Western Med. Cruise on Symphony of the Seas - 5 - 12 July 2018
I should preface this blog by saying that as I did this cruise within 7 months of coming home from hospital after a massive stroke, I was still in recovery mode, so I really took things very easy on-board and had decided I would only go ashore every second day. I still had mobility and stamina issues at that stage. In addition, I had previously done a couple of Med cruises before this one so had been to all of the ports on the itinerary a number of times before. This therefore probably doesn’t give the full flavour of all of the things to be seen or to be done either on this ship or at these locations. It’s just a true reflection of the relaxing and re-energising holiday that I myself had. Enjoy!
Rome – Civitavecchia (Italy)
Thursday, July 05, 2018
05 July 2018 – By Mini-Van (1 hr 25 minutes)
As we had been staying in Rome since the previous Sunday (read blog here), the transfer to the Symphony of the Seas was completely stress-free. That morning we had a leisurely last breakfast at the hotel and were picked up by the mini-van at 10:30 am (pre-booked with Royal Caribbean). The port of Civitavecchia is almost 80 km North-West of central Rome but being Thursday the traffic wasn’t too bad. The weather was a sunny 27 degrees as we motored up the autostrade in an hour and a half.
Our scheduled boarding time was between 12:30 pm and 1 pm and we arrived in plenty of time. Civitavecchia Cruise Port is fine to travel out from as it’s well organised and efficient. We had checked in online and had printed off our cruise luggage labels which we had attached to our bags before leaving our hotel in Rome. This time we also had Priority Boarding as we had booked a Junior Suite so boarding was super easy.
The itinerary for the week ahead was as follows:
As you'd expect from the (then) world's biggest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas has a knack of making your jaw drop. Again and again. It cost $1.95 billion, stretches the length of three full-size soccer pitches, weighs more than 17,000 African elephants and can carry almost 9,000 passengers (6,680 guests and more than 2,200 crew).
Yet calling it a mere cruise ship does it a disservice. Pieced together from about 500,000 individual components – 27 times the parts used to assemble the Eiffel Tower – it's more of a floating resort-cum-amusement park and art gallery, complete with 22 restaurants, 24 pools, slides and water attractions, a raft of dazzling entertainment venues and, apparently, more works of art than the Louvre has paintings.
Symphony's evening entertainment is arguably the best at sea. As well as stand-up comics, magicians, live bands, karaoke, a massive casino and a silent disco (where you'll rub shoulders and dance alongside revellers listening to music through headphones), there's a string of excellent shows, including hit Broadway musical Hairspray when we were on board.
Here’s a YouTube video by a man called Charles Bolzli that gives a flavour of what it feels like on-board:
Day 1 of Cruise
Rome – Civitavecchia (Italy)
Thursday, July 05, 2018
(Evening Attire: Casual/White)
We had booked adjoining staterooms - #6248 and #6250 which allowed us to connect the balconies into one which was great for the evening times as we could enjoy the sunset drinks together. We opted for Traditional Dining this time at 6:30 pm but planned also to go to some of the Speciality Restaurants on-board. This would allow us eat and then go to whatever entertainment was on afterwards with full bellies.
Check in for the cruise was painless and soon we were on board the Symphony of the Seas. Most people on the ship were already 4 days into their cruise as it had started in Barcelona the previous Sunday so our rooms were ready earlier than usual. We headed off to explore the ship and then up to the Solarium Bar on Deck 15. This is one of the 23 bars on board!! This two-storey Solarium is adults only and the bar is situated in the middle of this relaxation hub, under an impressive art installation that is gorgeous to view day and night. You can sip a cocktail in style as you lounge in the day beds or over-sized chairs. We chose to sit up at the bar:
We also read our first “Cruise Compass” welcoming us on-board…these are the daily newsletters telling you all you need to know on your cruise and are left on your bed each day (See copies from our cruise here).
At 4:45 pm we all assembled for the mandatory Emergency Lifeboat Drill in the Royal Theatre. Most cruise muster drills are tedious, but Symphony's is quite fun. A Mission Impossible-inspired video featuring a glamorous female "agent" covers all the dos and don'ts. As it was Martin’s 60th birthday, we had arranged for his room to be decorated:
….and we went to Chop’s Grille that night for dinner - one of the Speciality Restaurants on board. The food and drink was delicious!! Especially the steaks!!
Afterwards we got some photos taken outside the restaurant. After dinner, Martin and Mary went to explore the On Air Club. Charlie and I went to the Schooner Bar to enjoy the music. We went to bed looking forward to the week ahead.
Day 2 Cruise
Friday, July 6, 2018 (Evening Attire: Formal)
Docked: 7:00AM to 8:00PM
We awoke to a sunny day having docked early in the busy port of Naples. We met for breakfast in the Park Café on Level 8 as it wouldn’t be as busy as the Windjammer buffet. As always, there was plenty of choice and the food was really good.
With a skyline defined by towering Mount Vesuvius, Naples is a bustling Italian city brimming with beauty. One can experience its rich neoclassical architecture at sites like Gesu Nuovo Church, with its lavish interior adorned with detailed frescoes, statues and gold inlay. Or you can go even deeper into history at the San Gennaro catacombs, where Naples' first bishops were buried in the second century AD. When previously in Sorrento with Peggy we had taken the short bus ride to the base of Mount Vesuvius – it's an easy 20- to 30-minute hike to the summit – and also toured the ruins of Pompeii afterwards.
Above: Sorrento 6 July 2018
This time however we decided to get away from the hustle and bustle of Naples and enjoy the quaint atmosphere of Sorrento. So we had pre-booked the shore excursion titled “Leisurely Sorrento” with Royal Caribbean. This 5 hour excursion started with a panoramic drive from Naples along the magnificent Campania coast to the Sorrentine Peninsula and picturesque Sorrento.
Renowned for its charming atmosphere, great climate, and wonderful cuisine, Sorrento is a popular destination for both Italian and foreign travellers alike. We explored the city’s sites, scenery, and local legends. After our tour, we enjoyed a complimentary choice of beverage, coffee, or Italian gelato at a café on Corso Italia, the vibrant main street of Sorrento.
Above: Enjoying tea and coffee on Corso Italia, Sorrento - 6 July 2018
Feeling refreshed we strolled around Sorrento getting to know the city better and popped into some shops to buy souvenirs and t-shirts. We had approximately 1 1/2 hours to ourselves to mooch around. Afterwards we met our guide at the designated meeting place in time for the return drive to Naples with more beautiful views of the coast. In Naples we saw some of the historic centre of the city on the way to the port.
Above: Shopping on Corso Italia, Sorrento - 6 July 2018
Back on the ship, we returned to pristine rooms serviced by our excellent Stateroom Attendant, Eleasar. Tonight was the first Formal night but we didn’t really bother with the glad rags tonight as we headed to the Main Dining Room for dinner. We met our waiters, Denisse and Vimal for the first time. The food was delicious and Martin got a delayed birthday cake as we had gone to the Chops Grille the previous night. And Vimal also gave cake to Mary:
We got a few photos taken at the table:
And one outside with a photo of the ship:
The shops were still open on-board so Charlie and I took a browse before heading to the Schooner Lounge to listen to the piano player. Martin and Mary headed to Playmakers Lounge to watch soccer (Brazil v Belgium in the Russia 2018 Quarter Finals), then the 1950s & 60s Tune Challenge in the On Air club on Deck 5 before finishing up in the Dance & Music Party in Dazzles on Deck 8. A great night had by all and something for everyone. We came back to the room turned down with some towel sculptures.
Day 3 Cruise
At Sea (Mediterranean)
Saturday, July 7, 2018 (Evening Attire: Casual)
At Sea All Day
With a ship the size of Symphony you can be as active or as laid back as you want to be. We did a little of everything after we first ate in the Park Café. And as forecast, the day was a gorgeous sunny 25 degrees.
We started with Miniature Golf which was a laugh but in the heat got very tiring……so we headed off to the nearby self-service ice-cream machines to cool off:
Then we bought sweets at Sugar Beach on the Board Walk…..we were lucky that our rooms were on the same level, Deck 6, so never had to walk far for a sugar rush! 🤣
At 3 in the afternoon we went to see AquaNation at the Aqua Theater, at the back of the ship, also on Deck 6. It was an amazing show of water and aerial acrobatics. This frequently heart-in-your-mouth al fresco spectacle featured an incredibly talented – and very brave – cast of Olympic-level high divers, trampoliners, tightrope walkers and synchronised swimmers. Hard to believe this was all on a moving ship far out at sea:
Above: Watching AquaNation on 7 July 2018
Afterwards we watched Sweden v England in soccer at Playmakers Sports Bar. The day flew by and soon it was time for dinner in the Main Dining Room:
Charlie and I headed to Casino Royale while Martin and Mary went to the pub entertainment at the Copper & Kettle Pub on Deck 4 ending up at karaoke in the On Air club. Another great day on-board Symphony of the Seas!
Day 4 Cruise
Sunday, July 8, 2018 (Evening Attire: Casual)
Docked: 5:00 AM to 6:00 PM
It’s easy to see why Barcelona is the most-visited city in Spain. As the capital of the country’s Catalonia region, this cityscape’s cultural mosaic pieces together a 2,000-year-old hodgepodge of sun-drenched beaches, cutting edge architecture, and a world-renowned dining and drinking scene. Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí left his modernist handprint all over the city, while medieval treasures linger in historic Gothic Quarter squares. You can get lost in the whimsical gardens of Park Güell or savour a chef-led Catalan cooking class. You can browse art collections dedicated to Picasso and Miro— or ride a cable car to the top of Montjuïc Hill, relishing citywide views along the way.
On previous trips to the city I had an up-close glimpse of La Sagrada Família, a cathedral masterwork designed by celebrated Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. I marvelled at its sky-piercing spires and then stepped inside to admire intricate mosaics….I had also sat at the fountains at Montjuïc with my friend Tina and visited Camp Nou with my Mam, Peggy. So this time I decided to stay on-board while the lads got off the ship to walk, shop and explore on La Rambla (above) – the pedestrian boulevard where you can experience the city’s pure essence. Souvenir shops, street artists, flower stalls, sidewalk cafes and Catalan folk sardana dancers set a lively scene.
Meanwhile back on board, I had an amazing day of relaxation. The Drink of the Day was the Woo Woo (vodka, peach schnapps and cranberry juice)….and I had a couple:
I also explored the Solarium which was very relaxing as I had it almost to myself. I watched people take the plunge down the Ultimate Abyss. When the lads came back on-board we relaxed on our extended balcony. Then we had a delicious dinner:
Afterwards, Charlie and I went to see 1977 “A Thrilling Adventure on Ice” in Studio B on Deck 4. A really great performance and hard to believe again that it was being done on a floating ship. Martin and Mary went to the Copper and Kettle Pub….and then we all met up in the Schooner. Another amazing day….you could get used to this!!
Day 5 Cruise
Palma De Mallorca, Spain
Monday, July 9, 2018 (Evening Attire: Formal)
Docked: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
The Spanish island of Mallorca offers towering mountains and dramatic cliffs rising over clear, blue water – but its hidden gem is Palma de Mallorca, the island's capital and largest city, where you'll find quaint historic streets, Gothic castles and gastronomic delights. If you cruise to Palma de Mallorca you can check out the one-of-a-kind Palma Cathedral: The 14th-century Gothic spires of the exterior contrast the modernist interior designed in the early 1900s by Gaudi. You can also see the circular courtyard and Arab-inspired arches of Castell de Bellver, and take in the fresh scent of the miles of pine forest that surround it.
We left the ship after breakfast for a 4 hour excursion to a Flamenco Show at Son Amar. We first drove through the city past the stunning La Seu cathedral, 14th century Almudaina Palace, Bellver Castle and the Gothic La Lonja merchant headquarters. We had good fun in the coach:
Then we arrived at the world-famous Son Amar Theatre. The building was absolutely beautiful:
We were totally mesmerised by the high-energy performance of the flamenco dancers and by the musicians. We also got wine and a tapas meal included:
Back on-board the ship “Hairspray” was on at 4:30 in the theatre and we all really enjoyed it. We then readied ourselves for Formal Night and got some photos taken:
After dinner we relaxed in the Schooner and Martin and Mary went to the “Beatles” tribute at Dazzles.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018 (Evening Attire: Casual
Docked: 9:00AM to 6:00PM
France's oldest city, Marseille blends ancient charm with Provencal beauty. In the morning, you can head to the fish market Quai des Belges, where trade has been going on for more than 2,600 years — stroll along the promenades and 18th-century warehouses, and grab a café au lait and a melon tarte from one of the cafes on the ground floor. As I had been here a few times and the lads said they needed a rest 😂, we actually spent the day on-board ship.
We spent a lot of the day lying by the pool. Charlie and I had lunch of fish and chips in the Copper & Kettle which were just delicious. We also had some more delicious cocktails and drinks. With so much to do on-board, the day flew by! We finished the day by picking up some souvenirs in The Shop on-board. But first we had dinner to enjoy:
Day 7 Cruise
Florence/ Pisa (La Spezia, Italy)
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 (Evening Attire: Casual)
Docked: 8:30AM to 8:30PM
The northern Italian port city of La Spezia, on the border of Liguria and Tuscany, offers an ideal gateway to two of the country's most famous cities: Pisa and Florence. Just one hour by car or train will bring you to Pisa, where you can check out the white-stone arches of the city's famous leaning tower and its sister-structure, the Pisa Cathedral. Or spend your day in Florence, about two hours away by train: Climb to the top of the famous Duomo ("dome"), the nickname for the Italian Gothic Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, for stunning 360-degree views of the city.
So the lads headed off to Pisa at 2:30pm, and had a wonderful day there:
I chose to do a “Perfect Day” package on-board the Ship at the Spa. I was looked after by the wonderful Rachelle. Offering deep-tissue massages, acupuncture, facials and more, there’s a reason they refer to Vitality Spa, located on deck six, as a sanctuary at sea. I also bought some Elemis products. After my treatment, I refuelled with a healthy wrap, fresh fruit and made-to-order smoothies at Vitality Café.
Back on-board, we had dinner and the lads went to The Attic Comedy & Night Club.
Day 8 Cruise
Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Shortly after 7 am we docked back at Civitavecchia, Italy having smoothly sailed through the night…hard to believe it was only 8 days since we left. After breakfast on-board, we made our way to the gangplank and disembarked the ship.
We had booked a transfer to the airport with Viator and the driver was waiting for us to take us to Rome airport and we caught our 11:15 EI403 flight to Dublin with no hassle. We arrived back in Dublin a little over 3 hours later, completely wrecked!! We had all LOVED Rome and the Symphony of the Seas and would encourage anyone to go do this!! Hope definitely springs eternal!! ❤
Bucket List Items Ticked Off in the above Blog 83
Number 34 - Eat/ Drink Regional Food and Drink
Other Blog Posts
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 12 - Hong Kong, China
Blog 17 - Beijing, Xi'an & Shanghai, China
Blog 19 - California, USA
Blog 27 - Scotland
Blog 28 - Barbados
Blog 29 - Canada
Blog 30 - Alaska
Blog 31 - Everglades, Florida
Have you ever been on a cruise to the Mediterranean? Tell me about your experience in the comments section below.
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!