The last two weeks have seen the introduction of two more giant ships into the world of cruising. Symphony of the Seas, now the largest cruise ship in the world, was joined this past weekend by Norwegian Bliss as she prepares to take guests through Alaska in her inaugural season.
Both vessels are fantastic additions, offering a range of exciting activities, delicious dining venues and sizzling entertainment – but how do they compare? If you are looking to cruise on one of these shiny new floating resorts, here’s a comparison to help you choose.
As you will be sampling a lot of the food on board, dining is likely to be one of your first considerations. Luckily, though, both ships have a wealth of restaurants, bars and cafés to suit every taste and every occasion.
If you are familiar with Royal Caribbean, you will recognise a number of the restaurants from other Quantum and Oasis Class vessels. Chops Grille, Jamie’s Italian, the molecular gastronomy of Wonderland, Sorrento’s pizza, everybody’s favourite Johnny Rockets and a few more besides all make an appearance here. However, there are also some exciting new dining venues that will definitely be of interest. Hooked Seafood serves up fresh fish and sushi options in a relaxed setting, El Loco Fresh is a colourful Mexican restaurant with a menu full of flavourful dishes that the whole family will love, Playmakers Sports bar and Arcade offers big-game-accompanying snacks, and Sugar Beach features a range of ice creams and sweets to satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth.
Norwegian Bliss is home to a similar mix of well-known dining venues from elsewhere in the fleet and brand new experiences. Tasty firsts come in the form of the line’s first ever BBQ restaurant, named ‘Q’, and a dessert-only place known as Coco’s. The former offers up mouth-watering smoked cuts of meat and a good old-fashioned cowboy hoedown, whilst the latter will make your stomach growl with a selection of ice cream, crepes, freak shakes and cakes. Among the returning eateries, you’ll find beautifully cooked prime cuts in Cagney’s Steakhouse, freshly caught seafood in Ocean Blue, authentic Italian masterpieces in La Cucina, and heavenly morsels from around the globe in the futuristic Food Republic. Many of these dining areas have alfresco seating and can be found in the lively Waterfront district of the ship.
Entertainment can come in many forms and can include bars, theatre shows, sporting activities and much more. Both ships have plenty to keep you busy during days at sea and the evenings after exploring ashore. With them being so large, there is so much to cover but here are some of the highlights.
Royal Caribbean is known for cramming as many different leisure activities onto their ships as possible and the largest ship in the world has arguably the largest selection of these. For the first time at sea, guests can wage intergalactic war with a game of laser tag, whilst there’s also the usual inclusion of zip lines, mini-golf, ice skating, rock climbing and ball sports – not forgetting the wipe-out-inducing Flowrider surf simulator. The Ultimate Abyss dry slide has spawned a sibling, following its introduction on board Harmony of the Seas, and the Perfect Storm waterslides ensure the sliding doesn’t have to stop there.
In terms of live shows, there are three new performances to look forward to. In the Aquatheater, high-divers and trapeze artists bring you depth-defying stunts and jaw-dropping action in HiRO – a futuristic production that blends unique choreography with the latest technology. Elsewhere, you can travel through time with Tempest as part of a performance on ice in Studio B and learn the story of man’s journey to defy gravity in Flight. That’s all on top of the award-winning musical Hairspray, which returns to Royal Caribbean’s fleet and can be seen in the Royal Theater.
Perhaps the headline-grabbing fact is that Norwegian Bliss features a first-at-sea for Western cruisers in the form of a go-kart track on the top deck. Previously included on Norwegian Joy, launched for the Chinese market, you can now race your friends as you sail through Glacier Bay. There’s also laser tag, an aqua park featuring a trapdoor slide that shoots you off the edge of the ship, two observation lounges and the bar-filled hub of onboard life known as 678 Ocean Place.
An array of evening entertainment means there is always something to enjoy – whatever mood you are in. Looking for laughs? Head to Social, a cosy spot where stand-up comedy is followed by dancing ‘til dawn. Wishing for West-End shows? The cast of hit musical Jersey Boys is on-hand to serenade you with the music of the Four Seasons. Prefer something more upbeat? Rock out to the live music being performed in the Cavern Club. And finally, if you’re passionate about the Prohibition Era, discover the secret speakeasy where Happy Hour Prohibition – The Musical gives you one last hurrah before the drink disappears.
Choosing your cabin or suite is the first step towards booking your cruise holiday and both Norwegian Bliss and Symphony of the Seas have plenty of options for your consideration. From inside cabins with virtual balconies to exclusive apartments that allow access to private dining venues, the accommodation never ceases to amaze and dazzle.
If you book a suite on board Symphony, a whole host of additions await you and your group. Royal Suite Class provides three tiers of enviable extras depending on the grade that you book. The highest tier, Star Class, includes the services of a Royal Genie to be at your beck and call and ensure your holiday is everything you wished it would be. You’ll also have access to backstage tours, the best seats in the theatre, high-speed internet and a drinks package included in the price. Even the third tier of Royal Suite Class offers upgraded bathroom products, the chance to dine in the exclusive Coastal Kitchen and free gym classes. Other accommodation options include inside cabins that offer a live view of where the ship is heading via a virtual balcony and the much talked about new Ultimate Family Suite – complete with a slide between the two levels.
The highlight of Norwegian Bliss’s accommodation has to be the Haven. This exclusive ‘ship within a ship’ gives suite guests access to private areas such as The Haven Lounge, The Haven Restaurant and your own secluded sun deck. These sumptuous suites also have premium amenities such as 24-butler service and spacious private balconies with the best views on the ship. If you wish to pamper yourself during your cruise, one of the relaxing spa suites may be a perfect choice. Located close to the Mandarin Spa and Fitness Center, they also include waterfall showers with body jets and free access to the Thermal Spa. The Haven Spa Suites also come equipped with a hot tub.
Although a ship’s itineraries will change from season to season, the destinations visited are likely to play a key role in helping you decide which vessel you want to cruise on board. These ships rarely sail from the UK but the exotic ports they visit more than make up for this.
Symphony of the Seas will begin life sailing the Mediterranean, departing from Barcelona on a range of seven, eight and nine-night itineraries that visit ports like Marseille, Rome and Naples. In October 2018, she will glide across the Atlantic to offer seven-night Caribbean cruises and three/four-night Bahamas cruises until the end of 2019.
Conversely, Norwegian Bliss will explore a somewhat cooler environment. Her debut season will take her to Alaska for seven-night cruises out of Seattle that visit Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan and Victoria. Then, in July, she will move further south to allow you to discover the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles, before travelling to the other side of America to offer Caribbean cruises from Miami at the end of the year. 2019 takes a similar shape, with Bliss again in Alaska from May to July and then heading to the Caribbean later in the year.
Ultimately, which ship you choose will come down to personal preference, but hopefully, this has given you a great idea of what each can offer. Both ballasted behemoths have fantastic amenities and can provide everything you could wish for during your holiday. If you would like more information about either of them and their available cruises, call us on 0808 115 8062 or submit your online enquiry by clicking here.