Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is the world’s largest cruise ship. Sara Macefield reveals what it has to offer
Symphony of the Seas is every inch a floating mini Las Vegas, packed to the funnels with facilities and attractions at every turn.
This latest leviathan from Royal Caribbean International sailed into service in April, the fourth such vessel the line has launched, and snatching the title of world’s largest cruise ship from its (very slightly) smaller sister Harmony of the Seas thanks to higher tonnage.
It’s easy to become blasé at the appearance of yet another vast floating resort that takes nearly 7,000 passengers. After all, Symphony shares many of the same features of its sisters; from the seven different neighbourhoods that include the Central Park area filled with thousands of plants; the Boardwalk with its full-size custom-made fairground carousel; and the Royal Arcade shopping street lined with boutiques, bars and cafes.
It even has the nail-biting Ultimate Abyss slide, which made its debut on Harmony, and sends daredevils plunging from 150ft above the waves down ten stories to the deck below, along with 24 pools, twisting waterslides, surf simulators, climbing walls and a zipwire.
But Symphony has its own debut attractions too. The biggest headline-grabber is its Ultimate Family Suite with a swirly orange slide that speeds youngsters down from their upstairs bedroom to the downstairs living area where there is a Lego wall, dining tables that double up for air hockey and table tennis, and an unashamedly sybaritic hot tub on the balcony.
For children, it’s the stuff of dreams, but it doesn’t come cheap with a price tag of more than £30,000 for a week.
However, this doesn’t seem to have stunted demand as the suite is virtually sold out this year, but for guests without such deep pockets Symphony boasts an increased number of balcony staterooms overlooking the ocean or the Boardwalk and Central Park.
Other headline draws debuting are the Escape the Rubicon puzzle room, which latches on to the latest craze for groups to plot their way to freedom, and glow-in-the-dark laser tag where aliens and robots blast each other in an inflatable maze of passageways set up on the ship’s ice-rink.
The rink is also the setting of some of Symphony’s most jaw-dropping performances thanks to incredible high-tech wizardry.
Ice shows are given a spine-tingling frisson with swarms of tiny drones that light up like multi-coloured fireflies, while projection trickery transforms the rink into an Antarctic landscape with diving penguins and a huge 75ft whale that appears to swim under the ice, its haunting cries echoing through the auditorium.
The main theatre offers a different flavour with the exuberant foot-tapping musical Hairspray, along with a new production called Flight: Dare to Dream which promises more ground-breaking special effects, while the AquaTheatre hosts breathtaking diving and aqua-batic displays.
With around 20 dining venues, eating out becomes a culinary voyage of exploration; from Japanese at the Izumi Hibachi & Sushi restaurant and continental at Jamie’s Italian, to the burgers and fries of Johnny Rockets and Mexican snacks at the debut El Loco fast food joint.
Hooked leads the lineout of new eating options with its New England inspired seafood, while classic American bar food of chicken wings, burgers and popcorn shrimp are served in the Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, and Sugar Beach offers mouth-watering treats with more than 100 types of candy.
It all adds up to a winning mix and for cruisers who love their ships to be big, bold and fun, Symphony of the Seas clearly hits the right note.
A seven-night round-trip Mediterranean sailing on Symphony of the Seas from Barcelona, departing on September 23, starts at £1,735pp with flights. Calls include Palma, Marseilles, Civitavecchia and Naples. (0844 4933033, royalcaribbean.co.uk)