Fort Lauderdale 8 – 10 November 2016
The one thing that everyone says about this class of ship is… WOW…and it certainly it has lots of ‘WOW’ about it!
Harmony of the Seas is the 3rd and newest of the Oasis class of ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet. It also has the honour of being the largest cruise ship in the world!
In fact she is only 720 gross tonnes bigger than her sisters Oasis and Allure but the cache of being ‘the biggest cruise ship in the world’ has a certain attraction so I am happy to accept an invitation to join her inaugural 2-night cruise in the US!
The towering size of the ship takes your breath away as you approach the pier. Although slightly taller than even her biggest rivals from other lines, she is a similar length. It’s the width that creates all the space and extra tonnage.
Albeit this taster cruise isn’t full, check-in takes no time at all. There is priority check in for Suite guests and upper tiers of the Crown & Anchor programme and we are on-board 15 minutes after getting out of the taxi!
Exploring the Harmony of the Seas
Arriving into the Promenade ‘neighbourhood’ of the ship you get the first impression of how big she is. The Oasis class of ship is essentially arranged around 3 central ‘neighbourhoods’ which are themed areas of in the middle of the ship that house a lot of the entertainment – Central Park, The Boardwalk, The Promenade and the Entertainment Quarter. The flow between these areas is easy and there are ample lifts and stairways making getting around a ship of this size really easy.
Up top on 15 deck you arrive at the Splash Zone featuring no less than 4 swimming pools, a separate and large kids waterpark plus a set of new waterslides that seemed to be as much a hit with the adults as the kids!
And of course there are not one but two Flow-Riders – one for surfing and one for body-boarding!
Overlooking the bow is a huge adult only sanctuary area covered by glass so lovely and warm in the sun but protected from the breeze when at sea. This area features several large hot tubs as well as a cool plunge pool. When matched with comfortable sun-beds this my favourite place while at sea!
My favourite ‘neighbourhood’ is Central Park. With its real trees, foliage and birds! This area is the location for some of the best specialty restaurants as well as Vintages, an excellent wine bar serving a lovely range of small plates to accompany your wine selection. There is often live music playing in the evening in the Central Park area which is a lovely accompaniment to pre or post dinner drinks at the open air bar located in this area. The Park café is also popular for breakfast or lunch.
Whilst fundamentally the same as the Oasis and Allure of the Seas, there are a few new additions that are worth noting.
A unique feature on any ship – this is a dry slide that drops 10 decks from the top deck and sends you flying into the dark for a 60-second thrill-ride before ejecting you into the Boardwalk neighbourhood. The staff on board use it regularly as it’s the quickest way to get from deck 16 to Deck 6!
Plus there are the 4 new waterslides I mentioned before.
This was actually introduced on the Ovation class of ships and features a dining experience unlike anything you will find at sea or land. The closest would be a Heston Blumenthal restaurant – think lots of dry ice!
Its located in what was the Diamond Lounge on the other Oasis class ships and has a great view over the Boardwalk neighbourhood and out to the Aqua Theatre
This is exactly like the restaurant you would find on land with the same décor, ambiance and menu. I am told that Jamie Oliver is very keen to ensure consistency with the on-land version.
You will find all the other Specialty restaurants you would be familiar with on a Royal Caribbean ship. Jamie’s replaces Giovanni’s but the rest are all there along with the additional ones that are unique to Oasis class ships.
Important: You need to book your speciality restaurant as early as possible before you cruise. They book out early, especially Wonderland and you don’t want to miss these amazing dining experiences at sea.
The Harmony of the Seas famous Bionic Bar
Again, a feature from the Ovation class of ships this is in the spot where the champagne bar is on the other Oasis class ships. Basically you order your cocktail from an i-pad and the robotic ‘bar-tenders’ will mix it and serve it on a bespoke bar.
It’s a bit of a novelty to be honest and you’ll go there once and not bother again! Drinks there are included in the top drinks package though.
I had a balcony cabin overlooking the Boardwalk neighbourhood. This is a great spot if you want to watch the amazing dive show in the Aqua Theatre from the comfort of your own balcony. They also play movies on a screen in this theatre so you can watch a movie from your balcony as well!
The cabin itself is spacious with plenty of storage and a good sized bathroom. An important feature here is the shower stall has a semi-circular glass screen – no more getting caught in the shower curtain!
I was lucky enough to be able to have a look at all the categories of suites on the ship and they are very impressive. The range of suite options is at its best on this class of ships with the Royal Loft, Loft Suite, Aqua Suite and Royal Family suites being stand-outs.
The new Suite Class product on offer on Ovation and Oasis class ships comes with the addition of a dedicated restaurant (Coastal Kitchen) and exclusive lounge placed on deck 17 overlooking the pool area of the ship. These really make the extra you need to pay for a suite great value. Plus you get a Butler in top categories of suite!
Restaurants & Catering
As always you will find excellent value for money in the wide range of specialty restaurants. We dinned in Chops Grill on this cruise and it did not disappoint as usual. Not only for a great meal but for great service.
But one thing I noticed was that the quality of catering in the venues that are included in the cost of your fare was also enhanced. The buffet choice and quality was excellent. I had breakfast both mornings in the Sanctuary Café and enjoyed high quality muesli with a range of nuts and extras and smoked salmon and freshly cooked scrambled eggs – not normal on other classes of Royal ship.
We also had dinner in the American Icon main dining room. Apart from its impressive size – this is main dining room at its biggest – the choice and quality of dishes and standard of service was excellent.
You really can’t get a better value for money holiday than cruising!!
Harmony of the Seas – Summary
The main attraction about a ship of this size, apart from the WOW factor, is the wide range of activities, bars, restaurants and experiences you can have. You will never be bored and to be honest most people who cruise on a ship of this size will tell you 7-nights is not enough!
Even if you’ve been on the other Oasis class ships you need to give Harmony of the Seas a go to experience these new features.
One thing to be aware of, disembarkation (never my favourite day) can be time consuming. Queues at customs and immigration were lengthy so leave plenty of time to make you flight!
Harmony of the Seas Statistics:
Gross Tonnes – 226,000 GT
Length – 362m
Width – 66m
Passengers – 6,780
Crew – 2,300
Decks – 18
By Alastair Fernie – CruiseAway’s Managing Director.