Hi, my teen boys and I boarded Symphony in Rome (Civatevecchia) 7/26. Here's a brief review, organized by topic rather than chronological.
Great cruise! Great ship!
We have cruised many times, our first Oasis class was last year and we really like the bigger ships. We had a JS for the first time. We were on deck 6 port side just forward of the aft lobby (on the first hump)
Cabin was great, the walk in closet was very useful as a private changing area in addition to bathroom. One could be in shower and another changing in closet. The sofa bed was fine, pretty much the same size as single beds.
The ship is beautiful and shiny new. Lots of art and some cool interactive art.
Food as always was amazing. We always do traditional second seating, and as usual this worked out very well. It's nice staying by pool at 7pm when everyone else is at dinner. Also having late seating (8:45) makes it much ore feasible to get a 4th meal in! We usually went to Windjammer at 5:30 for "first dinner" and could still eat second dinner at 8:45 easily. There's not much to eat late but eating dinner at 8:45 meant we were never that hungry before bed (although we did often manage a slice of pizza!)
All the food was great, we didn't have anything we didn't like. We are diverse eaters and had duck, beef, lamb, fish, escargot, and it was all perfect.
Service was outstanding. My assistant waiter constantly refilled my wine glass without me asking, it was actually kind of dangerous (I had the drink package.) They now have bread waiting at table rather than coming around and serving it, which makes much sense to me as it frees them up for other things. Plus if you're hungry you can dig into the bread immediately.
Second seating traditional is also a lot more formal, everyone we could see was dressed at least in jacket and tie and there were several tuxes. Only a few people on another deck (we were right up against railing) could be seen in t shirts and shorts. (My son noticed them and was quite taken aback, good for him.) So if you like dressing consider second seating traditional dining.
It seems to me that the key to a good MDR experience is to show up on time, a table near us was always 10 minutes late and I heard them complain about service and food temperature. There is a rhythm to the service and if you're off by a beat your results may be sub-optimal.
I'm still a huge fan of second seating traditional dining and highly recommend it.
We ate once in coastal kitchen, it was great but not really much better that MDR. We were allowed to eat there because of our JS but our cards did not open door so we had to knock. It felt like a speakeasy.
We ate in Hooked once, also quite good but not sure if it is worth the money. The service was great and the waiter came over and did some tricks/brainteasers with my boys.
We loved El Loco Fresh, a great addition. The burritos were awesome with chunks of beef rather than ground beef.
There were more ice cream machines than on Oasis and never a line.
Windjammer was awesome as always, I don't get people who complain there is "nothing to eat." It does get a bit monotonous for breakfast though but we didn't go there too often for that, we usually just had room service continental or a quick danish from cafe. Service was great with waiters walking around with trays of beverages and offering to get you bar drinks or coffee. Plates were cleared almost instantly.
With this new ship they have taken hand hygiene up a level. Rather than a sanitizer station there are about 10 sinks at the entrance to buffet and you wash your hands with soap and water. All public bathrooms have automatic doors activated by waving your hand by a sensor.
One thing I really liked that was different from last year on Oasis is no more paper receipts for drinks with the drink package. Before you sometimes got them and sometimes not.
We got Wow bands when we checked in, I guess they are included in JS. I wouldn't buy one but I did find them quite useful. It solves the old problem of how to open cabin door with a plate of food and/or a drink. You can use them at bars but they only have so many scanners so unless you want to awkwardly squeeze between people you wind up taking it off and handing to bartender. I found myself just using my seapass card at the bars usually.
Speaking of bar service was great and I never had to wait but a second or so. Once I counted 8 bartenders at the pool bar!
I'm not a big show person but I did really like Hairspray, it seemed Broadway caliber and certainly there was a long, enthusiastic standing ovation at the end of it. Flight was ok but I thought it strange they listed the "first man" this and "first woman that" and when they listed the only non-American (Yuri Gargarin) they said "first human in space." I'm sure it's not deliberate but it was weird. There was a magic show that was good also. The aqua show was great as always. We skipped the ice show.
There is a lot more I could say but I'll keep it brief. There were very few negatives, most of which had to do with passengers rather than RCCL.
Many people talked during shows, why? LOTS of kids, although usually well-behaved.
Ping-pong tables were hogged by a few small groups, I had to basically kick someone off after they finished a game (they were going to play another one) so my son and I could play. I would like a sign or something stating that if people are waiting you get one 21-point game. It was very hard to get a table.
There was a taxi strike in Barcelona and I feel RCCL should have told us ahead of time, as happened on NCL Epic per some folks on our tour. It's possible they did and I missed it but unlikely. Since we did not know we were almost late for our tour.
This was a very European crowd, mostly Spanish (as one would expect.) If you like night life you will be thrilled as the promenade was hopping even at midnight (the latest I stay up.) People were having a blast. I'm not a big nightlife person but luckily we could not hear anything in our cabin despite being fairly close.
Let's see, what else? Deck chairs were few on the one sea day, but we had no problem finding one in our "secret spot" - by mini golf. Embarkation was the smoothest and quickest ever, there is a more full discussion in another thread.
My boys were not interested in teen club so I cannot comment on that.
This was our first Med cruise and it was a very nice change from the Carib. Although we only had one sea day we did not feel too busy. We had 2 all-day tours and 2 shorter ones. I think late seating dinner helps as you can relax on ship for several hours between tour and dinner.
So overall 10/10. I'm pretty easy to please but I do feel that each cruise on RCCL is better than the last, and the trend continues. It seems they put more effort into the newer ships in terms of crew and service in general. Of course they also charge more. It was worth it for me.