Embarkation - Fastest that we’ve ever gotten on a ship once we were at the port.
We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Renaissance Ft. Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel. The location was great and there was a Walgreens right across the ... Read More
Embarkation - Fastest that we’ve ever gotten on a ship once we were at the port.
We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Renaissance Ft. Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel. The location was great and there was a Walgreens right across the street, which was great to stock up on our two bottles of wine, coke, and bottle of hand soap for our bathroom. (We’re carryon suitcase only people, so it was nice to have the Walgreens to pick up a few items over 3 oz.)
It was about a $6 Uber ride from the airport to the hotel and a $6 Uber ride from the hotel to the port. We had a 10:30-11am check in time and left our hotel around 10:20am, once inside the port, there were all sorts of traffic issues due do how the police were directing traffic. It appeared that each police officer had their own idea of how best to direct traffic and none of it was coordinated, but we’re on vacation, what’s the rush?! We were out of the car walking into the port around 10:50am. There was maybe a one minute wait in the security line and then no wait at the cruise check in counter. We walked upstairs to the waiting area and just as we arrived they had called the platinum and suite guests. We were neither of those, but they directed us right to that line and told us not to sit down, so we went with it. Just as we went through our last check point to leave the port building to get on the ship we heard gold members called, so we wouldn’t have been too far off anyway. I would guess that boarding began at 11am.
It was just a few minutes after 11am when we arrived at the Windjammer buffet to grab lunch and we were some of the first people in there. After lunch we moved out of the Windjammer to a shady area to people watch and wait until 1pm when the rooms would be ready.
At 12:50pm, we started making our way toward our room, expecting to have to wait to get down the hallway, but the hallways were open and our room was ready. We had a bit of trouble finding our room initially as it was not off of the main hallways, but off an elevator block.
We had a virtual balcony room on deck 10. The room was the same size and had the same layout as a balcony room. We liked the layout of having the bed first and then the sitting/dressing area next to the balcony (instead of the sitting area first and then the bed.) The décor was neutral and modern. The bed was great with a very firm mattress.
The virtual balcony was a neat novelty to have. The camera was facing what was the front of the ship, which was also correct to the direction our room was facing.
There was one closet with several shelves, three drawers, a safe, and a tiny area for hanging clothes (maybe 6 hangers worth of space). On the other side of the bed was a larger closet that was just for hanging clothes with maybe 20 hangers. We had plenty of place and even extra hangers! There was also a dresser with four drawers for clothes and also where the mini fridge was located.
The bathroom seemed smaller, but the shower was larger, so I’ll take it! No more shower curtains, so that was a plus!
A note about the sound proofing – it sucked. We could hear every word our neighbors said to each other, whether they were just talking in normal voices or fighting in the evening. The first morning we had intended to sleep in until the phone rang…but it wasn’t our phone, it was their phone, but was so loud you would have thought it was in our room. Then it was their alarm clock, and next they were up and getting ready for the day, what should they wear? AHHH! I don’t know, just shut up and pick an outfit and leave! Luckily, their wake up times each day weren’t too far off from what we were planning, so we just ended up getting up every morning when they did. And tried to make the best of being able to hear literally everything going on in the room next door.
Overall, the ship still has the “new” feel to it in the rooms and throughout the common areas. My guess is that it will start showing a bit of wear and tear a year from now.
Food is always subjective, so this post may not be of much interest.
Overall the food was ok. Nothing special. Pretty much standard fare for a large cruise ship. We did not eat at any of the specialty restaurants for lunch or dinner. With the exception of Johnny Rockets once, which was a disappointment.
The main dining room service was good. We had a table for two with the same waiters each night, likely because we had made reservations ahead of time. The food was ok, nothing outstanding. I’m a picky eater, and was a little disappointed with the lack of choices on the menu, but I could always find something. Trying to go for something simple, I ordered a sirloin twice, both times were stringy, chewy, and pretty much inedible. I also once ordered a kids mac and cheese as an appetizer…but it came with pasta sauce and parmesan cheese on top of the mac and cheese, very strange and not tasty. Also, a side note about the main dining room, there are no windows (at least there were no windows on deck 5 Silk where we were assigned to dine), which was a little odd.
The Windjammer food was pretty much the same or very similar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. (We found that other cruise lines have way more variety to choose from at the buffet for lunch and dinner.) The burgers at the buffet at lunchtime looked terrible and I couldn’t bring myself to even try one. (Note, they have better looking burgers out at dinner at the Windjammer, but I didn’t try those either since we had just eaten in the main dining room. Yes, we’re the people that eat in the main dining room and then follow it up with a trip up to the Windjammer just to see if there is anything else interesting to eat.) Back to the burgers, the Johnny Rockets burger wasn’t much better looking than what was on the buffet and I was annoyed to have to pay for a simply burger that wasn’t very good. (Side Note – The Guys Burgers on Carnival are the best cruise ship burgers we’ve found. They are awesome and free!)
The hand washing stations at the windjammer buffet entrance are a nice add on this new ship.
Mini Bites is a nice outside eating area with the basic staples of burgers, hot dogs, fries, and nachos every day for lunch. We also found it was a nice break from the buffet for breakfast serving the main food items (bacons, eggs, pancakes, waffles, toast, etc.) without the crowds.
For lunch we really enjoyed the Park Café with the make your own salad (pretty much you could do the same thing at the Windjammer with the same ingrediants, but the atmosphere of the Park Café was nicer). Side note – they have small bags of Lays potato chips at the Park Café for free! Yes, that’s right, something without an up charge on Royal Caribbean, get them now before they start charging.
Pizza at Sorrentos was similar to a high quality frozen pizza, so if your into that sort of thing then you’ll enjoy it. I’m not sure why they don’t make the dough fresh like other cruise lines, it all comes as frozen slabs of dough on Royal.
Popcorn - $2.50 before the shows near the aqua theater. It is the little things like that, that make the nickel and diming on Royal stand out.
Drink prices – most alcoholic drinks are $13.50, which is odd since the drink package cut off is $13, and seem a tad pricey compared to other cruise lines. We didn’t have the drink package, but we did see quite a few people partaking in the drink packages. In fact, we had never seen so many drunk people on a cruise ship as we did on the Harmony of the Seas. Everywhere you turned someone was drunk. It was a bit embarrassing. (It seems like Carnival often gets slammed as the drunken party ships, but I’m thinking those haters have either never been on a Carnival ship or sailed years ago with them when that might have been the case. We don’t have a lot of experience on Carnival, but in our 35 nights on Carnival, I’ve never seen collectively even as many people drunk as I saw on the Harmony of the Seas this past week.)
Cruise Critic Meet and Greet
The official meet and greet was poorly attended. There was maybe 12-15 of us there, when over 70 people had signed up to attend. The officers and captain went through introductions and then the entertainment director raffled off prizes. Almost everyone walked away with something – back packs, hats, glasses, and bottles of wine!
All Access Ship Tour
If you’ve not done this before, then go for it. It is a lot of fun to see what happens behind the scenes and below deck. It is a little pricey at $119 pp and only lasts for 2 hours. You’ll see part of one of the galleys, provision area freezers/refrigerators, engine control room (basically a room with a lot of computers), several parts of the laundry area, and the bridge. (The tour did NOT go to the main theater, aqua theater or anything entertainment related.) (Carnival does a similar tour, for $95 that lasts 3-4 hours and you get to see all of the above and more! On other cruise lines we’ve had free tours just to the galley, just behind the scenes at the stage, or just to the bridge, which is nice, but it is also nice to see everything collectively on one ship.)
Shows 10/10! - The shows on the Harmony of the Seas were outstanding! (Musicals: Grease and Columbus the musical; Aqua shows: Fine Line and Hideaway Heist; Ice Skating: 1887 and iSkate) All are worth seeing! My favorite was Columbus the musical.
You can tell that Royal has invested a lot into the shows technology and interactive features around the ship. The technology on board the ship was really impressive!
Comedy - The lounge where they have the comedy is oddly shaped and doesn’t hold many people. They also had the same comedian on all week who only had one show’s worth of material. This was the first large ship we had been on with only one comedian with one show, it seemed weird that they didn’t switch things up throughout the week.
Casino – nicely hidden away, which is great if you don’t want to play or don’t like the smoke. If you’re gold or higher you get $5 worth of free play, so don’t forget to use that perk!
Lounge musicians – Bordellos was always lively with Latin music in the evening. There was a piano player in Schooners, a guy with a guitar in Central Park and a guitar guy in the Boot bar. They were all ok in our opinion, nothing that really stood out and some of the hours they were assigned to play were odd. (What Royal is really missing that other cruise lines have is a rockin piano bar, where people request songs and sing along.)
Dancing – limited. I mean, I guess you could dance where ever you want, but you’d likely be the only one. If you’re looking for club music booty shaking music was just not happening on Royal. Even a step away from that, the “sail away party” with dancing, was just a few people from the cruise staff and a couple of guests – lame. Same goes for the lame theme nights on the promenade that are supposedly dance parties, but it is pretty much just the staff dancing and not too many guests get involved. Also the venues where they hold the late night dancing change and are just weird spaces to dance in.
Activities – There seems to be a lot in the cruise compass for the Spa and Gym, a few trivias here and there, and a few character appearances, but really there isn’t much going on. This was my same complaint when we went on Royal a few years ago and I was hoping they have beefed up with schedule a bit, but to my disappointment they had not. Also, the staff running the trivia and other activities just don’t seem happy to be there and annoyed that they have to run an activity.
Parades – Maybe we’re just not into parades, but they just seem weird and out of place on a cruise ship. A parade that celebrates all of the holidays in a year? Just plain weird and not for us.
Character Greetings – Fun for kids and adults who are kids at heart, just watch the cruise compass for when and where they will appear because it usually only for 10-20 minutes.
Gym – This was by far the nicest gym at sea. It was lovely to walk through to see what it looked like, but I was on vacation, so there wasn’t a chance I was actually going to use it. The running track on deck 5 is also really nice and under used. (Note, there are some nice alcoves off the track with deck chairs if you’re looking for a quiet place away from people.)
– There were always people playing basketball.
- The mini golf course was one of the better cruise ship mini golf courses that we’ve seen.
- The zip line was fun once, but short.
- The carousel is worth one go around, but unless you’re a little kid one time is plenty.
- The addition of two flow riders instead of just one like on the older ships was a good add for this class of ship. One flow rider was always boogie boarding and one was surfing. The best day for the flow rider was when we were in St. Maarten and we pretty much had both flow riders to ourselves and could go over and over again. (Note, we did end up with several bumps, bruise and scrapes from the flow riders, likely from our ungraceful dismounts).
- The Abyss slide was fun to go down once a day, but listen to the instructions because we saw some nasty slide burns from people who didn’t pay attention or were maybe just a little too wide to be on it.
- The rock wall always had a line and rarely were both walls open, usually just one at time and for short hours.
- The ice skate was only open for skating on two days and only for very limited hours, and with a maximum of 50 people skating per session…it was very crowded on the ice making it not fun to skate.
Each of the things listed above make it sound like there is a lot to do, but most of these things I think are what I would call “one and done.” Nothing that I really wanted to keep coming back to do over and over again. Very novelty and lack of substance.
Pools – There were several pool areas, which was a good ship design spreading people out. I never had a problem finding a deck chair in sun or shade on any of the days. The waterslides were a smart addition for Royal, but each of the slides had some rough seams that need to be filed down. I was scratched and cut on each of the slides on my way down. The Solarium area was a nice thought, but with the partial glass ceiling, it was always super hot and humid in there with a lack of air flow.
Employees – from the waiters to the zipline sports staff it seemed like we were constantly being asked how we like the ship and the staff, and how when we leave we should rate everything a 10/10 on our after cruise surveys. It was a little much and a little pushy. They seemed more concerned about what we might rate them later than how the actual event was going in the moment.
Debarkation - Self assist was from 6:30am to 8:30am. The first time anything was announced was around 7:30am and that was a last call for self assist and first call for zones 1-10. They really push the self assist option, which is probably helpful to their staff to have less luggage to move around if people are willing to do it themselves. They also really pushed downloading the mobile passport app and how that would be way faster than filling out the paper copy and getting in that line in the immigration/customs line at the port. We downloaded the app, but it would have been way faster if we had gone the old fashioned paper route. Once off the ship the signage was poor and the employees didn’t seem to know what line was what that they were putting people in. We happened to get in the right line for the mobile app but they only had two people working that and about 6-8 people working the paper lines, so it took just over 20 minutes from when we stepped off the ship to when we walked out of the port building. Our time would have been cut in half had we gone the paper route.
Was this the best cruise ever? No, but it was still good!
Would we cruise with Royal again? If the itinerary were right, then yes, but we wouldn’t go out of our way just to sail with them. Read Less