First Look: Harmony of the Seas

First Look: Harmony of the Seas

A sneak peek at Royal Caribbean’s newest, and biggest, cruise ship By: Mindy Poder
<p>Vicki Freed explores the construction site. // © 2016 Mindy Poder</p><p>Feature image (above): A rendering of the world’s biggest ship, featuring...

Vicki Freed explores the construction site. // © 2016 Mindy Poder

Feature image (above): A rendering of the world’s biggest ship, featuring the Ultimate Abyss double slides // © 2016 Royal Caribbean International

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The Details

Royal Caribbean International

Passengers on Harmony of the Seas might consider creating a new morning ritual.

It involves climbing to the top of the ship on Deck 16, looking down some 150 feet toward the ocean, taking a deep breath and descending 10 floors at a speed of 9 miles per hour on the tallest slide on the high seas. The Ultimate Abyss slide delivers you right to Deck 6’s Boardwalk neighborhood, home to the ship’s Starbucks — if you need another morning jolt.

Even Michael Bayley, CEO and president of Royal Caribbean International, is excited about the Ultimate Abyss. Indeed, the slide is an apt symbol for Harmony, which aims to be bigger, better and more thrilling than any ship sailing today.

During a February media preview of Harmony at STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, I watched as construction workers continued what has been at least two years of hard work, valued by executives at north of $1 billion. At 1,187 feet long and 218 feet wide, Harmony will be able to host a total of 6,410 guests and will encompass 16 guest decks, 227,000 gross registered tons and 2,747 staterooms.

But agents need not be intimidated. They will recognize the Oasis-class’ seven neighborhoods and favorite features from Quantum-class ships. And they’ll find it easy to sell the ship’s brand-new experiences, such as the Splashaway Bay interactive waterpark and Perfect Storm, a twisting trio of water-slides. While the little ones splash around, adults can work out at the brand-new “fresh and fit pod” for outdoor, oceanside exercise. Those who would rather engage their gray matter will be happy to learn that the ship will feature the first space dedicated to Puzzle Break, a popular audience participation game.

“Set designers from Los Angeles who designed Beyonce’s next tour are building a custom space to escape from,” said Nick Weir, vice president of entertainment for Royal Caribbean.

Weir is also excited for new shows at Harmony’s Royal Theater, including “Grease,” which will feature aerial elements, and “Columbus, The Musical!,” created exclusively for the line. At Studio B’s ice stage, new performances include Parisian-themed “1887” and freewheeling “iSkate Showcase.” AquaTheater will also offer original programming such as the “Hideaway Heist” mystery show and “The Fine Line,” a must-see for its newly launched dynamic aerial performances.

“We do ‘big’ very well, but you can create a special piece of magic if you can entertain people one by one,” Weir said. “We have a mobile piano we built ourselves, and it can fit in every space imaginable.”

The best aspect of the ship for some might involve eating and drinking at as many new venues as possible. The high-energy Bionic Bar from Quantum-class ships will replace the Oasis-class Champagne Bar, offering new cocktails, a DJ spinning tunes and cocktail-slinging robots that have improved since their launch. Robots have become more intuitive and will make drinks in fewer steps, according to John Sully, vice president of food and beverage operations for Royal Caribbean.

Fans of Wonderland’s imaginative “post-modern style of cooking” will be delighted to find that the Quantum-class favorite has evolved into a two-story venue with increased seating for 98 diners and its own bar. Among other dining highlights, Jamie’s Italian will replace Giovanni’s Table, and each floor of the three-story Main Dining Room will have its own unique design.

“Two of three decks will feature My Family Time Dining — it used to be one,” said Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and service for Royal Caribbean. “Millennials and families want that.”

Families will also benefit from generally larger staterooms thanks to Quantum-class design.

Freed highly recommends the new Royal Suite Class, which launches in May on Oasis- and Quantum-class ships and includes exclusive access to Coastal Kitchen. Top-tier Star Class Suites include Royal Genies or, as Freed refers to them, “butlers on steroids.” Freed tested out the new British Butler Institute-certified genies on Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso. According to Freed, Upchurch defined the difference like this: “The butler is assigned to a room; the Genie was assigned to my family.”

All Harmony passengers will find it easier to customize their experience with the ship’s expansive menu of food and fun options. There will even be a new, large seated area on the Royal Promenade dedicated to booking excursions — you know, in case guests might want to leave the ship for some reason.