Symphony of the Seas Cruise Review by Queen of Oakville
- Sail Date: August 2019
- Destination: Western Caribbean
We flew from Toronto to FLL on Air Transat via Pearson airport. Pearson was a bit of a disaster. The new (to us) luggage scanning drop-off system kept malfunctioning and the lineup was huge. We arrive at the airport for 5:30 with two hours to spare for our 7:40 flight. We have NEXUS so we felt two hours was appropriate - and even with the delays - we were fine. Others got caught in the delays and they held our flight for 40 minutes to wait for 5 families.
We decided we would try UBER for the first time. The arrival started with someone approaching me and asking if we were getting an UBER - I said yes. He asked us to follow him. It was all very shady and did not give me a good feeling. We followed him ot the parking garage and despite lots of uncertainty, we loaded our luggage. I got in the car and it reaked of smoke. We took our luggage back and left and then proceeded to order our UBER. As UBER newbies, we were a little unclear on where to stand and of course, we were in the wrong spot. Our ride arrived and he kept calling me and just kept repeating his name and the vehicle he was driving. His English was poor and there was so much background noise I could barely hear him. Finally found an airport worker who pointed out the correct area (to the far left when you get out of the terminal) and we found our driver .
We got to Terminal A at the Miami Cruiseport and everything went smoothly. We arrived around 12:30 and there were no traditional lineups by cruise status. We went to a line for those who already had a set sail pass, and there was no one in line. We went straight to an agent who scanned our set sail pass - and we were sent on the ship straight to our stateroom where the keycards were waiting for us with immediate access to our stateroom. It was the smoothest embarkation ever.
A few random thoughts about our sailing, scroll down to the subject headings that interest you.
Wine - we had two staterooms and brought 4 bottles of wine onboard. I bought wine travellers off Amazon. I am happy to link the ones I bought, if requested. I have to admit I was a bit nervous. The wine all went in my son's suitcase. His clothes were all packed in packing cubes (bought those off Amazon too). The packing cubes all went in clear recycling bags. The wine was placed in the wine traveller and each wine traveller was placed in a large ziploc bags, and then the four bottles in ziploc bags were placed in a super-large ziplock storage bag. I admit that I went a little overboard but better safe than sorry. I was also smart enough to pack a wine-carrier from the LCBO. At the airport, we pulled the bottles out of the suitcase and into the LCBO wine carrier. It made it easy to carry the 4 bottles on board. Security did a full examination on the wine bottles. And also wanted to see our documentation to prove that we had 2 cabins and that there was an adult in each cabin. This has never been verified before, so I'm glad we had an adult in each cabin.
Cabins – we had two cabins Deck 7 starboard AFT. I was pleasantly surprised at how spacious the cabins were and how much storage space there was. On the left of the bed, were some shelves and room to hang clothes. On the right of the bed was a full length close. There was also a dresser. We had more than enough room. First time ever, we took the over-the-door organizer and didn’t need it.
The Key - we did not have the KEY - but I found the program quite annoying to someone who did not have it. For shows in the main theatre, almost the entire center balcony was taken up and reserved for Key and Suite guests. Same thing in Studio B.
Drink package - I pre-ordered Refreshment Packages for DH and the kids. Cards were printed indicating that they had the refreshment package. I did not set the kids up with charging privileges on their seaspass and this seemed to be quite problematic. Their first purchase was coffees at cafe promenade. We were told we had to open the sea pass. We went to guest services and their seas passes were opened. Then we went to the Vitality Spa - and again they had problems. I went back to guest services and a good lineup had started. I was playing broken telephone between the person triaging the line and the manager. She kept insisting the kids needed charging privileges. I finally had to insist the manager came out to see me, and then he set up their kids with a $1.00 charging privilege. The next morning I was back in line again because of problems and this time the charging privilege was raised to $10. The next morning, I had issues once more and had to go to guest services. This time they involved the head of beverage services who confirmed that a minimum $15.00 limit was need in order for the drink packages to work. This made absolutely no sense to me. We've had drink packages on Celebrity and the kids have never had a problem while not having charging privleges. This time, Guest Services took pity on me and we were given a generous future cruise gift certificate. The $15 limit appeared to be the magical solution and we had no problems after that.
Chops - we received a complimentary dinner voucher from our travel agent, which we used at Chops on night 5. I had pre-trip questions about menus - we knew from the menus on the app that we wanted to miss the night 5 menu. At embarkation, we went to the MDR to check on menu order. We were told that the menus on the app were accurate, however the order would go 1,2,4,3,5,6,7. In the end, the menu order followed exactly as per the app and nights 3 and 4 were never switched. CHOPS was excellent and we all thoroughly enjoyed our meal. I was surprised at the number of kids, especially young kids, so this is far from an "adult" dining venue (yes, says the lady with two kids of her own!). My son were shorts on the understanding that if they turned him away he had to come back to the cabin and change. There was one man in a tux, but most men were fairly casual, with some men in t-shirts and casual shorts, and several men with baseball caps on.
Blackjack is my game and $10 hands are my preference. There were usually two $10 tables playing multi-deck and one $10 table playing single deck. The $10 table did not allow you to take even money on a blackjack - you need to play at a $15 for that. Payouts on the $10 tables were also lower for blackjacks. Although there is a non-smoking side, the casino was generally pretty smoky - which gives Celebrity the edge for me.
Dress Code - the dress code was far from enforced. On formal night, I saw plenty of cut-off jeans, shorty-shorts, hoodies and printed t-shirts. DH and DS did not wear suits on this cruise (which they were both happy about!) Both wore dress shirts and dress pants on formal night. DS (12) wore shorts and button-down short sleeve shirts most nights, although one night, he did a late arrival at the MDR wearing an ADIDAS t-shirt and although annoyed, I could hardly blame him given what most kids his age were wearing.
Fitness - I can't recall if most ships are laid out the same way, but the jogging track is on DECK 5, and I happy to say I visited EVERY morning. I love the covered track as opposed to walking in the hot sun. Each day I logged between 19K and 20K steps. DS (12) had no problem accessing the fitness centre. He looks older than 12 and no one ever sought to verify his age.
Perfect Day Waterpark- I had started a thread a few weeks ago regarding the waterpark – and the fine print stating that kids under 18 needed adult accompaniment. Well, that was much ado about nothing!!! I should clarify that my 12 year old is 5’9” and my 13 year old is 5’5”. My son looks at least 16 and my daughter could probably pass for 18. We stood at a distance and watched them try to gain access to the park with their VOUCHER ticket. They were told they needed the sea pass. They came back to me for their seapass. They scanned their seaspass and gained access to the park no problem. DH and I were both grateful not to have to purchase a ticket to the waterpark. For anyone little kids, there is a nice free waterpark area that would probably satisfy most kids up to maybe 8 – so don’t feel pressured to purchase tickets if your kids are young (or are not Thrillseekers). My kids both loved the waterpark. I had purchased full day tickets, but it was a hot one and they were both ready to call it by 12:30 - so in the future I would opt for a half-day pass.
Quince Cruise- this was the much-debated (thread eventually closed) cruise. I did find the numerous large groups to be off-putting and will leave it at that. The most annoying part was 3 members of a group trying to hold down 20 seats in the theatre. We had one quince group on our floor and I have to say they were sometimes loud and inconsiderate, especially at 1AM in the morning – yelling and screaming in the hallway. I have no idea why, but formal night started for them at 7AM in the morning. I felt for the poor girls fully decked out in hair and make-up and full crinolin dresses.
Entertainment. It was days into our cruise before I had any idea who the cruise director was - probably not until Hairspray. It was an installation of a new cast for Hairspray. The first show had two or three delays due to technical difficulties (one of which was a cast injury). My daughter (has seen hairspray in Toronto, on Oasis twice, watched hairspray the musical and hairspray live more times than she knows - watched it 3 times on this cruise. The second show went off without a hitch and the third show also had technical difficulties. We really liked 1977 and Flight and Hiro were also great.
Comedy - Simeon Kirkilies is freaking HILARIOUS. Loved his Trump impressions. He should be the headliner - heck they should make him cruise director and give him his own ship. If he ever visits Toronto, I would gladly pay money to see him.
WIFI - we purchased VOOM Surf and Stream for 4 devices. For some reason, our phones kept logging off everytime the phone shut-off - despite toggling auto-join. Must be an apple issue though. I found the WIFI slower than expected. I tried downloading a few shows off our home PVR and it took forever - although had no trouble watching shows from our PVR. Instagram and Facebook were slow to refresh, and often showed the refresh sign instead of updated content. To me, this should not happen with VOOM. Sometimes, logging on and off again seemed to fix the problem. It's still night and day better than Celebrity's WIFI.
MY TIME DINING - we had reservations every night, and most nights we ended up in a lineup waiting almost 30 minutes to be seated. The front of the house seemed to be a bit flustered and not entirely in command of the seating process. There were two distinct lines for guests with reservations and guests without. However, one could bypass those lines and walk straight to the second or third podiums where they would get attended to. The set-up made no sense to me.
MDR Food - overall we thought the food quality has improved, especially in the area of desserts.
Debarkation – we had a flight home from MIA on Sunwing. Our flight was originally scheduled for 2:30 and eventually they cancelled it and connected us to a 4PM flight from Orlando to Toronto. I realize now that sunwing has a habit of cancelling/rescheduling and will not book with them again. We generally book early flights which has us taking off our own luggage at 7:30. This time, we had the luxury of time, so we stayed on the ship until 9:30. It was CHAOS at the terminal. Getting off the ship was easy enough, although we stood in line for a while. There was a special line for Canadian passport holders with almost no lineup. Then we got outside and it was chaos . We were unsure of where to stand for an UBER, and I was to cheap to incur roaming charges, so we decided to just get a taxi, and the line was CRAZY. Royal does nothing to manage the taxi line. There was a port worker at the front of the line. I’m not sure what his job was, but he kept saying it was not his job to fight with anyone, although he picked fights with at least two taxi drivers and kicked them out. Passengers were rudely bypassing the line, and taxis were being picked off at the back o the line while others were patiently waiting. We were not in rush, and other than the extreme heat being an issue, we were resigned to just wait our turn. The area should be roped off and the port authority needs more people managing the line. It took us an hour to get a taxi. Keep this in mind if you have a flight to catch.
Overall it was a great cruise – probably our best yet on Royal. I would gladly sail Symphony again on a better itinerary.
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