Harmony of the Seas Review - May 2016
Ian Warren – 31/05/16
Harmony of the Seas, which is operated by Royal Caribbean International, was the newest, and largest, cruise ship in the world, when she entered service in May 2016. She is the third ship in the Oasis Class, after Oasis of the Seas (2009) and Allure of the Seas (2010).
I was offered the opportunity to take my wife onboard for a 2 night pre-inaugural cruise, departing from Southampton on 20th May 2016, so felt very privileged. This was the first time I had seen an Oasis Class ship, let alone get onboard, and was amazed by her sheer size as we arrived at the City Terminal in Southampton. Take a look at my review below, which includes a video giving a general overview of the ship, and a selection of mini photos. Click on the following link to take you to my Harmony of the Seas videos, including Entertainment, Dining Venues and Accommodation, and check out my full album of photos on Facebook. Then call GoCruise with Ian on 01455821770 or 08002922850 to book your cruise, or to get more information.
Day 1 – Friday
As we were driving through Southampton we could see the top of the ship over the rooftops, and she really is the largest cruise ship ever built. The closer we got, the more amazing she looked, especially with the open area at the stern.
The boarding process was the same as with the Quantum Class ships, which makes everything so easy. I had done our online check-in which included uploading our photographs, registering a payment card, and then printed our SetSail passes. This meant that when we arrived at the terminal we didn’t need to queue at desks to check-in, and just walked up to one of the staff waiting to greet everyone. They checked our passports, then scanned and stamped our SetSail passes. We only had hand luggage for 2 nights, but you would be given special tags for your luggage here, and they could then be tracked online. We were then able to walk through to the departure lounge, and straight onto the ship. When we got to our cabin our cruise cards were waiting for us.
We unpacked quickly and were just about to head off to explore, when I had a call from one of my customers who wanted to make a booking. I am seldom off duty, so was more than happy to deal with that before we went to the Windjammer Marketplace. After a quick bite to eat, we started wandering the top decks, as I wanted to get all my photos and video of the outside areas done straight away, in case it rained later on or the next day.
As we walked round the decks we kept finding another ‘WOW’ moment around each corner. I found it hard to believe the width of the ship, and looking down on Central Park and Boardwalk was crazy. Although it wasn’t raining, it was a bit breezy, so no-one was making use of the 3 large water slides. However, at the stern of the ship there was a big queue to try out Ultimate Abyss, a 10 storey high dry tube slide. I decided to carry on filming the ship, and let everyone else try it out.
We dined that evening in the American Icon Grill, which is the lower level of the 3 deck high main restaurant. After dinner we went and watched the excellent Tenors of Rock performing in the Royal Theatre, before heading to Studio B. This is the home to the Ice Skating Rink, and we watched a preview of the new Ice Show Spectacular ‘1887’.
Click on the following link to watch my 5 videos of Harmony of the Seas
Day 2 – Saturday
After breakfast in the main dining room, which offers both self-service and a’ la Carte services, we headed off for a full day of exploring, filming and photos. We managed to get around quite a few grades of accommodation ranging from a studio inside cabin up to the Owner’s Suite, with a fair few in between. Although the balcony cabin we had was a very good size, it is amazing just how large some of the suites actually are, with some being 2 decks high. Check out my photos and videos to see what I mean. We also saw the main entertainment areas, speciality dining venues, Adventure Ocean for the children’s clubs, and much more.
We managed to fit in some time for lunch, and had a great burger, fries and milkshake at Johnny Rockets, which is situated on the Boardwalk. Then after a lot more walking, plus more videoing, we headed back to the cabin for a while, to get ready for the evening.
The show that night was going to be the first public performance of Grease the Musical, so we were definitely going to see that, and thought we might eat in the Windjammer Marketplace. However, much to my surprise and delight, I had an email inviting us to dine in Wonderland at 8pm with a table for two. Being one of the main speciality restaurants onboard we were really going to enjoy the evening.
We headed off to the theatre, and got some drinks to enjoy while watching Grease. I have to say that the cast were excellent, and it was an amazing start to the evening. From there we went to Wonderland, where walking into the restaurant on deck 12 is like entering a rabbit hole. Once inside at the bar, you can see that the décor and furniture is very different to any other restaurant I have been in, and all the waiting staff wore costumes. From there you descend a sweeping staircase to the tables on deck 11. There is floor to ceiling glass and you overlook the Boardwalk and AquaTheatre at the stern of the ship.
The kitchen is on full show to the diners, making it all part of the experience. Once seated you are each brought an ‘easel’, with a blank sheet of paper on it, and you are given a small bowl of water and a brush, and asked to paint a picture. As you do so, the menu appears in front of your eyes. The choice of dishes is very imaginative, with not everything as it seems, and the menu is broken down into sections – Sun, Ice, Fire, Sea, Earth and Dreams.
We obviously couldn’t try everything, but our meal included ‘baby vegetables in the garden with edible soil and pebbles’, ‘crispy crab cones with Cilantro, avocado mousse and ohba leaf’, Shrimp Kataifi with crispy crumb and scotch bonnet’, Terroir Beef with river stone potatoes’, Berkshire Pork Belly with apples and cracklin’, and ‘Arctic Equator Chocolate with lava and nitrogen crush’.
This was more of an experience than a meal, and I would happily recommend anyone to try it if the ship they are on has a Wonderland restaurant. There is a supplement to pay for this restaurant, but worth it for the experience, especially if you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary while onboard.
After an amazing meal it was a quick walk around some of the entertainment venues, and then off to bed.
Day 3 – Sunday
We were off the ship early, as we needed to get home by late morning, but what an enjoyable two days we spent onboard. Check out some more facts and figures about the ship below.
At 227,700 gross tonnes she is heavier and more than 2 metres longer and 5 metres wider than the other ships in her class. There are 2,744 cabins and suites, meaning she can carry 5,500 passengers based on standard occupancy. This would rise to around 6,400 with all of the 3rd and 4th berths occupied. There are 2,300 members of crew onboard to operate the ship, and to look after the passengers. There are a total of 16 passenger decks, and the ship is basically divided into 7 themed neighbourhoods: –
- Central Park – with over 12,000 plants and trees this area is great for taking a relaxing stroll through the centre of the ship, or visit some of the shops and restaurants, including 150 Central Park, Chops Grille and Jamie’s Italian
- Royal Promenade – great for shopping, with a diverse range of stores, dining in a number of speciality restaurants, or having a drink in one of the bars, including the Bionic Bar and the Rising Tide Bar
- Boardwalk – situated at the back of the ship, this open air area is home to the Carousel and arcades, the AquaTheatre, and some dining venues including Johnny Rockets
- Pool & Sports Zone – home to a number of pools, water slides, the Ultimate Abyss slide, rock climbing wall, FlowRiders, Zip Line (9 decks above the Boardwalk), Splashaway Bay, table tennis, mini golf course, running track, basketball court and the sports court
- Vitality Spa & Fitness – offering a selection of beauty and health programmes, as well as plenty of options for keeping fit, and working off the amazing food found onboard
- Entertainment Place – home to the Royal Theatre, Casino Royale, Jazz on 4, Comedy Live, the ice-skating rink, and much more
- Youth Zone – there is loads to do for all age groups, whether babies, kids or teens. There are fully qualified staff offering games, videos, competitions, dancing and more
There are a total of 2,727 cabins and suites across 42 grades, starting with an SI Studio Interior Stateroom (inside cabin) for single passengers, which are c100 sq ft in size, and going up to the Royal Loft Suite, which is 1,524 sq ft and has an 843 sq ft balcony. There are many choices in between, including Interior staterooms with virtual balconies, Oceanview staterooms (outside cabins), Oceanview staterooms with balcony (balcony cabins) and 13 grades of suites. While 1,291 balcony cabins have a view over the ocean, 477 have views over the Boardwalk or over Central Park.
Whichever grade you choose you will find twin beds or a large bed, as well as a flat screen television, phone, small fridge, private ensuite facilities with a shower, vanity area and hair dryer. As you move up through the cabin grades, as well as increasing in size you will also find more inclusions.
- Virtual balconies are 80” wall mounted LED screens which show live footage of the outside of the ship.
- Loft suites are 2 storeys high, and have spacious living areas, as well as the bedrooms
- In total, there are 46 wheelchair-accessible cabins across various grades
- Royal Suite Class is a new introduction to Royal Caribbean, and you will receive the service of a Royal Genie
There is a great choice of venues offering something for everyone to enjoy, including: –
- Royal Theatre – this will be the venue for Broadway’ amazing hit musical Grease. It will also host other shows, including a brand new original show called Columbus The Musical, as well as the ship’s own dancers & singers, and visiting entertainers
- AquaTheatre – home of some great shows, including high diving, acrobatics and stunts, and featuring the new show The Fine Line
- Comedy – relax and have a laugh with some great comedians in Comedy Live
- Studio B Ice Rink – where you can watch some great shows, put on by professional skaters, including 1887 and iSkate, or have a go at ice skating yourself
- Stowaway Piano – where will it pop up next? The Stowaway Piano player will perform in different places around the ship, and they could be just about anywhere, so keep an eye out for him
- Outdoor Movie Screen – watch films or sporting events from the comfort of your sun lounger
- Red Party – amazing DJs, offering some high-energy parties and surprise appearances, to keep all the night owls happy
- 3D Theatre – watch some amazing films, including animated hits such as Kung Fu Panda 3 or Shrek
- Escape The Rubicon – an interactive puzzle-solving group activity
- DreamWorks Experience, where your favourite characters from Shrek, Madagascar, & Kung Fu Panda come to life
Food & Drink
- Complimentary dining options include the main dining room, Windjammer Marketplace and room service (service charge at certain times). Hot drinks and snacks are also available from Sorrento’s, Dog House, Mini Bites and Café Promenade
- Speciality dining venues (cover charge applies) include Jamie’s Italian, Wonderland, Johnny Rockets, Chops Grille, 150 Central Park by Michael Schwartz, Izumi and Sabor
- Royal Babies (aged 6-18 months) – children of this age need to be accompanied by a parent, while they enjoy the toys and other activities
- Royal Tots (aged 18-36 months) – there are a series of activity sessions where kids can learn as they play, and again a parent needs to accompany them
- Adventure Ocean Youth Programme – this is made up of three age groups, which are Aquanauts (3-5 years), Explorers (6-8 years) and Voyagers (9-11 years). Activities are varied and tailored to the particular age group, but can include scavenger hunts, ice cream parties, Adventure Theatre, talent shows and much more
- Teen Programme – split into two age groups, Younger Teens (12-14 years) and Older Teens (15-17 years). Activities can include pool parties, FlowRider, Scratch DJ Academy, Open Mic Night and more
- Digital signage and wayfinders around the ship
- Pervasive Wi-Fi and VOOM super-fast internet
- Internet café for those without a laptop or tablet
- Flat screen TV with message facility in all cabins
- Royal IQ App to manage all your onboard reservations, book excursions etc
- WOW Wristbands for $2 which duplicate most things your cruise card does, but more conveniently
- Onboard currency – you will find that everything onboard in $US, but you won’t need cash with you. Everything you purchase will be charged to your onboard account, using your SeaPass card. You will need pre-register a payment card when boarding, or even online before leaving home, and this will be used to settle your account at the end of the cruise
- Dress Code – you will be best to have a selection of casual, smart casual and formal clothes. Casual refers to polo shirt and trousers for men, with sundresses or trousers for women, smart casual would mean jacket and shirt for men, and dresses or trouser suits for women, and formal means suit & tie or tuxedo for men and cocktail dresses for women. Formal dress isn’t compulsory, so on formal nights there are other dining venues available where the formal dress code isn’t enforced
- Dietary Requirements – most diets can be accommodated, including those involving allergies. However, I would suggest letting me know when you book, so that I can advise the ship in advance
- Gratuities – gratuities, or tips, for your cabin and dining room stewards can be prepaid in sterling when booking your cruise. Alternatively they can be added to your onboard account in $US. As at May 2016 the costs are $13.50 per person per night for most cabins, and $16.50 per person per night for most suites
If you are looking for a combination of an actioned-packed resort holiday, combined with all the benefits of a cruise taking you to different destinations nearly every day, then Harmony of the Seas is for you. There is plenty to do onboard, no matter what your age, regardless of whether you are travelling on your own, or as part of a multi-generational family group.
Harmony of the Seas will spend this summer cruising in the Mediterranean from Barcelona and Civitavecchia. Then on 23rd October 2016 she will depart from Barcelona on a 13 night transatlantic voyage to her new home port of Fort Lauderdale. She will then offer 7 night ‘Eastern Caribbean’ and ‘Western Caribbean’ itineraries on alternate weeks.
- Eastern Caribbean – Fort Lauderdale > Nassau, Bahamas > at sea > Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas > Philipsburg, St. Maarten > at sea > at sea > Fort Lauderdale
- Western Caribbean – Fort Lauderdale > at sea > Labadee, Haiti > Falmouth, Jamaica > at sea > Cozumel, Mexico > at sea > Fort Lauderdale
If booked as a fly-cruise these would be 9 night holidays, with 1 night in a hotel, 7 nights onboard, and 1 night in the air flying home. You can also combine the two itineraries into a 16 night holiday, with 1 night in a hotel, 14 nights onboard and 1 night in the air flying home. Call me for more details.
Other Ships in the Royal Caribbean Fleet
I list below the various ship classes, together with the average size and number of passengers (based on standard occupancy), and the ships within each class.
- Oasis Class (220,000 tons with 5,402 passengers) – Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas (plus TBA from 2018 and TBA in 2021)
- Quantum Class (167,800 tons with 4,180 passengers) – Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas (plus TBA in 2019 and TBA in 2020)
- Freedom Class (154,407 tons with 3,634 passengers) – Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and Independence of the Seas
- Voyager Class (137,276 tons with 3,114 passengers) – Voyager of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas
- Radiance Class 90,090 tons with 2,139 passengers) – Radiance of the Seas Brilliance of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas
- Vision Class (70,000 tons with 2,076 passengers) – Vision of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Legend of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas and Splendour of the Seas (until April 2016)
- Sovereign Class 74,077 tons with 2,350 passengers) – Sovereign of the Seas
- Empress of the Seas (48,563 tons with 1,600 passengers)
If you have any questions on Anthem of the Seas, or on any of the other ships in the Royal Caribbean Fleet, call GoCruise with Ian on 01455821770 or 08002922850.