With a capacity for nearly 9000 passengers and crew, the largest cruise ship in the world has finally taken to the sea for its inaugural cruise. The colossal size of this floating city is difficult to contemplate; imagine roughly four Titanic ships in volume or, if put on its end, this giant would match the dizzy heights of the Shard or Eiffel Tower.
Miami-based Royal Caribbean, who are widely responsible for shaking the cruise industry free from the “the newlywed and the nearly dead” image, have brought fun-loving cruise aficionados most of the mega-ships on the water today. Symphony of the Seas doesn’t disappoint on that scale. There are 22 restaurants, 24 pools, a Manhattan-esque park with 12,000 real trees, two West End-sized theatres, a climbing wall, nine-deck-high zip line, ice rink, surf simulator, fairground carousel, glow-in-the-dark laser tag, spa and other countless entertainment and shopping opportunities.
Self-proclaimed as ‘The World’s Most Instagrammable Ship’, chances to take that perfect wow-factor snap are everywhere; from the Flow Rider surf simulator and 10-storey Ultimate Abyss slide to the lush Central Park and Robotic bar.
In response to the launch of Symphony of the Seas, some critics are using words like ‘brash’ and ‘gimmicky’ … and they don’t need to try hard to make their point. It’s easy to see this behemoth as a gargantuan amusement park, which certainly won’t appeal to everyone. However, regardless of such negative feedback, the reality of Symphony of the Seas lies with the fact that Royal Caribbean listened to their customers. They created exactly what these thrill-seeking, happy people want – to the tune of $1 billion. Its true purpose, as well as being the largest cruise ship in the world, is to be the best cruise ship for families. In this respect, Symphony of the Seas is an undisputed success.
The bias towards families is epitomised by the Ultimate Family Suite. This two-tier laugh-a-minute paradise, in eye-popping colours, comes compete with a slide between the two floors and full size Lego Wall. Although only in reach of the lucky few with too many dollars in their pocket – one family have booked Christmas for $65,000 – the experience is enhanced by a Royal Genie to meet ‘every wish’ (within reason) as well as an ‘Instagrammer-in-Chief’ to assist with those perfect pics … and, not being too cynical, to also ensure Royal Caribbean get maximum coverage across the social media network … they are clever.
But the real triumph of Symphony of the Seas lies beyond the smiley faces and the multitude of dollars flowing into the bank account of Royal Caribbean. Elevated above the brash lights, bright colours and unending noise is a masterpiece of design and engineering. This 228,000 ton ship floats; and it does so safely, in style and embracing the very latest technology. Created by Harri Kulovaara, a Finnish naval architect, Symphony is built to withstand Russian winters, Caribbean summers and North Atlantic storms. It generates energy and cleans water. Flow of movement is optimised both above and below deck to ensure passengers and crew efficiently move around the ship. From a guest perspective, the 18-decks are dividend into 7 neighbourhoods, naturally segregating personality-types and giving the feel of a smaller, more intimate experience despite the scale of the vessel.
After a summer season in the Mediterranean, Symphony of the Seas will head to Miami to set up home. Royal Caribbean International can surely expect lots and lots of happy customers as the company moves forward with plans for the next ‘largest cruise ship in the world’.
Photos courtesy of Royal Caribbean