Harmony of The Seas Review
75 Things to Know
Photos from Harmony of the Seas
75 Things to Know About Harmony of the Seas
An In-depth Cruise Review Plus So Much More. Cruise better. Discover how to get the most out of your cruise. The world’s second-largest cruise ship packs numerous spaces, places, activities, and programs designed for travelers to have a great cruise vacation.
First Things First – Size Matters
This is one MEGA ship!
Spanning 16 guest decks, she encompasses 226,963 gross registered tons, carries 5,497 guests at double occupancy, and features 2,747 staterooms. Having just been bested by her sister Symphony of the Seas, Harmony holds the title of second-largest cruise ship in the world. An advantage of sailing on an Oasis-class ship is the many activities that will surely keep you busy. A disadvantage of sailing on this size of a ship are too many fellow passengers.
While most of the time, I did not get too overwhelmed by all the other passengers sailing with me in July 2019 on a Western Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida. I did, however, lose it a couple of times just trying to jockey for position in line at the handwashing stations. Also, I did give up going to the pool during peak time on sea days because of the crowds. Other than that, I was able to make a plan that afforded my 14-year old son and I to have a great time.
Below are my tips, tricks, hacks, and bullet points about the ship that will help you plan a better cruise on Harmony of the Seas.
- If you are not satisfied with your cabin, check availability and upgrade before you cruise. When I booked the cruise, the balcony staterooms were sold out. Booking at short notice like I did means slim pickings when it came to stateroom availability. I booked an Oceanview Guarantee cabin (a “guaranteed” cabin allows the cruise line to assign a cabin to you). When I got my cabin assignment it was on deck 9 forward. I really did not like this cabin knowing that I would regret not having a balcony. When I checked inventory by performing a search on the cruise line’s website, I discovered a few balcony cabins were available. I decided to upgrade for an additional fee to get a mid-ship extended balcony on deck 9 (a great deck for easy access to Central Park and morning coffee at Park Cafe).
- Download the Royal Caribbean cruise planner app to personalize your cruise experience. The Cruise Planner is available to help you pre-plan your vacation once you get a booking number.
- Use the app (or cruise planning website) to make show reservations. The window usually opens up 60-90 days before a cruise. Unfortunately, reservations to the comedy show were not available. All the available seats were allocated in advance – I was too late.
- Pre-purchase drink packages, dining packages, spa reservations or Voom Internet packages in advance to take advantage of special offers and to save time. Note: there are some times when you can also get discounts on these services onboard.
- Pre-book shore excursions to get the best selections. You can cancel on the ship if you change your mind, just know when the cancellation deadline is.
- Turn your cell phone onto Airplane mode while cruising. You could incur charges up to $7.00 or more a minute for calls.
- Use the Royal Caribbean app before and during the cruise.
- Once onboard the ship, use the Royal Caribbean app to check the daily schedule (although the printed version of the ship’s activities is more accurate), make dining reservations, view menus, and monitor your shipboard account.
- Even though vacation is a good time to “unplug” from the Internet, the ship offers Voom (the name of the high-speed internet service) to connect your phone, tablet, or laptop. Purchase a package in advance or purchase once onboard. There are two Voom packages to choose from. Although I could Facetime with the less expensive package, the more expensive package was used for my son to download and watch a Harry Potter movie. Watch for discounts on Internet packages mid-way through the cruise.
- When your phone is connected to the ship’s WiFi, you may be able to text via iMessage.
How to Cruise Harmony of the Seas
- Get ready to walk. Harmony of the Seas has 16 passenger decks, 24 guest elevators, and plenty of staircases to help you stay ship shape. The ship is 1188 feet long, and 215.5 feet wide.
- Be prepared to fight the crowds. The ship can accommodate 6780 guests when every one of the available berths is used in 2747 staterooms. Al the guests share 26 lounges and bars, 4 swimming pools (plus 1 for kids), 9 hot tubs (2 are cantilevered).
- While this Oasis-class ship is built to accommodate a lot of people, there are many outlets available to help distribute the crowds. There are quiet spaces on the ship. I liked the chairs on the Promenade deck and the Solarium.
- Be active; it’s going to be hard not to. Watch a show a the AquaTheater pool, go ice skating, ride the FlowRider, try the Zipline, mini-golf, watch a production at the Royal Theater, go dancing, listen to jazz, swim in the pool, experience the water slides, try your luck at the casino, relax at the spa, eat at one of the 25 food service areas, get a refreshment at one of the 37 bars.
- Avoid getting lost on the ship, use the app that has deck plans or use the “Wayfinder” screens, which are located near the elevators.
- Explore the 7 “neighborhoods”. Try to find Adventure Ocean, Central Park, Boardwalk, Entertainment Place, Royal Promenade, Pool & Sports Zone, and the Vitality Spa & Fitness Center.
- To avoid crowds, make reservations in advance to avoid having to stand-by for tickets. On my cruise, people were standing by in line for the production show of Grease for almost an hour. That is not a good way to spend my vacation time.
- To avoid crowds, consider staying on the ship one day instead of going on a shore excursion. We did this on one of the port days and had a great time exploring the ship. We went to the water slides and FlowRider numerous times because most people were in port and there were minimal lines.
- To avoid crowds at the Windjammer Marketplace buffet, go there during off-peak hours, better yet, try a different venue. The ship offers alternatives to the Windjammer Marketplace at venues that offer breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options. Use the app in advance to get familiar with the menus and venues. I overheard someone say that they wished they knew the Solarium Bistro offered breakfast and lunch, a fact they did not discover until the last couple days of the cruise. Also, there is a wonderful little café on deck 8 that serves great breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. The Park Café is located in Central Park and is a hidden gem. As noted before, I choose deck 9 for my stateroom because I could quickly go down the staircase to get coffee and snacks while my teenager slept in – a very relaxing way to stat the day.
- Go to Guest Services desk before the last couple days to avoid long lines at the end of the cruise. It is often times necessary to speak with someone at Guest Services about your bill, to dispute charges that you don’t agree with, or to get information. Trying to call Guest Services is a waste of time. I tried to connect with Guest Services via the phone on a number of occasions, I was not successful.
Cruise Ship Staterooms and Suites
- Cabin configurations vary. There are 2747 staterooms include a mix of suites, interior cabins; outside cabins (with a window),1,768 balcony cabins, and 85 virtual balcony staterooms. 717 of the staterooms can accommodate third and fourth passengers; there are 46 accessible cabins, 18 Promenade cabins, and 15 Studios. Suites have a bounty of perks that come with them like access to their own restaurant, lounge, and concierge services.
- As noted, room upgrades should be made in advance – Harmony of the Seas sails at full capacity. Although you can ask an upgraded room at check-in, your chances are slim.
- All balcony cabins are not created equal. Some balcony staterooms have small verandahs that face inward (not a view of the sea) with views of Central Park or the Boardwalk. These staterooms were not very private. And they looked like they were hot with the sun beating down on them. Without an ocean breeze, the Central Park and Boardwalk areas tended to be warmer than other places on the ship, which is not ideal when faced with Caribbean humidity.
- Single travelers can book a Studio stateroom category. The price is slightly lower, but don’t expect huge savings. While these cabins have space for one person, when I checked pricing for my brother, the cost was almost the same as my double occupancy stateroom.
- Families and people traveling in groups can book adjoining cabins. Many of the balconies have a locked door that can be unlocked to maximize the fun.
- The interior design of the cabins is nice. Royal Caribbean spends money on hardware when it comes to furniture, fixtures, and lighting.
- If you are not in a suite, make sure to bring your favorite toiletries onboard. There is a shampoo/body wash available and regular soap. It’s not the best quality.
- The towels in the bathroom were mostly thin and small. One day the steward did put out some thicker towels, but that was not the norm. Since I am a member of Royal Caribbean’s loyalty program, I was able to request a robe. Ask your stateroom attendant. A robe is a nice amenity.
- I had read that the bed linens were worn and of poor quality. I can confirm that while my son’s bed linens were crisp and new, mine was worn and a little frayed. The pillows were lumpy, and the beds were narrow (especially for us since we are each 6 feet tall). We had a couch in our room that doubled as a bed. One of us would take our blankets to sleep on the couch, while the other person pushed the beds together to get more room. We should have asked the room steward to make the room up for us with our new configuration, alas we did not.
- The shower was ample in size, and the glass shower door was a welcome sight compared to the alternative on some cruise lines that have a shower curtain, which always sticks to me.
- The room steward for our cabin was excellent. He did the best he could with the supplies he had. Ricardo serviced the room twice a day, and we looked forward to our conversations with him. Like everyone we encountered on the ship, he went out of his way to make us feel comfortable and welcome.
- The extended balcony stateroom is great. We loved sitting on the private verandah to enjoy the sights and sounds of the sea. The balcony has a glass wall, which allows unobstructed views of the sea.
Food and Beverage Review
- Use the app to read the daily menus for the dining room and specialty restaurants. I did this in advance and planned my dining choices accordingly.
- Make reservations in advance to specialty restaurants. You can do this by logging into your Royal Caribbean account online or on the app. But be aware that some venues like Wonderland offered discounts onboard midway during the cruise. Izumi and the sushi bar seemed to be the hardest reservations to get. Chops looked busy at night, with plenty of availability during lunch.
- There are 3 dining rooms on the ship. The dining rooms offer early and late dining except one dining room (American Icon Grill) offers a My Time dining option. My Time Dining is a program where you can select times to eat between the hours of 6:00 and 9:30 p.m. The concept is a good one for guests that don’t want a schedule, but the reality is that there is limited availability during peak times. We were able to make My Time reservations once and ended up eating in the dining room twice. We were able to walk right in around 7:00 pm twice during port days and one other time we tried, we would have to wait 30 minutes. At the onset of the cruise, it was a bit of a cluster to get into the dining room. We could dine at 8:30 pm, no problem, but that was too late for us. So instead we ate a lot in the buffet, which was fine this time around.
- When we did eat in the American Icon Grill, my son loved his Lamb Chops, and on another night he ordered a steak. On the other hand, I am a vegetarian, and even though there are options, the options were a little bland. I had better choices at the buffet, especially at the Indian and Asian corner in the back of the Windjammer Café. For meat lovers looking for standard American fare, you will enjoy. For those with special diets, make sure to let the cruise line know in advance because they will accommodate as much as possible.
- Casual dining at the Windjammer Café is available breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is a nightly theme for the food, which is nice touch. There is ample roast meats, soups, cheeses, fruit, Asian food, Gluten-free options, baked goods, desserts, and much more. Breakfast had plenty of meats, eggs, baked goods, smoked salmon, fruit, and more.
- The problem with the Windjammer Café was finding seats during peak times. Although the crew worked tirelessly to clear tables (they often made announcements to leave tables once you finished eating), it was still difficult to find tables. My son and I would find a seat, and then one of us would wait for the other to get their food to help us not get cold food while searching for a table.
- I loved eating a light breakfast at Park Café. Also, Solarium Bistro offered a nice breakfast.
- If your group loves pizza, think about ordering your own at Sorrento’s. Look for nice antipasti items at Sorrento’s as well, which was a pleasant surprise.
- Forget room service. The extra charge for the food is not worth it in my opinion. Not only does it bother me to pay for room service but there is also an automatic 18% gratuity added on the bill for service that I hear takes a long time to get to your room. Although I don’t begrudge a gratuity, the service fee is an issue. But with so many people, I suspect room service wastage could be a big issue as well as staffing.
- You scream we all scream for ice cream. Besides a roving ice cream cart in the Windjammer Marketplace, 4 frozen yogurt machines operate non-stop from opening to close.
- Drinks with alcohol average about $10 per item. If you are planning on drinking, then consider purchasing the Deluxe Drinks Package. If you enjoy wine, beer, or spirits then the drinks package is for you. Pre-purchase the drinks package online for a possible discount. Be aware that all guests in the cabin over 21 will be charged for the drinks package.
- The Deluxe Drinks Package covers bottled water. Ask for Evian water in the Spa or at the Windjammer Marketplace. The Windjammer Café would usually produce the large bottles of Evian (retail price on the ship is over $4.00) for free. These were great to take into port.
- The Deluxe Drinks package also includes juices and smoothies at the Vitality Spa – delish.
Things to Do: Entertainment, Shows, and Activities
- The most popular shows take place in the Royal Theater, AquaTheater, Studio B, and The Attic.
- All the shows are free, but many require a reservation. Get those reservations in advance because if you don’t, someone else will.
- The Royal Theater offers large production numbers. Grease: “The Broadway Musical”, “Columbus…The Musical”, “The Love & Marriage Game Show”, and a couple other solo acts like a juggler and a family comedy show take place here.
- There are two shows at the AquaTheater, “The Fine Line Aqua Show” was offered 4 times, and “Hideaway Heist Aqua Show” was offered in the last sea day. If you don’t have show tickets, don’t worry. You can see the show from numerous places on the aft of the ship.
- Studio B is the location for ice shows. There are two productions available: “1887: A Journey in Time Ice Spectacular”, and “iSkate Ice Show Spectacular”.
- The Attic offers popular comedy shows. Reservations were hard to come by on the ship. These shows are for adults only, and a staff person told me there is hardly anyone that does not show up, which makes it hard to get tickets for no-shows.
- The silent disco is entertaining. Look at the daily program to find out when this event takes place.
- Go dancing (or watch others) at Boleros.
- Have a drink at the Rising Ride Bar. Sip your favorite beverage and travel between the Royal Promenade on Deck 5 and to Central Park on Deck 8.
- Catch a jazz show at the Jazz Club.
- For a fee, learn about wines at Vintages wine bar at a wine tasting or sample a wine flight and pair with tapas for a chill experience.
- One of the best kept secrets on the ship is the adults-only (16 years old) and above area called Solarium. While it does get hot in there with so many glass panes above your head, this is a great place to watch the sea, relax, read, and take a break. There are 3 hot tubs and a water spray feature to help you cool off.
- Play soccer, basketball, volleyball, and other sports at the sports court.
- Learn how to Boogie board of surf on one of the 2 FlowRiders.
- Slide down the Ultimate Abyss, which towers more than 150 feet above sea level, overlooking the AquaTheater at the aft of the ship. Take one of the he pair of side-by-side slides and plunge down from the Pool and Sports Zone on Deck 16 to the Boardwalk on Deck 6 below. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and some long pants.
- Play miniature golf at Harmony Dunes.
- Take a zip line ride over The Boardwalk.
- Go ice skating. Watch the daily program for an announcement of when the rink is open for recreational skating. I asked early on and was told to be expecting open skating hours on the last sea day. I got in line to get tickets in the morning per the directions and was able to get two tickets for later in the day. This was a hoot! So much fun to ice skate at sea.
- If art is your thing, then go to the art auction. Check the daily itineraries for art sales and auctions.
- Shop ‘til you drop. Duty-free shopping is plentiful on Harmony of the Seas. Towards the end of the cruise, there was a huge blowout sale offering $10.00 deals on many items, also there were watches and other miscellaneous items for sale along the Royal Promenade throughout the week. Check the daily program and head over for some great gifts.
Vitality Spa and Fitness Center
- Take the tour of the Vitality Spa on embarkation day. The tour will show you around the facilities and give you idea about the services offered.
- Access to the spa is available to guests with appointments. There are limited passes to the thermal suite available for purchase. This adults-only area has warm lounges, sauna and steam rooms. While this is a treat I often times splurge on while cruising, in this case I passed. I found the thermal suite was small and the fact that there were not windows lent to an un spa-like feel. Although plenty of people will love the thermal suite, I can go to my local Korean Spa for the same experience at half the price.
- I have had plenty of shipboard massages and treatments in the past, on this cruise I did not want to indulge because I did not want to have a schedule. While the therapists tend to be well trained, I was not interested in spending the money. If inclined, then I would have booked a treatment later in the cruise when the spa was offering discounts on treatments.
- The spa offers extensive medical and cosmetic treatments including brow shaping and teeth whitening, but in my opinion these services are readily available at home.
- If you buy products make sure that you don’t get charged a gratuity. That seems ridiculous to me to have to tip for products. It’s like going to the grocery store and being charged a gratuity at the checkout counter. Surely, they don’t do this on Harmony of the Seas, but pay attention. Just check your bill when you are finished with a treatment. A gratuity is usually automatically added. If you are also buying products, make sure you are not paying a tip on the product as part of the service cost.
- Just say no. One of the annoying things about spa treatments on ships is the hard sell to make you purchase products. Yes, the products are nice (Elemis tends to be the norm), but the therapists always try to upsell you the products after a treatment, it can be a little awkward, but it’s ok to say no thank you. Don’t feel bad.
- The gym is great. Plenty of machines, free weights, bikes, treadmills, and classes to keep you busy. Much to my surprise the gym was not too busy when I went there a couple times during my vacation.
- The best part of my fitness program onboard was walking around the outdoor Promenade deck. The track goes around the entire ship and can accommodate walkers and joggers. You can access the spa and gym from the track. I would go for a brisk walk, workout in the gym, and then pop into the Vitality Café for a fresh juice after my workout.
- Make sure to only sign up for classes (TRX, spinning to name a couple) you are committed to attending. Failure to show up to classes could result in a fee.
- If you want to attend a free wellness seminar, there are plenty of choose from. Check the daily planner or find out what’s on offer when you do a spa tour on embarkation day.
Value for Money
Cruising on Harmony of the Seas cost us a total of $4607 for an extended balcony cabin on deck 9. That price included the cruise fare (the second guest had a small discount), port fees, taxes, and prepaid gratuities. That turns out to be $658 per day for two people. The price covers lodging, food, non-alcoholic drinks, entertainment, and transportation.
Additional costs for Internet, a deluxe drinks package, ship transfers, a pre-cruise hotel in Orlando, airfare, and two shore excursions were extra.
Cruising on Royal Caribbean is going to fetch top dollar on their newest and best ships. In addition, I was sailing at peak summer season and I purchased the cruise about 8 weeks in advance. There are many ways to save money on a cruise vacation, I just did not have the time or energy to plan that far in advance.
As far as value goes, I will leave that up to you to decide.