By Colleen McDaniel
Cruise Critic Senior Executive Editor
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

Harmony of the Seas offers a number of restaurants where you can grab a bite at no additional cost. Quality from venue to venue as well as menu to menu varies; one night, you'll have a great meal, while the next you might be disappointed. The variety is excellent, though, and you can always find a place to eat, no matter the time of day. A number of venues -- beyond the buffet or main dining room -- offer complimentary breakfast and lunch. Even picky eaters and those with dietary restrictions will be happy with Harmony of the Seas' included offerings; it's just a matter of finding the right venue for your tastes.

That said, the quality and experience are far superior in the ship's additional-fee restaurants. The spaces themselves are comfortable and well-designed. They feel cozy and quiet -- in part because each venue caps the dining capacity to ensure an intimate experience. The cap, though, does lead to one big problem: Passengers can't always get into the places they want to eat. While reservations officially are "encouraged," we found them to be absolutely required. Book reservations ahead of your sailing to assure you get to eat where you want, when you want. Barring that, book reservations once onboard either via the Royal IQ app (we found this to be very convenient and easy) or by visiting or calling the venue directly, though we found no one answered our calls. You can be happy eating solely at the included options, but adding an alternative restaurant or two can make for a really special experience.

Free Dining

Main Dining Room (Decks 3, 4 and 5): The main dining room is actually made up of three dining rooms, all distinctly decorated. While the themes are different, the food is the same no matter where you eat. One of the restaurants -- American Icon (Deck 3) -- provides set-time dining, while The Grande (Deck 4) and Silk (Deck 5) offer My Time Dining. Set dining means you'll eat at the same table, with the same people and have the same waiters at the same time every night. You can dine at either 6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. My Time Dining provides flexibility: You can eat dinner any time between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m., though reservations are encouraged, unless you're comfortable standing in line waiting for a table during the busiest periods.

American Icon is decorated in Americana style, with giant maps of the United States made out of license plates hanging on the walls, art made of round car lights and cool murals depicting American cities. The Grande feels elegant, with high-backed ivory chairs and pops of glossy black wood. Silk is Asian themed, with deep, plush red furniture and silk lanterns. For all meals, vegetarian, no-sugar-added, lactose-free and gluten-free options are identified. Notify your waiter and maitre d about any food allergies or dietary requirements when you first board to ensure they can accommodate specific needs. (While you should note dietary restrictions when you book your cruise, it's always a good idea to confirm once you're onboard.) If you require fairly specific accommodations, choose set dining so you can have the same waiter, who can remember your needs, each night.

Breakfast is served every day in American Icon, with no set dining times or reservations required. You can eat either a la carte by ordering from the menu or by picking from the space's surprisingly extensive breakfast buffet. Or you can do both. The menu is the same each day, offering items like omelets, pancakes, juice, sides of bacon or ham and French toast. The buffet supplements the menu, with food such as fresh fruit, muesli, breakfast potatoes and pastries. It's a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the ship's buffet, and you can eat a quick meal or spend more time enjoying a leisurely breakfast.

American Icon also serves lunch, but only on sea days. Like breakfast, you can order strictly off the menu, visit the buffet or enjoy a combination of both. This is the best spot to get a salad onboard. At the buffet, you can pick out your greens, toppings (choose from olives, eggs, chicken, beans and tuna, for example), then select a dressing. The server will put it all into a bowl for you and chop it up using a pizza cutter. We loved the variety of greens (including arugula, endive and radicchio) as well as the number of protein toppings. The buffet also offers hot items, such as vegetable curry, mashed potatoes, pasta bake, broiled fish and grilled chicken, as well as an awesome variety of cheese. (Cheese at every restaurant onboard really is excellent; we just wish it were labeled so we knew what we were eating.) The menu offers starters such as cold strawberry bisque or baby spinach salad, entrees like truffled grilled cheese or lasagna al forno and desserts like ice cream or Key lime pie. Dishes are generally heavy on the salt, and we preferred the quality of the buffet options over items from the menu.

Dinner is always a plated affair no matter which main dining restaurant you pick. Menus offer appetizers, soups and salads, entrees and desserts. All courses include a vegetarian option, beyond simply pasta dishes. Choose from appetizers like duck terrine or wild mushroom vol-au-vent. Soups on offer include a creamy lobster bisque or chilled cucumber soup. One of our favorite salads onboard is the tomato, watermelon and feta, served with a balsamic reduction. Entrees might include a tender filet mignon or vegetable tagine. Menus vary each night, but you can always order from the classic menu, which includes chilled shrimp and buttery escargots a la bourguignonne appetizers, French onion soup, Caesar salad, broiled Atlantic salmon, grilled chicken breast and New York sirloin. We found the sirloin a bit tough but would be happy ordering the escargot every night. (Though we can't be certain if it's because the escargot are delicious or the hot butter topping is so perfect paired with fresh bread.)

Sorrento's Pizzeria (Deck 5): Located on the Royal Promenade, Sorrento's offers pizza by the slice or made to order. We love the variety of slices here: usual offerings like cheese or pepperoni along with more exotic options like chicken tandoori. Gluten-free pizzas are available, made to order only. You'll also find two serve-yourself Coke machines here, which you can use if you've ordered a beverage package that includes soda. Sorrento's is open from lunchtime until very late.

Cafe Promenade (Deck 5): Cafe Promenade offers quick bites 24 hours a day. In the morning hours, grab pastries and doughnuts. Lunch and dinner deliver tasty sandwiches, such as roast beef, shrimp hoagies or chicken roti. But the best might be the post-dinnertime sweets, like chocolate banana bread. Cookies, tea and coffee are served around the clock.

Boardwalk Dog House (Deck 6): A fun addition to the Boardwalk, this feels a bit like a Coney Island staple. Try a traditional all-beef Coney Island Dog, bratwurst or chicken sausage, and slather on condiments such as mayo, American or German mustard, ketchup (unless you're a Chicago purist), and add peppers, onions or kraut. Dogs are served up fresh and messy. Swing by from around 11:30 a.m. until evening.

Vitality Cafe (Deck 6): The only "light fare" onboard, the Vitality Cafe is located in the Vitality Spa complex. Menu items include yogurt parfaits, wraps and fresh fruit. Smoothies and fresh juice are available for an additional fee. Vitality Cafe is open roughly when the spa is (early morning until late evening).

Park Cafe (Deck 8): With its Central Park location, Park Cafe is a nice place to grab a hot panini and people-watch. Park Cafe serves breakfast and lunch every day. Enjoy a build-your-own bagel sandwich (though you might have to offer some direction on just how thick you'd like your schmear) for breakfast, and custom-made salads or kummelweck for lunch, along with hot soups and sandwiches. You can also grab premade items, like egg salad sandwiches or Thai shrimp and noodles for the road; they're packed in convenient plastic containers.

Mini Bites (Deck 15): This mini venue serves mini foods -- literally, bite-sized treats like pork meatballs, little corn dogs, mini-quiches and tiny empanadas. You also can find single-bite cupcakes and fruit on toothpicks (pineapple, cantaloupe etc.). Mini Bites is tucked away behind a Ping-Pong table on Deck 15, and you can enjoy your little food while watching people zipline from Deck 16 to Deck 15. You'll also find a self-serve Coke machine here. Mini Bites is open for lunch and late-afternoon snacking.

Solarium Bistro (Deck 15): The Solarium Bistro overlooks the adults-only Solarium, a peaceful retreat on Harmony of the Seas. The Bistro, likewise, is calm and comfortable, and completely underutilized by most passengers. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; the first two serving essentially what amounts to a toned-down version of what is offered in the ship's buffet, the Windjammer Marketplace. At breakfast, you can get fried or scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit and toast (but strangely, no orange juice). Cold items, such as muesli or cereal, also are served. Lunch is salads, sandwiches and crepes, with some protein options.

But it's dinner that makes the Solarium Bistro shine. At night, you can order from a menu that includes items such as chicken kebabs, skirt steak or grilled shrimp. Lamb chops ($10) and lobster tail ($15) are also available at an extra cost. The menu is the same every night and works in conjunction with a fabulous Greek-themed buffet, which includes pita bread, hummus, baba ghanoush, tzatziki, Greek salad, couscous, fried calamari, moussaka and grilled mixed seafood, with huge sea scallops. You'll also find an extensive selection of breads and desserts (save room for the chocolate cake).

Reservations for dinner aren't required, but they are recommended. Even without, we were able to walk in and sit down. Service in the Solarium Bistro is particularly slow; we waited a long time between courses, and even longer for a replacement to the pita bread on the buffet. Our table neighbors had ordered drinks but finally left without them. Drinks arrived 10 minutes after the passengers had called it quits.

Windjammer Marketplace (Deck 16): The ship's buffet, Windjammer Marketplace is loaded with options at all meals. While many cruise ship buffets are virtually empty at night, that's not the case on Harmony of the Seas, when passengers flock to the casual eatery, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The U-shaped space is large, occupying virtually a full third of the ship on Deck 16. The restaurant is light and bright, with lots of sunshine pouring in and a number of seating options: high tables, bar seating, tables for two or tables for eight. Hot and cold stations make up the uprights of the "U" while made-to-order grills and dessert bars create the lower curve (running along the back of the ship). Wait staff are quick and efficient, taking drink orders, carrying plates and cleaning tables at lightning speed. This helps combat the high volume of people who move through each day.

Breakfast starts bright and early, with an "early bird" continental option that lasts for about an hour. That's followed by a true breakfast, with hot and cold items like scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, potatoes, bangers, grilled tomatoes and beans. We love that scrambled egg whites are served here as well. Premade omelets -- plain or cheese -- are served here, too, but sadly, you can't get made-to-order omelets in Windjammer, though you can get custom fried or poached eggs. (To get an omelet made just for you, head to the MDR for breakfast.) You'll also find a wealth of fruit, cheeses, cereals, milk, juice and other breakfast staples. A carving station, with fresh, hot sliced ham, is open every morning, as well.

Lunch offers a huge DIY salad bar, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, soup, tons of bread (with gluten-free options clearly identified) and a carving station that rotates daily, with items like pork loin or roast beef. Don't let the "Bakery" sign fool you. Yes, you can get bread here, but you'll also find French fries, chicken wings and fried chicken. At the back of the restaurant is a made-to-order pasta station as well as a rotating custom option that one day might offer paninis, the next German sausages with all the fixings. Desserts are cookies, cakes, gelatin parfaits and sugar-free cookies.

Dinner follows the same basic strategy as lunch and is especially popular on formal nights because, unlike other venues, no dinner dress code is enforced here. In addition to the salad bar, you will find a wide variety of hot items, such as pan-seared fish, beef stroganoff or barbecue chicken. The cheese table is exceptional, pairing cheese such as Brie or Stilton with cured meats like prosciutto. Even when we were heading elsewhere for dinner, we found this a nice option for a pre-dinner appetizer or post-meal dessert. Desserts include tortes, cheesecakes and puddings, along with hard-scooped ice cream. (Soft-serve ice cream is available near the pools, on Deck 15.)

Coastal Kitchen (Deck 17): Coastal Kitchen is open only to suite passengers and Pinnacle Members of Royal Caribbean's loyalty program, the Crown and Anchor Society. Coastal Kitchen and the Suite Lounge are adjoined, to the point you might not really be able to tell where one ends and the other begins. All suite passengers can dine at Coastal Kitchen at night, when it serves a fusion of Mediterranean and Californian farm cuisine, such as grilled salmon or deliciously crispy flatbreads. Food and drinks are available here all day long to passengers in the Suite Sky Class and above.

Fee Dining

Izumi Hibachi and Sushi (Deck 4); a la carte, or $35 or $40 for the Hibachi Experience: Go where the crewmembers go when they want to treat themselves: Izumi. The Asian restaurant serves sushi, sashimi, noodle bowls, soups and salads, all priced a la carte. The sushi part of the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and service is excellent. While the menu is heavy on seafood, a few chicken and vegetarian dishes are available, and they're also wonderful. If you love sushi, try the spicy crispy shrimp roll. Not a fan of fish? Give the spicy miso ramen a shot. It's served in a large metal bowl, and your waiter will ladle and dole out with chopsticks a perfectly balanced portion of slightly spicy goodness into your soup bowl. It's a good one to share.

Be careful when you're booking Izumi using the Royal IQ app: "Izumi Hibachi and Sushi" will get you dinner at the sushi restaurant only, while the "Hibachi Experience" is for the meal served at a hibachi table. This experience is only available for dinner. The lower price is for the "Teppan Classics," your choice of yaki udon (chicken, beef or tofu), tori (chicken breast), gyu (beef tenderloin) or ebi (tiger shrimp). The higher priced "Teppan Premier Combo" will get you premium combinations, such as tenderloin and shrimp or sea scallops and lobster. Dinner here is served in typical hibachi style, where you'll sit with others in a square around a hot hibachi surface as the chef makes mounds of rice, flips eggs with ease using a spatula and generally spends as much time entertaining as he does cooking. It's a fun experience that also makes for a fairly long meal. Top off your dinner with a selection of desserts; save room for the assorted mocha ice cream, made with green tea and red beans, for example.

Sabor Taqueria and Tequila Bar (Deck 6); a la carte: Located on the Boardwalk, Sabor is the ship's Mexican restaurant, open for lunch and dinner. The concept is fresh Mexican food made with fresh ingredients, and the menu promises things like guacamole made tableside. On our cruise, however, watery guacamole was served in dishes, and when we asked, we were told avocados weren't in season and they were making do with fewer ingredients -- something to be aware if ordering off-season. (After we mentioned the low quality, our waitress kindly removed the guac from our bill.) Otherwise, the menu was hit and miss when it came to quality and portion sizes. A big hit was the fresh gazpacho, a zesty cold soup that was slightly spicy. We also loved the quesadillas. The carnitas tacos were also a hit, and a bargain at $5. But the tuna tacos were bland, and the ceviche had very little fish and was bulked up with celery and mango. The chicken empanada entree, while tasty, was tiny -- two small flaky pockets cut in half amounting to about four bites. For $10, we were expecting more. House-made chips and salsa are included in the meal, and when we asked for something a little spicier, our waitress brought out some minced hot peppers, which kicked it up perfectly.

Johnny Rockets (Deck 6); $6.95: The popular 1950s-style diner serves up hamburgers, French fries (with toppings like chili and cheese), melts and hot dogs for lunch. This is not the spot for a "light meal," though you can get a salad or grilled chicken breast sandwich. Desserts include a two-scoop sundae or apple pie, served plain, a la mode or with a slice of cheddar cheese. Shakes, malts and floats cost extra. You'll find Johnny Rockets on the Boardwalk.

Those in the know head to Johnny Rockets for breakfast, which has no additional charge. Food is very diner-centric: flapjacks, fried eggs and hash browns. Best of all, it's usually crowd-free.

Starbucks (Deck 6); a la carte: If the cruise ship coffee just isn't doing it for you, head to Starbucks, on the Boardwalk, for your mocha latte or cappuccino fix.

Chops Grille (Deck 8); $39: Chops Grille is Royal Caribbean's signature steakhouse, and this one, located in Central Park, is always packed at dinnertime. That's because it sticks with the big chophouse faves, like filet mignon, New York strip steak, braised short ribs and veal chops. Sure, seafood and chicken are offered as well, but, it's a steakhouse! Sides, like garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed mushrooms, are served family style. Dry-aged steaks and Maine lobster are available for an additional fee. Chops is open for dinner only.

150 Central Park (Deck 8); $45 or $89: This Michael Schwartz creation is located in Central Park and features two dinner options: a standard three-course dinner or a premium four-course (including two appetizers) menu, where each course is paired with wine. This is not a quick meal, as a number of courses and drinks are prepared tableside, a nice touch. Try the tuna tartare, prepared either Asian- or Mediterranean-style at your table. The baby beet salad with red quinoa is also a great start to your meal. If you're dining with a meat-lover, try the dry-aged ribeye for two, cooked to your temperature preference, then beautifully sliced at your table for sharing. Save room for dessert at 150 Central Park, you can opt for items like tres leches or some excellent artisanal cheese.

Jamie's Italian (Deck 8); $20 lunch, $25 dinner: Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver lends his name and his menu to this restaurant, located in Central Park. Dishes are pure, rustic Italian. Come with an appetite and make sure to try one of the "Anti Plank" appetizers, beautifully prepared with either cured meats or vegetables. The burger entree is outrageous and delicious, with lots of smoky pancetta and gooey cheddar cheese. Pasta purists should try the spaghetti puttanesca or tagliatelle Bolognese. Save room for the limoncello (though that carries an extra fee). The Jamie's Italian lunch menu has fewer options than the dinner menu.

Wonderland (Decks 11 and 12); $49: Spanning two decks, Wonderland's decor, inspired by "Alice in Wonderland," is impressive. But it's the dishes that are truly imaginative. This one is for the foodies and fans of molecular gastronomy; if you don't like fussy food, skip it. Innovative offerings include a baby vegetable garden, with tasty bread crumbs that resemble dirt or a reconstructed caprese salad, with a liquid olive and ricotta powder. A large bar sits on the second floor, overlooking the main restaurant below, so you can watch people eat without actually partaking, if you prefer. The open kitchen is a lot of fun; you can see how the chef actually creates these molecular masterpieces. Wonderland is open for dinner only.

Room Service; a la carte: A number of items on Harmony of the Seas' room service menu are complimentary, such as continental breakfast dishes, soups and salads and wraps. But premium items created by chef Michael Schwartz come with a $4.95 per item upcharge. Choose from items such as thin-crust pizza margherita or an Angus burger on a brioche bun. Hot breakfast items also come with an additional fee of $3.95 per. Choose from two eggs your way, an egg and chorizo tortilla or pancakes. All orders other than Continental Breakfast come with a $7.95 delivery fee.

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