Symphony vs Wonder

stern of Wonder of the Seas

Wonder of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas have a lot in common both being Oasis class ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet as well as currently the biggest and second biggest cruise ships in the world. They have some differences as well, some in the ship design itself and others in onboard experience. Of course part of the difference in my onboard experience stems from sailing on Symphony during the time when Covid kept passenger occupancy at a far lower level than the ship’s capacity, and a year later on Wonder after the restrictions had lifted. The lack of crowds wasn’t the only reason I preferred Symphany though.

stern of Symphony of the Seas

The layout of the two ships is quite similar with each having a variety of areas Royal refers to as neighborhoods. Symphany has 7 neighborhoods – boardwalk, pool and sports zone, central park, royal promenade, entertainment place, youth zone, and vitality spa and fitness. Wonder adds one more with the suite class neighborhood, for suite guests only. Other than the youth zone which has places just for kids, the rest are open to everyone.

Central Park on Wonder

When booking on Symphony there wasn’t much difference in price between an ocean view balcony and an interior one in the boardwalk or central park. When booking Wonder the price difference was huge. We had balconies on both ships, with ocean view on Symphony and central park on Wonder. We weren’t sure how much we would like that interior balcony overlooking a garden rather than the sea, but we actually loved it. You don’t get the ocean view, but even when it rained nothing beyond the railing ever got wet. It was fully shaded more often than an ocean facing balcony. Either they improved their sound proofing between building Symphony and Wonder or they put more effort into sound proofing interior balcony cabins because our room on Symphony was near the back and we could hear the aqua show inside the cabin, but with the door shut on Wonder we couldn’t hear the band on the pool deck not far above us or anything else from the outside at all. I do still like ocean view balconies, just was surprised at how much we liked the other one as well.

the photo does not do this delicious gluten and dairy free Grand Marnier Souffle justice

The food was no comparison. We were quite surprised to find next to nothing specifically gluten free available at the buffet on Wonder when all the Royal ships we’d sailed on previously had a whole gluten free section in their buffets. Gluten free muffins were available for the asking at the bread station in Wonder’s buffet at breakfast, but besides having a whole gluten free section in their buffet, Symphony would make gluten free pancakes when asked for them at breakfast. With the gluten free section there was also no worry about whether things that are gluten free themselves had anything with gluten added into them. In the dining room Symphony made all sorts of fancy gluten and dairy free desserts for us, including a Grand Marnier souffle, whereas on Wonder they said pretty much any gluten free dessert was impossible to make. Both ships would make alterations to the main dishes to accommodate special diets that included breading or sauces rather than just leaving things off as we have experienced elsewhere. I don’t know if the changes are a new thing with Royal or if it was just who was in charge of the food on Wonder at the time of our sailing, but am hoping it was just the one chef and not a new cost-cutting thing across the fleet. The 24-hour cafe on the promenade always had several gluten-free treats to choose from on Symphony, but the one on Wonder never had any.

El Loco Fresh on Symphony’s pool deck

The buffet seemed smaller on Wonder, though they look similar in size when comparing the deck plans of one ship to the other. They’re not in the same location or even on the same deck. The layout of the two ships is not identical. The buffet is not the only thing that is not in the same place on both ships. We enjoyed the free solarium bistro on Wonder, where on Symphony it was never open any time we wanted to try it. It’s possible they just didn’t open it that cruise because of the reduced amount of passengers onboard, or maybe the hours were just so short we always missed it. On Symphony our go-to lunch spot was El Loco Fresh, their free Mexican eatery, but the line there on Wonder was ridiculously long so we only ate there once when we had lunch late enough for the line to have dissipated. The deck plans for the two ships are similar, but besides not everything being in the same location each ship has some features that the other doesn’t have.

piano stairs on Symphony of the Seas

Symphony had piano stairs that made music when walked on near the buffet, which we enjoyed quite a lot. If nobody else was on the stairs you could make the song go faster or slower by your speed on the stairway. I really missed them on Wonder which had none. Both ships had the same waterslides, zip line, and 10-deck dry slides. Symphony had two flowriders while Wonder had a kid’s play area in place of the second one. There was only ever one flowrider open while we were on Symphony, but there were a lot of things not open all that much due to their being less than a third of the passengers the ship can hold so they might use both when the ship is full. On Wonder if the flowrider line got too long they put a divider down the middle so they could get through the line twice as quickly which meant a shorter wait, but only use of half the space when your turn finally came.

slide entrance at the top of the Ultimate Abyss on Wonder

Both ships had 10-deck dry slides called the Ultimate Abyss at the back with the slides ending on the boardwalk near the aquatheater. The slides were the same on both ships. The aquatheaters were similar except Symphony’s had something that looked like sails around the outside of it while Wonder had a more solid looking structure surrounding its outer edge. Both ships had aqua shows and ice shows, but they were not the same exact show.

waterslides on Wonder of the Seas

Although both ships had the same three waterslides, Symphony had something there that Wonder did not. Symphony had cubbies under the slides near the entrance where people could put their things without hogging up chairs they aren’t actually using just to have somewhere to put their stuff. That is something I’ve always thought every ship should have at every water venue since towels often occupy more chairs than people do. It was quite disappointing to see that Wonder, which is a newer ship, was missing that feature. Good ideas and useful features like that should definitely be included on future ships rather than dropped. The only ship where I had previously seen towel cubbies was near a pool on MSC Divina. Not that people wouldn’t use towels to save chairs they aren’t currently using anyway, but at least people who only wanted to use the slide, pool, or whatever would have somewhere to put their things without taking up even more chairs they’re not sitting in.

drone lights at the ice show on Symphony

The ice show on Symphony started with a fleet of drone lights, but Wonder’s did not. Both had lots of skating and an ice-skating aerialist. The water shows both included diving from various levels interspersed with other elements of the show and a pool that was sometimes deep, sometimes shallow, and sometimes not even a pool. On Wonder we discovered that you could get a better view of the aqua show from the rock wall platforms than from its actual theater seating. There’s not room for many people there, but you can get there before the show starts because there are entrances from either a stairway up from the running track or a doorway at the end of the cabin hallway on deck 7.

best cruise ship track ever

Both ships have the best running track I’ve ever seen on a ship. The outside promenade deck is set up as a track with a walking lane and a running lane, markers for distance covered if you start at the marked start and charts that say how many laps equals what distance. Along the way there’s encouraging and entertaining signs. There are water fountains beside the track, but like every drinking fountain everywhere since covid they were turned off while we were there.

Wonder’s Golden Room tiny non-smoking casino

Wonder had a tiny casino called the Golden Room that was non-smoking, which Symphony didn’t have. It also had sliding glass doors on the main casino, but since they opened when anyone walked by inside or outside the casino rather than just if somebody wanted to actually go in or out they probably let out nearly as much smoke as the lack of doors on Symphony, at least during busy times like dinner when the elevator bays between the casino and dining room entrance were always crowded.

zip line

Overall either ship has lots to do and provides a fun vacation. Although Wonder is actually slightly larger, Symphony felt roomier in some areas. That could have been due either to the variations in the layout or the fact that there were a whole lot less people onboard. We were somewhat disappointed with the food on Wonder. We had great expectations for it after having a chef that went over the top to please the guests on Symphony so in the end I liked Symphony better. Other than the starting port our itinerary was the same for both ships.

gangway to board Wonder of the Seas

The boarding process was not good on either ship. On Symphony we were sent to a line in the port building that nobody was ever allowed out of by the person controlling who got to go up to the next available desk so the only way out of it was to make a run for a nearby desk that opened up when that person wasn’t looking. Meanwhile every other line cleared and refilled several times before any one group ever made it out of our line. Had they not had that person there people would have all just gone to the desk in front of their line when the people ahead of them had finished. On the Wonder the ship boarded late due to coast guard inspections and once the lines outside the port building finally started moving new arrivals were let through straight off the bus after the line for the first boarding time had cleared while everyone who had been standing outside in the other lines waiting for ages long past their scheduled boarding times had to stand there even longer watching people who just got there go right in.

Royal Caribbean’s map of CocoCay

We missed the port stop at CocoCay on Symphony due to bad weather, but did make it there on Wonder. The weather wasn’t the best for a beach day on a private island that time either though.

solarium on Symphony of the Seas

Both ships had an adults-only solarium, which is generally our favorite hang-out and a feature we really enjoy. It’s a free area that is better than the spa areas that you have to pay for on some ships. The solarium has hot tubs and deck chairs in a glassed-in enclosure with no smoking allowed. The sea views are nice and there’s protection from the sun and wind found on open decks. On Symphony and Wonder the solarium had its own bar and towel station as well as the bistro. I would definitely enjoy another cruise on either of these ships.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2023

About LBcruiseshipblogger

MyCruiseStories blog tells stories about adventures in cruising on ships big and small. Things to do onboard and in port. Anything connected to cruising. Also food, travel, recipes, towel animals, and the occasional random blog.
This entry was posted in Royal Caribbean, Symphony of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Symphony vs Wonder

  1. This is a very interesting comparison of what both have (and don’t have) to offer. It is a shame the boarding process isn’t more squared-away, and you’d expect that to be a priority with both to make that as seamless as reasonably possible.

    • Royal Caribbean is actually really good about getting people on and off the ship at port stops, but the staff at the port buildings in both Miami and Port Canaveral left much to be desired. They probably work for the port rather than for the ship though. Port Canaveral staff over at MSC’s terminal were much more efficient, but once you are on an MSC ship they are terrible about lines.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s