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Up Close and Personal with the World’s Largest Cruise Ship

Symphony of the Seas isn't just a very big ship — it's one of the most thoughtfully designed family travel destinations around.

The following was created in partnership with Royal Caribbean. Check out the new sound of adventure on board their newest ship, Symphony of the Seas, sailing from Miami starting this November. Come Seek the Royal Caribbean.

Symphony of the Seas is the largest passenger ship in the world. It can carry 6,680 passengers at once (along with 2,200 crew members), offers 23 different restaurants (from made-to-order tacos and burritos to a wine and tapas bar called Vintage’s), 18 decks each filled with unique activities, 20,700 plants on board, and 13,347 pieces of art.

And stats like that can change the way families vacation — not because of how impressive the ship is (Symphony of the Seas is very impressive) but because those numbers represent an even greater amount of personalized experiences. In other words, Symphony of the Seas has a little something for everyone. 

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Symphony of the Seas really is an ode to the family vacation.  Every activity and experience on board is designed to bring to life the ultimate getaway for families of all shapes and sizes, from grandma to the youngest child,” says Laura Hodges Bethge, Vice President of Customer Experience. “More so than ever, people are choosing a cruise vacation for the first time; and I love hearing them say, ‘I never thought this would be on a cruise ship!’  The secret is that it’s not any one element, but the combination of many, unexpected features for families to customize their vacation.  The devil is in the details.”

It’s no secret that the key to a successful family vacation is pleasing everyone. This means 1) doing things that are age-appropriate for little ones; 2) making teenagers want to hang out with the whole family, and 3) helping parents feel like they’re making the most of their personal time for themselves as well as their kids.

“We make sure that families can do things together and everyone has a really good time,” says Hodges Bethge. That means going and playing a game of laser tag. It means being able to go on a walk through Central Park with its living wall and abundant greenery. It means catching 1977, the original Royal Caribbean ice show touting 60 performing drones and 5K projection mapping to create a show no one’s ever seen before

“Our ships are luxurious, but they are also inclusive and approachable,” says Hodges Bethge. “We have been doing this for about 50 years so we have the experience to develop and create the different elements that push the envelope.”

Exhibit A: the onboard Wi-Fi, VOOM, the fastest internet at sea — which is something of a technological marvel in itself. VOOM allows Symphony of the Seas to stay connected throughout the voyage thanks to a network of satellites dedicated to the Royal Caribbean fleet.  “We have exclusive partnerships that provide high-speed internet to our ships, allowing guests to download, upload, video chat, stream, and share – planes don’t have this connectivity in flight”

Then there’s the Ultimate Family Suite, and yes, it lives up to its name. This stateroom takes up two stories on decks 17 and 18 of the ship and measures 1,346 square feet and 212 square feet on the balcony. It has a private cinema with an 85-inch HD screen, a table tennis setup, a whirlpool, multiple video gaming systems, a separate master suite where parents can escape to and an in-suite slide. “You know, slides are exciting no matter how old you are,” Hodges Bethge laughs. “We are constantly challenging ourselves to think about what’s possible, even if it sounds outrageous at first; that’s how we’re constantly pushing the boundaries.”

Luckily for Hodges Bethge and her crew, Royal Caribbean is the leader in innovation, always open to pushing the boundaries. And Symphony brings this to life in full, boasting the FlowRider, a 40-foot-long surf simulator; The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea (that is, awesomely shaped like an angler fish); The Perfect Storm, a trio of water slides; a zip line suspended nine decks above the Boardwalk; Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade, and the AquaTheater, a jaw-dropping oceanfront amphitheater-style performance venue.  

“In building Symphony of the Seas design, we focused on the family vacation, the fun that creates the memories that are shared for years to come,” Hodges Bethge says.

And that’s the whole idea of what it takes to make a good thing (like a family vacation) the best. Focus on the fun and open your eyes to an experience that can take something seemingly familiar and create an entirely new version of what we thought we knew.

Four Perfect Places on Symphony of the Seas

1. The Playmaker Sports Bar & Arcade

Located in the Boardwalk neighborhood of Symphony of the Seas (yes, there are neighborhoods), is Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, a sports bar and arcade where there are plenty of flat screens to go around so you can stake your claim for the football game — or the cricket match. But make sure not to waste those commercial breaks. Five minutes is the perfect amount of time for a skeeball or air hockey match with the kids.

2. The Ultimate Abyss

The tallest slide at sea starts here — at the mouth of a giant Angler Fish. Inside the visually stunning (and awesomely intimidating) entrance is a slide that courses a 450-degree spiral, two 360-degree turns, and a slippery 27-degree slope that shoots you down a 92-foot drop. The average time it takes to get down this super slide? 13.14 seconds — just long enough to make your heart pound and to see the starry tornado-like artwork that covers the tunnel.

3. AquaTheater

The AquaTheater is a venue that your family will talk about fondly for a very long time. The iconic shows at the AquaTheater feature trapeze artists, high dives, hair-raising acrobatics (think, audience fly-overs), and a state-of-the-art hydraulic-floor pool (that means that the bottom of the pool moves to get deeper or more shallow).

4. Escape The Rubicon

Nothing says family bonding like being “trapped” in a room for an hour and having to cooperate to get out. That’s what Royal Caribbean’s escape room is all about. This is one of the most sophisticated versions of this popular immersive puzzle anywhere and a way for the family to solve a complicated puzzle together, and have a heck of a lot of fun doing it.