Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is a huge cruise ship. Until the recent launch of its slightly larger sister ship Wonder of the Seas it was the biggest one in the world. When you have such an enormous ship carrying thousands of passengers you need places for them to go and things for them to do – and enough different spaces that everyone isn’t in the same place at the same time. The ship has 7 different areas that they call neighborhoods. These are boardwalk, pool and sports zone, central park, royal promenade, entertainment place, youth zone, and vitality spa and fitness. Other than some adults only spaces and the youth zone – which is just for kids of specific ages in their particular areas, the rest of the neighborhoods are public spaces for all passengers.
The pool and sports zone has pools, hot tubs, waterslides, flowriders, and a kids splash park. The adults-only solarium is also included in the pool zone. Entertainment place is on deck 4 with the ice area, theater, and a comedy club and jazz club. The gym has a variety of fitness equipment available for passengers to use, and if you want to pay their prices there’s lots of treatments available at the spa. The youth zone has laser tag as well as their kid’s club spaces and an arcade. The other three – Central Park, Royal Promenade, and the Boardwalk are the main focus of this blog.
The Boardwalk area is an open space at the back of the ship on deck 6. It is open to the sky and to the stern, other than the AquaTheater, which sits at the back end of the boardwalk blocking most of the view out the back. The show at the AquaTheater is quite impressive and definitely worth seeing. At the other end people enter the boardwalk area as they exit the interior of the ship through big glass doors.
Walking into the boardwalk you pass by a row of carousel horse statues in different stages of development with the first depicting a partly carved wooden horse and the last one completely finished and painted. Beyond that is an actual carousel, which is free to ride during the hours that it is open. Some of the carousel animals are exotics, but most are horses.
In between the boardwalk has some open space in the middle, with shops and eateries around the edges. Rising up above on both sides you see the balconies of what would otherwise be interior rooms reaching up to deck 14. Near the back, just in front of the AquaTheater sits the exit to the 10-deck Ultimate Abyss slides. These are not waterslides. You slide down them on a mat which you get at the top and leave at the bottom. Eateries on the boardwalk include a hot dog stand and a burger joint. The Dog House is free, but there is a cover charge at Johnny Rockets, except at breakfast.
Stretching all along one side, Playmakers has a bar at the far end and an arcade by the carousel. That is not the only arcade on the ship, there’s a bigger one up on deck fifteen near the teen hangout. On the other side between the burgers and hotdogs there’s a candy shop and a little shop that mostly had clothes. A rock-climbing wall extends up the back on both sides with access on deck 7. You can zipline over the boardwalk from deck 16 to deck 15.
Central Park is another outdoor area on the interior of the ship located (not surprisingly) at the center of the ship. Though all of the sides of the park are enclosed, the top is open to the sky. This area too has balconies of cabins that would otherwise be interior. Central Park is quieter at night than the boardwalk, something people might want to consider when booking one of those cabins. It is on deck 8, with balcony cabins above from decks 10-14 and central park view rooms with bowed windows on deck 9.
The center of the park has pathways winding through gardens. The plants in the gardens are actual living plants. Sometimes at port stops birds or butterflies came into the garden area, but they were never there while at sea. Whether they left on their own or it was somebody’s job to get them out so as not to transport non-native species to other ports I have no clue.
Around the edges bars and eateries occupy the space below the cabins that rise above the garden area. Three of the ship’s premium (pay extra) restaurants sit around the edges of the park, along with a free cafe, a wine bar, and a very tiny bar. Besides the gardens and paths in the central area, there’s also an enclosed glass area with a door that sometimes goes nowhere and sometimes leads to the Rising Tide Bar when it is at its top point. The Rising Tide travels upward from the Royal Promenade and back down, spending some time on each level when it is open.
The Royal Promenade takes up the central area of deck 5. Besides the Rising Tide Bar that mostly sits there, but sometimes goes up to Central Park, it has several other bars, some eateries, and most of the ship’s shops. Guest services is also in that area. While most of the bars on the ship have human bartenders, the Bionic Bar in the Royal Promenade has a pair of robots making the drinks. Both the pizza place and cafe on this level are complimentary – as in you don’t have to pay extra for the food there. The bars of course cost extra.
There’s quite a variety of shops to choose from. All the usual cruise ship shops selling clothes, jewelry, souvenirs, a variety of logo products, bottles of alcohol, perfume, candy, and a bunch of other stuff. There’s a small section of sundries for people who forgot things like toothpaste or other little necessities.
The Royal Promenade area is fully indoors, though the center is open for a few decks up. Deck 6 has some public areas around the edges above the promenade with a bar, the photo shop, and shore excursion desk just a stairway away. A few cabins on Deck 7 have windows with views overlooking the promenade.
For those who buy photo packages, or who just like to get their photos taken so they can see what they look like even if they don’t buy them, there were always several different photo stations set up around the Royal Promenade in the evenings. Each had different backdrops, some a picture on a screen and others a natural feature of the ship. Most of the photographers wouldn’t deviate from 4 standard poses (looking forward. group hug, hands on hips, facing toward or away from each other), but on the last night we found one that would.
The photo shop on deck 6 has lots of screens where people can access their photos and choose the ones they want, which could be purchased digitally or as prints on our cruise. Their preferred method of delivering digital photos is through email, but I recommend asking for a flash drive because the quality of the photos is better. I don’t know if this happens often, but the email they sent me had less than half of our total photos so if we had not gotten the flash drive which had them all we’d have been missing quite a lot.
It may not be part of the Royal Promenade, but this ship does have an outside promenade deck running around the entire ship on deck 5. It’s not just any ordinary promenade deck either, this one is set up like a running/walking track and surfaced as such. It’s behind the lifeboats on the sides and runs through a sheltered tunnel at the bow, so other than the open stern views are just what you see between lifeboats, but the track is pretty awesome. It also has an activity area on each side of the ship, one with a ping-pong table and the other with shuffleboard. There’s a few chairs at the stern where you can sit and watch the wake, and windows for a backside view into the AquaTheater. There’s definitely more variety of places to go on Symphony of the Seas than what you find on the average cruise ship.