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FIrst RC Cruise for us. Harmony of the Seas 12/2/18-12/9/18


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1 hour ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Enjoy @Andrew72681!  Harmony is a great ship!  My favourite so far.  ?

If a ship is good enough to be @Matt ‘s favorite it better be great. After three Carnival cruises when we were younger (and poorer) then 4 on Norwegian’s newer boats (Getaway and Escape with another planned on Encore right after its launch) we figured if we were going to try RCCL better to do it on one of the biggest. 

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The best laid plans never seem  to work out as planned. Rather than spending the week at home, had to travel out to Los Angeles from our home in DC for meetings this week. Now means I’ll be taking a red eye back and getting home Friday late morning then out on a 6:30 flight to Fort Lauderdale. I guess I’ll get to experience how the European travelers feel when they come in for a cruise. A amuse bouche of warmer weather is a plus though to get ready. 

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10 minutes ago, Andrew72681 said:

The best laid plans never seem  to work out as planned. Rather than spending the week at home, had to travel out to Los Angeles from our home in DC for meetings this week. Now means I’ll be taking a red eye back and getting home Friday late morning then out on a 6:30 flight to Fort Lauderdale. I guess I’ll get to experience how the European travelers feel when they come in for a cruise. A amuse bouche of warmer weather is a plus though to get ready. 

Ugh.  I feel for you.  I have done this a number of times due to biz travel and it makes for a rough start...but you will soon recover from the rushed travel b/c....YOU'RE ON A CRUISE !

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Intro blog


Booking and Stateroom

After deciding we wanted to take another cruise for my wife’s December birthday (we spent her last birthday on NCL’s Getaway) we examined our options again on NCL. The first week of December is ideal for cruise pricing and even though my eight year old daughter misses some school, we’ve always had great experience with teachers. Having done our last four cruises over there and holding onto a CruiseNext credit it seemed it would make the most sense. 

Around the same time MGM’s Mlife program sent out an offer made possible by their reciprocal benefits program with RCCL’s Club Royale. While being gold in MGM’s program gets a few benefits many are duplicated once you book a Suite, and I doubt I’ll ever make platinum and get the free annual cruise. 


After calling and getting quotes on a few different room types and ships we settled on the 12/2 Sailing of Harmony of the Seas. 

On Norwegian we’ve long been fans of their Mini-Suites with Large Balcony category for two main reasons, the extended balcony and more importantly the Full Size Shower. Knowing our history we knew the junior Suite would have to be the starting point for a room. 

While the grand and owners suites seem like fabulous rooms and have additional benefits, they didn’t seem like they would pay off as both were approximately 2k more than our junior Suite. The 7 night cruise including $175 on board credit for the three of us totaled $3799.08. 

The junior Suite did get us some benefits that would prove helpful, priority boarding is a big asset as I’m one to arrive to the port early. We also lucked out to get a junior Suite on “the hump” which would afford a slightly bigger balcony. The room location was right behind Central Park with no interior rooms on the other side of the hallway so would hopefully be pretty quiet. 

On 11/28 we received our very first “Royal Up” offer. As the first minimum bid to move from a junior to a grand suite was at least 800 we decided to keep our Junior suite and keep the money for the next time. 


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5 hours ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Eagerly anticipating the review !

The rooms on the hump are very nice.  The only complaint I have about them is that it's a very long walk to get there as you have to go all the way round "restaurant row" and then back again to get to your room.  It's truly a minor inconvenience and it is indeed very quiet.


Thanks. Hoping that the stateroom location is as quiet as our Mini Suite with large balcony on Norwegian Getaway. It also was behind restaurants so stayed quiet without interior staterooms nearby. 

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Day 1 Flight



Southwest 594

BWI-FLL 06:30-9:10

One of the fortunate benefits of frequent work travel and being based out of a Southwest Hub is that I maintain A-List Preferred and Companion Pass status with Southwest. As such, even if it’s not glorious we always fly southwest on vacation. With the companion pass, my wife flies for just the taxes and fees wherever I go. We used points for the remainder of the flights and free airfare is always a great start to a vacation. 

Unlike most Friday evenings in the DC area, traffic was a breeze and we were in the terminal with more than an hour to spare. Security was quite busy, but as a frequent traveler we have subscriptions to the Clear Service. We breezed through security in about two minutes to grab some dinner before boarding. 

Boarding began right on time on what was a completely full flight on a older Southwest 737-700. A first for me also, there were zero preboard wheel chairs on a flight to Florida. Normally they’re lined up like the starting line for a NASCAR Race waiting to board the plane. It made for a nice quick boarding process and the door was closed with plenty of time to spare. We took off right on time and we’re officially on our winter vacation. 

After a simple flight we landed on Fort Lauderdale almost half an hour early.

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9 minutes ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

We use Clear as well.  Worth every penny.  Since our home airport is DCA it comes in handy every single trip. Clear is not in every airport so sometimes we don't get to use it on the return but going out it is always nice.

Yeah, having it at all three of my local airports (BWI, IAD, and DCA) makes it a breeze. They’ve added it to FLL but at this time it’s only in terminal 2. 

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Pre-Cruise Hotel

While normally Marriott loyalists (yeah I know, probably time to change that card number after yesterday’s leak) as I stay in Hotels about 120 nights a year. But as I’ve already requalified for Marriott Platinum Premiere I’ve focused the back half of the year on Hyatt properties where available. 

We decided on the Hyatt Place 17th, but after some bad experiences with Similar properties, we moved fairly last minute to a fairly new looking Hyatt House. The Hyatt House is located only about two miles from the airport and as you have to navigate around the airport, it’s about 6 miles to port Everglades. 

Paid rates for the stay were in the 160 per night range, so redeeming points was the better option. Point rates are pretty low in this area as all the FLL properties cost the same 8,000 points per night. We booked our two night stay in a king suite. 



Check in was quick and friendly and we were on to our room in about two minutes. Breakfast is complementary at the property and even includes a fresh made omelette station for registered guests. 

The room was quite comfortable and the entertainment center made for a nice division between the living room and bedroom. My only complaint during our stay was the spotty housekeeping services. It took an hour the first night to get linens for the sofa bed and on our second day, we never got housekeeping at all. We were gone from 11-4 so there was plenty of time for service the room. A call downstairs for towels was made and they were delivered within 15 minutes.


To keep Addie busy the day before leaving we decided to go bowling. She had a great time bowling and playing games and best of yet it ate up a couple of hours. The highlight was definitely what looked like a hilarious mashup of a Duck, a Dalmatian, and a turkey. 

In what has become a precruise tradition we decided on hibachi for dinner. Normally as we’re on Norwegian we depart out of Port Miami. There’s a Benihana in Coral Gables where we meet up with friends who live in Miami. This time however they were out of town so we found a different Benihana closer to the hotel. The service and entertainment was good and the food was above average. The location over the water would definitely be a highlight if it wasn’t December and dark by 5pm








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30 minutes ago, Andrew72681 said:

We decided on the Hyatt Place 17th, but after some bad experiences with Similar properties

Hyatt Place on 17th St. is usually our go-to hotel when we cruise with our kids.  Funny you mentioned "bad experiences" because just a few days ago, I cancelled a booking there for another property as well.  Tomorrow's the day!  Enjoy ? 

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Embarkation Day 1

Port Everglades


We checked out of the Hyatt House at around 9:45. The hotel offers a shuttle, which online appears to be about 10 dollars a person. We’re not big fans of waiting through multiple stops and the loading and unloading of numerous bags, so we always just hop in an Uber or Lyft to get to the port. 

After our 23 dollar Uber ride to the port we were at the port by 10:10.  Check in was a breeze and by 10:20 we were in the suites departure area waiting to board. 



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 Boarding announcements were made at 10:40 that the ship was cleared for passengers. 

Upon walking in the first big difference from Norwegian was right in your face. Walking into the Royal Promenade rather than a tiny hallway makes a huge difference in perception of space. 

The promenade is huge with sprawling shops, guest services, and a litany of bars and restaurants. 

Since we had a jump on the crowd we decided to head up to the windjammer for lunch, which happened to be right as they were setting up for the busy embarkation day. Right up until we were about to leave our side was empty and very quiet. Service was friendly and there was always someone around if we needed another drink. 

As it was nearing noon we headed over to the Ultimate Abyss slide. The crew was just getting everything setup so we decided to hang out for the two minutes till opening. As such, we were able to be the first people on all week which Addie got a big kick out of. The slide was fun but I’ll need to go back on again with the GoPro on to take a video. 



We slid down to find a very crowded Boardwalk followed by an even busier Central Park area. I know many bestow the virtues of Park Cafe on Embarkation day but it was packed with people. 


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 the rooms were nearly ready and we were nearby we decided to just hang out in Dazzles for 15 minutes. Sure enough right at 1pm the stateroom hallways doors were open and we could get to our room. 


While comparable in category there are several places where the Royal Caribbean Junior Suite and Norwegian’s Mini Suite with large balcony diverge. 

Bathroom- even though the RC room has a tub/shower combo I have to give the category to Norwegian. The bathroom on Harmony felt kind of squished together (I know the interior room people are giving me dirty looks right now) and missing the second sink is a big thing when everyone is trying to get ready for dinner. 


Storage space- this one isn’t even close, the junior suite closet is as big as some New York City hotels I’ve been in. It did seem larger on YouTube videos though, so I guess instead of ten pounds, the camera adds 10 square feet. 

Room Layout- the extra walking space between the bed and the desk and on the side of the bed makes the room feel very spacious and you don’t feel like you’re constantly bumping your knee on the bed. 

Balcony- our Norwegian suites had not only the two chairs but also two loungers in case you wanted to sun on your balcony. On Harmony in a similar location the balcony was a little less deep, but still very serviceable



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Dinner night 1

Jamie’s Italian

We scheduled dinner at Jamie’s Italian for 6pm. The restaurant was nearly empty as I guess the thought that most people don’t pick specialty dining on the first night was certainly true tonight. Jamie’s was mostly empty, it was just us and four or five families. 

Our server Emron was the same server I had passed up dessert from earlier in the day at mini-bites. Oddly enough even though I didn’t remember him, he remember me and the whole exchange. That attention to detail would shine throughout the overall fantastic meal. 

The food was paced well and come out great from the bread basket to the Calamari to the crispy salmon. Emron even added an order of Truffle Tagliatelle as it’s one of his favorites.  

Overall between the three of us we tried the following 

Crispy Squid

Prosciutto with Melon

Kids spaghetti Bologese

Prawn Linguini with Salmon

Dry aged tenderloin with tagliatelle Bolognese

Truffle tagliatelle-compliments of the chef 

Epic Brownie 

Raspberry sorbet 



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After dinner at Jamie’s we rushed over to the Royal Theater for the production of Grease. I’ve never even seen the movie so I’m probably not a good judge of execution and storytelling for this one. It did seem to drag on pretty long for a cruise ship theatre show. 

There were also some very dicey humor in the show, so be aware if taking young children. Wasn’t expecting a “motor boating” reference to jump out. 

For being on a ship, the set production looked and sounded great. 



After heading off to bed in the cabin, Addie decided she was hungry so we agreed to head down to Sorrento’s for a quick slice. Apparently everyone else had that some thought as there was quite a line. 

While it won’t win any awards and won’t see pop up shops in NYC, it’s perfectly serviceable pizza for a cruise ship. It’s better than what you’d find in the Garden Cafe on Norwegian at Midnight. They move the line very quickly so don’t be afraid if it looks like the line stretches to the aft of the ship.

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Day 2

Sea Day

After running around all day yesterday the crew was tired and even Addie slept till 8:00. After getting a shower I have to make a revision to my room ratings from yesterday. It’s now a landslide in the bathroom department for NCL, the half door shower means they turned the water pressure down so far that you have to stand on the drain to get showered. 


As we got moving late we decided to try out the park cafe for breakfast and the girls tried a little bit of everything. Breakfast is already my least favorite meal and on a cruise ship it’s even more so as the pastries, bagels, and bread are all dull and taste alike. Also, not being an egg-eater most of breakfast is lost on me. 



At 10:30 the girls made their way over to Izumi for Sushi class. As I’m not a fan of Sushi I declined and sent them on their way. We’ll let Nikki guest blog on the live blog to discuss their experience. 


As I had skipped breakfast I was ready to eat when the girls came back to the room we decided on American Icon for lunch. Having eaten way too much last night and heading to Chops tonight I just had some chicken and rice from the buffet. The dessert assortment was bonkers for an afternoon weekday lunch. 

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After lunch Addie wanted to head to the face painting  and Ultimate Abyss slide.  Quick tip, before you head up there be sure to have shorts and a T-shirt on. Addie had on a tank top on so I went back down to grab her a T-shirt while they played some miniature golf. 

The slide was busier than yesterday but still on a five minute wait. The platform before the slide might have the best view on the whole boat with the unencumbered glass and the clear platform beneath your feet. This time even Nikki came along rather than meeting us down on six. 

The pool was the next thing on the agenda, but it was a bit windy so we spent most of the time in the hot-tub. We did make time for The Perfect Storm water slide which was really fun. I was worried about not making it around but went all the way around the funnel twice at what seemed like high speeds. 



Adventure ocean was having a family activity in the Science area which fit in perfectly before we left for dinner. Today’s active was a Volcano experiment. It was anticlimactic at best as rather than the kids creating a volcano an instructor did just one in the center of the room.

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As time for dinner was approaching we went back to get dressed and head over to Chops grille for dinner. Addie was hoping we could move dinner as Santa was coming to the royal promenade at the same time. We lucked out though as he was waiting for his sleigh (rising tide bar) at the same time as we walked by. 



Chops will probably become the quintessential cruise ship steakhouse when we think back. Everything was prepared well and delicious (excluding the Lobster Bisque which tasted more like walnut soups I’ve had)

We ordered the following dishes

Shrimp cocktail

Crispy bacon

Lobster bisque

Wedge salad

Filet Mignon

Kids roasted chicken

Everything was cooked to our liking and came at a great pace. We were heading off to the show in the Aquatheater so only had 90 minutes for dinner. The kids dish was outrageously large and while tasty was an absolute waste. 

Dessert was a letdown as the apple pie was bland and I’m not sure I’ve ever found an acceptable use for raisins. The girls were finished off their Key lime pie and we headed off to the show. 





The Fine Line

Before I start let me emphasize that I don’t think anyone can portray in words the uniqueness of the show, so I won’t try. It was crazy from the spinning dancing guy down to the last giant high dives. 

The show took a turn for the worse as we and numerous others noticed as we were leaving that the chairs had left grease spots all over suits and dresses. 

A visit to guests services ended up in them agreeing to clean the dresses and replace if they couldn’t be. My daughter was quite upset as they ruined a Nordstrom dress that had tags on it just three hours earlier. 


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On 12/3/2018 at 8:52 AM, Andrew72681 said:

While it won’t win any awards and won’t see pop up shops in NYC, it’s perfectly serviceable pizza for a cruise ship. It’s better than what you’d find in the Garden Cafe on Norwegian at Midnight. 

I found the pizza on the NCL Epic a year ago to be nearly inedible. I think the only pizza that was worse was a room service pizza we got once at Port Orleans French Quarter at Walt Disney World. Looking forward to some edible pizza on our first RC cruise in a couple of months. ?

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42 minutes ago, tdcackler said:

I found the pizza on the NCL Epic a year ago to be nearly inedible. I think the only pizza that was worse was a room service pizza we got once at Port Orleans French Quarter at Walt Disney World. Looking forward to some edible pizza on our first RC cruise in a couple of months. ?

Yes. It’s nowhere near inedible. Considering it’s pizza made by a concoction of nationalities which none of which are Italy it’ll do. And having had that same pizza on Getaway this time last year it’s much better than NCL

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5 hours ago, tiny260 said:

Get the molten chocolate cake with a side of vanilla ice cream.

I agree on the apple pie.

I could have missed it but didn’t see a molten chocolate cake. Compared to the dessert menus hosted on the site it seemed like a very pared down dessert menu of maybe five choices. 

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Day 3


Labadee, Haiti


We finally got moving today about 8:45 and decided rather than heading to the MDR as planned we would just grab something in Park cafe again. The convenience of it basically being on the other side of the hall (our room was behind the restaurants so you had to navigate all the way around them) made it a good choice. The girls stuck to the same options as yesterday and I just went with some cereal. 

After a quick bite it was time to head off the ship and visit Haiti for the first time. 

Exiting the ship was smoother than anything we’d experience before on Norwegian or Carnival. 

What caught me the most off guard was that there was an escalator, which I’d never seen before on a ship. Is this a common thing on RCCL ships?


Also while disembarking we walked past Captain Johnny’s Harley Davidson waiting to cruise around the next port. I’m guessing we holds his Callaway’s in the storage trailer. 


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Being away from the home port and off the boat we finally got a chance to get up next to the boat and get some clear pictures. 



After the Pier walk and walking through the makeshift village we wandered off to Adrenaline Beach where our beach bed was for the day. If you’re traveling with little ones or much older ones, be sure to wait for the tram as it’s a pretty long walk out there. The tram will drop you right off near the closest restaurant and restroom near adrenaline beach. 

Once we were signed in we got our choice of the available beach beds, as we didn’t rush over and took our time the first row of beds right on the beach we’re all taken (those come with two extra lounge chairs) so we wound up one row behind. 

All in All I found the beach bed to be a really good value, being able to get it at a slight discount was nice, but still would have been worth it at $175. 

It’s your own private space with is invaluable without having to shell out five to six hundred for the cabana. It comes with extra beach towels, six liters of Evian Water, two lounge floaters, and plenty of pillows to keep comfortable.


Once we settled in it was time to get in the water, and then it hit us that we had left the water shoes up in the room, and of course the water was full of sea weed and what seemed like exceedingly spiky rocks. 

I’ll just have to keep reminding myself that at home it’s thirty degrees and I’m relaxing in the tropics.


Nikki ordered a couple of Labdoozies but forgot all the lessons she’d been taught. She forgot to mention a regular cup so we of course were brought specialty cups and charged for them. 

After hanging out for the beach and one visit to the dragons tail coaster, we went back to the shuttle stop to catch the shuttle. It was quite warm so shuttling back was a very popular option. 

Boarding back on the ship is where we were hoping one of our Norwegian favorites would be there, refreshing cold towels to wipe off with before boarding the ship. Not to be found though, just another stop to scan SeaPass cards to return towels. Boarding was quite efficient, but that might be because we were a couple of hours before all aboard. 

With the ship still quiet, we went up to the pool area to take in the water slides while the lines were shorter. One plus of slides while in port is that the wind is almost non existent which can be a problem while cruising. 

Since we were early and the flowrider opened in 10 minutes we ventured over to wait in line before it opened. Be sure to bring your seapass cards the first time as you need them to be able to sign the waiver form. It was a good thing we got there first as by the time it opened the line was ten people deep. Addie and I booth did the boogie board side and it was hard work. Just trying to keep from wiping out is an effort in itself. I managed to jam my thumb on the way up at the end so that was the end of my illustrious Flowriding career for today. Addie went back twice more.










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After a quick shower we went up to Wonderland for Nikki’s birthday dinner. 

Walking in your supposed to be teleported to the land of Alice in Wondeland down to the uniforms of the service staff. 

Adventurous eater and Andrew have never gone together in a sentence before, so take everything I say with numerous grains of rice. 

Once seated it took quite a while to get menus and about 15 minutes to even get water as the restaurant was quite busy. 

Our server Pedro made it up to us throughout the meal with friendly and informative service, which is a must when nothing looks as it seems. 

Pedro went through the formalities of allergies and then asked that we “trust him” and all we had to choose was our main courses, which we went with all of the Earth options (Short Ribs, Pork Belly, and Chicken.)

Appetizers started coming out shortly thereafter which were perhaps a little bit too whimsical for me.

Liquid Lobster with caviar

Tuna Tartare with Lime sorbet

Barbecue chicken eggs

Shrimp Katafi



For entrees we had

Terroir Beef

Roasted Chicken 

Berkshire Pork Belly

The short ribs and chicken were both delicious. The pork belly was too fatty for us when you add in that it’s battered and deep fried. Pedro came back around and asked if there was anything else we’d like to try (some tables ordered tons more) and we ordered the Vegetable Garden as Addison was dying to try it. The “dirt” that was there before has now been replaced with Avocado purée. 


We were all stuffed by then but the entire reason for coming to Wonderland was the dessert course. We again left it in Pedro’s hands and trusted him. He brought out enough dessert to feed half the ship, including a special poison apple for Nikki’s birthday. The deserts were all delicious with the exception of the meringue and bourbon sorbet dish which didn’t work for us. The presentation of “The World” is all very over the top and frivolous. 


Pedro also informed us that even though we had prepaid full fare for Addison that he had refunded it and charged her the kids price of ten dollars. We settled up the tab and then headed of to Adventure ocean to drop off Addison and we thought head to the comedy show. 

We arrived almost ten minutes before showtime for the comedy show to find a packed house and not a seat to be had. Even with reservations we would have been standing in the corner at the back of the room. So we decided to skip it and head off to the casino. 

After picking up Addison we sat in Central Park listening to soft rock covers that I’m not sure most people even picked up on. At one point it was a John Tesh-Esqe cover of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters. After that it was time to get some rest for our Almost Sea Day at Falmouth Jamaica. 

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Just another quick note on birthday celebrations on a cruise. On Norwegian they kind of made the entire week Nikki’s birthday. They’d bring over special desserts, lots of champagne in the room, nearly constant birthday wishes. They brought over a birthday dessert, but we had to do the singing. Not even a TGIFridays style where other wait staff came over. Not a big deal but something I definitely noticed. 

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21 hours ago, Andrew72681 said:

I could have missed it but didn’t see a molten chocolate cake. Compared to the dessert menus hosted on the site it seemed like a very pared down dessert menu of maybe five choices. 

"Liquid center chocolate cake"

This is off one of the menu's from the Harmony, that was about a year old, so maybe they still have it.

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