Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Michael's Day 1 - Embarkation Day

In:
17Sep2017

The long awaited cruise morning finally arrived and of course I woke up at 5am to watch the ship sail into port. I don’t know what it is, but I can never sleep much the morning of my cruise. I stayed at the Hyatt on 17th street and from my window I could see Harmony of the Seas. The hotel is a great location, because it was only a few blocks away from Port Everglades.


 

Boarding

We arrived at the terminal at 9:45am and did self-parking, which I love because it’s only a few feet away. Since I was staying in a suite they we a separate check in area for us. Once inside they separate you from which suite class you are in, very similar to what they do on the other side, but by which floor you are on. Once you check in at the desk, it’s very quick because they don’t hand you a seapass card.


Those are in the cabin waiting for you to pick up when the cabins are ready. We waited in the suite area, and it was around 10:40am and they started boarding us. Very easy process, and I was very surprised they boarded us so early. Once I was on board I went straight to guest services to exchange an old wow band I had, to be active on this sailing. They simply take the old band, and get you another one that works, great way to save $5 on a new one.

On Board

After I received my new wow band I went to Chops Grill to schedule my dinners for the week. Since I have the Ultimate dining package, I wanted to schedule everything. They also have a table setup in the dining room you can do this as well. The only thing they can’t reserve is Coastal Kitchen, so we must call or go visit them.


 

Lunch was in Park Café, with the famous Royal Kummelwech sandwich and my first adult beverage Stella. This has become my go-to spot for lunch on day one anytime I’m on an Oasis class ship. Many don’t know that Park Café is free on board, so they simply just skip it for Windjammer. After lunch they informed us that our cabins were already ready and it was only 11am. At first I thought this was an error, but the last sailing was half empty, so most cabins went unused.



 

My cabin is Junior Suite 6644 on the hump. When I arrived there was one seapass card outside and the other one was supposed to be lying on the bed. However, it wasn’t so we just made quick trip down to guest services for a new one. The seapass card it’s used that much since we have the wow bands. The cabin itself is very large; I love our deep the balcony is, with a full lounger. I also love how wide the cabin is with so much space to move around, I hope this cabin is not spoiling me or I’ll be in big trouble on future cruises!



 

At 2pm we had our first official meet-up, as part of the Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise. I was sitting at the bar thinking what to order and thought it’s time I try my first lava flow. The drink was very good, but a little too sweet for my liking. We also had another meet up for sailaway on the top deck. They had little carts going around, so it was very easy to get drink if you wanted one.



 

Evening on Board

On deck 12 the entrance to Wonderland they have a nice bar with special cocktails. This of this bar, as like an R Bar on other Royal ships. The bar was totally empty; I think most people don’t know you can come up here just for drinks without eating here. We tried some of their cocktails, and I’ll say they were very different.


 

For dinner we had Jamie’s Italian, this was my first time dining here. For our starters they had a large meat plate in the center of the table. This was a pretty setup and very different than something I’ve tried before. The main course, I ordered the steak and my waiter recommend the lamb, so I went with that. I lamb was very tender and I’m happy with that selection. I think the desert was my very part of the meal, the cheesecake. Overall, the meal was very enjoyable and I’m happy I tried Jamie’s. However, I don’t think it’s my favorite option going forward.




 

After dinner we enjoyed some live music down at the schooner bar. I usually don’t spend a lot of time at the schooner bar during my Oasis sailings, but I’m happy I went it was a blast! I think being in a large group with friends also helps. I did walk into Dazzels at 11pm and it was empty other than the band, so I went back to Schooner bar.



 

That wraps up my first day on board Harmony of the Seas. It was an action packed day, but so much fun. Tomorrow is our first sea day, so I’m looking forward to some waterslide and relaxing poolside.

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Matt's Day 1 - Embarkation Day

In:
16Sep2017

Our Harmony of the Seas cruise is finally here! As with so many Royal Caribbean cruises, I struggled to get a good night of sleep in.  I was just too excited to sleep!

We spent the night about an hour away from Port Everglades at my inlaws house. Cannot beat the price of staying with family!

At about 8:30am, we piled into the car to jump on the Florida Turnpike towards the destination we have been dreaming about for months, Port Everglades.

Arrival at Port Everglades was smooth and easy.  We parked at the terminal around 9:45am and the security lines were opened up just at right around 10am.  Being a suite guest, we were seated in the Suites area of the Terminal 18 building and were among the first to board the ship just after 11am.

Surprisingly, all staterooms were ready as we boarded the ship.  Usually the staterooms are not ready until 1pm, so this was a pleasant surprise.  We dropped off our luggage in our stateroom, which is a Crown Loft Suite on Deck 17.

The suite was something we decided to splurge on a few months ago and it is truly impressive! Lots of space, and having two floors is really neat!

We had lunch in the Windjammer, a family tradition to start off any cruise.

There was a specialty dining package reservation spot set up in the main dining room to make it easy to plan our dining package choices. We were able to get every restaurant and time we had wanted.

We also registered the kids for Adventure Ocean and the Nursery.  The Adventure Ocean staff mentioned there are about 600 kids onboard, which is less than normal.  They would be combining Voyagers (9-11) and Explorers (6-8).

As is typical for us, we spent the afternoon taking it easy.  Cruising with kids means even on embarkation day having to adjust to their level.  Naps are a great idea, but never seem to happen on embarkation day.  Alas, we managed to sneak in some Harmony must-dos, including a roast beef sandwich and lava flow drink.

Following muster drill, we headed up to the pool deck to enjoy sail away on a beautiful day in Port Everglades.

Adventure Ocean does not open until 8pm on the first day, so we brought the kids back to the room to relax, play and eat dinner. 

After dropping the kids off at Adventure Ocean, it was time for dinner.  We purchased the 5-night dining package, and opted to start off our cruise with dinner at Sabor.  There are so many good choices for dinner on Harmony of the Seas, so we went with a favorite.

Our meal at Sabor was another great success.  I went with the tortilla soup and grilled cobia fish tacos, along with the always amazing guacamole.

Being that we slept poorly and encountered the usual first day over exhaustion, we decided to call it early.  Plenty lined up to do tomorrow!

Stray Observations

  • The Concierge indicated the over the water cabanas suffered damage at Barefoot Beach.  As a result, the Star Class guests get first access to the standard beach cabanas.  It would probably be a couple of weeks before the cabanas can all be repaired.  Before you ask, I am not sure of the extent of damage or which other cabanas/bungalows are damaged.  We will be in Labadee on Monday, so will report on it then,
  • Kelsey Grammar and Kristin Bell are onboard the ship filming a Netflix film.
  • We had a magical moment today when my kids met a DreamWorks character.  My kid struck a chord with the character handler, and after a bit of talking, the handler surprised my kids with a Trolls art book and crayon collection. They were beyond ecstatic.  

Pier construction photo report from CocoCay

In:
15Sep2017

Royal Caribbean is working on adding a pier to its private destionation of CocoCay, and we have a new photo report to share of the progress being made.

Reader Brian White took these photos on August 30, while visiting the island on a Grandeur of the Seas cruise.

The pier will connect to Cococay on the western side of the tender harbor and extend down island from there, presumably to keep the tender harbor free for future use.

The barge on the right was re-positioning at the time this photo was taken, eventually moving to the far right out of view where the end of the pier will be.


The sand they are pulling out is being dumped further down the island in the undeveloped area.

Friday Photos

In:
15Sep2017

Happy Friday and welcome to another round of Friday Photos, where we share our readers favorite Royal Caribbean photos on the blog!  If you want to share your photos, just use this form to send them in!

We start off our photos this week with a shot of Anthem of the Seas, taken by Ron Britt while on a tender in the Bahamas.

Next up is a photo taken by Suzanne Donnelly of Independence of the Seas from her Mediterranean cruise earlier this summer.

Ashley Harris took this photo of Explorer of the Seas from her airplane flight home.

Next is a photo of Jewel of the Seas docked in Roseau, Dominica by Seth Goldhamer.

Kyle Ritch took this photo of sunset while on Liberty of the Seas.

Denise Orth shared this photo of Allure of the Seas, as seen from Columbus Cove in Labadee.

We will wrap up this week's edition of Friday Photos with a shot of Harmony of the Seas pulling out of Nassau, Bahamas, taken by Justin.

Thank you to everyone that submitted their Royal Caribbean photos! If you want to include your photos in a future Friday Photos post, be sure to send them to us!

Royal Caribbean cruise ship term glossary

In:
14Sep2017

If you have started to plan your first Royal Caribbean cruise, you may have run into a few words or phrases that sounds like something out of a CSI episode, rather than a family vacation. This post will help explain what all these nautical terms mean, so you can learn to "talk the talk" once onboard.

Adventure Ocean: Royal Caribbean's children's programming that is open to children between the ages of 3-17.

Aft: The back of the ship, which refers to a direction.

Bow: The front part of the ship, which refers to the physical part of the ship.

Closed-loop sailing: A roundtrip cruise, where the sailing begins and ends at the same port.

Cruise Compass: The daily newspaper distributed to guests each day that lists all the activities, events and specials happening onboard the ship.

Cruise Director: This officer onboard the ship is in charge of the entertainment during your cruise, from bingo to the shows to trivia and more.

Dining package: An optional purchase, where guests can pre-pay the cost of specialty restaurants and receive a discount compared to dining at the same specialty restaurants individually.

Disembarkation: Usually refers to the last day of a cruise when you depart the ship at the conclusion of a cruise.

Double occupancy: Most cruise fares are based on double occupancy. That means two people sharing one cabin.

Dock: A pier at a port that your ship can pull up to, where guests can walk off the ship and directly onto land.

Embarkation: Usually refers to the first day of your cruise when you board the ship. 

Forward: The front of the ship,  which refers to a direction.

Friends of Bill W: A code name for Alcoholics Anonymous.

Friends of Dorothy: A code name for GLBT activities.

Galley: The ship's kitchen.

Gangway: Ramp guests use to embark or disembark their ship.

Guarantee room: To help fill in empty staterooms, Royal Caribbean will offer a guarantee room rate. This means you pick a category of stateroom that you are promised you will receive nothing less than that. In fact, you might even be upgraded to something higher. On top of it, you will pay less than someone who picks their stateroom. The "catch" to a guarantee room is that Royal Caribbean will assign your room number at some point between when you book the stateroom and your sail date. You are essentially trading the ability to pick your stateroom location for a lower cruise fare.

Itinerary: The day by day list of where your cruise ship is going, with notations for which ports of call you will visit and what times you will be there.

MDR: Abbreviation for Main Dining Room.

Muster Drill: A mandatory safety event, where all guests report to their evacuation station to learn what to do in case of an emergency. Every guest must attend this event.

Muster Station: The designated spot where guests must go in the event of an emergency for evacuation.

My Time Dinner: Royal Caribbean's concept for dinner, where guests have flexibility in making reservations ahead of time or simply showing up at any point while dinner is being served.  This is an alternative to Traditional Dinner.

OBC: Acronym for Onboard credit.  Onboard credit is the money in your onboard account that you can use to spend towards purchases made onboard.

Open-jaw sailing: A one-way cruise, where the sailing begins and ends in different ports.

Porthole: A round window, often smaller than the standard picture window found in most outside cabins.

Port/Portside: The left of the ship, which refers to a direction.

Repositioning cruise: A one-way itinerary that effectively moves a cruise ship from one part of the world to another. 

Royal iQ: The smartphone application to manage your cruise while onboard the ship.  Only available on select ships.

Royal Suite Class: Royal Caribbean's suite offerings available on Oasis and Quantum Class ships only. 

Sea Day: A day in which your cruise ship does not visit a port of call, and spends the entire day at sea.

SeaPass: The card every guest uses to make purchases onboard, identify themselves, and get access to their stateroom.

Single supplement: Since cruise fares are based on double occupancy, solo cruisers are charged a single supplement.  The single supplement fee is usually 150-200% of the cruise fare. Some Royal Caribbean ships have solo cabins, where the single supplement fee is waived.

Specialty restaurant: A dining venue where there is an additional charge to dine there. Usually a cover charge, although sometimes food is charge a la carte.

Starboard: The right of the ship, which refers to a direction.

Stateroom: A room for a guest on the cruise ship.  Every guest books a stateroom (sometimes referred to as a cabin).

Stern: The back part of the ship, which refers to a part of the ship.

Tender: A ferry, where your ship will anchor in the harbor near the port and a small vessel will shuttle you between the cruise ship and port.

Traditional Dinner: Dinner in the main dining room where you have a choice of either first or second seating (you choose this before your cruise), and are seated at the same table each evening with the same wait staff and table mates. 

Wake: The trail of waves behind a cruise ship that is created by the ship's engines as the ship moves forward.

WOWBand: RFID bracelet that works just like a SeaPass card.

Harmony of the Seas 2017 Live Blog - Michael's Cruise Preview

In:
13Sep2017

The long awaited Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise is finally here.  As many of you know, I’ve actually never sailed on a blog group cruise.  Usually, I have my schedule made two years out and can never fit it in.  However, this time I cancelled my fall cruise, and thought - you know what? It’s time I sail with the group! 

The main reason I booked this cruise was to sail with many friends I’ve made over the years through the blog.  But, I also felt like I haven’t really experienced Harmony of the Seas.  When she arrived to Port Everglades last year, I was lucky enough to sail on the two-day sailing.  Many say seven days is not enough time to take all the Oasis class has to offer; imagine doing it in just 48-hours!  Most all of the entertainment will be new to me, as I only saw The Fine Line before.  I also did not get to dine in any restaurants. So I’m really looking forward to that. 

Itinerary

On September 15th, I’ll fly down to Port Everglades, Florida.  I fly in late, so will likely just grab some dinner and then attempt to get some sleep. 

We will be visiting Labadee, Haiti; Cozumel, Mexico; and Falmouth, Jamaica.  In Labadee, I’ll get to experience my very first beach cabana on Nellie’s beach.  In Cozumel, I plan to spend the day at my favorite beach, Nachi-Cocom.  As of now, I actually don’t have any plans in Falmouth; it might be a waterslide day on board. 

Cabin

For this cruise, I’ll be sharing a room with my good friend, Ron Hiller.  We booked in March and found a great deal on a D8 - Ocean Balcony.  I love staying on deck 6 on Oasis class ships.  With the live-blogging, camera, phones, etc., it’s much easier having access to my cabin that is close to majority of the ship. 

Around a month ago, they had a great deal on the Junior Suite’s; it was so good I just couldn’t pass it up.  So for my first time, I’ll be staying in a Sea Class suite on aboard an Oasis Class ship.  The perks that come with these cabins are: dinner access to Coastal Kitchen, luxury pillow top mattress, and upgraded L’Occitane bathroom amenities. 

My cabin number is #6644 aft on the hump, which means our balcony will be a little deeper. 

Packages

Over the years, Royal Caribbean has created so many on board packages to enhance the cruise vacation.  Personally, I cannot imagine cruising without all these packages now. 

First, I’ll talk about the ultimate dining package.  In May, I tried this package on Oasis of the Seas and absolutely loved it.  I think my favorite part is being able to dine at any restaurant for lunches, too, on sea days.  So for this cruise, I purchased the ultimate dining again.  I will be trying two restaurants with this package that I’ve never dined at before: Jamie’s Italian and Wonderland.  

The second package I purchased was the deluxe beverage & VOOM one device package.  This package used to show up on weekend sales, but now has become constantly found in the cruise planner.  On Oasis class ships, I tend to always purchased the beverage package, these ships are full of bars and the ships usually stop at their private island Labadee (where it works too).  I also enjoy the bottled water throughout the day and specialty coffee in the morning, or that afternoon pick-me-up.  Also, the high speed Internet is a must to bring you these live blogs.

Well, I’m really excited to get back on board Harmony of the Seas. It is going to be an amazing week with a lot of friends.  It will also be fun to follow two different live blogs - two different experiences onboard the same ship.  If you have any questions, be sure to mention them below and I’ll answer while on aboard.

Harmony of the Seas Cruise Preview on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
13Sep2017

Hey everyone! Episode 215 of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available for your listening pleasure.

This week, we're sharing the details about our cruise on Harmony of the Seas to the Western Caribbean along with many Royal Caribbean Blog readers! This seven-night adventure has lots of fun packed in, and Matt shares why he picked this itinerary, plans for onboard and onshore and some new things he will try on this sailing.

Be sure to also check out our pre-cruise summary of what Matt's plans are for the cruise and for how you can read the live blog each day from the cruise.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 215. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSS or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!

Royal Caribbean cancels Enchantment of the Seas due to closure of PortMiami from Hurricane Irma

In:
12Sep2017

Royal Caribbean announced it is forced to cancel the September 11th sailing of Enchantment of the Seas due to the continued closure of the port, and the uncertainty as to when normal operations will resume. 

USA Today reports PortMiami is closed to all marine traffic because of vessels that sank in the channel due to Hurricane Irma.

Enchantment of the Seas was scheduled to be a 4-night cruise that departed on September 11th, but Hurricane Irma caused Royal Caribbean to delay her departure a day to September 12th.  With PortMiami remaining closed, the ship cannot conduct its cruise at all and thus, the sailing has been cancelled.

Harmony of the Seas 2017 Live Blog - Matt's Cruise Preview

In:
12Sep2017

It is time once again to pack our bags, stock up on sunscreen, and get ready for our next Royal Caribbean adventure.  This time, we are going on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas for a 7-night Western Caribbean sailing.  Each day, I will be LIVE blogging to share with you what it is like to cruise on the world's largest cruise ship.  In fact, my friend Michael Poole, will also be live blogging from the ship, so it should be a fun week to follow along.

This particular sailing happens to be a RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com Group Cruise, which means we have nearly 100 readers joining us on this sailing.  We have been doing group cruises for a few years now, and it remains a favorite way to enjoy a cruise because we get to share the cruise experience with friends who understand the excitement and pleasure of a Royal Caribbean cruise.

The Cruise

We picked this sailing a number of years ago so that many of us could try out Harmony of the Seas, and cruising in September means lower cruise fares.  In retrospect, we are lucky to have avoided Hurricane Harvey and Irma, but it did give us a bit of anxiety over the last week or so.  Nonetheless, we are ready to set sail and it looks like we are a go all around.

Our seven night Western Caribbean sailing will depart on Saturday, September 16th and take us to 3 different ports. We will visit the ports of Labadee; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico.

This will be my fourth sailing on Harmony of the Seas, and believe it or not, there are still some things I have not done yet.  Royal Caribbean designs their cruise ships to be a floating hub of activities, entertainment, and relaxation.  As a result, there is more to do onboard than anyone can do in one sailing, let alone four.  Not only will I have the opportunity to try out more activities onboard, but re-visit some favorites with many of my friends.

Stateroom

For this sailing, we are sailing in a stateroom category I have never had before, a Crown Loft Balcony Suite.  

Originally, we had booked two connecting ocean balcony rooms.  The price worked for us, and having separation from our children is always a good idea when it comes to cruising.  Right around final payment date, a number of suites opened up, and we managed to snag a Crown Loft suite for a great price.  

I admit that having two rooms makes for an ideal cruising scenario, because that means the kids can sleep in one room while my wife and I can watch television, or read without having to worry about making noise.  The price of the Crown Loft suite was just too good to pass up, so we jumped at the opportunity.  Plus, having Sky Class benefits means we can enjoy some nice perks that works well for us.  Namely, priority embarkation/disembarkation, suite sun deck, concierge lounge access.

Of course, the Crown Loft Suite is an exciting room to try out for the incredible views and creative floor plan.  Plus, there are two bathrooms in the suite and that will work well for getting everyone showered and ready each day.

Itinerary

Day Port Arrival Departure
1 Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Florida - 16:00
2 At Sea - -
3 Labadee 8:00 16:30
4 Falmouth, Jamaica 10:00 19:00
5 At Sea - -
6 Cozumel, Mexico 8:00 19:00
7 At Sea - -
8 Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Florida 6:15 -

For this sailing, we are going on to the Western Caribbean, and this is the first time we have sailed the Western Caribbean on Harmony of the Seas.

Living in Florida, we will drive down the night before the cruise and stay at the Cambria Inn and Suites in Dania Beach.  The hotel is a 10 minute drive to Port Everglades, and we stayed there previously for a different sailing.  It is clean, well-run and offers room for the kids.

Labadee, Royal Caribbean's private destination, is always a highlight for me and we are hoping to snag a cabana at Barefoot Beach through the concierge.  We love Labadee, and cabanas are the icing on the cake for our family.  They are relaxing, provide a good "home base" for the children, and a nap spot.

In Falmouth, we have invited those who booked into our room block for the Group Cruise to join us for a private excursion through Royal Caribbean to the Bamboo Beach Club.  It promises to be a fun day at the beach, and the perfect opportunity for our friends on the cruise to do something together while in port.  Lunch and drinks are included, and there is even nanny service provided!

While visiting Cozumel, we may play things by ear, but the general plan is to have my wife get a massage, enjoy an early lunch downtown and then head to the beach.  A lot of our plans depend on the weather, the kids, and even what we feel like that day.  We are purposefully keeping things vague so that we have the option of changing things up.

Three things I am excited to try

3. Izumi Hibachi

I have been a loyal disciple of Izumi since it debuted on Oasis of the Seas.  Royal Caribbean's Japanese specialty restaurant has been somewhere I have visited multiple times per sailing.  In recent years, they added an hibachi option and I have never tried it.

To be honest, I was saving this experience for the group cruise because I think the hibachi is more fun with friends, and we have a number of Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders who will be joining me for dinner.

2. Falmouth

We have struggled to find a family activity in Falmouth that we really loved.  My hope is the Bamboo Beach Club will be that answer, and the photos and description seem to look promising.

Any parent knows how your kids do in any activity has many factors, some of which are pure luck (did they sleep enough, are they in a bad mood because of something petty earlier in the day, etc).  My hope is the kids will be able to enjoy our time there just as much as us.  Fingers are crossed!

1. Crown Loft Suite

Since we booked the suite, I have been really excited to try out the Crown Loft Suite for myself.  The idea of a two-story stateroom is pretty awesome, and combined with the Sky Class perks we have experienced on Anthem of the Seas, I am really looking forward to it.

What's next

Our Harmony of the Seas cruise begins on Saturday, September 16th, and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels.  Be sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram 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!

Royal Caribbean pledges up to $1 million for Hurricane Irma relief efforts

In:
11Sep2017

Royal Caribbean has added a new way for its guests to help support Hurricane Irma relief efforts, with a promise to match donations up to $1 million.

Royal Caribbean added a link on their homepage for guests to donate any amount towards Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

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