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11/18-11/25 Harmony Review

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I didn’t want to commit to a live blog and fail to update it, so I thought I might add my thoughts in a final wrap up about my recent 7 day Harmony sailing.  I found this blog and reviews to be so helpful in maximizing my own cruise experience. 

Pre-Cruise: We flew in the night before and stayed at the Best Western Airport Hotel.  Husband got a good rate through his employer.  If we had been staying in Fort Lauderdale longer I probably wouldn’t recommend this hotel.  It is pretty basic but served its purpose well – a bed, a hot shower, free airport transfer, free breakfast, and port transportation for a price ($8pp).   Cruise port transfer was well organized and departed the hotel at 10:30AM.

Embarkation: Previously sailed out of Port Canaveral and Galveston on Carnival.  Embarkation at Port Everglades was the quickest and best experience.  From hotel to on board the ship, the process took about 50 minutes – and our shuttle dropped some Norwegian passengers off before us! We didn’t pack light (2 large suitcases, 2 carry-ons and a suit bag) so we were happy to see the porters waiting next to the shuttle drop off to take our bags.  I took some readers’ advice and ordered plastic luggage tags off of Amazon, so I wasn’t as worried about paper tags falling off as I have been on prior cruises.   We sailed through the embarkation process.  I don’t think we stopped moving except to check-in at the desk. 

First impressions:  Harmony is a gorgeous ship.  I’ve cruised 3 times with Carnival and I don’t know how I can go back to such a cramped, stuffy ship.  I love the open air design of Central Park and the Boardwalk.  The ship only felt crowded on the first afternoon following the muster drill and during promenade events.  Otherwise, you wouldn’t really know 6,409 guests were on board!

Muster Drill: I appreciated being in an air conditioned theater watching corny but hilarious hand washing videos instead of standing outside in the sun.

Room: We had a virtual balcony on the 10th floor near the elevators, 10446.  I read some cruise critic complaints about the location being too noisy but we didn’t have any problems with noise near the elevators.  Despite our over packing, EVERYTHING fit in a drawer, closet or shelf and all pieces of luggage fit under the bed! The virtual balcony was neat, but I found its timing to be a little off.  During sunrise/sunset, the image of the sky was pitch black on the screen.

Specialty Dining:  We took advantage of the $30 BOGO offer booked pre-cruise.  I took the advice of bloggers and went straight to the main dining room once on the ship to book our restaurants.  We were pre-booked at Sabor for Night #1, but were able to change it to Wonderland.  We were also able to get 150 CP for Night #2, although at a slightly later time than we had hoped (8:30PM vs the desired 6-7:30 window).  On the 4th day, after some so-so MDR food, we tried booking at Chops, but it was sold out for the rest of the cruise.   Note for our next cruise – book in demand venues early! We had lunch at Sabor on the last day and were able to walk right up and get a table.  

Wonderland:  We thought it was excellent. My husband had to talk me into this one as I hate seafood.  I thought the dishes were delicious.  I posted some photos on the FB dining page.

150 CP:  Very good.  I loved the flavored bread salts.  We had the 18oz steak which was good, but based on reviews, I had higher expectations.  But, the cucumber martini and service more than made up for it!

Sabor: For a $46 lunch, we were determined to get our money’s worth – and we did.  We saved Sabor for the last day.  We demolished the chips and guac (so good).  We ordered 3 appetizers (those bacon wrapped chicken things are amazing), 2 tacos, a quesadilla, 2 sides and 2 desserts :)   We didn’t polish it all off, but we came close.  Needless to say we didn’t need dinner and skipped the MDR that night.   The White Sangria at Sabor is delicious and my favorite drink on the ship. 

MDR: Royal has room for improvement.  The servers seemed a little stressed and the dining room a little chaotic each night.  Some meals were good, some ok, and one steak from the classics menu was downright inedible.  Since we couldn’t go to Chops we did order the upgraded Chops filet and found that to be quite good.  We didn’t try the MDR for breakfast or lunch.

Fitness Center/Vitality Cafe – I try and stay pretty active so I caught some morning track runs on port days.  Harmony has a great track and I loved watching our arrival into the ports.  The gym was crowded on sea days but overall a very nice fitness center with lots of cardio and weight equipment.  The Vitality Café outside of the gym always seemed to have a line, but that might be because the fresh juices, protein shakes and snacks were great (those granola bars – yum).  We had the drink package and we were not charged for the protein powder. 

Spa:  Beautiful facility.  We bought the thermal suite package for $199/couple and used it every day.  The thermal suite consisted of a heated relaxation bed, steam, sauna and rain shower.  We would purchase the thermal suite again.  It provided a daily dose of relaxation for the price of 1 person to get a 75 minute massage.    You are also provided with a salt scrub to use in a rain shower.   Near the end of the cruise we took advantage of a “Happy Hands and Feet” special.  $69 for a relaxing 50 minute foot scrub and foot/hand massage. 

Bars/Drinks:  Overall, the drinks on the cruise were great, so much variety in the bar menus.  My only complaint would be the lack of consistency between bars.  A few times different bartenders would make the same drink differently, despite having the ingredients posted in the drink book.  I would like to see more attention paid to keeping the freestyle machines restocked.  They frequently ran out of diet beverages. 

Vintages: This was one of my favorite spots of the cruise as I love wine.  I would have liked to see more variety on the by the glass menu, it was a little cab-heavy – although they were all good.  Vintages has this neat little wine sampling system where you can purchase 2, 4 or 6 oz pours.  A little pricey though and you can’t use the drink package to offset the cost.  The cheapest 2 oz pour was $8 and the most expensive 6oz pour was $300!

Sorrentos:  Maybe it’s because I usually deprive myself of pizza in favor of healthier options when I’m not on vacation, but I loved Sorrentos. We ate here every day – sometimes we were even sober!

Activities: We did the water slides, zip line, abyss, rock climbing and mini golf.  Mini golf got a little out of hand with kids running through the course while we were playing.  Overall, we liked the activities on the ship.  We tried booking the escape room mid cruise but it was booked solid for the rest of the cruise.  Lesson learned for our next cruise – book early!

Shows:  Comedy show and juggling headliner were great.  Columbus was cute, I liked how they incorporated modern music. The aqua show was not my cup of tea.   We sat in the back and left after 20 minutes.  Although, the man twirling in a skirt for 15 minutes straight without passing out was a bit impressive.  We skipped Grease and the ice show.  Not a show but we went to the Silent Disco party on formal night – HILARIOUS.

Ports:  Nassau is meh (been there, done that).  St. Thomas has gorgeous views.  Our excursion was cancelled before the cruise, so we took a cab up to Mountain Top, drank banana daiquiris and on the way back down he stopped at a few spots for photos.  My husband tipped a steel drum player and he gave us his CD.  We plan on listening to it when we’re craving those vacation vibes.  We could see the beautiful Magen’s Bay and want to go back and visit that beach someday.  As we drove up to Mountain Top the hurricane devastation was evident.  You could see partially sunken boats, collapsed buildings, downed trees and power lines.  Labadee is a little slice of heaven and by far my favorite cruise port.  It is just perfect.  No sales people yelling at you once you’re off the ship.  Towels, beach chairs, good food and drinks included (if you have the beverage package).  We went parasailing (A+++), hung out at Adrenaline Beach, and drank a bunch of labadoozies.    We set our parasail appt for 10:30 so we grabbed lunch once it ended at 11:30.  I’m glad we got there early because lunch lines got long.

Thanksgiving:  We celebrated turkey day on the ship.  They had a thanksgiving dinner option (great turkey dinner, so-so pumpkin pie) and cut a gigantic chocolate cake in the promenade following a Christmas tree lighting.  They decorated for Christmas while we were on the ship. 

Next Cruise office:  We loved this mega ship so much that we booked a May 4,, 2019 sailing on the Symphony.  We’ll visit 3 ports we haven’t seen yet (St. Maarten, San Juan and Coco Cay).   We booked a Central Park Balcony on deck 12 for $2,175 (includes free lunch at Jamie’s and a bottle of wine) and a $200 OBC.  Sounded like a deal to me, but I’m new to Royal so what do I know :)    

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