World's biggest cruise ship: Five things to love about Symphony of the Seas

What's to love about Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas, the giant new cruise ship that arrived at its new home of Miami for the first time earlier this month?

A lot, if you're a fan of big, bustling, resort-like vessels that are chock full of activities.

At 228,081 tonnes, Symphony is the largest cruise ship ever, and it's packed full of gee-whiz attractions such as a thrill slide that plunges 30 metres and a Bionic Bar with a robot bartender.

A larger version of Royal Caribbean's massive Harmony of the Seas, Symphony boasts three main pool areas, a water slide complex, an adults-only solarium, an ice skating rink, two rock climbing walls, a basketball court and a mall-like indoor promenade with shops, bars and eateries. Like Harmony, it also has an open-air, tree-lined area called Central Park with restaurants, bars and upscale shops such as Bulgari.

Here are five things cruisers will love about the vessel.

1. The spectacular top-deck fun zones.

Launch of Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International's newest and largest ship. Splash Away Bay Tra20-CruiseEurope or h0ytcm Royal Caribbean?s Symphony of the Seas

Like Harmony, Symphony has a trio of thrilling, three-deck-high slides that straddle two giant pool areas. Starting side-by-side, the yellow-and-blue Typhoon and Cyclone slides spin around each other as they descend toward the ship's Main Pool. The third slide, Supercell, drops into a "champagne bowl" before disgorging passengers in front of the nearby Beach Pool.

More watery fun can be found just steps away at Splashaway Bay, a kiddie aqua park with smaller slides, water cannons, a multi-platform jungle gym and a gigantic drench bucket. As if that's not enough, there's another watery fun-in-the-sun area, the Sports Pool, just across from Splashaway Bay, as well as two surfing pools, a miniature golf course and more.

2. The Boardwalk amusement area.

Launch of Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International's newest and largest ship. Playmakers. Tra20-CruiseEurope or h0ytcm Royal Caribbean?s Symphony of the Seas
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Located at the back of Symphony, this outdoor play zone isn't the first of its kind on a Royal Caribbean ship. But it just may be the best. The line has revamped the concept with a new family-focused sports bar and arcade venue called Playmakers. Also new is a candy and ice cream haven called Sugar Beach.

Add in a hand-carved wooden carousel (a Boardwalk staple), a Johnny Rockets diner, a surf shop and a massive outdoor "aqua theatre" that's home to impressive aerial performances, and it's hard not to see the allure. Boardwalk, meanwhile, is the terminus for what just might be the most ambitious attraction ever conceived for a cruise ship -- the Ultimate Abyss. Beginning atop the vessel on Deck 16 and ending at the Boardwalk on Deck 6, it's a twisting twin tube ride that plunges nine decks (in a nod to the superstitious, there is no Deck 13 on Symphony).

3. The Royal Promenade.

Launch of Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International's newest and largest ship.
The Bionic bar. sunoct7covercruise cover cruise ; text by Sally Macmillan
MEGASHIPS - Royal Caribbean
Supplied by Royal Caribbean

The Bionic Bar.

It's been nearly two decades since Royal Caribbean began putting these sprawling interior malls full of shops, bars and eateries on its cruise ships, and they just keep getting better. As is the case on Harmony, the Royal Promenade on Symphony features a Bionic Bar -- a concept that first debuted in 2014 on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas.

It's also home to a lively pub called the Copper & Kettle (which fills the space housing the Boot & Bonnet pub on Harmony); the Latin-themed Boleros nightspot; and On Air, the ship's karaoke bar. Among new venues: A store selling anything and everything with a Symphony of the Seas logo (in the location where a Kate Spade shop resides on Harmony).

4. The Ultimate Family Suite (if you can afford it).

Tra20-CruiseEurope or h0ytcm Royal Caribbean?s Symphony of the Seas

New on Symphony is what Royal Caribbean is billing as the most spectacular family suite on land or sea. Two decks high and larger than some city apartments, the 125-square-metre complex is chock full of fun-for-the-family features including a slide connecting a children's room on its second level to the main living area below, a private cinema with an 85-inch HD television, a floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall and a 20-square-metre balcony complete with a full-size whirlpool.

Built with two bedrooms and sleeping up to eight people, it also comes with its own private butler, known as a Royal Genie at Royal Caribbean. The downside of the Ultimate Family Suite: There's only one of them on board Symphony, and it's been selling for tens of thousands of dollars per week.

5. Lively entertainment.

Launch of Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International's newest and largest ship. Hairspray Tra20-CruiseEurope or h0ytcm Royal Caribbean?s Symphony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has been at the forefront of an evolution in cruise ship entertainment in recent years, and nowhere is that more evident than on Symphony, which boasts an adaptation of one of Broadway's biggest crowd-pleasers: The musical Hairspray. Playing in the ship's Broadway-style, 1401-passenger theatre, the 90-minute show features many of the classic songs from the original production.

Symphony also is chock full of other entertaining outlets including a comedy club, jazz club, karaoke bar and the outdoor AquaTheatre. But the surprise star of the ship's entertainment offerings may be its signature ice skating show, 1977, which kicks off with dozens of choreographed, light-emitting drones dancing above the ice and features stunning visual effects that make the ice appear to transform before your eyes. The kicker on Symphony's entertainment? None of it -- not even the musical Hairspray -- comes with an extra charge.

See more of the Symphony of the Seas in the photogallery above.

TNS

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