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Symphony of the Seas Review: Back to the Real Cruising We Know & Love!

This almost-like-new cruise ship has everything you need for an unforgettable trip. From luxurious cabins to fun and exciting activities, entertainment, and dining experiences – this ship comes through in all ways! Whether you’re looking for relaxation for yourself or excitement with the kids (or both!), Symphony of the Seas could be just what your family needs. Continue reading our Symphony of the Seas review to discover why this floating vacation destination should top your list of great vacation options!

Second Chances

We first sailed on Symphony last year at the end of 2021. I ultimately did not publish a review then because it would not have been a fair representation of a Symphony sailing experience.

There was a Covid outbreak on the ship shortly before our sailing, and the rules and precautions were ramped up to the point of siphoning off much of the fun. We have sailed with Covid restrictions and masking requirements before and still had a wonderful time (see Odyssey of the Seas review). But this was different. Many issues and limitations – including limitations on the number of hours you could be in the kids’ club and a requirement for advance reservations. 

Symphony of the Seas Review | photo of the ship docked in St. Thomas

This time, things were more or less back to normal. 

No Covid anything–at least not anything required.  We were asked if we were vaccinated. We did not have to show proof.  And no pre-boarding testing.  All masking was voluntary.  The ship was packed for our holiday sailing. The members of the youth staff were positively gleeful as they explained that all of the restrictions from the prior year had fallen to the wayside.

Sadly, some of the streamlining that had come with the Covid protocols also fell by the wayside. While the easier muster process remained in place, the regular disembarkation procedures had been reinstated.

Symphony of the Seas Review: Quick Overview

Symphony is a stellar addition to Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class family, even if it has ultimately been eclipsed by Wonder of the Seas (review forthcoming). On its own merits, it is an excellent ship that provides a great sailing experience.

Symphony of the Seas held the title of the world’s largest cruise ship for about three years. At full capacity, the ship can hold over 6,600 passengers. But, since two of those years were Covid years, it has not seen the amount of wear and tear that you would usually see after a few years. Everything was still relatively fresh.

The ship has all of the standard amenities we have come to expect from the Oasis class ships, including a wide range of on-board activities that appeal to every age group, such as laser tag, ice skating, an abundance of water activities and water slides, arcades, fun shows and more.

In addition, there’s a wide variety of food, including 18 different restaurants offering global cuisines from all around the world.

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Symphony of the Seas Cabins

On this trip, we experienced two different types of Symphony of the Seas rooms — a grand suite (courtesy of a last-minute RoyalUp upgrade) and a regular Symphony of the Seas balcony room. Both cabins were well-appointed and comfortable, but the suite obviously had significantly more space and storage. In fact, the suite had so much storage that our usual space-saving hacks were not required.


Symphony of the Seas Review | photo of Grande Suite bedroom
Bedroom of Grand Suite – split bed arrangement

Living Room

Grand suite living room with the sleeper sofa in double bed configuration.


Grand suite: Balcony to 1 bedroom suite with 2 loungers and table with 2 chairs.


The bathroom was positively huge! You could easily fit 3 or 4 people in simultaneously and still have room to move around. And there was plenty of bathroom storage. In addition to multiple cabinets and drawers, both mirrors hid additional shelving.

Symphony of the Seas Dining

Overall, the food options available onboard Symphony of the Seas were terrific. 

Whether you’re looking for familiar comfort food or something more exotic, you will find it.

The ship has plenty of casual eateries onboard that offer a wide selection of cuisines such as American comfort food, burgers and fries, Mexican tacos and burritos, Asian stir fry dishes, Mediterranean mezze platters, and much more.

Plus, you can enjoy breakfast classics like pancakes and waffles in the Windjammer Café or indulge in fresh pastries at Café Promenade. For night owls, both Sorrento’s and Cafe Promenade are open late into the wee hours. Plus, room service is available 24 hours (for $7.95).

Symphony of the Seas also has a good selection of unique bars and other eateries for guests to enjoy drinks and small plates. While sipping cocktails, you can soak in beautiful views from the Rising Tide Bar or grab a few snacks on the Boardwalk at Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade. There’s also the Vintages wine bar located in Central Park for those who appreciate fine wines and champagnes.

Symphony of the Seas Main Dining Room

During our holiday sailing on Symphony, Royal Caribbean was experimenting with menu changes which they are now being rolled out across the fleet.  My perception: There were fewer choices overall, but still enough to provide choice and variety.

Sample Symphony of the Seas Menu – December 2022

The most significant change was eliminating the “classics” section of the menu. This was a selection of standard dishes that appeared on the menu every night. Thus, if you didn’t like some of the more adventurous fare being offered on a given night, you knew you could default to the New York Strip steak dinner or the Spaghetti Bolognese.

Under the new format, each night has a theme like Mexican, Caribbean, or “Royal Night.” The new menus offer “Chef’s Recommendations” for each course at the top, with a few additional selections below.

One of the significant changes that we noticed concerned the dessert options. Instead of special daily flavors of ice cream like caramel or mint chocolate, the dining room offered only vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate, along with sorbet.  Also missing from the standard menu was our beloved Royal Chocolate Cake. It was offered, but only once during a 7-night sailing.

For a more detailed explanation of the menu changes, along with a selection of sample-themed menus, check out the Royal Caribbean Blog feature post on the topic.

Other Complimentary Food

In addition to the Main Dining Room and the Windjammer Marketplace (aka the buffet), the ship has a nice selection of complimentary dining options. You’ll also find Park Cafe, El Loco Fresh, Solarium Bistro, Boardwalk Dog House, and Sorrento’s Pizza.

The Solarium Bistro and El Loco Fresh are located on the pool deck.

Solarium Bistro is a cafe near the adults-only pool area. El Loco Fresh is also on the pool deck and adjacent to the outdoor sports facilities. The latter offered a solid level of Tex-Mex food. On our trip, it was very popular. There was typically a line, but it moved relatively quickly.

Boardwalk Dog House is a hot dog stand outside on the Boardwalk. No dedicated seating, but an array of communal seating options up and down the Boardwalk.

Both Sorrento’s and the Cafe Promenade are located inside the main promenade on Deck 5. Note that Sorrento’s is open late (until 3:00 am) and offers tasty, crispy crust pizza – as many pieces as you want. The Cafe Promenade offers small snacks and dessert items and often stays open late.

Specialty Restaurants on Symphony of the Seas

Symphony of the Seas has several specialty restaurants and venues. These are places where the food and drinks are not included as part of your cruise fare. In addition to full-service restaurants, the ship has a Starbucks kiosk on the main promenade and an ice cream shop on the Boardwalk.

Flat Fee Cover Charge

Note that most of the specialty restaurants have a cover charge in the $50 to $70 range. However, you can get discounted prices if you make reservations online before sailing.

Johnny Rockets — We noticed that the cover charge had almost doubled to $15. The food is all you can eat, but shakes and malts are extra. We also noticed that they no longer bring baskets of fries and onion rings to the table. But they still do the occasional line dance.

Chops Grille — Traditional steakhouse with a flat fee. Excellent meal. We have found that the steakhouse can sometimes be variable across the fleet, but we ate at this venue twice and had excellent plates each visit.

150 Central Park – This venue is often overlooked. So much so that, at one point, there was a very persistent steerer outside the main dining room offering discounted reservations.  

Jamie’s Italian — Italian fare. Another great meal with many menu options.

Hooked Seafood — Many guests found this venue disappointing, which is how we ended up at Chops twice. It had been panned by so many passengers such that I could not get any of my travel companions to stick with our pre-booked reservation.

Wonderland on Symphony of the Seas: A Unique Experience

Wonderland — This is not your typical upscale restaurant. It is truly a unique experience from the moment you enter the door.  It is generally framed around an Alice in Wonderland theme and features “re-imagined” dishes using molecular gastronomy.

Picky eaters will be challenged. My one picky eater rejected almost everything except the grilled chicken (without the exotic sides) and the fried mac n cheese – which was independently delicious regardless of palate and age. He had to fight off several of our dining companions for the mac n cheese.

Ala Carte Pricing

Several of the specialty dining venues offered a la carte pricing rather than a flat upcharge. These included:

  • Izumi Hibachi and Sushi – Asian fare.
  • Starbucks – coffee drinks and snacks just like on shore.
  • Sugar Beach – a novelty candy and ice cream store with a wider selection of ice cream flavors than now found in the main dining room.
  • Playmakers Sports Bar – See below.

Playmakers Sports Bar warrants a special call-out. It is very much the sports bar with dozens of screens from every angle and a smattering of table games. It also has a small arcade attached (which is separate from the main arcade on Deck 15).  The food was great. We went several times – particularly when the line for brunch on sea days in the main dining room was way too long. The burgers, wings, sliders, and nachos all get rave reviews.


As with its sister ships, the Symphony of the Seas activities available were both fun and plentiful.

The Symphony of the Seas Boardwalk

The Boardwalk on Symphony of the Seas closely tracks that same area from all of the prior Oasis-class ships. This area has fun activities for families and kids, from arcade games to an ice cream & candy shop. And, on sea days there were family activities staged down the center of the main walkway, and on one day there was a parade.

There is a carousel near the front of the open-air boardwalk. Right before you reach the carousel, there’s the hot dog stand. The Boardwalk hosts two other places to eat – Johnny Rockets and Playmakers. And you can finish off with something sweet at Sugar Beach.

At the other end of the Boardwalk, as you’re moving toward the ocean, you’ll find the aft area where several different activities occur. At the very end is the large Aqua Theatre.

Before you get to the theatre area, which is anchored by a Jumbo screen, you’ll pass the exit for the two tubes of the Abyss.

On this side of the ship, you can also observe the rock climbers and folks gliding by on the zip line. Note that the rooms that face the Boardwalk have balconies. So those folks do get fresh air, just not ocean views.

Water Activities

On Deck 15, you’ll find all of your water activities, including four different pools and the thrilling Perfect Storm Water Slides to explore. There is a beach-themed pool which is decorated to resemble a tropical beach and includes chairs sitting in very shallow water. The Main Pool provides plenty of fun for all ages, while adults seeking tranquility can enjoy some rest at the Solarium Pool. There’s also an outdoor Sports pool ideal for enjoying water sports or family activities.

Another popular family area is Splashaway Bay splash park. It features spray cannons, water geysers, a wading pool, a large tipping bucket, and small and medium water slides.

Plus, you’ll find an abundance of hot tubs strategically situated around all of the pools and several vigilant lifeguards.

Big kids and grown-ups can visit the Perfect Storm. This is a separate set of three very large water slides for true thrill-seekers. These slides have a 48-inch minimum height restriction.

There is plenty of lounge space and loungers spread out all through the pool deck, plus additional sun decks on levels 16 and 17. There is also a sun deck reserved for suite guests. It requires an appropriate keycard to access.

Lounging area within the sun deck for suite passengers.

The suite sun deck area also has its own bar.

Additional Activities around Deck 15

Not surprisingly, Symphony also has Royal Caribbean’s signature FlowRider surf simulator, and there are actually two on this ship. They can be viewed through the panoramic window in the buffet, which can be quite entertaining.

Additional activities include a zip line that runs above the ship’s boardwalk and the colorful mini golf course. 

This level also has a sports deck that’s partially enclosed and offers a variety of options of both organized and free play. During our sailing, the options included basketball, soccer, pickleball, and table tennis.

Symphony of the Seas Casino

Symphony has a very large (by cruise ship standards) and very active casino with both smoking and non-smoking sides. Both sides have their own set of slot machines and table games. The casino is up-to-date and well-maintained.  Word of caution about crossing through – if you end up on the smoking side, you may be unpleasantly surprised.

Symphony of the Seas Kids’ Club

As with its sister ships, Symphony has a very large kids club area that includes individual playrooms for three different age groups, plus a nursery, an open family free play area, its own movie theatre, the Imagination Studio (art projects and other creative activities), and a science lab. The theater is used for movies and for performances put on by the children themselves.

The age-based rooms break up as follows:

  • Royal Tots Nursery: 6 months – 36 months
  • Aquanauts (ages 3-5)
  • Explorers (ages 6-8)
  • Voyagers (ages 9 to 11)


 Symphony has a nice size teen lounge that has a large indoor space feeding into its own sequestered outdoor space.  Overall, the facilities are solid, but the actual programming was light and often without follow-through. So, some events that were announced in the cruise planner would not happen as scheduled or not happen at all.

Scheduled activities included rock climbing competitions, dodgeball (most evenings), dance activities like silent disco, special movie screenings, karaoke, and a range of sports competitions.

There was enough going on to be fun, but you could see how this could be very personality-driven.


The Spa offered a wide range of diverse offerings. It was well-staffed. Both the salon (nail) staff and spa staff offered great service. It was not that difficult to find suitable appointments. The multi-level facilities seem to have lots of capacity.

As for Symphony’s cruise ship gym, one of the teens in our travel party hit the gym almost every day and reported having a wonderful and complete workout. (Minimum age to access the gym was 16.)

The gym had an abundance of equipment in attractive surroundings, weights, and rooms for fitness classes (which have a charge). Cruise critic has the best collection of photos.

An adult member of the group hit the jogging track every morning before 6:00 a.m. (not me). He reported that there was a core group of cruisers who utilized the track same time each day. Great open-air ocean views.



The signature production in the Main Theatre was the Broadway musical Hairspray. One word that captures the entire 90-minute experience: fun! The show was energetic and energizing. A large number of patrons were still singing or humming “You Can’t Stop The Beat” as we exited the theater. 

The production was very well done and worth making time to see. Admission is complimentary, but reservations are required.

The cast was full of energy and talent and presented with such enthusiasm that it made it look like being a cruise ship performer was absolutely the best job in the world. They did a great job bringing Tracy Turnblad’s story to life. The costumes are bright and colorful and do a great job of capturing the feel of the 60s era. 

This production appealed to all ages (although there was one somewhat risque scene that was short).

Hiro – Aqua Theater

The aqua theatre features the water-theme show HiRo. There is a loose plot, but really the show is about the visuals and excitement – think Cirque de Soleil with a little speed. The show involves many stunts and martial arts and the chance of being splashed if you sit too close to the stage.

Additional Performances

  • Flight: Dare to Dream — a show that documents the history of flight in reverse.
  • 1977 – a time-traveling story set on ice
  • iSkate 2.0 – more professional ice skating

Additional Entertainment Venues

  • Main video arcade on Deck 15
  • The Attic (Deck 4) – evening comedy shows; late-night disco
  • Jazz on 4 (Deck 4) – lounge with live jazz
  • Boleros (Deck 5) – latin-themed lounge
  • On Air (Deck 5)- karaoke bar
  • Dazzles – dance club on Decks 8 and 9
  • A variety of bars
    • Copper & Kettle (Deck 5): British-style pub.
    • Bionic Bar (Deck 5): drinks made to order by large robotic arms.
    • Rising Tide Bar (Deck 5): a bar that floats (slowly) between decks 5 and 8.
    • Schooner Bar (Deck 6): a low-key nautical bar that seems somewhat tucked away near the entrance to the Boardwalk. It really is a place where you can sit, and people-watch.
    • Vintages (Deck 8): Upscale wine bar with tapas.
    • Trellis Bar (Deck 8): Very small walk-up bar along the path as you traverse Central Park.
    • Mast Bar (Deck 16)


Additional fun activities include:

  • Game room/Card area/Library – This was basically a low key multi-purpose room on deck 8. It was well stocked with books, board games, lots of tables and a few computers. Note that you can also find outdoor game tables in Central Park.
  • Ice skating
  • Laser tag
  • An escape room (minimum age 14)
  • Bingo (on sea days)

One other significant change worth noting concerns the daily cruise newsletter, where you would typically turn to get information about your options for daily entertainment, recreation, dining, etc. Royal Caribbean has been heavily steering everyone to use the app for that purpose, so the printed daily newsletter is no longer automatically provided every night.

Reportedly this was at least partially motivated by efforts to be more environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, while the app has many great features, it is not as easy to navigate as the paper newsletter. For those who prefer to use the paper version, those are available upon request. Just ask your stateroom attendant.

Closing Thoughts

Symphony of the Seas is an excellent addition to the Royal Caribbean Oasis-class family. While it only had a limited time to reign as the largest ship in the sea, it still provides a great vacation opportunity for your family!

Elaine Warren

Founder & Crew Chief

Elaine founded this website after publishing the book The Family Cruise Companion’s Guide to Cruising With Kids. She has sailed on 40 cruises (and counting). She loves helping families navigate their way to an adventure-filled, fun, and memorable vacation.

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