An ultimate family adventure on board Symphony of the Seas

Size does matter, and apparently, bigger is better when it comes to cruise ships.

Standing in the middle of the Royal Promenade on the Symphony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, I was amazed by its extraordinary width and length. It felt so stable – good news for those who suffer from seasickness – that you might not realise you’re actually on board a ship.

What seemed to be endless rows of high-end retail stores, as well as food and beverage outlets lined both sides of the ship, while unusual sculptures decorated the middle.

At a glance

With 16 guest decks, 24 guest elevators, and 2,759 staterooms, the Symphony is able to accommodate 6,680 guests and has an international crew of 2,200 from 77 countries.

Built in Saint-Nazaire, France, the ship took 36 months and 4,700 builders and crew to construct and deliver.

Besides the Royal Promenade, the Symphony also has six other “neighbourhoods”.

Central Park is a nicely landscaped park with over 20,700 lush tropical plants and 52 trees. This is where you’ll find specialty restaurants like 150 Central Park and Jamie’s Italian, as well as an alfresco wine bar called Vintages. There’s also a nightclub, Dazzles, and more retail stores.

At the Boardwalk amusement area, you can hang out at Playmakers, a family-friendly sports bar with an arcade, enjoy a sweet treat at the ice cream and candy shop Sugar Beach or ride on the traditional carousel. There are casual dining restaurants suitable for the whole family, and a surf shop, too.

The Pool and Sports Zone, which spans the length of the ship, is a playground for the whole family. There are a total of 24 swimming pools, whirlpools, flowriding pools and waterslides on board, for the sporty and active. This is where you’ll find the Perfect Storm, a trio of waterslides; and Splashaway Bay, a vibrant waterscape for toddlers and young children.

Of course, you can just relax by one of the pools and enjoy the view, too.

For those who prefer non-water-based activities, there is an ice skating rink at Studio B, a mini-golf course, a nine-deck-high zipline, two rockclimbing walls, a basketball court and table tennis facilities.

And, if you do ever board the Symphony, which is run by Royal Caribbean, you must check out the Ultimate Abyss. At 10 storeys high, it is the world’s tallest slide at sea.

Plenty of entertainment

A variety of aerial, aqua, ice and stage shows is offered at the Entertainment Place.

AquaNation, a high-diving, high-flying, tricklining, synchronised-swimming and trampolining acrobatic performance will have you … wow-ing. The venue itself is amazing, especially when it is all lit up at night. Known as AquaTheatre, it is an open-air amphitheatre that overlooks the ocean.

World-class ice skaters perform extraordinary stunts against stunning multimedia videos and audio in the 1977 Ice Show. What’s amazing about this performance is that the surface of the ice becomes part of the screen, transforming with the scenery. The show revolves around the life of a time-travelling and dimension-jumping hero named Tempus.

Award-winning Broadway musical Hairspray with its big hair and big dreams is featured at the Royal Theatre.

If you prefer to participate than just watch, check out Battle For Planet Z, an epic glow-in-the-dark laser tag experience with state-of-the-art technology and special effects. There is also Puzzle Break: Escape The Rubicon, which challenges teams to race against the clock to work together with one common goal – to escape the submarine-themed room before time runs out.

For adults, there is the Casino Royale, where you might not meet James Bond, but you might get lucky and win some money. There are also clubs like the two-level Dazzles, and Jazz On 4, and The Attic, where entertaining comedy shows are held.

Meanwhile, the Adventure Ocean youth programme offers young vacationers, from tots to teens, a wide array of entertaining and educational experiences and activities infused with fun.

Non-stop feasts

There are over 20 restaurants and cafes on the Symphony; you’d be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining. Some of the restaurants on board include Hooked Seafood, Wonderland, Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, Coastal Kitchen, Chops Grille, Vitality Cafe and Solarium Bistro.

For more casual fare, there is the triple-deck Main Dining Room, El Loco Fresh, Sorrento’s, Boardwalk Dog House, Windjammer Marketplace, Park Cafe, and Cafe Promenade.

For the perfect drink, you also have a wide range of bars and clubs to select from, including Trellis O Bar, Rising Tide, Boleros, Copper & Kettle, Bionic Bar, Schooner Bar, Wipe Out Bar, and Sand Bar.

With so much to see, do, and experience, who would even want to sleep on the cruise? But if you do, there are myriad staterooms to please each type of holidaymaker, from suites like the Aqua Theatre Suite, Grand Suite, Owner’s Suite, Villa Suite, and Star Loft Suite, to both boardwalk view and ocean view staterooms.

What is unique to Symphony of the Seas is the Ultimate Family Suite, a colourful two-level, 125sq m space filled with thrills such as an in-room slide to get from one level to the next, a private cinema with 85-inch HD TV, a floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall, and a 20sq m balcony with table tennis and a full-size whirlpool. The two-bedroom suite can accommodate up to eight guests across the two bedrooms, with a “magic door” crawl space in between, and a living room.

There is even a Royal Genie, who caters to your every whim and fancy, just the way a personal butler would. What more could anyone ask for?

How to book

There are a few cruise packages still available this year that sail from Barcelona, Spain. For more information, if you’re located in Malaysia, call Gem Travel at 03-7727 4835 or e-mail them at [email protected] If you’re located elsewhere, head to www.royalcaribbean.com