A week on Harmony of the Seas - Whats is it really like on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship?
If you've been keeping up with my stories over on Instagram, you will probably have seen that I was recently on a press trip with Royal Caribbean on their Oasis Class ship, Harmony of the Seas!
The trip took us from Port Canaveral in Florida through the Western Caribbean, stopping in Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico before returning back to the USA. But what is it really like to spend a week on one of the biggest cruise ships in the world? Is there enough to do on board on sea days? And most importantly... what is the food like!? Keep reading to find the answers to these questions and get the run-down of my experiences on board.
On board Harmony of the Seas
First things first, before you start running around the ship and taking in all the things to do (there are a LOT - but I'll get to that later) you'll want to get settled into your stateroom, which will be your home away from home for the duration of the trip.
The room I stayed in was an Ocean View stateroom with a balcony. If you haven't been on a cruise before you might imagine that the staterooms are quite cramped and basic, but this was definitely not the case on Harmony of the Seas. The room was spacious and featured a double bed, sofa area, dressing table and plenty of wardrobe space to unpack into. There is also a TV, but to be honest I didn't really use this as there were so many other things to do on the ship to keep me occupied!
The bathroom was also really nicely sized. I'm quite picky about showers - there is nothing worse than a shower that isn't warm or powerful enough, but I was really happy to find that the shower in my stateroom was spacious and I didn't once have to deal with a dreaded lukewarm shower!
The space I enjoyed most however, was the balcony. Having an area to yourself to sit back in the sun and watch the waves rolling by was heavenly, and there is no better start to the day than being able to excitedly open your curtains and look out at a brand new destination. I do think that having a balcony may not always be the best option however, as having been on a cruise to Norway I know I definitely wouldn't have gotten the same enjoyment in those colder conditions! It's worth weighing up your itinerary and port destinations and figuring out whether you want to opt for a balcony or just a window instead.
What is there to do on board an Oasis Class cruise ship?
An easier question might be "what isn't there to do on an Oasis Class cruise ship?". Cruising has a bit of a reputation as being the way people of a 'certain age' choose to go on holiday, but Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas blows this idea completely out of the water (no pun intended), with the sheer amount of activities to do on board that suit a range of ages and interests.
Thrill seekers can get their adrenaline fixes on the top decks, which feature a zip line, surfing on the Flowrider simulator and the Ultimate Abyss, which holds the title as the tallest slide at sea! I also gave the climbing walls my best shot. I like to go bouldering when I'm back home, so I thought that a cruise ship climbing wall would be a doddle. I was wrong! The wall was actually pretty challenging, making it fun for beginners and seasoned climbers alike. So if you thought cruising would have you climbing the walls. you might be right, but not in the way you first thought!
As well as all of that, there are the other facilities that you would expect on board such as swimming pools, mini golf and other games and activities happening throughout the day. In fact, each day a Cruise Compass, which is essentially a leaflet telling you EVERYTHING that is happening on the ship that day, will be left for you in your stateroom. It will basically become your cruise bible alongside the Royal Caribbean app, showing you when and where to be to see everything from shows to games and shopping events.
There are, of course, plenty of places to enjoy your sea days at a more relaxed place too. My favourite spot to sunbathe and generally relax was the Solarium. The Solarium is an adults only area of the ship, so if the noise from kids splashing around the pool isn't your thing, it's the perfect spot to escape to. The solarium has plenty of sun beds as well as Jacuzzi pools to go around, but my favourite thing about this part of the ship is the fantastic view it offers, making for some of the best sunrises and sunsets imaginable. The Solarium Bistro was also my go-to place to grab breakfast and chill!
And how about the entertainment?
I'm usually the sort of person that cringes at the thought of a musical, especially one produced by a holiday entertainment team; I think I have a few too many memories from holidays with my parents when I was a lot younger where I'd been forced to endure some truly awful Broadway renditions! Thankfully as I sat somewhat apprehensively as the curtain came up for Grease on Harmony of the Seas, I was greeted with a truly talented cast that could really hold a tune and my imagination!
Without a doubt though the best entertainment on the cruise for me has to be the Aqua Show, performed in the specially designed aqua theatre on Harmony of the Seas. The show combined acrobatics, diving, dancing, synchronised swimming and spectacular lighting and production to create a show that had you gripped all the way through! See some of the show highlights in the video below:
And did I mention there is an ice rink on board too? Yeah, there's an ice rink on a cruise ship, and the ice skating shows are also INCREDIBLE.
But what about the food? Is it all buffets?
It's safe to say that you could never go hungry on Harmony of the Seas. As you would imagine there are buffet options, mainly in the Windjammer, but the options in here are plentiful, with cuisines from across the globe represented and prepared to a very high quality.
However, if buffets aren't your thing you can stick to traditional dining in the main restaurant, where you can pick your courses from a menu and be waited on. If you get snacky throughout the day (who doesn't?) you can stop by Sorrento's for a slice of pizza, head over to the Promenade for a hot dog or grab something from the mini bites buffet, all included in the price of your cruise.
It's not just comfort food either. The Vitality Cafe offers healthy smoothies and snacks, and the Park Cafe gives you the option to make sandwiches and bagels the way you like.
There are also a number of speciality restaurants on board if you fancy paying a little extra for something special. This includes sushi from Izumi, fantastic steaks at Chops Grille and for a more eclectic and theatrical experience you can dine in Wonderland.
Dining at Wonderland is an experience in itself from start to finish. When you sit down at the table you'll find a paintbrush and a blank page in a frame replacing a traditional menu. Once you paint onto the blank page with your paintbrush the menu will begin to reveal itself - so cool! The menu itself follows an elemental theme, and while it might not be the easiest thing to decipher, our waiter talked us through the whole experience.
The food itself is equally spectacular. The presentation is very whimsical and artistic, with dishes dramatically steaming, smoking or melting. Check out a few of the dishes I enjoyed below:
Did I mention there is a robotic bar on board too?
Throughout the ship there were plenty of bars to be discovered, each with their own theme or speciality to enjoy, such as an English pub, an old fashioned cocktail bar called Schooners where we spent a lot of time sampling the amazing menu and plenty of poolside bars with frozen cocktails.
The star of the show though, has to be the Bionic Bar! This ingenious bar allows you to create a drink via a tablet choosing your spirits, mixers and garnishes, which are then sent over to the robots at the bar that will do all the mixing, moving and shaking to make your drink. It's definitely a novelty that you have to try out at least once on board, even if you do end up with some truly awful concoctions!
It's worth noting that any alcoholic drinks are not included in the price of your cruise, so it's worth taking some time to figure out whether it's worth getting one of the unlimited drinks packages that Royal Caribbean offer. I'd suggest that if you have 3 or more sea days that it's definitely something to consider, as cocktails can come in at around the $12 mark, so quickly add up if you are sipping away at the pool all day!
Although I was very, very excited to go on this trip with Royal Caribbean, I was a little apprehensive, knowing that there were 4 sea days, as to whether there would be enough on board Harmony of the Seas to keep me occupied. I can safely say now though, that I actually quite enjoy sea days and there is actually a lot of things on board that I didn't even get a chance to do!
There is definitely a misconception that cruises tend to be full of purple rinses and stuffy formal nights with tuxedos and bow ties, but on Royal Caribbeans Oasis Class ships this couldn't be any further from the truth. Cruises definitely have a lot to offer to a younger generation of travellers, and it's a fantastic way to sample multiple destinations in one trip and still enjoy a bit of luxury. In fact I'm already thinking of booking a cruise for next year!
If you like the sound of this trip but don't like the idea of flying out to the USA to get on board, Harmony of the Seas sister ship, Allure of the Seas, will be departing from Barcelona in 2020 and setting sail around the sunny Mediterranean. Find out more and book your trip here.
I'll be going into more detail about the destinations we visited on our cruise in my next blog post, so keep an eye out on social media to see when it's live!
This trip was undertaken as part of a press trip with Royal Caribbean UK, however all thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.