A Week On Board Harmony of the Seas
Everyone wants to live in perfect harmony right? For one whole week that was pretty much what we did. To date we have remained “loyal to Royal” for our family cruises, that’s not to say it wont change, there are many other fantastic cruise lines out there that we cannot wait to explore in the future. Our favorite ship of all, so far has to be Royal Caribbeans’ Harmony of the Seas.
The Sheer Size
Gazing up at one of the world’s largest cruise ships, I stood in awe, totally dumbfounded at the sheer size of the ship we were about to make our home for the week ahead. Instead of feeling the fear I felt the very first time I stood at the docks, looking up at a cruise ship, I squeaked with sheer excitement, my legs couldn’t move as quick as I would have liked them to in order to embark and explore. My parents had disembarked the very same ship, the very same day from the pre-inaugural cruise, and we met them at the docks beforehand. Both my Mum and Dad had been keen to tell us, or perhaps warn us that not everything was quite ready on board, my mum explained that she didn’t want us to be disappointed. My immediate family, and that of my extended family have often chosen Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas (Indy) as their first choice of ship. Carol and Alan (the parents) absolutely adore Indy and will always be heard stating, with blinding clarity that Indy is the best ship out there and cannot be beaten.
I must state that my parents have not tried many other cruise lines, therefore their quotes are not to be taken as just. Although, we do agree that Indy is a magnificent ship, which we also adore. In addition to my parents warning, we had heard mixed reviews in the media. There was an unbelievable amount of hype surrounding Harmony of the Seas at the time, after all, this was the worlds largest cruise ship sailing from Southampton in the U.K. Keen to get on board and make up our own minds up, we said our swift goodbyes and headed to check in. As always, check in was smooth and effortless and took no longer than 5 minutes, there was an obvious buzz surrounding the docks and everyone seemed just as eager as us to board the ship.
So what was our first impression? Stepping on to the ship, the first big difference we noticed; this ship had escalators! Honestly, this alone took us by complete and utter surprise, lets not forget the fact we were stood on a cruise ship and not shopping in the middle of John Lewis, Debenhams or Harrods!
We had previously sailed on a handful of large, huge in fact – cruise ships; This however, this wasn’t large, it wasn’t huge, it was, in fact, a mega ship.
In anticipated awe we stood, eyeballs popping out of our sockets…
Firstly, and with some amount of desperation we made our way to Central Park; one out of the seven neighborhoods on board Harmony of the Seas. The vision of lush green plants and tropical trees spiraling some two deck above was almost inconceivable due to the fact that I feel needs reiterating, we are still talking about a cruise ship that was soon to set sail into the endless horizon. Central Park could be considered the heart of the ship, due to its strategic location. Tiffany’s, Cartier and many more specialist shops can be found in Central Park, as well as a good handful of specialty restaurants. My absolute top tip for Central Park is to make sure, if you’re ever on board Harmony of the Seas you visit Central Park when the sun goes down. The illuminations cast a mesmerizing spell on the park that will ensure you’re captivated for for some time.
Astonishingly the Boardwalk is home to its very own Aqua Theater, a full sized carousel featuring 18 traditional figures all suspended from poles and many more restaurants. The Aqua theater is found in the Boardwalk at the very aft of the ship. This is in the style of an amphitheater which celebrates water, light displays, Olympic style gymnastics/acrobatics and some mouth gaping moments. Do not miss an aqua show if you’re ever on board an Oasis class mega ship, be sure to get there early in order to be seated. This is perhaps the most popular show on board, therefore it does pack out fast. We were lucky enough to not have to sit and wait. Find out more about this later in the post.
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Once again, Royal Caribbean bring the outside in: The Royal Promenade is a feature on the majority of the cruise lines ships and is certainly a major feature that is worshiped by many. Here you can sit a relax in a pub, grab a baguette and coffee to go, order pizza, shop some more as if you were not already shopped out enough, order your favorite tipple from the unique Bionic Bar, which is retro in decor. You could be forgiven if you thought you had stepped back in time to a bar that was perhaps from the 80’s era, that is until you take sight of a couple of robotic arms serving the beverage you just ordered from a tablet. I would recommend that you try this one off experience on board. We were blown away by the choice of drinks on offer and how simple the process was. This is certainly a must for all techy fans.
In addition to trying out the Bionic Bar, I would recommend attending at least one street party. Yes I know, an actual street party on board a cruise ship. These are so much fun for families and people of all ages. Usually run by the ships Cruise Director and their entertainments team, they can be seen dressed up in all sorts of party outfits, dancing and singing, getting everyone on board in the party spirit. A ships street party doesn’t usually start until the late hours, so this may be difficult to attend if you have small children, although you can take advantage of the cruise lines’ baby sitting service if this is good for you. Alternatively, there are a number of street parties on board no matter the length of your cruise. For us as a family with children in the age range of 10-12 who love their sleep, we attend every other street party, that way the children are able to catch up on their sleep before the next party.
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Now I’ve never been to Las Vegas and neither have I had a desire to visit. Friends and family tell me it’s out of this world so I wont rule it out completely. For now though, the closest experience to Vegas is probably my time spent on board Harmony of the Seas in Casino Royale. I must add that I had only ever watched people play at the tables, apart from this one time in my home city where my father had placed a bet for me. You have to try everything once in life, surely? Music is played throughout the casino and the vibe inside is that of glitz, glamour, gambling and high spirits. I was privy to a conversation between a seriously smart dressed group of adults who were seemingly comparing the venue – Casino Royale to those in Vegas, and the consensus was that Casino Royale is just as good!
There is a vast and enormous amount of gambling options from slot machines to blackjack tables and Roulette.
If you don’t fancy a flit in the Casino, there is still plenty of other choices on board. Head to the theater where you’re sure to see a show that rivals London’s West End or Manhattans Broadway. Alternatively, you can make it a night to remember or perhaps for some – forget, by visiting the numerous bars and clubs on board ship. As if this wasn’t enough, you could always pop by The Attic; a comedy club that will ensure you come away with an achy jaw from all those giggles and belly laughs. I would strongly advise for those of you who wear makeup – waterproof mascara is a must!
The Pool and Sports Zone
This is where the fun is at for adults as well as children. Calling all thrill seekers! You can take your pick; The Ultimate Abyss, a ten-story high black hole slide, featuring graphics, various sounds and colossal speed. Grab a slide mat and off you go. This is not for the faint hearted. Anticipation builds whilst you wait to slide because you will find yourself stood on a glass platform, that’s right, all that separates you from the depths of the ocean is glass! My husband enjoyed the ride so much he went on again and again. Once was enough for me, it was a lot of fun. The girls however, wanted to sit this one out. There are a handful of water slides on board Harmony of Seas, some tamer than others, this was another part of the ship where my husband could be found often. The children loved the slides too, for my youngest, she preferred the comfort of the familiar main pools and Splash-away Bay, the child friendly play area.
Of course, the ship has the popular feature of not one but two Flo-Riders; Surf simulation pools. These are definitely worth a go. For those of you who don’t know, surfing is in fact my favorite past time. Although I was never very good at it, I enjoyed it copious amounts. I would have to say the Flo-Rider is a fantastic insight into the real deal and so much fun too!
In addition to the water based activities you have the traditional sports court, found on most, if not all of Royal Caribbeans’ ships, a rock climbing wall, bigger than any I’ve ever seen at sea and my personal favorite, the zip line on deck 16 that extends over the open center of the ship. You have superb, breathtaking views of the Boardwalk and ocean here. I may or may not have gone on this many times! Do not forget to sign your waiver and tie your shoes tight before zipping. The top decks are the place to be on this mega ship, great for dolphin spotting too!
As with the majority of ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet, Harmony of The Seas does have a designated area for children of all ages, and this covers pretty much half an entire deck. Dreamworks characters can regularly be seen strolling around the ship, including meet and greets at specified times, in specified locations, which children of all ages adore. I recall the girls meeting PO from Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, Fiona, Gloria from Madagascar, those pesky penguins, and also Puss in Boots. Your children will be sure to be entertained on deck 14. For the older children, the ship features a video games lounge where the teens can chill out together, meet new friends and have some much needed time out from their family. Isn’t that the harsh truth…
The Greek themed Vitality Spa and Fitness Centre is simply stunning and offers a vast range of treatments just for you. If you truly want to feel pampered, you can book yourself in for a facial, manicure, massage and many more treatments. I personally love to book a manicure and have my hair styled on a formal evening. If you wish to do this, be sure to get in there early as lots of people like to be pampered ready for formal night. Furthermore if you would like to experience well being and relaxation, you can attend a Yoga or Pilates class for the ultimate chill. I would advise you to check out the prices before booking as there is a cancellation charge for missed appointments or late cancellations.
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Our Overall Conclusion
Without a shadow of doubt, Harmony of the Seas is our favorite cruise ship to date. We were somewhat anxious when my parents told us at the docks that things weren’t quite ready for the Maiden Voyage and although this was true, it did not stop us having a wonderful week. There is is much to do on this fabulous ship. Our girls loved every minute of the sea days and so did we for that matter. We have enjoyed every cruise we have ever been on. However being able to experience the added extras of an Oasis Class mega ship was out of this world and almost surreal.
Our youngest daughter celebrated her 8th birthday on board. The staff went out of their way to ensure that it was the best day. Both our girls still both constantly plead with us to go back on board Harmony of the Seas, even it means flying for 8+ hours out to the ship. I do believe that this experience was enhanced a little due to an upgrade. After just two nights of staying in a virtual inside cabin, we were gobsmacked when we were given an upgrade to the Royal Aqua Suite. We had never stayed in accommodation such as this, usually choosing either an inside cabin or balcony at most. The cost of these suites is way out of our budget. Having a suite gave us access to private areas of the ship, complimentary drinks and nibbles which was of course fantastic. Moreover, we had a huge balcony which overlooked the aqua theater, there was no queuing or waiting to watch the aqua show. We invited all of our on board friends up to our balcony to share the experience with us.
My husband calls me the peacekeeper, he believes I wish to make the world a better place, I mean, who doesn’t? With that said, I would like to see more of this among cruise lines in regards to upgrading those that are perhaps in a situation whereby they will never have the opportunity (like us) to experience how the “other half” live on board.
We would highly recommend Royal Caribbeans’ Harmony of the Seas, especially for a family cruise. So far, it has been an experience like no other…
Claire Harris, founder of FirstInitialSea, is a self confessed cruising addict with a serious love for travel. She lives in the United Kingdom with her husband and their three girls. This article first appeared on her website’s blog page. Make sure to follow her on Twitter and Instagram and check out her website to follow her adventures!