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Royal Caribbean International’s new 6,680-passenger Symphony of the Seas may be the largest cruise ship on Earth, but Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, has repeatedly stated that the company didn’t plan to build the world’s largest cruise ships.
Instead, he says, Royal Caribbean created a huge spectrum of features that required the additional space. That philosophy has resulted in a vessel perfectly suited for multiple generations to enjoy together — a floating city with experiences that provide a wide range of clients with excitement, pleasure and relaxation.
Passengers can listen to completely different kinds of live music depending on what deck they’re on, or they can take in a Broadway play or a daring display of aquatic acrobatics during an Aqua show. They can swim, doze in lounge chairs, surf, climb and ride a carousel. Or, they can view the unique, 3-D “Flight: Dare to Dream” show, designed in consultation with astronaut Clayton C. Anderson, who lived in space for nearly six months.
While the 2,759-stateroom Symphony offers plenty of kid-specific activities, there are also many features designed to appeal across generations, encouraging families to participate in activities together.
In addition to the performances of former Olympic skaters, the Studio B ice rink showcases amazing effects, such as a humpback whale that breaches a hole in the ice and drones performing an opening ballet. Families also can skate on the rink, a space that also converts into the Battle for Planet Z laser tag experience (tell your clients to reserve their spots early and to bring tennis shoes). Puzzle Break brings families together to escape a submarine, or they can take the spotlight with karaoke or learn how to dance or cook.
With 811 staterooms that can sleep three or more people — along with 488 connecting staterooms — families won’t have any problem finding a room or suite category to fit their needs. Options include the 271-square-foot Family Staterooms, which are designed to accommodate six people with a combination of Pullman beds, pullout sofas and Royal King beds, and the 1,744-square-foot, two-deck Royal Loft Suite, which sleeps up to six and has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and an 843-square-foot balcony with a whirlpool tub.
A dynasty could find a home in the 1,142-square-foot, four-bedroom Villa Suite, which can accommodate up to 14 guests with three bathrooms and a 476-square-foot veranda with a sitting area, a bar, a private dining area and a whirlpool tub.
And then there’s the over-the-top Ultimate Family Suite, which provides 1,346 square feet of fun and charm that can accommodate an eight-person multigenerational group. A spiral staircase leads to an orange slide between levels, and features include a cinema with an 85-inch HD television, a popcorn popper and a soda machine. There’s also a full Lego wall, an air hockey table, individual TVs for each of the four kids’ beds, a pingpong table and much more. Pricing varies from $45,000 to $80,000 per week, and according to Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, the Christmas holiday cruise for 2018 has already been sold at $85,000.
The profusion of dining choices makes it easy to please all ages and tastes, from hot dogs on the Boardwalk and burgers at Johnny Rockets to elegant dinners from the new menu at 150 Central Park. And six venues, along with the impressive three-deck main dining room and buffet spot Windjammer Cafe, are without additional charge.
One of these eateries is a new concept: El Loco Fresh is a popular Mexican spot offering chicken, pork, beef or cheese burritos and quesadillas, along with a counter full of salsa and sides, including corn on the cob, nachos and salads. Also complimentary is Park Cafe, with bagels and cream cheese in the mornings, and hot and cold items later in the day, including the signature kummelweck (roast beef on a salty roll).
Another newbie, New England-style Hooked Seafood, has received strong praise, especially for its Messy Fish Sandwich and clam chowder. The cost for a full meal is $39 per person.
The complimentary Solarium Bistro Restaurant serves serenity along with soups, stews, crepes, fruit and salads, all with a fabulous view. Or Vitality by the spa complex offers veggie sandwiches, whole-grain breads and muffins and fruit; the food is complimentary, but drinks have a fee.
Also complimentary, Sorrento’s pizzeria on the Royal Promenade, which features customizable orders, brought clusters of people at all hours on our cruise. The always-open Cafe Promenade makes you think you’re hungry when you aren’t with an array of sandwiches, paninis and sweets, plus gluten-free specialties and self-serve coffee and tea.
One thing that is not complimentary: Apart from the continental breakfast, room service carries a $7.95 fee per order (that’s for the whole order, not individual dishes).
I heard guests remark that this ship solves the problem of pleasing a group of family members with different tastes without having to take separate vacations. And with all the choices and space to spread out, families and multigenerational groups can divide their time between the fun they share and the things they want to do independently — which makes for great stories over the dinner table.
The DetailsRoyal Caribbean International www.royalcaribbean.com