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At 1,188 feet long and 226,963 gross tons, Royal Caribbean’s newest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, is now officially the largest in the world. With a whopping 18 decks, 2,747 staterooms, 20 dining venues and seven “neighborhoods” to check out, there’s plenty to keep you busy while you’re at sea. Consider this post the ultimate cheat sheet for everything that makes this ship so special.
For starters, there are seven different “neighborhoods” to explore — The Royal Promenade (where you’ll find a bunch of shops, entertainment venues and restaurants), The Pool and Sports Zone, the Vitality Spa & Fitness Center, the Youth Zone, Entertainment Place (more music and entertainment venues), The Boardwalk and my favorite, Central Park.
Where, by the way, you can go for a stroll to the sounds of birds chirping — on a ship.
There’s even an homage to Central Park’s iconic bridges, as well as plants, flowers and trees that create a unique shipboard green space.
And some funky artwork among the many benches.
This is also where you’ll find Rising Tide, which is literally a bar inside a giant elevator that takes off every 30 minutes, giving patrons a slow and steady 15-minute ride up and down as they sip cocktails and check out the view.
Here’s a look at the bottom of it while it’s rising to the top floor.
You can also unleash your inner Coney Island kid at The Boardwalk, a nostalgic neighborhood with an old school diner, or, in this case, a Johnny Rockets restaurant.
You can play Skee-ball, Whac-a-Mole and a slew of other retro arcade games — a larger game room in another part of the ship also offers modern-day gaming options like air hockey and car racing games.
There’s even a whimsical carousel for children of all ages (and anyone else who’s young at heart).
And, to the delight of 80s-kids everywhere, a Zoltar machine straight out of “Big.”
The ship is also home to more than 16,000 works of art, like this giant Rubix cube-like piece that rotated throughout the day and eventually lined up as a solid human face. Most of the time when I saw it though, it just looked like this.
Other parts of the ship sported murals and paintings, like the one below, that just stopped me in my tracks.
As far as fun on board, Harmony of the Seas has got you covered. Just check out these water slides in the Sports and Pool Zone.
Doesn’t this look pretty great right about now?
And don’t get me started on The Ultimate Abyss, what Royal Caribbean is touting as the tallest slide at sea since it takes you a whopping 10 stories down from the 16th floor to the 6th.
Side note: I’ll get into this more in another post, but notice in the photo below how these are interior cabins with balconies that overlook the inner parts of the ship — Harmony of the Seas is the third ship in the Royal Caribbean family to do something like this and gives guests the option of overlooking The Boardwalk, seen here, or Central Park.
Back to the slide though, which is dry by the way — as in, it’s not a water slide — so you’ll be required to sit in a special pouch, kind of like when you ride the giant slides at the county fair, only it’s made with stronger material.
Here’s what the entrance to the slide looks like at night when it’s all lit up to resemble a scary, monster-like fish.
Is this intimidating or what? And yet kids of all ages seemed to be chomping at the bit.
Back to the Sports and Pool Zone though, where you can also find several large pools, all of which are about four feet deep. When that ship is moving, there’s a natural wave pool effect that’s quite fun, too. Here’s a peek at one of the pool areas…
…and another one on the other side of the ship, viewed here at sunset.
One of them even had lounge chairs in the water so you could wade in slowly or just soak your feet if you don’t want to get too wet.
It’s hard to tell from this photo since we were docked in Nassau at the time, but there are several whirlpools that actually hang out over the edge of the ship — this was the only photo I could get without a pool full of people though.
There are also two FlowRiders, which simulate waves so you can try your hand at boogie boarding or surfing while on the ship.
…as well as a zip line and rock wall for all the adrenaline junkies out there.
I also spotted basketball courts, a running track that ran the circumference of the ship and a really nice looking mini-golf course for all ages to enjoy.
The Youth Zone featured several cool hangout spots for kids to enjoy some time away from their parents — as I was walking through it, a young boy was crying because he didn’t want to leave it to have lunch with his parents, so it must be pretty good!
There’s a place for “Royal babies and tots,” Aquanauts ages 3-5, Explorers ages 6-8, Voyagers ages 9-11 and another cool zone just for teens. Unfortunately for the purposes of this photo tour, I was not allowed to take pictures while there were children using these facilities — totally understandable — and since it was a pretty full ship, this was the case every time I stopped by. There does appear to be a science lab in part of it though, and that’s pretty cool for a ship to have.
Outside, there was a funky little water zone called Splashaway Bay for youngsters to run around in as well.
For adults, there’s a special section of the ship called the Solarium that’s kid-free and designed to be a relaxing oasis amid a ship full of activity.
There are adults-only whirlpools, cabana-type seats and lounge chairs for days.
Of course, if you’re really looking for relaxation, the best place to do that is at the two-level Vitality Spa & Fitness Center. I never wanted to leave this wonderfully scented, relaxing room, which featured heated seats that were just warm enough to ease those achy muscles.
The fitness center was pretty impressive, too, with a crazy amount of treadmills, exercise bikes, yoga mats, a ballet bar and other weight lifting and training equipment up for grabs.
You can actually get manicures, pedicures, keratin treatments, a haircut and botox-like treatments done all done from the comfort of your cruise ship — there’s even teeth whitening available in the Smile Spa.
And for those of you who love competitive cycling classes, there’s one of those, too.
There are a number of themed bars and nightclubs as well, like On Air (where they had karaoke), a Jazz Club and the Boleros Lounge, pictured below, where a live band rocked the house with the hottest Latin music at night while people danced.
There’s also a comedy club called The Attic, which featured funny quotes by famous comedians on its walls.
The Schooner Bar was home to cabaret singers who played piano at night.
You can also unwind at Vintages, the ship’s official wine bar.
Of course the most popular place to grab a drink on board was the ship’s Bionic Bar, where you become the bartender by choosing what you want and how you want it made, then have robots do the tricky part and put it all together. By the way, during the day when the bar gets slow, the robots — named Mix and Mingle — will dance to entice new customers. No joke.
By now, you’re probably wondering how the food works, right? Your cruise fare includes access to three main dining halls for dinner — you’ll generally be assigned to one of them but have the option of choosing when with My Time Dining, which allows passengers to book their seating times ahead so there’s never a wait.
It’s really fun, by the way, to be seated with people you don’t know and get a chance to chat with your fellow cruise enthusiasts — this is my favorite part of solo travel, after all, meeting new people and swapping travel stories.
You’ll also have free access to a number of complimentary buffets and other spots around the ship serving up pizza, pub grub and other mini-bites. For a real treat, grab a freshly-cut roast beef sandwich from the Park Café in Central Park. Non-alcoholic beverages are free as well, so drink up — Royal Caribbean’s mango-infused water is my new, refreshing favorite.
Traveling with little ones? Don’t miss the DreamWorks Character Breakfast, where they’ll have the chance to meet Shrek, Fiona, and Puss in Boots (from “Shrek”); Po from “Kung Fu Panda,” and Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, King Julien and the penguins from “Madagascar,” an experience they won’t soon forget.
If you’re looking to splurge on a romantic dinner out, there are also several specialty restaurants available for an extra nominal fee per person per night, including Jamie’s Italian by Chef Jamie Oliver, 150 Central Park by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, Wonderland (a whimsical two-story restaurant), Izumi (stylish Asian cuisine), Chops Grille (a classic American steakhouse), Coastal Kitchen (a special concept restaurant exclusively for Royal Suite Class guests), Vintages (the Central Park wine bar I mentioned earlier), Sabor (an upscale Mexican restaurant), Johnny Rockets (the family-friendly 50s diner we all know and love) and Chef’s Table (where you can get five and six course meals paired perfectly with wines in a private, 16-seat setting).
Finally, don’t miss the chance to see Broadway-production-level shows like “Grease” and “Columbus” in the Royal Theater…
…and “1887,” which takes place on ice…
…or my favorite, “The Fine Line,” a fascinating show in the ship’s Aquatheater involving high divers in what can only be described as an aquatic feast for the senses. It’s hard to tell from the photo below, but that stage opens up into a pool, which was a really neat surprise!
Harmony of the Seas is currently sailing out of Fort Lauderdale, offering seven-night cruises that alternate between the Eastern Caribbean — with stops in Nassau, Bahamas; Charlotte Amelie, St. Thomas; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten — and the Western Caribbean — with stops in Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico — from $999 per person (plus taxes and fees) based on double occupancy. If you’re interested in cruising at all or want to try it for the first time, this is the perfect ship for you, guaranteed to blow your mind with how much you never knew was available — or possible — to pull off at sea. I’ll definitely be sailing on it again soon!
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Featured image and all other photos by the author.
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