Six Months After the Biggest Ship Debuts of Spring 2018: What Cruisers Are Saying

October 11, 2018
Composite photo of Norwegian Bliss, Symphony of the Seas and Carnival Horizon

(5:40 p.m. EDT) -- Spring 2018 saw the debut of three exciting cruise ships, one each for the three biggest cruise lines in the industry: Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line.

Symphony of the Seas, Norwegian Bliss and Carnival Horizon all debuted within weeks of one another, generating lots of buzz for the cruise industry and immediately drawing the attention of veteran and first-time cruisers alike. Cruise Critic was among the first onboard all three. You can read our reviews for a thorough analysis, but with about half a year in the water, the ships have garnered a slew of member reviews that are starting to paint a picture of what your fellow cruisers really think of them.

Cruise Critic took a look at some 500 reviews written by our members to glean what the most praised -- and critiqued -- attractions and spaces on each ship are. Below you'll find the hits and misses for each of this spring's big debuts, all determined by "real" cruisers just like you. Note: The chosen quotes represent viewpoints repeated in enough reviews to be considered widely held.


Symphony of the Seas

With a half year of cruises behind it, Symphony of the Seas is proving to be popular with past cruisers, garnering a 4.0 overall rating from Cruise Critic members. Impressively, cabins, entertainment, public rooms, fitness and recreation, family and service all got average review scores of over 4.0. Even its lowest scores (for value for money and dining) were at nearly 4.0.

Hits

Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade

"Playmakers is another new venue. A huge hit with DH (dear husband) who declared he was going to stay there for the week. He was in his happy place with beer and 3 TV screens in front of him simultaneously showing Arsenal, cricket and the F1 racing....." --Cruise Critic member Little Britain

Solarium

"It has multiple Jacuzzis, tons of sunning chairs and a bar … the Solarium was beautiful -- sunny, calm and large enough that you didn't have to fight for chairs." --Cruise Critic member smholt1226

Shows

"The shows were exceptional -- we saw most of them twice because we enjoyed them so much. The theatre shows were West End quality and Hiro [an AquaTheater show] was jaw-dropping. The ice-skating shows too were fantastic." --Cruise Critic member Ruthie G

Misses

Queues

"The reason it doesn't get 5 stars is because I think they put too many people on board and they can't cope with the volume. For example, the hand sanitizer had often run out, the soap and hand towels in the entrance to the Windjammer was often also empty… We also tried to do the Laser tag but each time we tried the queue was so big they told us we'd be there too long to have a go. " --Cruise Critic member FionaSarre

Late Night Food Options

"Buffets and almost all complimentary food options shut down around 9:30 p.m." --Cruise Critic member MaskedVendor


Norwegian Bliss

Since it launched in May, Norwegian Bliss, which spent the entire summer season sailing in Alaska, continues to average a respectable score of just about 3.5 from Cruise Critic reviewers, with cabins and service getting the highest marks -- both have average ratings above 4.0. Its lowest ratings go to the ship's value for money, with a score a bit below 3.5.

Hits

"Jersey Boys"

"Jersey Boys was unbelievable. The music was absolutely spot-on, and the production was Broadway level good. Absolute must see." --Cruise Critic member chrisbennettga

Go-Karts

"DO NOT MISS RIDING THE [GO-KARTS]...IT'S A BLAST" --Cruise Critic member herrholtz

Observation Lounge

"The observation deck is the best part of the ship, with an enormous space dedicated to viewing, in this case, the beautiful Alaska scenery and glaciers. There are numerous seating options and endless windows for a relaxing view." --Cruise Critic member Hulugirl

Misses

Observation Lounge

"Our one criticism of the Observation lounge is that people pretty much set-up 'camp' on the lounge chairs for the entire day. They would 'reserve' them with a blanket or sweater, then be gone for hours. Also a lot of people used the best view loungers to sleep in." --Cruise Critic member FinsLeft

Extra Charges and Reservations

"We choose the Bliss because of all the activities that it had to offer such as water slides, laser tag and go carts. We found out after booking and paying for the cruise that many of the activities had extra charges and you needed reservations. with 4800 people it was difficult to get reservations." --Cruise Critic member captket


Carnival Horizon

Of the three big ships that debuted this spring, Carnival Horizon is the one pulling in the lowest ratings from Cruise Critic reviewers. The ship is averaging about a 3.2 rating, with cabins pulling in the highest score (an average score of 4.0); all other categories are garnering average scores between 3.3 and 3.7.

Hits

SkyRide

"I seized the opportunity to do the Sky Ride ... and it was quite a thrill to pedal yourself around the sports deck, and even a little bit over the ocean below; expect the line to ride it to be 30-40 minutes long, less if you go while others are in port." --Cruise Critic member mrhotwings

Family Harbor

"It's worth the extra penny, the family harbor lounge provides a place to play video games, watch movies that would normally cost money had they been ordered in room, and around 3, they serve snacks to fill your belly! Along with an ice cream machine, coffee machine and ice water machine." --Cruise Critic member cruiseready83

Guy's Pig & Anchor

"Pig and Anchor. Excellent BBQ -- and free when you board and also for lunch on sea days. Do it, you won't be disappointed. And the beers on tap were very good also." --Cruise Critic member yort44

Misses

Theater Sightlines

"The main theater sightlines are terrible. The structure poles and low hanging lighting block the shows (so get there...early)." --Cruise Critic member OndaBoat

Pools

"There were only two pools open, unless you were in the Havana Suites. The pools were small, way too small. My family would simply jump in and out to cool off. There was no way with all of the reckless children that we could actually enjoy a swim." --Cruise Critic member TFay


--By Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor