Harmony of the Seas Guide & Review

In:
28Aug2018
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Among the largest and most celebrated cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas is one of the best known cruise ship in the world. Harmony debuted in 2016 and has quickly become one of the premier ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet. Frankly, it is a floating destination that offers so much and for someone new to Royal Caribbean, or just new to Harmony of the Seas, there can be a lot to consider.

If you are considering a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas, you will want to consider this planning guide for an optimal first time experience.  Let us jump in and get started!

Harmony of the Seas overview

Harmony of the Seas is the third Oasis Class ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet, but her debut ushered in a set of new features and amenities to the Oasis Class that enhanced an already impressive cruise experience.  When Harmony of the Seas debuted in 2016, she was the largest cruise ship in the world. In the years since, she has been eclipsed barely by sister ship Symphony of the Seas.  Despite losing the title of largest in the world, seeing Harmony of the Seas in person will reinforce the notion of how large the ship is.

Royal Caribbean designed all of its Oasis Class shops to be easy to navigate.  The cruise line did not want guests getting lost onboard, so they put a lot of effort in making these behemoths surprisingly easy to get around.  Their goal was to avoid Harmony of the Seas earning a reputation of being super big and super crowded.

To help guests get their bearings quickly, Royal Caribbean separated the ship into several themed areas, known as "neighborhoods."  These distinct areas of the ship serve as visual cues to where you are and it's important to know about them so you can more easily get to wherever you are going.

The Harmony of the Seas neighborhoods are

  1. Central Park - Sprawling park with natural ambiance and dining
  2. Pool and Sports Zone - Splashing, swimming, sunning and enjoying being outdoors
  3. Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center - Get pampered with various treatments or burn off some calories
  4. Boardwalk - Throwback to seaside resorts with plenty of entertainment, dinine and amusements
  5. Royal Promenade - Grand concourse full of shopping, dining and lots of events
  6. Youth Zone - Central hub for children's programming and home to Adventure Ocean
  7. Entertainment Place - The place for shows and performances offered onboard

A common concern of new cruisers is the fear of a ship of this size feeling and/or getting crowded.  While it might seem like a ship that has over five thousand passengers is bound to be consistently crowded, the reality is it rarely gets to a point like that. Royal Caribbean spent a lot of time working on strategies to make the ship feel quiet. The neighborhoods help with the flow of crowds, and the ship's reservation system integrates tightly with the dining and show management to control crowds.  Lines can occur on any cruise ship, but they are rarely as awful as you might imagine on Harmony of the Seas.

Our recommendation for quickly knowing the layout of the ship is to walk around and explore Harmony of the Seas as early in the cruise as you can.  There is a lot to see and do on Harmony of the Seas, and walking around the ship will quickly provide a good understanding of where things are relative to each other, plus there is a lot of great things to discover. Art, activities, live music, decor and more are found in all the neighborhoods.

Harmony of the Seas Dining and Restaurants

Being an Oasis Class ship, Harmony of the Seas offers a lot of dining choices for guests.  The array of dining venues is the result of Royal Caribbean wanting to ensure there are enough options to choose from, as well as a statement of the popularity of specialty dining.  When sailing on Harmony of the Seas, you will find a lot of variety, with each restaurant falling into one of two categories: complimentary or specialty.

A complimentary restaurant is included with your cruise fare and you pay nothing extra to eat there.  You may enjoy as much food as you like from these locations, and no limit on how many times you can visit. There is at least one complimentary option open at anytime during the day or night, with often quite a number of great choices. 

The other option you have is specialty dining, where there is an additional cost to dine. Specialty dining costs can come in the form of cover charges (pay one fee and get all the food included) or a la carte charges (pay for only what you order). In general, specialty dining offers food and cooking styles not available elsewhere on the ship for guests that choose to indulge in them.

We often hear from first time cruisers that are concerned about how important it is to dine at specialty dining and/or how good or bad the complimentary food is elsewhere. Moreover, some blog readers are worried they will be "forced" to pay for food while on their cruise.  The truth is there is plenty of good complimentary food available on Harmony of the Seas, and it is practical for a guest to go their entire sailing and never spend a dime on specialty dining and still have a satisfying dining experience on Harmony of the Seas.

Specialty dining is an choice for guests who want something more than what is offered in the complimentary dining, with an emphasis on certain foods that are otherwise unavailable all the time. Think of specialty dining like you would going out for dinner versus staying home and cooking something.  You would be perfectly content with a home-cooked meal, but going out for dinner is a nice treat that comes with a higher cost. 

While you do not need to go any specialty restaurant while on Harmony of the Seas, we think it is not a bad idea to give one or two a try while onboard.  Royal Caribbean put a great deal of emphasis on its specialty dining options and enjoying a specialty restaurant or two will likely not "break the bank," and can really enhance your cruise experience.

Here is a good overview of the complimentary and specialty dining options you will have to enjoy

Complimentary dining

  1. Park Cafe
  2. Windjammer Marketplace
  3. Solarium Bistro
  4. Coastal Kitchen (suite guests only)
  5. Main Dining Room
  6. Cafe Promenade
  7. Sorrento's Pizza
  8. Boardwalk Dog House
  9. Mini Bites

Specialty dining

  1. Johnny Rockets
  2. Sabor Taqueria & Tequila Bar
  3. Vintages
  4. Jamie's Italian
  5. Chops Grille
  6. 150 Central Park
  7. Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
  8. Wonderland
  9. Vitality Cafe

In our experience, guests eat most of their meals at the Windjammer Marketplace, main dining room, Park Cafe or Mini Bites.  These four complimentary restaurants provide meals throughout the day and offer a good variety of food.

If you are looking for recommendations for specialty dining, be sure to check out Izumi Hibachi, 150 Central Park or Sabor.

Things to do on Harmony of the Seas

There is no shortage of activities, shows and events happening on Harmony of the Seas.  In fact, there is so much going on that you will need to cruise on Harmony multiple times if you ever wanted to "do it all".

Harmony of the Seas can feel like a floating city with all the activities onboard.  The ship bustles with planned events, swimming pools, sports, shows and plenty more.  Your guide to knowing what is going on and when is the Cruise Compass.  Every Royal Caribbean ship offers a daily Cruise Compass, which is part newspaper and part TV Guide.  It documents everything happening during that day, and it is a must-read for any guest onboard.  A copy of the Cruise Compass will be delivered to your stateroom each evening by your stateroom attendant.

Shows

The shows headline the great entertainment on Harmony of the Seas, which have a Las Vegas feel to them.  The shows are included in your cruise fare and there different shows to cater to many tastes. You will find Broadway shows, ice skating, water shows and a whole lot more offered onboard.

Guests can enjoy one of the greatest Broadway musicals of all time, Grease, in the Royal Theater. This is the full Broadway production, complete with intermission. In addition, the original Royal Caribbean production show, "Columbus, The Musical" is also shown in the Royal Theater, along with other headliner acts.

In the Studio B ice rink, guests will find the ice skating performance of, "1887", which is loosely based on the works of Jules Verne.  In addition, "iSkate" is also shown, which is  a dazzling showcase of their very best moves set to their own favorite tunes.

There are two shows in the outdoor Aqua Theater.  The evening show is, "The Fine Line", and it is a mix of high-flying feats, mind blowing stunts and physically demanding acrobatics brought to life by the world’s best extreme-sport athletes.  "Hideaway Heist" is shown in the afternoons, and it is a family-friendly action packed comedy aqua show that jumps into the world of a swanky 1950’s holiday resort where guys ‘n’ dolls take the audience on a frolicking escapade in, on and around the pool as an undercover detective, playing the part of a high-rolling vacationer, pursues a crafty burglar. 

When planning your cruise, be sure to carve out time for these shows.  The performances in the Royal Theater and AquaTheater are must-see events, and the ice skating show is very good as well.  Considering there is no additional cost to see these shows, you will want to check them out because Royal Caribbean has put a lot of energy and talent into the performances.

It is important to know that if you sail on an Oasis Class ship, you can pre-book entertainment via the Cruise Planner site. Some of the shows have the option to book reservations in advance via Royal Caribbean's site. There is no cost to do this, and we recommend booking any entertainment you can in advance to avoid lines at show time.

All you have to do is go to My Cruises and then log in (register an account if you have not done so already).  Then find your cruise reservation and go to the Cruise Planner.  A few clicks later and you should be able to reserve your entertainment.

Keep in mind that reservations for entertainment is usually available for booking 64-60 days in advance of your cruise.  Check our planning timeline for more information on when things like entertainment can be reserved.

Pools

The Pool and Sports Zone is the area of the ship with plenty of outdoor space and a good variety of pools and swimming options. Harmony of the Seas has 4 separate pool areas. All pools are located on Deck 15 and are salt water.

  • Solarium: Adults only (age 16 and over) area with two cantilevered whirlpool hot tubs, which extend 12 feet from either side of the ship.
    • On Harmony of the Seas, there is no pool in the Solarium. Instead, there is a walk-through mister station.
  • Sports pool: area for playing pool games such as synchronized swimming and volleyball. The sports pools area may have designated times for swimming laps.
  • Beach pool: Themed area that is supposed to look like a beach
  • Splashaway Bay: interactive kids aqua park, where kids of all ages can enjoy colorful water slides, water cannons, fountains, pools and whirlpools.

For parents with young children that are still wearing diapers, there is a designated baby and infant splash pool, designed specially for them.  Children wearing diapers are not allowed in any other pools.

Unless otherwise posted, there will always be pool and whirlpool hot tubs open 24 hours a day. Pools will be closed occasionally when they need to be cleaned as well if weather or sea conditions make the pools unsafe for swimming.

Generally speaking, there is usually a lot of events happening in or around the pools during the day.  You can expect to find live music played by the pool quite often, which the bands playing reggae, classic rock and even contemporary hits.  For fans of live music, sitting by the pool and enjoying music is perfect.

Poolside activities will be listed in your Cruise Compass. The exact activities vary from sailing to sailing, but here are some common offerings

  • Belly flop competition
  • World's sexiest man competition
  • Scuba classes
  • Fitness classes
  • Poolside bingo
  • Dance classes
  • Poolside movies

When going up to the pools, be sure to stop by the towel station to pick up as many towels you may need during your time there.  Complimentary pool towels are provided for guests near the main pool and can be returned when convenient.

Water slides

Harmony of the Seas offers guest three multi-story water slides to enjoy.  Known as The Perfect Storm, these slides are comprised of two racer slides and one champagne bowl slide. The slides descend three decks through a series of twists and turns over the ship’s tree-lined Central Park neighborhood 10 decks below.

There is no additional cost to use the water slides.

The two racer water slides intertwine and offer a fast-paced plunge down.  Since these are racer slides, you can see if you can beat the person in the other slide to the bottom.

The champagne bowl slide swirls riders round prior to the end of the slide.  This slide starts off as a typical water slide, but guests enter a large bowl area, where they can loop around a few times before exiting the slide.

Signature Activities

Royal Caribbean wanted to wow its guest with the breadth of activities on Harmony of the Seas, which include some options that are exclusive to Royal Caribbean.  Guests will find plenty of traditional cruise activities on Harmony of the Seas, such as trivia, bingo, enrichment classes and more.  Most activities are complimentary to enjoy, but a few do carry an extra cost to them.

Here are the best known and most popular activities on Harmony of the Seas

These activities are available for guests to enjoy for most of the day and posted hours are available each day in the Cruise Compass. There is usually ample opportunity to experience these signature activities once or many times.

Harmony of the Seas staterooms

Royal Caribbean offers many choices of staterooms on Harmony of the Seas, with a blend of traditional cabin categories, as well as a few alternatives.  Each cabin category offers a little something different, and there is sure to be a good fit for all guests.  The choice of which stateroom to book may ultimately come down to each family's budget, family size and personal preferences.

All Royal Caribbean ships staterooms fit into one of four categories:

  • Studio rooms
    • Studio rooms were designed for solo cruisers and come in a few different options.  There are Studio interior rooms or Studio oceanview rooms, and each room is priced without the single supplement fee that ordinarily is assessed to solo travelers.
  • Interior rooms
    •  Interior staterooms feature a virtual balcony using real-time high definition views outside your ship that are streamed directly to the 80-inch LED television. This is a fun way to enhance a room with no natural views, and there is always the option turn off the sound and/or television itself.
  • Oceanview rooms
    • Oceanview cabins come in a few options.  Some oceanview rooms offer a view of the ocean, whereas other rooms have a porthole or large window that face inwards and overlook the Boardwalk, Promenade or Central Park. Larger Oceanview cabins can accommodate six people in comfort.
  • Balcony rooms
    • Harmony of the Seas features balcony rooms that overlook the ocean with a private verandah to enjoy, as well as balcony rooms that overlook either the Boardwalk or Central Park neighborhoods.
  • Suites
    • Royal Caribbean offers the Royal Suite Class on Harmony of the Seas, which is divided up into three categories: Star Class, Sky Class and Sea Class.
    • All suite guests may dine at an exclusive complimentary restaurant just for them, known as Coastal Kitchen. It is available for all meals for Star and Sky Class, and dinner only for Sea Class.
    • Suite guests may enjoy other extras that vary depending on their Royal Suite Class. Additional extras include in-suite dining, special concierge services and a welcome gift. Star Suite upgrades include the Ultimate Beverage Package, specialty dining, coffee-maker, high-end furnishings and more.

The price for any of these rooms will depend on factors, such as time of year, demand for rooms on the particular sailing, and how many guests in each room. You can refer to our guide to choosing a stateroom for more information on the basics, although there are some special room types worth discussing.

There is no "wrong" choice when it comes to picking a cabin for your Harmony of the Seas cruise.  Any room you book offers a place to sleep, rest and refresh yourself with plenty of privacy.  Choosing a stateroom for your Royal Caribbean cruise is a personal decision that will depend on a variety of factors, but you should know that each category of room has its advantages.

Cabins on Harmony of the Seas have all the modern conveniences, including mini-bars, safes, phones and large flat-screen TVs. Bathrooms are generally compact yet very functional. The cabins are energy-efficient and equipped with power and USB outlets appreciated by cruisers who want to stay mobile connected. Speaking of being connected, Harmony of the Seas offers Royal Caribbean's Voom high speed internet, which means you can purchase an internet plan that allows full internet access throughout the ship.

Guests with mobility issues will find that Harmony of the Seas has wheelchair-accessible cabins in many categories that include wider doors, turning space, and furniture built for convenience.

More Harmony of the Seas resources

Looking to learn more about Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas? Here are some helpful articles all about this ship