Well, that 3-day cruise went really fast. Sailing on one of the largest cruise ships in the world on a 3-day itinerary is not for the faint of heart.
I barely had enough time to get all the pictures and video of the ship to share with our wonderful readers here on Cruise Fever. (You will find my ship tour video in this post along with some of my favorite pics along the way)
But this was the first time Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas was sailing out of her new homeport of Port Canaveral, so I didn’t want to miss it. Although it was brief, I’m so glad I went on this cruise a couple weeks ago.
Sailings on this ship are usually on 7-day itineraries by the way. So don’t worry about trying to cram everything I did into a trio of sleeps.
I’ve sailed on 2 other Oasis class ships: Allure of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas. And while Symphony of the Seas is technically larger (and newer) than Harmony, many Royal Caribbean enthusiasts prefer Harmony for a few subtle reasons which we will discuss.
This article/review will highlight some things I really enjoyed about Harmony of the Seas while diving though some differences with Symphony of the Seas that I noticed.
Related Post: 10 Things You Must Experience on Symphony of the Seas
Watch my video tour and review of Harmony of the Seas:
First some obligatory stats on Harmony:
- Maiden voyage: May of 2016
- Tonnage: 226,963 GT
- Length: 1,188 ft
- Capacity: 5,479 at double capacity
Although an Oasis class ship, Harmony has been infused with some Quantum class upgrades along with a few firsts, like Royal Caribbean’s first water slides at sea.
Maybe I cruised these Oasis class ships in the wrong order, having sailed on Symphony before Harmony, but it really allowed me to make some comparisons between the two vessels.
So, let’s take a look at my experience on this cruise.
Embarkation on Harmony
To get from the MCO airport to Port Canaveral I used a shuttle service, opting for Go Port Canaveral once again since they offered early transports back to the airport after disembarkation.
I arrived around 11am, and there was quite a long line forming outside the building. It look about 25 minutes and I was inside the terminal ready to go through security. There were probably 7 or 8 entry points through security so this helped speed up the process a little.
Once through security I got checked-in and went straight to the line to get on the ship. It did surprise me that they wanted to get my picture again even though I had already taken a passport style picture using the app. From the time of arrival at the terminal to getting on the ship was about an hour.
My cabin was in a great location
We just had a guest post on the best cabin locations on a cruise ship, and I felt like the placement of my stateroom was ideal for this cruise. I was located on deck 14 forward. Usually I would prefer something a bit more mid-ship so I would never be that far from either extreme. But having the solarium and solarium bistro (my favorite place to eat a quick breakfast) so close to my stateroom was a big plus.
I’m all for taking the stairs on a cruise to help justify eating everything in sight, but it was fantastic just having to go up one deck to be on the main pool deck. Sometimes I would shoot out of bed in the early morning to catch some pictures of the sunrise, and being one deck away from the open views of the lido deck came in handy.
The balcony stateroom itself was spacious, had separated closets, a nice big circular vanity mirror, and a shower door that was solid. The desk in the cabin also had more power outlets than I could ever use as well, which is a big step up from ships of days past when you had to bring a power strip to charge anything. There are (2) USB ports and (3) 110 volt outlets at the desk and another outlet by the bed.
The TV didn’t have much of a channel selection to brag about, but Royal Caribbean has some of the fastest internet at sea, and I gladly took advantage of that. The NBA playoffs were going on and while no channel on the TV carried the games I was able to use my home provider to log in and watch. Of course, the games were also being played down at Sabor on the Boardwalk if I wanted to watch down there.
For this 3-day cruise the internet charges were $53.97 and I went with the fastest internet available.
The Boardwalk’s Starbucks and more
I much prefer having Starbucks on the Boardwalk than in the promenade like it is on Symphony. The Boardwalk is much more open and roomy, and you can enjoy your cup of brew in the open air instead of a bustling promenade.
Also, the promenade already has Café Promenade where I can get a cup of joe (maybe not Starbucks quality but still).
The Starbucks on Harmony has a nice outdoor sitting area as well with tables and chairs, where coffee sippers can enjoy watching the carousel spin around.
There isn’t an icecream/candy shop on Harmony like there is on Symphony, but for me that was always a novelty thing anyway. I’m sure the kids would disagree with me.
I do like that the arcade is on the opposite side of the restaurant, Sabor (this is Playmakers on Symphony). There is another arcade up on the pool deck by the way, and it’s probably twice the size of the Boardwalk arcade.
Speaking of Sabor, this place has legendary guacamole and some excellent Mexican food. It’s also a great place to watch the game. Just know there is a cover charge for eating their endless apps and desserts.
The Royal Caribbean gift shop is also on the Boardwalk. On Symphony this shop is on the promenade, the same place that is a Kate Spade on Harmony.
Still a great solarium
So, I do miss the Big Wonder artwork found on Symphony of the Seas. It’s gorgeous at night.
Harmony has a simpler design but still offers a very open space for soaking in the sun in a relaxing setting. Also, although there is no pool on Harmony –opting instead for a walkthrough mister — Harmony does have an extra deck on deck 14, making it 3 decks of immersive views.
There are a couple hot tubs in this adult only solarium, but my favorite part of this space is the ability to walk out onto the “wings” of the ship. On the port side you can walk over the glass floor and look down to the sea or use the binoculars to see if any other ships are to be found in sight. It’s also a good spot for sailaway as you can see both the port and the side of the ship.
Solarium Bistro was one of my go-to spots for a quick breakfast or lunch. It’s much less crowded than the buffet and I could eat at one of the tables outside the bistro for some al fresco dining, all while still inside the solarium. I really enjoyed that space.
Those iconic cantilevered hot tubs on either side of this Oasis class vessel are just outside the solarium. They have a couple TV’s over them too, just in case you get tired of a beautiful ocean view.
Relaxing with a snack at Park Café
Besides eating at Solarium Bistro I loved eating at Park Café. Maybe you sense a theme here in me trying to avoid the buffet.
Don’t get me wrong, the buffet on Harmony had great selection and quality of food. It’s just too small for a ship with this many people on it, and it was typically too crowded for a comfortable dining experience. Sure, you could go non-peak times to be able to actually get an empty table, but my experience was that it was a tad too hectic. Just my opinion.
But I digress. Back to Park Café. It’s in the heart of Central Park (the best place to take a leisurely stroll on the ship) and the food is included in the price of your cruise. And with many health-conscious choices it’s basically guilt-free dining.
They offer everything from soups of the day to paninis and fresh cuts of meat at lunch time. I also had a couple fresh salads at Park Café. The staff make it for you and add any extra toppings you’d like.
There are tables both inside and out, but any time I can enjoy a meal in the fresh air of the Caribbean I do it. At night the café is closed, but you can sit on these same chairs to enjoy some relaxing acoustic guitar music and other musical selections.
I finally ate at Wonderland
Harmony of the Seas has a 2 story Wonderland restaurant, and it overlooks the boardwalk with its 2-deck window.
After reading all the reviews and hearing about this dining venue I finally coughed up the extra $45 to experience this place for myself. Since the cruise was so short there weren’t any dining packages available.
I will say, the quality of food was incredible, and it was both a meal and experience all in one. Even the menus are unique in that you have to brush water onto a paper in order to see what selections are available. There are different tracks you can follow that correspond to unique culinary selections. Or, you can just have your waiter do all the creative work for you. I chose the latter.
I ended up eating some things I don’t think I would ever eat otherwise, but the explosion of flavors was really something delightful. I’m no food critic, but from the presentation to the taste eating at Wonderland was a fun, creative journey I did not regret.
If you’re not very adventurous with your taste buds I would say this is not the place for you. But hey, it’s a cruise. You might as well try something new and look at it as entertainment as well.
By the way, the best coffee on the ship can be found at Wonderland. I’m telling you, after the decadent chocolate melting ball went into my mouth I needed something a little bitter to help balance all that sweetness. Order a coffee at the end of your meal and thank me later.
Entertainment is everywhere you look
I’m still amazed at how much entertainment Royal Caribbean can pack onto their ships. Sure, they are the largest ships at sea, but still, there is always something to do or some show to watch.
A couple of my favorite venues are the Aqua Theater and Studio B. The Fine Line was the Aqua Theater show being performed on Harmony, and it was very popular. You should get reservations for these shows for the best seats, but even if you forget to reserve your tickets you can just show up a few minutes before when they let in everyone else.
It’s incredible to me that these performers can jump from that platform into a tiny pool below on a moving ship. It boggles my mind every time. The Fine Line is a combination of high-wire choreography, high-diving, tight-rope-walking, and dance routines mixed with strobe lighting and intense music.
Even on a 3-day cruise The Fine Line was performed at least 3 times so you can always find a way to work into your schedule the things you want to do without missing out.
Studio B was showing 1887. This ice-skating show is a lot of fun to watch even if you’re not usually into ice-skating. The lighting effects, projection animations, costumes, and just amazing talent of the performers make for a fun night of entertainment. 1887 is a story that weaves through time and has a variety of scenes to keep things interesting. The guest performer just wowed the audience as well. You can see some of it in the video on this page.
And I have to mention the theatre. The ship was showing 2 shows on my cruise: Grease and Columbus the Musical. I only had time for one so I went to the latter. This show is a musical parody based on a distant cousin of Christopher Columbus who just can’t seem to live up to his name. The set and props for this show were incredible, and as this is an original production you won’t be able to see Columbus the Musical anywhere but with Royal Caribbean.
There are many other entertainment options as well. There is an escape room, karaoke, the Stowaway Piano Player, game shows, comedy shows, musical performances, and more. Tell us what your favorite entertainment options are on an Oasis class ship in the comments below.
The comedians onboard during this cruise were Mike Pace and Monique Marvez which were both really good. I really enjoyed their family friendly shows and Mike was just awesome. I love how he recognized those who served in the military during his performance as well.
The Sports Court
There’s a reason Oasis class ships forever changed the cruising industry. And the amazing sports court is part of that.
Harmony and Symphony just kicked it up a notch. It’s impossible to miss the Ultimate Abyss slide on the back of Harmony of the Seas when you see this ship passing by. It’s gigantic and somewhat intimidating to look at when you’re standing in the Boardwalk looking up.
This dry slide is a ton of fun and takes you down 10 decks in a few seconds. It’s way more fun than taking the stairs and much faster than taking the elevator. You have to have both hands free so you can grab on to the friction-reducing pouch as you go down, but it’s something everyone needs to try, provided they are at least 44 inches tall.
Then you have the 2 flowriders, a full-size basketball court, a mini-golf course, and a zip-line across the Boardwalk. And even if you don’t’ want to partake in any of those activities, lots of cruisers just enjoy watching everyone else have all the fun. The Flowrider bleacher area is always full of onlookers waiting for someone to wipe out.
I did notice a couple big differences between Harmony and Symphony on the sports court. There is a different restaurant right near the basketball court area, and there are also fewer tables on Harmony. Minibites is the eating place on Harmony as opposed to my favorite El Loco Fresh on Symphony.
Minibites offered breakfast and lunch items that were fairly basic. For lunch you could get nachos, burgers, and hot dogs (Although I prefer to get my hot dogs from the Doghouse on the Boardwalk). There are also some desserts you can get, and I did take advantage of that a few times.
The ice-cream stations are right near this area as well. And on either side of the ship you can grab a cone to go. In the middle of a sea day there will be a slight line though, and I do wish some were required to get lessons on how to properly make an ice-cream cone from a soft-serve machine.
I mentioned the extra tables on Symphony. So, Harmony of the Seas has an extra set of ping-pong tables just past Minibites, making 4 total tables for cruisers to enjoy. On Symphony this same area behind the basketball court is used for extra tables and chairs, perhaps because they knew El Loco Fresh would be more popular and people would need more spaces to eat.
Related: Best Cruises for Adrenaline Junkies
A word on reservations
Yes, there is a ton to do on this ship, and you will never be bored. But this is a ship that will be best enjoyed with some careful planning ahead of time. You will want to get reservations for any of the shows you want to see at the times you want to see them.
This also means you should also know when you will be having dinner so you can coordinate your dinner times with show times.
If you want to eat at any specialty dining restaurants (which I highly recommend) you can also set the times based on your reservations.
It’s free to make reservations, you can do it on the app (which you definitely should use throughout your cruise), and if you miss a time because of a conflict it’s no big deal.
The app also comes in handy for seeing what you have on your reservation agenda as well. After making several reservations it’s easy to forget.
A Happenin’ Promenade
There is always something going on in the promenade on Harmony of the Seas. The parades Royal Caribbean puts on in the promenade is a must-see event as well, especially if you have kids in your group. I recommend watching the parades from either Schooner Bar (if you want to be comfy) or right in the middle of the action near the shopping counters.
The “spinning head” is a prominent feature that had a way of mesmerizing me every time I walked passed.
I poured a few cups of coffee from Cafe Promenade and enjoyed a few tasty pastries and dessert items. And of course Sorrento’s offers pizza through out most of the day and night, so you can always grab a bite after the buffet has closed.
On Air is at one end of the promenade and that’s where a lot of karaoke took place. At night you could also find live music at Boot and Bonnet or Boleros.
The ever-popular sidewalk sales were always a bustling time in the Promenade as well, as cruisers look to score deals on t-shirts, watches, and jewelry.
The lighting above the promenade really transforms the mood of the space and it changes throughout the day.
If you’re ever wondering what to do next on the ship, just walk through this area and you’ll find something to peek your interests.
A great gym and a decent spa
The gym on Harmony of the Seas is absolutely fantastic for any fitness-conscious cruiser. With a ship this big you need a lot of space for those early morning workouts on a sea day, and Harmony does not disappoint.
When first touring through the gym I heard several people comment on how impressive the space was and how much they like the variety of equipment.
It’s easier to show you the gym in the video in this post rather than try to describe it. Besides dozens of treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, free weights, and exercise machines there is a room for RTX suspension training and yoga, and another room dedicated for spinning classes.
Vitality Café is outside the gym and is the perfect place to grab a healthy snack made for the purpose of helping you refuel after a workout. Too many people skip over this place and head straight for the buffet, but grab a smoothie at Vitality Café or at least some fresh fruit.
By the way, you can access the running track on deck 5 through the gym stairs. I love this feature because sometimes you want to break free from a treadmill and you can get some amazing views running around this track.
The spa itself, as is common with these Oasis class ships, is slightly underwhelming. I’m referring more to the thermal suite than to the treatment rooms, which are very nice.
The thermal suite consists of 8 heated tile loungers which have a view of a piece of artwork on a wall. Because of its location there is no stunning view of the sea.
Behind the loungers there is a steam suana, a dry suana and a couple nice showers. And that is the totality of the thermal suite.
It seems like the thermal suite area was more of an after thought, but perhaps Royal Caribbean just made a judgement call on knowing their own customers and decided passengers had other priorities while on board.
I have to mention the lovebugs
No, I’m not talking about any PDA taking place on the pool deck. I’m talking actual lovebugs. I have never seen lovebugs this bad in all my life. Of course I’m not a Floridian but even locals were commenting on how bad it was. Even on the bus ride from Orlando’s airport to Port Canaveral there were lovbugs crawling and flying around the inside of the bus.
When I first got on the ship these prolific little creatures had about taken over the lido deck.
There were swarms of them so bad that you could not walk 5 feet without several landing on you. Every railing, lounger, nook and cranny was dotted by these amorous bugs and no one was really relaxing on any of the outside decks of the ship.
This was while Harmony was still in Port Canaveral, and I dreaded that this 3-day cruise was going to turn into a nightmare.
But the crew on Harmony were amazing! By nightfall we were at sea and there were millions of these dying bugs being cleaned up by the staff. They worked all through the night and by morning there were only a few stragglers left. It was truly impressive to see how hard this cleanup crew worked, and the captain thanked them over the loudspeaker as well.
Testing out the dock at Perfect Day at Cococay
One cool thing we got to do on this cruise was a surprise visit to Royal Caribbean’s newly renovated private island at Cococay. The only disappointing part was we didn’t actually get off the ship. The company wanted to test out this Oasis class vessel in the dock at Perfect Day at Cococay to make sure it fit and everything was in order.
So we spent about 10 minutes docked at Cococay before having to wave goodbye to this amazing private island. It was kind of a tease, but hopefully I will get the chance to check out Perfect Day at Cococay in the near future.
If you’ve been here already let us know in the comments what you thought about it and those amazing water slides.
I used to assume that these Oasis class ships are simply too big for me, but after sailing on them I always fall in love with the design and the 7 neighborhood concept.
Yes, you could be on a ship with over 5,000 people, but because the design spreads out the cruising population in such a creative way, it still feels very open and uncrowded.
There are certain times it does feel a bit cramped. Just a visit to the pool deck around 1pm on a sea day will show that, but there are always so many things to do and see in areas that are totally void of any crowds.
Walking through Central Park at night is one of my favorite activities to enjoy. There is always some kind of ambient live music filling the lush gardens and providing such a calming environment. This makes eating at Jamie’s Italian, Chops Grille, or 150 Central Park a real draw as well, since you can walk right into this little “oasis” right after eating a fantastic dinner.
Whether you want to relax in the expansive solarium or enjoy some thrills with 3 water slides at the Perfect Storm, there really is something for everyone on Harmony of the Seas. It’s great for families (with an awesome Adventure Ocean program), and couples trying to get away from kids for a while can find a few gems onboard to enjoy some solace.
What is your favorite Oasis class ship and what do you think of Harmony of the Seas? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you and pass on your wisdom to our readers.