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Symphony of the Seas' inaugural cruise is a 7 day cruise starting on the 21st April 2018, leaving Barcelona for Palma de Mallorca, Marseille, La Spezia, Rome, Naples, before heading back to Barcelona. The ship is 230,000 tons (3000 tons bigger than the current leader, Harmony of the Seas), has capacity for a massive 6870 passengers, and will have the highest slide at sea, which drops 10 floors down. She's the 4th of Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class of ship, and is being built in Nazairre, France, at the STX Shipyard. In June 2017 she was floated out of her dry dock for the first time. Technological features include facial recognition when checking in, virtual balconies, and a Bionic Bar where passengers are served by robotic barmen.
We knew something was up when in 2014 Royal Caribbean applied to trademark 8 new ship names - Apex of the Seas, Emblem of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Joy of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Passion of the Seas, Pulse of the Seas & Spectrum of the Seas. Then in February 2015 it was announced that the new Royal Caribbean ship would be called "Harmony of the Seas", and she'd be in Oasis class, the largest cruise ships in the world. The other Oasis class ships are the Oasis of the Seas & the Allure of the Seas. Construction of the Harmony of the seas was completed in Saint Naizaire, France.
She will set sail from Southampton to Northern Europe, before embarking on her maiden cruise to Barcelona. The inaugaral summer cruise season will commence during June 2016. During November 2016, Harmony of the Seas will arrive at her homeport of Port Everglades. Harmony of the Seas has a "Central Park" in the middle, with balcony cabins facing inwards, water slides going over Central Park and real grass in Central Park. Even inside cabins have virtual balconies installed. And if you like cruising single, do not despair - the liner has studio options. If you're rolling in the green then book a suite, and enjoy an exclusive sun deck, lounge & restaurant.
7 July 2014. Royal Caribbean are using Google's Street View technology to allow everybody with an internet connection to explore the Allure of the Seas. Photos on which the walkthrough are based were taken using a fisheye lens on a DSLR camera. Click here to take a virtual tour of the ship.
From May 2015, the newest Royal Caribbean Ship, the Quantum of the Seas will position itself in China.
Royal Caribbean is doing away with the traditional cruise ship methodology of huge seated dinners, and introducing "dynamic dining". The concept is first being introduced on the Quantum Class ships. Guests can choose from 18 restaurants, some free and some which require payment. Cruise passengers can book restaurants online in advance of their cruise, or on the ship.
Royal Caribbean cruise ships in order of size are:
Quantum of the Seas
Allure of the Seas
Oasis of the Seas
Freedom of the Seas
Independence of the Seas
Liberty of the Seas
Adventure of the Seas
Explorer of the Seas
Mariner of the Seas
If you can't afford a balcony suite here's the next best thing - Royal Caribbean are introducing virtual balconies in inside cabins on the Navigator of the Seas. The virtual balcony is an HD screen on the walk which shows the view outside the ship, as well as the sound of the sea.
Voyager of the Seas
Brilliance of the Seas
Jewel of the Seas
Radiance of the Seas
Serenade of the Seas
Enchantment of the Seas
Grandeur of the Seas
Legend of the Seas
Rhapsody of the Seas
Vision of the Seas
Majesty of the Seas (In 2016 Royal Caribbean are selling the Majesty of the Seas to Pullmantur cruise line)
21 December 2013. At 1am a man is seen falling into the sea off the Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas some 550km east of Brisbane. Crew members through smoke markers & life rings into the water, the ship was turned round and rescue boats launched. The body of the man was recovered from the sea 7 hours later.
1 January 2014 - Royal Caribbean bans smoking on balcony cabins of all its ships except for Asia-based ships. You can still smoke in the smoking section of casinos, on the starboard side of ships (except Oasis-class ships where you can smoke on the port side), in the Connoisseur Club on Freedom- and Voyager-class ships and in the designated smoking area on cruises from China.
September 2013. Over the year to date Royal Caribbean has increased the internet bandwidth capacity on its ships by 700%, and expects to sell access from $179 per week or $49 per day. In the short time ships drop off passengers it has placed new antennas which receive satellite signals onto its ships. It has also changed the way its buys internet bandwidth from a per ship basis to a per region basis.
April 2013 - Royal Caribbean unveils the new Quantum Class ships - Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. Quantum of the seas is expected to go into service in autumn 2014 and Anthem of the Seas in spring 2015.
March 2013 - Royal Caribbean's biggest ship (and the biggest cruise ship in the world), Oasis of the Seas, will be sailing to the Mediterranean for the first time in 2014. Book now to get your place on this epic ship.
Book a 6 night or more Royal Caribbean cruise in April 2013, for departure in May 2013, and choose the onboard credit option to receive $150 in spending credits ($250 if your cruise is 10 days or more).
27 December 2012. Royal Caribbean Cruises announces that it has requested STX France to build a a sister ship to the Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.
On 11 July 2011 Royal Caribbean International announced that it will invest some USD300m to introduce the best-rate programs from its Oasis-class ships to the rest of the fleet. The revitalizations include new entertainment, dining options, oversized video screens on the pool decks and widespread Wi-Fi. The ships will be revitalized as follows:
Splendour of the Seas (November 2011)
Rhapsody of the Seas (March 2012) - Alaska, New Zealand, Australia cruises
Grandeur of the Seas (May 2012) - try its Mediterranean cruises
Serenade of the Seas (November 2012)
Legend of the Seas, Vision of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas (2013 & 2014).
Royal Caribbean International's senior vice president of Hotel Operations, Lisa Bauer, said "We are thrilled that the ongoing Royal Advantage revitalizations will result in a virtually brand-new fleet that offers the most contemporary experience, no matter which ship or itinerary vacationers choose. From new dining concepts to cutting-edge entertainment to technological advancements, we are raising the bar across the fleet to offer guests our signature Gold Anchor Service and the world's most innovative cruise ships that sail to exciting destinations worldwide."
The Chief Executive of Royal Caribbean International, Adam Goldstein, said: "The Royal Advantage revitalizations takes many of the best features that we have created in recent years and introduces them across our fleet, offering our guests enhanced vacation choices around the world. We never stop trying to make the experience even better, and no other cruise line can offer the same high quality vacation experience with such an array of choices that cater to every guest.
Well we'd cruised on the Sinfonia, Melody, Rhapsody and even the RMS St Helena; but never before on the Royal Caribbean. In other firsts, we'd never cruised in the Mediterranean before (unless you count a ferry from Naples to Palermo), and never indulged in the luxury of booking a balcony cabin before.
(see Royal Caribbean news above)
We spent 7 nights in a balcony cabin on a ship called the MS Liberty of the Seas, a Freedom Class cruiser which entered service in May 2007, and made its maiden Meditteranean visit this year.
Royal Caribbean has 3 Freedom Class cruiseliners, the other 2 being the Freedom of the Seas and the Independence of the Seas. The Freedom Class ships were the largest passenger ships in the world, until the Oasis of the Seas was completed in November 2009.
The Liberty of the Seas has fifteen decks and can accommodate 3634 passengers, which compares with the 2065 passengers the MSC Sinfonia can accommodate (I'm not saying that more passengers is better, just stating the facts).
whirlpools that project out from the ship to provide undisturbed views of the sea underneath
cellphone & wi-fi connectivity through most of the ship
DreamWorks character meet and greets, table-side visits from characters during meals, DreamWorks movies on stateroom TV & 3D DreamWorks movies
wave generator for surfing
ice skating rink
an interactive water play area for children
flat screens in some of the rooms
outdoor video screen in the main pool area
a boxing ring
a full-sized basketball/volleyball court
conference center for business meetings
a 3 level formal dining room
Jade Cafe Asian themed casual dining,
Windjammer Cafe traditional casual dining
Ben & Jerry's Ice cream shop
Johnny Rockets (1950s American style diner - kids will love it - milkshakes, & burgers, with everybody getting fried chips & onions. Every now and then the staff break out into a line dance)
Portofino Italian restaurant.
We depart from Barcelona at 5pm on the 10th of September 2011. On the 11th we arrive in Provence (Toulon, France), on the 12th we in Nice (Villefranche), the 13th in Florence, the 14th in Rome, the 15th in Naples/Capri, we then have a day at sea cruising before arriving back in Barcelona on the 17th of September. We plan on waking up early and having breakfast in our cabin on port days, so that we can see as much as possible in the cities.
We ended up paying a total of $5047.92 ($3587 for our cabin, $1134.72 port charges and $326.2 in prepaid gratuities). A deposit of $1000 was required to be paid by the 15th June, and the final payment had to be made by the 8th July.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity strongly recommended that we purchase a Cruise Care Vacation Protection Plan, pointing out that we would not be covered under any circumstances if we declined this insurance." At $356, we thought it was a bit steep and rather took out our own travel insurance.
Royal Caribbean mentioned that "Visas are required for all cruises. There are no ship visas. It is the Travel Agent/Guests
responsibility to obtain all applicable visas. For all visa requirements kindly check with the relevant consulates or a visa service. Embarkation will be denied if the correct visas are not obtained. For your protection, your passport expiration date must not occur within 6 months of the voyage termination date." We got Shengen visas for ourselves, which covered all the countries we were visiting in the Mediterranean.
"The minimum age for infants is 6 months (a bit different to South Africa, where we took our son on a Melody cruise at the age of 2 months), as of the date of sailing and 12 months, as of the date of sailing for Transatlantic, Transpacific, Hawaii, selected South American cruises and other selected cruises.
No person under 21 may sail on any cruise holiday or have a stateroom on his or her own unless accompanied by a parent or guardian or authorized person who is over the age of 21. No guest under the age of 21 will be booked in a stateroom unless accompanied by an adult 21 years of age or older, except for minors sailing with their parents or legal guardians in adjacent
Individual staterooms can be booked by married couples whose minimum age are 18 (proof of marriage is required at time of booking)."
"Guests who will enter their 24th week of pregnancy by the beginning of, or at any time during their cruise holiday will not be allowed to cruise."
"You have a choice of seating times for meals in the Main Restaurant (Main Dining approx. 18h30 and Second Dining approx. 20h30) Dining times may vary according to ship and itinerary. Please request your preferred seating and table size at the time of booking. We cannot accept any bookings which are conditional on your preferred seating being or becoming available before departure. If you cancel because your preferred seating is not available, normal cancellation charges will apply. Seating requests cannot be guaranteed. My Time Dining (Royal Caribbean) and Celebrity Select (Celebrity Cruises) is now being offered. You can decide when you would like to dine between the hours of 18h00 and 21h30 each evening. Services Charges/Tips are mandatory when My Time Dining is selected."
"Kosher meals must be ordered at least 80 days in advance for international sailings (Europe, South America) and 40 days in advance for domestic sailings (Caribbean)."
The Eurostars Grand Marina Hotel is recommended for those wanting to cruise from Barcelona.
Moll de Barcelona WTC, Ciutat Vella
We booked from the 7th to the 10th September 2011, and it cost us €1020 for a room for 2 adults, a child and an infant. This included breakfast (and the 8% VAT rate).
According to the hotel website:
Take the airport bus (Aerobús: line A1 if you are in Terminal 1 and line A2 if you are in Terminal 2) heading towards Plaza Cataluña.
Get off at the Plaza de España stop and take Metro line 3 heading towards Trinitat Nova.
Get off at the Parallel stop. Go down Avenida del Paralelo until you reach Plaza de la Carbonera. After you cross the traffic circle you will reach Plaza de Les Drassanes, which leads directly to the Eurostars Grand Marina Hotel".
Wi-fi is available in the entire hotel and is free of charge.
Royal Caribbean announced in April 2013 that their new Quantum Class ships will be due to set sail towards the end of 2014 and early 2015 respectively. The Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the seas will both be packed with new innovations, as well as their most popular features from the current ships, proving once again that Royal Caribbean are at the forefront when it comes to ship design.
Some of the new features include a skydiving simulator, a capsule that takes you 300 feet above sea level and bumper cars (dodgems.) Interior staterooms (no window) will have virtual balconies, which show real-time images of the sea and the ship's destinations. Everyone's favourites - the Flowrider, climbing wall, adults only Solarium and more - are back too. This will be THE ship to go on for the ultimate fun-packed family cruise. Bookings open in May 2013, so make sure you get your spot on this fantastic ship.