Harmony of the Seas Live Blog

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Sea Day

In:
07Jul2017

Our last day on Harmony of the Seas is here, and it is another sea day.

I started off my morning with my usual coffee and breakfast from Park Cafe.  I will definitely miss this morning routine!  I even had it out on my balcony today since the sun was not hitting my balcony directly yet.

After a morning of work, I met my wife for a quick lunch at Sabor.  I just had to sneak in one more bowl of guacamole into my cruise before I left.

Note, not my margarita.

I tried the beef tacos today, but I still think the fish tacos are better.

This afternoon, Crown and Anchor Society invited its members to an ice cream social in the main dining room.  I had never seen this sort of event, so I gave it a try.  

It was an informal event, with various officers serving up every flavor of ice cream available onboard the ship.  I guess you could say I had a coffee ice cream break instead of just a coffee break.

After work, my wife and I strolled the ship to take in as much as we could.  We bar hopped around for a bit to get "one last hurrah."

We had definitely slowed down and with very calm ocean around us, it almost felt like we were standing still.  The breeze was even quite calm.

Our last dinner brought us to Izumi. 

My wife and I tried two of their special cocktails.

I attempted to recoup the value in our dining package by ordering two sushi combos and a special roll.  While I took solace in the fact I conquered this food challenge, I took some time to recouperate after dinner.

Looking back

With this being the end of the cruise, I wanted to share some favorites and highlights of the sailing.

  • Favorite specialty restaurant: 150 Central Park
  • Favorite drink: Kraken with Diet Coke on the rocks
  • Favorite show: Columbus, the Musical

Working from onboard

Overall, I was able to remain productive with my work onboard during the cruise.  The Voom internet worked quite well and aside from the occasional drop out here an there, remained steady and quite fast.  

If you have to give presentations or conduct mission critical meetings, I would probably not advise to do it onboard.  However, if the majority of your work can be done with just VPN, email and localized development, working from on the ship is quite easy.

The biggest drawback to working onboard is the knowledge everyone else is having fun and you are stuck doing work.  It is akin to being in summer school while everyone else is out playing.

Central Park stateroom

I loved our Central Park stateroom for the great ambiance.  Having the extra large balcony is nice, although I would have liked to have had a lounge chair to really take advantage of the space.  The room was quiet at night and we never lost any sleep due to noise.

St. John

I was nervous about trying to get to St. John but I am so glad that we tried it out.  The beach was beautiful and the trip was much simpler than I had thought.

We definitely left far too early, but the Carnival celebrations on the island forced our hand.  We could have easily stayed another 2-3 hours and made it back to the ship with plenty of time to spare.

Ultimate Dining Package

I will write up a full review of this soon, but I think the ultimate dining package makes a lot of financial sense, even if it is a lot of food.  On sea days where you get lunch and dinner at specialty restuarants, my wife and I found ourselves overwhelmed with the amount of food.  

For our next cruise on Harmony, I think we will go with a 4 or 5 night dining package just to provide a break in the day-to-day eating.  However, when you break down the costs and what you get, the best bang for the buck is with the Ultimate Dining Package.

Deluxe Drink Package

My wife and I definitely got our moneys worth from the drink package.  Even on days where I did not start drinking until 5pm, hitting 5-6 drinks is easier than it sounds.  Plus, having two premium coffees per day makes hitting that break-even point even simpler.

I am a fan of the drink package for a few basic reasons and it is why I will likely continue to buy it

  1. I pre-paid it before the cruise, thus breaking up the cost of the cruise.
  2. I never had to think, "Do I really want to order a drink? Or should I save my money?".  After a day or two, that mind game infuriates me and having the drink package makes it so much simpler.
  3. Having a drink package means when waiting for a show or event to start, you always have something to do.

Of interest, most of the time waiters would ask us for our room number and look up our drink package that way.  Rather than take our SeaPass cards and individually run the charges and give us a receipt, they would return to the kiosk to mark down the purchase, but never give us a receipt.  It was certainly more convenient for us, but I was surprised to see this almost the norm on the ship.

Stray Observations

  • I walked into Starbucks to look around and noticed this sign posted.  I guess there is a bit of confusion among guests as to what their drink benefits gets them.
  • Check out this stateroom, where a guest set up a hammock. 
  • If you connect a device to the Voom (like a phone) and then log off but keep the phone connected to the wifi, notifications will continue to work.  In fact, my iPhone could still send and recieve iMessages.  I would not advocate relying on this method, but all week my devices would show notifications despite not being actively logged in to Voom.
  • I stumbled on Bingo, so here are the bingo prices

Our next cruise is in September 2017 on Harmony of the Seas for the Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise, and I will take this opportunity to invite you to join us for that sailing. I cannot wait to start that journey with friends who read this blog.

Thank you to everyone who followed this live blog. I never had so much fun staying up late to write blog posts!

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - Sea Day

In:
06Jul2017

Day six is here and it only our second sea day, which is kind of hard to believe because I am used to having more sea days earlier in the cruise.

Today was another work from the ship day, and I grabbed a latte from Cafe Promenade before going up to Park Cafe for my vegetable breakfast sandwich.  I definitely enjoy mornings where I can walk in Central Park to grab my coffee, rather than just walking to my kitchen at home.

My wife spent her morning reading in the Solarium while I spent the morning doing work.

For lunch, I decided to try a different quick option: the main dining room.  Usually the main dining room may not jump out as a quick choice, but for lunch they have two options: the usual a la carte table service, or a special buffet in the middle of the room.

I opted for the buffet and had a choice of many great hot and fresh foods.

In addition, the buffet has a custom chopped salad station, where you tell the crew member what ingredients you want in the salad and they chop it all up on the spot.

My favorite dish of the buffet was the vegetable Indian curry.  It was a potato based curry, so I grabbed some steamed cauliflower from another buffet station and created my own aloo gobi curry.  Glorious!

Before heading back to "the office," I took a stroll through Central Park.  With the breeze running through Central Park, it was a great time to be onboard and enjoy some fresh air.

I had a quiet afternoon in my stateroom doing my work, while my wife headed up to the spa to have her hair done at the salon.  

I happened to find the stowaway piano player again.  He is a really fun act, where he literally wheels his piano anywhere on the ship and performs.  His piano has some hidden tricks too, which adds to the show.

It was formal night, so we took some photos around the ship at the various photo stops.  Being Diamond members, we each get one free 8x10 print, so no need to let that go to waste!

We decided to grab drinks on the Rising Tide bar because taking a ride is always enjoyable.  In fact, we ended up taking the ride back too.  Each sequence was faster than I remember, and it is still quite fun to experience now and then. 

Our entertainment for the evening was 1887, which is an ice skating show. The performances were quite impressive, and "the bubble guy" is astounding.

For dinner, we headed up to deck 12 for Wonderland.

Wonderland is a specialty restaurant loosely based on the Alice in Wonderland tales.  The food never looks like anything you may have had before, and yet tastes great.  My favorites are the terroir beef and reconstructed caprese salad.

Also the desserts are amazing.


 

Tomorrow is our last day, and it is also a sea day.

Stray Observations

  • We had barely any movement on the first 3 days of the cruise, and since leaving St. Kitts there has been a bit of movement.  It is really minor, perhaps 1 or 2 out of 10, but it is funny how you notice it just because we were used to no movement at all in the ocean.  All in all, another very smooth cruise.
  • My wife purchased a few items in the shops onboard and asked to use her Diamond level Crown and Anchor discount.  The crew member said she needed to see my wife's SeaPass card, despite my wife having her WOWband.  It is a bit surprising because looking up the WOWband should show her Crown and Anchor status in the computer.  
  • As a matter of personal preference, I think I prefer to stay on a deck that is lower than our current deck 12.  I say that because I feel I spend more time on the Royal Promenade, Boardwalk or Central Park.  My wife disagrees, and says if the kids were with us, having quick access to pool, Windjammer and Adventure Ocean would change the dynamic.  I think we all know who's right in this situation.
  • Here is the portrait of Harmony of the Seas' Godmother, Brittany Affolter.  She is super nice and you can find her photo near the Guest Relations desk.
  • The array of Indian-inspired pizza continues at Sorrento's with the Chicken Tikka pizza.
  • I do not believe I have ever dined at Wonderland yet where the waiter did not insist on ordering for us.  Menus at Wonderland seem to be just for decoration.

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - St. Kitts

In:
05Jul2017

Our fifth day brings us to the island of St. Kitts, and it is also our last port stop.

Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to get off the ship and see the island because I had to work today.  From the looks of it, I would say the weather made for another beautiful day for many that chose to take various excursions around the island.

My morning began with coffee and breakfast at Park Cafe.  I opted to go there to enjoy my favorite breakfast food on Harmony: the vegetable breakfast sandwich.

My wife spent her morning doing some shopping in the Port Zante dockyard area.  She picked up some clothing for our daughters and a bag for herself.

I had a productive morning of coding, which culminated with my wife's return from on shore to enjoy lunch together.

We went up to the Windjammer for lunch.  Being this is a port day, there were not many options to consider other than the Windjammer.  I particularly liked the Thai Chicken Curry, while my wife opted for the pasta station.

After lunch my wife tried her hand at the Perfect Storm slides. She said the champagne bowl slide was not open (slated to open later in the afternoon), but she did try the racer slides.


 

She found the blue to be faster than the yellow.  With both slides, she found them to be a longer ride than she expected and she too got stuck in both. She did find it was better to push off the top of the slide with your hands than doing the "butt scootch" because you can vault yourself with your hands to get back up to speed.

I had a quiet afternoon, with the highlight getting more coffee from Cafe Promenade.  

I also got a nice dessert delivery in the afternoon.  Thank you snack gods!

I wrapped up my workday and headed down to the On Air Club to try something brand new: A Royal Mystery escape room game.

This is a new escape room game that was added to Harmony of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas.  The show is or will be added to other ships too.  

Essentially, it is a game where teams compete to solve a number of riddles, clues and games that will lead them to solving a murder mystery. Think the classic game of "Clue", mixed with puzzles.  

Our team did not win, but it was still a fun time.  I found some of the puzzles in A Royal Mystery to be quite difficult and after learning the solutions later on, would have never figure them out.  Unlike Escape the Rubicon (the other escape room experience on Harmony of the Seas), there is no additional cost for A Royal Mystery.

The escape room worked up an appetite, so we headed to Central Park for our dinner at Jamie's Italian.

This is my first time dining at Jamie's Italian on a non-Quantum class ship and one thing I noticed is the menu has a few variations from other Jamie Italian locations on Royal Caribbean.  That is a welcome change, since seldom do we find menu differences between specialty restaurants across the fleet.

For my entree, I picked the spaghetti puttanesca (minus the anchovies).   It was terrific!

Our server, Caterina, was wonderful and made very good recommendations.  She did, however, warn me before I ordered a drink she did not like but I insisted on anyway.  I like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for drinks, but it tasted so bad! Alas, some folks on Facebook indicated they enjoyed it, so I suppose negroni is an acquired taste. 

We grabbed a few cocktails after dinner around the ship, and even met the characters from Trolls (to the chagrin of our kids back home).

Our evening entertainment is my favorite show on any Royal Caribbean ship, Columbus, the Musical.

Much of the cast has changed since we saw it in November, but this cast absolutely nailed it!  The show is such fun, and I love the songs and comedy mixed in.  Hoping we can catch the final showing tomorrow.

Tomorrow is another sea day onboard the world's largest cruise ship.

Stray Observations

  • There is just one coffee size at Cafe Promenade and Park Cafe. I would call the one size "medium".
  • According to the crew member at Cafe Promenade, they added the coffee menu behind the bar on this sailing.
  • Our cruise director, Abe Hughes, had a cameo in Columbus.
  • Check out the line for guests to see Trolls.  I spoke briefly with the crew members escorting them out, and they indicated it is just the Trolls that get this kind of reaction.  If you do not have kids under the age of around 12, you wont understand.  
  • The drink of the day is the margarita azul.

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - St. Thomas

In:
04Jul2017

Our second port stop brings us to St. Thomas, a beautiful island in the United States Virgin Islands.

We got up at about 7:30am and got ourselves ready. We knew we had to be ready to go early to take advantage of our time in port.  We grabbed a quick breakfast in Park Cafe, which coincided nicely with Harmony of the Seas arriving into Charlotte Amalie harbor. 

We grabbed some coffee from Cafe Promenade to watch our docking in Crown Bay.  I do not recall if I have ever been on a Royal Caribbean cruise that docked in Crown Bay, and not Havensight.  

Being that it is the Fourth of July (Independence Day for the United States), the ship and crew are in the spirit of the holiday.

The ship pulled into port right on time and we were cleared to go ashore shortly thereafter.  No lines at all to get off the ship.  In fact, I was literally the first person off the ship!  

Once off the ship we took a taxi to Red Hook to catch a ferry to St. John.  The taxi dispatcher warned us of long lines and possible delays due to the Fourth of July celebration in St. John.  We decided to try it anyway, and off we went.

The taxi to Red Hook is perhaps 20 minutes long, although it goes over some steep mountains that offer quite a view, or a lot of anxiety (depending on your mood).

The line for tickets at Red Hook looked long, but it moved quickly and we purchased our tickets and boarded a ferry.  Usually ferries leave every hour, on the hour, however due to the demand to go today for July 4th, they were running ferries continuously.

The ferry ride itself was short. I think it is listed at 20 minutes, but I think it is closer to 10-15 minutes. There was a slight chop on the water, but no issues with getting sea sick at all.

In St. John, the entire town was engulfed in its Fourth of July celebration, which more closely resembled Carnival.  Nonetheless, we went to find a taxi. 

It took us a while to find one, because we were unaware where to go to find one.  Many streets were closed off for the festivities, so we had to do some searching.  We found the taxi stand and hopped on a taxi to bring us to the beach.

St. John is mostly a large U.S. National Park, and there are many beaches to visit.  We picked Cinnamon Bay beach based on the recommendation of Disney Cruise Line Blog writer, Scott.  While Trunk Bay is often the popular choice, Cinnamon Bay is very close by and far less crowded.

Walking into Cinnamon Bay, it looks more like a forest than a beach.  You walk down a path to the beach area, which is open for all to enjoy.  There was no beach entrance fee either.

There is a small restaurant, gift shop and beach facility store.  We rented two chairs for $10 each and went to find a spot on the beach.

I have to say, I was really impressed by Cinnamon Bay.  The beach is pristine, water crystal clear and a warm 80-something degrees.

It was pure bliss relaxing at Cinnamon Bay.  My wife and I enjoyed the surf, along with just relaxing on the beach.  We even grabbed a lunch from the food truck that serves a couple of choices, plus plenty of snacks and drinks.

After a few hours, we decided to head back to the ship. We would have liked to stay longer, but we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get back.  No sense in adding a heart attack for fear of missing the ship to our list of activities.

The return trip was essentially just like the way there, but reversed.  All in all, a great time!  I think all the great things people say about St. John is absolutely true and I would love to return.  My wife even said we could easily bring the kids with us next time.

My only complaint on the beach we went to was there is no food/drink service, and little to no shade.  Keep that in mind when planning your day.

On our way back to the ferry, we got a sampling of the celebration happening in St. John.

We got back to the ship around 3:30pm, and did the usual post-shore excursion shower and dressing.  

We had dinner reservations at 8pm at Izumi, but our light lunch earlier left us quite famished, so we asked if we could dine earlier at Izumi. The staff could not have been more accommodating.

With the Ultimate Dining Package, each guest gets $50 to spend. Plus, you can combine the stipend for the table.  Fifty dollars is a lot for Izumi, and it afforded me the opportunity to indulge even more than I would if I was paying cash.

Following dinner we went to the Schooner Bar to enjoy music that was right up my wife's alley.  She is a major Broadway fan, and the musical conductor for Grease and Columbus the Musical was playing jazz music for an hour, followed by a series of Broadway songs sung by the cast of Grease.

We had seen similar performances on Allure of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, and it is one of our favorite shows to see. Royal Caribbean has so much wonderful live music onboard, and seeing this kind of a performance is always a treat.

The Royal Promenade transformed into Fourth of July central, with lots of decorations and live performances to coincide with holiday.

All the fun in the sun started to catch up with us, so we called it a night.

Tomorrow is another sea day.

Stray Observations

  • There were special Fourth of July cocktails available at all bars.


  • As an Indian food lover, I was pleased to see chicken tandoori pizza at Sorrentos.
  • Voom performance has been exquisite thus far.  That puts my mind at ease with three more work days coming up.
  • Check out this Fourth of July cake. Note the car in the background that provides scale.

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Sea Day

In:
03Jul2017

Our first sea day is here, and that also means my first day working from the ship.

I made a coffee run to Cafe Promenade before logging on for the day and discovered that the crew were hard at work setting up Fourth of July decorations on the Royal Promenade.  In fact, there are already a few Independence Day events on the ship, including a BBQ and hot dog eating contest.

I could really get used to having my morning coffee on a cruise ship.

My wife went to the gym in the morning, and I enjoyed a great view of Central Park to go along with my work.  The internet connection was fairly stable.  I had a couple of conference calls that I connected to via Skype and had a few pauses here and there, but the call never completely dropped. Overall, everything worked well enough for me to do my work.

For lunch today I grabbed something quick to eat at the Windjammer.

My wife opted to take advantage of our unlimited dining package and enjoy lunch at Jamie's Italian.  This is the first time any of us have dined at Jamie's for lunch.

As luck would have it, I was able to finish work a early today, due to the Fourth of July holiday.  I made the best use of my time by logging off and heading up to the pool deck for a little relaxation, sunshine and pool fun.

We spent the better part of the afternoon at the pool, and it was a great way to spend the afternoon.  The sun was shining and my wife and I had a great time just taking it easy.

We got back to the room to shower and changed so that we could go out for the evening.

Since I had some cash in my pocket from our time in Nassau, we tried our hand at the casino.  Alas, that money was quickly spent and now the property of a major cruise line in Miami, Florida.

We also stopped by the Diamond Lounge for a quick drink and enjoyed a few bites to eat. 

We had dinner reservations at Sabor for 8pm, but went there a little early to see if they could take us.  They had plenty of availability, so there was no issue at all.

We spotted the stowaway piano player near Sabor.  He even played the entire Bohemian Rhapsody song!

Following dinner, it was time for a night swim.  There is something about enjoying some time at the pool in the evening on a cruise that I just love.

Tomorrow we will be visiting St. Thomas for some fun in the sun.

Stray Observations

  • The desk in my stateroom is not bolted to the wall or ground, which means it can move. That means I can turn the couch into a couch desk!
  • The Royal iQ app works well, except for the feature that shows me my calendar (what restaurants, shows, etc I have booked). It hasn't worked for me or my wife since we got onboard.
  • I found this piece of art that showcases Majesty of the Seas.
  • Cotton candy and popcorn on the Boardwalk
  • Drink cups for sale, along with firecracker cocktails.

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Nassau, Bahamas

In:
03Jul2017

Our first full day on Harmony of the Seas is also our first port day. It is a bit unusual to have your second day be a port day on a 7-night sailing, but we were looking forward to getting into the swing of the cruise experience.

Harmony of the Seas docked in Nassau around 7am, although there was some kind of a delay with getting the ship cleared by local authorities.  It ended up being a 30 minute delay, so the Captain announced we would be remaining in port for an extra 30 minutes.

My wife and I got off the ship a bit after 8am in search of having breakfast in Nassau. We had no real plans, and figured having breakfast in town would be an easy, but different kind of way to spend our day in town.  Unfortunately, much of the city is closed until at least 9am, so we wandered the streets until we found a restaurant near the Pirate Museum that not only was open, but served Starbucks beverages.

Smugglers is the name of the restaurant, which is more like a cafe.  Their breakfast menu consisted on pancakes, French toast, eggs, omelets and a few specials. I was tempted to try a local dish, chicken souse, but decided to stick with eggs.  My wife ordered a croque monsieur.

Breakfast was great and it provided us with great food, good service and lots of air conditioning.

Following breakfast, we wandered Bay Street a bit. It was past 9am, so many stores were open for business.

We decided to head back to the ship because it was getting a bit warm out, and ended up doing something I can never get enough of when we cruise with our kids: take a nap!

We slept for an hour or two and then decided to hit up Sabor for lunch.

This was my first time trying Sabor since the Oasis Class ship Sabors all went to an all-inclusive menu.  Sabor is an open air restaurant, so it can get a bit hot there.  We were seated in the back corner, which had little airflow, so we asked the waiter to move to a different seat.  They happily obliged and that seat was far more comfortable.

I tried the new fish tacos on the menu, and they were really good.  I liked the fact they were served with an assortment of toppings, so you can create the perfect taco for you.

I also had the mushroom quesadillas and the red snapper civiche.  And of course, no meal at Sabor is complete without their amazing margaritas.

Following lunch we decided to head up to the pool deck for sailaway.  We enjoyed sailaway from the Solarium before grabbing some chairs elsewhere on the pool deck to simply relax.

In the late afternoon we headed back to the room to shower and change for the evening.  Tonight is our first formal night of the cruise.

On Harmony of the Seas, Wonderland has a bar and guests can drink there without going to the restaurant. We went there and tried some of their specialty cocktails, which were great. Always nice to have different scenery.

Dinner tonight was in 150 Central Park.  We picked this restaurant primarily because a fellow Royal Caribbean Blog writer, Michael Poole, had such a good experience on Oasis of the Seas.

In short, the food did not disappoint.  We had a terrific server, Adel, and the food was top notch.  

There is a steak for two option and by far, this is the best steak I have had in a while. It is actually prepared table side!

We enjoyed some time in Central Park after dinner and then headed to the theater to see Grease.

Believe it or not, I had never seen Grease. Not only did I get to see a great show, but I finally saw a big piece of American culture (and so many references now make sense!).

The show was even better than I expected.  The actress that plays Rizzo is phenomenal.

Tomorrow is our first sea day.

Stray Observations

  • Enchantment of the Seas was also docked with us in Nassau today.
  • How many times have we heard people complaining about teleporting? Glad Royal Caribbean is putting an end to it.
  • Pineapple drinks were on sale at the pool.  While not included in the drink package, they are discounted for drink package guests.

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day

In:
02Jul2017

The first day of our Harmony of the Seas cruise is here, and I could not be more excited for our next cruise to begin.

We arrived at Port Everglades right at 10am and found the security line was already letting guests through the lines.  In fact, we got through security and checked in within 15 minutes.  Boarding began shortly thereafter, and we were onboard just before 11am.

As we walked onboard, we stopped at Guest Relations since it had no line and got our WOWbands exchanged.  If you buy WOWbands on another sailing, you can exchange for free at Guest Services.  An added bonus of doing this now (rather than later) is we did not have to solely rely on our SetSail Passes until the room was ready.

We enjoyed lunch in the Windjammer buffet, which is my favorite cruising tradition.  Being one of the first onboard meant no lines to contend with, nor waits for a table in the Windjammer.

Following lunch, we took care of some important first day activities. Guests with a specialty dining package were able to go to the main dining room to make reservations.  We have the ultimate dining package on this cruise, so we made reservations for dinner at every night, along with a few lunch reservations.  We had no trouble at all getting all the times and restaurants we wanted (mostly around 8pm).

Next up was a tour of the spa.  We checked out the thermal suite, which allows guests to purchase a thermal spa pass and have unlimited access to it ($109 per person, $199 for a couple). My wife decided she would rather have another treatment than access to the thermal suite, but the facility is quite lovely.

While we waited for our stateroom to be ready, we enjoyed a drink at the On Air Club.

Our rooms were ready right at 1pm. We have a Central Park balcony stateroom on deck 12 (12629).  What is interesting about this particular room is it has an extra large balcony.  I had written about these rooms on Oasis and Allure of the Seas, but was not sure if the same held true on Harmony of the Seas.


 

Sure enough, these rooms have the large balcony too.  

Our bags were delivered to the room shortly thereafter, so we spent our afternoon unpacking and then just relaxing before the muster drill.

I managed to snag the last plate of pizza before Sorrentos closed for muster drill.

Following muster drill, my wife headed to the spa for a massage while I enjoyed sailaway from the Solarium.  It was incredibly hot and humid out, but a great sailaway nonetheless.

I partook in movie quote trivia, having missed just two of the questions and losing out to the winning team by just one point. So close, yet so far.

As day turned to evening and the ship was now moving, being outside was not quite as oppresive.

Dinner this evening was in Chops Grille.  We were auto assigned Chops by Royal Caribbean (because we have the ultimate dining package), and figured Chops on our first night is a great way to start the cruise.

The restaurant was quite full. We showed up at 7:30, but they told us we would have to wait for our designated time of 8pm.   Returning at 8pm, we were promptly seated.

The meal was great, and our waiter was the right blend of attentive and amusing. 

Both my wife and I went with the filet mignon, because you can never be faulted for picking filet.

Our evening entertainment was in the AquaTheater to see the Fine Line.  I had seen the Fine Line last year, but my wife had not.

The show is a blend of acrobatics, dance and diving.  It is a really well choreographed show and the audience was gasping, clapping and hanging on every drop, bounce and dive.

Tomorrow is our first port day, Nassau, Bahamas.

Stray Observations

  • The deluxe beverage package onboard costs $58 per day.  I paid $48 per day online prior to the cruise.  Once again, it pays to pre-purchase things like drink and internet packages prior to the cruise. 

  • Speaking of the drink package, our SeaPass cards now show the "DX" logo instead of the old Ultimate Package sticker. RIP old package stickers.
  • Saw this messagea about the Fourth of July celebrations impacting traffic on St. John.  I am inclined to not pay much heed to this warning just because the onboard excursion team tends to downplay third party excursions. 
  • Also, the new 48 hour shore cancellation policy was beng mentioned.
  • Check out this embarkation day cake in the Windjammer!
  • There was a draft beer cart.  Yes, if you have the drink package it is included.

  • Popcorn was for sale near AquaTheater for $2.50 per box.

  • While internet speed tests are not the end all, be all of determing how "good" a connection is, the tests I took today were quite impressive.
  • They celebrated Canada Day onboard with a celebration at the pub
  • Someone asked me for main dining room menus.  Here is todays

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!

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Michael's Day 2

In:
12Nov2016

Today is our second day onboard the Harmony of the Seas and we are docked in Nassau from 12pm-6pm. We started our day with some breakfast at Johnny Rockets. I know you must be thinking, did you not have dinner there last night? But on Oasis Class ships they offer free breakfast at Johnny Rockets, so off we went.

I ordered an omelet with a side of bacon. There are a few reasons I recommend having breakfast here. One, they are very fast so if you are looking to get in and out this place is perfect. Two, the food is really good, much better than the windjammer if you are looking for eggs. 

After breakfast we changed for some slides action, well on Harmony they have a total of 5 slides. There are 3 poolside, and the 2 large 10 story dry slides called Ultimate Abyss.

We did the dry slide first, Abyss and it was fast few seconds down to the boardwalk deck. The views from the boarding platform are unbelievable; the floor is all glass so you can see straight down. I wish I had taken my camera with me, but you cannot slide down with it, so I left it in the cabin.

After we went down we headed to the pool deck where I rode the water slides 4 more times. I know I shared my thoughts on them yesterday, but I just could not get enough of them.

If you are taking kids on this ship, they are going to love them! 

Cabin Crawl 

Since this is a special media sailing, they had one of every cabin type open for viewing. I have never seen the loft suites in person, so those are the only type I went to see.

The Royal Loft Suite was the most amazing cabin I have ever seen. The balcony alone was amazing, from the full bar set-up to the hot tub. I also went into the standard loft suite cabin, which felt a little smaller than I was expecting but there were 20-30 people in there viewing it also. 

Escape the Rubicon 

 On Anthem of the Seas they introduced their first escape room, and that transferred to Harmony. However, on Harmony they have a full room for the game and our host talked about on Anthem they just kind of added it in.

Needless to say, I did not want to go at all, but I had so much fun. You work together as a team to find clues in the room to ensure you escape within 1 hour. I am happy to report my team finished with 1:07 still on the clock! If you get the chance to play the game you will love it, I am sure just think out side the box is the only hint I will give you. 

Nassau, Bahamas 

 I had originally planned to stay onboard in Nassau since I was recently just here, and we only had 2 days onboard Harmony.

I just couldn’t resist not going to my favorite pub in Nassau Pirate Republic. It is the only craft brewery in Nassau and it is the very first bar you see once you get off the ship.

We only stayed for an hour since it was 3pm when we arrived. The beer was just as enjoyable as always, they have 3 – 3oz flights for $8. We headed back to the ship a little after 4:30pm. 

 Afternoon onboard 

 Once we got back onboard I noticed they had the ship decorated for Frindsgiving with balloons all blown for a party tonight. Really nice set-up, and I am sure they will use some of the footage for social media on Thanksgiving.

I ended up at the Pub back onboard and my girlfriend took a nap. They only offered a select type of beers, but I was happy Stella was one of them. I made good conversation with the bartender about their last few months in Europe. 

 Evening Onboard 

 Tonight we decided to spend most of our evening in Central Park. Usually when I sail on Oasis class ships it is late spring or summer and the park is extremely hot. But on our sailing Central Park felt so nice in the evening and I wanted to be outside enjoying the evening.

We had a few classes of wine in Vintages and again it was packed. I have never seen Vintages standing room only like this before, but it was tonight. They have self serve wine stations that you just tap your sea pass card up to and it pours wine.

I have seen this on other ships across the fleet, but never this many. 

 Dinner 

 Well I am sad to report our dinner tonight was at Sorrento’s Pizza. I was started to feel very tired at this point and did not want to eat in the main dining room. We went up toe the made to order pizza station and both got a personal pan pizza. They only take 10 minutes to bake and it was really good. If you ever want to wait for a snack get the made to order pizza, and it is complimentary too! 

 After dinner I decided to take a little nap before our evening, I should have known better but I never woke up. I guess all the non-stop action finally caught up to me and I enjoyed a full 11 hours of sleep. 

 Wrap Up 

 Thanks for follow along during my 2 day adventure on Harmony of the Seas. She is a great ship and I really cannot wait to get back on this ship in March. The décor onboard is very modern and really makes her stand out in my mind as the best ship in the fleet. But that does not mean I will abandon my small favorite ships.

Harmony of the Seas Live Blog - Matt's Day 2

In:
11Nov2016

If you had one day on any cruise ship, it stands to reason many would subscribe to the theory of making the most of their time, and I certainly endeavored to do just that.

Today is our only full day aboard this quick Harmony of the Seas sailing, and I had plenty planned.  I woke up nice and early and headed up to the pool deck to see the morning sun reflecting on the ship.  A beautiful start to our day!

For breakfast, I grabbed a breakfast Panini from Park Cafe in Central Park, which was a great choice. Quick, simple and very tasty.  Definitely a winner.

We had the opportunity to have a question and answer session with Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley and Harmony of the Seas' Captain.

It was an unique opportunity to pick these gentleman's collective minds about many facets of the cruise industry and Harmony of the Seas.

Today I was actually making my own lunch, by attending a pasta making class in Jamie's Italian (note, I cheated and ate a quick lunch at Mini Bites because I get hangry when I do not eat on time).

This was a really fun experience, where the chef took the group through the steps of creating pasta from just flour and eggs. It was educational and a lot of fun.

Speaking of fun, the highlight of my cruise came next when I tried to the Escape the Rubicon escape room experience.  

It is located up on deck 14 near Adventure Ocean.  I had done an escape room game on Anthem of the Seas, but this was very different.  Unlike on Anthem of the Seas, Royal Caribbean designed this space with this experience in mind and it was extremely fun.

If you are unfamiliar with escape room games, essentially you are "locked" in a room for an hour and have to solve a number of puzzles and riddles to come up with the secret equation/phrase that allows "escape" from the room.

It was really, really fun and I relished the experience.  The most fun I had that afternoon!

Next up was a mixology course in Wonderland.  The mixologist took us through how the hand crafted beverages in Wonderland.  It provided an interesting look at how drinks were made, as well as an opportunity to try very unique drinks.

For those keeping score at home, we were actually docked in Nassau, Bahamas today.  We docked at around noon, but I decided to stay onboard the ship.  I will be back in March on Anthem of the Seas, so I felt my time was better spent onboard.  Every hour counts!

By far the big event of today was the special concert by pop band, DNCE.  If you do not know who DNCE is, it is that band that played that song you likely hummed along to all summer, "Cake by the Ocean".  

It was a pretty spectacular show, and the band brought a lot of energy.  Royal Caribbean branded the event a "Friendsgiving" celebration, with Friendsgiving referring to a fun, informal get together alternative to Thanksgiving.

I cannot say I am the world's biggest DNCE fan, but I do enjoy hearing a hit song played live.

After the show, we got changed and headed down to the Royal Theater to see Columbus, The Musical again. I think it was better the second time around, and it is my favorite stage production on any Royal Caribbean ship.

For dinner, we had the opportunity to try out Wonderland.  I had dined at Wonderland on the Quantum class before, but Royal Caribbean reimagined the venue for this iconic restaurant on Harmony of the Seas.

Other than the location, there were some small differences between the two, but Wonderland continues to live up to its billing as an eclectic and unique restaurant, where the experience is just as important as the food.  My picks for the two best things I ate there are the terroir beef and whatever that chocolate globe thing is.

I rounded out my evening with some music, drinking and (awful on my part) dancing.  A fun end to a really great experience.

I will definitely miss Harmony of the Seas, because it completely exceeded my expectations.  Harmony of the Seas is not just another Oasis class ship, and incorporates so many new features that it is almost a sub-class in of itself.  I will be returning to Harmony of the Seas in September 2017 on the Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise, but I admit I wish my return was much, much sooner.

Thank you to Royal Caribbean for hosting me on this sailing, and to the amazing crew and staff onboard that helped show off how impressiveness of this ship.  Can I go back again?

Stray Observations

  • The Stowaway piano player has been spotted! I actually saw him twice, but today was the first time I saw him across the 5-nights I had been onboard.
  • Those Greek salad rolls from Cafe Promenade are super addictive. 
  • Time for my favorite anything on the ship...
    • Favorite thing I ate: Aloo Ghobi curry in Windjammer and roast beef sandwich from Park Cafe
    • Favorite spot onboard: bridge wings
    • Preferred stateroom I stayed in: Oceanview Balcony
    • Preferred stateroom I toured, but will likely never stay in: Crown Loft Balcony
    • Number of slices of pizza from Sorrentos I ate: 4ish
    • Number of Izumi sushi samples I ate: I ran out of fingers
    • Favorite entertainment: Columbus, The Musical
    • Favorite water slide: Supercell (the champagne bowl slide)

Thank you for following along all the fun.  My next live blog will be on Navigator of the Seas in February 2017!

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