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Blue Collar Diamond joins the Symphony - 4/27

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This cruise was the 5th one I have booked more than 700 days ahead of time, but it was the first cruise we have booked before the ship was launched.  We booked Freedom and Allure shortly after they joined the fleet, but never booked a cruise before the ship was even wet.   Lloyd’s thread about the construction of the ship was still in its first 500 posts. 

12 of our 17 cruises have been just my wife and I, but our friends Jon (b1gjon) and his wife Penny have joined us on 4 cruises.   (Majesty, Jewel twice,  and Adventure) 


  In the weeks prior to us boarding Adventure in 2017,  we told Jon and Penny that they had to try an Oasis class ship.  I asked Jon to pick one.  The only pre-requisite was the cruise had to include our May 2nd anniversary. (38 years this time)  Jon spotted Symphony on the schedule and had seen Harmony in port that spring.  This was the first cruise I have taken that I didn’t pick the ship and itinerary.   I figured it would be fun to go with them and see their reactions boarding this class of ship for the first time. (Best laid plans of mice and men) 


Even though it was 700+ days out, CC wouldn’t let me create a roll call for Symphony yet as they hadn’t created a section in the roll calls for her yet.  I kept trying every day, but the one day I was unable to get online, it opened. I would have to get over the disappointment of not creating the roll call.   As fate, would have it, the creator and the first 3 people to post to that roll call jumped ship. (pun intended) So at least I was the longest member of the roll call and entitled to all the benefits and recognition that comes with that.


I didn’t book the cruise for another couple of weeks as I wanted to do so on board Adventure. Jon booked his before me and following my advice got a balcony on deck 12.  Oddly enough when I did book on-board Adventure, the Next Cruise rep said there were no deck 12 balconies left. (This was still 700 days out) I got a deck 14 balcony, but 5 months later changed it to deck 12.  I’ve had mixed results with the NEXT CRUISE people on different ships, but Adventure and Freedom were both excellent in that department. (Symphony not so much) 


The roll call did get active with more than 600 days out.  We all watched the building of the ship, early Solarium photos were popular as we speculated about the pool and what show would be the main Broadway show. None of us predicted Hairspray, but then again, nobody in my group had seen it before.

More fun was had watching the float out and Symphony’s summer med run in 2018 and her eventual TA and arrival into Miami.  Of course we also got to watch the new terminal being built and enjoyed the  reviews from the early Mariner and Symphony cruises.   During the later part of the countdown we had 737 max issue arise and of course we wondered our repercussions would be.   We are flying into FLL and shuttling to Miami.   Many of our roll call folks were staying at the Holiday Inn at the port before the cruise, so we booked that one as well.


I will continue this during the day today and hopefully conclude it within a couple of days!   PIctures are coming soon. 

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Fortunately the flight down was on time and we were at FLL airport on time at 1pm on Friday.   While on the ground near their terminal, I did see two Southwest 737 max planes on the tarmac near the terminal. I guess they were parked there waiting for updates. 





As you know Symphony sails out of Miami and I did fly into Fort Lauderdale cheaper and with no baggage fees.  Somewhere on here I got a recommendation for Super Shuttiel and I made the reservation months in advance to go from FLL to The Holiday Inn on Biscayne Drive at the Miami port.  I checked in on their app as my bags came out.  I was sent a text showing the driver's name,face, and van number.  No specific pick up spot was noted.  15 minutes after I went to a spot I was told to by ground personnel , the van drove by, I waved he stopped, we loaded up with one other couple and headed to the Bayside Miami area were we arrived within 30 minutes.


The hotel was nice, clean and in line price wise with others in the area. I would stay again. Its close to Bayside for shopping and partying as in site of the port.  Below is our happy faces (Gina and I) landing on SWA at FLL, and then a view of RC Corporate from the Bayside Market. 



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We checked in, got comfortable and walked across the street to Bay side and shopped.  Gina was happy to find a pair of white linen pants for the Caribbean White night wardrobe night and the White out party.   They didn't have her size at Kohl's,  so she was elated to find a nice pair here at a boutique  and the price was lower than Kohl's.  We walked and shopped and I took the photos of the RC headquarters above and a shot of Mariner in Miami for the last time (for awhile) 


Since this is a Blue Collar Diamond report, I'll mention we had dinner at Hooter's.  Not too many of them up North any more.  SUPPLEMENTAL FACT.  Our waitress was 8 month's pregnant.  Do with that information what you will.   Back at the hotel we relaxed and made note where the Taxi stand was.  Its about 1 mile from the hotel to Terminal A at the port.


Next up I'll talk about the less than spectacular boarding disaster.  


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 I have a few pictures of the terminal at home, but you have seen most of them. I'll work them in later.  Taking you back to the beginning, this was a 2 couple cruise.   Our friends flew down with us, but he rented a car and went to an expensive hotel where he used frequent stay points. I decided not to pay that for one night and went to the Holiday Inn. I also mentioned, we had waited 2 years to see the expression on our friends faces when they walked on board.      


We planned on both taking taxis and meeting at the terminal   Last text of the night indicated going to the respective taxi stands at 10am.    At 10:05am we texted, "In cab on the way, will wait for you in front of terminal"   No reply received.  With 5 ships in port currently unloading and us early birds trying to get on ASAP,  traffic was a nightmare!   About 10:30 we texted, "At Terminal, where are you? Then came the reply, "Through Security, in lounge waiting to board."   We were a little miffed, but went in to the terminal, past the big propellers and walked up to an available check in person.  He took my setsail pass and was about to scan it when the terminal blinked with a notice saying boarding was being halted.  Had I not stopped to take pictures, I would be through security and waiting to board with my friend in the lounge. 


The boarding lounge is small with seats, but 2 bathrooms and water fountains.  There are not a lot of seats, but the way the new terminal and check in system is SUPPOSED to work, nobody should be waiting there, just check in and board.  Once again, the best laid plans......   They don't plan for thousands of people to be standing around with no chairs or other facilities.   For 45 minutes we stood with no word in a warm sunny hall with at least another 1000 people.  They had to shut off the escalator as the line was out the door and halfway down terminal A.  


By the time some of you read this, I will be 60 years old.  I've had spinal fusion surgery, advanced arthritis in hips and spine, but I get around ok.  I can even run an old man mile in about 12 minutes, but what I can't do is stand still for more than 10 minutes without extreme pain.   As I bent over to try and get relief, I had a spasm and workers came over to help me. I told them I was fine, but just uncomfortable standing. They still didn't know when boarding would resume, so they asked me to sit in a wheel chair and board with the other Guest requiring assistance.  I told them I didn't want to lose my place in line and they told me that those guests would board first anyway.   I knew better from my days watching this at other terminals, but hey, its been 6 years since I cruised from Miami.


Sure enough, boarding resumed and 1000 people boarded ahead of me and there was nobody helping those who needed assistance.  After 10 minutes, I got up and walked int to the regular line and was onboard by 12:15.  Our friends were already on board.  We met up at Park Cafe. 

Edited by BillOh
Typo correction.
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Now for a personal interjection that might be of use to others.  It my of no interest to some of  you, but as soon as I'm done talking about Medical Marijuana and cruising I'll start a new message, so feel free to skip ahead.   During the 2 years I had this cruise booked my mobility has decreased considerably.  The winter of 2018-2019 was rough on me and I was in constant pain to one level or another.  A visit to my surgeon, things are getting worse, but I can put off additional surgery for a couple of years with some exercise therapy and lifestyle changes.   With the current reputation of NSAIDS and Opiods, he casually recommended the medical cannabis route, which was just starting up in Ohio.  I also have another qualifying condition, so I pursued it.   Keep in mind, I never had an illegal drink, never tried marijuana ever in my 59.5 years until it was legal for me to do so.  Long story short, its helped me out a lot.    I'm not here to preach the merits, but you are some of the first people I've made this admission to.


But I am a reasonably smart adult and there are hundreds of CC users ready to show their wisdom and give them opinion about the subject.  But I knew I wasn't  going to bring any.  I wasn't going to bring any on any form of interstate or international travel.  I researched the status of that drug on our 3 stops.  I did this for informational purposes only.  While doing this research I saw where Royal has updated its policies on their website adding things like E-cigarettes to the smoking policies.  Most of you know this. What surprised me they did have an update about medical marijuana. It was just what you expected as far as transportation of this contraband.  What surprised me was a statement that Royal Carribean passengers my not consume any at port stops regardless of the legal status in that country. That seemed a little reaching, but I figured I lived without it for 59.5 years,  I could make it a week. 


It helped that Bacardi and Captain Morgan have been added to the available list in the Diamond lounge. 

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6 hours ago, BillOh said:

Since this is a Blue Collar Diamond report, I'll mention we had dinner at Hooter's.  Not too many of them up North any more.  SUPPLEMENTAL FACT.  Our waitress was 8 month's pregnant.  Do with that information what you will.   

Dying here... 🤣


Oh.. and following! 😜

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Most of my pictures are at home, still getting caught up on laundry and yard work. Below is picture of the propellers greating cruisers at the top of the escalator in Terminal A.  As mentioned a couple of posts back, I have no doubt this new terminal works well most of the time, but when problems happen, maybe arriving at 2pm is better for some, I'll still get their early.  Speaking of the new terminal,  I was on my balcony when we arrived back in Miami and it sure looks beautiful from the outside at night!


So now, we are on board, its day 1,  I told my Oasis virgin friends that the WJ is too crowded on embarkation day and we met for Kummelwick's at the Park Cafe.  Wouldn't know these were the fattiest, rare cooked ones I have had so far.  But everyone loved Park Cafe anyway and we visited often. We lounged in the area and then  I gave a ships tour for our friends that took us up to rooms being available.   This was my first cruise where you don't get your sea pass card till you get to your room.  My wife had no idea as I didn't tell her!   I got our my Lucky's Bar and Grill rewards card and stuck it in the slot to keep our lights and A/C on!


The cabin seemed narrower that my similar cabins on Allure and Oasis.   But the functional space seems about the same. You can see where they have made the cabins a little more efficient. (The chair at the vanity has a lower back so it can be pushed in all the way. The bathroom is at 45 degree angle from where I expected.  It also has a night night!  This was helpful as the bathroom door and cabin door face inward.  A couple of times I got up in the night to use the bathroom and I was worried about opening the wrong door!  But that night light saved me.  I quickly used the 2 USB ports for charging and secured stuff in our safe. It would be a good cabin all week.  And Englebert was one of our best cabin attendants ever.  The first thing he said was that he had a note from Guest with special needs for a mattress pad. He told me it was installed, but he would add another if we needed it.   We tried it one night, it was ok, he added another pad on day 2 and that was just right!  I don't care if you like hard mattresses or not, they cause me pain. This worked out well for us.   


We checked out the location of the Diamond lounge on Deck 4 and discovered the sucker art below.  Lots of new art on this ship to see.  There were 200+ Diamonds on board, so the lounge was crowded when it opened at 4. They did use the room next door as a spill over. But we had late dining (not dinning) and when we arrived around 5:20 there was a scooter exodus and lots of room was available.    The staff in the lounge was top notch all week and with the addition of Bacardi and Captain Morgan to the allowed drinks, we enjoyed this every night!






Speaking of the Diamond Lounge and the ship's art. I'll skip ahead and say that I was on a 7 day cruise, ate what I wanted, and had 5-6 Captain and Coke's each night in the DL and I didn't gain a single pound on the cruise!  Part of that was enjoying the artwork in the stairs, part was 2 miles on the running track 3 times, and part was only eating till I was full. 

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Our Muster station was inside OnAir, we got there early and got a comfortable seat. I still find it odd that that Royal indicates Muster is serious business and you must be there and pay attention AND then shows you the safety drill in a semi entertaining spy story. I'd prefer a shorter more serious video.  After muster we were invited to watch sailaway from roll call member PERFECT MATCH's GS balcony!



As previously mentioned, this was my first cruise on a ship that had the Seapass cards in your room and the fact that they were RFID technology. Below is the door lock that you tap with the card and above that the slot inside your room you have to keep filled to have your lights on. 



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As soon as were were out to sea and the stores opened I headed to the shops to get my Symphony of the Seas Innaugural Season polo shirt.  My Allure one is wearing out, but this looks like a higher quality Nike Golf shirt. I hope to have this one for 10 years!  I'll post a picture of it later. (I haven't taken one yet, but I did wear it today!)



We were midway through 3 hours in the Diamond Lounge when a couple that cruised with us in Freedom's 100th cruise walked in.  We had remained friends with Peggy and Jim since that cruise in 2008. It sure was a pleasant surprise. 


Dinner was late dining (8pm) on deck 3.   The dining rooms on Symphony do seem like 3 separate rooms, not like Oasis and Allure.  We were at a table that was set for 9.  4 couples and one friend.  A good time was had by all. I had the pork chop, which I frequently do on night one.  It was a bit dry. Slightly disappointing, but I've found in many restaurants Pork Chops are hit an miss.  I had enough to eat with what I ordered. Did I mention that I went on a 7 day cruise, plus two air travel days and did not gain a single pound!  Part of it wasn't feeling obligated to eat everything and only finish what I enjoyed.


The night was capped on by the usual Royal Carribean Hottub shuffle.  If there is anything I hate about Royal, it is the bone heads on each ship that set the hot tub hours.  Don't close any before 11pm and don't close one with people enjoying it.  I guess that is too much to ask.


I'm home now, so I have my pictures with me, so I am going back to my stay at the Holiday Inn Portside Miami. Here is the bedroom part of the room.  The room had a great view and a comfortable bed.



Here is the only negative part of the room.  There was a 1 inch difference between the bathroom floor and the bedroom floor.  It would have been a toe buster had we not put this towel down. 



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This itinerary starts with 2 sea days before arriving in St Kitts on Tuesday, so that is around 72 hours without getting off the ship. I started my day with 2 miles on the running track. I didn't see any signs on the track telling walkers to stay right and faster people to use the left lane.  This needs to be added!


After I got back to my room, my wife was still sleeping and it wasn't yet 8am  so I sat out on my balcony reading.  After about an hour I heard thunder. All I could see was sunshine, so I got up and looked ahead. I could see a strong storm coming off our port quarter.  I saw the ship shift about 15 degrees to starboard and I watched this storm for about 30 minutes till we passed it. Very interesting to watch.


When my wife got up we went to the MDR and ate on the buffet side.  After grabbing an omelet , I found a container holding English bacon.  I've had American bacon, and Canadian Bacon, but never English bacon. It was a little smoky tasting.  They also had bacon from Turkey.  That must be a screwed up country as their bacon is horrible!


I had been struggling for months now and what my 2020 cruise would be.  Next year we can't cruise on our anniversary. I ended up deciding on a 9 day cruise on Adventure out of Bayonne. We stopped by the Next Cruise desk and was underwhelmed by that experience.  The lady we got to help us was slow and way too soft spoken.  (I don't have hearing aids yet) There was some foreshadowing of future problems here.  Once I had the reservation set, she asked if we wanted to charge the deposit to the card the ship had one file.  I said yes.  The charge was declined. Turned out they had a year old Visa card number on file.  She said she updated that. Ha! I say now. 



After trying out the Carousel, which has a red and blue top if Symphony shows up on Google maps, Gina and Penny decided to try out the  Abyss slides.  




Gina, who knows me better than anyone else, said it was fun, but just rough enough that I shouldn't try it.   

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Just to let you know, I know what it is like to have much difficulty walking...since you shared your story, I share mine to just remind you that your not alone.  Last Valentines day I had a double discectomy & fusion, my cruise on the Oais was just in 7 weeks, and honestly, there was no stopping me, I kept saying to myself I am going and I did, had to wear an electrical stimulator (had stem cells) four hours a day but did it.  This past October found out I had big herniated lower lumber discs with tears, walking hurt so much as I lived with sciatica, had a cruise in October, went and just took it slowly, also didn't get off the ship and just enjoyed myself and took antiinflammatories.  My doctors did give me the opioids especially after my surgery, I took one pill and to this day I have the remaining 89 pills here unused, I just don't want them.  Living with fibromyalgia alone with other auto immune problems I developed a high tolerance for pain.  Just three weeks ago, I lost the use of my right leg literally!!  Found out limping with sciatica I now have a double torn meniscus, but doing p/t and wearing a leg brace is helping and I am again limping around and about.  I will be going in two weeks on another cruise, and nothing is going to stop me, if I can't walk I take my walker that's all.  So no slide for you my friend!!!  Don't risk things please.


Can't wait to hear more.


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On ‎5‎/‎6‎/‎2019 at 12:51 PM, BillOh said:

I'm not here to preach the merits, but you are some of the first people I've made this admission to.


But I am a reasonably smart adult and there are hundreds of CC users ready to show their wisdom and give them opinion about the subject. 

I for one applaud you for doing the research and then seeing the possible benefits of medical marijuana.  It has to be a personal choice and you made the choice.  I also understand leaving it at home for this trip.  I haven't finished your trip reviews, but I hope people kept it respective on your decision - because it's your decision and your life.  

On a side note - Kind of thought it was neat you went 59.5 years with out it illegally.  I'm at 50 years and so far (knock on wood) I don't need it yet.


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1 hour ago, BecciBoo said:

Bill, what is their stance on just the CBD oil?


I didn't see any mention.  It could be interesting to watch.  The oils are just becoming legal here in Ohio, so I have no personal knowledge.  Perhaps, and this is speculation, if they found something, they could do a THC test.  CBD from hemp contains, I believe, not enough THC to measure.   CBD products made from marijuana will have some amount of THC. How measurable at the lowest levels. I don't know.    Interesting question. 

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21 hours ago, BillOh said:

The night was capped on by the usual Royal Carribean Hottub shuffle.  If there is anything I hate about Royal, it is the bone heads on each ship that set the hot tub hours.  Don't close any before 11pm and don't close one with people enjoying it.  I guess that is too much to ask.

I knew you looked familiar and I couldn't figure it out until I read this! We were in the solarium hot tub together the first night and got kicked out because it was "closed" even though there were no signs or anything. I am one of the two girls that were in it with you and then we moved to the other one that was of course full. Anyways, hi!

Edited by flcruising89
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52 minutes ago, dreadpirate3 said:

Some time we will be on the same ship at the same time. You are a month before me!


I can't wait to see your stateroom photos! We have an ocean view balcony on deck 9.

I'll get back to work tonight. 

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6 hours ago, dreadpirate3 said:

Some time we will be on the same ship at the same time. You are a month before me!


I can't wait to see your stateroom photos! We have an ocean view balcony on deck 9.



I just realized, I didn't take any full cabin shots. I did show a picture of the RFID reader on the door and the card holder to keep the lights on. 



Above is a picture of the 4K Samsung screen mounted on the wall at the bottom of our bed.  On the screen is CD Mike and his Activities Director.   The screen is flush mounted and helps keep the space useage efficient.       


We did a lot of stairs this weeks and as on most ships, I love to look at the stair way art.  Here is one of Gina's favorites.



Below is one of my favorites.




And below is Gina and Penny at one of Symphony's most photographed pieces of art.


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Day 2 started with another 2 miles on the track. This was followed by a nice breakfast at the Park Café.    Next on the agenda was the archery contest held on the sports deck  B1gJon below.



Below is myself.







Jon's wife Penny.




And my wife Gina. She had the top female score, but didn't want to wait around for the championship round.  


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