The one word that came to mind when I first caught a glimpse of the gigantic Harmony of the Seas was “WOW!” Looming over Southampton’s City Cruise Terminal, she dwarfed the still impressively large Celebrity Eclipse, Ventura, and Queen Victoria which were all berthed in the cruise capital of the UK that day. I arrived at the terminal ready to board the ship for its very first cruise with fare-paying passengers – a four-night leisurely jaunt to Rotterdam and back. I was really looking forward to returning aboard an Oasis-class ship, after sailing on Oasis of the Seas in January 2010, and I was keen to experience the new attractions on the latest biggest cruise ship in the world.
Check in was fairly swift, but miscommunication by several staff members slowed it down slightly. To accommodate Harmony of the Seas, a giant marquee was erected on the quayside next to the terminal to accommodate waiting guests.
My Balcony Stateroom (#7554) was very spacious and similar to the staterooms I had on Anthem and Ovation of the Seas. I absolutely hated the layout of the stateroom on Oasis of the Seas, but this was so much better and made use of all the available space. The room had a comfortable seating area, plenty of wardrobe and drawer space, as well as a huge flatscreen TV on the wall, plus a spacious bathroom. The size of the balcony was equally impressive.
Harmony of the Seas consists of seven distinct ‘neighbourhoods’ and Central Park on Deck 8 was my favourite. It really didn’t feel like I was on a ship as I meandered down winding paths with tropical flowers and foliage all around me. Occasionally I’d pass a boutique shop or a specialty restaurant, like Chops Grille, Jamie’s Italian and 150 Central Park, or Vintages wine bar and the popular Park Cafe, serving soups, salad and deli sandwiches. Although rather shaded and chilly during the four-night-sailing in the English Channel, I can imagine Central Park would be a lovely place to unwind in the warmth of exciting destinations throughout the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Looking down on the beautiful Central Park from Deck 12 is Wonderland. This magical specialty restaurant, that you enter via a golden door, and which requires a paintbrush to read the menu, first made its debut on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class. On Harmony of the Seas, the restaurant has been expanded into a two-deck-high space to accommodate popular demand, but this has affected the intimacy of the restaurant compared to Quantum-class.
Like other ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet, the Royal Promenade on Deck 5 is the heart of the ship, but on Harmony of the Seas the Royal Promenade is taken to a whole new level. The only bar in the world that I know which has a departures screen, the Rising Tide Bar slowly elevates guests three decks up to Central Park – a journey that takes between five and eleven minutes depending on how busy the bar is. The bar has received a chic new look, but that has come at a price. In fact the bar features very few seats compared to Oasis and Allure of the Seas. On Air is a dedicated sports and karaoke venue. The Royal Promenade is still home to popular favourites, such as Cafe Promenade, Sorrento’s, and the Pub. A few new favourites introduced on Quantum-class can also be found on Harmony of the Seas, such as the futuristic Bionic Bar.
The Boardwalk on Deck 6 has so many fun things on offer. From a vintage carousel with hand-carved animals, to a fortune teller booth and a climbing wall for kids! Not forgetting plenty of eateries, such as Johnny Rockets, Starbucks, and Sabor. The most noticeable feature of the Boardwalk is the brand new purple Ultimate Abyss twin-slides that spiral down ten-decks from the Sports Zone on Deck 16. The Boardwalk leads onto the expansive Aqua Theatre, home to impressive water shows. Sadly the Aqua Theatre remained closed during the entire cruise, so we did not have a chance to see the aqua show “The Fine Line.” With vistas over the Boardwalk from Deck 9, the two-deck-high Dazzles is a quiet lounge by day, but hosts the nightclub in the evening.
The clue is in the title of this neighbourhood! Entertainment Place on Deck 4 is home to the majority of the entertainment venues onboard the largest cruise ship in the world. The Attic is an intimate comedy lounge, whereas across the corridor is Jazz on 4, a soothing jazz bar, home to live musicians. Studio B, is the ship’s ice-rink and offers open-skating sessions during the day and a professional ice show in the evening called “1887: A Journey Through Time,” which was incredible to say the least! Behind Studio B, is Casino Royale, the large casino onboard which has a range of slot machines, tables and a bar which allows smoking. The main Royal Theatre is home to the full-length production show “Grease” and an original Royal Caribbean production called “Columbus: The Musical.” Entertainment Place is also where fleetwide-favourite Izumi can be found.
Pools & Sports Zone
Harmony of the Seas features three main swimming pools and eleven hot tubs, four of which extend over the side of the ship. Children have a dedicated water-park called Splashaway Bay. Harmony of the Seas also has three thrilling water-slides, collectively known as The Perfect Storm. All three include a transparent section that offers a glimpse of Central Park ten decks below! For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the Sports Zone is the place to head for. The zip-line, which is slightly smaller than Oasis and Allure of the Seas, due to an extended Windjammer buffet, is great fun as you glide across the Boardwalk ten-decks below. Like her sisters, Harmony of the Seas has two Flowrider surf simulators, a basketball court and a mini-golf course. At the back is the entrance to The Ultimate Abyss dry-slide, which is just as scary as the ride itself. The slide is the quickest way to reach Deck 6 from Deck 16, taking just 14 seconds as dare-devils reach speeds of up to 22 miles an hour.
For a more relaxing experience, at the front of the ship is the Solarium. The adult-only area has several whirlpools and sun loungers, as well as a bar great for a peaceful cocktail in the sun. The Solarium Bistro is open throughout the day as an alternative venue for breakfast, lunch or evening meal.
In addition to the dining venues already mentioned, Harmony of the Seas offers a wide range of dining choices throughout the day. The main dining room spans Decks 3 to 5 and is divided into three different themes. American Icon Grill on Deck 3 for main seating diners, The Grande on Deck 4 and Silk on Deck 5 for ‘My Time’ diners. Royal Caribbean’s main dining concept is still a real mess at the minute, and confusing for seasoned cruisers, never mind new-to-cruise passengers this ship is trying to attract. I don’t quite understand the need for three distinctly different restaurants, instead of one classical dining room like those found on the Voyager- and Freedom-class.
The Windjammer buffet serves a great selection of cuisine from around the world, and food stations were well spread out which helps with congestion, although dining tables were very close to one another making it quite a squeeze in some places.
Overall, Harmony of the Seas is the perfect ship for millennials, or those new-to-cruise people who still have perceptions that cruising is for the newly wed, over fed and nearly dead. For those wanting a connection with the sea, this ship probably isn’t for you, although there are still some great places to watch the world go by. The facilities on the ship are amazing. There’s lots of people who say they couldn’t imagine being trapped on a ship with over 5,000 passengers and that the ship is too big, but until you’ve been on it, you won’t understand just how spacious and actually how quiet the ship seems to be. Despite all the construction work and unopened venues on its inaugural sailing, it didn’t stop me from having a great time!