I will start by stating, Harmony is as promised, a magnificent vessel and with nine straight days at sea, we had plenty of time to explore. After visiting all the neighborhoods, stopping a most of the bars and dining at few of the ... Read More
I will start by stating, Harmony is as promised, a magnificent vessel and with nine straight days at sea, we had plenty of time to explore. After visiting all the neighborhoods, stopping a most of the bars and dining at few of the specialty restaurants, she didn’t let us down. This was our first transatlantic cruise and definitely not our last. My wife and I have been on over 30 cruises, RCL, NCL, Costa, etc, and we’ve come to the conclusion that the cruise lines have adopted the philosophy that “you can’t please all the people all the time, so please as many as you can”.
The plan was to fly to Barcelona a day early, explore Barcelona and then hop on the ship. We took Aer Lingus from the U.S. to Dublin and then a connecting flight to Barcelona. With Aer Lingus, you get what you pay for, safe delivery to another airport with no frills and that’s pretty much what we got. Our first mistake was not spending more than one day in Barcelona, there’s plenty of places to explore and visit, and one day did not do us justice. We did manage to walk from our Hotel (Hotel Serhs Del Porto) to most of the touristy sites, but, I’m sure we missed some. A journey down La Rambla on a Saturday afternoon is somewhat of a challenge, but, rewarding. Here’s a little hint, follow the locals to a giant food market where you can buy Serano Ham, other cut meats (charcuterie) and/or cheese in a paper cone. For a euro or two it’s great street food and quite tasty. Grab a cone of meat and glass of rojo wine and enjoy, you’re on vacation.
At the recommendation of our concierge at Serhs, we went to an area called Barceloneta in search of seafood paella, and of course they were spot on. An after dinner stroll took us to a very modern mall on the waterfront with a theater and even a McDonalds. At no point did we ever feel threatened or in any type of danger, everyone we met was friendly, helpful and spoke some English.
The Hotel Serhs Del Porto was walking distance to the Cruise Port and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. Our room was somewhat small, but, clean and quiet. For a few days stay prior to a cruise this place was as close to perfect as you can get. We took the bus from the airport to Plaza Espana and walked from there, maybe a twenty minute walk. There are a few grocery stores close by to pick up bottle or two of wine for your trip (RCCL allows two per room). The Serhs offers a breakfast buffet for about 15 euro, but, there are plenty of Café’s and bars up and down the street that serve a pretty good cappuccino and fresh pastries, for just a few euro. Getting to the Cruise Terminal from Serhs is about a 10 minute walk (I did it pulling two suitcases and wearing backpack without a problem), then a five minute bus ride to your ship. The bus costs 3 euro a person, but, I’m not too sure if you can actually just walk up.
This being a transatlantic cruise there were only two stops and then on to Fort Lauderdale. The first stop was Palma De Mallorca and the next was Malaga. Both stops required a bus transfer to the populous centers for a few euros. In Palma we were told you could walk, but, it was only a 45 minute walk, but, it seemed way further than that and in Malaga, it might have been walkable, but, the cost was only 2 euro. Once again, pay a few euro and ride the bus, you’ll be doing plenty of walking around the towns.
Both locations were nice, but, if you’ve seen one old European town you’ve seen them all. Narrow streets, small sidewalks, and hard to find street signs, all add to the charm. We picked up maps at the tourist info booths, walked around, got lost, found our way back, ate strange foods, drank wine and enjoyed ourselves, it’s all part of the fun. Find a café, have an espresso and watch the world go by. We actually found a Starbucks, had coffee, logged into the free wifi and checked emails. Passing thru the Straits of Gibraltar was fascinating, imagining all the history that passed thru that location, with Europe on one side, Africa on the other. We passed thru at about 9:30PM and you could see the lights on both sides, extremely cool.
Now onto Harmony, I won’t bore anyone with information they can get from the RCCL website, the neighborhoods are as promised, the artwork is fantastic, there’s no shortage of bars or restaurants, so you never go hungry or thirsty. Everything was shiny and new, the crew was as helpful as they could be and as with all ships this size, you rarely felt any rolling from the ocean. Debarkation was a breeze; we did the self-checkout, where we took our bags off the ship, as we had an early flight home. Total time from our room to the airport 1 hour, 15 minutes.
We really enjoyed Grease, Columbus and the water shows, they really display the talent of the performers onboard. David Kilpatrick’s presentations were extremely informative; just wish they would have shown some of the movies he discussed. Some of the other instructional activities were a bit of a reach, but, with nine days at sea, there was a lot of time to fill. (Balloon twisting, knitting, water colors, full contact checkers, etc.). We ate in the main dining room most nights, we had the traditional late seating and most nights by the time we got out of the MDR we were way too tired to do anything. Maybe taking advantage of the ‘my time’ dining would have suited us better (that’s a hint). The food was cruise quality, but, when you cook for 5000 passengers you can only do so much. We had burgers at Johnny Rockets and they were just burgers and dinner at Sabor’s, great guacamole, but, really Americanized Mexican food.
The pools were rarely crowded, even when we got closer to Florida and the weather warmed up. Out of the nine days we were at sea, it rained a couple of times, showers, not downpours, most days had some clouds, but, we had lots of sunshine also. Temps ran from about 65 to 80, during the days and slightly cooler at night.
Our cabin was on deck 12 with an interior balcony looking over Central Park, when we booked the agent reassured us that we would love the view and that the exterior balconies all you could see was water. The only problem was with an interior balcony all you see is the people on the balconies across from you. Maybe a little more research on our part was needed. The room was comfortable and clean, our room steward, Barry, greeted us every morning with a heartfelt ‘good morning’ and always provided us with any extra’s we might have requested.
That being said, there were a few peccadillos. With more than 2300 Diamond and above C&A members, the Diamond Lounge was swamped; RCCL made exceptions to the rules and you could pretty much get any cocktails you wanted at any of the bars, during the normal DL hours. We hung out at the bar by Sabor Restaurant, and the Bartenders there (Luis and Narcis) never let us down. Any passenger related activities were crowded, specialty restaurants booked solid, lines to get into the Main Dining room for lunch (not too bad, but, still line up and wait). You had to get to ‘progressive trivia’ an hour early, just to get seating for your team. Most other passenger activities were similarly crammed, almost to the point that avoidance was the best option. The ship wifi was sufficient, but, at times it dragged on.
One thing to remember is that when you are sea for nine days, there is no real signal for TV, we were without any updated news (with the election that was a good thing), or updated sports. We are from Chicago and it would have been nice to see the Cubs play in the World Series, heck it’s a once in every 108 year occurrence.
It still seems that they are working out some of the bugs on this mega ship, one was the environmentals in the cabins might require some adjusting. Our room was cool in the evenings when we got back to our room, but, midway thru the night, the rooms got hot, only to cool down in the morning. Several others mentioned this issue also, but, they also had outside cabins, so they could open their balcony doors and let some cooler air in.
On our last day at Sea we had the pleasure of meeting up with Harmony’s other sisters right outside of Fort Lauderdale for a photo opt. Allure, Oasis and Harmony, pretty girls all in a row. Read Less