Single traveler on '7 Night Western Mediterranean Cruise' with 'Symphony Of The Seas'. I chose this cruise to experience this class of cruise ships once again, and because it was the cruise of a German cruise forum I'm member of.
Embarkation - That was efficient and quickly done by friendly staff. I was already on board the ship before my stateroom was ready by 01:00pm, so I could enjoy all public areas and lunch in the meantime. The baggage arrived in front of my stateroom door within 3 hours after boarding; I don't know the exact time since I was taking a long sunbath on deck.
Security Drill - It was held in the 'Royal Theater' for my me, no life vests to put on, a demonstration was shown, followed by a greeting movie featuring the captain and an artful 'James Bond'-like movie, the sound switched on amidst that movie. The show was held in English language, pointing out the availability of other languages on the TV screens in the staterooms.
The Ship - Well, gigantic, great, extraordinary, exciting, well designed, spacious and new, as expected from my previous cruise with 'Harmony Of The Seas', 2 years ago. Real plants and trees in the 'Central Park'! Very few situations of congestion or waiting. Orientation on board is very good, finally maritime terms like port and starboard in the staircase halls, as well as direction signs to aft and forward. The very fast and quickly available elevators signalized up and down in colors green and red, and there is always a 'Gangway' and 'Close Door' button. Announcements were mostly made in English and Spanish languages. The pool and sun deck areas are very spacious with many sun loungers bound together in rows. Free sun loungers were available even on the sea day. Lifeguards permanently supervised the pools, stood at the rims and watched every swim move of the guests. There is also a big pool and fun area for the kids. The giant ship plowed gently through the sea with nearly no vibrations, and since the sea was calm, no rolling and pitching as well.
Crew And Staff - They were always friendly, nurturing, took care of everything, but not in an intrusive way. My room steward did a good job, left a towel animal on my bed every second evening. American way of communication and dealing with things here, salutation by first name and 'Sir', which might be unusual for a German traveler. Information in German language was provided not perfectly, but useful for those who depend on it.
Dining - I'm a buffet cruiser, and I noticed that the 'Windjammer Marketplace' buffet restaurant had reduced opening times in the evening until 09:15pm; but nobody was thrown out, many guests sat until 10:00pm, and it was also possible to get something to eat and beverages included in the cruise fare after the official closure time. Variety and quality was throughout very good, with astonishing surprises every day. The choice of included beverages also was good. Food labels in the 'Windjammer Marketplace' buffet restaurant were in English language, various Indian cuisine was offered always, and many guests from India even ate with their fingers. Guests had to wash their hands before entering the buffet restaurant, and the observance of the ritual was supervised by funny and entertaining reception staff. The background music was mostly pleasant, and it was always possible to get a free table, very few situations of congestion. Staff was very attentive, even went around with tablets, offering lemonades and juices or other things. Dress code casual, also at other locations like the 'Park Café', the 'Sorrentos' and the 'Café Promenade', snacks and included beverages were available all day. Stepping on the stairs up to the 'Windjammer Marketplace' was like playing piano, very funny.
The Guests - A remarkable proportion of passengers from Far East and India, lots of people from Spain and Germany. The German language was number three in the ranking, behind English and Spanish. Of course, lots of guests from North America were travelling with the ship, very internationally, together with crew, actually from everywhere in the world. I did not notice bad or questionable behavior, always easy going and relaxed American way of live! From my observation, the ship is kid friendly, and I also saw people in wheel chairs and with rollators.
Shore Excursions - This is something I usually organize on my own. In Civitavecchia, disembarkation was pulled into length, and arrival or gangway open times of the ship generally were not meant to be taken too seriously in my eyes. Returning to the ship from excursions was never a problem, no long queueing up. Last departure times of possible mandatory shuttle buses were conflicting with reality, even by asking local staff, correct information was hard to obtain.
Entertainment - So many activities and so much entertainment was offered, so less time to enjoy it all within a week. Very big gym and spa areas, and the best running track around the ship that someone can expect on the seas. Hailing from the German musical capital of Hamburg, I have never visited any musical before in my life, but had the chance to get into the premiere of 'Flight', even without a reservation, and the show was absolutely great, as well as both the shows in the 'Aqua Theater', called 'HiRO' and 'Aqua Nation'. Other events took place nearly 24/7 on the 'Royal Promenade', and music was almost everywhere, live Caribbean sounds in the afternoon on the pool deck, and throughout always to my taste. The bars and lounges were well frequented with events, live music and dancing.
Shopping - Some few luxury shops and repeated promotion and sales events on the 'Royal Promenade'. Few offers of typical duty free, some vending machines with various accessories and care products. The 'Royal Gift Shop' is small, sweets were offered in a shop on the 'Boardwalk'. There is also a travel agency where you can book your next cruise, a discount flyer was delivered to my stateroom.
Internet - From previous cruise with 'Harmony Of The Seas', I knew that internet access by VOOM was fast and working like a charm everywhere on the ship anytime. I connected my smartphone to 'Royal-WiFi', tried to open a homepage of my choice, the 'VOOM' site appeared with the offer to 'Purchase Wi-Fi', where I had to type name, year of birth and stateroom number. On the same page, I had to choose a username and password, but then decided against a package. Land based LTE internet access did not work inside my interior stateroom in the middle of the ship, but was available on deck and in the 'Windjammer Marketplace'. Most of the time I needed internet, it was available via land based LTE internet on that route.
Disembarkation - I could take my baggage off the ship on my own, as I prefer it. There was no congestion or waiting worth mentioning. The board account was correct and the billing was made in the currency I desired.
Thank you very much 'Royal Caribbean', for making this a great cruise again with so many unforgettable moments on an extraordinary and great ship 'Symphony Of The Seas'!