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Bittersweet Symphony - 3/9/19 Review


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If it's Spring everywhere but Canada, that must mean that we just had March Break - and you know what THAT means. It means that it was cruise time again for me and the Jellybean! You may remember us from such critically acclaimed reviews as 'Freedom of the Seas 2016', and 'Oasis 2018'. Well, after two long years of waiting, we finally cruised a ship that wasn't even BUILT yet when we booked her, the mighty Symphony.  

 

This is not a live review, obviously, but I promise to take you from start to finish, with all the highs and lows and in-betweens. You'll laugh, you'll sigh heavily, you may even shed a tear or two - but you will hopefully be entertained, and even learn something about Symphony... and yourself. 

 

So pull up a chair, grab a snack, tell the kids to leave you alone, and prepare for - the Bittersweet Symphony, 3/9/19 sailing cruise review. Feel free to ask questions, share feedback, add your own stories if you were there; just don't ask for Compasses. I don't have them. Not a single one. Don't ask me what night was Formal Night. I didn't care. I do know there were a TON of hangers, like, more than are in my current bedroom closet, more than on both Freedom and Oasis combined, so hopefully that makes someone happy. Just make sure you either fill 'em up, or push them to one side of the closet, because otherwise the first night they'll rattle a teensy bit, just enough to drive you stir crazy, but not enough to make you get up out of bed.

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43 minutes ago, CanadaCathi said:

Just make sure you either fill 'em up, or push them to one side of the closet, because otherwise the first night they'll rattle a teensy bit, just enough to drive you stir crazy, but not enough to make you get up out of bed.

 

HAHAHA, I can already tell I'm going to enjoy this review - looking forward to it!

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First, some introductions, in case you have not run into us before. I’m a work-from home Software Project Manager with a penchant for planning and scheduling things. I like things to go right. This is important to remember later on. I am a single mother by choice to a precocious 10-year old, Jellybean, who loves screen time, flossing (but not the good kind), and the beach. We live in Ontario (Canada), but are dual citizens who lived in Raleigh NC for a while (go Canes!).  Being back in Ontario means that we cherish every teensy bit of warm weather and sun that we can get, ESPECIALLY in March. It’s been a very long, snowy winter here.

 

As mentioned, we decided on this cruise over two years ago, on Oasis. We loved the big ship; Jellybean ADORED Central Park, had a blast in the kid’s club, and we both liked the itinerary. So, we thought, why not do it again, but on an even BIGGER, NEWER ship?! So then we just had to wait two years, which was absolute torture.

When I plan a cruise I keep several documents, a file folder, an email folder for excursion confirmations, you name it. As soon as I can book stuff, I do it. I’ve more than once been told by an excursion company that I’m way to early, and to call back later. Like, a year later. I keep a Word document with a timeline of everything we are planning to do, what has been booked (with confirmation numbers), and what is still to-do. Then a day or two before we leave, I print a hard copy of this to keep in my carry on at all times. Some people do this in Excel, whatever works for you. It’s just really nice to have everything in one place. I have a separate packing list, with outfits planned by day, including travel clothes. Then I have individual printouts of all excursion confirmations, with notes at the top on any balance owed, items to take with us (example, towels), and an envelope paperclipped to it with the cash I think I’ll need for meals, tips, taxis and such.  All the paperwork goes into a file folder, organized by day, along with hard copies of luggage tags, sea pass info, and copies of our passports. SEE? I TOLD you I was compulsive. It sounds like a lot, but this is the part that is the most fun for me. Well, that and the day drinking.

Side note here on excursions – I like to book non-RCCL excursions. I know, I know, naughty girl. If there was ever an issue, the ship wouldn’t wait for us. I get that. Personally, like the options and the prices of booking directly, so I take that risk. But I’m also not doing jungle safaris or anything too crazy. My preferred vendor when not booking directly is Island Marketing; I’ve had a lot of great experiences with them.

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Ok, let’s get started with some actual traveling.

We like to fly into the area at least one day prior, for lots and lots of good reasons, but mostly because one time like 10 years ago I saw a woman with her family sitting on the floor in an airport crying, because they’d just missed their flight and they were going to miss their cruise. I vowed then and there, THAT WILL NEVER BE ME. Since we live a couple hours on a good day from the closest airport, we drive to a hotel there two days prior to the cruise, leave the car parked, fly out early the next morning, and then spend that night (the night before the cruise) somewhere close to port.

 

2 Days Until Departure

I was able to leave work a little early and traffic to Toronto wasn’t too terrible. This time of year I don’t like to risk driving to Buffalo to fly Southwest or Westjet, because you never know what the weather is going to do. I may rethink this.

We got to Toronto and went to the airport Jack Astor’s for dinner. I apparently had the exact same thing to eat and drink as I did two years ago. I promise I’m not usually THAT much of a creature of habit. After a quick meal we checked into the Four Points Airport Sheraton and I took a sleeping pill, because the alarm was set for 3:30a, with a scheduled 4a airport shuttle time. I noticed the hotel room clock was about 5 minutes fast, but didn’t think anything of it because I rely on my cell phone clock.

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We just got off the Symphony last week and had a fantastic cruise. The ship lived up to it's hype IMHO. The only thing I didn't like was the ridiculously small bathroom. The shower was about the same size as the rest of the bathroom if that gives you any idea of its size.

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On 3/20/2019 at 5:13 PM, CanadaCathi said:

Don't ask me what night was Formal Night. I didn't care. I do know there were a TON of hangers, like, more than are in my current bedroom closet, more than on both Freedom and Oasis combined, so hopefully that makes someone happy. Just make sure you either fill 'em up, or push them to one side of the closet,

Not going crazy over formal nights either.  However this info on the hangers is great.  21 days till we set sail!!!

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3 hours ago, deliver42 said:

We just got off the Symphony last week and had a fantastic cruise. The ship lived up to it's hype IMHO. The only thing I didn't like was the ridiculously small bathroom. The shower was about the same size as the rest of the bathroom if that gives you any idea of its size.

 We were on the same cruise as the OP so I am anxious to hear her story.

 

The difference between you and me is that you comment that the bathroom was small and was taken up by the shower. When I walked in, I thought that the shower was nice and large.   

 

M

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6 minutes ago, South Shore 41 said:

Not going crazy over formal nights either.  However this info on the hangers is great.  21 days till we set sail!!!

We had two closets (we had a  Central Park balcony and don’t know if that is different from other cabins) and both had lots of hangers. 

M

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3 hours ago, cruisegirl1 said:

We had two closets (we had a  Central Park balcony and don’t know if that is different from other cabins) and both had lots of hangers. 

M

In recent years, no matter the ship, we have always had plenty of hangers.  However I remember years ago when hangers were in short supply.

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1 Day Until Departure

After a restless night (I don’t sleep well the night before I have a trip, or basically anything important at all), I woke up and looked at the clock – and it was 5am. WHAT?! I LEAPED from the bed in a cold panic, grabbed for my cell phone to see why the alarm hadn’t gone off… and it was 3:15am. The hotel clock apparently got even faster overnight. Well, at least I was wide awake! Jellybean and I packed up our overnight bags, dropped them in the car with our winter coats and boots, and grabbed our luggage. We caught the 4am shuttle, and were at the Toronto airport at 4:15am. The shuttle driver asked what time our flight was, and when we told him 6am, he tsk-tsk’d us – he said that they were expecting 144,000 departures through Pearson that day due to school break. I told him we had Nexxus (TSA Pre-Check) and that we figured we’d be ok.

 

Ha. Ha.

 

The airport was a zoo. We got our bags checked in without issue (a mama bear suitcase, a baby bear suitcase, and a suitcase with our snorkel gear), and headed to pre-check. Only – it wasn’t open yet. And there was a loooooooooong line of people already. So we got into our first line of the trip, and waited. At 4:30 they opened up, and we made it to the front of the line at 4:50. Where we were told that there was a problem with one of the bags, that it hadn’t been ‘processed’. Which meant we had to get out of line, and go to another area, and basically just wait until the bag was processed. That was line #2, because the United representative didn’t get to work on time for her 5a shift, she sauntered in at 5:10, and unpacked every single thing you could possibly think of from her purse and lunch bag, THEN WENT TO THE BATHROOM, before she came back and started working through the line of people. This was when I first started feeling a little soured on United Airlines. After 3 minor heart attacks watching the clock, our bag cleared at 5:30am, we were back to customs, ran to our gate, and were the 2nd last people on the plane before they closed the doors. PHEW! So much for breakfast and a coffee! We had a brief layover in Chicago, where we had time to pee and grab a bagel (not at the same time), and then we were on the Fort Lauderdale flight. Everything was on time, thankfully. I sat back, relaxed, and immediately spilled an entire bottle of orange juice all over myself. Like, it was in my shoe. 10 minutes after I’d mopped everything up as best as I could, mostly with my hoody, Jellybean spilled a can of Sprite on me. Getting all the travel bad luck out of the way upfront, I thought (insert foreshadowing here).

 

Soooooo early!!

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The people I felt most sorry for were all the unsuspecting business commuters - remember, this was a Friday morning. 

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Edited by CanadaCathi
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We had pre-booked with Super Shuttle based on a recommendation from this site (I think – either that, or Trip Advisor). I could talk all day about how happy I was with them. They have an app, where you can confirm that you’re ready and have your luggage, and you get an almost immediate confirmation of the shuttle number and driver (with a pic); it feels incredibly safe. We used them on the way back, also, and there was also a little tracker that showed where the driver was on a map – BRILLIANT. 120 stars for Super Shuttle. It was a shared van with one other guy who was sailing the Norwegian Bliss, and oddly enough was staying at a hotel directly across from the Miami airport.

 

We arrived at the Holiday Inn Miami Beach at 2p. I had picked the Holiday Inn because we were going to Florida, and if we didn’t stay on the water then we were crazy. Jellybean and I are total waterbugs (she’s a Jellyfish); if there’s a lake or a pool or an ocean or a waterpark or even a puddle in a pothole, we’re there. The hotel was just gorgeous, although not in a super convenient location for walking distance-type stuff. Fine with us, we dropped our bags with the concierge and headed out to check out the beach. We realized we were still wearing jeans and hoodies and that it was Florida, so were quick to go back inside, at which point our room was ready and we got checked in. We were on the 10th floor, ocean view, all for a mere $392.05, including taxes. I KNOW, RIGHT?!!  Jellybean was like, "Mom, wait til you see the soap and shampoo!" and I was like, "Omg, we can't afford this, don't touch anything else, we have to leave". That’s what you get in Miami Beach during Spring Break. No regrets; the pool was freezing, there was an entire blanket of seaweed, the breakfast buffet was exactly as terrible as they always are – but we slept like babies, and it was quiet, and it was clean. Only one problem - I would never have booked a hotel without a shuttle to port, yet when I checked in and asked, they said they didn't have one. Huh. I was SURE they did. Apparently they don't. So I wouldn't stay here again (prior to cruising), because if I'm going to spend that much money, I want to have a guaranteed ride in the morning also. 

 

Bienvenido a Miami

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Yasssssss...

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Poolside bar, check.

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The surest sign that a hotel is out of our league.

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Edited by CanadaCathi
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