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It was hard for me to walk anywhere onboard the world’s largest (and widest) cruise ship without becoming distracted.
Harmony of the Seas is the third of Royal Caribbean International’s line of Oasis-class ships, but it’s not cookie-cutter by any means. At the ship’s inauguration in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in November, company chairman and CEO Richard D. Fain explained how the line has made a number of improvements with this newbuild.
“The DNA may be the same, but we took the best ideas from recent ships, including the Quantum class, and used them here,” he said.
These features include Voom, dubbed the “fastest Internet at sea” (a statement I heartily agree with); robotic bartenders at Bionic Bar; Central Park; and many eco-friendly practices. In fact, Harmony is the most energy-efficient ship in its fleet — 20 percent more efficient than Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas. Similar to the company’s 16 other ships, it operates with a zero-waste philosophy, meaning there is no garbage headed to landfills; everything is either reused, recycled or responsibly incinerated.
Where to BeginMy biggest worry before boarding the 6,780-passenger Harmony was where to begin. My advice? Take it neighborhood by neighborhood. The Royal Promenade is the hub that connects the ship at its core, and I found it a great landmark from which to navigate.
“Despite it being the biggest cruise ship in the world, I never felt lost,” said Craig Hsu, vice president of travel agency Travel Design USA, Inc. “It is very well-organized, with plenty of advanced technology to guide you where you need to be.”
Photo booths in each neighborhood allow guests to take selfies, which they can instantly text or email themselves and share online. I had fun searching the #HarmonyoftheSeas hashtag to meet fellow travelers and learn more about the ship’s features.
Dieters BewareAs with any cruise ship, food plays a central role in the overall experience, and Harmony does not disappoint. Beyond the traditional buffets and dining rooms, there are several standouts, such as the Jamie Oliver hot spot Jamie’s Italian and 150 Central Park, a fine-dining restaurant with James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz at the helm. Although specialty dining carries a supplemental fee, reservations go quickly.
My other favorites included Wonderland, with its imaginative cuisine and eclectic flavors, which are described as “edible artistry on every dish”; Izumi’s teppanyaki dining and colorful sushi counter; and Chops Grill’s dry-aged steaks.
Adventure for All AgesThrill-seekers can head to the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea, which plunges 10 stories. Those looking for something tamer will love the Perfect Storm trio of water-slides, and little ones can enjoy an aqua park made just for them with water cannons, waterslides and a swinging bucket that drenches kids once it fills to capacity. There’s also the FlowRider surf simulator, as well as rock climbing, ziplining and Escape the Rubicon, where participants must solve various riddles to escape the entertaining chamber.
I was most impressed with AquaTheater, at the aft of the ship, which pairs music and dance with water features. Acrobats swing from cables hanging above, reminding me of a Cirque du Soleil performance. I recommend one of the balcony staterooms or suites that look directly into AquaTheater for a birds-eye view during shows.