Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of boarding Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, one of the largest cruise ships in the world, and it was simply amazing. From the extraordinary entertainment and fun-filled activities to the scrumptious meals and exquisite atmosphere, the ship has so much to offer. This magnificent ship features virtually anything you can think of; it’s not just a vessel, it’s a destination in itself, and it’s no wonder why the Oasis-class ships (this includes the Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, and the Symphony of the Seas) have become so popular since their debut to the cruising industry.
I have wanted to go on an Oasis-class ship ever since the Oasis of the Seas launched in 2009 because of its revolutionary design. The Oasis of the Seas was the first ship to introduce massive neighborhoods offering unique opportunities. I was fascinated by the idea of staying on what appeared to be a floating resort that consisted of practically anything you can find on land while also traveling to various countries. Although it took years for me to board an Oasis-class ship, I finally experienced the Harmony of the Seas after about a year of planning. After departing from such an astounding week-long journey, I found it necessary to share my thoughts on this massive ship (even though it debuted almost two years ago). To better organize this review, I divided it into five categories: the atmosphere, activities, entertainment, dining, and my overall thoughts.
Upon boarding the Harmony of the Seas, I walked directly into what is known as the Royal Promenade. This is essentially Royal Caribbean’s version of an atrium, except that it’s vastly different from most atriums on cruise ships. The Royal Promenade is designed to appear as an upscale mall. Here, you’ll find shops and restaurants with themed facades and interiors. Actually, while at some of the locations, specifically Sorrento’s and the Boot & Bonnet pub, I almost felt like I was at Universal Studios Florida due to the similarly themed environments found at Louie’s Italian Restaurant and Finnegan’s Bar & Grill, respectively. This, I feel, really adds a nice touch because it makes the area more classy, but that’s not the only component of the Royal Promenade that I appreciate. The use of natural lighting in addition to artificial lighting undoubtedly brings the area to life. Throughout a large section of the area are “crystal canopies” that cut right into the Central Park neighborhood. These enormous canopies allow sunlight to flood the promenade as various colors of light shine the ceiling, and when you look above, you’ll catch a glimpse at the beauty of Central Park. From this, you can genuinely tell that Royal Caribbean put a lot of effort when creating the Royal Promenade, and the end result is absolutely breathtaking. The Royal Promenade serves as more than just a mini-mall, though. This is basically where much of the ship’s events take place, including some dance parties and a parade.
Harmony of the Seas, as previously mentioned, is separated into several different neighborhoods—seven to be exact. The Royal Promenade was one of those neighborhoods, and Central Park is another one. Central Park was first introduced on the Oasis of the Seas. At the time, it was something that was never quite seen before on a cruise ship; its introduction has since revolutionized what a cruise ship is able to offer to its guests. When strolling in this neighborhood, it honestly seems as if you’re walking in a park, and that’s because you are. Central Park consists of real trees and plants—they’re not fake. I feel that I should mention that the park’s beauty not only attracted my attention but that of birds too. In fact, while returning back to Florida from Mexico, there were several birds who joined us, either resting or exploring the park. These aspects further added to the idea of being in a park. Harmony of the Seas’ Central Park neighborhood doesn’t just consist of plants, though. If that were the case it might be a little lackluster as it wouldn’t necessarily have much to offer to guests (in my opinion). This area also features several shops and numerous restaurants, and although these elements may somewhat differ from the actual Central Park in New York City, it makes it more compelling. Rather than simply walking along the park’s paths and sitting on the benches, I can enjoy a leisurely lunch at the Park Cafe and sit outdoors to take in the pleasure of the natural world. This entire neighborhood is so relaxing and peaceful, and it makes for perfect photo opportunities as well.
Another popular neighborhood on the Harmony of the Seas is the Boardwalk, located at the aft. From the arcade games and the carousel right down to the Zoltar fortune teller machine, this neighborhood truly brings the atmosphere of an actual boardwalk to a cruise ship. Royal Caribbean even used wood-style flooring to give the impression that you’re walking on a boardwalk. It’s incredible! During my frequent trips to this neighborhood, I played skeeball (and lost every time), rode the carousel (something I don’t usually do), grabbed a hot dog, ordered a Starbucks drink (yes, there’s a Starbucks at sea), and savored a meal at Johnny Rockets. There’s always something fun to do at the Boardwalk, and that’s why I appreciate the area—it has a lively atmosphere, especially at nighttime when everything lights up. The concept of a boardwalk on a cruise ship is fantastic. It’s yet another unique element on the Oasis-class ships.
Harmony of the Seas does consist of several more neighborhoods, including the Pool & Sports Zone (located on the uppermost deck), Entertainment Place, the Youth Zone, and Vitality Spa & Fitness Center; however, I largely focused on the Royal Promenade, Central Park, and the Boardwalk because of their uniqueness; they’re design marvels. Nonetheless, all of Harmony of the Seas’ neighborhoods produce a phenomenal experience for guests as each area creates a distinct ambiance that attracts different audiences because of the varying offerings and atmospheres. The neighborhood concept is truly captivating because of this.
Royal Caribbean didn’t simply design a massive ship with solely impressive areas to explore. They designed a ship with action-packed and enjoyable activities for their guests to enjoy, and Harmony of the Seas excels in doing just this. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or the kind of person who prefers tame activities, you’ll find just about anything onboard that floats your boat on this vessel. I actually took part in as many of the activities as I could, including rock climbing; zip lining; ice skating; mini-golfing; and sliding down the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea, measuring 150 feet above sea level. I have to say: the Ultimate Abyss makes for an epic experience. While going down you see whizzing lights and hear sound effects. It sort of reminded me of the beginning of Space Mountain as you’re going through the tunnel. As for the zip line: it was a lot of fun, but I wish it were longer than it is.
Harmony of the Seas really does provide a great number of activities, and each one appeals to different age groups and preferences. Here’s just a short list of the many things guests can take advantage of on this vessel: water slides, swimming pools, play areas, arcade games, basketball, surfing, table tennis, the carousel, and the activities I mentioned taking part in. There’s not a moment you’ll find yourself being bored while on the Harmony of the Seas.
As a first-time cruiser, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the onboard entertainment. I frequently visit the Orlando area theme parks, so I am only familiar with theme park live shows, but I was totally aware that shows on cruise ships vary greatly from those I’ve personally watched in Orlando. I just didn’t know by how much. Hint: the shows vary immensely . . . but in a good way. The shows on Harmony of the Seas are high-quality productions. They’re the type of shows you would be paying big bucks for to see on land, but, at sea, it’s all included in the price of your cruise.
During my cruise, I watched three of the major productions: Grease, 1887, and The Fine Line.
In short, Grease was well done. The props, the performers’ singing and acting, the technical effects, and the overall performance were wonderful. Additionally, the theater in which Grease was performed in was grand and classy, providing an excellent atmosphere for the show.
Unlike Grease, 1887 is neither a musical nor a stage show. 1887 is an ice skating show that takes you on a magical, time-traveling journey. The show uses lighting effects, props, and images to help drive the story. To further enhance the show, the cast performs tricks that wow the crowd. I must say that I was a bit hesitant as to if I should have watched this show or not considering that I don’t really care to watch ice skating performances, but the show was actually good. My only critique is that the rink is rather small, so it sort of limits the show’s capabilities.
For me, The Fine Line was the most striking show on the Harmony of the Seas, and there are good reasons for this. The Fine Line is largely an acrobatic show that features a massive pool that can transform into a dry platform as well. The Fine Line uses projections, video, music, and water effects to help drive the show, perhaps making it the most technologically advanced show onboard. You’re kept entertained throughout the entire performance because of such elements and the outstanding acts, such as high dives and tightrope walking from 107 feet above sea level. Describing the show doesn’t come close to watching it in person. Occasionally, however, there was just a tad bit too much occurring at once, which made it a little difficult to keep up with everything happening. Nonetheless, the show was still stellar.
Harmony of the Seas features many themed dining locations spread throughout the different neighborhoods that are both included in the price of your cruise and cost extra. The unique thing about these restaurants is that a great deal of them are in themed environments, which makes for a special experience. My personal favorite was the Windjammer Marketplace because you can grab any meal you want at any time. Plus, this dining location provides stunning views of the ship’s areas, the ocean, and the ports (if the ship is docked). The main dining room is also a great dining location. The main dining room is separated into three decks and referred to as either the American Icon (deck 3), The Grande (deck 4), or Silk (deck 5); each deck features a different theme. I found the food there to be appetizing; however, the menu is limited in meal offerings.
Although I will not discuss my experience at all of the dining locations on the Harmony of the Seas, I will say that I was satisfied with the options available. My only complaints, which are nothing serious, are that I didn’t like how some of the meat offerings in the Windjammer Marketplace were only cooked at medium rare. Moreover, the donuts were not the best as they lacked flavor and the cookies, specifically the chocolate chip cookies, were not all that great. In fact, the chocolate chip cookies tasted almost exactly like the Cookie Crisp cereal. The only difference was that these cookies were not crispy, they were simply hard. Furthermore, the pizza lost its taste after being left out for a while. I should add that when it’s fresh, however, it does taste fairly good, especially when you sprinkle some crushed red pepper on it. These comments are solely based on my personal preferences as other people may feel differently about this. Regardless, the dining options were still good and up to par.
For my vacation on the Harmony of the Seas, I stayed in a stateroom that can sleep up to four people and provided a Central Park balcony cabin. Some people prefer not to stay in the cabins overlooking the interior neighborhoods due to the noise levels and the lack of privacy, but I actually enjoyed it because it gave me the opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of Central Park. While I would have preferred a private view, which is why ocean view cabins are so popular (and pricey), it’s not like you get much privacy with a balcony room in a large city either. What I largely enjoyed about the staterooms on the Harmony of the Seas is that they’re rather spacious despite their small size in square feet. I also liked the style of the staterooms because of their simplistic design, clean-edge furniture, and use of blue, white and various shades of brown; this gave the stateroom an inviting atmosphere, I feel. Plus, the shower used a glass door versus a curtain, allowing for more space when bathing. What I didn’t like, however, was that the bed and sofa bed were not very comfortable; they were hard, and the pillows weren’t all that soft either. In spite of this, I somehow slept quicker on the cruise than I normally do. I’m thinking it may have been because of the rocking motion of the ship.
In addition to all of the topics I discussed, the service onboard was outstanding. The stateroom attendant for my cabin provided superb service and the dining staff was always kind. As a matter of fact, the service was unlike any I’ve ever experienced. The stateroom attendants not only clean your room, but they also prepare your room for bedtime. On top of that, my attendant always ensured my family and I had a comfortable stay and even helped find an item I lost in the hallway. The dining staff provided stellar service in a different manner. They were respectful to everyone and assisted you with any request you had, whether it be with serving meals that met your dietary needs or bringing a drink to your table in the buffet-style restaurants. The sports staff, on the other hand, were not quite as hospitable, except for a few employees. At many times, they somewhat disregarded guests and instead socialized with their coworkers. There’s nothing wrong at all with conversing with your friends, but you can do so while also acknowledging guests. Still, for the most part, it’s apparent that the Royal Caribbean staff works hard to give guests stellar service.
Harmony of the Seas is truly a magnificent ship, and there’s nothing like it (except for the other Oasis-class ships, of course). It’s amazing how much cruise ships have evolved over the years. They have transformed from a mode of transportation to a floating resort. Cruise ships themselves are now a part of the adventure, and this is possible because of how large they have become, allowing for more offerings to be placed onboard. Harmony of the Seas is the perfect example of this. The vessel features more than many hotels on land do, which is why it attracts so many people. During my trip, there were more than 6,000 passengers onboard. It was unbelievable how many other people were vacationing with us, but it did not feel like that was the case at all. Honestly, it was hard to believe at all. Royal Caribbean designed the ship in such a way that it never really seems overcrowded, and the incorporation of the neighborhoods may be the reason behind this as they help spread the crowds throughout the ship. Even the boarding and disembarkation process was smooth despite there being so many guests. Although the ship does have some slight downsides—none of which are major—it should be noted that nothing is perfect, and my overall experience was great. Overall, Harmony of the Seas did not disappoint me. It was everything I expected it to be plus more, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun-filled vacation even if you think you may not like cruising.