There are big ship experiences, and then there’s Harmony of the Seas. Gary Peters reports from a short three-night sailing on the Royal Caribbean ship.
Dancing is the perfect antidote to stress. I’m no professional – and if there were a cruise-themed series of Strictly Come Dancing, I’d probably be voted out in week one. However, after many years of training I have perfected the air guitar, and it’s this trusty move that I rely on during my second night on Harmony of the Seas.
And no, I’m not alone in my stateroom dancing with zero spectators, but rather enjoying an impromptu stag-style celebration – as at the time of writing this it is only one week before my wedding day.
It wasn’t planned, but Harmony of the Seas turns out to be the ideal place for a final, big party before I tie the knot. For one thing, there’s no expensive taxi journey home or rushing to get the last train. Not to mention it feels like an experience – much more than an ordinary Friday night out.
However, to the serious business. Launched in 2015, Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas is part of Royal Caribbean’s super successful Oasis class, which perfectly defines how ships can be holiday resorts themselves.
Stepping on board in Rome part way through the ship’s seven-night western Mediterranean cruise, this is my first big-ship experience in some time, and it’s no exaggeration to say I’m completely lost within 10 minutes. Everywhere I turn there is a new bar, restaurant, or some whacky feature that demands attention.
This, I expected. However, with only two full days on board I do feel slightly overwhelmed, knowing that I will not be able to take everything in. Alas, such an attitude will not help, and therefore I commit to seeing as much as possible – at least I’ll be hitting my 10,000 daily step count with ease.
Family fun with Royal Caribbean
From a visual perspective, the Ultimate Abyss waterslide is a showstopper. Ideal for thrill seekers – or those with more courage than I and without a fear of heights – this is 150 feet above sea level, on the top deck, where passengers launch themselves down against the backdrop of lights, sound effects and music. The average time from top to bottom is just 13.14 seconds – Royal Caribbean says those who dare to try it hit an average G force of 1.46.
On the same deck is not one, but two FlowRider surf simulators – which whenever I check appear to be in use by some serious professional surfers with no You’ve Been Framed moments forthcoming; the ‘perfect storm’ of slides – Typhoon, Cyclone, and Supercell – which get the adrenaline pumping – and a zip line, nine decks above the Boardwalk.
For all the innovations and big-ticket rides and entertainment, however, one thing that catches my eye is the Harmony Dunes, a small mini-golf course up on deck 15, in the sports zone.
I’m no Tiger Woods in his prime, but I post a performance that would make many keen golfers proud – or so I convince myself; perhaps it’s wise not to give up the day job.
Of course, the size of Harmony of the Seas and attractions will not suit every cruiser, but the number of kids on board tells its own story – the ship is perfect for a family adventure.
Entertainment on Harmony of the Seas
Speaking of adventure, on the first night, I and a few other guests take in the ice show, 1887, in Studio B. After many years of watching Dancing on Ice, it’s eye-opening to see up close the skill required to glide across the ice with panache, all while remaining in character.
Passengers can also step out onto the ice – not in the show, of course, but at designated time slots. Am I keen to give it a whirl? With my dodgy knees, no chance.
Dining, like everything else, feels supercharged, with plenty of sit-down restaurants – complimentary and specialty – and smaller snack bars for the quick bite. On the agenda on the first night is 150 Central Park. Labelled a ‘farm to ship foodie favourite’, this intimate venue features a menu of dishes with locally sourced, artisanal ingredients.
I stick to my habits and plump for braised ribs, followed by lamb wellington, but the star of the show – or at least the dish that gets the most attention – is the dessert of fried cheesecake ordered by a fellow guest. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but sure is funky.
I also eat in the main dining room, and Chops Grille on the final night. For me, this is the sort of dining that puts a smile on my face – nothing too pretentious, and simple yet effective. The Windjammer Marketplace is another winner – particularly at lunch with a vast array of choice and a special Mongolian cooking station on day two.
Bars are also ubiquitous, from Boleros, to Boot & Bonnet, Dazzles, the Schooner Bar, and Vintages. Two that stand out are the Bionic Bar – with its robotic arms that mix pre-made cocktails or customised creations, including non-alcoholic versions (mine takes approximately 1 minute to complete, although this was during the day and not in the peak evening rush) – and the Rising Tide, which is – for want of a better phrase – a spaceship-like moving bar, which takes guests up and down decks.
Royal Caribbean aims for net zero emissions
Amongst all this eating, drinking and general merriment, while I’m on board Royal Caribbean Group reveals a new concept called Destination Net Zero, described as a “comprehensive decarbonisation strategy that includes pledging to establish science-based targets and achieving net zero emissions by 2050”.
As part of this journey, the group aims to deliver net zero ships by 2035, with 13 new “energy-efficient and alternatively fuelled vessels”, including the Silversea’s Project Evolution concept, which will feature the industry’s first hybrid-powered ship, set to debut in summer 2023.
The company has also pledged to invest in energy efficiency programmes for the whole fleet, including energy-saving technologies, enhanced data systems and digitalisation. There is also a drive to work on alternative and accessible fuels through partnerships with governments, suppliers and shipyards.
All in all, it should add up to more of the same harmony on board, but more harmony for the seas.
- With so much to do on board, suggest to clients they book at least a seven-night itinerary to ensure they can appreciate every little detail on Harmony of the Seas, and other Oasis ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet
- Ships such as Harmony of the Seas are ideal for clients who want to pack in plenty of fun – the slides and Ultimate Abyss will please those looking for an adrenaline rush
- Those used to a more sedate style of cruising might be overwhelmed by the size and number of fellow guests on board, so focus attention on clients who are not put off with mixing it with thousands of other guests