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twangster

Harmony Western 9/30-10/7 Recap

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Recap of our Western Harmony Cruise

Grand Suite, Sky Class Cabin 6654

Traveling with my 23 yo son.

Day 1

We arrived at the terminal by Lyft from our hotel in Ft Lauderdale near the airport.  Hotel had a free airport shuttle that we used the night before, then we used Lyft to get from hotel to Port Everglades in the morning.   Lyft was $10 plus tip.

Walked in the suite entrance at 10:30am and learned they were already boarding.  Went upstairs and straight onto the ship.  No lines at any point.  It went so fast I forgot to take my camera out to take pictures.

Restaurants weren't open yet so I took him on a quick tour and we grabbed our 1st of many drinks with the drink package.  This was my first time on Harmony but I've done Oasis and Allure so the ship felt very familiar despite minor changes and updated decor on Harmony.  A quick visit to the solarium and suite sun deck where we tried our first drink, the frozen lemonade.  It was good on this hot day and it would become a common drink I frequently came back to throughout the cruise.

We eventually ate sandwiches at Park Cafe and then headed to Schooner Bar for a beer.  I picked this location as we were approaching 1pm, the magic hour that cabins become available and the Schooner Bar is close to cabin 6654 starboard aft.  Right on time the announcement came that cabins were available.  One SeaPass card was outside in an envelope and as promised our Wow bands and 2nd card were on the bed inside.  

The bed was made up as a king despite our request for twins but that is never an issue, a call to house keeping and it was promised to be fixed after the muster drill which it was.  Muster station E1 is in the promenade deck 5 just forward of the Bionic Bar basically where you enter the ship on day 1.  

A fresh fruit plate and our drink cups awaited us in our cabin along with our excursion tickets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 1 cont'd...

Muster drill consisted of standing at this station, no chairs which became tiring.  My previous muster drills on Oasis class where in the Aqua Theater were everyone had seats.  Having seen the spy video safety video before, standing through it was a pain but necessary step in order for the cruise to commence.

We did sail away from the bridge wings off the solarium combined with suite sun deck.  The port side bridge wing has a glass floor so you can see straight down.  As always the view from the suite sun deck looking aft is a favorite of mine and I was happy to see the slides on Harmony didn't impede this view.

I had emailed the suite concierge before the cruise and requested reservations in the Coastal Kitchen, the suites only restaurant for days 1,4 and 6 to work around specialty dining and a formal night in the MDR.  We had the Aqua show on day 1 so we had a 6pm dinner in Coastal Kitchen.    

The one annoying service item was the promotion of bottles of wine at dinner on this occasion.  We both had the drink package and I was fine with the choices of wine by the glass but the waiter kept pushing a bottle of wine and a different type compared to what I was trying to order.  I didn't want a Cabernet Sauvignon and he wouldn't stop pushing it.  It was getting to the point of raising my voice or rudely getting up and going to the suite bar myself when he finally relented and accepted our choice of wine by the glass.  Coastal Kitchen service was not this pushy on Allure or Oasis and it was really unfortunate to experience.  Seriously.  

We both ordered a duck entree and it was fantastic.  Such incredible flavors, perfect sized portions.  Past the unfortunate wine by the bottle moment, service was excellent throughout the meal and he kept our wine glasses full (by the glass).

This night we took in The Fine Line Aqua Theater show and it was very good.  It's starts with a performer spinning and spinning, and spinning.  How he was able to keep spinning so long is amazing.  Combined with high diving and slack lining it was a great show.  

 

 

 

 

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Day 2 - Sea Day

Our day started, or should I say my day started with a trip up to Coastal Kitchen for breakfast.  My son was determined to get value from the drink package and stayed out much later than I did on night 1.  Consequently he slept in much later than I this morning.

I don't always have access to Coastal Kitchen when I cruise so when I do I enjoy eating breakfast there which I did all but one day on this cruise.   The menu in Coastal Kitchen rotates for dinners but stays the same for breakfast.  I'm okay with that and have a few favorites like Eggs Benedict and the Fast Fare Breakfast.  Service is great and it doesn't take long considering its a sit down, cooked to order meal.

We ordered room service for lunch.  There is no fee in a Grand Suite or above and we took full advantage.  The Royal Burger is very good and while I'm not sure if its freshly ground beef, it's a lot better than the standard burgers available top side.  

Today there was a parade in the promenade.  Who doesn't love a parade?

We enjoyed our formal dinner in the MDR.  I had talked to my son before the cruise about getting a jacket and dressing up and he didn't disappoint.  On other cruise lines I've learned to stop by a bar on the way to dinner in their MDR as bar service can often be slow or non-existent.  That wasn't necessary on Harmony.  We entered with no lines and were immediately placed at a table in the Silk Restaurant.  The first question was for drink service which arrived quickly.  When our glasses were 1/3 full we were asked if we want another glass and it usually arrived before we could finish the last.  Our beef tenderloin was cooked exactly as requested, medium rare.  It was delicious.  

My son has an allergy to nuts and shellfish and each restaurant we visited took great care when he mentioned it.  They verified ingredients and let us know which items were safe.  

After dinner we took in the ice skating show, 1887.  Since we were in Sky Class we had front row seats waiting for us and they were awesome.  As skaters twirled, jumped and spun we had little pieces of ice lightly sprinkled on us from time to time.  Better than 3D theater!  The skating combined with images projected on the ice made for an incredible show.  

We would have an early start to day 3 in Labadee with zip lining at 9am so my son took my advice and we took it easy for the rest of the night. 

 

 

 

 

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Day 3 - Labadee

We arrived on a beautiful morning to the familiar smell of wood fires burning on Labadee.  On this occasion we went to Windjammer for breakfast.  We were ahead of the crowds so it wasn't busy.  I found the scrambled eggs more runny than I like but otherwise is was standard Windjammer breakfast.  Lots of fruit available, juices, hash browns, etc.  

We had our 9am zip line reservations.  This would be my 3rd time on the zip line, my son's 1st.  I've always lucked out watching sales pre-cruise and each time paid just $76 for it.  It's normally around $96 pre-cruise and around $110 on the ship so buy it before you sail and if you can, try to get it on sale.  As always this didn't disappoint.  What a rush!

As suite guests we had access to Barefoot Beach and on previous trips I was with beach people.  My son isn't a lay in the sand and sun tan kind of person and on this trip I wanted to explore Labadee more so after the zip line that's what we did, after stopping by Barefoot Beach and getting a Labradoozie of course.

It was hot.  We were going to go back to the ship, get our swim wear on and hit the beach but we chose to use the water slides, drink some beers and order more Royal Burgers and chicken wings for lunch from room service.  

So many great photo opportunities here so I apologize for photo bombing this thread but I couldn't resist.

I've included picture of Nellies and Columbus Cove beaches because I read so many complaints from folks who try to swim under the zip line where its rocky.  Don't swim there, swim here at these beaches where its nice and sandy.

Another perk of Sky and Star Class is the helipad sail away from Labadee.  Captain Johnnie got us underway just in time as rain and lightning was moving in behind us.  They do a nice little presentation with Mimosa and Champagne introducing many of the senior officers from the ship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 4 - Falmouth

Our excursion this time was the Bob Marley Experience.  This would be our 2nd time doing this excursion.  We did it once out of Ocho Rios on another line.  My son and I are big reggae fans and love Bob Marley.    We saw one of his sons in concert a few years ago.  This excursion is pretty much the Graceland of Reggae.  It's a long bus ride which is quite exhilarating at times (meeting a large truck on a narrow mountain road) and quite bumpy but you do get to see the real Jamaican country side on the way up Nine Mile to Mt Zion.  

Once there you get to visit the house he was born and where his mother continued to live until her death, followed by a trip up Mt Zion to the house where Bob lived when he was on island and the Mausoleum in which he is entombed.  They've done a good job with it and the guides are quite fun.  

I'm not into ganja despite living in Colorado but hold no judgement for those that are.  If you take this tour you will smell it at times as they allow its use on the property.  As they say before you enter his Mausoleum, take off your shoes, no pictures or video, but smoke it if you got it.  Yeah mon. One Love.  

On the way back down to the ship we stopped at an outdoor country Jamaican restaurant for a jerk lunch.  The lunch is okay, but not the highlight of the trip.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 4 - Night

RCI ships are beautiful by day but they are equally pretty at night.  Harmony is no exception.  There is a certain time of night I have found where they really show their beauty and on this cruise that was as we left Falmouth.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 5 - Sea Day

Prior to cruising I booked the All Access Tour.  I had done some of these on another line but since we were on the the largest cruise ship in the world, I figured I would splurge and do this tour.  It was $120 per person.

There are two things I love about this All Access Tour.  You can take pictures and each guest was given a wireless earpiece and the guest speaker at each stop would use a microphone so you could hear them regardless of where you were in the group of 20 booked on the tour.  On other lines you can't take pictures, or even have a phone in your pocket.  

First stop was in the Silk Restaurant and kitchen.  We got to see the massive ovens used to cook the dinner for this night, the room service station and where some of the fruit carvings are done.  

We walked down "I-95" the main service corridor that runs down the length of the ship which is central to so much that goes on behind the scenes.  This brought us to the engine control room.  One of the senior engineers gave a talk and presented some slides on a monitor.  Incredible to see the complex systems being monitored and operated from this facility.

Our next stop was the cold storage areas , one dedicated to meat and one dedicated to seafood.  These were really cold!  How about a nice pallet of lobster?  Another storage not as cold for fruit.  Our tour guide explained our guest speaker at this stop is the most important person on the ship - he orders all the beer!  We learned the ship departs with enough food for an extra 7 days, at least for protein items as fresh fruit can't last that long.  The Oasis class ships also do provisioning drops for Labadee supplying their permanent work force there with all their supplies.  

The next stop was to the recycle center.  Unfortunately the environmental officer wasn't available but clearly RCI wants to demonstrate how eco-freindly and green they are, recycling and eliminating anything ending up in landfill.

Stop four on the tour was the laundry area at the bottom of the ship below the waterline.  Massive machinery cleaning incredible volumes of linens, tablecloths, napkins and so on.  All very interesting, but the next stop is what we all came for.  

Our last stop was a visit to the bridge.  This was the highlight of the tour.  I've been on a ship bridge before but each time is exciting.  This time didn't disappoint.  Even found two of Captain Johnnie's alternate modes of riding around the ship.  He had taken his Harley out on Labadee which we saw but it didn't click that was Captain Johnnie until he tweeted the photo of him with the Labadee sign shortly after.

It's hard to put down in this post all we learned.  It was very interesting.

This was our 2nd formal night and we chose Jamie's Italian.  It was very good but having it done it once I'm not sure I'd do it again.  One thing I noticed is that most people come here casual, even on formal night.  We were over dressed with our jackets but no tie approach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 6 - Cozumel

My other favorite time to take pictures is in the morning.  It always amazes me how many people miss an awesome sunrise.  

We had booked an excursion in Cozumel but I did because it was on sale and sort of looked interesting, but we wanted a day to explore the ship, ride the slides and zip line, do the Ultimate Abyss and just enjoy an empty ship so before the cruise I cancelled our Cozumel excursion and we just let the day unfold by itself.  

Breakfast in the Coastal Kitchen, lunch by room service and dinner in Coastal Kitchen.  All very good.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 7 - Sea Day

Wow!  Where did 7 days go?  Can it be over this fast?

We were going to do MDR for dinner but opted for Coastal Kitchen because we could.  

I decided to get the packing out of the way early so it wouldn't ruin my last night or be on my mind the whole day.  I had signed up for the luggage valet program on day 4.  This is another free perk for Sky Class Suites, normally $25.  With this program you put your luggage out on the last night and never see it again until baggage claim at your home city.  I had one small carry on I kept for changing clothes in the morning.

We did a few more runs on Ultimate Abyss, the Perfect Storm water slides and my son tried the zip line and the rock climbing wall.  I had done the zip line on Oasis and after the Labadee zip line I opted out of the zip line on Harmony.  

On our way back from from Cozumel we had then Tropical Storm Nate chasing us up from the Caribbean Sea.  It was windy and deck 16 was closed much of the day due to high winds.  We had 10' seas just about all day long.  Harmony handled it beautifully.  We never felt any movement or "porpoising" like you sometimes get with smaller ships.  The Ultimate Abyss and Zip line stayed open all day and by the end of the day the Abyss had long lines I guess from folks trying to get one more run in.  I appreciated our deck 6 balcony so close to the water.  It was mesmerizing watching the ship bow waves colliding with the 10' swells creating massive sprays of water.  

I went to bed around midnight not sure when my son would be back.

Day 8 - Port Everglades

We awoke to discover that Captain Johnnie kept his word and delivered us back to Port Everglades.  My son stayed out until 4am so I ate breakfast alone in the Coastal Kitchen one last time.  Since I had done the luggage valet, I couldn't leave until after 8am (US Customs imposed rule).  The suite concierge does 3 escorts at 7:30am, 8:30am and 9:30am.  We chose the 8:30am and met in the suite lounge at 8:15am.  They escorted us off, at times holding the other passengers to keep us together.  This was nearly identical to how it worked on Oasis and Allure but slightly less organized.  The suite luggage for those that didn't do the valet program is in a separate area with US Customs away from the general crowd.  Since we had used the luggage valet we went straight to the customs line and were next waiting only for the couple in front of us to clear.  

We jumped in a cab and headed to FLL airport.  By 9:02am I had cleared through TSA and was at my gate.  That's pretty incredible considering we left the ship just after 8:30am, I checked my other carry on suitcase with Delta and was through security all in 30 minutes.  Delta has a great luggage program and I got an alert on my watch when both the luggage valet checked bag and my own checked bag were loaded on the plane.  Both made it home to Denver and were waiting for me as I reached baggage claim.  

When I fly from FLL airport I always get a window seat on the left side of the plane.  Planes normally take off to the East and you get a nice view of the ship as you climb out of FLL.  This day was no exception and I had my camera ready.

 

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A final word on Harmony Sky Class suite benefits.  

It pays to know all that comes with Sky Class.  Our cabin attendant seemed not to.  That's very different from our Crown Loft suite cabin attendant experiences on Allure and Oasis and I'm left wondering if Grand Suites just don't rate the same or we just got unlucky with our attendant on this sailing.  

It also seems that benefits vary on Harmony compared to Oasis and Allure, or perhaps RCI is quietly scaling back benefits over time.

@Matt shared with me that his Harmony benefits two weeks prior stated the suite bar was available "for purchase" compared to my email that didn't mention anything about "for purchase".  When I asked the Concierge on board Harmony they stated the suite bar was complimentary 11am to 11pm.  

The free pressing service offered on Oasis and Allure is absent on Harmony but when I asked for it on Harmony they provided it complimentary.  

It would be interesting to see how others have faired with Sky Class on Harmony.

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36 minutes ago, twangster said:

A final word on Harmony Sky Class suite benefits.  

It pays to know all that comes with Sky Class.  Our cabin attendant seemed not to.  That's very different from our Crown Loft suite cabin attendant experiences on Allure and Oasis and I'm left wondering if Grand Suites just don't rate the same or we just got unlucky with our attendant on this sailing.  

It also seems that benefits vary on Harmony compared to Oasis and Allure, or perhaps RCI is quietly scaling back benefits over time.

@Matt shared with me that his Harmony benefits two weeks prior stated the suite bar was available "for purchase" compared to my email that didn't mention anything about "for purchase".  When I asked the Concierge on board Harmony they stated the suite bar was complimentary 11am to 11pm.  

The free pressing service offered on Oasis and Allure is absent on Harmony but when I asked for it on Harmony they provided it complimentary.  

It would be interesting to see how others have faired with Sky Class on Harmony.

Maybe just your cabin attendant? Ours on Deck 12 was really good. He actually reminded my husband twice about the complimentary pressing and ran through all our benefits with us on embarkation day. 

And our email said the suite bar (I'm assuming you meant the bar in the suite lounge right?) was for purchase "Bar service is available from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm in the Suite Lounge, serving a wide array of beverages for purchase" but found that it was complimentary for bottled water from 11am-11pm when we got there and alcohol was from 5-8:30pm.  Many on these boards had already told me that it was complimentary during that time.  I can forward you my original email if you wanted to compare.

The one strange thing I noticed with our sailing in August was that they said seats would be held in the main theatre for sky class but that never occurred. Not sure what others experienced here but I am interested to know.  It did not matter to us because we always got there early but for both Grease and Columbus there was no resereved seating in any area of the theatre for sky class. There was reserved seating for 1887 and The Fine Line though.

BTW...great blog 😊 Love the detail. Felt like I was back there again...my happy place....

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10 hours ago, Sabrinaklai said:

Maybe just your cabin attendant? Ours on Deck 12 was really good. He actually reminded my husband twice about the complimentary pressing and ran through all our benefits with us on embarkation day. 

 

That's good to know and what we experienced on Allure and Oasis but not Harmony.  

I'm thinking we just got a regular stateroom attendant.  When I tracked him down on day 2 and asked about pressing he looked at me like I was crazy.  He eventually came back and said his manager confirmed it was complimentary then handed me two small paper bags to put our suits in.  Yeah, that's not going to work... Dinner rolled around and no formal wear.  He didn't answer his phone so I had to have the suite concierge track him down.  We eventually got our formal wear and were 30 minutes late to dinner.  

He was nice enough, but not the level we experienced in suites on the other ships.

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Unfortunately it sounds like you just had a bad Suite attendant. Luckily for you, you knew what you were entitled to but for someone who had never been in a Suite before or wasn’t familiar with the amenities, it could really have caused them to miss out on a lot.  I hope you mentioned these shortcomings prominently in your post cruise survey.  That’s a shame and shouldn’t happen.

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7 hours ago, Sabrinaklai said:

The one strange thing I noticed with our sailing in August was that they said seats would be held in the main theatre for sky class but that never occurred. Not sure what others experienced here but I am interested to know.  It did not matter to us because we always got there early but for both Grease and Columbus there was no resereved seating in any area of the theatre for sky class. There was reserved seating for 1887 and The Fine Line though

Are you saying that the center section on deck 5 of the theater didn’t permit Sky Class ?  I’m shocked !   I’ve heard that sometimes D + are excluded from this section but never Sky Class !  Who WAS allowed in that reserved section ?  Just Pinnacles ?  Star Class sit down front so it’s not for Star Class. I’m really, really surprised to hear this !

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1 hour ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Are you saying that the center section on deck 5 of the theater didn’t permit Sky Class ?  I’m shocked !   I’ve heard that sometimes D + are excluded from this section but never Sky Class !  Who WAS allowed in that reserved section ?  Just Pinnacles ?  Star Class sit down front so it’s not for Star Class. I’m really, really surprised to hear this !

That's the weird thing. There was no reserved section on Deck 5 or anywhere else in that theatre.  No sections were roped off and no crew around holding signs.  And it was the same for both shows.  The only reserved seating was for Star Class at the front.  That's why I was curious as to what others experienced on their sailings because on Allure last year that reserved section on Deck 5 was there.  Not that it mattered for us.  We always went early because we like to sit closer to the stage and we don't prefer that reserved section on Deck 5 anyway.

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On 10/9/2017 at 5:52 PM, twangster said:

Day 4 - Night

RCI ships are beautiful by day but they are equally pretty at night.  Harmony is no exception.  There is a certain time of night I have found where they really show their beauty and on this cruise that was as we left Falmouth.  

 

Harmony Night-1.jpg

Harmony Night-2.jpg

Harmony Night-3.jpg

Harmony Night-4.jpg

Harmony Night-5.jpg

Harmony Night-6.jpg

Harmony Night-7.jpg

Harmony Night-8.jpg

Harmony Night-9.jpg

Harmony Night-10.jpg

Harmony Night-11.jpg

I often freak out that I wouldn't like the oasis class because of all the people,  but your pictures really make me want to try it.   These pics and all the colors are absolutely beautiful... thank you for sharing!   Jane

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8 hours ago, mom2mybugs said:

I often freak out that I wouldn't like the oasis class because of all the people,  but your pictures really make me want to try it.   These pics and all the colors are absolutely beautiful... thank you for sharing!   Jane

In terms of crowds, it's pretty much the same as any other ship.  In fact, I find the crowd flow to be BETTER than any other ship, including non-Royal Caribbean ships.  This is the beauty of Oasis class, they are designed better than any other ship I've been on. And that's why I love the class.

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25 minutes ago, BrianAlt said:

In terms of crowds, it's pretty much the same as any other ship.  In fact, I find the crowd flow to be BETTER than any other ship, including non-Royal Caribbean ships.  This is the beauty of Oasis class, they are designed better than any other ship I've been on. And that's why I love the class.

Same here.  The Oasis class is my favourite of all the classes. I would sail any one of them again without hesitation.  We have never found it to be crowded except in the Windjammer and we usually cruise during high season when they are sailing at capacity.  Trying out the Quantum class soon because hubby wants to try out iFly but I know that all I'll be doing is missing my Central Park mornings....

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14 hours ago, mom2mybugs said:

I often freak out that I wouldn't like the oasis class because of all the people,  but your pictures really make me want to try it.   These pics and all the colors are absolutely beautiful... thank you for sharing!   Jane

As others have said Oasis class ships do a pretty good job of spreading the people out.  There is often so much going on and in different areas of the ship that a lot of the time you don't feel the crowds.  Day 1 and day 8 the elevators get a little crazy, or when a show lets out, but all of these photos were taken between 7am and 9pm, it's not like I had to sneak out at 3am and you can see there aren't a lot of people.  Sometimes I had to patiently wait for a meandering couple in Central Park to clear the shot but I honestly believe Oasis class ships should be experienced by everyone at least once. 

4 hours ago, Matt said:

Wow, these photos are amazing!

Thanks!  With a ship this beautiful the pictures pretty much take themselves, the hard part is sorting through the thousands I usually take.   In Alaska that was even more of challenge.  Thank goodness for digital cameras :6_smile:.

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17 minutes ago, twangster said:

 

5 hours ago, Matt said:

Wow, these photos are amazing!

Thanks!  With a ship this beautiful the pictures pretty much take themselves, the hard part is sorting through the thousands I usually take.   In Alaska that was even more of challenge.  Thank goodness for digital cameras :6_smile:.

I have to agree about the photos. They're all really impressive. Do you use a dedicated digital camera, or were these taken with just your smartphone and a lot of past experience?

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