Harmony of the Seas 2017 Live Blog - Cruise Preview

In:
27Jun2017

Welcome to our next Royal Caribbean LIVE blog adventure, as we are about to sail on the fabulous Harmony of the Seas. Harmony of the Seas debuted last year, and this is our first full sailing on what has become my favorite ship to date.

Beginning on July 1, I will head to Port Everglades for a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise.  We will visit the ports of Nassau, Bahamas; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Basseterre, St. Kitts.

While I was briefly on Harmony of the Seas for a a couple short sailings last November, this sailing will give me plenty of time to check out Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship. In fact, this the first of two Harmony of the Seas sailings I will be taking this year, so I will have lots of time to spend onboard Harmony in the coming months.

This sailing on Harmony of the Seas is a bit different for me for a couple of reasons. First, it is over the July 4th holiday, which means this is the first time I will be sailing over this holiday.

In addition, I will actually be working from Harmony of the Seas for a portion of the cruise.  My day job allows me to work remotely, and I have chosen to work a few days from Harmony of the Seas in exchange for a cruise longer than just a long weekend.  I do not have spare vacation days left in the year, so if I wanted to take a cruise without working, I would only be able to swing a short 3-night cruise.  It was a tough decision, but weighing my choices, I wanted a longer sailing and decided it was worth it to be on a longer cruise even if I have to work for part of it.  After all, being onboard a ship is better than not being onboard.

We picked Harmony of the Seas for this cruise for a couple of reasons.  After sailing on her in 2016, she quickly became my favorite ship and I really wanted to get back onboard.  Her high-speed internet meant she was among a handful of ships that I could reasonably do my job from without any interruption.  I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the amazing onboard activities.  From the water slides to the shows to Central Park, there is so much to do onboard.  The variety of things to do aboard an Oasis class ship really appeals to me.  

For this cruise, my wife and I will be sailing without the kids.  My in-laws volunteered to watch the children while we cruise, which means the two of us get some time to relax onboard.  Cruising with kids is a much different experience than cruising without them, and while we love traveling with our children, this will be a nice change of pace.

Of course, Harmony of the Seas has no shortage of activities and things to do onboard.  The water slides, musicals, dining and more are waiting, and having a full sailing to enjoy these activities is very exciting.

Itinerary

Our seven night sailing might not be the most exotic itinerary Royal Caribbean offers, but we have found some fun excursions in each place our ship will bring us. Plus, there are a lot of sea days, which means plenty of time to enjoy what Harmony of the Seas has to offer. In fact, the ship is what drew us to booking a sailing on her.

Day Port Arrival Departure
1 Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Florida - 16:00
2 Nassau, Bahamas 7:00 14:30
3 At Sea - -
4 Charlotte Amalie, St. Thoma 10:00 19:00
5 Basseterre 8:00 17:00
6 At Sea - -
7 At Sea - -
8 Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Florida 6:15 -

Since we live in Florida, getting to the cruise ship is fairly simple.  We will drive to South Florida with our kids to drop them off the night before the cruise, and then go to Port Everglades the morning of the cruise. Cruising from Port Everglades is one of the most streamlined and simple ports to cruise from, and that makes for an easy embarkation process.

Of all the ports we are visiting, I think our stop at St. Thomas is the one I am most excited to call upon. We are going to try something we would never do with the kids: take the ferry to nearby St. John. I have read a lot about the beautiful beaches in St. John, and this seems like the perfect opportunity.

Three things I am excited to try

3. Chops Grille for lunch

Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean began offering lunch at Chops Grille and it immediately piqued my interest.

I have always enjoyed meals at Chops Grille, so the prospect of trying a new menu for lunch sounds like a great idea.  Chops Grille built a reputation across the fleet for a quality meal, and I think going for lunch (and for dinner on another night) sounds like a great idea.

2. Visit St. John

While we have been to St. Thomas many times, this is the first time we are going to try to visit St. John.  Without our kids, I feel getting going and on schedule is easier, and that opens up visiting the island.

While Royal Caribbean offers a few excursions there, I want to try it on my own primarily for the adventure component of getting back and forth. Once at St. John, the plan is to visit Cinnamon Bay beach.

1. Ultimate Dining Package

In the name of "research," I bought the ultimate dining package for this sailing.  I had always planned on getting a specialty dining package, but when Royal Caribbean added the ultimate dining package, I jumped on it immediately.

Since the ultimate dining package offers specialty dining each evening (and lunch on sea days), this will be my first cruise skipping the main dining room completely.  I admit, I will miss the main dining room, but Harmony of the Seas has such great specialty dining, I am excited to truly indulge in the various dining options.

What's Next

Our Harmony of the Seas cruise begins on Saturday, July 1st, and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels. Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Periscope for live updates throughout the day.

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have. I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!

Video: Royal Caribbean’s Ship Designers Stay Ahead of the Curve

In:
27Jun2017

Designing and building the world’s largest cruise ships is no small feat for Royal Caribbean’s Newbuild team. Creative collaboration between the team’s designers, architects, shipbuilders and executives is the key to building industry-leading vessels. Often spanning six or seven time zones, the team is brought together by a shared passion. They’ve built a rapport that allows them to feed off of each other, making innovation the norm. And when the most talented minds in the cruising industry come together, the result is ships that others only dream about.

Royal Caribbean partners with Brandwatch as social intelligence provider

In:
27Jun2017

Brandwatch announced today that Royal Caribbean International has selected Brandwatch as its social intelligence technology platform of record.

Brandwatch's social intelligence products and platforms will provide stable support to Royal Caribbean's customer service efforts. Brandwatch will enable Royal Caribbean to sift through its online discussions to determine which mentions need immediate attention, which customers need to be engaged with and which community members need to be amplified.

"We chose Brandwatch for their unparalleled platform stability when trying to engage and understand our most important community – our guests," said Kara Wallace, Vice President, North America Marketing, Royal Caribbean International. "Brandwatch's recent product releases and feature updates, along with their dedication to customer success, allows us to address social concerns in a timely fashion and put our guests first."

"Insight into consumer preferences - especially in the lucrative travel market - is critical for Royal Caribbean," said Rich Pasewark, Chief Revenue Officer at Brandwatch. "We are excited to help them use social media analysis to understand the cruise market and drive marketing decisions from the insights delivered by the Brandwatch platforms. Insights to action makes a difference for all of our clients, it enables them to improve their marketing and connect with their audiences."

Royal Caribbean announces 2018 President's Cruise sailing

In:
26Jun2017

Royal Caribbean announced today its third President's Cruise, which offers guest the chance to cruise with Royal Caribbean's CEO.

The 2018 President's Cruise will be held on the September 29, 2018 sailing of Harmony of the Seas out of Port Everglades, Florida. Royal Caribbean posted the details to its President's Cruise mini-site.

The cruise will be 7-nights and include a special itinerary, with stops in Nassau, Bahamas, St. Thomas, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Labadee.

The President's Cruise is centered around celebrating its most loyal customers, who get the chance to cruise with Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley, as well as attend special events just for them.

Guests can still book the 2017 President's Cruise, which is a 7 Night Mediterranean Cruise on Freedom of the Seas, September 17, 2017 out of Barcelona, Spain.

 

2017 Royal Caribbean Beverage Package Info, Tips, Pros & Cons

In:
26Jun2017

Royal Caribbean's beverage packages offer guests the opportunity to enjoy plenty of drinks for a fixed daily price.  This post offers tips for saving money with these drink packages and our reviews of the various plans.  

We will get to what each version of Royal Caribbean's Beverage Packages include and whether the Royal Caribbean Drink Package is worth the money below.  Our tips and opinions are based on our first-hand experiences with the drink packages, and the current versions for this year.  

Before we get to the dollars and cents, let us cover some basics.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, Royal Caribbean's drink packages are a fixed daily cost plan offered on all Royal Caribbean ships so guests can budget their beverage costs in advance and (potentially) save money.  The various plans provide guests with unlimited drinks that can be used at any bar or restaurant on Royal Caribbean ships (and private destinations).  The drink package benefits are available on the guest's SeaPass card or WOWband, which any waiter or bartender can verify they have the package.

Royal Caribbean guests wishing to purchase a drink package can do so either prior to their cruise via the Cruise Planner web site or once onboard their ship. Once purchased, you must pay for the package for the duration of your cruise.  If purchased during your cruise, guests will pay for the remaining nights of their cruise.

Let’s get more into the nitty-gritty of the 2017 Royal Caribbean drink package…

The drink packages can be redeemed at pretty much any restaurant or bar on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship or private destination.  There are only two places a drink package cannot be used: room service and stateroom mini-bars.

A lot of information exists about Royal Caribbean drink packages, with most of the focus on whether or not the package makes financial sense.  In fact, our most popular articles concerning Royal Caribbean unlimited alcohol packages include Are the unlimited drink packages worth it, 4 questions to ask yourself before buying an unlimited alcohol package, Should you buy the unlimited alcohol packages. Frequent users of Royal Caribbean's drink packages become pretty adept at getting more bang for their buck on the packages, but with some advance planning, first-time Royal Caribbean cruisers can also make the most of the packages.

From time to time, Royal Caribbean sometimes offers discounts to its guests on the drink package price. These discounts are offered selectively and can vary in terms of how much the discount is and for which sailings they are eligible.  Nearly all discounts we have seen are offered prior to the cruise on the Cruise Planner web site. These discounts have the potential to add to the potential value a guest can get from a drink package, but remember any discount does not necessarily make the value proposition a drink package offers a "slam dunk" deal.

Before even booking a drink package, you should determine roughly how many drinks per day you think you can and will drink over the course of your cruise.  For some folks, 5-6 drinks per day is easy, while others may think that is a lot every day of a cruise.

That is probably enough background on Royal Caribbean's drink packages.  You likely still have some more questions, and we will dig into them below and get them answered.  For a simple system, it can be surprisingly complex, do not feel bad if it takes some reading before you fully understand how the drink package works and whether it is a good for for your party.


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Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: June 24, 2017

In:
25Jun2017

Happy Sunday! We hope you’re having a relaxing weekend and enjoying summer! It’s time to sit back, relax, and catch up on all the recent Royal Caribbean news!

Royal Caribbean made headlines this week when it unveiled a first-of-its-kind social media innovation.

The cruise line developed its own Snapchat Spectacles that are capable of broadcasting live underwater, and shared a few underwater adventures with its Snapchat followers.

The mask was custom engineered by the cruise line for use with Snapchat Spectacles. It allows the wearer to snap while underwater and will give those above the surface a unique perspective into the intriguing underwater world of marine life.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 203nd episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where we take an in-depth look at Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.

In this episode, Matt talks about what the Cruise Planner offers guests before their cruise, and how to best take advantage of pre-cruise purchases.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

WildGravity Travels shared a port highlight and ship tour from Enchantment of the Seas.

John Bamber shared a cabin tour of his stateroom on Anthem of the Seas.

In The Loop Travel shared a new video of a day spent in Royal Caribbean's CocoCay.

My Cruise Course thinks now is the time to start planning your Baltic Cruise for next year.

5 things to try on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

In:
24Jun2017

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas is filled with so many fun things to do.  Whether you are new to Royal Caribbean or have remained "loyal to Royal" for years, here are five things we think everyone should try onboard Harmony of the Seas.

Get a WOWBand

Harmony of the Seas features WOWbands bracelets that allows you to open you stateroom door, charge onboard purchases or check into shows and restaurants. They essentially an optional replacement for your SeaPass card.

They are made of silicone and come in a variety of colors: white, yellow, black and blue. WOWbands use Radio Frequency (RF) technology that can be read by Royal Caribbean's readers that are found at kiosks, tablets and mobile scanners that Royal Caribbean crew operate.

Your WOWband is linked to your SeaPass account and holds all of your information related to your cruise vacation such as your stateroom information, dining reservations and more.  Harmony of the Seas is one of the few Royal Caribbean ships in the fleet to offer WOWbands, making it a little extra special.

Guests on Harmony of the Seas can choose to purchase WOWbands for $4.99 each at Guest Services.  If you are staying in a suite, WOWbands are complimentary.

Try the Escape Room

One of the most fun activities on Harmony of the Seas is Escape the Rubicon, which is an escape room experience. 

This is different kind of onboard activity that was pioneered by a group called Puzzle Break, which have created similar experiences on in a few cities.

After a briefing, guests search a room for clues and hidden messages and then try to put it all together to figure out the key phrase.  There are word searches, patterns and other challenges designed to get you thinking in a lot of different directions.

If you are knew to an escape room game, you might be a little hesitant at the idea of going into a "locked" room for an hour and not really knowing what to expect. Take solace in the fact that Escape the Rubicon might have been the most fun we had onboard the ship. This is truly unlike anything else you have ever done on a cruise ship, and it is incredible appealing.

Eat at Wonderland

Royal Caribbean's Oasis class ships have been known for offering guests a lot of dining options and Harmony of the Seas continues that tradition by offering a new restaurant to the Oasis class.

Wonderland is an imaginative take on specialty dining, where the experience is just as important as the food offered. On Harmony of the Seas, guests will find the first two-story Wonderland restaurant, where guests can enjoy totally inventive and "maddeningly delicious" cuisine.

Wonderland is a specialty restaurant developed by Royal Caribbean that is loosely based on the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland novel by Lewis Carroll. Like all Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants, the food available is different than anywhere else on the ship, but it also is big on the experience.

Go on the bridge wing

Regardless of if you want to take a selfie or just an epic photo of the ocean around you, make plans to go up to the bridge wings during your cruise.

The bridge wings are observational platforms that jet out from the side of the ship, and offer terrific views of the area around you.  The port bridge wing even features a see-through glass floor that you can stand on to add some panache to your photo.

Sunset, sunrise, sailaways and any other time are great for taking photos, and your album will not be complete without a few shots from the bridge wing.

See Columbus: The Musical

Royal Caribbean packed Harmony of the Seas with lots of terrific entertainment, but the one show we cannot get enough of is Columbus, The Musical!. This original Royal Caribbean production is a fun musical that takes inspirations from hit Broadway shows, such as “Spamalot” and “Something Rotten."

Marvin Columbus is the very, very, very, very, very distant relative of Christopher and spent his entire life ‘neath Chris’ shadow. Marvin’s disappointed nobleman father, sends him on a voyage to find his destiny.

The story is fun, the cast energetic and the music perfect to sing along with. Columbus is at the very top of our list of favorite shows we have seen onboard any Royal Caribbean ship.

Your thoughts

Have you been on Harmony of the Seas?  What do you think is something that everyone should try onboard? Share your thoughts in the comments for the blog post!

Friday Photos

In:
23Jun2017

The weekend is here and we love to welcome some well-deserved time off with our readers' favorite Royal Caribbean photos.  Each week, we ask our readers to submit their best Royal Caribbean photos, so that we can showcase them right here.

Caz starts us off this week with a photo of Independence of the Seas docked in Villefranche.  C'est magnifique!

Here is a photo by Jack, taken from the aft of Allure of the Seas.

Jason A Mathis-White shared with us this photo of Navigator of the Seas in Labadee.

Bob Carpenter took this photo of the Terminal Sierra Maestra in Havana, while onboard Empress of the Seas.

Here is a photo of Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park on St. Kitts, taken by Keith Davis.

Allen Shaffer took this photo of Radiance of the Seas in Sitka, Alaska.

We wrap things up this week with a photo of Gary the Gnome on Oasis of the Seas, taken by John McCormack.

Thank you to everyone that sent in their photos. Would you like your Royal Caribbean photo to be showcased? Submit your photo via this form and we will use it in a future post!

Royal Caribbean wants to offer guests Snapchat goggles for underwater broadcasts

In:
23Jun2017

Royal Caribbean has been making headlines this week with its waterproof Snapchat spectacles that it invented for underwater exploration.  It now appears the cruise line's ultimate goal is to allow guests to use them too.

According to AdWeek, Royal Caribbean chief marketing officer Jim Berra indicated the goal is to receive a patent for the goggles and then equip ships with the goggles so guests can rent them by this fall. He said one purpose of the campaign is to remind people of the biological diversity of the Caribbean.

"You can get off the beaten path and have these types of water-based adventures and then capture it in a really fun and unique way," Berra told AdWeek.

Berra told PRWeek these goggles represent a first for Royal Caribbean, "This is the first time we’re applying for a patent," Berra said. "We’ve been very successful with the testing, and we think as Spectacles become more prevalent, we’re offering a way to use them that will be very appealing." 

In addition, the Snapchat Spectacles are interchangeable, which means guests can swap out their own pair and continue to use the glasses on land.  This means increased exposure on social media. With the SeaSeekers dive mask, users can livestream photos and videos from depths of 150 feet.

Currently Royal Caribbean made just 10 prototypes of the product.

Royal Caribbean created the goggles for its #SeekDeeper campaign, where Snapchat users could follow along live as divers in the Caribbean explored underwater.

First time cruiser's guide to Royal Caribbean's Cruise Compass

In:
22Jun2017

You just picked the perfect Royal Caribbean cruise for you and your family and it sounds like it will be a blast, but you might be wondering what events, activities and specials may be offered on your cruise.  

Each evening, your stateroom attendant will deliver to your stateroom the Cruise Compass, which is a daily guide to the news, events and activities that will be occurring on your ship the next day.

Royal Caribbean packs a lot of things to do into each day and you are best served by reading it each evening to be aware of what is happening onboard. 

The Cruise Compass is more than just knowing what time bingo is at.  It offers you insight into the next day's weather, which bars will have drink specials, shore excursion information and much more.

Some events are not repeated while other activities can change daily, so it is in your best interest to track what is happening so you do not miss any of it.

Cruise Compass structure

Regardless of which ship you are on, the basic structure of the Cruise Compass is fairly consistent.  Oasis and Quantum class ships have a slightly different look to the Cruise Compass, but the organization of the Compass remains similar.

Page One

The first page has an overview of what to expect that day, including where the ship will be (in port or at sea), a weather report, and various specials, offers and events that are highlighted.  By far, the weather report in the upper right hand corner is the most useful information on this page.

The first page also includes a section of "Important things to know today".  It is always good to skim over the list to see if there is anything that stands out.

Page Two

Opening up the Cruise Compass, you will find more events, sales and other offers.

The most important part of this page is the "Activity and Entertainment Highlights," which lists the headline show/performance of the evening.  Since the evening entertainment is usually the most popular and well-known acts onboard, it is always a good idea to see what performances are scheduled for the evening.

In terms of activities listed here, they will all be listed again in the full daily planner, which is coming up on additional pages.  Page two is usually best for glancing quickly over it for anything that jumps out as interesting.

Page Three

The third page is an important page for referencing which venues are open and what time. You will get a breakdown of open hours for many areas of the ship, and most importantly, restaurants.

On this page you will find the dress code for the main dining in the evening, as well as open hours for every eatery onboard the ship. Knowing when restaurants are open is always helpful, because hours stagger quite a bit.

At the bottom of the page, you will find the drink of the day, which features one cocktail that can be purchased at a discount.  If you do not have an unlimited alcohol package, this can be a good value.

Page Four

If you read only one page of the Cruise Compass, make sure it is this one because it lists all of the day's activities.  

Activities are broken down by time of day (morning, afternoon, evening) and provides a chronological list of events throughout the ship.  Each event has a time, title and location for quick reference.

A great strategy for managing this page is to use a highlighter and mark off any events of interest for easy reference later. 

You should also know that the activities listing can be teared off for easy reference later on. Many guests will tear them off, fold it up and place in their pocket.

Kids and Adventure Ocean

Royal Caribbean provides a lot of programming for children and teenagers on their ship.  Some events make it onto the regular Cruise Compass, but there are even more events listed in special daily planners just for the kids.

Just like the Cruise Compass, Adventure Ocean publishes a Kids Daily Planner for children 3-11 years old.  It breaks down the activities lined up for the day while the kids are enrolled in Adventure Ocean.  The activities are broken up by ages for easy reference.

Teenagers get their own planner too, specifically for kids that are 12-17 years old. The Teen planner is a bit more similar to the Cruise Compass in structure, with a chronological breakdown of events and activities that are just for teenagers.

Past Cruise Compasses

Royal Caribbean does not post or publish Cruise Compasses for upcoming sailings in advance.  Nor do they publish their entertainment schedules prior to a cruise. With that in mind, many veteran Royal Caribbean cruisers reference past Cruise Compasses to get an idea of what to expect on an upcoming sailing. 

There is no way to know in absolute terms what your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise will or will not offer, but Royal Caribbean insiders will consult past Cruise Compass' to see what was available on those similar sailings to get an idea of what to expect.

Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean sailings on a particular ship do not change that much from week to week in terms of the activities or entertainment offered.  There will be some discrepancies, but an old Cruise Compass can give you a good ballpark of expectations to plan around.

By reading an old Cruise Compass, you can prepare yourself for activities and events that you might want to participate in, such as themed dance parties, sporting events and anything inbetween.

You can reference our Cruise Compass archive for a listing of past Cruise Compasses that we have found.

Digital Cruise Compass

Royal Caribbean's Royal iQ app is available on select ships and has among its features a digital copy of the Cruise Compass.

In addition to a listing of everything happening onboard, guests can add specific events directly to their own digital calendar for easy tracking. As you make reservations or add activities directly from the daily Cruise Compass to your calendar, your schedule is automatically updated. 

Royal iQ only works when onboard Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas.

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