzle Break escape room just at the entrance to Adventure Ocean, but it's not a part of the complex.
Symphony of the Seas also has a huge variety of family-friendly accommodations, including interconnecting cabins, cabins with bunk beds, cabins with inside rooms and virtual balconies, and cabins with multiple rooms including the new-to-the-line, the Ultimate Family Suite (see Cabins).
Symphony also has a large area on the pool deck dedicated to kids and manned by lifeguards called Splashaway Bay. Note that children must be potty-trained to use the pools.
Royal Caribbean is autism friendly, and this extends to its kids' programs. Symphony has toys that can be borrowed for in-cabin use; as well as movies, games and activities that are suitable for kids with autism (ask at Adventure Ocean).
For kids younger than 3 years old (Adventure Ocean is only open to kids 3 and older) the Royal Babies & Tots Nursery (6 months to 3 years) has one room divided into two spaces -- one a large, soft play area and the other a quiet room for napping with eight cribs and cots for toddlers. The nursery is staffed by trained professionals and offers specially designed programs for babies and toddlers. There are also strollers onboard, but just for the use of nursery staff.
We highly recommend booking the drop-off nursery especially on holiday cruises and formal nights. A max of 12 kids can be in here at one time with a ratio of one staff member to four babies (and even if it's just one there has to be two staff members). The fee is $6 per child, per hour, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and $8 per child, per hour, between 6 p.m. and midnight.
Directly opposite is a stay-and-play room, full of soft toys, slides, play cars and a home center as well as games for the tiny ones. There, parents can play with their little ones for free.
You can pre-order diapers, wipes, formula and baby food at time of booking (you can't order it onboard, nor through the kids' facility).
The vast Adventure Ocean kids' club on Deck 14 is the center for all the under-12s programming; teens have a separate area at the other end of the ship (see below). The complex is split into four age-appropriate rooms, as well as a science laboratory, an arts room, a theater and a baby and toddler open-play room for under-3s.
Free drop-off programming is available for kids ages 3 and older. All the Adventure Ocean venues are open from a half-hour before the ship arrives in port (from as early as 6:30 a.m.) to 10 p.m. without a break. In addition, on port days you can leave your kids onboard (some lines do not allow this), while you spend some adult time in port. The youth staff will take them for lunch at noon and then an early dinner at a dedicated kids' space in the Windjammer Cafe, serving kid favorites such as chicken nuggets, burgers, hot dogs, fries and pasta.
On sea days it's a slightly different setup, with the club opening at 9 a.m. and closing at noon for lunch for family time. It then reopens from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., closes for tea time, and then re-opens again from 7 p.m. through to 10 p.m.
On some sea days you can opt to leave your child in the club from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., when youth staff will take the kids to a dedicated area in the Windjammer Cafe for a 6 p.m. kids' dinner and then back to the club. There's no added fee for this, but know that the program does not operate every evening -- check your daily Cruise Compass.
From 10:15 p.m. to 2 a.m., Adventure Ocean turns into a Late Night Party Zone for children between ages 3 and 11. It costs $7 per hour, per child.
Parents need to register themselves and their kids at the beginning of the cruise and must sign kids up to the age of 8 in and out each time they visit the club. Children are each issued a brightly colored wristband, which indicates their muster station and must be worn at all times.
The quality of the kids' program onboard is second to none, with an exhausting range of age-appropriate activities taking place throughout the day and evening. These might include activities based on arts and science, as well as scavenger hunts, dress-up games, quizzes and sports for the older kids.
There's a strong emphasis on family (i.e. not dropping your kids off all day), and you'll find lots of family-focused events posted on digital screens in Adventure Ocean, which might include movies, art classes, dressing up and even participating in science experiments. There is also a talent show at the end of every cruise that parents are encouraged to attend, as well as an early-evening family disco most days.
Royal Caribbean splits its Adventure Ocean program into the following age groups: Aquanauts (3 to 5 years), Explorers (6 to 8 years) and Voyagers (9 to 11 years). Aquanauts get a fun, bright open space, complete with a slide and tunnel. The emphasis is on creativity and game playing, and there are plenty of very colorful toys, games and supplies. Parents can request a mobile phone with a speed-dial to the room, should they want to check up on their little one. All Aquanauts must be fully toilet trained (there is a "no diaper" policy), so if you have a young 3-year-old he or she might be better off in Royal Tots.
The Explorers get the biggest room, and activities are more sports-based such as soccer or boys vs. girls games. The program might include SpeedBall, learning circus skills, taking part in a talent show, and arts and crafts. In addition, there is time-limited access to gaming equipment, such as Nintendo Wiis, as well as a TV for movies and screens for video games including LEGO and Minecraft.
Voyagers will take part in role-play type games like Secret Agent, as well as science-based activities such as volcano building. They also play sports, both inside and out of Adventure Ocean. With parental consent, Voyagers get to sign themselves in and out of the program. They have a large room with eight screens and a TV screen, soccer goals, a large central floor used for competitive sports or dancing, and there is a small area for drawing or arts and crafts.
Adventure Ocean also features a number of additional rooms, including a science lab. The lab includes family sessions for parents and children, as well as sessions for kids with topics such as "meteorology madness," making space mud, a wacky water workshop and making volcanoes. There's also an art room called Imagination Studio where kids are taught how to draw and paint in 45-minute sessions run by the Adventure Ocean team; there is also a daily family session at 5 p.m.
The club theater screens daily movies and plays host to the end-of-cruise talent show and a circus session.
Teens are classified as 12 to 17 years old, but note that on busy sailings the youth staff will split them into two groups -- 12- to 14-year-olds and 15- to 17-year-olds -- with different programs offered for each. The tween group is likely to have a slightly more structured program of activities, including rock climbing competitions, dodgeball and Dance Dance Revolution, as well as movie nights, open mic nights, talent shows and Scratch DJ Academy. The older age group has a looser set of suggested activities, which might include theme nights, FlowRider sessions and teen dinners, as well as karaoke, Wii and basketball competitions.
Teens get their own area on Deck 15 aft, next to the sports court. It consists of two rooms: The Living Room, which is a hangout area, and Fuel, which is a teens-only "disco." (There is a video arcade next door, which is open to anyone; it's $1.25 per game.)
The Living Room is a large chill out/relaxation spot (with a big sign listing the Rules: Sign waivers, no wet clothes, have your Seapass etc.). There are comfy chairs, large TVs and plenty of monitors for video games. It also has direct access to the Sports Deck, with mini-golf, table tennis and the FlowRiders just a few steps away. Although it's light-touch programming, there is always a youth staff member inside to keep an eye on things, organizing competitions and making sure that nothing "inappropriate" takes place.
Next door is Fuel, which consists of a DJ booth, a dance floor and plenty of seating. The teen complex is open each night until 1 a.m., and teens can come and go as they please.
Royal has recognized that 18- to 20-year-olds (too old for teen clubs, too cool to hang out with boring old adults) might appreciate some age-specific activities. This is particularly useful on itineraries (such as Caribbean cruises) when they are unable to consume alcohol onboard.
Activities for this set might include a meet-and-greet on the first night, volleyball in the Sports Pool, a Nintendo Wii competition, a FlowRider session, karaoke and a Glow Party. Events are announced in the daily compassnewsletter.