The Symphony of the Seas – Western Mediterranean Cruise
Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is currently the largest passenger ship in the world – with a maximum of 6680 passengers, 2200 members of staff and costing $1.35 billion to make, to say I was excited to experience her as my first cruise was an understatement!
Having only launched in March of this year (2018), The Symphony of the Seas will cruise the Western Mediterranean route, back to back until the end of October when she will return to her home port, Miami, Florida. After returning to Miami, the Symphony of the Seas will then launch the Eastern Caribbean Cruise which will stop off in Philipsburg (Sint Maarten), San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Labadee (Haiti). Captain Rob Hempstead shared with those touring the boat that a date for the launch of the Western Caribbean Cruise hasn’t been set yet, but there are talks of it stopping at Honduras, Mexico and the Bahamas.
The seven day cruise I embarked on was the Western Mediterranean route which stopped off in Spain, France and Italy, leaving from and returning to Barcelona.
With prices starting from £1343 per person for an all-inclusive trip, allowing you to explore three countries over seven days, and round the clock on-board entertainment, I can now see why cruises are such a popular way of travelling.
Entertainment and Facilities
The entertainment and facilities available on the cruise were top-of-the-range, with no expenses spared and almost mirroring a theme park resort, there was enough on the cruise to keep you on the boat without exploring the stop-offs.
The entertainment included (but was not limited to):
Water slides, slides (dry), 2 x 43-foot climbing walls, a full size basketball court, ice skating rink, theatre, jazz cafe, bars, restaurants, spa, running track round the whole perimeter of the ship, gym, complementary fitness classes (and additional ones you have to pay for), health seminars and masterclasses, jacuzzis, swimming pools, deck chairs, late-night live bands and performances, casino, arcade, surfing machine, wave machine, zip line, mini golf course, laundry service, big screens (for sporting events), jewellery shops – both mid range and designer, plus much more.
Big screens for sporting events
Departure from Barcelona marked the day of the 2018 world cup final, Croatia vs France. The Symphony of the Seas showed the live game on the big screens. The energy on the cruise was amazing! American sports bar grub provided by Playmakers, beer, cocktails, sun, sea and sports! Perfect – a world cup finale I will never forget!
Yep, that’s me at the top – very proud moment! I haven’t done any rock climbing for some time, so I found this quite difficult, but I still managed to reach the top and I certainly enjoyed the experience. With the Symphony of the Seas having on offer two 43-foot climbing walls, how could I not be enticed to attempt it?
I was extremely impressed by the gym and the running track. I don’t know whether it is just the ‘5 star’ hotels I have been to, but when there is a gym included in luxury hotels, they are pretty poor. This is not the case for the gym on the Symphony of the Seas, as it wouldn’t have disappointed even the most professional athletes. With a whole schedule of classes too, the fitness fanatic has more than enough to entertain themselves with.
On the cruise day, passengers had to entertain themselves on the ship, which isn’t too hard to do. Naturally, my way to entertain myself (as is most women’s), was a visit to the salon that the Symphony of the Seas had on offer. On my arrival the nail stations were busy. I had a shellac manicure and pedicure totalling €182. Yes you read that correct. Although you could get the same treatment for around £70-80 back in London, you have to put things into perspective. I was getting my nails done in a very luxurious salon, in the middle of the Mediterranean sea! The service I received was first class, and my manicure and pedicure looked beautiful.
Decking and swimming pools
Decking, swimming pools and jacuzzis are in abundance on the cruise. There are so many that even if you wanted a quiet space to read a book etc, there is freedom to do this. Or you could opt for the popular sections, like near the pool, and make some new friends. There are also 18+ sections available if you want to stay away from children.
The cabins are spacious and cleaned twice a day. I was spoilt to have a cabin with a balcony which was truly blissful. In my opinion, one of the best things about being on a cruise ship is at sunset when the cruise is at sea – I could stay on the balcony for hours. Smelling the sea breeze, listening to the waves crash against the side of the boat and gazing at the orange and pink hues of the sunset.
Theatre Productions and live shows
The Symphony of the Seas gave passengers the opportunity to be entertained by first-class live musical performances and theatre productions and some were even performed on ice! The entertainment, acting, singing and props were flawless, and there was a theatre production or musical genre available for everyone, from jazz, commercial music, musicals, love stories to historical shows.
The complimentary food that comes with the Symphony of the Seas is plentiful, reasonable quality and varying. I did a tour of the cruise and managed to explore the kitchens and meet one of the head chefs on the cruise. He explained how much work is involved in managing the food on such a large ship, especially because they make all food from scratch on the boat. He stressed how much Symphony of the Seas pride themselves on food hygiene and environmental waste disposal. Some of the kitchens are open 24 hours a day – specifically the bakery and the room service sections of the kitchen.
Passengers have the option to eat at one of the 16 specialist restaurants that are on board the Symphony of the Seas, at an additional price. I ate at Hooked (seafood), Chops Grille (steak), Jamie Oliver (Italian) and Izumi (Japanese). All were top quality restaurants at mid-range prices. I would advise on your arrival, to work out which restaurants you would like to eat at if you are looking to take advantage of the specialist restaurants, as these get booked quite quickly.
The Symphony of the Seas has a designated excursions team, where passengers can buy trips for the stop-off destinations, ranging from just transport to the major cities, to full tour guides. I however, prefer a bit of freedom from a big group, so I did take advantage of a few of the transportation excursions, which only included the travel. At least then I was given the room to select which sites I’d like to see with my own timing.
The itinerary was as follows:
Day 1. Embark – Barcelona, Spain
Day 2. Mallorca, Spain
Day 3. Marseille, France
Day 4. Pisa and Florence, Italy
Day 5. Rome, Italy
Day 6. Naples, Italy
Day 7. Cruising
Day 8. Disembark – Barcelona, Spain
On arrival at the port to board the cruise, I was in disbelief about how big the ship is. After boarding we were given our sea passes, which acted as a passport to get on and off the boat, to use as a debit card whilst on the cruise, as well as entry to your cabin.
Wifi on the cruise was quite expensive, but if you have a UK phone number your normal price plan can be used on arrival at the ports.
Day 1 : Barcelona, Spain
I spent a few days in Barcelona before going on the cruise, which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you are interested in Barcelona as a tourist destination, please check out my review on Barcelona here, commenting on places to eat, a hotel review and things to do.
Day 2. Mallorca, Spain
Mallorca has never really interested me, I always imagined Mallorca to be absent of any Spanish influence, as I am aware this place is heaving with Brits behaving badly along the coastal party strips, which I am sure is still true. However there are other parts of Mallorca that are filled with beautiful culture and architecture.
I visited the Baleares Coliseu, which is an architecturally impressive but redundant bullring arena, now used as a music stadium. While exploring Mallorca you will notice every shop seems to sell pearls. The majority of the pearls sold there are the artificial ones that are manufactured locally in Mallorca. There is a pearl factory opposite the Baleares Coliseu if you interested in their production.
Another interesting place to visit is the Gothic Cathedral.
Day 3. Marseille, France
Rather than travelling into the city of Marseille, we decided to get a taxi from the port and visit the surrounding coastal villages. We came across this amazing town called Cassis, which had a turquoise blue sea, beautiful restaurants to eat at and the port was filled with hundreds of boats. Please bear in mind, when planning your lunch out off the cruise, to take into consideration that most restaurants on the coast of the South of France and Italy close between 2.30-6.30/7pm to prepare for dinner. So be sure to get to a restaurant before 2.30pm otherwise you’ll have to wait until dinner to eat (I learned the hard way 🙁 )
We then continued heading inland before making our way back to the port. We arrived at a little village called Le Castellet, which offered glorious views of the pretty coloured French rooftops amongst the greenery of the grape vineyards, evidently a main location for wine production. On exiting the car, we noticed an overpowering sound of crickets which soon became music to our ears as we sat taking in the beautiful views.
Day 4. Florence, Italy
The port we arrived at was Pisa which is a two hour drive from Florence and although I would have loved to check out the tourist attractions of Florence such as Piazzale Michelangelo and Ponte Vecchio, I decided to stay local. While walking around the port, I came across this tour boat company called HopHopBoat, which were doing tours of the surrounding coastal areas. The places the tours went were Portovenere, Palmaria Beach and Pozzale Beach. The sea was quite choppy that day, so the trip to Pozzale Beach wasn’t an option. We went past Palmeria Beach which was rocky so we didn’t go there. We got off at Portovenere which had loads of beautiful cafes and restaurants, and although lacking a sandy beach, the big rocks were sufficient enough to sit or rest our stuff on, whilst swimming in the sea. On our return to the port, we Whatsapped the HopHopBoat company requesting to pick us up, and they were there within 15 minutes. Tickets for the boat tours are €20 per person for a return.
Day 5. Rome, Italy
I have never visited Rome before so we decided to do the coach ride to check out Rome which is an hour and a half away. We visited Rome’s famous colosseum which was built in 70-80 AD. The colosseum notoriously held gladiator fights with 50,000-80,000 spectators, with a survival rate of 2% of all participants. We didn’t go in as queues were up to two hours waiting time.
We then jumped into a cab to explore the Vatican. We went into St Peter’s Basilica to check out the famous Michaelangelo painting of the Last Judgment. This was phenomenal but unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos of the actual painting, but we could take photos of the other sections. We stupidly bought a tour with one of the guides outside the building, to queue jump – don’t make the same mistake as us. As soon as we entered we ended up leaving the group and going off to do our own thing.
Day 6. Naples, Italy
Naples is meant to illustrate the true essence of Italy, however, after our trip to Rome, we were exhausted and wanted to go somewhere a bit more relaxed. We decided to explore the Amalfi Coast and Positano – the coastal drive is like no other. The hills are decorated with brightly coloured buildings and the blue sea is painted with white swirls from all of the boats.
We also managed to visit the ruins of Pompeii. After the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Pompeii was buried in pumice from the volcano. Today visitors freely explore the remaining streets, statues and houses.
The Symphony of the Seas was an incredible experience, both the cruise as well as the excursions. The Western Mediterranean cruise was historically insightful, and made me appreciate Europe even more. I highly recommend such a trip. The Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas I’m sure will go unmatched for years to come. I cannot fault the staff, service or construction of the ship – what a work of art! I am proud to say I am one of the first passengers to experience such a cruise.
Words : @TheRubyMaeMoore
For more information or to book a cruise on the Symphony of the Seas, please visit: royalcaribbean.co.uk/our-ships/symphony-of-the-seas/destinations/