Here we go! So we flew into FLL the night before the cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Miami. It was a short ride to the cruise port and the hotel was near stores to get things for the cruise. We had stayed at the Hyatt Centric in South Beach when we cruised Allure before, and I thought that hotel was much nicer. I also liked being in South Beach a bit more.
This was our second time sailing out of Terminal A and the experience was great once again. From curbside to ship was about 15 minutes and we were able to use our mobile boarding passes. I'll touch on this later, but traffic management around the Terminal is atrocious and RCL did an awful job with it.
Everything about the ship was great. We had a boardwalk balcony room and fit 4 people inside. It wasn't ideal, but it was cost effective. We didn't spend a ton of time in the room anyway so it was doable. The couch turned into a sofa bed and the bottom pulled out to create a second sofa bed. The room was super clean and had ample storage, we had no problem fitting clothes for four people.
The activities on board were endless. HIRO was outstanding. We did like Ocean Aria on Allure a bit better, but HIRO was still top notch. The activities manager (Katy) was more involved than the cruise director, but they did a great job making sure there was a ton of things to do. There was also great bands and musicians on board providing entertainment in Central Park, Boardwalk, etc. The Piano player in the Schooner Bar wasn't all that great.
We did the Sushi Class on the ship. We had done this before and at this point we do it just to get a nice lunch. The amount of sushi you get makes it well worth the $30 charge for the class, and on top of it the class is fun. The only other specialty dining experience we had was at Jamie's Italian and it left a lot to be desired. The pasta dishes we had really didn't taste much different than what you would get in the MDR, and it was fairly expensive. I would definitely pick 150 Central Park or Chops, I feel like it's a much better value for the price.
Speaking of food, everything else on board was SO good. El Loco Fresh was amazing, it did get slightly crowded at times, but it was never that long of a wait. They had tacos, burritos, chips, salsa, guac, etc. We stopped here for lunch a good bit.
I also really loved the addition of Playmakers. We bought food here one night, the poke nachos, and they were so so so good. My only gripe with Playmakers is that RCL needs to strike some sort of deal with DirectTV or whoever to get live sports each night. The sports bar atmosphere was fantastic, but for nights in late May, they had no NHL playoff games, a few NBA games, and like 2 MLB games. Most of the time it was just soccer replays. A lot of people seemed to be watching sports on their phones at the bar, which kind of defeats the purpose of the sports bar. The atmosphere was great, but they really need to get better sports programming.
Speaking of, VOOM was great as well. We had the Surf + Stream package and had no problems with it all week. It was more than enough to stream video and podcasts.
Our MDR staff was also top notch. Felipe and Khem took great care of us every night and the food was just outstanding.
All of the staff we encountered on board was friendly as well. I would like to specifically mention Aladdin and Roman at the Schooner bar. Aladdin was one of the funniest and most entertaining bartenders we've ever had on a cruise. We ended up at this bar almost every night. Our room steward (Jeffery) was very attentive and our room was always spotless with the beds made.
The ports were great. We didn't end up getting off at St. Kitts and stayed on the boat. If you aren't attached to a port, I'd recommend doing this at least once, especially on an Oasis class ship.
St. Thomas was great as well. We took the Secret Sands Beach Excursion and Lindqvist Bay was absolutely beautiful. The tour bus was a little bit late but once we got going everything was good. We got about 2.5 to 3 hours at the beach. The ride was very scenic. There were chairs, snacks, and drinks provided. They will expect you to tip if you take advantage of the food. There was also excellent snorkeling at the beach. We saw several turtles, rays, and there was a large reef just off the coast.
We were super excited to visit CocoCay because of the Perfect Day renovation and we were not disappointed. Everything on the island was 10x better than before. First off, the island is much more broken out now, with 6000 people it didn't feel crowded and it was easy to get a lounger.
The food was what I was most impressed with. Before when we were there, it was just generic and bland. This time it seemed like they had a ton more options and they even had a snack shack with funnel cakes and special chicken sandwiches. It was very good.
We did do an excursion which was a huge mistake. We did the reef snorkeling and sandbar getaway. The reef we went to wasn't exactly a reef. It was a couple of rocks in an area of construction. There weren't many fish and the bottom was pretty much barren. We then went to a sandbar which was nice, but we only had a little bit of time. Given the activities on CocoCay, I would definitely stay on the island next time. The tour was a complete waste.
We did spend some time at Oasis Lagoon and that was another awesome aspect of CocoCay. The pool is enormous and the swim up bar was super convenient. The best part of all is that there is now a dock, so we don't have to worry about a tender. The only thing (out of our control) that wasn't great was the water was pretty rough. But that's to be expected there.
We would definitely sail Symphony again. It was one of the best cruises we have ever been on. Despite the size of the ship, it never felt crowded. The shows, the entertainment, and the activities were all top notch.
I also put together a short video so you can see all of the goings on. Symphony is a really beautiful ship. If there is any questions I will answer them!