Guests booked on a New Year’s holiday cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas will not be visiting the ports of call planned on the original itinerary. The change is due to ongoing port enhancements, but a substitute port has been arranged for the Eastern Caribbean sailing.
Symphony of the Seas Itinerary Change
Symphony of the Seas was to have been sailing an 8-night “Eastern Caribbean Holiday” cruise roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, departing December 30, 2023, with ports of call to Antigua, St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, and Haiti. Now, however, guests have been notified that Antigua will not be possible and the ship will be visiting St. Kitts & Nevis in its place.
“To accommodate ongoing port enhancements in Antigua, we’ll now spend a full day in the beautiful destination of Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis,” the email notification explained. “We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused by this. Nevertheless, we’re excited to visit a new port with you!”
The visit to Basseterre has been slotted in at the exact day and time as the now-cancelled visit to Antigua – the third day of the cruise (after two days at sea), January 2, 2024, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The rest of the ship’s itinerary is unaffected by this change, with Philipsburg, St. Maarten on January 3 (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.); San Juan, Puerto Rico on January 4 (7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.); and Labadee, Haiti on January 5 (9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The last day of the cruise is another day at sea before Symphony of the Seas will return to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, January 7, 2024.
Pre-paid shore excursions booked through Royal Caribbean International for Antigua will be automatically cancelled, but if guests have made independent arrangements, they will need to contact their tour operator for cancellation options.
Why the Change?
Details of the “ongoing port enhancements” prompting this itinerary change have not been released, but could be any manner of construction, dredging, or updating projects.
It should be noted that the port is not closed entirely to all ships – vessels from AIDA Cruises, MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, TUI Cruises, and others are all scheduled in the days before and after Symphony of the Seas‘ now cancelled visit. It is possible, however, that the “enhancements” make it impossible to accommodate the Oasis-class ship.
At 228,081 gross tons, Symphony of the Seas is currently ranked as the second-largest passenger cruise ship in the world, only slightly behind her sister ship, Wonder of the Seas.
When booked at double occupancy, the large vessel can welcome 5,518 cruisers, and as many as 6,680 travelers can be onboard if the ship is fully booked with all berths filled. In addition, roughly 2,200 crew members are onboard the massive ship.
Channel and harbor depths, pier lengths, and dock facilities that may be suitable for smaller ships may not be able to accommodate Symphony of the Seas on the planned visit date. It is not unusual for port operations to impact cruise ship schedules, and occasionally those schedules must be changed close to sailing dates as port projects are planned or changed well after ship itineraries are made.
Symphony of the Seas is currently finishing the Mediterranean season but will return to Fort Lauderdale via a 14-night transatlantic cruise departing Barcelona on Sunday, October 29, 2023, calling on Valencia and Cadiz in Spain and Nassau in the Bahamas along the way.
From Fort Lauderdale, the ship will offer a variety of Eastern, Western, and Southern Caribbean cruises through early May 2024, at which time she will reposition to New Jersey to offer Bahamas and Eastern Caribbean sailings.