Taller than the Eiffel Tower, can carry 5,780 passengers, has 7 different neighbourhoods and 20 restaurants. Is it possible that Royal Caribbean’s massive cruise ship can live up to the hype? Find out in my review of Harmony of the Seas.
When I was asked to visit and a review of Harmony of the Seas, I was a little nervous. I thought it would find it too big. My sense of direction is SO bad, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to navigate my way around it. I even worried that my kids might get lost at some stage!
However, once I stepped onto the Royal Promenade my fears dissipated. My kids ran to the nearest Shrek character, while I stood there ogling at the promenade deck that was packed with shops, bars and restaurants. My jaw was hanging open and on numerous occasions, friendly staff approached me asking if I needed any assistance. There seemed to be so many of them (2,100 in fact ) and this was evident throughout my cruise. I was given a map with all the highlights but by the time I took it out of my handbag, someone was beside me giving me directions.
They also have smart screens throughout the ship showing where everything is located. I would contend that it is impossible to get lost on this ship. We managed, under duress, to make our way to our stateroom. Passing the bionic bar (where actual robots make and serve you drinks) and the designer shops, I had an awful pang in my stomach. What if I don’t have time to come back?
Our stateroom was adequate for four, although I did manage to get a glimpse of some of the family rooms and was very impressed. They were so spacious, the largest I have seen in any ship. They comfortably sleep six with a large double bed, double sofa, bunkbeds and lots of space over all. I thought they were more spacious for six than many staterooms I have seen for four. All rooms are furnished with all mod cons including usb ports, flat screen tv’s and plenty of storage space.
Once we unpacked, it was a case of, where to begin…! There are seven different neighbourhoods on board, each with their own activities and distinctive vibe. The kids went straight for the splash park and water slides and it was hard to get them to leave! The pool deck caters for kids of all ages. They have a tots area, a splash park for kids from about five to eight years, and three large slides for older kids. We tried them all! I had great fun racing my 8 year old down the Perfect Storm trio of slides. There are also plenty of different swimming pools, so if slides are not your thing, no worries.
We rounded off our first afternoon with a trip to The Boardwalk. We had a spin on the hand crafted carousel (crazy I know!) while the kids climbed up their own rock climbing wall (there are two other rock climbing walls for adults on-board!). The boardwalk is a cool place to hang out, complete with a Mexican restaurant, a Starbucks café and even a Johnny Rockets diner – straight out of Grease.
Speaking of Grease, that night we managed to catch the broadway version in the Royal Theatre. It was spectacular. I’m not one for musicals per se, but it was as good if not better, than I have seen in London’s West End. The kids loved it too, in fact I had to download the soundtrack when I got home and it’s still requested every time they get in the car! The night entertainment continued until the small hours. There was a street party taking place in the Royal Promenade, an ice show in the ice skating rink (did I mention there was one on board?) and an open air aqua show, at the aft of the ship. We debated about using the kids club which is $7 per hour after 10pm, but decided against it as the kids were exhausted.
The kids clubs are terrific, they are suitable for kids aged 3 to 11. Facilities include an adventure science lab, an imagination studio, a dedicated children’s theatre, all free until 10pm! You can even leave the kids on board while in port so you are free to explore on land. They have creche facilities from 6 months to 3 years, a charge of $10 per hour applies. Royal Caribbean have teamed up with Dreamworks so from time you time you will see Shrek, Puss in Boots, Kung Fu Panda and other characters out and about. They will pose happily for photos with kids – a nice touch I thought. Kids can also watch the latest Dreamworks movies in their own theatre or in your stateroom. Teenagers are not left out, they have dedicated teen only zones, as well their own nite club and the numerous sports facilities on board.
On Harmony of the Seas, if you fancy some quiet time, there are plenty of places to hide. I thought how nice it would be to skip off to the adults only solarium, chill by the pool or enjoy a spa treatment, while the kids were happily playing in the kids clubs. They also have a medi spa where you can get acupuncture and even teeth whitening! And if you fancied a night cap or a trip to the casino after 10pm, just pay $7 an hour – that’s a pretty good deal.
After our relatively early first night, we were up early to see as much as we could on our last day! First up was the largest slide at sea, the Ultimate Abyss. This is a pair of slides that offer a 100 foot drop over 10 decks. It is the iconic picture of two purple slides you see cantilevered at the aft of the ship. Personally I didn’t find it as scary as I was led to believe, however you are in complete darkness. The zipline on the other hand, OMG! I faced my fears that day and ziplined across the open air atrium. I was suspended nine decks above the boardwalk, and all in the name of research!! I guess everyone has fears. Stepping off that ledge, was one of mine. It was terrifying!
I headed straight for the bar, still shaking, and downed one of their signature cocktails! The kids were proud of me though, does that count? Mind you they were more interested in showing me how well they were doing at mini golf than listening to me recount my experience. We decided to leave the surf simulator and rock climbing wall for another time and instead watched the kids finish off their mini golf game at a leisurely pace.
After all that exercise, it was time for lunch. Out came the map again, how do you decide where to eat when there are twenty different restaurants on board? We decided to pop down to Central Park. There seemed to be plenty of dining options there. This turned out to be my favourite part (or neighbourhood) of the ship. The centre of the ship is completely open to the sky which creates a fabulous atmosphere. You don’t think you are on a ship at all. We enjoyed a few drinks at the Trellis bar before taking a stroll through the park. There is a staggering 12,000 trees and plants here! Luke spotted someone eating a tasty panini outside the Park Café, so in we went. This is a great choice for a family lunch if you don’t fancy the main restaurant and there is no additional charge.
I’m not sure if it was the action packed morning, the food, the wine, or perhaps the combination of all three but suddenly I had the urge to chill out on a sun lounger… How cool is it that one minute I’m on a zipline, the next I’m dining in central park and then I’m flaked out by the pool. Welcome to the world of cruising…
The kids played happily in the splash park and the pool whilst my husband and I enjoyed some much deserved R’N’R. The kids loved the self serve ice cream parlour by the pool where they could pull their own cones. This was their first experience of an all-inclusive arrangement, so they were ecstatic that they didn’t have to pay for them and that I didn’t need to know how many they were having! There are even miniature sun loungers for kids when it all gets too much for them too. Harmony of the Seas caters so well for families. You have to hand it to Royal Caribbean, they really have thought of everything.
That evening we had the pleasure of visiting one the speciality dining restaurants, Coastal Kitchen. Situated on deck seventeen, with stunning ocean views and a strong Californian vibe – I loved it. The food, the service, and the ambiance was superb. The kids loved it too. Although they didn’t have a separate kids menu, they offered to make anything to suit their tastes. There are plenty of pizza, pasta or burger restaurants on board as well as a massive buffet restaurant so trust me when I say there are huge choices for kids. I thought Coastal Kitchen was special though. I wondered whether all the speciality dining restaurants were as good? I did eat in Jamie’s Italian restaurant on Ovation of the Seas and it was great too. I’m thinking, I tried two and both were great, I can only assume they all are.
Of course you have to pay for these top class restaurants…Prices vary from $25 for dinner at Jamie’s and $49 in Wonderland. However, if you really want to push the boat out (excuse the pun!), try the four-course menu in 150 Central Park for $89, where each course is paired with wine. With over 5700 passengers on-board you will need to make a reservation for the most popular restaurants. You can do this on line before you cruise or by using the Royal IQ app on board. The app is very easy to use, the fact that the wifi is excellent (the fastest at sea) probably helps! There is a charge for wifi, a bit steep at $13.95 per day. There are packages available if using numerous devices in the one stateroom, and discounts for pre-booking are available online. I would advise to check these out before you board.
After our meal, we went to the open air aqua show. The setting is remarkable, an open air theatre with the backdrop of the ocean across the horizon. The sun started to set just as the show began – perfection! The modern show featured professional acrobats, divers and synchronised swimmers. There were acrobats walking tightropes above us along with trapeze acts dipping in and out of the water. It was quite exhilarating. We didn’t know what was going to happen next, it really had a WOW factor. That said, when it was all over, I wasn’t sure what to make of it all. It was seriously impressive, but I thought a little disjointed in parts.
Time for a quick night cap in the Royal Promenade before bed. I liked the Rising Tide where the entire bar and all those in it, elevate between the Royal Promenade deck and Central Park. It moves very slowly so it is a lovely experience and you can see what’s happening in both decks. You don’t miss any of the action! We also ordered a drink from the bionic bar were the ‘staff’ are efficient but somewhat lacking in personality!! The kids found it fascinating and although it is a bit gimmicky, you can’t deny the innovation is incredible.
You can’t deny the overall innovation is incredible. It seems that the development of Harmony of the Seas was led by imagination and thankfully not the budget! It’s not only the size of the cruise ship that is mind blowing, it is whats on board. It is colossal and of course not for everyone. If you want non stop action with an excellent choice of dining and entertainment, then I think you will not find better at sea, or even on land for that matter. The attention to detail, like the miniature sun loungers, show how much they care about keeping the younger clientele happy too. So I think the answer to the question: Does one of the largest and most innovative cruise ships at sea live up to the hype? In a word. Absolutely!
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For enquiries and prices visit RoyalCaribbean.ie or your local travel agent.