Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
Grenouille21

The Symphony, The Key, Two Teens, And Me!

Recommended Posts

RCI_HM_night_Drone_AFT_MU22703_RET_CMYK-
 
(Oh wow that photo is HUGE!  I might have to replace it, oops!!)
 
We just returned from the Symphony of the Seas Eastern Caribbean sailing from 3/16/19 to 3/23/19 and I miss the ship already!!  When I plan our vacations I obsessively read trip reports and LOVE reports that have LOTS of photos.  I hope this will be helpful in some way to others as they plan their vacations. Or maybe you'll just admire my photos.  That's OK too.  I'm still getting all of my photos sorted and Cruise Compasses scanned, but hopefully I can get this review completed before I forget everything!
 
Me:  I'm from Chicago, lived here in the city all my life, and while the winters can be brutal I can't imagine living elsewhere. My main job is in education, but my side gig is related to travel :upsidedow.  I am also taking graduate school classes online right now.
 
Since I call the city my home, I try to plan vacations that take us away from city life. We are relatively new to cruising, with our first cruise (on DCL) about 5 years ago.  What stopped me from sailing earlier?  Fear of claustrophobia, fear of motion sickness, fear of boredom, fear of the ship sinking... you name it.  We did a short 4 night sailing on DCL and we were hooked (get it?  See what I did there?  Nice nautical pun, right?).  We have since done another DCL sailing (Western Caribbean), a 7 night Alaska cruise on Holland America, and now this 7 night Eastern Caribbean on Royal Caribbean. 
 
DD:  DD is 15 and a freshman in high school.  She LOVES Disney, especially the villains.  She has had mixed feelings about the kids clubs on cruises and other resorts. 
 
DS:  DS is 13, and very much 13, if you know what I mean.  He likes Fortnite, Fortnite, oh and Fortnite.  Ok just exaggerating a bit.  Ok no I am not exaggerating at all.  He does enjoy Fortnite, but he also likes music, Garage Band, and antagonizing his sister.  Not very interested in sports. 
 
I was kind of apprehensive about how the kids would feel about the teen club.  They weren't too fond of the tween club on DCL, but both LOVED the clubs on Holland America. Did you even know they have kids clubs on Holland America aka the Floating Nursing Home?  Well they do, and my kids really enjoyed the smaller groups, which meant more interaction from the counselors.  Teen clubs can be hit or miss, depending on the kids and the counselors.  My kids tend to prefer fewer kids in the clubs, and, well, this was spring break so that just wasn't an option, at least not on Royal Caribbean. 
 
How this vacation came to be:  It is SUCH a long and boring story.  Needless to say, I had wanted to sail on Royal for a long time, I wanted to try an Oasis class ship because of all of the activities, and this one worked best with our schedule, for the most part. 
 
Our itinerary was:
 
Day 1: Miami
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: At Sea
Day 4: St. Kitts
Day 5: St. Thomas
Day 6: At Sea
Day 7: Nassau
Day 8: Miami
 
map-prod-1.jpg
 
I don't really like having a port on the last full day, because it makes the day go by way too fast, but this was the best option in all other ways.   
 
Ok, that's too much backstory and not enough pictures.  I promise once we get going there will be a lot more photos.  I'll be adding them after I write each section for the most part, because the photos are on my phone, my regular camera, and my under water camera, and I have to pull them all in to this report.  But that's a sacrifice I am willing to make, for you, because you're worth it.  :love:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
HTTFI_RCI_TheKey.jpg
 
Before we sailed, Royal introduced a new program called The Key.  Guests could purchase The Key for $19.99 per person per day (the price has since fluctuated).  The benefits were announced, but between the time the program rolled out and the time we sailed, the benefits changed significantly.  If you want to buy The Key, it must be purchased for all guests in your stateroom age 6 and up.
 
When I purchased The Key, these were the promised benefits, straight from the confirmation email from Royal (with the statement that benefits could change at any time).
 
Package includes:
 
Carry-on luggage drop off with delivery to stateroom
Welcome lunch at Chops Grille
Private hours for ship attractions
Priority debarkation and tendering at ports of call
Reserved VIP seating at shows
Complimentary VOOM Surf + Stream internet package for one device per person
Choice debarkation with exclusive à la carte breakfast
 
Here is the current list of benefits on the Royal Caribbean website:
 
2n0nf9v.jpg
 
And here is the letter Royal had waiting in our stateroom upon arrival, explaining the benefits we would receive:
 
46546112915_40b63f0c09_z.jpg
 
(Whoa why are my photos so huge? Ok, I think I fixed it?)
 
Take note of these lists, and the minor and/or major differences in wording.
 
There has been much debate, both here and elsewhere, about whether the benefits are worth the price.  The benefits also changed with our sailing, or so it appears, as I had been closely watching for others' reports about their experience, and none of the previous reports, including the week prior on the same ship, had the same letter we had upon arrival.
 
I'll review our experience with The Key as I review, and I'll share my general thoughts at the end of the report.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Day 0:
 
We pack light on our vacations.  Why?  Another long and boring story, but my anxiety says that traveling is easier when we don't check luggage so we don't check luggage.  So far it has worked for us.  Thanks, anxiety!
 
We use packing cubes. I was skeptical about them for a while.  I mean, how would it possibly help you to use packing cubes?  Well, when we were on a vacation in Wyoming, where we were moving hotels every few nights, it seemed like a good idea to try the cubes since we would be living out of suitcases.  It was so easy to just pull out some cubes and then fit them back into our suitcases.  When we pack, we end up pulling things out and rearranging things, and cubes make that easy.  They are like this puzzle pieces.  They all fit perfectly in a suitcase, especially when you roll your clothing.  Yes, we often end up doing laundry on vacations.  Some people are astounded by this.  "What??? I would NEVER want to do LAUNDRY on VACATION!!!" Well calm down buddy, no one is forcing you to do laundry on vacation.  Personally I would rather throw a load of laundry into the machine while hanging out at the pool (conveniently there was a laundry room next to the pool at a hotel once), or while hanging out in the room in the evening.  For me it is preferable to either losing our luggage or looking like we are moving into the hotel for a year.  On our cruise we saw bags outside of the rooms that were the same bags my kids pack all of their gear in for a MONTH at summer camp.  I can't fathom bringing that much stuff on vacation and then having to wash all of it when we get home.
 
But to each his own, right?
 
Anyway, my daughter said on this trip that cruising is like going to overnight camp.  Every time you go, you figure out something that you should bring the next time, so next time you are more prepared.  Here is a very small list of things we have learned to bring on cruises, some obvious, some not so obvious:
 
Towel clips
Reading material
Snorkel mask
Sunscreen (high spf)
Laundry soap
Magnetic hooks
 
Anyway, on to the vacation.
 
Our flight to Miami left Chicago at 2pm.  This was worlds better than our usual super early 7am flight when we go to Florida!  2pm meant we didn't have to worry about traffic, or huge airport crowds.  Traffic was pretty light, and we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare:
 
47408714682_872fe345ae_z.jpg
 
DD and I have TSA Pre Check.  DS doesn't have it yet, because he was too young when DD and I signed up and I haven't taken him to get signed up yet.  Luckily he had it added to his ticket anyway, so we all went through TSA Pre line.  From the time we entered O'Hare to the time we reached the gate was 15 minutes, and that included going through the trippy walkway to the C gates.  If you've been through the United terminal at O'Hare and you've left or arrived through a C gate, you know what I'm talking about.  And if you don't, here is a visual:
 
33585352498_ecddaae4d6_b.jpg
 
I had upgraded us to Economy Plus on the plane.  It was so nice having that extra space!  We hadn't remembered to charge the iPads and apparently my computer needed an update in order to watch any of the United entertainment.  Somehow we made it work; I think DS watched something on one iPad and DD watched on her phone and I read.  In any case the flight was uneventful and soon enough we had landed in Miami.  
 
We grabbed a taxi and went to our hotel.  I had found a great rate at the Intercontinental Miami in the Club Level.  We had never been to Miami before, and we were only staying overnight.  The hotel was maybe 20 minutes from the port, and in a good location where we could walk to restaurants/entertainment if we wanted.  
 
When we checked in we were told the club lounge was closing in 30 minutes, and we should head there if we wanted any of the appetizers and drinks.  So we dropped off our bags in the room, took a few quick photos, and then headed down to the Club Lounge.
 
33585357428_81ea5bf213_b.jpg
 
40495724833_eb84785625_b.jpg
 
40495725383_e5d0a5d241_b.jpg
 
We had great views of Miami, which would have been even better without my reflection.
 
32520014877_8a276b924e_b.jpg
 
46738623084_1bef9c7e73_b.jpg
 
This was in the club lounge.  I guess someone thought it would be funny to remove some letters from the sign with Breakfast and Happy Hour times.  Someone else thought it would be funny to take a picture of said sign, and post it here.  
 
32520016287_f4abb38c5d_b.jpg
 
Alas, vacation had begun. 
 
46546494945_4f7b1376d0_b.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
Day 0 continued...
 
Turns out we needed a few things from CVS.  So we headed out and walked a few blocks to the CVS. 
 
46546496125_1a70ffe78e_b.jpg
 
We spent quite a while looking around as they had some really fun stuff there.  We needed an iPad charger, so we could use the iPads on the flight home, and I needed a small bottle of nail polish remover.  I ended up buying this gel nail polish remover (not for removing gel nail polish, but the remover itself is gel) which I have used before.  Spoiler alert: this stuff is HORRIBLE!  I forgot that I had used it before and it is awful!  The stuff is like super glue on your skin, plus it doesn't really get all of the nail polish off.  When I used it, it made such an incredible mess.  My fingers and toes looked like I had been given a manicure by an extremely energetic 3 year old.  The polish was everywhere *except* my nails. 
 
We did find some cool stuff, though.  DD and I are really into skin care, and sheet masks. At CVS we found some Hello Kitty sheet masks that are so cute, and so fun! 
 
47416002532_ec5d031bb9_k.jpg
 
We had more, but we used them before I took this photo. 
 
Armed with our CVS purchases, we headed back to our hotel.  As we approached our hotel, we could see there was a super cool projection of a person dancing on our hotel. 
 
Hmmm, I guess I can't post video here?  Bummer.  It was cool, let's leave it at that.
 
We were tired, and wired, but we knew tomorrow would be a very exciting day.
Edited by Grenouille21

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
(BTW if any of the pics are too big, please let me know and I will try to figure out how to post smaller photos.)
 
Day 1:
 
Cruise day!!!
 
We woke up bright and early, and headed to breakfast in the Club Lounge.  The choices weren't that great, but we managed to find a few things we liked.
 
33585438568_f483858375_b.jpg
 
Check out was smooth, and we found a taxi and headed to the port.  
 
There wasn't anything wrong with the Intercontinental, but I'm not sure it was worth the cost, even with the discounted rate, especially since we arrived late.  I think next time we will opt for something less spendy, unless we are arriving a few days in advance.  
 
The drive to the port was uneventful, until we approached the port.  It can't just be me, but there is nothing quite as exciting as seeing all of those ships lined up, looking for *your* ship among the crowd, waiting for that first glimpse of your home for the next week.  We passed by several ships.  
 
I don't remember which this was, maybe MSC?
 
46546497245_e42c00ba19_b.jpg
 
Then there was the NCL Bliss.  A nice looking ship, and it wasn't the last time we would see her this week.  
 
46546497655_6af8c398df_b.jpg
 
I think this was a new NCL terminal under construction?  It was near the Bliss so I assume it was for NCL.
 
46738645804_cd7d12911c_b.jpg
 
And then.  Is that it?  I think it is... YES!  I see The Abyss!  It must be our ship!  There is nothing quite like seeing your ship, or your resort, for the first time on a vacation.  You've been planning, researching, looking at photos, videos, reading about other peoples' experiences or remembering the last time you were there... and then there it is, right there, and it is finally your turn.  That feeling never gets old!
 
32520018447_b64210b16e_b.jpg
 
I had my son taking photos out the window of the taxi because I was squashed in the middle of the back seat so DS and DD didn't kill each other.  Tell me I'm not the only one whose kids still can't sit next to each other because they will fight?  
 
46546497805_038b6b103e_b.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Day 1 cont'd:
 
So, we had experienced 2 different cruise line embarkation procedures: DCL (Port Canaveral) and HAL (Vancouver).  I had read extensively about the new terminal in Miami, but I wasn't sure what to expect. 
 
On DCL we had always arrived early to a terminal full of people who were sitting around or standing in line, waiting.  We went to a person at a desk, checked in/got our KTTW cards, and then waited to be called to board. It was kind of a cluster, with everyone crowding the boarding ears waiting for their boarding group to be called, and you had to push your way through to board.
 
On HAL we walked through endless hallways, circled back, stopped at a desk and got our info and cards, then were directed to a specific row of folding chairs lined up Musical Chairs style until someone told our row of chairs it was time to board.  It was very methodical and structured. 
 
So let's talk about boarding in Terminal A in Miami.  As you enter you see this:
 
33592483968_7d5e1525ec_k.jpg
 
Suites and Pinnacles to the right, everyone else up the escalators or stairs.  Don't stop to take photos here, and especially don't stop to take zoomed in photos like this:
 
32527305307_3fcc0fedda_k.jpg
 
Because they will tell you to move along, and they mean it.  DS stepped to the side to get a better photo angle so DD and I waited for him, and we were told "You can wait for him upstairs!"  I said he was just taking a photo and we would move along in a second.  She said "No, your husband, that's who you're waiting for, right?"  Um, no?  "I don't have a husband," I said, and I smiled like this 😃.  She laughed, and by then DS was done taking his photos, so we moved along.  
 
But they mean business.  Do not stop.  
 
This theme of DO NOT STOP continued all the way through the terminal.  I had wanted to take photos of the process but I could not because we were constantly being shuffled along and yelled at to move along.  
 
My bag was flagged in the scanner, so we had to stop (take THAT, RCI!) while they pulled out my stuff and uncovered.... the magnetic hooks.  
 
71PiMxPK-7L._SX425_.jpg
 
They had triggered the scanner, though TSA had let them through at the airport just fine.  Mmmmkay.  
 
Then DS decided he had to use the bathroom, so again we had to stop.  We were totally sticking it to RCI with all of this stopping, for real.  I had wanted to ask someone a question, based on a debate I was having with someone, but there wasn't anyone I could ask.  The question was: Are you allowed to bring on board 2 bottles of wine per stateroom or 1 bottle of wine per adult.  RCI policy is pretty clear to me, 2 bottles per stateroom, but someone who claims to be very informed about all things Royal Caribbean insisted that even though the policy reads 2 per stateroom, they actually mean 1 per adult.  That makes no sense, because what if there were 3 or 4 adults per stateroom?  
 
See, I ask the real questions.  And I want answers.  And I wasn't getting them in Terminal A.  
 
So once DS was done with his business, we moved along.  
 
There is some cool stuff to look at as you MOVE ALONG, like this:
 
32527482707_718a873d14_k.jpg
 
32527480737_09f2e4adee_k.jpg
 
And then... it is time... NO SITTING IN MUSICAL CHAIRS AND WAITING!  MOVE ALONG!  You walk through a hallway and think "THIS IS IT!!!!" but no, you turn around and walk back.  See the three hallways here, as seen from below?  Straight. Up. Torture.  
 
46546502075_89072c3295_k.jpg
 
"Am I going back to the terminal?  What is happening here?" and then you turn again... 
 
46746033364_cdebc5cb77_k.jpg
 
and finally...
 
46553851895_19168d1ba6_k.jpg
 
There you are!  Right smack in the Promenade, where you will inevitably spend a lot of time for the next week.  
 
So, from the time we exited the taxi to the time we stepped on to the ship, including the security check for the super scary magnetic hooks and DS's pit stop, it was less than 15 minutes.  I timed it.  
 
The Key:  As we entered the terminal I mentioned that we had The Key, because according to one of the many lists of benefits, priority boarding and check in was a perk.  I was shuffled along to the escalators with the masses (OK there weren't really masses yet, but YKWIM).   No Key benefit here.  But it doesn't matter because I doubt we could have made it on the ship faster, plus the Suites and Pinnacles were SITTING!!! OMGWTFBBQ none of that sitting stuff for us, thank you very much!  MOVE ALONG AND GET ON THE SHIP!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Love your review so far.  Great sense of humor.  We were on the cruise right before you and as we walked off I remember acknowledging those balloons on the promenade ready for the next group.  Looking forward to hearing more.

P.S. our 13 year old sobs would get along really well as ours is also Fortnight obsessed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Loving this so far, can't wait for more!  And mine tend to travel ok together but we recently took youngest son and his GF on a cruise and that was a DREAM compared to the one we took a couple years ago with my older 2 girls sharing a room - we had a great cruise then too but not entirely sure they appreciated their close quarters all week and I know their sisterly gripes cut into my cruise vibe 🙂

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Aww man, where is the rest......I'm sitting in the doctor's office with my kid eagerly anticipating the rest. Great humor....I'm subscribing....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Love your sense of humor and honesty. 

Thank you for doing a key review as you go.

If I'm  not mistaking...One bottle per adult in stateroom, but no more than two bottles in stateroom.  So, if three adults in one room then only two bottles of wine.  Kind of sucks...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, tcmagnum said:

 ...

If I'm  not mistaking...One bottle per adult in stateroom, but no more than two bottles in stateroom.  ...

 

Two bottles per stateroom, regardless of the number of guests in the stateroom.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Grenouille21 said:
(BTW if any of the pics are too big, please let me know and I will try to figure out how to post smaller photos.)
 
Day 1:
 
Cruise day!!!
 
 
And then.  Is that it?  I think it is... YES!  I see The Abyss!  It must be our ship!  There is nothing quite like seeing your ship, or your resort, for the first time on a vacation.  You've been planning, researching, looking at photos, videos, reading about other peoples' experiences or remembering the last time you were there... and then there it is, right there, and it is finally your turn.  That feeling never gets old!
 
32520018447_b64210b16e_b.jpg
 
I had my son taking photos out the window of the taxi because I was squashed in the middle of the back seat so DS and DD didn't kill each other.  Tell me I'm not the only one whose kids still can't sit next to each other because they will fight?  
 
46546497805_038b6b103e_b.jpg

 

I haven't been to Port of Miami since 2013, thanks for these pics. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Love this! Following along! On the Symphony in less than twop weeks with out 14 year old son who could probably talk for hours with your about Fortnite, lol! Looking forward to the Teen club review and the Key benefits as we have a veste3d interest in both. Thanks for the embarkation review. What time did you get to the port? Wondering if general boarding had started by then so it did not matter about priority Key boarding by that time. We are flying down three days early and staying at the Holiday Inn Port of Miami. Planning to visit the same CVS you did. Do they have wine available to purchase there?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, LuCruise said:

Love your review so far.  Great sense of humor.  We were on the cruise right before you and as we walked off I remember acknowledging those balloons on the promenade ready for the next group.  Looking forward to hearing more.

P.S. our 13 year old sobs would get along really well as ours is also Fortnight obsessed.

 

YES the balloons are the happiest and saddest sight.  Happy when you board and you know they are for you, sad when you are leaving and you know they are for someone else!

 

I don't know how my son survived a week without Fortnite.  

 

7 hours ago, ShillyShally said:

Loving this so far, can't wait for more!  And mine tend to travel ok together but we recently took youngest son and his GF on a cruise and that was a DREAM compared to the one we took a couple years ago with my older 2 girls sharing a room - we had a great cruise then too but not entirely sure they appreciated their close quarters all week and I know their sisterly gripes cut into my cruise vibe 🙂

 

I sort of want to bring a friend for DD next time, because then she will actually try new things and have fun!  Also then maybe she won't start fights with DS so much.  But the logistics of bringing a friend are preventing me from moving forward with that.

 

5 hours ago, mrlddst said:

Aww man, where is the rest......I'm sitting in the doctor's office with my kid eagerly anticipating the rest. Great humor....I'm subscribing....

 

:). I promise there is more to come!  Thanks for reading along!

 

4 hours ago, tcmagnum said:

Love your sense of humor and honesty. 

Thank you for doing a key review as you go.

If I'm  not mistaking...One bottle per adult in stateroom, but no more than two bottles in stateroom.  So, if three adults in one room then only two bottles of wine.  Kind of sucks...

 

Thanks for reading!  I do think it is 2 per stateroom.  I didn't try it out, but on Disney and HAL I was able to bring 2 on in my bag.  

 

4 hours ago, Host Clarea said:

 

Two bottles per stateroom, regardless of the number of guests in the stateroom.

 

That's what I thought :D.

 

4 hours ago, BillOh said:

 

I haven't been to Port of Miami since 2013, thanks for these pics. 

 

I wish I had more, especially of the new terminal.  It is so efficient, though, there really isn't time for photos.

 

56 minutes ago, Ralphinsc said:

Love this! Following along! On the Symphony in less than twop weeks with out 14 year old son who could probably talk for hours with your about Fortnite, lol! Looking forward to the Teen club review and the Key benefits as we have a veste3d interest in both. Thanks for the embarkation review. What time did you get to the port? Wondering if general boarding had started by then so it did not matter about priority Key boarding by that time. We are flying down three days early and staying at the Holiday Inn Port of Miami. Planning to visit the same CVS you did. Do they have wine available to purchase there?

 

I am jealous of your upcoming Symphony cruise!  I wish I could go back!  Good luck on dealing with the Fortnite withdrawal from your son.  It is brutal!  

 

I think we left our hotel around 10?  10:30?  And we were on the ship by 11:15.  There weren't even any signs I saw for The Key in the terminal.  I mentioned it to someone and she directed us to a set of desks on the right, where others were going left, but The Key was never mentioned and there was no sign for it anywhere.  

 

I think we will stay at the Holiday Inn next time.  Let me know what you think!   I am 99% sure the CVS had wine.  I had the drink package so I wasn't interested in buying wine, but I do think they had it there.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Day 1 cont'd:
 
FYI I am also sharing this review elsewhere, where people are not as familiar with Royal Caribbean.  So I apologize in advance if I seem to be over-explaining or over-selling RCI here.  I am trying to take out some of the things that everyone here probably knows, but then it kind of messes with the flow of the trip report.
 
We were finally on the ship!  We entered on the Royal Promenade, where we would spend a lot of time over the next week.  The Royal Promenade has food, drinks, shopping, parties, parades, and art.  In many ways it is the heart of the ship.  Before boarding I had sort of envisioned the Promenade as a mall.  It sort of has that vibe, but it would be a fairly cool mall that throws parties and has entertainment and bars.  
 
We admired the art as we walked around. 
 
This one is actually on deck 4, I think:
 
47469169381_408b593071_k.jpg
 
And one of the elevator banks:
 
47469172691_5ab29a1006_k.jpg
 
Another elevator bank:
 
47420851072_40c1c67276_k.jpg
 
I guess all of the Voyager, Freedom, and Oasis Class ships have a classic car on the Promenade.  For whatever reason, this is what they did to the car on Symphony:
 
46553872645_99bf36828a_k.jpg
 
My son made a comment at one point that the theme of the cruise was "Big Strange Art."  He's not entirely wrong.
 
So, as I mentioned, the Promenade is home to some dining options.  Sorrento's is one such option that we visited often. 
 
40502999233_ca7b9e33c1_k.jpg
 
I need to side track a bit here.  If you are familiar with Royal, you can skip ahead to the bottom of this post or go to the next one.  
 
We had purchased beverage packages for the cruise.  The beverage packages are available in your Cruise Planner, which is accessed through the Royal Caribbean page.  The pricing seems to be rather fluid (see what I did there?) so check your Cruise Planner often.  Pay no attention to the "% Off" fake sale and just look at the daily price.  If you know you are going to buy it, just buy it and keep checking for price drops.  If the price drops, cancel your package and rebook it at the new price.  You can do that with excursions, spa treatments, dining, etc. too.  
 
Here is the breakdown of packages, straight from Royal's website:
 
47420896832_54e681312d_k.jpg
 
My kids enjoy mocktails on vacation and mama likes her grown up drinks, so the kids got the refreshment package and I got the Deluxe.  We all really like the Freestyle soda machines because they have SO many sugar-free, low/no calorie, no caffeine options.  And I had thought we would be getting lattes in the morning but that never happened because the line was too long.  
 
The beverage packages were totally worthwhile for us, as I was able to order a glass of wine without stopping to think about the cost, and the kids could try different mocktails, again without me having to worry about the cost.  Gratuities are added in to the package price, though you can always add more if you like.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Day 1 cont'd:
 
Sorrento's has 2 Freestyle machines, where you can fill your reusable cup that comes with the beverage package.  Oh and they have pizza.  
 
33597157798_f21ed08de4_k.jpg
 
They always had cheese, pepperoni, and veggie pizza, then there was another option.  Here is the menu from day 1, I think:
 
40507563923_1bc486e03f_k.jpg
 
But one day they had barbecue chicken pizza and it was the best day ever.
 
33597169358_1b29b61a20_k.jpg
 
Really, the pizza was all good.  They also had sauces for the pizza, which was totally unnecessary, but did that stop me from getting a small bowl of garlic sauce in which I could dip my pizza crust every time I got pizza?  No it did not.  
 
32531820237_1bed1acd38_k.jpg
 
Oh and the pizza is included in your cruise fare, so you can eat here as often as you like.  They are open until 3am, too.  Sometimes the line was like 15 people long, which was crazy. Luckily for us that happened when we were not getting pizza. 
 
Also on the Promenade is the eponymous Cafe Promenade.  Here you can get lattes, cookies, doughnuts, danishes, desserts, and wraps/sandwiches.  We got dessert here once or twice but that was it.  The coffee line was always at least 6 people deep so we skipped it and went straight to the pizza.  Did I mention the unnecessary yet oh so delicious garlic sauce?  
 
The food here at the Cafe Promenade is included in the cruise fare, but the specialty coffee (lattes, mochas, etc.) are not.  They did have regular coffee you could pour for yourself off to the side, that was included in the cruise fare.  
 
40503013263_4ee5e09269_k.jpg
 
And now on to the bars!  Which I just realized I only took photos of two of them!  Oops!  Maybe I'll borrow from Royal's webpage?  Shhh, don't tell them.
 
Boleros is a Latin club with live music and dancing.  During the day I saw dance lessons happening here, which looked like a lot of fun, and they were well-attended. At night people were dancing, and the club seemed to have good attendance.
 
oasis-boleros-lounge-bar-empty-venue.jpg
 
On Air is also on the Promenade.  This is where the karaoke happens.  Probably other things happen here too, but at night the only thing I saw as karaoke. Let me tell you, I saw some AMAZING karaoke happening here!  I swear these people must have been professionals planted in the audience.  There is no way there were that many talented people on our sailing!  The audience was super encouraging, even toward the greener karaoke artists.  It was a fun place, and was standing room only most nights.
 
RCI_AL-OnAir02-1240x660-1.jpg
 
Then there is the Rising Tide bar, which is technically only on the Promenade part time.  Why?  Well, the clue is in the name.  The Rising Tide bar rises up to Central Park every 30 minutes or so.  I am not sure of the exact schedule because I didn't want to be trapped on a rising bar with people I didn't know.  Also I was pretty much never alone, and DD would have had to go with me.  Maybe next time.
 
47416224992_14cf3bc623_k.jpg
 
47420837672_3990a8bcc8_k.jpg
 
And an oddly shaky video of the bar coming back down, later in the cruise:
 
[MEDIA=vimeo]326485662[/MEDIA]
 
Then there is the Copper and Kettle.  This place had a Bloody Mary cart out in the mornings, where you could build a custom Bloody Mary.  I am not a fan, so that did not appeal to me at all.  I think I went here for bottled water (also included with the beverage packages) and that's it.  There was often a guitar player/singer in there, which you could hear out on the promenade.  I don't mean that in a bad way.  He was good!  I just mean you didn't have to go into the bar to hear him; you could enjoy his music from outside the bar as well.
 
33592542248_25e2c43481_k.jpg
 
And then there is the Bionic Bar!  
 
32527369577_91d590e91a_k.jpg
 
This was fun to watch!  We ended up ordering a drink from here later in the cruise, so you'll hear more about it then, but to order a drink you go to an iPad, choose your drink from a menu or customize your own drink, then there is a screen off to the side that has the queue for drinks listed.  When your drink is done, you scan your Sea Pass or Wow Band and the drink slides toward you.  Bionic Bar in action!  You can also hear the piano player from Schooner's (above the Promenade, on deck 6, which overlooks the Promenade).
 
[MEDIA=vimeo]326485611[/MEDIA]
 
Also on the Promenade is the Next Cruise store, where you can book your next RCI cruise.  This place was always busy, and you pretty much had to have an appointment if you wanted to be seen.  
 
There are shops and kiosks here as well.  There is a Royal shop, with all things Royal Caribbean/Symphony of the Seas.  There is a Duty Free shop, and a few other specialty shops with expensive things that I wasn't buying.  The kiosks had all kinds of watches/jewelry and had "Flash Sales" where everything was 75% off for 10 minutes, or something.  
 
Above the Promenade, on Deck 6, is the photography store, where you can buy your cruise photos, and my favorite spot to relax at night: Schooner's.  
 
32532168787_5cc2c112e0_k.jpg
 
There was a guy who would play piano and sing, and it usually turned into a sing along.  I didn't participate, I just sat off to the side and read or ignored texts from DD who refused to spend time in the Teen Club.  Finally I just had her go to Schooner's with me.  They did have these cool ship cut out things.
 
40507955363_8c3ab139b0_k.jpg
 
I am sure I am missing something from the Promenade, but you get the idea.  From Deck 6, you can go out to the Boardwalk, which will by my next post... some time probably later tonight.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Day 1 cont'd:
 
So we had explored Deck 5, now it was time for Deck 6.  I should add, because I think someone asked about it elsewhere and I don't think I added it here. We had left our hotel at around 10:15 or 10:30 (not really sure), I think we arrived at the port around 11, and we were on the ship by 11:15.  And that was with the security check and bathroom stop, and the ride to the port.  So it was really quick.  
 
Oh my goodness and I forgot that we had dropped off our bags in the theater! That's where we looked down and saw the sculpture of the lollipop!  
 
The Key:  One of the perks of The Key is that you can drop off your carry on luggage in the Royal Theater and it will be delivered to your room before any checked luggage.  We went straight there when we boarded, gave them our room number/name, and dropped off our bags.  There we were given wristbands, and we were told those were for priority access to activities like the Flowrider, Rock Wall, Zipline, Abyss, etc.  I hadn't heard of having priority access, so I was confused.  All of the documentation I had read said we would have special hours just for Key members.  I was told yes, there would be special hours, but we could also go to the front of the line any time with the wristbands.  I asked again and was told no really, you just go to the front of the line and show your wristband and you get priority any time.  We did not test this out as my son was not comfortable cutting in front of other kids who were waiting, and I was not about to encourage him to do so.  There were NO signs ANYWHERE stating that Key guests could cut the line, nor were there separate lines (I think there was a suite/Diamond/Pinnacle line at The Abyss, but NO Key line anywhere).  Some people have said they would have no problem cutting the line because they paid for the privilege and too bad for the people who didn't.  I have been told "It is just like having a Fastpass or Express Pass" but I disagree.  At Disney/Universal there are signs EVERYWHERE about Fastpasses/Express Pass.  You get emails from Disney/Universal explaining it all to you.  You see separate lines labeled "Fastpass" or "Express Pass".  You wait in a different line.  Imagine the chaos that would happen at Disney/Universal if there were only one line, and anyone with a Fastpass/Express Pass could just shove past everyone else and go to the front.  IMO this is a terrible system and not one we were comfortable using.  This was no benefit to us as Key members. 
 
So Deck 6 has the Boardwalk, which leads to a few dining options, the Aqua Theater, and you can access the Rock Climbing wall.  
 
46750453434_f1d74fa048_k.jpg
 
You will probably visit this area at night, for the Aqua Theater, or maybe after you descend from The Abyss, but hopefully you'll also visit during the day to eat, or just to enjoy this part of the ship.  
 
As you walk down the Boardwalk, you will see one of my favorite art installments on the ship:
 
46752454314_5eae68d1f9_k.jpg
 
It shows how carousel horses are made, with some disembodied hands (not my favorite part), and it leads to the carousel.  
 
40509632673_c995d5b4f1_k.jpg
 
46560524775_1cc16e81a0_k.jpg
 
So yes, those pictures are from an evening, not day 1.  I cheated.  Sorry.  But I was kind of overwhelmed on the first day, getting my bearings, and I didn't take all of the photos I wanted to that first day.  Or if I did, they were kinda boring like this. 
 
47422865352_d51966e27e_k.jpg
 
There is another art installment on the Boardwalk, but either it wasn't working properly or DD couldn't get it to work.  You are supposed to wear the "hair" and hear something.  She said she couldn't hear anything.
 
33599236238_bb9af71533_k.jpg
 
You'll also walk past Zoltar, who will yell at you, giving you flashbacks of the terminal in Miami.  And also you'll remember the movie Big.  
 
32533811027_e2dde5791f_k.jpg
 
For dining, you have the Boardwalk Dog House, Sugar Beach, and Playmakers.  
 
Boardwalk Dog House is the only option of these that is included in your cruise fare.  They have a few options, different types of hot dog/sausage, not much in the way of side options.  
 
46560430365_e852d64ca1_k.jpg
 
46560434285_ed2640be79_b.jpg
 
I got a regular Coney Island Dog there once, and it was good.  Nothing outstanding, but it was a hot dog, and it was good.  
 
Then you have Sugar Beach, which is a candy and ice cream shop, and none of it is included in your cruise fare, which is why we did not set foot in there until the last night of our cruise, when I figured I should at least take some photos.  
 
32534031757_29ff73d626_k.jpg
 
47475812561_b6c57edb40_k.jpg
 
46560503495_6264db1992_k.jpg
 
32533915177_abee0c738e_k.jpg
 
47422925872_39fce19173_k.jpg
 
46752506444_bc4275546c_k.jpg
 
Next to Sugar Beach is Johnny Rockets.  Johnny Rockets has a surcharge for lunch and dinner, but breakfast is included in your cruise fare.  Let me repeat that, because everyone hears "Johnny Rockets has a surcharge" and dismisses it.  But breakfast is included in your cruise fare.  You can order from the menu, it is made a la carte, and the servers are nice, and the food is really good!  
 
47422830742_31dd8f6638_k.jpg
 
Next to Johnny Rockets is this climbing structure for little kids.  We called it The Pringles Thing because it looks like a bunch of colorful Pringles.  Well the kids on the ship seemed to love it!  
 
47475739741_850d9ea29a_k.jpg
 
Past The Pringles Thing is the rock wall, and the Aqua Theater.  You need to make reservations for Hiro, the main Aqua Theater show, but the second show (Aqua Nation) does not require reservations.  Go to both shows.  I'll say it again later, but go to both shows!
 
This is not one of the shows, btw.  This is the cruise director.  Oh also they show movies here, and other shows.  And if you are doing scuba training this is where you will do it.  
 
33599194978_d8d37a886a_k.jpg
 
On either side of the Aqua Theater are the rock climbing walls.  DD had said she would do it, but that never happened.  I never really encouraged it, either. We were busy with other things.  
 
40509528783_0240a7f98f_k.jpg
 
In the middle of the Boardwalk is the exit from the Abyss slide, which is the 10 story slide down the back of the ship.  I'll talk more about this later.  
 
46752402754_37a5d6098f_k.jpg
 
Then turning further to the right is Playmakers, which is basically a sports bar/arcade.  The drinks are included in the beverage package, but you will pay for any food you order.  We didn't eat here, but I did get bottled water and a few glasses of wine throughout the week.  
 
46752401594_bd6a5cd146_k.jpg
 
And I believe that's it for Deck 6!  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Since I can't edit my post, I want to amend the portion about The Key.  There were two benefits being discussed and I focused on one instead of separating the two.  The paragraph should read like this:

 

The Key: One of the perks of The Key is that you can drop off your carry on luggage in the Royal Theater and it will be delivered to your room before any checked luggage.  We went straight there when we boarded, gave them our room number/name, and dropped off our bags.  This was a very nice benefit, and one that I really appreciated.  Our luggage was in our stateroom when we went there, no problems at all.  

 

The Key:  Then we were given wristbands, and we were told those were for priority access to activities like the Flowrider, Rock Wall, Zipline, Abyss, etc.  I hadn't heard of having priority access, so I was confused.  All of the documentation I had read said we would have special hours just for Key members.  I was told yes, there would be special hours, but we could also go to the front of the line any time with the wristbands.  I asked again and was told no really, you just go to the front of the line and show your wristband and you get priority any time.  We did not test this out as my son was not comfortable cutting in front of other kids who were waiting, and I was not about to encourage him to do so.  There were NO signs ANYWHERE stating that Key guests could cut the line, nor were there separate lines (I think there was a suite/Diamond/Pinnacle line at The Abyss, but NO Key line anywhere).  Some people have said they would have no problem cutting the line because they paid for the privilege and too bad for the people who didn't.  I have been told "It is just like having a Fastpass or Express Pass" but I disagree.  At Disney/Universal there are signs EVERYWHERE about Fastpasses/Express Pass.  You get emails from Disney/Universal explaining it all to you.  You see separate lines labeled "Fastpass" or "Express Pass".  You wait in a different line.  Imagine the chaos that would happen at Disney/Universal if there were only one line, and anyone with a Fastpass/Express Pass could just shove past everyone else and go to the front.  IMO this is a terrible system and not one we were comfortable using.  This was no benefit to us as Key members.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We are actually doing the Try Dive on the morning of our first Sea Day (at least me and my DS are). Figured it would be in the Aqua theater pool since that is the only one deep enough to dive into, but good to see confirmation of that. Thanks!

 

And still debating if we are going to be Key line cutter or not. lol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Following!! 

Thank you so much for your review!

Purchased The Key and will be on Symphony in a few weeks!!

Edited by nbp

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Ralphinsc said:

We are actually doing the Try Dive on the morning of our first Sea Day (at least me and my DS are). Figured it would be in the Aqua theater pool since that is the only one deep enough to dive into, but good to see confirmation of that. Thanks!

 

And still debating if we are going to be Key line cutter or not. lol

 

If they would make two lines and make it clear that Key guests would have some sort of priority, I would be OK with it.  I just don't like the whole "Just flash your wristband and cut the line!" aspect of what was presented to us.  

 

57 minutes ago, nbp said:

Following!! 

Thank you so much for your review!

Purchased The Key and will be on Symphony in a few weeks!!

 

I really want to hear about your experience.  I do wonder if our experience was due to the insane amount of people on the ship.  Someone told me we were over capacity.  I don't know how that is possible.  I did hear there were 1500 kids age 12 and under on our cruise.  1500!!!  So maybe that's why our benefits were diluted?  Because there were just SO MANY PEOPLE?  I don't know.  I really want to know if our experience was a one-off.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Loving your review. Thanks for sharing. Do you have a picture of "the key only" reserved times that were available on Symphony? I was made to understand that that schedule is on the backside of the welcome letter you get on board from the Key. Or is the benefit now just limited to going to the front of the line with no dedicated hours for Key members?

Edited by VictorSinclair

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, VictorSinclair said:

Loving your review. Thanks for sharing. Do you have a picture of "the key only" reserved times that were available on Symphony? I was made to understand that that schedule is on the backside of the welcome letter you get on board from the Key. Or is the benefit now just limited to going to the front of the line with no dedicated hours for Key members?

 

I do have a picture of that.  I was going to add it at some point but will do so now.  It was so disappointing.  

 

The Key:  These were the "priority hours" for Key guests.  I had been watching closely, and all previous sailings had multiple hours per activity per week.  

 

46561788435_23fce5462c_k.jpg

 

I had been paying very close attention to this before we sailed.  This was unlike anything I had seen before.  One hour per activity per week?  Not worthwhile at all, IMO.

Edited by Grenouille21

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Day 1 continued:
 
Ok, we've moved on from Deck 6.  I'm going to go a bit out of sequence and stick with Deck 8, even though we had walked around Deck 8, then explored the higher decks, then returned to Deck 8.  Don't hate me for it.  
 
Deck 8 has Central Park and Dazzles.  I'll get to Central Park in a minute.  
 
Dazzles is a nightclub that is on Deck 8 and Deck 9.  
 
32534820677_ba5961dd97_k.jpg
 
They had parties here every night but I did not get to attend any of them because *someone* would not go to the Teen Club.  :confused3  They had a great view of the Boardwalk.  Bet it looked even better at night.  Not that I would know... :rolleyes:
 
46561453085_505e2be7c3_k.jpg
 
Central Park is a very pretty area of the ship.  Here you will find the Park Cafe, which is home of the famous Kummelweck sandwich which I did not try.  They have a late breakfast, and the food is included in your cruise fare.  There is also the Trellis bar, which I did not visit once, and Jamie's, 150 Central Park, and Chops.  All three of those are an additional charge.  
 
The Key:  Key guests can have lunch at Chops or Jamie's on embarkation day as part of the benefits of the program.  We chose to dine at Chops, as we all like filet mignon (snobs?  I guess?) and the menu at Jamie's wasn't appealing.   First we had to wait 10 minutes behind some woman who was complaining about all of her dining reservations.  Finally we were seated, and we ordered from the Key menu (a scaled down version of the regular lunch menu).  
 
40510566493_64e21f4af4_k.jpg
 
40510569783_475ba1e004_k.jpg
 
I thought for sure we would all order the filet.  
 
Side track: we all LOVE Benihana and go every few months.  We all order the filet.  No question.  When I saw the menu, I assumed we would all order the filet.  That did not happen.  We ordered mac and cheese and mashed potatoes as sides, and cheesecake and chocolate cake as desserts.  Oh and Caesar salads to begin but BORING.  No, just kidding.  The Caesar salads on this ship were amazing.  
 
So, I could drag this out to simulate our experience at Chops but I will spare you, because it was torture.  We were in that restaurant for 1.5 hours.  I watched other tables who had been seated when we were seated and they were all on the same timetable as us.  Meanwhile, when we were waiting for dessert a family with young kids showed up and they were served WAY faster than us.  
 
At one point I went to the bathroom, figuring the Rule of Restaurants would apply and the food would arrive while I was in the bathroom.  NOPE.  But I did learn that the bathrooms all have motion sensors to open the doors.  
 
46753408644_0afb0bcf19_z.jpg
 
The Casear salad was the same as the one I would get almost every night in the MDR:
 
46561462405_aea40b0d28_k.jpg
 
Don't get me wrong.  This was a GREAT salad.  Seriously.  I was glad to have it almost every night.  
 
DS ordered the burger and was unhappy.  How are you unhappy with a burger?  I don't know.  But if anyone can be unhappy with a burger, one of my kids can be unhappy with a burger.  Especially when he just should have ordered the filet like a normal person.  Who goes to a steak house and orders a burger?  Where did I go wrong as a parent?  Who would be unhappy with this?
 
47423871442_3fd21f0c5e_k.jpg
 
 "The fries are good though!" Ok whatever.  Who even orders fries at a steak house?  I have so much work to do with this kid.  
 
Whatevs.  DD and I did the right thing and ordered the filet.  Like normal people.  
 
46753413734_6ec6ce945a_k.jpg
 
Somehow they had brought an extra mac and cheese for DS.  It's almost like they knew he wouldn't like the burger.  "Kid, what are you DOING?  Who orders a burger in a steak house?  Obvi your mom has failed you but no worries, we got you, son.  Eat this delicious mac and cheese and all will be well.  Your mom will learn.  It will take time, but she will learn.  And so will you.  So for now, enjoy this cheesy pasta that costs a fraction of what your mom paid.  And we will be laughing at your expense in the galley."
 
47476722741_282a9aa307_k.jpg
 
But really, it was good.  But the potatoes.  Oh Em Gee!  The mashed potatoes were TDF.  DS had none of that with his fried and mac and cheese.  Because I am not actually a horrible person I offered him some of my filet, and he enjoyed it.  SEE??  GET THE FILET!!!  The sauces were awesome, too.  I think it was a red wine reduction and a Bearnaise?  Whatever, they were great.  Full stop.  
 
And then dessert.  I mean, dessert is pretty much always good.  And this was good.  Was it worth the price?  I guess?  But it would have been better if it hadn't taken SO LONG.  
 
47476727761_8e3d22957b_k.jpg
 
46561489545_3cf5fa40d8_k.jpg
 
Both of these are good, so go with your gut.  Gut says chocolate?  Get the chocolate cake.  Gut says cheesecake?  Go with it.  You can't lose with those two options.  
 
The lunch was delicious but it took WAY too long.  I wish we had asked to speed things up.  The food was amazing but overall we could have bought lunch and had the same experience.  I do recommend lunch or dinner at Chops if you like filet.  Whether it is worthwhile for The Key depends on how they proceed with the other benefits. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • 2019 Cruisers' Choice Awards
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...