Harmony of the Seas Entertainment & Activities
The big production shows on Harmony of the Seas take place in the Royal Theater, located on decks 4 and 5. The theater is large, with neon lighting, cushioned gold chairs and a big stage, with a giant movie screen flanking each side.
The highlight is the ship's production of "Grease." Royal Caribbean bought the rights, then found a way to seamlessly blend the scripts and music from the original Broadway musical and the hit movie. The result has to make fans of both happy. Theater purists will get their "It's Raining on Prom Night," while movie fans will go gaga over "Hopelessly Devoted to You." The performers are pitch-perfect and believable in rolls that for many were made famous by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. This just might be the best Broadway show at sea.
"Columbus the Musical!" is the second big-stage show on Harmony of the Seas. This one follows the story of Marvin Columbus, a distant relative of Christopher who sets sail hoping to make a discovery of his own. It's a disjointed musical that uses popular songs by Katy Perry, Queen, Rihanna, Michael Buble, Rachel Platten, Bruno Mars and countless other musical artists to tell the story of Marvin as he tries to find his destiny (which turns out to be a private Royal Caribbean island, which he finds through some time traveling miracle). Just to give you an idea of the bizarreness you'll encounter in the show -- There's a singing shark doing a rendition of Paul Simon's "You Can Call me Al," followed by a group of singing and dancing sharks and lady cheeseburgers belting out "Cheeseburger in Paradise."
Otherwise, the Royal Theater hosts performers such as musicians, jugglers and ventriloquists.
Studio B, an ice rink located on Deck 4, also hosts a couple of major production shows: "1887" and "iSkate." The former starts in France in 1887 and follows the story of a woman and her companion back through time, all the way to the Big Bang. It's visually stunning, though the story is loose and the skating is just OK. "iSkate" is designed to feel more free form, as the ship's skaters show off their best moves set to their favorite music. Studio B also hosts the non-skating show Harmony High, a rock 'n' roll through the ages event.
Perhaps the most amazing shows onboard Harmony of the Seas take place at the AquaTheatre, a massive outdoor water theater located at the back of the ship, accessible from the Boardwalk on Deck 6. Performances combine acrobatics, high-wire acts, jaw-dropping diving and incredible stunts set to music. It's a highlight of any cruise on Harmony of the Seas. It's also definitely the most photogenic.
No matter where the shows take place, you'll need reservations to get in even though performances are free; use the Royal IQ app to book, either on your personal device or on one of the many tablets located around the ship. No-shows are fairly common at all venues, so even if you don't snag a reservation, show up early. Chances are, you'll get in. Productions are designed to fit all dining schedules, so most are shown at least twice on the day they're performed. Some of the more popular events will take place several times over the span of the cruise.
You won't lack for activities to keep you busy every day on Harmony of the Seas. Test your brain with trivia -- several sessions take place each day -- or at the oh-so-fun Puzzle Break Center on Deck 14: "Escape the Rubicon." The game, uber-trendy on land, takes passengers onboard a spaceship that mysteriously malfunctions. Their job is to get the ship up and running, in one hour or less. The space is perfect; it feels like you've stepped onto the set of a sci-fi movie. Solving the mind puzzle requires teamwork, with passengers working together to discover clues left throughout the room. You'll have a blast, meet new people, get frustrated and feel like a smarty pants, all in the space of 60 minutes. Passengers must be at least 14 years old to participate, and only 12 people at a time can play (it feels pretty crowded and takes away from the group-think when the group is large). Don't feel bad if you don't solve it: Only 40 percent of people do, according to the creators of the game.
Other daytime activities include basketball, Ping-Pong and poker tournaments, as well as bingo (for a fee) and dance classes. When the weather is nice, you'll find pool games aplenty, including a hairy chest contest and sexy legs competition.
Ice skating is open to passengers at Studio B during various times throughout the cruise, so keep an eye on your Cruise Compass.
A beautiful carousel on the Boardwalk will have you feeling nostalgic for days gone by. Rides are free. Also on the Boardwalk is an arcade, complete with traditional amusement park games such as Skee-Ball and Whack-A-Mole. Games require a fee, which you can pay using your Seapass card. A second arcade is located on Deck 15. You'll also find Skee-Ball here, along with plenty of shoot-em-up action games.
The ship really jams at night, when everyone is decked out for dinner and enjoying the electric atmosphere. It's also when it might feel the most crowded, as people compete for limited space at the blockbuster events, especially those on the Royal Promenade. Variety here is the name of the game, and many spots ebb and flow, so you can catch a seat or an impromptu show fairly easily at some point.
The ship's casino is located midship on Deck 4. The casino includes a huge number of slot machines, along with table games like blackjack, craps and roulette. It hosts tournaments throughout the cruise, has a sports book and a poker room. It also has a bar. This is the only indoor spot for smoking, and the odor does waft through the space into the adjacent art gallery and even into the waiting area in front of the Grand restaurant.
Catch late-night adult comedy shows at the Attic on Deck 4. Seriously, they're for adults. Expect laughter and blue language and references. Reservations are required but shows are free. The location is a bit odd in that music from the Royal Promenade drifts down when the door opens (as people come and go) and is distracting for both the comedian and the audience. We love that the space looks like a serious comedy club but wish it were better positioned onboard. Late into the night, it occasionally hosts music and dancing.
A better spot for music is Jazz on 4 (Deck 4). This cool venue just oozes mellow vibes and fantastic live jazz. No reservations necessary, but dancing and music starts late and goes later.
Another great place for music is the Royal Promenade (Deck 5), which hosts live music and DJs throughout the day; at night, the volume goes up. The ship's singers and dancers show up for things like the "Totally Awesome 90s Street Party," designed to get passengers dancing along with the staff. Costumes are straight out of the 90s (and you thought 80s clothes were embarrassing!), and music includes show-stoppers such as "Ice Ice Baby," "Wannabe" and "Jump Around." It might be too soon to revisit the 90s, as many passengers came for the event but seemed to lose interest quickly. It's certainly not for lack of energy from the performers.
Located on the Royal Promenade, the On-Air Club hosts a number of the ships audience-participation games, such as the "Majority Rules Game Show," and music trivia. Late at night, it is setup as the ship's adults-only karaoke bar, where passengers belt out hits on the venue's small stage.
Harmony of the Seas Bars and Lounges
With so many choices for bars and lounges, chances are, you'll find something that fits your personality. Most bars on Harmony of the Seas offer live music, unique drinks and distinct atmosphere. At night, you probably won't find a quiet spot for a drink, though. The bars are all about being loud, offering entertainment and keeping you dancing and singing along late into the night.
Casino Bar (Deck 4): The Royal Casino has a bar for patrons who want to take a break from gaming. Smoking is permitted here.
Boleros (Deck 5): This Latin-style lounge, located on the Promenade, features live music and dancing late into the night. Decorated in bright reds and orange, the bar -- and its dance floor -- really gets going after showtime.
Boot & Bonnet Pub (Deck 5): The best spot for a pint onboard, the Boot & Bonnet is an English-style pub located on the Promenade. This is where you'll find the best variety of beers from around the world, and the menu even has a beer style guide that breaks down the styles (English Ale, Tripel and IPA, for example) to help novices make decisions. Waiters circulate past the dark booths and tables, though many people prefer to visit the long bar to avoid a wait. The bar also serves "beertinis" and "cockt-ales," a trendy mixture of beer and spirits in drinks like "Boston Kiss" (Sam Adams and creme de mure) or "Dublin Iced Tea" (rum, whiskey, cognac, port and Guinness). An acoustic guitarist provides the entertainment at night.
Rising Tide Bar (Deck 5 through 7): Worth trying once, this bar is more like an elevator with a bar than a place to hang out. It moves between the Promenade Deck and Central Park, a three-deck ride. Ride times are listed at the bar's entrances, and it usually offers a number of trips each night.
Bionic Bar (Deck 5): Two "robot bartenders" make your drink (cocktails only) after you punch in your order via tablets. Watch as these bionic arms shake up your cocktail. Because the robots can make only two drinks at once, it could take a little while to get your drink, but the novelty of it is a lot of fun (at least the first time).
Schooner Bar (Deck 6): This nautically themed piano bar looks over the Royal Promenade and usually is quite busy. When music from the Promenade doesn't filter in, a pianist/vocalist entertains.
Vintages (Deck 8): A true wine bar, Vintages is located in Central Park. It features a large, tall table that can be used for wine tastings, offered several times a cruise, for a fee, as well as smaller, more intimate tables and a bar. The show-stopping piece of artwork here is an enormous portrait of a woman made using wine corks. Wine is available by the glass or the bottle. You can also order nibbles here from Jamie's Italian -- just don't expect the same portion sizes you'll get at Jamie's. Order appetizers such as the crab and avocado bruschetta or the pecorino and chili jam. Prices are a la carte.
Trellis Bar (Deck 8): Located in Central Park, this small open-air bar has a limited amount of seating but is a less hectic place for people-watching and enjoying a quiet drink.
Dazzles (Decks 8 and 9): This two-deck nightclub has live music and dancing every day. The top-deck is great for watching rather than participating; it overlooks the dance floor and small stage on Deck 8. Wait staff serve both levels. Dancing occasionally is themed, so you might hear Motown one night, then a tribute band the next. Dazzles stays open late, and getting a table can be tricky, but if you've got your dance shoes on, you won't need one.
Diamond Club (Deck 4): This exclusive venue is open only to upper-tier members of Royal Caribbean's loyalty club, the Crown and Anchor Society. Diamond Club members get free drinks in the evening as well as concierge service and a daily continental breakfast. The location of the space is a bit odd, in that the entrance is tucked into the area where people stand in line waiting for shows at Studio B, so the door, which is motion-activated, often is opened by show-goers, taking away a bit from the privacy. It's open to Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Club members.
Pool Bar and Sand Bar (Deck 15): These two small bars serve the pool areas and are nearly identical. The biggest difference is that smoking is permitted at the Pool Bar.
Solarium Bar (Deck 16): The Solarium Bar serves passengers using the adults-only space. Because it's the only bar in the area, it's fairly busy, but it's a nice spot to grab a drink pre-dinner.
Wipe Out Bar (Deck 16): This outdoor bar is sandwiched between the ship's two FlowRiders. It's a fun spot to watch passengers try out the surf simulators. You'll cheer and laugh from your seat.
Mast Bar (Deck 16): This bar is located on the port side overlooking the pool. Smoking is permitted here.
Harmony of the Seas Outside Recreation
Harmony of the Seas' unique design, with multiple areas open to decks below in the middle, means there's not really a traditional main swimming pool. Instead, there are several smaller pools located on Deck 15. To the left (port) side are the Main Pool and Sports Pool. On the right (starboard) side is the Beach Pool. There is little difference between the three pools, except the Beach Pool is designed to have a beachy feel, with striped loungers (in adult and kid sizes) and a faux sand/rock wall that divides the pool area from lanes of traffic. It also has a sloped entry, so lounge chairs here sit in an inch or two of water -- not bad on a hot day. Nonsmokers will prefer the Beach Pool, as there is a smoking section at the Pool Bar between the Main Pool and Sports Pool. Mesh loungers fill the entire pool area, which leaves plenty of options for shaded or full-sun seating, but it also chokes foot traffic a little. You'll also have a number of hot tubs from which to choose.
Harmony of the Seas doesn't have a kiddie pool, but it does have a toy-filled kids' playland, called Splashaway Bay that includes colorful water features like water cannons, a multilevel jungle gym and an enormous drenching water bucket that dumps gallons of water onto children as they play (and occasionally those passengers who walk a little too close to the play area).
Harmony of the Seas is a dream ship for people who love a little -- or a lot -- of activity on their vacations. The ship packs a lot of options. It's biggest is truly, well, big. The Ultimate Abyss is a 10-story dry slide (as opposed to a water slide) that starts on Deck 16 and finishes on the Deck 6 Boardwalk below. Even visually, it's a show-stopper, and it's impossible to miss. The entrance is designed to look like a giant angler fish. You have to climb through its sharp-looking (though not actually sharp) teeth to enter the slide. Climb up the stairs, and you're on a glass-bottomed platform that gives you a clear view of the sea below and the Boardwalk level. The Abyss has two slides, and riders will fly down at breathtaking speeds atop mats that add speed (and eliminate friction burns). It's a blast and open to anyone at least 44 inches tall. If you do nothing else on Harmony of the Seas, do this. The ride lasts 12 seconds, long enough to get your heart racing without time to be truly terrifying.
Adrenalin junkies also will adore the ship's zipline, which offers a seven-second ride from Deck 16 to Deck 15 over the wide-open space above the Boardwalk. It's a fun ride, but weather is often a factor. If it's at all wet out or too windy, it closes, so if you have sunny, clear skies, take advantage and zip.
Harmony of the Seas features three water slides, collectively called the Perfect Storm. Two, dubbed Typhoon and Cyclone, are racing slides, while the third -- Supercell -- features a "toilet bowl," which includes clear tubing so cruisers can watch as sliders go through.
The ship also features two FlowRiders -- surf simulators where passenger can hone their Boogie boarding or surfing skills. The minimum height for Boogie boarding is 52 inches; stand-up surfers must be at least 58 inches. It's free to passengers, but those wanting private lessons have to pay a pretty hefty fee. You can also head down to Deck 6 for rock climbing; two giant rock climbing walls flank the AquaTheatre. Climbers must be at least 6 years old. (Children younger than 6 might like the "Luckey Climbers" wall on the Boardwalk; it's made of small, colorful, potato-chip shaped platforms on which kids can climb, all within the protection of a net.) A mini-golf course (called Harmony Dunes) on Deck 15 is popular when the weather is pleasant.
Virtually all of the middle of Deck 16 serves as a sun deck on Harmony of the Seas, with lots of lounge chairs and little shade. You can still hear the music from the pool a deck below but you'll find some quiet, too. The Mast Bar on the left (port) side is easily accessible, though smoking is allowed here, too, and smoke wafts toward the back of the ship.
Suite passengers -- those in the Sky Class and above -- get access to the exclusive suite sun deck on Deck 17. Here, you'll find padded lounge chairs and a private bar.
The three-deck Solarium is open to passengers 16-years-old and above. Located all the way at the front of the ship, the space is semi-covered, providing shade but breeze as well. The Solarium is serene, with loads of brown mesh loungers as well as some green-padded chairs and wicker clam-shell lounging beds. While there's no pool here -- a real shame -- there are plenty of large capacity hot tubs, as well as a walk-through mister, a wonderful addition on hot days.
Harmony of the Seas Services
The art gallery on Harmony of the Seas is located on Deck 4. It feels like more of a walkthrough area from the Royal Casino than an actual dedicated space, but works of art do hang from the walls. Actual auctions take place elsewhere, such as The Attic, on Deck 4.
Deck 5 is where you'll find most of the ship's services: the future cruise desk, shore excursions desk and guest services. Worth noting: Because guest services is on the Promenade, the music and buzz -- especially at night -- is quite loud. Don't count on people in guest services to hear or pick up the phone at night. Deck 5 is also where a number of the ship's tablets for its Royal IQ app are located (though you can find these throughout the ship as well). While you can download the app and use it for free to make reservations on your personal devices, those who would prefer another option can pop onto the app and reserve dining times and restaurants and show tickets. It worked pretty seamlessly for us, though others reported lost reservations. Royal IQ also loads up an e-copy of the Cruise Compass, which we found handier than the paper form. You can "favorite" the things you'd like to do; check back often to see if reservations have opened up.
A number of shops are located on Deck 5 (the Promenade) and Deck 8 (Central Park). Most are high-end retailers, such as Kate Spade New York, Bulgari or Cartier. Deck 5 also offers a number of essentials (snacks, lip balm and the like) along with Royal Caribbean branded souvenirs. Additional shops selling clothing and more branded gear are located on the Boardwalk. A small store on Deck 15 sells beachy items, such as sunscreen, swimsuit cover-ups and sun hats and glasses.
Deck 6 is home to Focus photo gallery, which uses digital technology to help you find your photos taken by the ship's professional photographers. Right next door is a portrait studio, called Picture This.
A small card and game room doubles as a tiny library -- literally, two small shelving units -- with an internet cafe, located on Deck 14. The internet cafe is little used, perhaps because it's windowless and dark or maybe because the Wi-Fi offered onboard (dubbed Voom) is so good. Voom allows passengers to email, Facebook and even stream video. A number of packages are offered, depending on whether you want to just surf or surf and stream, as well as how many devices you'd like to use. You can buy a single day pass for $19.99 or $27.99 if you want to stream. Otherwise, pricing starts at $9.99 per day, per device (but only if you're buying a four-device surfing package) and goes up to $17.99 per day, per device (for a one-device surf and stream package). Packages also are available for two devices, but not three. Internet quality is excellent and worth noting because fast internet still isn't common on cruise ships. We were able to stream movies, Skype and even hold a streaming Facebook chat on our sailing with little disruption.
Harmony of the Seas doesn't have self-service laundry facilities, but you can pay for laundry by item or by bag-load.