8 Delicious Reasons to Eat Your Way Through the World’s Largest Cruise Ship
There are 65 restaurants, cafés, bars, and lounges on board Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas—here are 8 you should make it a point not to miss.
On November 15, Royal Caribbean christened its newest ship, Symphony of the Seas, with a 30-liter Melchizedek of Veuve Clicquot, the biggest champagne bottle in the world—a fitting size for the inauguration of the world’s largest cruise ship.
This is a ship of extremes: Symphony of the Seas cost more than $1.3 billion to build. It holds more works of art than the Louvre, a twisting 10-story slide that is the tallest at sea (taller than Mount Rushmore), and a miniature version of Central Park with over 20,000 plants. If you add up the number of passengers (a maximum of 6,680) and crew (2,200), you’re talking about nearly 9,000 people aboard the ship. “It’s like you’re feeding a small village in Europe every day,” says Bruce Venter, traveling corporate executive chef for Royal Caribbean.
And with a staggering 65 restaurants, cafés, bars, and lounges, the Symphony of the Seas makes sure that everyone is eating and drinking very well. “My goal is to deliver the best food at sea,” says Linken D’Souza, who took over as vice president of food and beverage for Royal Caribbean in 2018 and has been tasked with taking the cruise line’s culinary experience to new heights, starting with this record-breaking ship.
Here’s a look at what makes Symphony of the Seas so deliciously appealing, from restaurants that are new to this ship to some Royal Caribbean classics.
Craving an authentic, buttery Maine lobster roll? You’ll find it at Hooked, a New England-style seafood spot that’s new to Symphony of the Seas. Over the course of a week-long cruise, the restaurant also serves up 2,232 oysters. You’ll find them shucked to order, in a spicy shooter, and baked with ingredients like champagne and brie — a recipe inspired by D’Souza’s first date with his wife at an oyster bar in Toronto. The signature dish is the Messy Fish Sandwich: fried cod topped with coleslaw and homemade tartar sauce. Intentionally sloppy, it’s served with its own bib (you can ask for a clean one to take home as a souvenir). The stand-out cocktail is the St. Peter’s Spritz, a St. Germain-accented twist on an Aperol Spritz that is designed to pair with fried seafood.
Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine
Get ready to go down the rabbit hole at this two-story restaurant loosely based on Alice in Wonderland, with a molecular-style menu full of theatric dishes like deviled eggs served under a smoking glass dome. This restaurant concept has appeared on previous Royal Caribbean ships (Harmony of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas). But here, it goes one step beyond, with a Mad Hatter character on staff to entertain diners, as well as a new kid’s menu full of fanciful dishes like a deconstructed cheeseburger served on a kabob and crispy mac-and-cheese fries with homemade ketchup. The new cocktail menu is over-the-top, too. Check out the Cheshire Cat Cosmo, poured over a cloud of cotton candy.
Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
Symphony of the Seas is broken into seven neighborhoods, including the vintage-style Boardwalk, which has an old-fashioned Carousel, an arcade with Skee-Ball and video games, and a zip line soaring high overhead. Set on the Boardwalk is the open-air Playmakers, with 30 large-screen televisions blaring games from around the world. It might be easy to dismiss this as just another sports bar, but Royal Caribbean has developed a menu that is worth a second look. There are three kinds of sliders (portobello mushroom, pulled pork, meat patty), poutine-style cheese fries, and spicy wings served with four different sauces. You can order the the wings in batches of 12, 24, 50, or go for the Playmakers Challenge. If you can eat 100 wings in 45 minutes or less, you win a T-shirt. (No one has pulled it off, though a few daring passengers have tried.) For dessert, the Campfire Cookie can’t be beat: an oversized chocolate cookie, warmed and topped with Nutella and melted marshmallow.
Also on the Boardwalk, the new Sugar Beach is a nostalgic sweets shop with a rainbow of color-coordinated candies and a retro ice cream counter. Walls are covered with bins full of grab-and-go treats from your childhood, including JuJu Coins and every flavor of Jelly Belly imaginable (even Tabasco). This being the world’s largest cruise ship, there are plenty of oversized goodies, too, like giant Dum Dums and massive Rice Krispies Treats. Sugar Beach also hosts cupcake-making classes for kids.
El Loco Fresh
There are lines out the door at El Loco Fresh, an open-air grab-and-go Tex Mex that serves up — get this — 4,500 quesadillas, tacos, and burritos a day. And it’s no wonder: With handmade tortillas that are made right on the spot, this new poolside café is the closest thing you’ll get on a cruise ship to a taco stand in Baja. Don’t miss the stand-out dessert: a dulce de leche chocolate cup.
150 Central Park
Set in another one of the ship’s neighborhoods — Central Park — this moody, glamorous date-night restaurant got a lot of buzz when Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami created menus for some of Symphony of the Seas' sister ships. Here, the in-house team has tweaked the formula, offering updated American classics like a Caesar salad made tableside, a braised short rib with creamy mascarpone polenta, and a fried cheesecake for dessert.
British chef Jamie Oliver is back again on Symphony of the Seas, thanks to his long-standing partnership with Royal Caribbean. His family-style restaurant, Jamie’s Italian, was first unveiled on Quantum of the Seas in 2014, and it keeps getting better with every iteration. Here, the setting feels like a modern farmhouse, with sausages hanging from the ceiling and a chalkboard covered in quotes from Oliver himself. You’ll find handmade pastas and planks with cured meats from Italy. An off-menu dish to order: the black truffle pasta with a poached egg on top and extra bacon.
It seems like robot bartenders are everywhere these days, so it’s no surprise to find Rock’em and Sock’em — a pair of bionic drink makers — on this cruise ship that has everything you could ask for. Makr Shakr, an Italian robotics company, designed these cutting-edge cocktail gurus using movements inspired by dancer Marco Pelle, a principal dancer with the New York Theater Ballet. Besides whipping up two drinks a minute, they share stats on the drinks ordered that day. The most popular cocktail for the 20- and 60-something sets on a recent sailing? Sex on the Beach.