Touted as the biggest, boldest and best ever ship in the world, Harmony of the Seas aims to impress... but will it suit a couple of honeymooners or other romantic twosomes?
A stimulation-fest designed to keep passengers active and fed (or, if you prefer, amused and tipsy), it's like an ocean-going three-ring circus where you can occasionally sleep. Day and night, there's always something to do, including thrill rides and waterslides, a zip line and fine wines, hot tubs, and back rubs.
But make no mistake: This ship, like the entire Royal Caribbean fleet, is family-friendly. So if proximity to kids makes you break out in hives, this is not for you. But if you can tolerate the presence of little darlings, you also can find activities and sanctuaries designed exclusively for grownups.
Refuge at Sea
Harmony of the Seas holds 2,747 staterooms that can hold up to 6,780 passengers and there are 2,100 crew members to serve them. That's almost 9,000 people.
Just when you think you can't bear the sight of one more human you're not in love with, your private cabin offers escape from the hordes. Although the ship doesn't feel like Times Square at midnight, there are people everywhere — at the buffet, around the pool, in the elevators.
Harmony features four categories of staterooms, and as a loving couple you may prefer to spend more time in yours than other passengers do. In the spirit of Goldilocks, here's how they rate:
Suites - too big, unless you can afford to splurge
Balcony - just right, but only if you get a water view. Harmony also has balcony cabins overlooking the interior of the ship. Unless you care to observe strangers wandering around below, insist on a port or starboard cabin. What we liked best about ours was the modern couch, a fine spot for cuddling while watching the world float by.
Outside View - Better than an interior cabin, but if you want to feel the ocean breeze in a private space, having only a porthole window won't cut it
Interior - nicely decorated as they are, these windowless units are not for the claustrophobic.
Tip: Regardless of the category you choose, the higher the deck, the higher the cost of your stateroom. Ironically, lower cabins are the most stable. So if you are afraid you may get seasick, choose an ocean-view balcony stateroom on deck six, seven, or eight.
Feeling Good in the "Neighborhood"
Harmony of the Seas is organized around the theme of neighborhoods,. There are seven of them and most display contemporary works of art and sculpture. These are the sections in the order worth visiting:
- Central Park - a leafy sliver through the center of the ship, this is the most upscale and sophisticated section. It's bracketed by stores, restaurants and bars
- Royal Promenade - More shops, bars, and casual eateries plus The Big Head
- Pool & Sport - land sports at sea plus swimming, hot tubs, hip to hip loungers and more bars
- Boardwalk - carnival atmosphere complete with a Starbucks and Ski-Ball lanes
- Vitality Spa & Fitness - No kids, know peace
- Entertainment Place - spaces for a variety of performances
- Youth Zone - No kids? No need to visit!
Climb the Wall on Harmony of the Seas
Active couples have plenty of ways to physically challenge themselves onboard.
Get high by climbing one of the two rock-climbing walls, each 43 feet tall. Or whoosh nine decks in the air along the zip line, which spans 82 feet across.
The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide on a ship at 150 feet above sea level, takes you through a darkened tube and deposits you in the Boardwalk neighborhood, where you can recharge at Johnny Rockets, Sabor Taqueria or Starbucks. There's also a full-sized basketball court and miniature golf range.
Water lovers can surf at sea on one of two FlowRider simulators (it's not easy to stay upright!) or spree down one of three multi-story water slides.
When you need to get out of the sun and chill, glide inside to the ice-skating rink, where skates are available.
Be Choosy About Cuisine
There is one truly great restaurant on board: 150 Central Park is both its name and location. It was conceived by Michael Schwartz, a highly regarded Miami chef. Choosing from the menu is a challenge as everything, as well as the service, is excellent.
Start with a tuna tartare appetizer, which is made for you tableside and with a flourish. As an entrée, you can't go wrong with mahogany black cod bathed in miso or braised beef short ribs. Desserts, alas, are a disappointment, so skip them — and satisfy your sweet tooth later at the self-serve frozen yogurt kiosk on Deck 15.
To be on the safe side, make online reservations for 150 Central Park before you cruise. If you try your luck onboard at the restaurant, you may be disappointed as reservations are based on availability, the restaurant is small, and it's in demand.
Find Sanctuary in the Adults-Only Solarium
When you're not feeling particularly family friendly, escape to the three-deck, open-air Solarium, which is for grownups' pleasure only. It includes a swimming pool and two soothing whirlpools.
Spa Treatments for Couples
Also childfree, the ship's Vitality Spa and Fitness is home to three dedicated couples suites, where 50-, 75-, and 90-minute Swedish massage can be performed. Couples may also enjoy tandem Elemis Deeper than Deep hot stone massages or a Bathing Ritual combined with a full body massage.
If, like some spa lovers, you prefer to take your treatment alone, you can opt for a variety of singular massages, wraps, facials, and acupuncture.
Catch a Performance
In an attempt to provide something for everyone, Harmony offers entertainment on four different stages: theatrical, water, aeronautical, and on ice.
As a general rule, entertainment on cruise ships isn't very good, although you can depend on it being loud. Yet there is a show to recommend on Harmony: Set in Paris at the end of the 19th century, "1887" is a skating ballet that segues from a classic romance complete with bride and groom to colorful scenes on the ice that depict travel through history to imaginary futuristic worlds.
If that doesn't appeal, keep in mind that you can download content from Netflix and Amazon Prime to watch onboard without being connected to the Internet.
Imbibe at Boleros Bar
There are many, many bars aboard Harmony, ensuring that you can spend your stay anywhere on the lubricated-to-anesthetized continuum. The ship's beverage packages make it cheaper for frequent tipplers to achieve the latter while spending less on booze.
Faced with a surfeit of watering holes, where's your best bet? Try as many as you like. Harmony's Rising Tide Bar, where cruisers can drink as they descend from Deck 8 to Deck 5 without changing seats, and the mechanical bartenders at the Bionic Bar attract novelty lovers, but adult couples may be happiest in the more intimate Boleros Bar.
Bars and the Solarium aren't the only adults-only pleasures: The casino may beckon you as well.
Onboard Proposals, Weddings and Vow Renewals
Marrying on board a ship is a fun and affordable way to tie the knot. Royal Weddings Packages can make the arrangements, whether it's just for the two of you or an extensive guest list.
You have the option of bringing family and friends along to witness you marrying at sea or marrying in port and then sailing away on your honeymoon, just the two of you.
If you aren't yet married and are looking for a novel way to propose in a unique venue, the company can help to plan that.
Are you already married but believe a cruise would be an ideal place for your vow renewal? Royal Weddings also arranges these sentimental occasions to meet passengers' personal specifications.
Sail Away with Harmony of the Seas
Harmony of the Seas is home-ported in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and sails 7-day Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries.
To book a cruise directly, go to Harmony of the Seas