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We are a family of 3 which includes my wife and I and our 15 year old daughter. We chose to cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas on a 7 Night Western Carribean itinerary, so we could vacation with friends who were already booked. As a total group, on the cruise, we totated 5 adults and 5 teenagers from 12 - 17. We have cruised twice before but with two different cruise lines and two different destinations, so everything on this cruise was going to be new to us. We decided to start our vacation by arriving early in the day preceding the cruise so we could enjoy a day exploring Orlando. We flew Southwest Airlines and opted for the early bird check-in option. Unless money was tight we will probably use early bird check-in again as it simplifies things and got us a better boarding assignment to ensure we were near the front of the plane and sitting together. As an additional note Southwest boards families with children under six between the A and B groups. We found that as these families wanted to sit together and the A group had randomly occupied the first half of the plane, the families seemed to congregate in the back half of the plane as a result. We arrived in Orlando with an embarrassing amount of luggage for a family of 3 and rented a car from National directly at the airport. If I had been more experienced I would have been able to skip the counter and just pick a car and finish the checkout at the garage exit. Very quick and easy car rental experience overall. We arrived well before noon at the “Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando - International Drive” and they were able to check us in immediately so we could drop off our luggage and start exploring. The hotel was clean, well maintained, and well situated to explore the more popular attractions in Orlando. We opted to do some shopping and eating at Disney Springs. We ate at the Earl of Sandwich was which was tasty and economical especially considering Disney’s usually inflated food prices. (As a side note, I managed to get a pretty good cut on my lip from the bread which was an odd experience.) We then drove directly to Universal City Walk to see Blue Man Group and paid way too much for parking. Blue Man Group was great but if you have seen them in the past 10 years be aware they haven’t changed the show at all. We probably won’t go again until they change the show. We then proceeded to finish out the night at “Andretti Indoor Karting & Games”. Andretti was a blast! We stayed until about 11pm before we had to give up due to exhaustion. They have three different indoor go-kart tracks for varying ages and abilities. They also have video games, a ropes course, a bowling area, and a bar. We would definitely like to spend more time there as everyone in our family had a blast there. After collapsing and sleeping fairly well we decided to eat breakfast at the hotel which was included with the room. It was standard hotel fair and quite acceptable to all of us as it included hot foods such as eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, etc… We checked out very quickly and proceeded directly to the highway which was very close to the hotel but unheard from our room. The drive to Port Canaveral was about 45 minutes and uneventful. As a side note if you are renting a car and driving around I recommend a “Visitor Toll Pass” from the Central Florida Expressway Authority. It's a small placard you can hang from your mirror that will charge all your tolls directly to your linked credit card without all the fees the rental companies like to saddle you with. It was very easy to reserve online and pick up at a booth near the rental car counters. We simply dropped it off at the same booth when we returned to the booth when we flew home. I dropped off the family and our embarrassing amount of luggage at the terminal and went to drop off the car. I picked National because they have a location within the port and very close to the terminal. I was back with my family in under 15 minutes. The embarkation process was super quick and easy. We arrived at the port at approximately 10:35 and were onboard with drinks in hand at 11:15. Fwiw, we did have a Jr. Suite which allowed us to embark on a little quicker but our friends had a regular oceanview and actually beat us onboard as they made it to port a about 10 minutes sooner than us. It really doesn’t seem that the different embarkation perk levels make any difference that early in the morning. The short version of our cruise experience is that we loved it. We stayed in a Jr. Suite and booked two Royal Carribean and two private excursions. We ate at speciality restaurants 4 nights and never tried the main dining room for dinner. We saw three shows and tried quite a few onboard activities. We would definitely be open to cruising on Royal Carribean again but we weren’t blown away enough to forsake other cruise lines in the future. And now the longer version… We originally booked a Large Ocean View stateroom using a travel agent at AAA. AAA provides some nice perks in a free speciality restaurant dinner for 2, a free speciality restaurant lunch for 2, a bottle of champagne, and priority boarding. Technically the only perk we ended up using was the free speciality restaurant dinner. We price matched several times and managed to drop about $900 off our cruise price. We got an email offer to bid on a room upgrade through Royal Caribbean about 3 months before our sailing date. I bid $550 on an upgrade to the Jr. Suite which was only $50 more than the bare minimum and considered a “poor” bid. About 2 months prior to sailing our bid was accepted, my credit card was charged, and our new room was assigned, all in one email on a monday morning. We ended up getting a slanted balcony on deck 8. This room was excellent and I would happily take the floor and the slanted balcony in the future without reservation. The slanted balcony ended up offering a great view forward without leaning out over the railing. And deck 8 was perfect if you plan on eating dinner at the speciality restaurants as several of them are off Central Park which is on the same level. Deck 5 and deck 6 are the Promenade and the Boardwalk so are easily walking distance when the elevators are packed (which was often). The room itself was spacious and had a pullman bed and pull out bed. My daughter spent the whole week in the pullman and seemed fairly comfortable as she was only complaining about my snoring and not the bed. The walk-in closet was great and the bigger bathroom was very nice. The bathtub/shower is only partially enclosed, which was weird and led to wet floors after a shower. There were at least 4 AC outlets and 2 USB outlets in the room which was plenty for us. There is no clothesline but we brought plenty of magnetic hooks and used those to hang wet bathing suits without any problems. We had a standard room attendant (not a genie) who was easily the best room attendant we have ever had. (Fwiw his name is Iwayan and he is from Indonesia.) I wouldn’t have booked the room at its initial cost of $2000 more than our original room, but now that I’ve experienced it I will probably book it again in the future. As for the food… For a little background, we're more Outback / Olive Garden level diners in the real world as opposed to Ruth Chris Steakhouse types. We ended up eating at speciality restaurants 4 nights and Johnny Rockets for lunch one day. In general the food quality was much better than the other venues and quite enjoyable overall. We dined at Wonderland on embarkation day and got a table with a great view overlooking the boardwalk area at night. While Wonderland was as much an experience as a meal, for us it was very slow between courses and the food was weird. While it was enjoyable and filling it was not an experience we would choose to repeat. 150 Park and Jamie’s Italian had excellent food and faster serving times, though it was still a bit slow for us. Chops was excellent all around and would happily dine there again. We ended up eating at Johnny Rockets with two of our friends and everybody seemed to enjoy the food quite a bit. My wife thought the burgers were a bit greasy but that was the only negative comment in the group. The rest of our meals were primarily from the Windjammer with a few visits to the Solarium. The Windjammer was OK though quite noisy and crowded. We preferred the Solarium overall but the selection was more limited than the Windjammer. In the future we would probably skip the specialty dining entirely and concentrate on scheduled dining in the main dining room. As a side note, our friends tried on multiple nights to get seated as a group of seven in the main dining room for anytime dining. They were not allowed to make reservations at all and when they showed up for standby seating the were turned away. It made such a poor impression I doubt they will sail with Royal Caribbean again. For the ports we visited Coco Cay, Costa Maya, Roatan, and Cozumel. At Coco Cay our group bought waterpark passes and had a good time. I tried snorkeling over by Chill Island but didn’t see anything worth mentioning. I think the waterpark tickets were overpriced but I’d probably buy them again. In Costa Maya my daughter and I booked a two tank dive directly with Doctor Dive, and in Roatan we booked a two tank dive with Sun Divers. Both experiences were excellent and priced reasonably. I would easily book with either again but if I had to choose a favorite I would take Sun Divers again over Doctor Dive. Sun Divers provided the transportation and they had an excellent bar next door to hang out in while waiting for a ride back. (If you go say hi to Leslie the Irish ex-pat bartender and don’t forget to get a lap dance from bar security.) I would also say the reef was more vibrant in Roatan. My wife chose to shop with friends in both ports. Costa Maya had a better port but the shops were very redundant. Roatan is currently working on expanding their port but for some reason they liked the limited shopping there better. For Cozumel we decided to go to Xcaret via an excursion offered by Royal Caribbean. Xcaret was great but we really needed more time there. The travel in each direction was about 2 hours and included a very bumpy ferry ride and bus ride. We had a relatively calm day on the ferry crossing but they still needed to hand out quite a few vomit bags. After all the travel was done we were left with a little under 5 hours at Xcaret. We got back to the ship late which left no time to shop in port at all. Overall, I’m glad we went, but I wouldn’t repeat it or necessarily recommend it to others. Onboard ship we saw three shows and tried the escape room. We enjoyed the shows and would probably book them again on a future cruise. The escape room was enjoyable but I probably wouldn’t repeat it unless they changed the puzzle. Members of our group also tried the slides, mini-golf, zipline, pools, and carousel and seemed to enjoy them. The self serve ice cream machine was a big hit with everybody. We didn’t do any shopping on board and the few watches I was interested in were cheaper on Amazon. We got the internet package for 2 devices and it worked well but I didn’t personally use it much. We also got the deluxe beverage package and got our value out of it without too much effort. For disembarkation we chose to use the luggage valet service and self disembark at 7am. Luggage valet was $25 per person and well worth the price. We tagged our 6 checked bags the night before and had them in the hallway by 10pm. We didn’t see them again until we got them at the airport when we got home the next day. We got off the ship just after 7am, picked up our rental car at National, and arrived at Orlando International by 8:15am. Dropping off the car at National was very quick and since our boarding passes were pre-printed by Royal Caribbean we were through security and at the gate by 9am. While we got there very quickly from the ship I would still never book a flight before 1pm or so. If you are unlucky enough to get a coast guard inspection it can delay everyone’s disembarkation by hours. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and would happily do it again. On our next cruise… We will buy the deluxe beverage package. We won’t buy the dining package. We will book private excursions as long as they are close to the ship. We will get a scheduled time to dine in the main dining room. We will use the luggage valet service and probably use Southwest earlybird check in. We will probably book at least a Jr. Suite, having the elbow room and closet was worth it. We will always fly in the day before the cruise to reduce stress levels.

Excellent first time cruise on Royal Caribbean

Harmony of the Seas Cruise Review by Grenadyr

8 people found this helpful
Trip Details
We are a family of 3 which includes my wife and I and our 15 year old daughter. We chose to cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas on a 7 Night Western Carribean itinerary, so we could vacation with friends who were already booked. As a total group, on the cruise, we totated 5 adults and 5 teenagers from 12 - 17. We have cruised twice before but with two different cruise lines and two different destinations, so everything on this cruise was going to be new to us.

We decided to start our vacation by arriving early in the day preceding the cruise so we could enjoy a day exploring Orlando. We flew Southwest Airlines and opted for the early bird check-in option. Unless money was tight we will probably use early bird check-in again as it simplifies things and got us a better boarding assignment to ensure we were near the front of the plane and sitting together. As an additional note Southwest boards families with children under six between the A and B groups. We found that as these families wanted to sit together and the A group had randomly occupied the first half of the plane, the families seemed to congregate in the back half of the plane as a result.

We arrived in Orlando with an embarrassing amount of luggage for a family of 3 and rented a car from National directly at the airport. If I had been more experienced I would have been able to skip the counter and just pick a car and finish the checkout at the garage exit. Very quick and easy car rental experience overall. We arrived well before noon at the “Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando - International Drive” and they were able to check us in immediately so we could drop off our luggage and start exploring. The hotel was clean, well maintained, and well situated to explore the more popular attractions in Orlando.

We opted to do some shopping and eating at Disney Springs. We ate at the Earl of Sandwich was which was tasty and economical especially considering Disney’s usually inflated food prices. (As a side note, I managed to get a pretty good cut on my lip from the bread which was an odd experience.) We then drove directly to Universal City Walk to see Blue Man Group and paid way too much for parking. Blue Man Group was great but if you have seen them in the past 10 years be aware they haven’t changed the show at all. We probably won’t go again until they change the show. We then proceeded to finish out the night at “Andretti Indoor Karting & Games”. Andretti was a blast! We stayed until about 11pm before we had to give up due to exhaustion. They have three different indoor go-kart tracks for varying ages and abilities. They also have video games, a ropes course, a bowling area, and a bar. We would definitely like to spend more time there as everyone in our family had a blast there.

After collapsing and sleeping fairly well we decided to eat breakfast at the hotel which was included with the room. It was standard hotel fair and quite acceptable to all of us as it included hot foods such as eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, etc… We checked out very quickly and proceeded directly to the highway which was very close to the hotel but unheard from our room.

The drive to Port Canaveral was about 45 minutes and uneventful. As a side note if you are renting a car and driving around I recommend a “Visitor Toll Pass” from the Central Florida Expressway Authority. It's a small placard you can hang from your mirror that will charge all your tolls directly to your linked credit card without all the fees the rental companies like to saddle you with. It was very easy to reserve online and pick up at a booth near the rental car counters. We simply dropped it off at the same booth when we returned to the booth when we flew home. I dropped off the family and our embarrassing amount of luggage at the terminal and went to drop off the car. I picked National because they have a location within the port and very close to the terminal. I was back with my family in under 15 minutes.

The embarkation process was super quick and easy. We arrived at the port at approximately 10:35 and were onboard with drinks in hand at 11:15. Fwiw, we did have a Jr. Suite which allowed us to embark on a little quicker but our friends had a regular oceanview and actually beat us onboard as they made it to port a about 10 minutes sooner than us. It really doesn’t seem that the different embarkation perk levels make any difference that early in the morning.

The short version of our cruise experience is that we loved it. We stayed in a Jr. Suite and booked two Royal Carribean and two private excursions. We ate at speciality restaurants 4 nights and never tried the main dining room for dinner. We saw three shows and tried quite a few onboard activities. We would definitely be open to cruising on Royal Carribean again but we weren’t blown away enough to forsake other cruise lines in the future.

And now the longer version… We originally booked a Large Ocean View stateroom using a travel agent at AAA. AAA provides some nice perks in a free speciality restaurant dinner for 2, a free speciality restaurant lunch for 2, a bottle of champagne, and priority boarding. Technically the only perk we ended up using was the free speciality restaurant dinner. We price matched several times and managed to drop about $900 off our cruise price. We got an email offer to bid on a room upgrade through Royal Caribbean about 3 months before our sailing date. I bid $550 on an upgrade to the Jr. Suite which was only $50 more than the bare minimum and considered a “poor” bid. About 2 months prior to sailing our bid was accepted, my credit card was charged, and our new room was assigned, all in one email on a monday morning. We ended up getting a slanted balcony on deck 8. This room was excellent and I would happily take the floor and the slanted balcony in the future without reservation. The slanted balcony ended up offering a great view forward without leaning out over the railing. And deck 8 was perfect if you plan on eating dinner at the speciality restaurants as several of them are off Central Park which is on the same level. Deck 5 and deck 6 are the Promenade and the Boardwalk so are easily walking distance when the elevators are packed (which was often). The room itself was spacious and had a pullman bed and pull out bed. My daughter spent the whole week in the pullman and seemed fairly comfortable as she was only complaining about my snoring and not the bed. The walk-in closet was great and the bigger bathroom was very nice. The bathtub/shower is only partially enclosed, which was weird and led to wet floors after a shower. There were at least 4 AC outlets and 2 USB outlets in the room which was plenty for us. There is no clothesline but we brought plenty of magnetic hooks and used those to hang wet bathing suits without any problems. We had a standard room attendant (not a genie) who was easily the best room attendant we have ever had. (Fwiw his name is Iwayan and he is from Indonesia.) I wouldn’t have booked the room at its initial cost of $2000 more than our original room, but now that I’ve experienced it I will probably book it again in the future.

As for the food… For a little background, we're more Outback / Olive Garden level diners in the real world as opposed to Ruth Chris Steakhouse types. We ended up eating at speciality restaurants 4 nights and Johnny Rockets for lunch one day. In general the food quality was much better than the other venues and quite enjoyable overall. We dined at Wonderland on embarkation day and got a table with a great view overlooking the boardwalk area at night. While Wonderland was as much an experience as a meal, for us it was very slow between courses and the food was weird. While it was enjoyable and filling it was not an experience we would choose to repeat. 150 Park and Jamie’s Italian had excellent food and faster serving times, though it was still a bit slow for us. Chops was excellent all around and would happily dine there again. We ended up eating at Johnny Rockets with two of our friends and everybody seemed to enjoy the food quite a bit. My wife thought the burgers were a bit greasy but that was the only negative comment in the group. The rest of our meals were primarily from the Windjammer with a few visits to the Solarium. The Windjammer was OK though quite noisy and crowded. We preferred the Solarium overall but the selection was more limited than the Windjammer. In the future we would probably skip the specialty dining entirely and concentrate on scheduled dining in the main dining room. As a side note, our friends tried on multiple nights to get seated as a group of seven in the main dining room for anytime dining. They were not allowed to make reservations at all and when they showed up for standby seating the were turned away. It made such a poor impression I doubt they will sail with Royal Caribbean again.

For the ports we visited Coco Cay, Costa Maya, Roatan, and Cozumel. At Coco Cay our group bought waterpark passes and had a good time. I tried snorkeling over by Chill Island but didn’t see anything worth mentioning. I think the waterpark tickets were overpriced but I’d probably buy them again.

In Costa Maya my daughter and I booked a two tank dive directly with Doctor Dive, and in Roatan we booked a two tank dive with Sun Divers. Both experiences were excellent and priced reasonably. I would easily book with either again but if I had to choose a favorite I would take Sun Divers again over Doctor Dive. Sun Divers provided the transportation and they had an excellent bar next door to hang out in while waiting for a ride back. (If you go say hi to Leslie the Irish ex-pat bartender and don’t forget to get a lap dance from bar security.) I would also say the reef was more vibrant in Roatan. My wife chose to shop with friends in both ports. Costa Maya had a better port but the shops were very redundant. Roatan is currently working on expanding their port but for some reason they liked the limited shopping there better.

For Cozumel we decided to go to Xcaret via an excursion offered by Royal Caribbean. Xcaret was great but we really needed more time there. The travel in each direction was about 2 hours and included a very bumpy ferry ride and bus ride. We had a relatively calm day on the ferry crossing but they still needed to hand out quite a few vomit bags. After all the travel was done we were left with a little under 5 hours at Xcaret. We got back to the ship late which left no time to shop in port at all. Overall, I’m glad we went, but I wouldn’t repeat it or necessarily recommend it to others.

Onboard ship we saw three shows and tried the escape room. We enjoyed the shows and would probably book them again on a future cruise. The escape room was enjoyable but I probably wouldn’t repeat it unless they changed the puzzle. Members of our group also tried the slides, mini-golf, zipline, pools, and carousel and seemed to enjoy them. The self serve ice cream machine was a big hit with everybody. We didn’t do any shopping on board and the few watches I was interested in were cheaper on Amazon. We got the internet package for 2 devices and it worked well but I didn’t personally use it much. We also got the deluxe beverage package and got our value out of it without too much effort.

For disembarkation we chose to use the luggage valet service and self disembark at 7am. Luggage valet was $25 per person and well worth the price. We tagged our 6 checked bags the night before and had them in the hallway by 10pm. We didn’t see them again until we got them at the airport when we got home the next day. We got off the ship just after 7am, picked up our rental car at National, and arrived at Orlando International by 8:15am. Dropping off the car at National was very quick and since our boarding passes were pre-printed by Royal Caribbean we were through security and at the gate by 9am. While we got there very quickly from the ship I would still never book a flight before 1pm or so. If you are unlucky enough to get a coast guard inspection it can delay everyone’s disembarkation by hours.

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and would happily do it again. On our next cruise…

We will buy the deluxe beverage package.

We won’t buy the dining package.

We will book private excursions as long as they are close to the ship.

We will get a scheduled time to dine in the main dining room.

We will use the luggage valet service and probably use Southwest earlybird check in.

We will probably book at least a Jr. Suite, having the elbow room and closet was worth it.

We will always fly in the day before the cruise to reduce stress levels.
Grenadyr’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Junior Suite
Cabin J4
Spacious cabin with lots or storage and a great deck.
Deck 14 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews