Royal Caribbean’s newest baby – the Symphony of the Seas – is five times the size of the Titanic (362.1 metres long and 65.5 metres wide), is able to carry a total of 6,680 guests + 2,200 crew members, and boasts 18 decks, 24 guest elevators, and seven different ‘neighbourhoods’ in which passengers of all ages and tastes can find their perfect spot.

Officially the largest cruise liner in the world, the Symphony of the Seas made its maiden voyage from Barcelona in March this year, docking at the Málaga port for its official unveiling before the international market. The ship will be offering a 12-day Transatlantic cruise sailing through Barcelona, Málaga, and Miami from October 28 to November 9. If you’re up for a voyage on a ship that is as much fun (if not more) than the destination itself, the Symphony of the Seas may be the perfect choice for you and your family.

A Floating Resort

Over 27 million people are projected to cruise in 2018, and visionaries such as Royal Caribbean have plenty to do with it. As architect Tom Wright told Wired’s Oliver Franklin-Wallis, “Most people’s idea of a cruise is ‘Oh God, I’m going to be packed in with five thousand people I don’t want to talk to and getting bored out of my tree. In fact, it’s like going to a hotel that just moves magically overnight.”

Franklin-Wallis rightly notes that cruising is currently undergoing a golden age. Once seen as luxury floating retirement homes or the stuff uninspired honeymoons are made of, cruising is now seen as the ultimate choice for those who wish to be entertained when travelling, while catching a host of destinations without having to worry about check-ins, boarding passes, and of course, packing and unpacking.

The Architect

In charge of building a cruise liner that would totally redefine the cruising experience was Harri Kulovaara – a Finnish naval architect whose specialisation is passenger ships. Kulovaara is best known for designing two groundbreaking ferries for Silja Line featuring 150-metre, two-deck promenades and a huge window letting in natural light and creating a vibrant space for passengers to walk through.

This influence is plainly seen in the Symphony of the Seas, whose Boardwalk amusement area is open to natural light and flanked by two rows of cabins that lead out to two 66-metre slides called Ultimate Abyss (the tallest ever at sea. In essence, the ship has been ‘split down the middle’ and is connected by the sun deck up top. The vessel is 18 decks tall and, like all other ships in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas class, it cost over €848 million to build. Kulovaara was responsible for the conceptual and architectural design of the ship itself. However, various spaces were designed by individual architects (such as restaurants and cabins) in an effort to remain fresh, creative, and innovative.

The Ultimate Family Suite: Two Stories of Awesome

One of the most Instagrammed sections of the Symphony of the Seas is the Ultimate Family Suite. It features a multi-storey in-suite slide, private cinema, floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall, Royal Genie (butler) on hand to deliver surprises and delights to families, full-size whirlpool with an ocean view, vertical maze for kids, and so much more. Royal Caribbean calls this suite “a space for families to come together during their cruise vacation, while offering enough room and amenities to relax.”

Cruising with Robotic Bartenders

The place to be for tech lovers is the Bionic Bar: a marvel of technology featuring robotic bartenders, who can mix up to two drinks per minute; that’s a total of 1,000 per day! Travellers can create their own concoction or choose an existing beverage by using a tablet; the bots then measure, shake, strain, and pour the ultimate refreshing cocktail. The Bionic Bar was developed by Makr Shakr in Torino, Italy, who modelled the robots’ movements on those of a dancer from the New York Ballet.

Specific Design Features

Many of the most challenging aspects of building a ship of this magnitude, involve safety. As Kulovaara recently told Wired, “The big part of building a ship, 85 per cent, is what you don’t see. It’s the air conditioning, the electric systems, the water systems, power generation.” The ship houses a number of independent fire zones, which can be cut off in the face of an emergency. Kulovaara’s team is vast and he relied on various specialised projects teams to pull off concepts such as the indoor ice skating arena – such a complex feat that it logically went to Wilson Butler Architects, who have designed many of Royal Caribbean’s most dreamlike entertainment concepts.

Upping the Entertainment Factor

The range of entertainment and adventure options on board is impressive. These include The Perfect Storm: a speedy trio of water slides; two FlowRide surf simulators; Splashaway Bay: a water park for younger tots featuring colourful waterslides, water cannons, fountains, pools and whirlpools; an ice skating rink; a mini-golf course; a nine-deck-high zip line, two 13-metre rock climbing walls; 19 pools; a full-sized basketball court, etc. Specific programmes have been lined up for kids aged three to 17, with a focus on learning and fun. Tweens and teens have dedicated spaces on board, and a host of games and sports to enjoy alongside other passengers their age.

Food Galore

There are over 20 restaurants on board, four of which are new concepts for this liner. They include El Loco Fresh (featuring fresh Mexican fare), Hooked Seafood (where diners tuck into fresh lobster, crab and other delights), Sugar Beach (a sweet shop with an impressive range of ice-cream and lollies), and Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade (featuring sports broadcast on over 30 large-screen televisions).

High-Energy, High-Tech Productions

Cultural offerings abound on the Symphony of the Seas, which displays a total of 13,348 artworks that are conceptually intriguing and imaginative. There are also a host of theatrical and artistic productions every day. One of this year’s highlights is Flight: Dare to Dream – which takes audiences on a journey through the past, present, and future of air travel featuring 3D flying technology, video and automation, as well as simulated space and zero gravity, where actors ‘float’ within a detailed replica of the International Space Station. The show was designed following consultation with astronaut Clayton C. Anderson, who completed six spacewalks in two separate missions.

Retail Therapy

Take something home for loved ones by top brands, including Victoria’s Secret, Dior, Sisley, and more. Symphony of the Seas is home to a bevy of shops selling fashion, jewellery, perfumes… anything and everything you would expect to find at a high-end street in London, Paris, or Milan.

Chilling Out at the Spa

There is little that distinguishes the Vitality at Sea Spa from a high-end spa at a five-star luxury resort. Natural wood, pleasant scents, and a host of health and beauty treatments are available, including hair styling and make-up. While away your cares with a hot poultice massage, enjoy a romantic couples’ treatment, or have a long anti-ageing facial. Afterwards, why not cool down poolside while your kids enjoy an adrenalin-charged zipline adventure?

Central Park: A Neighbourhood with a Difference

Strolling through Symphony of the Seas’ Central Park, you are instantly whizzed into a lazy Sunday, and it feels just like walking through the green hub of a small town to buy the paper or have a cup of coffee. Thanks to the ‘split’ design of the ship, natural light shines in and allows over 12,000 plants to grow healthily, despite the obvious challenges of keeping them in optimal condition at sea. Many are watered by an underground system, to reduce the amount of wet weight that normal sprinklers would produce. Some trees were transported onto the ship while others were dropped by crane onto specific drop zones; the entire process was carefully choreographed and put into place by thousands of gardeners.

The Symphony of the Seas has been deemed ‘the world’s most photographable ship’ and we couldn’t agree more. From the captivating reflective art of the Paradox Void metallic installation (made from 1,200 steel triangles) to the amphitheatre-style AquaTheatre (featuring high-diving aerial performances, set against a stunning ocean backdrop), you will have so many places to capture on camera, you will probably need to bring extra memory for your device. Of course, the best way to remember a voyage on the Symphony of the Seas is just to live it, for in this case, the ship is the destination.