Harmony of the Seas versus Anthem of the Seas

In:
04Jan2017
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Two of Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship that offers cruises from the United States, and have garnered a tremendous amount of interest from guests, is Harmony of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas.  Today, we compare both cruise ships in a head-to-head comparison.

In comparing both ships, we break down each ship's offerings and summarize what the strengths and weaknesses of both ships to see how each ship stacks up. As objective as we may try to be, the reality is we are talking about opinions, and as such, personal preferences will vary from person to person. We will certainly try to convey why we liked or disliked something, but understand some may disagree (and that is okay). This should be a fun contrast.

Shows: Anthem of the Seas

Both ships offer a variety of productions for guests to enjoy, comprising original productions and Broadway shows. Let us be very clear: the shows on both ships are wonderful, so we are about do the cruise ship equivalent of argue about which cut of steak tastes better.

The Broadway show on Anthem of the Seas is, "We Will Rock You", which is a West End musical that uses the music of rock band Queen in the performance to tell its story.  On Harmony of the Seas, guests can enjoy, "Grease", the Broadway musical all about summer love in the 1950s. Both shows are identical to the original productions and we will call it a tie between the two of them.

Both ships also offer a slew of original productions to enjoy.  Anthem of the Seas offers shows such as "The Gift" and "Spectra's Cabaret", which are a mix of music, dance and special effects.  They represent the latest in Las Vegas-style entertainment and are anything but ordinary. Harmony of the Seas has Royal Caribbean's first original musical, "Columbus: The Musical", as well as two different ice skating shows. In fact, 1887 might be the best ice skating show we have seen on any Royal Caribbean ship to date.

The real X-factor for both ships are their specialized entertainment venues.  Anthem of the Seas puts its best shows in Two70, a massive theater on the aft of the ship that can be transformed digitally in a number of ways. In fact, the Vistarama and Roboshows in Two70 are absolutely stunning to watch.  Harmony of the Seas follows up with two shows in the AquaTheater, both of which are centered around eye-popping stunts and acrobatics. 

While Harmony of the Seas has a greater array of entertainment offerings, we feel the quality of Anthem of the Seas' shows gives it the edge.  Two70 alone is filled with a great variety of entertainment that has to be seen to be appreciated. 

Onboard activities: Harmony of the Seas

When we talk about onboard activities, there is a lot of options across each ship. Simply put, you will not run out of things to do onboard.

Guests on Anthem of the Seas will have their choice of a number of Royal Caribbean innovations that make the Quantum class ships quite different from other ships in the fleet.  North Star, the observational pod that takes guests 300 feet above see level for a 360-degree view of the ocean and area around them is very popular and equally impressive.  Ripcord by iFly allows all anyone who's mother forbid them from ever contemplating sky diving to give it a shot in a much safer environment.  Then you have the SeaPlex, an immense area of the ship dedicated to being active at sea. In fact, it is the largest indoor active space at sea, where guests can play on a full-size basketball court, go roller skating and even ride bumper cars.

Harmony of the Seas answers back with a ton of firsts of its own.  Harmony of the Seas features the three water slides that are sure to get everyone in the family asking to ride it one more time.  Speaking of slides, the Ultimate Abyss is the kind of slide experience that words cannot do justice.  It is large, intense and a lot of fun while descending the 10 stories down.  Harmony of the Seas has double the amount of FlowRiders that Anthem of the Seas has and a brand new aqua park for kids, Splashaway Bay.  If you prefer your activities a bit more sedate, Harmony of the Seas also has a very fun escape room experience, rides and games in the Boardwalk and more.

One advantage Oasis class ships have always enjoyed is that they offer much more than any other ship, and in this case, the staggering amount of activities on Harmony of the Seas gives it the win for things to do.

Specialty Dining: Harmony of the Seas

Perhaps no other area of the cruise ship experience has changed in the last few years as dramatically as specialty dining on Royal Caribbean ships. These additional cost options offer guests additional dining choices to consider, and the array of choices between both ships is impressive.

Anthem of the Seas boasts quite a number of specialty restaurants that stand out.  Jamie's Italian, Izumi, Chops Grille and Wonderland top the list of popular places guests enjoy on Anthem.  We also like the easy grab-and-go nature of Johnny Rockets, which is a la carte instead of a more formal sit down experience on Harmony. 

Harmony of the Seas is equal to the task when it comes to specialty dining.  One big difference on Harmony of the Seas, compared to her Oasis class sisters, is the inclusion of Jamie's Italian.  Harmony also boasts its own version of Wonderland, which is significantly larger and encompasses two decks.  Even Izumi on Harmony of the Seas is larger, with an exclusive hibachi dining area. You will also find the ever-popular Sabor Taqueria & Tequila Bar on Harmony of the Seas, which heavily sways our vote.

Given the fact Harmony matches and exceeds Anthem's specialty dining offerings (and Anthem lacks a Sabor), we have to give Harmony of the Seas the edge once again.

Complimentary Dining: Harmony of the Seas

Of course, complimentary dining is at the heart of any cruise experience and both ships have a lot of great choices. In comparing the complimentary options, this is a war of attrition, where each ship offers very similar options. Both ships have a Cafe Promenade, Sorrentos, Solarium Bistro, Windjammer, Park Cafe/Cafe @ Two70, Dog House and room service.

The key differences here are in the details. First and foremost, Anthem of the Seas is handicapped by the fact it has recently undergone a change from Dynamic Dining back to traditional dining, although it still retains smaller dining rooms in lieu of a larger main dining room.  The hours of operations and size of the Windjammer are superior on Anthem of the Seas, but once again, size proves to be the benefit for Harmony.  There is a wider selection of choices at Cafe Promenade on Harmony, and the entire main dining room experience is far superior.  For that alone, Harmony of the Seas wins this battle.

Itineraries: Anthem of the Seas

This could be among the least subjective points to consider between the two ships: where they sail to.  

Harmony of the Seas only offers cruises to the eastern and western Caribbean throughout the year.  Essentially the same six to seven ports, no matter when you choose to sail on her.  

On the other hand, Anthem of the Seas varies her offerings on the time of year.  Depending on the season, she offers cruises to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Bermuda, New England and Canada.  In addition, Anthem of the Seas is capable of visiting CocoCay, whereas Harmony of the Seas is not. Given the options between the two ships, this is a slam-dunk for Anthem of the Seas.

Pools: Anthem of the Seas

The pool deck experience is arguably one of the most important because it seems this is where guests will spend the most time aggregately during their cruise.  After all, when booking a cruise, isn't everyone envisioning sitting by the pool on a deck chair with a drink in hand?

Harmony of the Seas has a number of smaller pools, which helps with crowds, and its Splashaway Bay option for kids is the best kids pool area we have seen yet. However, Harmony of the Seas lacks a pool in the Solarium (it has hot tubs and a mister instead), which has bothered many adults who enjoyed having a pool of their own.

Meanwhile, Anthem of the Seas not only has a pool in the Solarium, but an additional indoor pool that is perfect for any kind of weather.  Combined with the main outdoor pool, pool days on Anthem are quite lovely. Admittedly, the "wave pool" on Anthem of the Seas for kids is less than stellar, so the kids might be better off in the regular pool.  Nonetheless, Anthem of the Seas wins the contest of aquatic adventure.

Kids & Teens: Push

Both ships offer the most activities and programming for kids that we have seen across any Royal Caribbean ship.  In general, Royal Caribbean has been consistently increasing the amount of space and variety of programming for kids on its ships, and your children will have a blast on either.

Adventure Ocean is Royal Caribbean's supervised child program, and both ships have a large dedicated space onboard for kids ranging in ages from 6 months through 17 years old. Harmony of the Seas does have a larger footprint for its Adventure Ocean program, but the quality of offerings on both ships is nearly identical. Harmony of the Seas does have a few dedicated spaces that Anthem does not, such as the art and science labs.

There is a definite advantage for older kids (tweens and teens) on Anthem of the Seas because of SeaPlex.  SeaPlex offers so much for this age group, that it is undeniably fun for them and because it is indoors, there is rarely any excuse to miss out on it. Bumper cars, Xbox gaming, ping pong, roller skating, dancing, circus school and more are part of the SeaPlex offerings. I am not certain how much Royal Caribbean was targeting teens when they developed the SeaPlex, but it is a homerun with these adolescents.

Of course, Harmony of the Seas has water slides and the Ultimate Abyss slide, which provides plenty of thrills for teens.  There is also the zip line, mini golf course and the rest of the sports deck.  You are just as likely to find plenty of teens hanging out here, as anywhere else. As we mentioned earlier, Splashway Bay is far superior a kids pool area than Anthem's H2O water zone.

The nursery facility on both ships is excellent and quite large. Parents of children under three years old will do well with either option.

In the end, we might give a slight edge to Anthem of the Seas for older children and Harmony of the Seas for younger children, but the differences are too minute to pick a clear winner.

Value: Push

When comparing these ships, they represent the two newest cruise ships in the United States cruise market and also come with a premium price tag because of that distinction. While rates will vary from sailing to sailing and month to month, you can expect to pay more for either ship compared to other ships in the fleet. These ships offer the best that Royal Caribbean has to offer, and it comes with the price tag to match.

Even with their premium price tags, both ships offer guests a lot to see, do and eat onboard. Royal Caribbean designed these ships to be destinations in and of themselves, and that means a lot of return on the money paid to cruise on them. Until further notice, we declare the value proposition for either ship a tie.

Verdict: Harmony of the Seas

Picking a winner was a lot like picking a favorite child: it depends on the day, but we are giving a slight edge to Harmony of the Seas.  It is the newest, shiniest and down right most enjoyable ship we have cruised on to date.  In most cases, Harmony of the Seas matches what Anthem of the Seas offers and gives back even more.

Harmony of the Seas also benefited greatly from the fact Royal Caribbean added a number of Quantum class features to the ship, such as a Bionic Bar, stateroom design and upgraded technology. If this were a comparison between Oasis or Allure of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas might have done considerably better.

Once again, it is worth noting that we really like Anthem of the Seas. Her entertainment is quite impressive and there is nothing like Two70.  Moreover, North Star, Ripcord and the entire SeaPlex is tons of fun, especially if you have older kids with you.

However, we are here to declare a winner and the "face that runs the place", the stylin', profilin', limousine riding to the port and wheelin' n' dealin' cruise ship is Harmony of the Seas!

In the spirit of fairness, we also posed this question to the public, with a twitter poll and Harmony of the Seas also seems to win the popular vote.