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A Family Vacation Is Just More Epic on the Open Seas

Symphony of the Seas is a new kind of cruise experience — and it's likely to just blow your kids' minds.

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.

A beach vacation is fun. So is going to the amusement park, weekend camping by the lake, and visiting the grandparents. But are any of these epic vacations? You pretty much know what you’re going to get when you load up the car and point your family towards rollercoasters and cookies. What if you changed it up and took the family onboard the ultimate family vacation? Symphony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, is a destination unto itself and the best vacation you didn’t know you were missing.

That’s what photographer Kepa Fuentes; his wife, Mayka; and their kids, Alejandro Fuentes, 8; and Marc Puig, 14, found when they took their kids to the brand new ship (launching their Caribbean tour from the port of Miami this November). “We had never been on a cruise before,” Fuentes says. “And both of our boys have since said that they don’t want to go on any other ships because Symphony of the Seas proved to be the biggest and the best.”

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But it’s not just about “biggest” and “best” when it comes to the ship — it’s about the memories you make on it. 

The Fuentes family was surprised to find themselves surrounded by fellow cruisers watching the fireworks show as a send-off to the Symphony of the Seas from its port. But one person in particular caught Alejandro and Marc’s eye as the ship was leaving. It was a staff member, dancing underneath the fireworks. The next morning at breakfast, Alejandro recognized the staffer standing at the entrance to the Main Dining Room and said, “I saw you dancing last night!” With that, he immediately broke out into that same merry dance, and invited Alejandro to join. Every morning at breakfast for the rest of the cruise started with a dance and a lot of smiles.

Before climbing aboard, the Fuentes family’s biggest question was, “What is this going to be like?” Now, the one question Marc and Alejandro won’t stop asking their dad? “When will we go back to the Symphony of the Seas?” 

Fortunately for us, Fuentes is a professional photographer who brings us into the experience with pictures while giving us a few lessons that he and his family learned after their first cruise on Symphony of the Seas.

Lesson 1: Expect the Unexpected

Every deck on Symphony of the Seas gives amazing views of the stretching horizon, but the views don’t stop there. On deck 16 sits The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea, is also shaped like an angler fish found at the deepest depths of the ocean. And throughout the ship you will find 13,347 personalized art pieces onboard that range from glowing orbs carrying the word “believe” floating from the ceiling to a VW bug that is crumpled into a shiny orange ball. On this ship, you can expect the unexpected.

Lesson 2: The Suite Life Is Just That

Known as the Ultimate Family Suite, this room measures 1,134 square feet and has a 212 square-foot balcony. It doesn’t skimp on space or fun when it comes to design — with an in-suite slide, a private cinema with an 85-inch 3D screen, table tennis, balcony, and access to every video game console your kids can think of. Plus, there’s a separate master suite where parents may escape.

“When we entered the room the children could not believe it,” Fuentes says. “It was huge and had several huge TVs, Play Station, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch — absolutely everything for the boys. Alejandro wouldn’t stop going down the slide and pushing us down it with him. It was all just so much fun.

Lesson 3: Always Be Ready to Try Something New

When you’re on vacation, it’s all about maximizing the experience, and the team at Royal Caribbean design their ships so that kids, teens, and parents all can do just that. If everyone can participate in things they truly enjoy, then everyone will have a good time together — like the 40-foot-long FlowRider surf simulator. Catching a wave (or learning to) has never been easier. Kepa and Marc Fuentes — who have surfed waves together back home in Barcelona — can attest: “Marc tried surfing on the FlowRider and said it was easier than the real deal,” says his father.

Lesson 4: Sliding Is the Best Form of Transportation

There are slides everywhere on Symphony of the Seas. It all starts back at the Ultimate Family Suite’s two-story slide; then there’s the tallest slide at sea up top — the Ultimate Abyss — and don’t forget the trio of waterslides called The Perfect Storm (which is also perfect for racing each other down). 

Lesson 6: More Play Makes for Better Vacations

Symphony of the Seas has an impressive offering of games aboard. There’s the sprawling sports bar and arcade, Playmakers, which offers everything from flat screens and beer (so you can catch the game) as well as the Challenger’s Video Arcade (pictured). Of course, the arcade isn’t the only place for kids to explore. The Adventure Ocean youth program has activities for every age group — from science experiments to movie screenings, art classes to story time. 

Lesson 7: There Are No Wrong Choices When It Comes To Attractions

With 18 decks, 19 pools, mini golf, zip-lines, an arcade, shops, shows, and a boardwalk, it’s hard to get to do everything the Symphony of the Seas has to offer. Looking for a break from watching movies in the theater room, rock climbing, and surfing on the 40-foot-long surf simulator? Time to try your hand at mini-golf, right on the deck of the ship. Or in the case of Kepa, go zip lining. With his youngest, Alejandro, and 14-year-old Marc looking on, Kepa took the leap — proving that dad’s still got it. His verdict? “Very impressive.”

Lesson 8: Fueling Up For Your Adventures Should (and Will) Be Tasty

The variety of food onboard is mind-boggling. The ship has 23 different restaurants — from Northern Italian cuisine at Jamie’s Italian to El Loco Fresco, a fresh made-to-order Mexican open-air restaurant. “We all had different favorites when it came to food,” says Fuentes.

Hooked also has a massive oyster bar — which makes for good viewing for the kids as they get freshly shucked before they hit your plate. “Marc is a teen and he is enjoying trying different food these days,” says Fuentes, “so he liked the oysters at Hooked the best.”

Wonderland was a Fuentes’ family favorite. This whimsical restaurant has items like a menu you have to paint to reveal or, Alejandro’s favorite, chocolate dessert that melts before your eyes. “Mayka and I couldn’t choose a favorite — all the dishes we tried there were exquisite.”

Lesson 9: Exploration Is a Virtue

No matter what you choose to do, the memories of the adventure on this ship will surely stick — whether it’s taking a walk in Central Park and finding the Living Walls (two massive walls vertically holding 2,200 individually sized aluminum planters of coastal and sub-tropical plants) or watching the personal popcorn popping machines in the private theater room that is in the Ultimate Family Suite. “The more we walked the ship the more we discovered. And there was a very large mix of very modern attractions with a more classic spin, like the carousel,” Fuentes says.

But no matter how much you check off the list, you’ll be lucky if you have time to discover everything. Which just means that you’ll be just like Alejandro, asking, “When can we go back to sail on Symphony of the Seas again?” after your return. This is exactly what the Royal Caribbean architects set out to accomplish when they designed the experiences onboard. As the Fuentes found, the sum total of this ship adds up to one thing: the ultimate family vacation.