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Star Class Harmony 11 - 18 Feb. 2017

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Well, this isn't going to be live...it's been over, going on 2 weeks now...but I thought I would jot down a few notes about my recent Harmony cruise.

 

We were a group of 6.  2 Star Class Suites and 1 inside cabin.

 

This was our first (but definitely NOT our last) Star Class Suite.  Our Genie was Reyno (Reyno is the "face" of the Genie program.  If you have seen any brochures of the Star Class Program, he is the one in all of the photos).  We were in a 2 BR Aqua Theater Suite (8330).  2 of our friends were in a Sky Loft Suite (1724); their Genie was Alexandra.  Our last 2 friends were in an inside cabin and I have to say....they were enthusiastically included in all of the activities that our Genies set up for us.  Yes, they were presented a bill for the meals that they ate with us, but never once were they not invited to come along, no matter what we were doing.  I am very grateful to the Genies for this.  They could easily have excluded them, as they were not in a Star Class Suite (or ANY suite, for that matter).  When we had reserved seats for shows, there were always 6 seats covered with the red drape that was synonymous with Star Class reserved seating.  

 

Probably our biggest surprise, and greatest joy, was the way that our 2 Genies coordinated the entire cruise.  We were all completely comfortable with calling either Genie to make a request and that request was always extended to include all 6 of us (unless we indicated otherwise).  Reyno and Alex could not be more different.  Alex is a reserved, all-business, graceful and elegant lady.  Reyno is a loud, cutesie, gregarious loose cannon (but SOOO much fun !!) but they made the consummate team for making everything absolutely perfect.  Well...nearly perfect.  There were only a few places where the program seemed to fall short...which I will discuss later.

 

Biggest surprise ?  The bed !  OMG, the king sized Duxiana mattress was the most comfortable bed I have EVER slept in.  It was heavenly.

 

Biggest disappointment ?  The cruise was only 7 nights and it just FLEW by - more quickly than any other cruise I have taken.

 

 

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So I will start at the beginning. 

 

We flew to FLL from DC on Friday evening.  The flight was supposed to leave DCA at 7:30 PM and arrive in FLL at 10:13.  ...but there were a few false starts to this trip.  We first taxied out, then turned around and returned to the gate (or should I say "a" gate...it was never the one we originally started from) 3 different times !!!!  Each time we got out to a certain point on the taxiway some damn computer glitch would force us to turn around, return to the gate and have a technician come onboard and reset whatever gremlin was in the computer system.  It was at this point that I was soooo thankful that I had changed my airline reservations from a same-day flight to the flight the night before.  Had this kind of nonsense happened to us on sail day, I would have been a nervous wreck !   We were in First Class so they plied us with alcohol but I will say, there were a number of very nervous passengers on that flight by the time that plane headed for the gate the third time !  If it had happened again I feel sure that many would have bailed. But the third time was the charm and we finally took off;  they swooshed everyone back into their seats and off we went.  The rest of the flight was uneventful.  We arrived in FLL well after midnight.  

 

I was fearful that maybe they had labeled us as "no shows" at the hotel we had booked (Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina) but when we finally got to our hotel (nearly 1AM at this point) they had a room for us.  Don't know if it was the original room we had booked, but any room would have worked at this point.  I was very surprised that the customer service guy who checked us in tried to run a scam with us by offering to "upgrade" our room (to what, I'm not sure....) for $100.  Really ?  It's 1AM and I am leaving at 10:00 for a cruise ship.  I don't care if you put me in a broom closet at this point.  NO !  I DON'T WANT A ROOM UPGRADE !  So then, he says, "how about $50 ?" ....then $30.  What ?  Just give me the f'n room keys, dude !  So we finally made it to our room...perfectly acceptable as it had a bed and a bathroom, which were the only 2 requirements I had at this point.  We slept like babies !!

 

2 of our friends had driven down and stayed somewhere else but 2 of our friends were staying in the same Hotel so the next morning we searched for the friends that were in the hotel and after a couple of false starts, we grabbed a cab and off to the port we went !

 

We had been in communication with our Genies at this point for over a week.  First contacts were by email but then just before we flew down, we were given a link to a comm app, "the Loop".  This app proved to be a poor method of contacting the Genie, as he/she had to be at a computer to get the message.  After we boarded, we found the best way to communicate was to simply pick up a house phone and call their 5 digit phone number.  I deleted the Loop app.

 

So we had made prior arrangements with the Genies to board between 11 - 11:15.  Unfortunately, the taxi that delivered us to the port did not drop us off where we should have been dumped and we had to lug our suitcases farther than we should have had to....but eventually we got our luggage dumped and found our way to the Star Class entrance.  This was all pretty much a blur...it all happened so fast.  But they put us through a scanner (I think) and eventually we met Reyno, who took all 4 of us on a dash - and I DO MEAN a dash.  Reyno is a former militry-man (in a most exotic South African accent) and fitness instructor so you had to be quick to keep up with him !!  We went through side doors and past long lines of people getting on; we went behind the Guest Services area and God knows where...until we finally met up with Alexandra, who took the boys to their suite and Reyno took us to ours.  That all happened in a matter of maybe 3 minutes.  I was surprised that it took our luggage quite a long time to find its way to our suite, which was different from what I had read in other Star Class Suite reviews.  I'm not sure what happened to our luggage but it eventually got there and we managed to get unpacked before the muster drill (barely).  It was nice being able to get to our Suite before 1:00.

 

I have tons of pictures and I will post them eventually...but I can only say....WOW.  The 2 BR ATS was incredible.  It was the size of a small apartment and the deck was almost as large as the rooms.  We have had an ATS before (on Allure last Feb.), but only a 1 BR version.  This was amazing.  The absolute ONLY negative about this suite is the LONG walk from the aft elevators to get there but it was so worth it.   It was a decadent amount of room for just 2 people.  The only thing in the second bedroom was our luggage.  There was a chilled bottle of Moet waiting for us and a platter of some kind of food (can't remember what it was) and Reyno took a little time (not as much as I wish he could have) to explain how to contact him and the preliminary itinerary that he had put together for us.  He had already taken the liberty of reserving restaurants for us for every night.  Of course, we could have changed anything we wanted to change (but we really didn't !).  It was nice not to have to think about it.  We just fell in line with his itinerary.

 

What's surprising is that Alex did not do the same thing for the boys up in 1724.  I guess each Genie has their own way of "helping" and since the boys did not have any pre-arranged dining reservations, they just asked Reyno to share our itinerary with Alex and that was the beginning of the most wonderful Genie-marriage !  From then on, we were synched and we now had 2 Genies instead of 1 !!!

 

We asked Reyno to please attend the muster drill on our behalf but he said that he liked his job too much and that if he did that for us, he would lose his job !   :P   So we reluctantly went to the muster drill which was downstairs in the Aqua Theater.  What a waste of time !  We could have just sat on our balcony and seen and heard it all from there.  We could have stayed home and sipped our champagne, but we went down and behaved.

 

Our first night's reservations were at Chops...and I will say, this was probably our best meal of the entire cruise (and I am not normally a huge fan of Chops).  We all got the aged steaks.  Dan got the lobster too. (I could never have eaten all of that !!).  We all had numerous drinks.  What was our bill at the end ?   -0-.  Of course, we left a generous tip.  I will just tell you now.  We never paid for a single bite of food or a single drop of alcohol (except for the champagne for the cabin crawl, which I will tell you about in a later entry) for the entire cruise.  We even got the milk shakes at Johnny Rockets and Vintages' wine-by-the glass for free.  Even though our beverages often were listed above the $13 price, we never ever paid any overage fees.  If we had ordered a bottle of Dom Perignon I'm sure we would have had a different outcome, but we were very happy to find that all of our beverages were covered as part of the Star Class program.

 

Lots of gambling, lots of drinking...late night, but tomorrow is a sea day !  YIPEE !!!!

 

Edit:  Forgot to include that we had lunch on embark day at Sabor.  It was very disappointing.  The Sabor on Harmony (and I assume all of the O class ships) do not have Queso Fundido, which is my absolute favorite !  The guac, while good, was not nearly as good as the one they do tableside (or used to do, tableside....I hear that they have discontinued this !).  We did not go back to Sabor at all on this cruise.  It is nowhere nearly as good as the Sabor on NAV.

 

Edit #2:  I guess this is why people do live blogs when they're actually LIVE !  I keep forgetting important stuff !  We went to see Grease on Night #1. Our Genies had reserved 6 seats right in the front row for us.  They met us while we were still in Chops having dinner and escorted us all the way to our seats in the front of the theater.  They put red "reserved" drapes over the backs of the chairs so no one else sits there.  Then, when you get there, they remove the drapes and you have front row seats !  That is really GOOD service !  I will say that the show was the best one that I have seen on Royal Caribbean, bar none.  It was really very very good.  Of course, that isn't particularly impressive coming from me b/c I am not a "show" person.  I absolutely hated Chicago, Hairspray and Cats and only moderately tolerated Mama Mia b/c of the music.  That is the stupidest story line ever !   ...anyway, Grease was great.  I hope everyone will see it.

 

I think I'm really done for Day 1, now.

Day 1.pdf

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No, do NOT turn it down.  The Star Class was incredible.  Everything is included.  All drinks, all specialty dining, Voom (Surf and Stream), free laundry any time, as much as you need, free in-room movies, free access to the Thermal Spa, and the services of the Genie, which are NOT to be undervalued.  I have read many people say that they don't need the Genie.  That's true.  Nobody NEEDS a Genie, but once you have one, you will never want to cruise without one again !

 

I was slightly concerned that I would feel like they were "lurking" or being too invasive, but they know just how to be of service without being an imposition.  The only thing that we turned down was the invitation to do a bridge tour.  If you are not a D+ cruiser with Royal then this might have been something that was very attractive b/c maybe you haven't ever seen the bridge of a big ship before (or even a small ship, for that matter !) but we have been on many bridge tours before so we declined that invitation.  But other than that, we were grateful for every recommendation/reservation that our Genie made for us !

 

Many people have written, "I can just buy the drink package, the specialty dining package and the internet package" and save some money.  First of all, I don't know that you would save any money if you paid separately for all of that but the price of the Genie is hard to quantify.  Being escorted on and off the ship (and skipping all of the lines) whenever you want to go somewhere is pretty awesome.  Calling your Genie in the middle of the night to send pizza to you and your drunk friends in the casino (something we did NOT do, but our buddies in 1724 did) is pretty unique.  Our Genies arranged 3 separate parties between the 2 suites.  The amount of food that they sent to the party on 1724 on Thursday night was stunning.  Food came from Jamies and Sabor and they actually had to send food BACK b/c there was so much.  All of the drinks in your suite fridge are included, where that is NOT included in the drinks package.  They will stock your Suite with whatever you want to drink (beer and wine...not liquor) and water....as much as you want.

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Day 2 was a sea day.  We were heading for Labadee, which will be the first port of call for us.

 

We slept past breakfast so we decided to go down to Central Park and get a beef on weck from the Park Cafe.  This is usually a stop we make numerous times during a cruise but b/c we had so many places to eat to choose from we only made it to the Cafe once.  Hard to believe for us !  The beef on weck was excellent and I am SOOOOO happy to report that they have ditched the nasty gravy that they were using on the roast beef sandwiches last year when we were on Allure and gone back to basics with au jus !  It was really delicious.  They had just ruined the beef on weck with that gravy.  HOORAY !!  Dan kept saying that he was going to hit the hot dog place down on Boardwalk but we never did.  We just had too many choices.  Not always a good thing, I guess.

 

We played in the casino for a while, went back to the room and enjoyed the balcony and at 6:00 it was time for our dinner at Wonderland. You may have already read my review of Wonderland so I won't drone on here.  It was horrible.  Too weird for us.  WAAAYTOO long and just generally, not good. In fairness, I must say that the service was excellent.  That poor dear girl did all she could to try and salvage the dreadful meal but it was hopeless.  Just not our thing, I guess.  We started out with 6 but by the time the meal was done, only 2 remained.  Our Genies both dropped by to see how it was going (I suspect that they had varying degrees of satisfaction with this restaurant in the past - just speculating, here).  We had planned to go back to our room to watch the Aqua Theater show but we got caught up at the casino (who's surprised ??) and never made it.  The stay at the casino was somewhat prolonged by the fact that I hit 2 straight flushes in about 30 minutes' time at the Ultimate Texas Holdem table.  WOOHOO !!!  Those are pretty rare to begin with, but to hit 2 that close together....even the dealer said he'd never seen that before.  Needless to say, Rupert was forever (on that cruise anyway) my favorite dealer !!

 

Stayed out WAAAYTOOO late even knowing that tomorrow was a port day.  This was the night of the infamous pizza-delivery-to-the casino incident.  I was playing at a table somewhere when I noticed a server going through the casino with 3 pizzas stacked in his hand and thought to myself "that's very odd.  I don't think I can ever recall seeing pizza being delivered to anyone in the casino before...".  I thought nothing more of it until the next morning when someone spilled the beans that it had been our buddies, drunk as skunks in the casino, who had called their Genie (bless her sweet heart) and had pizza delivered to them in the casino.  I'm sure there was a swarm of them somewhere drinking, smoking and doing whatever drunks do in a casino at 2:00 in the morning.  ...and yes, I can report to you that I scolded them mercilessly about abusing their Genie privilege.  I'm sure it went in one ear and out the other.  Absolutely shameless.

 

Edit:  Who's surprised ?  I forgot something !  UGH.  Day 2 was the day of the CC Meet and Mingle and Cabin Crawl.  The M&M was at 10:00 in Dazzles (we ate lunch at the Cafe after the M&M).  Typical M&M.  We didn't win anything AGAIN !  At 4:00 was the cabin crawl for which I had been the coordinator.  It was my first time doing anything like this.  Everyone met in our cabin (8330) at 4:00 where our Genie and we had arranged a nice surprise.  We had told the Genie that we expected 15 - 20 people.  Reyno had ordered 4 bottles of sparkling wine and 3 meat platters (and bread) from Jamie's.  They had brought 20 champagne glasses, plates, napkins the whole shebang !  I think we ended up with 16 so the amount we had ordered was perfect.  All but 1 bottle of wine was consumed and all 3 of the meat platters were used.  Then we proceeded to the rest of the cabins that were being shared on the cabin crawl and we ended up at the boys' Sky Loft (1724) where their Genie had arranged a similar end to our wonderful cabin crawl.  They had red and white wine and cheese and fruit trays - again with glasses, plates and napkins.

 

So we ended up paying about $85 for the 4 bottles of sparkling wine (not bad) and all of the food was complimentary.  I'm sure their bill in 1724 was very similar.

Day 2.pdf

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Day 3 - Labadee

 

We got up just in time to make the breakfast at the Coastal Kitchen.  I love b'fast at CK.  It's quiet, beautiful view, good service, real eggs (!).

 

Reyno met us somewhere (can't remember where) and escorted us off the ship with another couple.  I don't know why I dread the walk off the ship into Labadee sooo much.  It's no longer than many other docks but for some reason THAT walk just wears me out.  I WISH that they would bring the limo (that's what they call the little golf cart that takes you to Barefoot Beach) up to the ship.  ...but of course, they do not.  So we sprinted (I have mentioned this before.  When you're traveling with Reyno, be prepared to proceed at a forced march pace).  To make matters worse (for my old and fat ass, anyway) there were no limos waiting at the limo hub so Reyno just kept marching.  So not only did I have to trek down the dreaded Labadee pier but we had to march ALL the way to Barefoot Beach.  I tried hard not to let my annoyance show.  Dan knew...he just looked away and wouldn't look me in the face.  It was humorous, in a sad way.

 

So once at the "gates" of Barefoot Beach, you are assigned a cabana boy (YES, cabana boys do exist !  Of course, these are really cabana men but close enough, right ?).  They put a wrist band on you - the kind you get when you go to the hospital.  Not sure what this signifies, to be honest.  Just that you're eligible to be there, I guess.  We had reserved cabana B1 which is right on the water.  Very nice.  We had a cooler with water inside and 2 floating mats (which we did not use).  I don't know why they don't give you champagne and a fruit tray on Labadee like they do on Cocoa Cay.  I thought that was a nice touch....but you don't get it on Labadee.  Oh, the inhumanity ! (I know....first world problem....).

 

We did what we always do in the cabana.  Go for a short swim, come back and take a nap.  I find the beaches in Labadee to be very hard on the feet...so I always bring water shoes.  Of course, you come back with a shoe full of sand but what're you gonna do ?  So I whacked my water shoes together to try and get rid of the sand, sending sand flying everywhere inside the cabana. I got the GLARE from Dan.  UGH.  Should have done that outside, I guess.  I am not a fan of the labadoozie (too sweet for my taste...sorry, Matt) so I just got a couple of cokes.  Dan got a couple of Coronas.  Lunch was the typical Labadee lunch.  No spare ribs this time unless I just missed them.  It was not until lunchtime that I realized that Dan didn't feel well.  I think he may have had the rum flu (actually, single malt Scotch flu, but that's waaaytooo long a name) but nevertheless, he was not faring well so after a very small lunch (by his standards), and another nap, we made our way back to the ship.

 

 

This time I did not have to deal with Reyno's insensitivity (LOL) so we got the limo back to the gates and trekked the rest of the way home.  Dan got a shower and went straight to bed.  He claimed a stomach ailment but I still believe he had the rum flu.  I searched high and low and inside and outside for some Tums that I bought PRECISELY for this trip.  Nope.  Nada.  Nowhere to be found.  I went down to the general store (I guess we must have left Labadee by this time or I don't think the store would have been open) and bought some Rolaids at $2.50/roll !  Again I kicked myself for forgetting the damned Tums.  He seemed relieved by the Rolaids but I'm not sure it helped him much.  He slept.  I went outside on the balcony and played Candy Crush.

 

It was our night for 150 Central Park - which I hated to miss.  We had enjoyed it so much on Oasis and Allure...but I knew Dan wasn't up for it.  I called Reyno and had him cancel our reservations.  Unfortunately, he cancelled everyone's reservations so when the boys got there at 6:00 they had no reservations.  YIKES !  Luckily they had room so they were able to be accommodated.  Not sure why the other 2 didn't show up.  They did enjoy 150 very much.  I was sorry I missed it.  But I had a very good consolation meal.  I ordered 2 bowls of cream of mushroom soup hoping that Dan was going to sleep through it all and that I would get both bowls.  My prayers were answered.  ...and yes, I scarfed down both bowls and never even blinked an eye !  Tough luck, Dan.   :rolleyes:

 

I watched the Fine Line (Aqua Theater) by myself.  It was a typical AT show but with better aerial tech than on the other O ships.  I always find their themes to be esoteric and impossible to follow...but you just take it for what it is - mindless entertainment from extremely skilled athletes.  One thing I enjoy about watching the AT shows from way up high...you get to watch the underwater technicians in SCUBA  that you cannot see from the bleachers.  They are constantly swimming to and fro beneath the water giving air to performers and arranging whatever needs to be done under water for the set.  You can also watch them hooking up the aerial acts into their harnesses getting ready to fly - they are mere feet away from you on your level.  A wholly different perspective.  Of particular interest in the Harmony AT show is the use of slack lines.  For those rock climbers who are reading this, you are very familiar with slack lines.  They are "tight ropes" (but not really) stretched across the (in this case) pool.  The slack line athletes were truly incredible.  They use those lines just like trampolines.  They had a high slack line act too but that one, to be honest, wasn't particularly entertaining.  I'm sure the wind up at that level prohibits much in the way of a "performance".  He just scooted from one end of the line to the other, fell a couple of times (not all the way off...), and it was over.  The low line, though, was amazing !

 

After my soup, and realizing that Dan was not going to be getting up, I made my way to the casino for the evening's entertainment.  I decided that I was going to give the poker table a try.  For some reason, the O class ships have retained the electronic poker machines.  These machines have been removed from all of the other classes (don't know about the Q class).  When the O class first came out, they had a poker "room" with 3 electronic poker machines.  It was the area where they now have the high stakes Asian games (which is usually empty and a total waste of space, IMO).  They moved the poker tables out, got rid of one so now there are 2 electronic poker machines and no longer a poker "room".  Some people hate the poker machines, but I actually like them.  The poker crowd on a cruise ship changes from cruise-to-cruise.  It's an interesting phenomenon to observe.  You will consistently see the same people, night after night.  Poker players are a predictable bunch.  On this particular cruise there were a number of very tough Russian players.  My style of poker is not conducive to aggressive players so I didn't do well against them.  I never had a winning session but I knew I was outmatched so I never put much money into it.  Each successive night, I would put my $200 into the machine and when it was gone (which it was, every single night), I left.  I still had fun.  It's fun to play against an aggressive table b/c every once in a while (unfortunately for me, not often enough !!!) you can really catch a good hand and slam 'em good !  I got at least one of those each of the nights I played.  Cheap entertainment !

 

I went back to my go-to game - Ultimate Texas Hold'em for the rest of the night.  That's where I can usually find my friends and any new friends I've made.  One of the "boys" up in 1724 is a high stakes blackjack player and I have to admit (even though BJ is not my game) that he is a true artist.  I sat and watched him win $28K in 1 shoe that night.  I wish I had that kind of skill...or luck...or whatever it is.  We closed down the casino around 3AM and I went back to my wonderful bed.  Dan was still asleep.  Tomorrow is a sea day on our way to Cozumel.

 

Update on the missing Tums:  I found them, yesterday morning (4 days after returning home) in my carryon luggage.  I had stuffed them into one of the zippered pockets at the last minute as we were leaving for the airport (it all came back to me once I found them !) so I guess I didn't look for them quite as well as I thought I had !  They were there, all along.  What a waste of $5 for ship's store Rolaids !   :D

 

PS.  I tried to upload the Compass for Day 3 but it said the file was too big.   :angry:   Sorry.

 

I think the Genie stepped in and added some space so that I could insert the daily compass for day 3.  Thank you, Genie Matt

Day 3.pdf

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Were all 6 of you allowed in Barefoot Beach? If so, Would I have to get a Cabana in Barefoot Beach in order to get the guests in my party that are staying in a D3 into Barefoot beach with me?

 

We would have been able to bring our non-suite guests in, if the others had chosen to join us.  For whatever reason, the other 4 did not get off at Labadee at all (their loss !!!).  As I mentioned, it had been a very late night the night before and one of the NEGATIVE side effects of unlimited, free alcohol is unlimited consumption and unlimited hangovers.  I suspect, but do not know for sure, that this was the reason that they all chose to stay on the ship and in hindsight, I suspect Dan would have been right with them if I had not already reserved the cabana !

 

It's an interesting question...and I do not know the answer...but I suspect that the answer is yes, that you would not be able to bring guests into Barefoot  Beach unless you had a cabana.  It's something to ask the Concierge though.  When he/she contacts you, prior to the cruise, ask the question.  I really do not know as I have always had a cabana.  I know for sure that you can bring non-suite guests in if you have a cabana.  Maximum of 6 people per cabana.

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Day 4 - Falmouth

 

Falmouth is probably my least favorite port of call anywhere.  We chose to stay on the ship.

 

We went to the CK for b'fast, which was delicious, as always.  Since we had nothing else planned, we decided to have a Thermal Spa day.  As you probably already know, there is a charge for using the Thermal Spa on O class ships so we have never experienced the TS on an O class.  However, one of the amenities of Star Class is free access to the TS.  The original Star Class brochure showed a 7 day access to the TS but subsequent brochures had cut that down to 1 day.  I asked Reyno what would happen if we wanted to go to the TS more than once and he told me to go as often as we wanted and that any charges incurred would be removed from our bill (by him).  It turned out that the Falmouth visit was the only time we went but it was nice to know that we could have gone more often had we decided we wanted to do so.

 

I guess this is a good place to mention that the Genie has access to your online account and can make adjustments to erroneous or disputed charges.  For some reason, we had a $11.10 charge from "Silk" on day 1.  Silk is one of the MDR levels and we never set foot in Silk.  No idea where that charge came from.  It was immediately removed when we brought it to Reyno's attention.  He also reversed 2 charges for $25 each associated with our Luggage Valet service.  LV is an included amenity for all Suite guests (GS and above).

 

When we got to the Vitality Spa I decided to see what kind of port day specials they had on other spa services.  They were running the 20/20/20 special which is 3, 20 minute procedures from a list of several that were offered.  I chose the mini-facial, foot and ankle massage and back and shoulder massage.  I forget the price, but I believe it was $129 plus 18% grat....so if I'm not mistaken, the final bill was something like $140.  Not a bad price for shipboard spa service.  I will suggest that if you are considering having any spa services, do it on a port day.  They always have some kind of port day special.  So we went and did the TS portion first and then I waited around for a few minutes for my 20/20/20 package.

 

On Harmony (and I assume, all O class ships), the TS is a co-ed arrangement.  The TS consists of a dry sauna, a steam room and the heated ceramic beds.  All of these areas are co-ed so you must wear your swimsuit.  This is not the case on some of the other classes.  Most of the others have a women's side and a men's side and you can go au-naturale.  Dan is the big sauna guy in our family.  I really don't care that much for the SUPER HEAT but I went this time and spent as much time as I could stand in the steam.  It wasn't very long.  I am stifled by the excessive heat and can only take a short period of time.  Dan tried the dry sauna but didn't care for it.  Apparently there are numerous thermal radiators (wrong term, I'm sure) instead of the heat being generated from one area.  Anyway, he didn't like it and he spent the rest of his time in the steam and then ultimately joined me on the heated ceramic beds.  I DID like these.  It felt wonderful on my poor, old back.

 

In the end, I think the entire spa/TS experience was about 2 hours for me and 1 hour for Dan.  He was feeling much better, BTW.  Still convinced he had the rum flu.  But from here on out he was fine.

 

So, while we did not get off the ship, I cannot say the same for the boys up in 1724.  They had decided to go zip lining.  Now, these are 2 fully grown-ass men who should know that they are WAAAYTOOO old to be acting like teenagers and they came back home with the scars that proved me right.  One of them got a busted nose and the other came back with busted ribs.  Need I say more ?  They looked absolutely pathetic when I saw them later in the casino.  It would have been funny if it wasn't so sad.

 

Dinner tonite was Izumi Hibachi.  There's really not much to say about this.  It is what it is.  I always enjoy the teppanyaki thing.  It's fun even if the food isn't all that wonderful.  I had steak and scallops.  Dan had steak and steak and we both had a couple of small sushi sides.  We both had a couple of Sapporo beers.  Bill ?  -0-  Again, only the tip.

 

No show tonite.  There was a headliner show (The Vegas Tenors) but we didn't go.  I had asked for, and received, a list of the entertainment that was going to be offered on our sailing.  I wrote to web_reservations@rccl.com a few weeks prior to our sailing and asked what the entertainment lineup would be for our sailing and they sent me back a nice list.  Unfortunately, some of it turned out to be incorrect. The list I received showed a Tribute band on the last night (The Long Run, which I assumed would be an Eagles Tribute band) but that band never performed.  But the rest of the lineup was accurate so I can't really complain. It was MOSTLY right.

 

I tried the poker table again.  Same lineup of players.  Epic fail, again.  I moved on to the UTH table.

 

I will take just a moment and mention some additional information about the casino as some are interested in table minimums, etc.  There were NO $5 tables on Harmony (except for a limited time early on sea days when they reduced the table minimums temporarily).  Everything was at least a $10 minimum.  There were no Let It Ride or Caribbean Stud Poker tables.  There are no video BJ machines.  There were lots of varieties of table BJ, 2 UTH and 2 Three Card Poker tables. There were craps and roulette tables on both sides.  As with all RCI casinos, there was a smoking side and a non-smoking side but there were many, many times (especially on sea days when the casino was open at noon) where the tables on the non-smoking side were not open at all.  Of course, this forced everyone over to the smoking side.  In the evenings, with all of the tables manned and opened, the place was PACKED !  There were many times when I could not even get onto a table - smoking or non-smoking.  I never even touched a slot machine so I cannot provide any information about those.  I usually spend at least a little time playing video poker but I did not even play that, on this trip.  For some reason, there were lots of high rollers on this sailing.  The casino hostesses were 2 ladies whom I never saw outside of their little desk in the back of the casino.  I have noticed this trend on the O class.  The casino host[ess]s do not "mingle" with the players like they do on some of the smaller ships.  This makes it very hard to be "noticed" by the host and it is the host who decides who gets the cruise/discount certificates.  I was not in the mood to chase after the hostesses and was therefore, completely unknown to them other than the first night when we dropped by their table to get our stickers put on our seapass cards.  B/c I was not a "standout" on this cruise (not that I ever am, dollar-wise) I got the lowest certificate value I have ever received on a cruise as a member of Club Royale.  I was extremely disappointed as I played just as much and just as long on this cruise as I ever did....but they didn't know who I was so I got a very disappointing certificate.  I thought about disputing it but that would have been a waste of time, I'm sure.  The high rollers sucked all of the oxygen out of the room for the rest of us.  Nothing I can do about that.  I just let it go and learned a lesson.  You have to be recognized by the host so that they know who you are and how much you are playing.  I do not trust the "casino points" system as it's very arbitrary.

 

Next stop - Cozumel.

Day 4.pdf

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Not crowded at all.  I think there were 2 other women and 1 guy in there when we were there.  There were maybe 8 beds in there.  There were a couple of empty ones after Dan and I joined the 3 that were already there.

 

I'll be brutally honest.  if I had to pay for it I probably would not do it again,  Since it was included in as part of our Star Class program I wanted to check it out, but b/c I cannot really take the hot, hot environment it isn't something that I really enjoyed.  I did, however, enjoy the heated ceramic beds.  But they, alone, would not be enough to draw me there for a fee.

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I'll be brutally honest.  if I had to pay for it I probably would not do it again,  Since it was included in as part of our Star Class program I wanted to check it out, but b/c I cannot really take the hot, hot environment it isn't something that I really enjoyed.  I did, however, enjoy the heated ceramic beds.  But they, alone, would not be enough to draw me there for a fee.

Not to make this into a Thermal Spa thread, but I agree. It's a nice option to have, but we never bought it because I'm not certain how many times we would actually go to take advantage of it. I suppose if you were really into the experience, you might be more drawn to going there.

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Well, Dan was very excited at the prospect of going multiple times b/c he had never been to the TS on an O class.  He actually enjoys going to the sauna and usually goes multiple times on the classes that have free access to the sauna.

 

But for whatever reason (a lot to do with the fact that we were sooooo busy on this cruise) he just never went back after the one time.  I'm not sure he was so into the whole co-ed thing.  I got the impression that he liked the men's sauna better...although he never said that to me.  I know he definitely did not care for the dry sauna on Harmony.  It looked like there were little mini-heaters all along the walls.  Kinda reminded me of what hell might look like !  He wasn't into it so that's probably why he didn't go back.

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Day 5 - Sea Day

 

Things are really starting to slip from my memory now....I couldn't tell you what we did on this sea day.  I do know that it was the second formal night tonite and that always means lobster !

 

B/c of the very festive cabin crawl on the first sea day, we simply ran out of time and did not get "dressed" for dinner.  Normally we will dress up at least once per cruise and we always bring the fancy duds....but on this cruise we just didn't.  I'm sure there is some reason why we failed to make it on the second formal night.  My guess is we either got busy in the casino or just forgot.  Probably the latter.

 

Reyno had made our dinner reservations for the Coastal Kitchen for night 5 and so we kept those reservations, thinking that we would be getting an even BIGGER and BETTER lobster than they were getting down in the galley.  Boy were we wrong !  While they did have lobster on the menu, it was a couple of chunks of rubbery lobster in some kind of nasty orange sauce.  What a disappointment !

 

It's interesting that in all of our evenings on board a ship with access to a Coastal Kitchen, we had never chosen to have dinner there.  We almost always eat b'fast there b/c it is a perfect place for nice, quiet (if not always fast) b'fast but we have never chosen to have dinner there for whatever reason.  I had read so many great things about the dinner menus at CK (of course, people rave about Wonderland, too and we wouldn't give you a plug nickel to go back there !) so we were really anticipating this one.  It was certainly not the worst meal I ate on board (that honor definitely went to Wonderland) but it was a real disappointment.

 

We skipped the shows again (The Vegas Tenors were appearing again) and I'm sure we closed down the casino as is our normal pattern.  I think we spent some time up on the Suites sundeck but that could have been a different day.  Who knows what we did !

 

Tomorrow is Cozumel.  Last port of call which is the beginning of the dreaded drive home.  UGH

Day 5.pdf

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Day 6 - Cozumel

 

We had breakfast in the CK as usual and decided we would get off the ship around 10:00.

 

We had reservations at Mr. Sanchos on this trip.  We had been to Nachi before but it was our first time to Mr. Sanchos.  We took a taxi.  I can't remember what the cost was but I want to say $17 each way for both of us.  It's about a 15 minute drive.

 

We enjoyed Mr. Sanchos very much.  It seemed bigger and slightly more festive than Nachi.  There were DEFINITELY more people there than the time we went to Nachi.  I think the cost was $55/pp of which I had already prepaid $5 each so we owed a balance of $100 when we got there, which we paid in cash.  I had 1 strawberry daiquiri and a couple of cokes.  Dan had a couple of drinks....can't recall what they were.  We ate a big lunch but overall I'm sure they made plenty of money off of us.  I thought the [pool] water was freezing.  I wandered in and finally dunked myself.  I went up to the swim-up bar and that is where I got my one and only adult beverage.  I quickly scampered out and got back into my lounger where I remained pretty much the rest of the day.  Dan went into the ocean for a while but I didn't.  We finally met up with 2 of our friends who had come separately and we all rode back to the ship together.

 

Dinner tonite was supposed to be a second visit to Chops but I had done a bit of sleuthing and discovered that tonite was lamb shank in the MDR.  This is Dan's absolute favorite meal on any cruise ship so I didn't want him to miss it.  I had also decided that I wanted at least 1 meal on our beautiful balcony so tonite was the night.  I had originally hoped that we could make it a "family" affair and have all 6 of us eating out there together but alas, everyone had decided to do their own thing this late in the week, so we dined alone.  The big table on the balcony comfortably seats 6 so it was a shame that it was just the 2 of us but also very romantic.  Of course, since Dan was having HIS favorite meal tonite I was CERTAINLY going to have mine, too, so I AGAIN ordered cream of mushroom soup from Chops.  Honestly, I cannot even recall what I had for my main course (I don't eat lamb, so it certainly wasn't that !).  I think maybe it was prime rib.  Anyway, we had asked to have the food delivered at 6:00 and it was right on time.  They delivered it all together (I thought maybe they would deliver the soup separately since it was coming from Chops...but it all came together).  It was delicious and I was sorry that I had not forced the issue of eating out there more often.  

 

The rest of the evening, I'm sure, was spent in the casino.  No shows tonite.

 

Edit:  UGH. I knew I would forget something.

 

Tonite was the night that the boys up in 1724 had their big shindig.  They had been inviting every person they ran into in the casino, all week, so we were ready for a crowd.  They had been working with Alex and Seapaul (their room attendant) all week.  I think they ran poor Alex ragged.  It was to begin at 8:30 but we got there at 8:00 to try and help, if we could.  There was already a LOT of food there.  There were meat planks from Jamie's and cheese, fruit, cracker trays, champagne, wine, but I noticed that there was no bread to go with the meat trays.  Thinking that people would want to make sandwiches, I said "hey...where's the bread ?"  My God, what a mistake that was !!!  I should have just kept my mouth shut.  Jim #1 (there were 2 Jim's.  We refer to them as the Jim Twins) got on the phone with Alex and before you knew it, there were entire carts full of food coming in...most of it from Sabor !  How they got quesadillas and tacos confused with bread, I couldn't tell ya'.  All I know was that, in the end, there was enough food to serve 500 people !  Jim #2 began to panic.  We were OUT of places to put food even with the huge tables inside and outside.  We had to start turning carts away and having them remove food.  I don't recall whether they ever got bread or not !  I think they did.

 

I remarked to Alex (who showed up to witness the mess that had been created) what they were going to do with all of this food that was either rejected or left over.  I was horrified at the thought that it would all go to waste. She assured me that it would not.  Apparently all of the "extra" would be taken down to the crew area and consumed by the crew.  I don't know if this is an "official" process or not.  Probably not.  Certainly it would never be allowed by American sanitation codes but when you're in the middle of ocean I guess just about anything goes.  So I was assured that the crew would eat well and not to worry about it going to waste.

 

We left about 10:00 and we saw the Jim Twins later down in the casino so I guess the party went until around midnight.  I'm sure the others up on 17 were not particularly thrilled with the party but it didn't go REALLY late so I guess all was well in the end.

Day 6.pdf

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I am going to guess that there was probably 30 - 40 people who came through there during the evening (that I saw, anyway).  I don't think there was ever 40 people there at any one time.  I'm thinking that maybe 25 was the most that were there at once.

 

There was plenty of space for that many people between the huge downstairs areas inside and outside.  That is a huge suite and b/c it is 2 levels, the volume of that suite is enormous.  It has the optics of being palatial...with those floor-to-ceiling windows.  The drapes for those windows are motorized - very cool.

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Day 7 - Sea Day

 

The final day at sea (or final day, wherever you happen to be !) is the worst EVER.  I dread this day from the first step I take onto the ship.

 

We went to eat b'fast in CK and ran into the Jim Twins.  They had just sat down as well so we all ate our b'fast together for the first time on the whole cruise.  They looked pretty rough so I think the party in their suite had gone on into the wee hours of the morning.  They reported that, while they had come down to the casino earlier in the evening, the party made a rebirth afterwards.  I know the rest of the guests on 17 were delighted - NOT !

 

We have learned, over the years, that the best way to get past the dreaded packing is...well...to just do it and get it over with. There's NOTHING worse than dreading going back to your room to pack.  We packed right after returning from b'fast and put out luggage outside of the Suite to get it out of our minds.

 

Here is where I will discuss our ONE and ONLY disappointment with the Genie service.  For reasons which I cannot fully understand, the Genies are directed NOT to get involved with the Luggage Valet program.  This makes no sense to me at ALL as I consider the LV program to be a huge Suite perk.  Had we not known, we would have missed out on this perk ENTIRELY as Reyno never once mentioned the LV paperwork, when or how we needed to get it submitted.  Luckily, we DID know and let the Jim Twins know or they would have missed it too (they never read their compass or any of the paperwork that is delivered to their suites.  They are so clueless !!!  The only thing they want to know (in this order) #1...where and what time is dinner and #2 what time does the casino open.).  So today was now Friday and the deadline for submitting the LV paperwork had been Wednesday....so all was well.  The correct LV luggage tags and associated paperwork had been delivered to our Suite as it should have been, but this was with absolutely NO thanks to the Genie. When we asked Reyno why he hadn't helped us get the paperwork submitted or even mentioned the LV program to us, he told us that the Genies had been forbidden from involving themselves with the LV program.  This is ridiculous.  Whatever.  We got it all done on our own and all was well, but I cannot understand why the Genies are not allowed to help with this.  I  made sure I mentioned this in our post-cruise survey.

 

With all of the unpleasantries out of the way, we went about enjoying our last day on the ship.  The thought of this being the last day never fully leaves your consciousness but at least we no longer had the demon of packing weighing on our brains.  We made our one and only trip to Izumi sushi side (we had gone to the Teppanyaki side one evening) for lunch.  I think one of my biggest surprises on this cruise was how FEW times we managed to get to our favorite restaurants.  With all specialty dining included, I had imagined that we would be in and out of Izumi and Chops and Johnny Rockets multiple times but we just never seemed to make it.  We did have JR one day for lunch.  I seemed to have missed that in my earlier daily reviews.  I can't remember which day it was. The milk shakes were included in the Star Class Package.  That makes the package worth whatever it had cost !!!  :P

 

I'm sure the afternoon was spent visiting the casino and whatever other impulsive thing we did.  The last day is such a downer for me.  I wish I could make it a happy time.  Dan is much better at doing this than I am.  There was probably a nap in there somewhere on that delicious bed.  I wish I could have smuggled that mattress off the ship with me !

 

For our last night, Reyno had booked us at Jaimie's.  I will say right up front that I MISS GIOVANNI'S TABLE...or even PORTOFINO's !  While Jaimie's wasn't terrible, it was not nearly as good as Giovanni's or Portofino's, IMO.  First of all, the chairs (at least the ones outside since that's where we sat) were THE MOST UNCOMFORTABLE chairs I have sat in since the last time we were on the Rising Tide Bar on  Allure.  Up until that point, I thought those seats (on the Rising Tide) had been the most uncomfortable, but those horrid metal diner chairs at Jaimie's took the lead by a mile !  They were SO uncomfortable that I actually could NOT stand it and had to ask Dan to get 2 chairs out of the Central Park area for us (he didn't like the chairs at Jaimie's either) so that I could even stay there.  I ordered the rib eye steak and it was so full of gristle and fat that I just put it to the side.  I can't recall what Dan got.  I think he enjoyed his meal more than I did.  Thank goodness we had ordered a couple of appetizers so we had plenty of food it just wasn't what we had expected.  It was NOT as bad as Wonderland, but it came in #2 from the bottom for sure.

 

I don't want to obsess on the whole chair issue, but I will pass on a bit of GOOD news and that is....they have changed the horrible chairs that they had on the Rising Tide bar on Allure.  On Harmony, they are very nice, comfortable chairs.  So I guess I wasn't the ONLY one who complained about those awful chairs.  Maybe next time I go to Jaimie's they will have removed the torture devices that are currently there with something more spacious.  :D

 

I don't think I closed down the casino on the last night.  I usually try and make it a reasonable hour since we must get up and about early on debark day....the most loathesome day ever....

 

Edit:  Of course I forgot something.  What's new ?

 

This last day of the cruise was our busiest, relating to the shows !  We had asked Reyno to please reserve seats for us at the Ice show, 1887 (2:00) and Columbus, The Musical (5:00).  While waiting for the 2:00 ice show to start, we made our one and only visit to the Diamond Lounge on Deck 4.  It was very nice - bigger than I had thought it would be.  Reyno met us there and walked us down to our seats.  The show was very good...probably among the best ice shows I have seen.  The costumes were extraordinary.  The storyline was a bit esoteric, as they all tend to be, but the skating was super and the music and lights were very good.  For Columbus, we met Reyno outside of the main theater lobby about 4:45 and he walked us right down front where we had sat for Grease.  I enjoyed Columbus.  I don't think I am as psyched about it as some but it was a good show again with a rather wandering storyline but this is the fate of most shipboard productions.  It's definitely worth taking the time to see.

 

There were 2 shows we did not see.  We did not see the other ice show (I think it was called ISkate) and ironically, I never saw the other Aqua Theater show (The Hideaway Heist).  It's hard to see how I could have missed the AT show since it is right in my back yard but I did.  I'm sure Dan must have seen it since he spent more time in the suite than I did.  Oh well, we will be on Harmony again in September in another ATS so I'm sure I will still get the opportunity to see it then !!

Day 7.pdf

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Day 8 - Disembark

 

The dreaded day had arrived - far more quickly and malevolently than on any previous cruise.

 

Reyno had asked us, the evening before, what time we wanted to leave the ship.  Of course, we told him we wanted to remain on board as long as we possibly could (hoping that he would just forget about us and we would be able to stow away.  That didn't happen.... :angry: ).  He advised us that the Coastal Kitchen served until 9AM (which is much later than anywhere else on the ship as far as I know).  He said the best plan is to arrive at the CK no later than 8:45, at which time we would be seated and allowed to have a leisurely b'fast until right around 10AM when he (Reyno) would show up and escort us down to the appropriate customs line.

 

We had pre-arranged with the Jim Twins to meet for b'fast just as Reyno had recommended and we enjoyed our last b'fast in the CK together.

 

Around 9:50, in trots Reyno, who gathered us all up and we headed down for the final time.  As with the Concierges, the Genies have a magic card that highjacks the elevators and allows him to preempt any intermediate stops.  Because we were going down from the highest deck (17) there were no other passengers on the elevator when it got to us so we had a private ride down to the gangway.  All 4 of us had used Luggage Valet so all we had was our carryons, which made it very easy.  Reyno escorted us to the priority customs line where no one was waiting so we were first in line and we rushed through in seconds.

 

To our surprise, Reyno, himself, went through the customs line and headed out of the building with us.  We found out that he was heading into town to purchase something otherwise, he would have left us at the customs queue.    We needed a taxi to get to the airport so we got into the taxi line.  Sorry to say, the customs line is where all Suites priorities end.  We had to get into that long and hot line and wait for a taxi along with everyone else.  Oh, the inhumanity !

 

Just so ya know, we did NOT abandon our other [non-suite] friends.  They had driven down from VA and they had chosen to walk off early so that they could drive away and go visit their friends at the Washington Nationals spring training camp....wherever that was.  Had they chosen to leave with us, Reyno said they would have been welcome to join us for b'fast in CK and walk down with us.

 

A quick ride to the airport.  The Jim Twins were on Southwest Airlines so they got out first.  We were on American so we went all the way to the end of the Terminal.  We had an uneventful wait, uneventful flight home and the limo picked us up at the airport and took us home without incident.  We were back in the real world with no Genie to make our every wish come true.  It was NOT an easy adjustment !   :P

 

 

Am I spoiled for life ?  YUP

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