Harmony of the Seas 9/15-22 Review
Overview: I will start off by saying that this is going to be a very, very long review (better go get a cup of tea if you actually read through all of this). The poor weather gave me a lot of time to sit around and type.
This is my 7th cruise in total and 4th cruise with Royal Caribbean. This is my third Oasis-class ship. Our group is a party of three adults.
While we enjoyed this cruise a lot, I personally feel that the service on the Allure was better than on the Harmony. Despite being a newer ship than the Allure, we also felt that it was not maintained as well as the Allure too. One morning in the Windjammer, there was a large amount of ants accumulating by the window, which we promptly told a worker about to hopefully clean up. We noticed the dining area is a lot more creakier. They must have made some budget cuts to both the complimentary and pay for dining options, as the buffet menus were quite repetitive and menus posted on the RCCL website for pay-for dining places were not the same as in the restaurants.
I think it is tough being one of the most popular--if not the most popular, cruise ship on the seas, which is shown by how much wear and tear is showing. Still the stars of the cruise as usual is the support staff on the boats, who do everything they can to make sure you are having a good experience.
I noticed that they had a separate line for Key purchasers for getting on board and getting off the ship, but it did not seem to make much difference to me, as people were still getting on/off at the same time they were. We were on the boat by 11AM and had no issue with reserving restaurants and setting things up. I guess it would matter if you come really early, or want an escort to help you carry things?
Weather: Now by no fault of the cruiseline, we experienced quite a turbulent ride for a large part of the cruise. When we left Port Canaveral, it was definitely rocky, but the ride back home was even worse. Whatever storm system (I know TS Jerry is not too far behind us) was present, it seemed to have taken a liking to Harmony and it followed us home. The boats constant rocking back and forth was so intense, people were flung around all over the place. Some people mentioned that this movement was worse than experiences in Alaska. You can hear to howling of the wind, and the rain was heavy and constant throughout the two sea days. They closed the pools for a large part of Sea Day number 2 because the pool ended up being some crazy wave pool, but the hot tubs were open if you did not mind sitting in the tub with rain pouring down on you. The weather also caused the internet to drop throughout the day as well. I was hoping by the last day on the ship the weather would be better, but unfortunately, it continued to be rocky until we reached the shallower waters closer to Florida. I think this impacted people's ability to come out of their rooms because for the most part, the public spaces appeared to be fairly empty. The pool deck was a ghost town with the exception of the smoking area. The CD mentioned that there were swells up to 15 feet. Bad weather also makes a mega ship lose its magic, as shows, activities, and public areas were cancelled or closed. I'm sure the cruiseline was thrilled for cancelling shows and activities, as more people seemed to spend money gambling, shopping, and drinking on board. While bad weather can come at any time of year, I would say take this into consideration if you do choose to travel during hurricane season. Also, if you have a chance to catch a show, go on a water slide, down the Abyss, or ride on the FlowRider earlier in the week, do it then because you may not have a chance on the latter half!
Pre-Cruise: This cruise was booked at the last minute (less than 2 months prior to the cruise), so I had to do a lot of last minute planning without doing the thorough review check prior to the cruise. I had been watching the spaghetti models during the week prior to the cruise, as Humberto was lingering close by Florida, but thankfully he choose to boomerang back into the ocean, and we were able to land in Orlando on time. For flying, we took JetBlue to Orlando Airport. The JetBlue terminal was not connected to the main terminal area, so for those who are coming through JetBlue, prepare to take a short tram ride to the main terminal in order to get to baggage claim--as non-primary English speakers, my parents told me that they would feel nervous if they were travelling alone, as they would not feel confident going around the airport in this manner, but I felt the tram system was very straight forward.
I had compared pricing between paying for a LYFT/Uber for 3 people to get to Port Canaveral vs transport services, and in the end we decided to go with GoPort. They have various packages posted on their website to choose from with a whole range of pricing. We are not picky people and are always looking for a good deal, thus we looked for more of a budget hotel. We at first were thinking of choosing a hotel by Port Canaveral, but I noticed the GoPort site had hotels by the airport instead. Each hotel has different designated pick up times when they leave for the cruise port. We wanted a hotel that would allow for us to get to the cruiseport fairly early, thus we chose the Holiday Inn Orlando Airport. The customer service for GoPort were super friendly and helpful, and they allowed up to 3 days to cancel/change without incurring a penalty. The Fly Snooze Cruise package for three adults ended up being about 230 bucks which includes pick up from the airport to the hotel (this is scheduled by you calling your hotel after you get your luggage and going to the designated pick up locations), two queen beds at the hotel, and round-trip transportation to and from the Port Canaveral cruiseport.
The hotel itself looked recently refurbished, but some parts of it seemed to be a bit dated. The air conditioner was a bit loud and not as cool as we would want it to be, and the television's screen was all messed up. They had a mini fridge in the room. Unfortunately, there is no included continental breakfast at the hotel, but they do have a restaurant plus a cafe there (and a small snack shop). I ordered the breakfast sliders from the cafe (where it was about 10 bucks and tax), and it was easily sharable for 2 (we shared it amongst all 3 of us because we only wanted a light breakfast) people.
Although the pick up time is set for 9:45AM at this hotel by GoPort, it is recommended that you show up at 9:30AM per the hotel staff. However, even showing up at 9:30AM, we were the last ones getting onto the bus. The commute time was about 45 minutes to Port Canaveral from the hotel, and it was an easy ride given it was a straight shot to the terminal without traffic.
Once you get to the cruise port, the GoPort workers leave out everyone's luggage to grab any last minute things, and then a porter is already standing there and tells you to leave your luggage.
Now when we were heading to the Allure last year at Port Everglades, we had encountered a pushy porter who was demanding tips from people (trying to say that if you didn't tip him, you shouldn't expect your luggage to show up to your room), but Port Canaveral has signs all over that tipping is not mandatory and should be based on service. I am always happy to tip people who are kind and hardworking.
This was the fastest check in/embarkation line we had ever experienced. I guess the initial groups had already gone in, thus it was a direct walk straight onto the boat after a brief check in and security point check. The security lady we had spoken to was claiming that anyone who had beverages were supposed to dump it, but we had a couple bottles of soda/water, and it went through without issue (other people had entire cases of soda and got through fine as well, but some poor guy behind us was trying to chug his overpriced water and chucked the rest).
As a side note, we had some time to kill once we had landed in Orlando, and after checking in, we decided to take a LYFT to Boston Lobster Feast over on International Drive. The ride from the hotel to the restaurant was 17.50. BLF is an AYCE seafood restaurant, and they have two locations. Early bird pricing if you come in before 6PM is 50 dollary doos while after 6PM is 5 dollars more. Early bird time was a good time to go, as while the restaurant had a lot of people, lines were quick. What is included in things like lobster (one at a time, but they always had a huge pile and it was easy to get as many as you wanted), snow crab legs, Cajun seasoned blue crab (the best thingy they had IMO), steamers, assortment of fried seafood, selection of cold seafood like raw oysters, etc. My parents were skeptical at first, but they were very happy we ended up going there.
After we finished eating at the restaurant, we took a LYFT to Disney Springs, which costed 12.59. I have to say, for people who are not familiar with the area, the entrance way for ride-sharing companies like LYFT/Uber was confusing as heck! Our poor driver (who did not speak much English) was having a hard time finding the entrance, thus I just told him to drop us off at a nearby parking lot and that we would walk the rest of the way. The ride back was also a nightmare, as it let us choose a spot we were standing at, but then later without warning mentioned that we had to go elsewhere to a designated pick up spot for LYFT/Uber riders. Thankfully our rider was super sweet and would have waited even if we didn't make it in the 5 minute waiting time limit, but we put our cardio skills to the test and made it with seconds to spare. I do not think someone who was not physically well could have made it across Disney Springs in time, especially because of the lack of signage and crowds). Disney Springs was a nice place to just do a casual shop and stroll, but all of the Disney folks and kiddies were also thinking the same thing. Thankfully I purchased a bottle of water and soda at the mart by Boston Lobster Feast, as one bottle of soda/water at Disney Springs costed over 4 dollary doos--yikes. Our LYFT ride back to the hotel was 23.23 plus a very generous tip for our kind driver.
Cabin: Normally, we try to book a Boardwalk balcony cabin because we enjoy the perks that come with the room, but there were none left by the time we tried to book the areas we would like, thus we went with a Central Park balcony for the first time. I was a bit hesitant in choosing a CP balcony, as my experience in the past has been always that the CP area does not have good air circulation and is fairly hot because of it. It was not as bad (we are on the 12th floor). It was also quieter than the BBs as well, as we do not have to listen to the late night water shows. You can hear people on the pool deck (the people who tend to be the loudest are those who are going on the water slides and screaming their heads off), and at night you can hear musicians playing things like Jazz, but the locks on the balcony blocked out most of the noise and never interfered with our sleep.
As for the cabin itself, I very much like how they redesigned the cabin spaces compared to the Oasis/Allure. It just seemed like there was more space, and less bumping into things. Instead of the fold out couch taking for a huge space, they redesigned the couch bed to be more of an extra long twin style. It was comfy for me, but the blanket for the couch was a bit small (only the width of the bed) and the sheet cover kept falling off the blanket, so at times I would wake up at night exposed to the cold. It was nice having two closets and two sets of drawers. The mini fridge also seemed slightly bigger. As for plugs and ports, there is two USB ports directly into the wall (which I found to be a slow charger for my cellphone), and three regular ports by the desk, and then more plugs by the bed. It used to be a big deal having multiport plugs in your room, but all we really needed was one of those multi USB ports on this ship. Rug had stains and looked worn. I think RCCL has stopped changing bedsheets daily for quite some time now. Towel animals were presented in our cabin about three times during the week.
Since this is a CP balcony, we had the Eat Drink Discover perks attached to the room, but since we already ordered the unlimited dining package, we did not use the free lunch for two (which you can choose between Jamie’s, Sabor, or Johnny Rockets). The room came with a bottle of wine, in which we do not drink. I called CS to see if this could be exchanged to anything else, but unfortunately it cannot, so we decided to just bring this home for my sister. Our booking agent also threw in a bottle of wine, thus we had two bottles of wine waiting for us (I was curious and looked up the wines online, and they are priced at $8.50 per bottle). I would like to note that RCCL did put out a notice that they are going to be ending the Eat Drink Discover perks in the future.
The bathroom layout is similar to the Allure/Oasis, but the sink is slightly bigger, so it is less messy splashing when washing your face. They continue to be lacking in the cold water department. The soap/shampoo continues to be a bar of soap and the "2 in 1" shampoo/body wash in the wall dispenser. The shower was a bit inconvenient when you are getting out, as it is not the slide door they had on Allure but a door that automatically tries to shut itself when you open it (I would push the floor towel to block it from closing when drying). Hair dryer is in the drawers by the mini fridge and tissues.
In order to conserve energy, the Harmony requires you to put your card key into the slot by the door in order to keep electricity going through the room or else it times off.
While our room was nice, the halls of the cabins was another story. After we finished lunch at Jamie's, we walked back to the room...and oh goodness. It was the strongest smell of sewage ever that reeked up and down the halls around our stateroom. Everyone who was walking around the halls were all complaining, disgusted, and gagging from the rotten smell which seemingly no one was handling. Finally, it seemed that enough people called and complained about the sewage smell, and someone from maintenance came by. It seems that they tried to wash the carpets or something, but this only made it worse. Going forward, it just smelled of moldy mildew and sewage. I am very sensitive to smell, so it was unbearable to even try to walk to the room (thankfully our room did not smell). Once again, it seems that no one was doing anything about the smell that was leaving an entire hall of guests feeling grossed out. I jumped into the long line at customer service, and I brought it up again, frustrated that it is 8 hours later and it still smelled of sewage and mildew. The CS rep looked more annoyed than helpful, but she called the maintenance person, where they said an "accident" happened and that they will not be able to do anything until the next day, where they would again try to wash the carpets and dry them. I asked if they could spray something at least to make the smell less, which again the girl looked annoyed as heck and buzzed back to the guy to do something. Unfortunately, nothing was done, and the hall from like rooms 12250 through 12175 had to endure the horrible smell. Frustrated by the lack of interventions, I tweeted a word of complaint directly at RCCL, and they responded back to me in less than 5 minutes, asking me for the deets (social media speaks louder I guess). They told me based on the info, there was nothing they could do. However, the next day, they did shampoo the carpets again, which took away a lot of the smell (it still smells like mold by rooms 12250), and they also sprayed some pleasant fruit smell to try to mask what they could. I also received a follow up call from maintenance asking if I felt that the issue was resolved, which was nice.
Our room attendant was very kind and always happy to open the door for us if our hands were full of stuff. If you bring mugs/drinks back into the room, remember to leave it outside of the room, as the stewards will not take it away otherwise.
On Night 5, we had an issue with our toilet in that it would not stop flushing and filling with water. I was standing in the bathroom and brushing my teeth, and I noticed the toilet water was getting really high, in which it promptly continued to fill until it overflowed. Thankfully, flushing the water down the drain prevented it from overflow, thus I left my father on flush duty while I called maintenance (though I felt bad the neighbors were stuck hearing the toilet vortex flush every 15 seconds), which took about 10 minutes for someone to actually show up. It was fixed in about 10 minutes, where a cleaner came promptly after to wipe up any mess.
On Night 6 and 7 because it was windy and stormy, we noticed that the balcony door was letting air in from outside, causing a high pitched sound throughout the day/night, but thankfully we are deep sleepers and it did not keep us up (I also sleep with earplugs, which helped).
A few days into the cruise, they do add a Laundry offer into the Compass, where it is Wash and Fold Laundry Service—1 bag for 34.99, in which they state they will wash things like pajamas, socks, underwear, shorts, swimwear, and t-shirts. The notice also came with the Luggage Valet offer to pay the cruiseline to send your luggage directly to the airport for a fee ($25 plus the airline fee for baggage check-in).
Internet: We ordered the 2 Surf + Stream package, where the pricing did drop to about 21 dollars for 2 lines, which was not as low as the internet package deal I saw on Allure last year, but still not bad. I noticed that the login method has changed since I had been on the Allure last year, where they have you log into the Harmony Guest WiFi and create an account. You need to put in information like your name and year of birth, and then you make a username and pin number for your password. I had issues with creating an account, but thankfully on the first day on the ship, they had a bunch of people standing in the promenade area in green shirts helping people with set up. Lo and behold, they put in my first name wrong, so that was the reason why I couldn't get in on the first time, but it only took about 5 minutes to resolve my issue.
I have done some speed tests, and the download speed usually ran around 6 mbps during the days, and around 1.5 mbps at night time. I was able to stream videos and music on my phone without much issues. I was able to FaceTime with my sister while we were at CocoCay with only a couple brief hiccups (if you have an internet package, you can use it on CocoCay). As a note, there is no cellphone tower on CocoCay, so there will be reception (I tried to use Verizon roaming and saw it said: No Service even when roaming was turned on).
The upload speed is a different story. No matter what time of day it is, the upload speed was slow. Whenever I tried to send a picture to my family, it would take about 5 minutes per image (each picture was ballpark 1.8 mb).
FYI on Day 5, the Cruise Compass had a deal where you can purchase 1 SURF + STREAM package for 1 device for 50 bucks...not quite sure how much of a deal that really is, but is an option for those who did not want to pre-purchase.
Dining: This section will be quite extensive, as we had the unlimited dining package. I would like to start off by saying that to us, the package was an amazing deal (we purchased it at a discount price of 175, which is not the lowest it goes, but still reasonable). At the same time, I feel that the package made eating sometimes almost an obligation more than an enjoyment, and at times I felt we would over eat more than what we would do if we didn't have it. I think we would have been much happier with the 3-night dining package instead of the unlimited, but it gave us the chance to try every specialty restaurant at least once to be able to plan for our future cruises. The UDP allows for you to eat at as many restaurants you want for dinner and also lets you eat lunch on embarkation day and sea days. On the Allure, we had to run up to a specialty restaurant to make reservations, but on Harmony, there were two stations in the promenade right upon entering that allows for you to set up your dining schedule there. As I am a planner, I already came with a list of restaurants and times that we would want to eat at. We were unable to get a reservation to 150 CP for Day 1 (unless we wanted to eat at 8:30PM), thus we had to switch up the schedule a bit. Since we are early eaters, getting a 5:30PM reservation was not a problem at all on any other day. As a note, Chops is a very popular restaurant--we tried to change the date around, but we were told that Chops was booked for all early dining times for the rest of the cruise unless we wanted to eat at 8:30PM or later.
Now I know there has been some debate and talk about the UDP and whether or not people can order multiple entrees during a single dining session, but honestly, the amount of food you get is already so much, I could not imagine eating more than one entree.
To summarize, here is the dining specialty dining venues I personally would rank (excluding Johnny Rockets) from best to worst:1) Jamie's (great for both lunch and dinner) 2) Chops (Lunch options too few imo) 3) Sabor (food great, but it is too hot at lunch) 4) Wonderland (weirdness aside) 5) 150 Central Park (too monotone for flavors between apps and entrees 6) Izumi (Asian food that didn't taste like Asian food).
Make sure you plan out your specialty dining ahead of time and how long it takes to go through a meal. Lunch was 60-90 minutes long. Dinner was typically 2 hours, though Wonderland was over 2 hours. If you are tight on time, the waiters were happy to accommodate, which shrunk our dinner time to like 75 minutes.
Okay, now the verbose section about what we ordered and what I thought!
After setting up our dining schedule, we went up to Jamie's Italian to make a lunch reservation right for 12PM when they opened. The lunch menu was a limited menu in comparison to the dinner menu, but still had a good amount of choices. We went all in and ordered a heck of a lot of apps including the famous meat plank, crispy squid, black truffle arancini, garlicky prawns, and ultimate garlic bread. The meat plank came out first, and this of course if the post-it-up-on-social-media-for-the-oohs-and-ahhs choice. The meat plank wow'd us so much that I forgot to take pictures of the rest of the appetizers like I normally would. Our favorite apps were the crispy squid and the garlic bread. The black truffle arancini was also very delicious, but a bit too heavy, and the garlicky prawns were overcooked and hard to pull off the shell. For the entrees, my dad and I both ordered the JI burger and my mother just ordered an entree sized portion of the famous prawn linguine. My dad also had ordered a side of seasonal greens and I the arugula and parmesan salad, but both items were both forgotten about and not brought (which ended up being okay because we were stuffed). The burger was delicious, as the hamburger meat was actually ground up tenderloin with the right amount of fat to meat ratio. I didn't care for the caramelized onions though. My mother enjoyed the pasta, but I would like to note that the sauce is quite spicy, so people who cannot handle spicy may want to consider another option. Even though we were full, the waiter encouraged us to try dessert, thus my father ordered all three flavors of sorbet (raspberry, mango, and I think lemon), while my mother had the lemon cheesecake, and I the tiramisu. All three desserts were shared and were excellent, though the tiramisu was not as coffee and bold as the tiramisu we had at Giovanni’s on the Allure last year, thus I feel the cheesecake was the winner (some of the sorbet was pretty sour, but refreshing).
For dinner on the first night, we went to Wonderland. Now, my parents are pretty conservative when it comes to eating, and I was worried about how much they would be receptive towards modern gastronomy cooking. We also were still not hungry because of our big lunch at Jamie's. Since the dinner is more of a culinary experience than a big sit down food shovel, it worked out in the end. I would like to note that our dinner actually took about 2.5 hours to complete! Elton was an excellent culinary guide though, and he was patient in handling my folks and their skepticism. He took over the ordered for the small plates by asking us what types of foods are our preferences vs strong dislikes. I definitely would have to say that if you are not a bit adventurous and open-minded about eating, this restaurant may not be the best choice for you. As one of the first people in the restaurant, many on-lookers would stare at what was being brought to us and watched for our reactions when eating/drinking the dishes. Thankfully, if it was something we liked, in the end it was only about one bite, so not much was wasted. The weirdest thing that we had was the Liquid Truffle Mushroom Risotto--it literally looked like an eyeball on a spoon, and the moment it touches your tongue, it pops and delivers a bath of mushroominess down your throat. The plate that most surprised us was the Tomato Water, as I thought it would be gross, but in the end it tasted like cool tomato soup with bread dipped into it. The Birds Nest is the best--take out your video recording app choice. My parents had fun eating the smoky bird nest because that is the first time they had something of that nature. For the entrees, you choose from Earth--Chicken, Pork, and Short Rib or the Sea--Halibut and Branzino. It is intended for people to share the entrees, thus we ordered the short rib, halibut and the branzino. The short-rib was a beautiful plate and was very tender. The halibut was cooked in a bag and the mushroom sauce made it physically look unattractive, but the fish was cooked well. The branzino was aesthetically pleasing, but there was actually not that much fish and the sauce was not my favorite. The desserts were the most memorable part of the meal. We ordered the The World, Forbidden Apple, and the mushroom dessert that I cannot remember the name for. The World in the end was too sweet/rich our liking, but the effects of the melting dessert was fun. The mushroom dessert was adorable, and we enjoyed the meringue. My dad said that his favorite restaurant on the whole ship was Wonderland for the experience.
On Day 2, we stopped at our perfect day at Coco Cay, thus for lunch we ate on the island. I feel that the selection choices were a better than on Labadee. My favorite part was the taco station, where the carnitas was well cooked and seasoned, with the addition of the salsa bar. There also was the standard burger/hot dogs, but they also had a salad bar, panini sandwiches, and fruit/desserts like cookies.
For dinner, we ended up going to 150 CP. Overall, the food at this restaurant was a bit...heavy down to the delicious bread they served at the start, to the appetizers and entrees. I did not think my ordering choices out well, and thus I ordered the Sunchoke Velouté and Braised Short Rib for the app and Roasted Tenderloin for one (it says two but they can make it for one). My father also ordered the velouté, and Roasted Organic Beet Salad for apps and the Pan Seared Veal Medallions for the entree. My mother the Seared Honey Glazed Scallops and the Caesar Salad for apps and Lobster Thermidor for the entree. Just like at Jamie's, another item was forgotten and they never brought out the Caesar Salad, but it worked out in the end because I was not a fan of the velouté, but my mother liked it and ate it in my stead (she felt that it tasted like a broccoli soup, but the seasoning was unusual for me). The apps in itself were almost like mini entrees. The tenderloin was a perfectly cooked medium rare along with the veal, but eating two beef dishes in a row was a bit too much for me. I did enjoy the vegetables that garnished the plate more. The lobster thermidor was a bit on the small side. We ordered the Fried Cheesecake, Peanut Butter Chocolate Tart, and Hazelnut Passion Fruit Bar to share, in which we all agreed that the Fried Cheesecake was the best out of the three. Again the chocolate tart was delicious and not overly sweet, but was too rich after a heavy meal.
On Day 3 (Sea Day), we decided to try Sabor for lunch. Now my mom is not a fan of Mexican food, but she was willing to give it a try, and actually enjoyed a few things I was unable to get her to try before. The biggest issue with Sabor at lunch is that the sun is beaming down, and even if you sit by a fan and in the shade, the air circulation is not that great and we actually had to rush the end of the meal because we could not breathe. It is better during dinner time because of this. We started off with the guacamole--being from Massachusetts, most avocados you buy are unripened and super green in color. These avocadoes were most definitely ripe and softer guac than we are used to. It was pretty good, but nothing to write home about. We ordered several small plates, which included the Spicy Beef Empanadas (not impressive), Red Snapper Ceviche (the sauce was delicious and made this the best starter), Fried Chile Calamari (seasoned differently than Jamie's, but it was like crispy than Jamie's as well), and Chicken-Stuffed Jalapenos Wrapped in Bacon (too salty for our liking, but still good nonetheless). We also ordered tacos, where I ordered the Pulled Pork, my father the Grilled Cobia (fish), and mother the Shrimp Taco. Each taco order comes with more than enough meat to fill three taco tortillas and they bring the salsas/toppings as well. The carnitas was very good. For dessert, we ordered only the churros because we were about to pass out from the heat--it came with both a chocolate and cream cheese-like dipping sauces.
For dinner, we went back to Jamie's. The dinner menu is very similar to the lunch menu, with the addition of some of their more pricier options like lamb chops and short-rib. As a note, the menus on the Royal cruise planner is NOT the same menu you get on board. This time we had a wonderful waiter Antonio. Having eaten too many heavy meals already this cruise, I wanted to opt for something lighter. We started off with the crispy squid and garlic bread again, but we also tried the Creamy Burrata (super soft mozzarella cheese with the most delicious slow-roasted tomato topping over it). For dinner, my father had the Eggplant Parmigiana (I do not like eggplant so I did not try this), my mother the Prawn linguine again, and I ordered the Jamie's Caesar Salad, which is as basic as you can get. Our waiter felt that we should try something else on top of this though and insisted that we try the Lamb Chops, thus he ordered us an additional entree. I for one do not like meat like lamb, goat, or veal, but I did try a bite, and it was definitely well cooked and good quality. My father ended up liking it so much he ate the whole thing (and was stuffed from eating two entrees). We also ordered seasonal greens on the side, and lo and behold for the second time at Jamie's we were not given our sides, but again we were full and felt we were better off. For dessert I tried the Pavlova, and my goodness was this too sweet. The meringue was not too bad, but the raspberry sauce on top was so sour and sweet I could not eat more than a couple bites. Our overall experience was so good at the restaurant though!
On Day 4, we went to the Windjammer for lunch and my goodness. Because of the boat getting to St. Thomas at 12:30PM, everyone else had the same idea to eat lunch right before the boat was letting people off. I had never experienced such a crowded buffet before. The serving stations are circular, and it was tough to figure out where the start/end of the lines were. If you do not have an excursion to get to right away, I suggest you wait 30 minutes more for an easier lunch experience.
For dinner, we went to Chops--a place we had already eaten at on the Allure. Unfortunately, the host of the restaurant must have been having a bad day or something, as he was not the nicest person I had ever met (raising his finger/hand in front of our faces because he wanted to talk with the restaurant reservation person before us). Also, when we sat down, we told our waiter (while this guy was still around) that we had a show to get to and that we would not have that much time, in which the host in a "joking" manner told us that we should then go and get burgers instead. Yikes. Whatever, our waiter was kind and did whatever he could to make our dining experience as quick as possible, but still presented us with a good quality meal. I ordered the Lobster Bisque (rich with a deep taste of lobster) and Jumbo Lump Crab Cake (full of crabby goodness), which I had both on the Allure, and they are still as great as I had remembered them to be. My parents also both got the crab cake, but my dad also got the Wild Mushroom Soup and my mother the Caesar salad. My Angus Filet Minion was cooked more medium than medium rare, but still perfectly seasoned that I did not even need sauce. My father had the Prime NY Strip Steak and my mother the Spicy Jumbo Shrimp (the 5 pieces of shrimp were so large my mother had a hard time finishing). The sides again were good, but nothing to write home about. For dessert, I ordered the Warm Apple Pie a la Mode (the pie crust was not crispy but the apple was well cooked), my father the Key Lime Meringue Pie (the best dessert we ordered even if the meringue was a bit too sweet), and my mother the New York Cheesecake (pretty standard). Normally, the dinners take the full 2 hours, but we were able to finish in about an hours-time thanks to our waiter.
On Day 5, we planned for a dinner at Izumi--the sushi side. Our family have been to hibachis in the past, and none of us care for the show and the meal. With the UDP, you are allowed to get 35 dollars per person, which can be pooled for the entire table. In all honesty, this is the first restaurant that we ate at that we felt was overall "mehhhh." It started off with complimentary edamame. We received the Shrimp & Vegetable Tempura next, which was much heavier and oilier than tempura we had elsewhere. What was worse, as the onion piece I bit into felt weird, and I saw that I had bit into a huge mound of flour. I pointed it out to the waiter, stating that everything else was fine, but she insisted that we get another order of tempura free of charge, so incoming another round of greasy tempura no one really wanted to eat but ate because we did not want to waste food. We shared a Rainbow Roll (standard), Izumi Spider Roll (pretty good, but heavy on the unagi sauce and fell apart with each bite), and the Baked Snow Crab & Salmon Dynamite (warm roll that was good). The rice did not seem like sushi rice. For entrees, my parents both got the Yaki Udon (my father the tofu and mother the shrimp). The portions were ginormous and neither could finish off the entree. The tofu did not go well with the yaki udon at all, as it was just huge thick blocks of fried tofu plopped on top. The noodles were pretty sweet as well. I ordered the Spicy Miso Ramen, which tasted less like miso and more like oil. Unlike the thin sliced pork I am used to at restaurants, they gave you three huge slabs of pork as well. Definitely not our favorite place, but we would consider giving it another try...maybe on a different cruise.
On Day 6, we decided that for lunch we would eat at Johnny Rockets, but we all agreed that we needed a break from the specialty restaurants tonight, thus cancelled our second reservation to Izumi and planned to eat at the Windjammer instead. Johnny Rockets was crowded as usual, and you have to wait a bit if you want a table inside the restaurant. We are glad that we did wait, as it began to pour rain fiercly and people were huddling onto the counters inside with their food. As an FYI, Johnny Rockets meals comes with free sodas which they can give you a to-go cup as well (with paper straws). If you have the UDP like us, you can easily go back to Johnny Rockets and get sodas or snack on things like onion rings with somewhat ease (if it is busy, people may notice you at the counter until the head host guy tells a waiter to attend to you). The poor workers there are stretched too thin between making milkshakes, taking orders, cleaning up, and having to stop to sing and dance. I think the chefs as well were overwhelmed, as I had ordered a Smoke House burger, but found all of my toppings were added to my mother's chicken melt instead.
Tonight is second formal night (lobster night), but we did not feel up to going to the MDR. The Windjammer was having "Mixed Grill" night, and thus we were excited when looking at the food options, but unfortunately everything was very dried out and inedible. We were also excited at first because they had "kimchi salad," as we are Korean and were missing Korean food. Unfortunately, it was nothing close to real kimchi minus the fact they used napa cabbage (tasted like they were trying to make kimchi candy or something). Our sweet restaurant worker Yuni told us that the cruises that go specifically to Asian countries have the authentic Asian foods. Given the quality of the food at the Windjammer, we decided to go back to the specialty dining for the last day.
On Day 7, we went to Chops for lunch. The lunch offerings seemed much smaller than I expected (less than what even the RCCL app showed). I started off with the Charred Beef Carpaccio, while my father started with The Wedge, and mother the Wild Mushroom Soup. For entrees, I tried the NY Steak Salad, while my mother chose the Caesar Salad, and my father the 8 Oz. Angus Filet Mignon. The Caesar salad gave you the option of picking your protein. The salad was delicious, but if you came hungry, it may not be enough for a big appetite. I ordered vanilla ice cream for dessert and my father the Warm Chocolate Cake. For dinner, we returned back to Jamie's for one last time, where thankfully Antonio was working again. We ordered the Ultimate Garlic Bread again, but this time it was different than how it was made before, in which the waiter informed us that the chef wanted to try serving it to us in this style to see what we thought. We tried the Tomato Bruschetta as well, where the toppings were good, but the bread itself was so crunchy that we had difficulty biting into it. For dinner, I tried the Baked Lasagne, which was good. Thanks to Antonio, the Arugula and Parmesan Salad came this time around.
Entertainment: I will start off by saying that I oftentimes use cruising to try to reset my sleep schedule all messed up from stress and work, thus I did not do much late night things to review on. Most of the shows had a stand where you can buy popcorn and movie candy boxes. Prepare to come at least 20 minutes before a popular show if you want a decent seat that isn’t behind a pole. They block off sections for Pinnacle, Grand Suite, Diamond Plus, Key people, but the rest of the seats get released about 10 minutes prior to the show which anyone can take after.
We went to see 1887: A Journey in Time (the ice skating show) on the first night, and surprisingly enough, the seating was empty up until the last few minutes of the start. My folks are always a big fan of the ice shows because of the costumes. If you sit close to the rink, remember to bring a light sweater, as it can get chilly in there!
The Las Vegas Tenors were here to perform the Headliner Show. They were definitely talented, but it was not what I was expecting. They would talk about how people would expect them to be opera (which I wish it were), but it was much more pop, country, rock mixes. 1/3 of the time was them trying to advertise themselves to get more social media clicks. 1/3 of the time was these low-brow jokes making fun of the overweight singer of the trio. The audience overall seemed to be having a good time though.
The Fine Line Aqua show, as with all aqua shows was entertaining, but I noticed that this show was more focused on dancing (almost like I was watching Stomp and not a water show). Less diving into the water. Prepare to be splashed like heck if you're sitting in the front, and the person who is suspended in the air would make her rounds above the audience in the center, dripping water along the way. The highlight feature of the show is a man walking 55 feet up in the air on a tightrope--if you actually want a good look at this (I was stuck watching it for the most part on the video screen), sit either in the center or the right-hand side (when you walk in) as if you are too far left, it is blocked from your view. Get there at least 30 minutes before a popular show time if you want to try to get one of those lawn chair seats that have a drink holder instead of the hard benches.
We tried to sit through Columbus, but the storyline itself was not really our thing, and just like on the Allure with that planet show, they just took modern songs and remade it to fit the show.
My mother was looking forward to watching Grease, but because the boat was rocking so much, the last show on the boat was first delayed (in which people must have realized there was little else to do when so many areas of the ship/activities were being cancelled because of the rough seas, thus they just stayed in the queue for an extra hour), and then we were told that they were planning to cancel it. The cast felt bad that so many people were going to miss the show, that they decided to do a "concert" version of the show, where they talked through the show and just took turns singing their songs in front of mics with the band playing. They dedicated to sing for an hour straight, thus the crowd was appreciative of their efforts. They were definitely a talented group, but of course people were a bit disappointed they didn't get to see the whole show.
Public Spaces: As I had already been on the Oasis and the Allure recently, the layout of the ship is similar with a few exceptions. For those who are looking for a quiet place to read, on the fifth floor in various spots around the jogging track area, there are lounger chairs under covered areas. While there is still sea air circulating the spots, it may be too warm and humid for some to be comfortable, but it fairly quiet. There are lounger chairs in the back of the boat on the 5th floor, but they are moreso sitting upright.
For the casino, I noticed that there is one less stairwell heading up and down from the promenade area (the spiral stairs) in comparison to the Allure/Oasis. The casino has also been split to a smoking side and non-smoking side. Quarter dropping machines are on both sides.
The Windjammer entrance and layout is slightly different than on the Allure/Oasis. Harmony funnels people to the side entrance, where there is a handwashing station there. The happy-happy washy-washy people at the entrance did not have the hand sanitizer that often, thus I question if people washed their hands less because of it. RCCL must have made some cut backs or changes to their buffet options, as we had noticed the variety and selection differed from our stay on the Allure. My dad was used to having cold unsweetened tea available for every meal, but they limited the mornings to orange juice, apple juice, water, milk, and hot beverages. Lunch/dinner had the inclusion of the unsweetened tea and the strawberry kiwi drink and some other fruit beverage. If you want milk at night, you can ask one of the restaurant workers, and they will get it for you from the back. The service as always was spectacular, and staff always was happy (at least on the outside) to get you a drink or silverware. I laughed on the day they had the server ringing a bell and going around to advertise ice cream. On Day 6 for breakfast, one of the head waiters came up to us and invited us to do the Bottomless Galley Brunch (I am unsure if they meant this as complimentary vs if we were to pay), where he told us that they would have offerings like sushi from Izumi, but given our bad experience with Izumi, we passed on this offer. I wish the Windjammer could stay open an extra hour later, even if it just to allow drink service and maybe some desserts, as for my family, it is more comfortable, quieter, and easier to find seating in the evenings after a show over sitting in the promenade. Windjammer did have their themed nights, whether it was Mongolian night (where you can get stir fries), Crepe Day/Night, Mixed Grill Night, Mexican Night, and of course the chocolate buffet (was the same night as Mexican night). Windjammer has an electronic sign every day that announces the dinner theme for you to plan accordingly. Oh, and Windjammer does offer a "gluten free" section.
I noticed they started putting up barriers at certain stations at times to prevent people from self-serving things such as during Chocolate Buffet night where they blocked off the area and had someone serving the cakes for you, and the ice cream machines would have someone stationed there at times handing them out.
We did not eat at any of the MDRs during the entire cruise, thus I cannot comment on them.
Central Park still has poor air circulation and is warmer than the Boardwalk area typically.
We went to NEXTCRUISE to talk about booking our possible next RCCL cruise onboard (you can either write your name for a block period of time vs walk-in queue), but the onboard credit offering for a 3 adult Balcony cabin was only 50 dollars, which is actually less than what we get from our travel agent, thus we did not feel the need to buy it on the boat.
The main theater’s layout looks identical to the Allure’s. The chairs have these nearly useless drink holders. If you sit in the aisles, prepare yourself to have to get up several times during the show to let people in and out.
Activities On Board/Fitness: Okay, I will be honest with you in saying ahead of time, I was quite a party pooper and did not do much activities on the ship because I spent a lot more time catching up on sleep than I had expected. They did have shows like the Love and Marriage show, The Quest, The Family Quest that normally I would like to attend, but I didn't make it to any of them.
I was planning on doing a lot more things onboard the ship during the last two sea days heading back from St. Martin, but lo and behold the weather would make me give up on such plans.
People seemed to have gone hog wild for the flash sales in the promenade—especially for $10 everything (swimsuit cover ups, clutches, accessories) and the 2 for $20 Port t-shirt sales.
For fitness, I was looking on the itinerary for a Zumba class, but did not see any listed, thus I spent most of time walking the track instead. Cannot comment on the gym much since I didn't exercise in there, but it seemed pretty similar to the Allure. The television in the room was bad and I did not see any movies on there, but some of the public spaces had movies playing (Avengers, Aquaman, etc.).
Ports and Excursions: The three ports that we went to was: 1) Coco Cay, 2) St Thomas, and 3) St Martin. If you want to get a good view of the ship pulling into port, we actually had more fun going onto deck 5 around the jogging deck, as you could see the pilot boat come close by the ship to ensure it was steadily coming in to dock.
This is our first time going to Coco Cay, thus I specifically picked this itinerary for the sake of going there. The island ended up being much smaller than I had expected, but I did not notice any damage from the recent hurricane that unfortunately ravaged part of the Bahamas. You can pick up beach towels either up on the 15th deck (which was recommended to not be held up by a crowd) or before you leave the ship. We were the only ship there for the day, thus we got the whole island to ourselves, thus there were plenty of beach chairs to go around. We made it to Chill beach area and we quickly got into the water. Beach is a little bit bumpy, so those with sensitive feet may want to get water shoes. I saw several people with snorkel equipment, but did not really see fish around. We did see a jellyfish floating in the area on its own. Unfortunately, the perfect weather turned quickly, where for about an hour or so, it began downpouring on the island. Thankfully there was no lightning/thunder, so people were able to stay in the water, but the beach umbrella did not do a great job keeping the water away. I felt bad for those who had paid for those beds (very few people were actually there) given the downpour. Thankfully, the rain went away around noonish. Chill beach is close by the free eatery, which included more options that Labadee did (see the Dining section). We did not go over to the free pool area, nor did we pay to go into the water slide section, thus I cannot comment on that. I would definitely want to go back to Coco Cay in the future!
The next port was St. Thomas. For those who lingered on the ship, you got to hear them test the fire drill and evacuation, where they tested a bunch of the evacuation boats (which was amusing to see float around). We had already been to St Thomas in the past, but many people feel it is one of the better places in the Caribbean to shop! St Thomas has flat rate taxi costs which is listed right by the exit of the port area. Always check and confirm with the driver before getting onto the taxi though. 2+ people reduces the cost of transport. To give an example of pricing, it was 4 dollars each way for 3 of us to go to downtown shopping area from the cruiseport. It would have only been 4 dollars for us to go to Emerald Beach, 10 dollars for Magens Bay (they do charge admission here), and 10 to get to Coki Beach. We did not feel the need to go to the beach, thus we went to the downtown shopping area. Unfortunately, they are doing full on construction of the road in the shopping area, thus people were squashed in walking on the sides--it would likely not be easy to push a wheelchair down such narrow ways. People seemed to jump upon the jewelry for sale. We went into the Tiffanys store just to see what they offered (mainly older products), and the pricing was the same as the Tiffanys back at home, but you do not have to pay for taxes of course. For US Customs, they do note that a person can purchase up to 800 dollars in merchandise in port/onboard, but that you can spend an addition 800 if purchased in the US VI (if you are American). This also pertains to cigarettes if they are a product of the US VI (+800 cigarettes) and booze (+4 Liters) if it is product of US VI. One of the stores offered free samples of rum made in St Thomas, which was delicious thus we bought the last two they had out for the day (Perserverance Bay Cream Liqueur, which tastes kind of like Sheridan's if you ever tried that before, but better!). There is also the small stalls market by the shopping area if you are looking for cheap souvenirs that is cheaper than the port shopping area. Remember, the port time is not until 12PM, thus it was already hot and humid when we ventured out. As a side note, Verizon claims that St Thomas was included in my cellphone package, thus I did not have to pay extra to use my phone on the island, and the reception was overall pretty good. Most of the jewelry stores offer free bottles of water to those browsing, and some offered some form of a free gift for browsing as well. For those who like Alex and Ani, there is a store there with a pretty large selection including those that are exclusive to the island.
For St Martin, this is our third time back there, and again we were just here last year, thus we decided to spend more time on the boat. I think there was a lot of others who decided the same despite the weather being great. We spent time just in the cruiseport shopping area. If you are looking for the cheapest cigarettes (I do not smoke but I bring them back as gifts), we found that Admirals had the cheapest prices (cheaper than on the ship) and more of a selection (most cartons of 200 appeared to be about 30 bucks a pop duty free). Admirals also had deals on other souvenirs (B2G1F and such). FYI if you are looking for international snacks, they have a decent selection as well (Korean cup ramen bowls, Indian snacks, European chocolates like Kinder and Toblerone). The port area has cheap 5 dollar t-shirts if you want something bare minimum. Very easy for functionally limited people to ambulate around with a scooter with the exception of some of the stores. The last call ship boarding was supposed to be at 3:30PM, but they gave everyone an extra hour.
Fellow Passengers: For the most part, fellow passengers continue to be well mannered and not a problem traveling with. I love how diverse the passengers are becoming. Despite being at full capacity, the ship rarely felt crowded. One thing I had noticed is that the number of motorized scooters has drastically been increasing since being on the Oasis and Allure. There were quite a few passengers renting scooters, but did not know how to drive them well, thus they would end up blocking traffic, running into the backs of people's legs, or needed the staff to park them in places that wouldn't block people from getting by. Scooters are no longer limited to one group of people, as it is young and old and of all shapes and sizes. I'm glad that the cruise line can accommodate for people with disabilities, but they need to do a better job with doing education/management. I heard one guy in the casino state that he felt he was a walking target by the number of people in scooters ramming into his legs and nearly knocking him over.
Despite being school time, there were still plenty of kids on board, but they were typically well controlled by their parents. Kids seemed to enjoy the waterslides a lot. Only once we saw a group of unsupervised, rowdy kids in the Windjammer (the kids were shouting and playing catch with a football in the Windjammer, making a mess while a poor waitress was trying to clean up after them and make sure they didn't hit other passengers).
Unfortunately, on the day of disembarkation, we had encountered an awfully rude couple. The cruise workers told us to await in Boleros instead of lining up for the self-departure. Once we were cleared and the line was moving, we were trying to move with all of the other people out of the area, but this couple decided to single out my parents, jabbing their fingers in their faces and telling them to get to the back of the line and saying rude things. Their manner obviously showed that they assumed my parents were line-cutting, non-English-speaking individuals that targeted my folks out of all of the others they just let pass by, thus my mother said that we--just like all the other people were moving to the back of the line. Gross. Maybe they were upset they didn't get their 5th helping of donuts and bacon at the buffet this morning and were ravenously hangry. This self-assist departure line moved very quickly too, thus we were off the boat no more than a few minutes after those racist clowns.
I think the number one rule people broke during this cruise was filling personal water bottles at the water/ice dispensers despite signs asking people not to.
Oh, and a very important shout-out to all the mommas and poppas out there in the audiences, who scooped up their crying child and went out of the show areas until they were soothed! You da real MVPs.
Disembarkation: We never received a printed copy of our stateroom invoice on the last day, but I was able to double check through the emailed statement (the RCCL app was not always accurate). FYI, in a clear, enclosed bowl close by the Bionic Bar area on the promenade, there is a place you can write down your purchases at any of the RCCL onboard/RCCL trusted partner stores, which states that it covers up to 30 days if any issues with the merchandise were to come up.
I know that people are scared of facial recognition and the government being able to track/stalk people and all, but oh boy did it help make this process wayyyyy easier. I was a bit nervous on how Self-Assist Departures would go, but GoPort recommended us doing so to get off the ship quickly. Our flight was at 12:30PM, thus we finished our breakfast and got down to the promenade at about 6:45AM. US Customs did not clear us until about 6:55AM, but as I had said in the previous section, the line looked long, but moved very quickly. Getting off the ship was easy even carrying luggage, as most of the time the ramps were all going downhill and easy to wheel them down. The line pretty much was constantly moving with very little stops along the way. We did not need to fill out a declaration getting off the ship of the things we purchased. We would just look at a camera, where they would take a picture and if you are not a suspicious person, I guess they just move you along, as we off the ship by 7AM and on the GoPort bus by 7:20AM. They had all the signs for where to go if you are doing rideshare apps vs shuttles, and GoPort had a sign leading you to one of the furthest spots away, but very easy to find. All we had to do is give our name and number of people, and the driver took our luggage and our bus left by 7:30AM. 45 minutes later, we arrived at MCO, where everyone got off. They stated that all people checking in were to head to the third floor, while those catching Ubers go to the second floor. Check in at Jetblue was fast, and after we dumped off our luggage, we went to the security line, which has an electric sign to tell people of estimated wait times. TSA Pre-Check has their own separate line on the side. At 8:30AM, the estimated wait in the line was around 13-18 minutes. Please bear in the mind that MCO has a lot of children coming through, who usually needs extra time with security line process. We took the tram over to our Gate area, where it had a few eating options and gift shop area. They had a water bottle filling station around Gates 20-29. My parents and I realize now we can easily make it with plenty of time to spare to get to the terminal, but this only happened because everything went smoothly.
Final Thoughts: Maybe because this was our third Oasis-class ship in a row, we have hit the point where there is less excitement for all the extra bells and whistles on the ship. Service for the most part was fantastic, and we had a great time despite all of the issues along the way overall. While the weather was crazy, it did not hold us back from having a great time. I think we may try to find a smaller ship that is more port-intensive for our next cruise to see how quality stands. My folks still would be happy trying Symphony as our next ship as well though. Read Less