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Ditchdoc

Thoughts and experiences on New Years Harmony of the Seas

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Itinerary

Initially, depart Port Canaveral, two days at sea, St Martian, San Juan PR, day at sea, CoCo Cay and Port Canaveral.

Along the way, we were advised weather was an issue at CoCo Cay and it was dropped. Instead Port Canaveral, two days at sea, St Martian, San Juan PR, Labadee, day at sea and Port Canaveral.

 

Cabin

We had a balcony overlooking the interior Central Park. This was something new for us and it was OK. A few decks up were the pools and calypso music playing much of the day but in general it was quiet and serene. We miss seeing the ocean from our room as we are typically on an out side balcony. Truth be known, an empty ocean gets boring pretty quick but a balcony is nice at many ports and when land is in sight. On this trip we looked at trees and people strolling. We could not help but wonder how the all the plants faired when the ship repositioned or was subjected to cold weather.

People

The ship was full. About 6,500 guests. Of these is was said 2,000 were children (under 18 I assume). There were a LOT of teenagers and quite a few toddlers. This is the first cruise I have been on with this many kids. It was Christmas/New Year’s school break and that contributed. Royal has also redirected its marketing to entice a younger audience e.g. Parents with school age children as can be readily seen with the redesign of ships to include water slides, splash play areas and more to visibly attract a younger crowd.

I personally like a more sedate experience free of screaming, yelling and crying children. At the same time, one cruise I was on a few years back was overwhelmed with wheelchairs and people using walkers. In either case, a high tolerance and consideration for crowds and lines is becoming the norm.

If you take time to look around some of the nook and crannies on board, you can find areas more sedate. There is a running/walking track on deck 5 that is completely covered with occasional view of the ocean and lifeboats. One time around this uninterrupted track is about three quarters of a mile. There are also some alcoves with deck chairs and some stairways to a few out of the way spots seldom visited by most.

Solarium

Trying to find a quiet area is more difficult. The solarium is designated as above 16 only but this is often ignored. On Harmony the solarium is huge. Even so it was still crowded during peak times. Even though the solarium is large, the space is limited to deck chairs, a few tables and a couple of jacuzzies. There is no pool that is found on some of the older ships.

New Years Celebration

All over the ship there were activities. The primary party spot was on the Royal Promenade. Adjacent to the Schooner bar is a band stand/stage overlooking the promenade. This was the focal point. At first we claimed a seat in the Schooner Bar only to be told we had to leave due to a private function. Later we found out seats in the Schooner bar were being sold at $500 each for the New Years Calibration. A similar “private function” as held on the nearby Rising Tide Bar for $800 a seat. We moved a spot in front of one the shops and found a seat. We were there early and stayed there thorough midnight. The crowd grew and grew to the point of being a bit scary at times with people trying to hold their spot and other others trying to move about. I saw a couple of people fall or get jostled and end up on the deck. To their credit, those around backed up, gave them room and helped them up. No injuries noted. Just a bit scary.

At midnight there was champagne and a balloon drop of hundreds if not thousands balloons suspended in nets at the ceiling. To one Royal waiter I give kudos for braving the crowd and trying to make sure as many as possible had a glass of bubbly at midnight, including ourselves.

 

Food

What a delight. Three decks adjacent to the three main dining levels are full of stainless-steel loaded kitchens. Pastry/deserts, a bread bakery, sauces, salads, entries, all have designated preparation spaces. No doubt much preparation/slicing and dicing is done in advance, many main dining room dishes are created to order. When you think of the guests and crew, about 60,000 meals are created each day. It is a true ‘food factory’ and I found the food quality to be average and better than many restaurants you may find around your hometown. The service was excellent. Occasionally there was an awkward delay in service but never a true inconvenience.

 

Labadee and no CoCo Cay

 

I didn’t particularly care one way or another. Its been a while since I visited CoCo Cay and I was interested in seeing the additions. Other than that, I have little interest in water parks and slides, etc.

Labadee is a nice area. We got off the ship early and found us a nice shady spot at the edge of Nellies beach. We had a nice view of the water, shade and were some removed from the crowds, for about 45 minutes. As more and more people arrived, more chairs were set up around us as loud parents tried to keep excited kids corralled. I had hoped to read and nap. I did read a bit and to be honest, the kids and parents spent a lot of time in the water leaving the area relatively quiet at times. But so much for a “lazy” day on the beach.

As Diamond members we are fortunate to have access to most all the alcohol we care to drink in the evenings and we seldom drink during the day. On Labadee we decided to indulge in a frozen cocktail. I had a Pinta Colada while my wife had a frozen Margarita. These were 8-ounce plastic cups, nothing special other than being frozen, they were $12 each. Our entire week on board we spent $87, most of which went to two bottles of Sheridan (a liquor not sold in the US and goes great as a toast or on deserts) and these two drinks.

Pricing

I know many have deeper pockets than I do and Royal certainly caters to those well off with art auctions, gambling, high end multi-level suits with a private conseriege, and private cabanas on private islands with prices that surge well into the thousands of dollars. At the same time there is a lot to be done for free and at “special occasion” prices.

There are several shops that at various times tout “duty free”, 30%, 50% and 75% off. You can find a few good deals, especially on liquor. Watches, jewelry and such are generally so overpriced that even the deep discounts only bring them inline with what you can buy almost anywhere else.

Occasionally some one does win big in the casino on board. Generally, the slot machine odds are set so low that the only real winner is Royal.

US Customs in Port Canaveral

No doubt this can vary and I am sure it does from time to time.

When we disembarked we had our passports. We briefly stood in front of a camera that use facial recognition. Within about 3 seconds we were told to “pass”. That was it. We picked up our luggage and left. Other than what ever automated/scanning process may have taken place in the background, we did not talk to one individual. No one looked at our passport, no one asked what we bought, what we had in our bags or search one item. It was painless and fast. We were amazed. I had even grown a beard since my passport photo was taken. Apparently it was no problem.

 

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30 minutes ago, Ditchdoc said:

New Years Celebration

All over the ship there were activities. The primary party spot was on the Royal Promenade. Adjacent to the Schooner bar is a band stand/stage overlooking the promenade. This was the focal point. At first we claimed a seat in the Schooner Bar only to be told we had to leave due to a private function. Later we found out seats in the Schooner bar were being sold at $500 each for the New Years Calibration. A similar “private function” as held on the nearby Rising Tide Bar for $800 a seat. We moved a spot in front of one the shops and found a seat. We were there early and stayed there thorough midnight. The crowd grew and grew to the point of being a bit scary at times with people trying to hold their spot and other others trying to move about. I saw a couple of people fall or get jostled and end up on the deck. To their credit, those around backed up, gave them room and helped them up. No injuries noted. Just a bit scary.

 

 
THANK YOU ..... I had thought it might be fun to do a cruise for New Year’s Eve, but now I see we wouldn’t like that at all with a tight packed in crowd like that.

 

 

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23 minutes ago, Ditchdoc said:

Solarium

Trying to find a quiet area is more difficult. The solarium is designated as above 16 only but this is often ignored. On Harmony the solarium is huge. Even so it was still crowded during peak times. Even though the solarium is large, the space is limited to deck chairs, a few tables and a couple of jacuzzies. There is no pool that is found on some of the older ships.

Thanks for the information on your sailing.  Do you think the lack of a pool hurts the solarium on Harmony?  Also, when you say crowded what do you mean exactly?  Where all of the chairs/loungers taken?  Hot tubs always full?  Or just prime realest taken and had to settle for other places to sit?  

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18 minutes ago, DublinFC said:

Thanks for the information on your sailing.  Do you think the lack of a pool hurts the solarium on Harmony?  Also, when you say crowded what do you mean exactly?  Where all of the chairs/loungers taken?  Hot tubs always full?  Or just prime realest taken and had to settle for other places to sit?  

I don't think the solarium was ever completely packed.  As always, there are 'choice' locations that can vary depending on individual tastes. Mostly there are lounge chairs,  some groupings of sofa/chair combinations, a few with cushions. There were a few large chairs 'for two' with canopy overhead. The solarium is on at least three levels. The top level has a bar centrally located with covered, shade areas to each side with a combination of deck lounge and table/chairs for small groups that maybe want to play cards etc. The lower levels are partially shaded with an arching roof over head that is translucent, constructed in bands. If you look at a picture of the ship, the area above the bridge is it. This results in some direct sun and filtered shade across most of the solarium.

What is choice or not is a personal preference but even on this sold out cruise I think you would have found a spot somewhere.

I  might also note the Solarium Bistro is located there and provides a nice lunch.

In the past we ate almost all our breakfast and lunch meals in the Windjammer. This cruise we avoided it almost entirely. There are a half dozen places on the ship you can eat various meals with no surcharge. We tried most all of them and enjoyed the experience of not having to "fight for our food" in the Windjammer.

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16 hours ago, Ditchdoc said:

Later we found out seats in the Schooner bar were being sold at $500 each for the New Years Calibration. A similar “private function” as held on the nearby Rising Tide Bar for $800 a seat.

Royal Caribbean taking every opportunity to squeeze every last penny from their customers, sad but not surprising ☹️

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2 minutes ago, Ditchdoc said:

I don't think the solarium was ever completely packed.  As always, there are 'choice' locations that can vary depending on individual tastes. Mostly there are lounge chairs,  some groupings of sofa/chair combinations, a few with cushions. There were a few large chairs 'for two' with canopy overhead. The solarium is on at least three levels. The top level has a bar centrally located with covered, shade areas to each side with a combination of deck lounge and table/chairs for small groups that maybe want to play cards etc. The lower levels are partially shaded with an arching roof over head that is translucent, constructed in bands. If you look at a picture of the ship, the area above the bridge is it. This results in some direct sun and filtered shade across most of the solarium.

What is choice or not is a personal preference but even on this sold out cruise I think you would have found a spot somewhere.

I  might also note the Solarium Bistro is located there and provides a nice lunch.

In the past we ate almost all our breakfast and lunch meals in the Windjammer. This cruise we avoided it almost entirely. There are a half dozen places on the ship you can eat various meals with no surcharge. We tried most all of them and enjoyed the experience of not having to "fight for our food" in the Windjammer.

Good info!  Thanks for explaining a little further for me I appreciate it.

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39 minutes ago, ChrisK2793 said:

 
THANK YOU ..... I had thought it might be fun to do a cruise for New Year’s Eve, but now I see we wouldn’t like that at all with a tight packed in crowd like that.

 

 

Well, I do not want to discourage anyone. It was fun and this particular location was the 'main event' and it was packed. Pretty much every bar, by the pool and so on had their own countdown and celebration that I am sure was not as jammed packed. No doubt you could have found an area not as crowded and it would have been just as much fun.

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Fun read.  

My first trip was on Harmony was last June for an Eastern Caribbean cruise.  This was our first cruise in almost 20 years and we had a great time.  It was crowded with it ring summer, but we were able to find some quiet spaces usually.

Headed back on Harmony in June 2021 out of Europe.  Curious to see how the experience on the ship might be different on that trip.

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1 hour ago, Ditchdoc said:

Solarium

Trying to find a quiet area is more difficult. The solarium is designated as above 16 only but this is often ignored. On Harmony the solarium is huge. Even so it was still crowded during peak times. Even though the solarium is large, the space is limited to deck chairs, a few tables and a couple of jacuzzies. There is no pool that is found on some of the older ships.

 

43 minutes ago, DublinFC said:

Thanks for the information on your sailing.  Do you think the lack of a pool hurts the solarium on Harmony?  Also, when you say crowded what do you mean exactly?  Where all of the chairs/loungers taken?  Hot tubs always full?  Or just prime realest taken and had to settle for other places to sit?  

I believe Harmony is the only ship without a pool in the Solarium.  I know Royal got a lot of negative response about it initially.  More recent ships once again have a pool.  I highly doubt Royal would alter Harmony's Solarium in the future, I don't think it would be cost effective.

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1 hour ago, Ditchdoc said:

The crowd grew and grew to the point of being a bit scary at times with people trying to hold their spot and other others trying to move about. I saw a couple of people fall or get jostled and end up on the deck. To their credit, those around backed up, gave them room and helped them up. No injuries noted. Just a bit scary.

 

 

 

 

We just came back from the New Years sailing on Adventure. Same thing - the crowding on the Promenade was extreme, to the point we had to leave and missed the balloon drop. The crowd was packed so tightly it was unbearable, and frankly, unsafe. It was truly disappointing...

 

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1 hour ago, ChrisK2793 said:

I had thought it might be fun to do a cruise for New Year’s Eve, but now I see we wouldn’t like that at all with a tight packed in crowd like that.

Only if you want to be on the Promenade. I did NYE on Freedom of the Seas and found the Promenade to be a zoo as well.  However, there are lots of alternative spots that are far, far less crowded.

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I shared the info of NYE on this thread and @Matt 's info shared on the blog.  My wife wants me to move our Allure booking in Dec '21 to the week of Christmas so we can sail over NYE.  Looking at the Oasis of the Seas since the base price is better for our budget.  I might check out the Allure during the same time.  The Oasis goes through Perfect Day and the Allure does not.

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Thank you for a great write-up/review!   

We are sailing HotS for the first time in 111 days and I'm always anxious to read reviews.

I booked her before I knew the Solarium was pool-less; not sure if that would have been enough

to sway me, especially since Canaveral is my departure port of preference.

 

 

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19 hours ago, ChrisK2793 said:

THANK YOU ..... I had thought it might be fun to do a cruise for New Year’s Eve, but now I see we wouldn’t like that at all with a tight packed in crowd like that.

We were on Oasis and 100% agree with the OP's assessment of the NYE celebration.  Crowding 4000+ people into the Promenade to scream for two minutes and then disbursing was much less than I was expecting.  We did a NYE cruise on another line last year and it was truly a party.  It was held outside by the main pool deck and the deck above, giving plenty of space to spread out yet still be part of the festivities.  Servers brought TONS of champagne around to everyone on all decks even after midnight (The OP mentioned champagne on Harmony...I'm sure Oasis had it too, we were just too far removed to see it.)  People were there well before midnight and well after and you truly felt like you were part of a big party...here it was 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...WHOO HOO / Balloons / Noisemakers.....good night.

The cruise it self was awesome, and Oasis is an incredible ship (we are going back in June)...but in terms of the NYE celebration, it was a dud.

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