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Harmony Recap & Review 8/11-8/18, AKA I could have live blogged from the elevator lines

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Just got home from 7 days on the Harmony of the Seas, and while live-blogging wasn’t an option, I tried to keep a few things in mind to recap. I’ve pre-written most of this, and it got a bit long, so I’ll post in chunks today. Also, this is gonna be photo-free, because honestly between the main blog and the actually good live blog gang, better pictures of all these places are readily available.

The cast: Me, late thirties, live in North Carolina, moved after 15 years of living in Orlando and never actually going on a cruise. This is my second cruise, the first was this time last year on Enchantment. A, the wife, similar age, same residence, grew up in Florida but also never cruised. E, our 7 year old (8 next week). His first cruise. W, my mother in law, lives in Titusville, has cruised to Alaska and in Europe, but I believe this was her first cruise on Royal or in the Caribbean.

We’re generally very budget conscious, so we don’t do specialty dining and try to manage our port time on our own vs. excursions, so things like suites are out, but we do try to find comfortable rooms especially when traveling with the second grader.

Cabins: 9506 & 9504, forward Ocean View, adjoining. Myself & A in one, E & W in the other. The space under the angled front of the ship is “free”, and made the room feel quite a bit bigger.

Beforehand: The cruise was booked through MEI, our agent is Brock. Prices never moved after our purchase, but he was always on top of important dates, check in, etc. Good experience there.

Pre-purchased the everything-but-alcohol package for me & A ($140 each, Black Friday). No package for E & W as neither of them like soda, and E could drink lemonade for days while W drinks tea. I had a deluxe package last year, and am in the group that a) feels compelled to over-indulge to keep up with the price of the package and b) does not drink enough at home to sustain that for 4-7 days. Happy enough to drink the sugar-coffees & sodas and order a cocktail once in a while.

Also pre-purchased Coco Cay Thrill Waterpark passes for the whole crew ($59 sometime in March), a single Voom package for me ($84, Black Friday), and a $50 arcade credit ($40, always that price. Do not do this. More later.)

Arrival & Day 1: Embarkation

Sailing out of Port Canaveral is really easy, since A’s parents live there. A & E flew down Wednesday, I followed on Friday. Saturday we picked up a couple bottles of wine and assorted travel essentials, and were ready to go bright & early on Sunday.

Arrived at the port around 10:15. No security line to speak of, walked straight up to a table person to check in, then waiting about 10 minutes for E to get a wristband. From there, directly onto the ship. Could not be easier, other than nobody understanding how to form a line for the wristband table. 

We did some light exploring, including lunch in the Windjammer sort of my accident- we were walking the pool deck, realized we were there, and decided to eat before the line formed. After that, wound up at the bionic bar watching the robots for a while, to E’s delight. Rooms opened at 12:58. 

Our rooms were very slightly mixed up, with the beds pushed together in the wrong room vs. our seapass cards, so we figured we’d just switch. This was slightly more annoying than we thought at first, since now we had keys to the wrong doors and the answer to “what’s your stateroom number?” became a confusing mess. I went down to guest services on Monday and they switched us over, problem solved. Meanwhile though, we had to ask several times to get our connecting door unlocked, not sure what that was about. 

Not much else to add about the rooms, so...

Room Review:

We did feel like our stateroom service just wasn’t quite what we had on Enchantment. Back on Enchantment, our attendant noticed we’d brought wine, and had ice and glasses for us without even being asked. When I asked our attendant for glasses this week, he just told me to call room service. We also had the morning service on a sea day missed, and one night didn’t get a new cruise compass. Nothing too bad or worth being upset about, just a little surprising. We also never actually saw him around- I think perhaps most of his rooms were down another hallway, but we saw the attendant for the block between us and the elevator us every morning, never saw ours.

Location-wise, forward was...not great. The nearest Freestyle machine was down 4 floors and over to midship, the windjammer & MDR were a haul, and while the theaters were at our end, that meant packed elevators every evening. Some of this is the inevitable shock of jumping from Enchantment to Harmony, but (spoilers!) next time we’re going to try aft.

Upsides: super quiet part of the ship! Never heard noise from neighbors or people in the hall, or even things like rooms nearby being cleaned. The forward view was really cool, especially in San Juan & St. Maarten where we docked nose-in. Also, for those ports, that meant our rooms were the first gangway you got to, saving a few minutes in the heat.

Ok, that’s the room reviewed, now...

Food Recap & Review

We’re Main Dining Room people, and will continue to be MDR people until it lets us down. I had requested a window table for the 4 of us and they delivered, we had a really nice spot with a good view in The Grande, aka MDR Deck 4. Apparently on Harmony they don’t bother waking you to your table, so it took us a minute to find our table the first night, but after that, the system saves a ton of time. We had the 5:00 traditional seating, and that made for a tight turnaround on port days, but we generally eat pretty early at home so this was mostly fine. 

I’m not going to list out everything we ate, but most of us hit the MDR all 7 nights (W wanted to eat lighter a couple nights). I don’t think I ordered anything I didn’t like, I think the biggest complaint I could come up with is that sometimes the rice comes out a bit dry. Happy to answer questions about specific dishes, we ordered a lot of them!

Our waiters, Nicholas & Jonabell, were great. They took great care of E all week, often bringing him little extras or surprising him with extra ice cream- despite him being overtired and a little surly one or two nights. Appetizers always came out quickly, and entrees & desserts always arrived quickly and at the right temperature once the preceding course was done.

We also ate in the MDR most days for breakfast. The first couple days we got omelettes, but as the week wore on we just grabbed food off the buffet. The Windjammer might have had more selection, but we like the calmer start to the day that we found there.

Lunch was usually Windjammer or Park Cafe, nothing to report there, always serviceable.

We did decide afterward that 7 nights in the MDR was probably too much for a second grader, and should have given him a couple nights in the Windjammer.  But for me personally, I don’t actually like the Windjammer at all- it’s the smells. The food is fine, but the place smells like everything and I find it unappetizing. That’s a me problem, not a buffet problem, but it’s why I’d pick the MDR every time.

Ok, that’s the room and the food recapped, now back to the itinerary.

The End of Day 1

After dinner, we had 1887, the ice show. Loved it. We had a reservation, arrived at 8 for an 8:30 show and sat in the front row near the end of the right hand side. My biggest complaint with all of Royal’s shows is that they don’t have any kind of Playbill or guide to the performers. I’d love to know who these people are and if I’d seen them somewhere else before. Anyway, I’m by no means a figure skating fan, I’ll watch it for an hour every 4 years, but really enjoyed the skating shows on Harmony. 

The other days are not this long, I promise...
 

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Day 2: Coco Cay!

Perfect Day is the real deal. Everything you’ve read is basically true, so I won’t belabor it too much. However, everything you’ve read probably includes long lines for the best slides at Thrill Waterpark. Those are true too. I wasn’t queued up at the gangway, but we were ready to go pretty quickly when they made the announcement. I reached the back of the line for Daredevil’s Peak at 8:23, and walked off the bottom of the slide at 8:46. By that time, the line had doubled. Anyone arriving after 9 AM would be looking at at least an hour in line. From there, I met up with A and hit the line for the big yellow raft ride, and that was probably about 20 minutes too, but I wasn’t paying as close attention. Anyway, next time we’ll go line up before the gangways go down, I think.

That being said, all the waterslides were excellent, including the medium level ones. The only ones I didn’t get to try are the ones where the floor drops out from under you- just didn’t really have time. E doesn’t like waterslides, but loves a wave pool, literally spending the whole day there. We did get 4 chairs in front of the wave pool easily, made a great home base for the day.
We lost about an hour to a lightning warning, but the storms passed by while we ate lunch. The buffet didn’t wow me, but I did enjoy the chicken sandwich and the funnel cake from the snack shack. 

We eventually dragged E out of the wave pool enough to check out the Chill Island side for an hour or so, which was uneventful. Pretty quiet on that side, at least toward the end of the day, with the water park pulling so many people in. Oddly, and not intentionally, I never so much as laid eyes on Oasis Lagoon. I’m sure it’s great, but the wave pool was enough for us all day.

After dinner, I went to Grease with A. Excellent production, but I am not the target audience for Grease and to me anyway, the show is played out. We enjoyed it, but I’m good for Grease like once every 5 years, max, so I’m set for a while. Great performers & great production though. Spent some time later trying to figure out what musicals they’ll install when they’re chasing my money and not the boomers anymore.

Day 3: At Sea

This was a pretty uneventful day- we played some trivia, played some mini golf (tiny review: virtually unplayable with the terrible rubber golf balls you have to use. But E had fun so it was a win), and I rode the Ultimate Abyss. Pro-tip: ride the Abyss before you ride Daredevil’s Peak. After the water park, Abyss was, well, abysmal. It’s slooooow. Also I got stuck 10 feet from the exit and had to “paddle” out of the tunnel. Add The Big Dumb Purple Slide to the pile with Grease in my “don’t need this for my next cruise” list.

We also checked out the parade in the promenade, it was fun. I especially enjoyed seeing the guys from the ice show bouncing around in pink pajamas. 

Our show on Tuesday night was the Fine Line, which again, was as good as advertised. Entertaining and often jaw-dropping from start to finish. I wanted to see it again, but the other show conflicted with our Headliner reservation.

Day 4: San Juan

We enjoyed San Juan. We hopped in a cab to El Morro, which saved everyone’s legs from the uphill walk, and also beat the crowds over there. The plan was to walk from there to Castillo San Cristóbal, but for various reasons not related to this review we had to get a cab back to the ship instead. We cooled down, got lunch on board, regrouped, and walked up to Castillo San Cristóbal, which is very close to the ship. While it’s not as scenic, we liked Castillo San Cristóbal a little more- the tunnels and the air conditioned museum were both really nice. Still, plenty of time to do both in a San Juan stop.

Our headliner that night was Adam Kario, a world champion juggler. His show was great, mixed really impressive juggling with friendly comedy. E was enthralled- I guess he’s never been to a real comedy show, and he just loved the whole experience. 
 

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Day 5: Sint Maarten

I originally had big plans to rent a car and make a lap of the island, but now halfway through the cruise, energy levels were starting to dip and we decided to cut back to a much simpler day. We instead took the water taxi into town and made a lap of the beachfront and Front Street, doing some shopping along the way. Eventually, E and I split off to That Yoda Guy’s museum, while the ladies finalized their shopping. The museum was really neat, perhaps a little on the small side for $12 adult/$7 kid, but unique enough that I was happy to pay. We did get to meet the Yoda Guy, which was cool. Would endorse doing it once if you’re a fan of Star Wars or movie makeup/puppetry.

We decided to meet back at the ship and decide on the afternoon plans, which wound up being...going back into town to buy more stuff. A found a bracelet she liked at Kays, I bought a couple bottles from a bourbon store, and passed on a watch that I liked in a store window, because it’s half that price online. We enjoyed Phillipsburg a lot, everyone was very friendly, and look forward to going back to really explore another time.

That night we went to see iSkate, and (forgive me for repeating myself) really enjoyed that too. I do have an incredible ability to be looking at the wrong skater and miss the best stuff. A & I stayed up for Love & Marriage, which started slow but found its footing about halfway through. I was never all that impressed with Dennis, the cruise director (his schtick never really reached higher than “women be shopping, amirite?!” outside of this show), but he found a rhythm with pretty good contestants and the show was fun. I could do without the tedious “audition” part of the show, but other people seem to like it.

Day 6 & 7: Cruising

We started Day 6 with some ice skating- we got there at about 8:50 and were able to go right down and get gear. They weren’t crowded, and didn’t enforce the 20 minute sessions. E had skated before, but within 20 minutes was getting himself around the ice pretty well. We skated for about half an hour total, handed our stuff back in, then E decided he wanted to go again. We rested a little while longer, but got back in the non-existent line and skated another 25 minutes or so, before we were all thoroughly worn out. To my unending surprise, the ice rink was a highlight of the week.

Later that morning, A & I hit up the ships waterslides. Lines were surprisingly short for a sea day, and we got 5 rides in probably 45 minutes or so. I had low expectations considering how much of a bummer the Abyss was, but these are pretty solid little slides! Would definitely cruise on a waterslide ship again and not wait so long to hop on them.

The show that night was Columbus, and it was also very good. Kinda felt like it ran out of steam in the last half, but the leads were both among my favorites from Grease so I enjoyed seeing them get center stage.

Day 7 was a lot of bouncing around the ship- we went to the Central Park tour, which had some interesting stuff about how they tend the garden, but was dominated by a few home gardeners with lots of specific questions and/or desire to show that they know things. From there, we went down to the Captain’s Corner, which we enjoyed. In the afternoon, A & W split off to go see Grease, while E & I decided at the last second to go see iSkate again, then tried to do the X-Ray thing in the Royal App (you go to deck 12 and “see” into the bridge with your phone), but it wasn’t working.

We went to what was billed as the “farewell parade,” but it turned out to be the same parade, but at the end a handful of representatives from various ship teams walk through- kitchen staff, housekeeping, bar staff, maybe one or two more departments. It’s honestly not necessary to go to the parade more than once.

After that, it was time to pack up. The week went by as fast as the weeks leading up to it went slow. Before bed, I went down to guest services to cancel my arcade credit. We never found the arcade on deck 14, but the one on the boardwalk is simply embarrassing. Like, I don’t know why they even bothered- just put another jewelry store in there or something and stop getting 7 year olds excited about playing in an arcade. We also popped into NextCruise...
 

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Day 8: Disembark

I had a 12:10 flight home, and signed up for Luggage Valet, meanwhile A & E would stay in Titusville a couple more days. Bags went out at the appointed time Saturday night, and on Sunday we got down to breakfast around 7:45. I ate quickly and walked off the ship around 8:05, right into...an 80 person deep line for GoPortCanaveral, which I booked a month ago. This was looking dicey. Fortunately, they had two buses pull up a few minutes later, so other than being hot & sweaty, by 8:40 we were westbound to MCO. I cruised through security, picked up a second breakfast, and boarded an on time flight. Luggage appeared just as it was supposed to, so I’m a big believer in Luggage Valet now. Got an Uber home, total time gangway to living room was 6 hours, 30 minutes.

Wrap-up and review-like content

Obviously, we loved the cruise and we loved Harmony. That said, the ship is just absurdly large, and to us that became a detriment over time. You’ll note that nowhere in this incredibly long writeup is “we went to the pool,” because every time we walked by, it was elbow to elbow in the water, and a towel on every chair. We never consciously said “we’re not going to bother with the pool,” but we never felt like it was the most fun thing we could be doing. We also got a bit tired of waiting for elevators (I got to where I just hiked the 5 or 6 decks to wherever I needed to go).

Other than the pool and the elevators, Harmony never felt all that crowded, which was impressive. The entertainment was top notch and the level of service we got was always impeccable. I think we’d happily sail on Harmony again given the opportunity. 

Un-Favorites: Ultimate Abyss, elevator wait times, crowded pools, too much seating blocked off in the shows (the entire balcony for Columbus? really?), long walks to refill soda cups.

Favorites: The Fine Line, open skating, ice shows, Perfect Day, Castillo San Cristóbal, MDR food & wait staff, specialty coffees from Cafe Promenade (lines were never long and the coffee is good).

Next time:

With E loving the cruise, we decided to plan another one for next year. Right now, Oasis class 7 nighters are running pretty expensive next summer, and as mentioned, we wanted to find a somewhat smaller ship to try anyway. With that in mind, we booked a 5 night Independence cruise out of Fort Lauderdale for next August. It only has 2 stops- Perfect Day & Labadee, so while it won’t exactly be a cultural enrichment trip, it should be as relaxing as it gets. We booked an aft corner balcony on deck 10, which means only one flight of stairs to the WJ and the pool, and the MDR isn’t such a long walk either. It’ll just be me, A, and E, and the corner room looks to have enough space for the 3 of us, and I expect we’ll enjoy the balcony a lot. We booked that room for about half of what an interior on Harmony or Allure would have cost us around the same time (yeah, 7 vs 5 nights, but money is money). I’m excited to try that class of ship, and see if sailing with 30% less people helps with some of the crowding we felt on Harmony. Also really excited to visit Labadee.

So that’s it, I know I’ve left some things out, so may add additional thoughts, but happy to hang out and answer any questions about Harmony on an MDR-level budget.
 

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You’ll probably love the Independence, the Freedom class are my favorite ships! I wish they had made more than just three! We are trying the Harmony for the first time the end of September, we have sailed on Oasis quite a few times, looking forward to some of the differences on Harmony! 

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Thanks for sharing your journey!  Having always sailed out of Port Canaveral we are not looking forward to Miami in January for the Oasis.  We will manage and have a heck of a voyage regardless.

 

 

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@joshvc Thanks for sharing your trip.  We'll be sailing Harmony out of PC next year (never sailed Royal out of PC before) and the info about Go Port Canaveral is a good tip for me to keep in mind.  You guys will like Indy after her refurb.  My kids had a great time on her last year.

15 minutes ago, DanielB said:

Having always sailed out of Port Canaveral we are not looking forward to Miami in January for the Oasis.  

You should.  Other than Venice, Miami is my second favourite port to sail out of.  It is not only scenic and provide a perfect back drop for sail away but with the new Terminal A, check in and boarding is such a breeze!

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2 hours ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Couldn't agree more re: Dennis.  He is tiresome and loves the sound of his own voice.  Glad he moved on from Anthem.

Dennis was middle of the pack for me. Did a decent job but had much better, and he does talk too much - L&M dragged on with him hosting it.

At least he still has a bit of enthusiasm after 3 decades at sea and does want people to have a good time.

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19 hours ago, joshvc said:

elevator wait times

ROFL

As a family my siblings and cousins wanted to take my Mom (only living aunt in the family...hence matriarch) for her 80th on the Anthem.  She adamantly said NO WAY!  All you do on cruises is spend time waiting for an elevator

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14 hours ago, Joe01 said:

Dennis was middle of the pack for me. Did a decent job but had much better, and he does talk too much - L&M dragged on with him hosting it.

At least he still has a bit of enthusiasm after 3 decades at sea and does want people to have a good time.

So glad it will be Marc Walker for my cruise on Harmony in Nov....he's the best out of any of them that I have experienced.

 

Good review....on one hand it sometimes sounded like the ship was large and overwhelming., but at other times not so bad. Be interesting to see how it stacks up for us in Nov. I don't do well with large crowds, long waits...patience is not a strong point with me.

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If you thought Harmony's pools were busy, never go on Anthem! (2 pools- 1 outdoor, 1 indoor)  My girls were happy the last day at sea turned the outdoor pool into a wave pool so there was room for tweens to get in and actually move around!  Guess the waves ruined it for the "just sit there with your beer" crowd. 🙂   As for me and my husband, we did look around the Solarium (which has a 3 tiered pool) . Man, that was crowded!  But we had no plans to actually hang in the Solarium since we had our girls with us.

 

1 tween and I are going on Harmony next November.  Hoping for the best re: the water slides.  Will not expect much and might re think purchasing the Perfect Day waterpark passes.

 

 

 

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On 8/19/2019 at 12:53 PM, DanielB said:

Thanks for sharing your journey!  Having always sailed out of Port Canaveral we are not looking forward to Miami in January for the Oasis.  We will manage and have a heck of a voyage regardless.

 

 

I'm actually looking forward to a new departure port (Port Everglades for us)- too many ships and ports to only sail from one place, in my opinion anyway. 

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On 8/19/2019 at 1:10 PM, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Thanks for sharing your trip.  We'll be sailing Harmony out of PC next year (never sailed Royal out of PC before) and the info about Go Port Canaveral is a good tip for me to keep in mind.  You guys will like Indy after her refurb.  My kids had a great time on her last year.

GoPort was, ultimately, fine. Don't panic if you see a long line, they have two stalls so they can clear a hundred people out pretty fast. I think it was $15 for just me, about the cheapest I could find. My TA didn't think Royal would book me on their transfer, because at the time the earliest flight they'd accomodate was 12:30. I think they moved it back to 12, but didn't know that until after I'd booked GoPort.

Really looking forward to Indy & Labadee. Indy has most of the features we loved on Harmony, and some new stuff to try. We were looking at the 2x CocoCay itineraries, but the dates didn't line up, and I'm actually more excited to get one stop at each private port.

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On 8/19/2019 at 1:21 PM, Jaymac Radio said:

Thanks For Sharing @joshvc. I Am Doing This Itinerary In September And Can Not Wait!!    

It's a fantastic itinerary, I'd love to revisit each of the ports in due time, but there's also a dozen more Caribbean ports to try too!

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22 hours ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Couldn't agree more re: Dennis.  He is tiresome and loves the sound of his own voice.  Glad he moved on from Anthem.

 

20 hours ago, Joe01 said:

Dennis was middle of the pack for me. Did a decent job but had much better, and he does talk too much - L&M dragged on with him hosting it.

At least he still has a bit of enthusiasm after 3 decades at sea and does want people to have a good time.

 

5 hours ago, monctonguy said:

So glad it will be Marc Walker for my cruise on Harmony in Nov....he's the best out of any of them that I have experienced.

 

Good review....on one hand it sometimes sounded like the ship was large and overwhelming., but at other times not so bad. Be interesting to see how it stacks up for us in Nov. I don't do well with large crowds, long waits...patience is not a strong point with me.

I warmed up to Dennis as the week unfolded, and he certainly was enthusiastic and upbeat, just..not funny. We loved Bobby Broughton on Enchantment, Dennis was just fine. 

Other than the pool and right after shows let out, Harmony never felt crowded. We'd wander through the promenade or central park and just be amazed by how uncrowded it was. The neighborhood system seems to work. Even Guest Services kept the line moving fast, and I had to stop in on Day 1 and the last night. 

Oh, one other moment of insanity: the first hour of the $10 Cruise Junk sale. Just wow. But hey, the line was extra short for coffee at the Cafe.

1 hour ago, Adpcruise1 said:

If you thought Harmony's pools were busy, never go on Anthem! (2 pools- 1 outdoor, 1 indoor)  My girls were happy the last day at sea turned the outdoor pool into a wave pool so there was room for tweens to get in and actually move around!  Guess the waves ruined it for the "just sit there with your beer" crowd. 🙂   As for me and my husband, we did look around the Solarium (which has a 3 tiered pool) . Man, that was crowded!  But we had no plans to actually hang in the Solarium since we had our girls with us.

1 tween and I are going on Harmony next November.  Hoping for the best re: the water slides.  Will not expect much and might re think purchasing the Perfect Day waterpark passes.

Fortunately, we're not really pool people. We have one in our neighborhood that the kiddo hits up once a week during the summer, but CocoCay was plenty of pool time for us this week. Once he heard that he couldn't swim back & forth in the ship pools, he wasn't interested. It seems the other families with kids around his age figured out the same thing, because the under-10s I saw around were all in line for the waterslides, not in the pools.

I think if you plan to maximize your first hour on the marquee slides, then enjoy the others (they're still really good) after 9 or 9:30, you can have a great day. I'm 90% sure we'll get the waterpark on our trip next year and just plan to be ready when the gangway opens.

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24 minutes ago, joshvc said:

Having always sailed out of Port Canaveral we are not looking forward to Miami in January for the Oasis

Terminal A in Miami is even better than the Port Canaveral boarding..the entire process is so seamless.  The nightmare comes at the end of the cruise if you don't get up and off the ship with the early folks..then it's a complete mess.

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23 hours ago, Adpcruise1 said:

If you thought Harmony's pools were busy, never go on Anthem! (2 pools- 1 outdoor, 1 indoor)

22 hours ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Anthem does not handle crowds well at all compared to Oasis class ships.

It's all a matter of timing. Try out the Solarium hot tubs any night around 9:30 or 10:00 PM. Only a handful of people there then. 😉 

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22 hours ago, JLMoran said:

It's all a matter of timing. Try out the Solarium hot tubs any night around 9:30 or 10:00 PM. Only a handful of people there then. 😉 

We did find Solarium deserted 2 nights when hubby and I wandered in there.  Got to sit in comfy cushioned round seats.

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1 hour ago, depot72 said:

How did you request a table by a window in the MDR? Thanks

If you booked with a travel agent, you can ask them to reach out to Royal and make the request. I've done this on every cruise to specifically request a big table so we have lots of table-mates to talk with. 

If you booked directly, you can reach out to Royal through the Crown & Anchor toll-free number, or by emailing the dining group. I don't recall the exact email that I've seen here, will let someone who has gone this route give you the correct info.

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