I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks since sailing the blue seas. I find myself constantly daydreaming about looking across the ocean with nothing but sunshine on my face and a frozen mojito in my hands. Gosh, our cruise was fun. I’ve had so many of you reach out to ask questions about our vacation which inspired this giant ole cruise recap to try and answer all of your questions in one easy spot! If you’d like to see video of our time on the ship, be sure to checkout the Cruise Highlight on my Instagram account here! This was our second cruise that Shawn and I have traveled on together and are already scheming when our next one will be. Today I’m here to try and knockout everything I’ve been asked about while also including helpful tips should you decide to set sail as well!
Before diving in, I should note that nothing about this trip was sponsored but simply personal pleasure! I booked / planned / and experienced it all 😉
Cruise Line & Ship We Sailed On: Royal Caribbean // Symphony of the Seas. We have traveled on Royal Caribbean once before and absolutely loved it so we decided to go this route again, this time on the newest and biggest ship on the seas, Symphony of the Seas. We love Royal Caribbean as the ships are incredibly clean, the staff is very friendly, the food is delicious and the entertainment is first class. The ship was incredible and didn’t disappoint. The Symphony of the Seas is part of the Oasis Class [there are 4 ships in this class] and they are all very similar. The set-up of this class of Royal Caribbean ships is by neighborhood – you have the Royal Promenade, Central Park [my FAVORITE area on the boat!], Boardwalk, Pool & Sports Zone, Entertainment Place, Vitality Spa, Adults Only Solarium and Kids Zone. While the ship is gigantic and there are a LOT of people on the ship [with crew I believe it’s around 8,000], due to all of the different areas and neighborhoods, it thankfully doesn’t feel too crowded or packed.
Itinerary: 7 nights, Eastern Caribbean Cruise. We sailed from Miami, FL to Nassau, Bahamas, St Thomas and St Kitts! More to come on what we did at each stop below! Side note: We flew into Miami the day before sailing and stayed overnight at the Kimpton Angler’s Hotel which was very close to the port [and a great hotel!] We ate at Upland near the hotel for dinner Friday evening and it was wonderful!
How We Booked: We booked directly through RoyalCaribbean.com as I found that the pricing was similar [if not the same] through different online travel agencies [ie: Expedia]. I also noticed that when booking directly through the cruise line you are more likely to get some special add-ons for your cruise [ie: free internet, etc] or discounts on your trip. Note: I did learn after the cruise that Costco offers travel packages at a discount and Royal Caribbean is included. Next time we travel, I will most likely start there first!
Boarding The Ship: Prior to departure, you are able to checkin online via the Royal Caribbean app. At that time you input your passport information and take a selfie of yourself. At the port where you board, everything is done by facial recognition and it literally took about two minutes for us to get on the ship. The same was true for departing at the end of the trip!
Room Type and Details: We splurged and opted to stay in a Crown Loft Suite [room 1764 to be exact] and it was incredible. This room type is included in their Sky Suite Class which offers a LOT of amazing amenities which I’ll get into! This room quickly squashes the idea that cruise ship rooms are tiny and claustrophobic. With two levels of nearly 600 sq feet, two bathrooms [both of which had a shower, one with a tub] enough storage for everybody + more, and a balcony that was perfect for laying out or eating breakfast and floor to ceiling windows, it was definitely a treat! The upstairs bed is a king and the couch on the main level pulls out so two could sleep there as well. There is a curtain that you can close upstairs to block off the downstairs living room which would be nice if you had kiddos or friends in the room. My favorite part of the room [aside from all of it] had to be the automatic open / closing of the floor to ceiling curtains. A lot of people have asked about the cost of booking this room and while the cost is always going to vary depending on your exact travel dates and itinerary, it looks like on average it is about 4x the cost of your basic interior stateroom. I’ll explain what else you get with this suite in a second [aside from the incredible room itself]! A few random things to note: the plugs in the room will work with your devices [US sockets]. I did bring my own hair dryer as I’ve heard hair dryers on the ship aren’t awesome. You also can’t bring a steamer with you nor do the rooms have an iron so you may want to bring a wrinkle release spray!
[bathroom on main floor] [second bathroom upstairs]
Suite Amenities: When you book certain suite levels [Star or Sky] you’ll have access to Coastal Kitchen [a suite guest only dining room] for breakfast, lunch or dinner which serves excellent food, all for free. Additionally, you’ll have access to the Suite Lounge for complimentary cocktails and Hors d’oeuvre every evening from 4-8 [fun fact: you can enjoy free drinks at any lounge on the ship during these hours as a suite guest]. My favorite amenity was having access to the Suite Sun Deck which was a LARGE private area for suite guests only to lay out. The area also had it’s own bar, bathrooms, hot tub and tons of lounge chairs and couches. This was a lifesaver as we never had to worry about saving chairs or not having a spot to lay for the day. Additional suite amenities include having your own concierge [we loved Jackie and Rahul] who are there for anything that you may need, free unlimited high speed internet, priority boarding and departure [this was insane – it took approximately two minutes to get on and off the ship, including at shore stops!] and a few other fun extras like L’Occitane toiletries, luxury pillow top mattress and fun treats delivered to our room on occasion. Because of all of this, it made the trip SO stress-free and allowed us to enjoy every second without ever feeling like we were crowded among thousands of people. Worth every dollar in our opinion!
[suite lounge][suite sun deck, this wrapped around the front half of the ship][suite deck hot tub]
Shore Excursions: When it came to booking our excursions, we did it all directly through RoyalCaribbean.com. Once you book your cruise, you will have access to your online Cruise Planner which is where you can book all of your excursions, dining reservations, show reservations, WIFI packages and more. I love getting everything planned ahead of time and recommend doing this just to ensure you get the shows and restaurants you want! Here are the excursions we booked and my thoughts on them:
- Nassau, Bahamas – Half Day at Aquaventure Park at the Atlantis. Here’s the thing – at Nassau on this exact itinerary, you don’t have a ton of time off of the ship. We were off the ship around 7:30 am but had to be back on by 1:30 or so. What we didn’t know was that the Aquaventure Park doesn’t actually open until 10:00 [aka the waterslides, rapid river, etc] but yet we got there around 8 am and had to leave by 12 or 12:30. All of this to say, we simply laid next to the pool and then did the Rapid River once it opened at 10. Would I pay to do this excursion again? No. Was it a fine way to spend a few hours in the Bahamas? Yes. I would only do this if you really like waterslides and/or really want to see the Atlantis property!
- St Thomas – We had been to St Thomas once before on a cruise ship and had taken a boat over to St John which was amazing. Because we had done that once, we wanted to do something different so we did the excursion that went to Magens Bay. Once there, we hung out in the water [it was SO crowded] and then ate lunch [the food there was pretty good!]. You do have to pay if you want lounge chairs, just a heads up! Would I pay to do this excursion again? Probably not as I enjoyed St John more, however, it was an easy excursion if you’re looking to just spend time at a beautiful beach!
- St Kitts – This was our first time in St Kitts so we decided to the Scenic Railway Tour and I’m really glad we did! It was a fun way to see a lot of the island on an open air train with somebody telling you about the history while going. They served free drinks on the train and also had a choir of 4 girls or so that would sing occasionally [random but kinda fun]. I’d recommend this to somebody going to St Kitts for the first time!
On-Ship Dining Details: On the Symphony of the Seas there are 7 complimentary dining options and 12 speciality restaurants [this means that they have a cost to eat there – each restaurant has its own flat fee, ie: $25 per person and it ranges on the specific restaurant for the cost. Once you pay the flat fee, you can order anything / everything off the menu]! For breakfast we always ate in the Coastal Kitchen [suite guests only] and for lunch we either ate at Coastal Kitchen, Park Cafe or Solarium Bistro [this is adults only and is buffet style]! For dinner we tried a different speciality restaurant every evening. If you don’t eat at a speciality restaurant and choose to eat at the main dining room, they offer two different seating times [6:30 and 8:45] or you can do my-time dining which means you can go anytime between 6 and 9:30 pm!] We made a couple of reservations prior to our trip and then made some once on the ship. For the restaurants we reserved on the ship, some time slots were already booked so I would encourage booking in advance through the online Cruise Planner! Here are the speciality restaurants we ate at and my thoughts:
- Jamie’s Italian – YUM. This was one of my [actually, it was] my favorite meal of the entire trip. Shawn ordered the truffle pasta and I ordered the lasagna. Both were delicious but that truffle pasta, MY MOUTH IS WATERING THINKING ABOUT IT. So good. The garlic bread for an appetizer was also delicious. And dessert, absolutely order the brownie. You’re welcome.
- Chops Grille – This is the steakhouse on the ship and honestly, it’s good, but I don’t know if either of us LOVED it. If you want a steak while on the ship, I’d recommend going to Hooked and getting it there [Shawn got surf & turf at Hooked and said the steak there tasted better than the one at Chops!]
- 150 Central Park – If nothing else, go here for a Tableside Central Park Martini, oh my, yes. Shawn and I both really liked our meal here and would eat there again! We ordered two desserts [oops, we accidentally did this every night] and they were so good.
- Wonderland – Talk about an experience. If you’re looking for a dining experience unlike anything you’ve ever encountered, this is definitely something to try. It’s based out of Alice in Wonderland [complete with the Mad Hatter who comes around and talks to you] with food prepared in a way you’ve most likely never had. I will say, it’s odd eating things that you aren’t totally sure what it is, however, everything tasted good! I don’t think we would pay to eat here again just because we’ve experienced it once, but would recommend if you want something totally unique!
- Hooked – This was Shawn’s favorite meal of the trip and my second favorite [aka, we loved it]. The nautical vibe of the restaurant was right down my alley and while it’s a seafood restaurant, the chicken I ordered was superb [don’t worry – Shawn had seafood and loved it]! The macaroni and cheese was so good and the Boston Creme Pie was delicious for dessert!
- Izumi – This is the hibachi / sushi restaurant! The best part of the meal was our chef at the hibachi table who made it so entertaining and fun! The food was good, however, the price per person to eat here is quite high I felt like. I don’t believe we would choose to eat again at Izumi unless we just did the sushi, as we have local hibachi places we like just as much!
- Bottomless Galley Brunch – We also opted to book this brunch one morning as this is a way to go into the Galley and see behind the scenes in the kitchen area and learn more about how they serve food to thousands of people every week. It ends with a brunch and bottomless mimosas. A fun way to see parts of the ship not everybody else does! ps. Pack closed toe shoes for this!
Formal Nights Note: There were two formal nights on our 7-night cruise. I wore a dress and a jumpsuit for the two nights and Shawn wore a nice pair of denim jeans with a button up and suit jacket on both evenings. You can see more on outfits here!
Drink Packages: When cruising, alcohol, pop and bottled water typically isn’t included in your cost. They do offer drink packages that you can purchase at a discount either in advance or on the first day of the cruise. Originally we weren’t planning on purchasing the package, however, after ordering our second cocktail once on the ship we decided to bite the bullet and do it. The average cost of a drink on the ship is $10-$15. For the two of us to get a drink package, it was a total of around $800 [the package was buy one, get one 50% off]. I am not sure if we ended up money ahead or behind by going forward with the drink package [I think we would have been money ahead to pay as we go], but the convenience of not having to sign a receipt with every drink order was nice. Fun fact: You are allowed to bring 2 bottles of wine on the ship [I believe this is per person]! Bring your own wine opener to avoid an uncorking fee!
On-Ship Entertainment: Literally, every evening show is worth going to [and they are all free to attend!]. Here are all of the shows / things we did [again, I’d recommend ALL]! We did book everything in advance, but also learned once on the ship that if you are a suite guest, you don’t have to reserve and you simply show up 20 minutes prior to show time and they have a reserved section for suite guests only!
- Hairspray – Broadway show, book in advance
- Flight – Broadway show, book in advance
- Hiro – Aqua theater show, book in advance
- 1977 – Ice skating show, book in advance
- Comedy Show, book in advance
- Love & Marriage Game Show [this is HYSTERICAL]
- Quest Game Show [adult only scavenger hunt, also hilarious]
- Battle of the Sexes Game Show
- Live music at the Pub
- Silent Dance Party [we heard this is hilarious but didn’t stay up late enough to attend]
- Movie Nights [a couple of the nights they will play movies either outside at the Aqua Theater or inside the Royal theater – while we didn’t go, it’s a relaxing evening activity you can partake in!]
Things To Do on Ship: Aside from all of the shows, bars / lounges, restaurants, there are a ton of other things you can do to stay entertained while on board. Here are some of those things….
- Pools & Hot Tubs – There are several smaller pools and a ton of hot tubs on the ship! I’ve had several people ask about if you have to mark your spot on a chair early in order to get one and I would say as long as you were out by 9-10 am you should be okay! By the afternoon, it was packed. On the suite deck, you could go up anytime and easily find a spot! The Adults Only Solarium is a fun spot with a small pool, hot tubs and bar that also has a ton of chairs to lay out on!
- Fitness Center
- Zip Line
- Mini Golf / Basketball / Ping Pong
[I may have played this every.single.night]
Packing List [What to Wear]: I could go on for this, so instead of including ALL of that right here – I’ll simply let you click here to see ALL of the outfits that I packed and what I would recommend for taking with you!
Kids: I’ve received a lot of questions on whether kids are allowed on this ship and/or in the suite areas. The answer to both of those is yes! Royal Caribbean has a FREE childcare program, Adventure Ocean, from 6:30 am – 10 pm. They do activities with the kids all day and keep them entertained. I saw this in action and it looked like all of the kids were having fun! This is such a nice feature!
WiFi: Yes, you can have wifi on the ship! This came for free with our room, however, if you have a room that doesn’t offer this for free, you can purchase it per day or for the week! The wifi worked great on my phone but was a little slower on my laptop. We did always turn our phones onto airplane mode when at sea to avoid roaming charges [you can still text via iMessage with airplane mode on and can also use WiFi].
Motion Sickness: Our seas were very calm during our sailing, however, I could feel the ship moving on certain evenings. We did take non-drowsy Dramamine with us and took it a couple of times to avoid anything, but neither of us ever felt sick from the motion. Keep in mind that these ships are very large so you don’t notice the movement all too much. We did feel like we were still cruising the day after we got off the ship but that went away within the first 24-48 hours! ps. I did notice several people wearing the patches behind their ears so I am assuming those work?
Avoiding Germs: There are hand sanitizing stations EVERYWHERE. Also, when eating in the main dining rooms or any buffet style restaurant, it is required to wash your hands first [they have hand washing stations as you walk into the restaurants]. I also packed sanitizing hand wipes to use occasionally and to wipe off our phones. The ship was immaculate and I was never worried about picking up a sickness from anybody!
Gratuities: Gratuities are charged to you daily [$14.50 – $17.50 per person per day depending on your room type] which you can either pre-pay before your cruise or at the end when they add it to your folio. Tipping beyond this is optional. We did find ourselves tipping our bartender that we ordered from every day and then wait staff in the evening if we thought they did a great job. We also left an extra tip for our housekeeper [they clean your room twice a day] but again, this is totally optional and up to you!
Overall Cost: While I don’t think it’s beneficial to give you an exact cost of our trip as it’s going to be different for everybody [sailing dates, cruising itinerary, room type, shore excursions, dining and beverage packages, etc will all vary] this was one of our more expensive vacations [by the time it was all said and done with flights, hotel the night before, suite room, dining and drinks, gratuities, excursions, etc we were under $10,000 but somewhere near that $8-9k mark] . You can absolutely make cruising as affordable or as pricey as you want, it’s entirely up to you!
If there are questions that I didn’t answer, ask away and I am happy to help! Overall, we loved every second and are so thankful for our time away together! Who’s ready to set sail now? Ready, set, GO!
For your Pinning pleasure…