Gilly Pickup flew to sunny Malaga to see what Royal Caribbean’s newest and biggest ship has to offer
As soon as I arrived at the dockside, I could see that Royal Caribbean’s newest vessel is a stunner. I was here for a pre-launch voyage from Malaga to Barcelona, keen to find out more about this floating resort. Symphony is more than a cruise ship with an eye-opening selection of activities and 20 restaurants and cafes.
So, what’s the ship like? Spanning 18 decks, Symphony can accommodate 5,518 guests at double occupancy up to a maximum capacity of 6,680 passengers. She also employs 2,200 crew. A whopper indeed! This behemoth is one of the line’s Oasis Class ships, categorised by size and neighbourhood layout. One neighbourhood, Central Park, is bursting with cafes, shops and bars including the Rising Tide bar, which glides up and down three decks. The ‘street’ is lined with thousands of plants and trees and has piped birdsong too.
Another neighbourhood, The Boardwalk, comes with full size carousel and two 43 feet high rock climbing walls. This is home to Playmakers Sports Bar and arcade where families can cheer on their home team playing on any of more than 30 big-screen TVs, while munching on American classics like wings, sliders, burgers and sundaes. After finding inspiration in celebrating a win, it is game on at the arcade with Ms. Pac-Man, Star Wars Battle Pod and a line up of other popular arcade games. The Aquatheatre is here too, this is the setting for high-flying, high-diving displays. If all that doesn’t set your head spinning then the zip wire, surfing machines and ‘Ultimate Abyss’ surely will. The latter is the tallest slide at sea – an adrenalin pumping 10 storeys high with a glass platform to look down at the 100-ft drop as you whizz down the back of the ship. Those who prefer less hectic experiences might prefer to have a dip in one of the 19 pools, play a game at the 9-hole mini-golf course or try out their moves in the ice-skating rink.
Guests can eat the atlas on Symphony, everything from Japanese and Italian to Mexican as well as a seafood restaurant, opportunities for fine dining and even an ice cream and confectionery café, surely a dream for the sweet toothed. It all goes to ensure that even the choosiest culinary connoisseur has something to enjoy between adventures. The Park Café with outdoor bistro seating, overlooks the central piazza and I found it a great place to relax with a drink while people watching.
A musical staircase – a nod to the name, ‘Symphony’ – and laser-tag arena, a glow-in-the-dark experience where participants battle it out over the fate of the last planet left in the galaxy – are another two onboard features.
Evening entertainment in the Royal Theatre includes ‘Hairspray’, the cruise line’s first Broadway musical at sea, while ‘Flight: Dare To Dream’ is an ambitious stage production introducing 3D flying technology. Going where no stage production has gone before, space and zero gravity are simulated as actors ‘float’ within a replica of the International Space Station.
After all that activity and food, it’s nice to know there is a comfortable cabin to retire to. The most imaginative of all cabins has to be the two bedroom family suite. Doubtless it is one of the most adventurous suites in family travel. Sleeping up to eight people, it has a 3D cinema room with popcorn machine, video games library, air hockey table, floor-to-ceiling LEGO climbing wall and a wraparound balcony with whirlpool, pool table and climbing frame. Oh and a slide from the kid’s bedroom to the living room below. After all, who needs stairs? As if that isn’t enough, it comes with its own Royal Genie – otherwise known as a butler – to take care of guests’ every need. It is pricey – £30,000 for five nights, though this hasn’t deterred punters, according to boss Michael Bayley who says the suite is sold out for most of 2018. Other cabin categories, most of which it has to be said don’t have the fun elements of the family suite of course, include insides, ocean views and balcony staterooms. All are comfortably appointed and pleasingly decorated.
With huge appeal to families with children, the ship is a great choice for multi generational holidays. But with its vast spa and peaceful solarium, sophisticated restaurants, shows, bars and casino, Symphony of the Seas also appeals to couples and groups.
Seven-night Western Mediterranean cruise on Symphony of the Seas from £902pp based on two sharing www.royalcaribbean.co.uk
Holiday Extras offers parking services at major UK airports. To book Meet and Greet parking, see www.holidayextras.co.uk
Words and images Gilly and Mike Pickup