At the beginning of this year, my hubs and I took a family vacation onboard Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. It was amazing to be out of the cold weather and in the blissful sunshine for a week! This was our third cruise, but our first with Royal Caribbean.
This was definitely the largest cruise ship we had been on. I believe we were told there were 6,410 guests on board + 2,200 crew members. Harmony of the Seas is currently the second largest cruise ship in the world (with Royal’s Symphony of the Seas taking the top spot).
We did a 7 Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise out of Fort Lauderdale. Here’s what we thought about it:
The port in Fort Lauderdale is actually huge. My hubs and I have cruised out of Miami previously, which is a smaller port, and I was surprised at the size of Fort Lauderdale’s. Despite its immense size, however, things worked like a well-oiled machine. Each ship’s terminal number was listed on a sign above the road right when you entered the port area, so all you had to do was follow the signs to that number. We chose to Uber from our hotel (cheaper than a cab and less hassle than the shuttle) and our driver had no issues getting in or getting around the terminal. We pulled right up to the front and our luggage was taken by the porters and we walked inside the building ready to board.
The lineup inside the terminal building seemed long, but it was constantly moving. The free wifi helped to pass the time, too. We weren’t in line for very long, and once we made it to the counter we had our photo taken for our Sea Pass cards (the cards used on the ship for pretty much everything) and then we literally just walked on the ship. (In this area there’s opportunities to take photos with different backdrops, buy lanyards and other small items, but I would suggest to just keep walking).
When you first walk in, you’re on Deck 5, and you actually forget you’re on a giant cruise ship. Here’s a breakdown of the main decks:
Deck 5 – Royal Promenade:
- One of the main decks you’ll want to familiarize yourself with.
- The main gift shop is on this deck. It also has a Kate Spade store, which tbh I thought was a bit random.
- Boot & Bonnet Pub is a great place for grabbing a nice, cold beer and people watching. In the evenings they had a guy with an acoustic guitar playing all the “acoustic guitar pub classics.”
- Sorrentos Pizza not only serves good pizza, but they are open late so you’re in the mood for a late-night snack, make sure to check it out.
- Cafe Promenade offers complimentary coffee (regular and decaf) and tea (black and herbal). It’s open 24/7. They also serve small sandwiches (GF options) and dessert bites (my hubs loved the cheesecake squares). If you’re in the mood for any type of latte or speciality coffee, those come with an added charge.
- This deck is also where you’ll go if you need Guest Services or to book any shore excursions.
Deck 6 – the Boardwalk
- Most important – this deck has the Starbucks! It’s not free though, and tbh when you’re swiping your Sea Pass card it’s hard to keep track of the cost.
- There’s a couple of speciality restaurants in this area
- The aquatheathre is located at the back of the ship
- At the front of deck 6 is the gym and spa. The gym was the largest gym we’ve seen on a cruise ship. It was busy at 7:30AM. There’s also a running/walking track on the outside.
- The Schooner Bar was a favourite of ours. They hosted music trivia at 8PM most nights.
Deck 8 – Central Park
- I was so excited to check out Central Park when we got onboard. I absolutely loved walking through the greenery and admiring the plants. At night they played cricket sounds!
- There are more speciality restaurants on this deck. We did not dine at any of them.
- Park Cafe is a complimentary restaurant serving fresh-made salads and sandwiches.
- The Rising Tides bar starts from Deck 5 and slowly rises to Deck 8 and back down. My hubs and I grabbed a couple drinks on this bar. It’s quite small, so finding a seat can by tricky… BUT they did offer glasses of Moet, so who am I to complain?
Deck 15 – the Lido Deck
- Yup, this is it. There are 3 pools, one is 16+, waterslides and the kid’s waterpark area. There are a ton of lounge chairs, a couple bars in the middle and a couple self-serve ice cream machines.
- The Solarium was a favourite spot of ours. It’s 16+ and offers lounge chairs, day beds, hot tubs and a mist/sprinkler area to cool off. The roof is open, but there’s sun shade from the overhead slats. The Solarium Bistro is a great spot for lunch, serving (slightly) healthier options than the main buffet
- This is deck you’ll probably spend most of your time when the ship is at sea.
Deck 16 – the Windjammer Marketplace
- The buffet is on this deck, so you’ll want to remember that. It was pretty much always busy and there were even announcements to ask people who have finished eating to leave to let others sit. The food was good. No complaints.
As with all cruise ships, there are areas you will likely never get to or only get to once. I’m sure the speciality restaurants were great, but we chose to eat at the main dining area.
Ports of Call:
We did not book any shore excursions. In my experience they are expensive and I quite enjoy wandering at my own pace.
- Philipsburg, St. Maarten
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Labadee, Haiti (Royal Caribbean’s private area)
In Philipsburg you can take a water taxi to the main area. There’s some shopping, restaurants/bars and a beach area. There’s a cost of rent a lounger and umbrella. It was a great and easy day.
San Juan was my favourite! I would go back there in a second. The people were so friendly and nice and willing to help us locate places on our maps (TIP: you’ll get a map from the ship as you leave, but it’s less than helpful. We found a nearby Starbucks and they provided complimentary tourist maps… with actual street names. I would suggest grabbing once of those). The buildings were beautiful and each one was a different colour. The streets were cobblestone and definitely had that Spanish-Euro feel.
Labadee, Haiti. OK, I wasn’t sure how to feel about this port initially. I knew that Royal Caribbean purchased a section of Haiti, and my first thought was, “yeah, but how much of that money actually went back to help the country of Haiti?” I still don’t know the answer and you’re so far away from any town or city, it’s hard to tell. Labadee was the only place I swam in the ocean and I loved it for that! There was a cool little floating bar my hubs and I swam to a couple times for some Corona’s. We did rent two loungers and a clam shell umbrella for $48 USD. It was worth it. Lunch was provided; it was a BBQ buffet and was really good. We spent the day lounging, soaking up the sun and swimming in the sea.
Things to remember:
- Your food in free, the alcohol is not. There are drink packages available to purchase at a cost of $66 USD/day + 18% gratuity. Everyone over the age of 21 in your cabin has to purchase it (it’s either everyone gets it, or no one does). We did not purchase the drink package. To us it’s not worth it and kind of a waste of money.
- Every purchase onboard has an additional 18% gratuity added. I’m really hoping it makes its way to the staff & crew.
- Main Dining – if you choose to eat at the main dining for dinner, you’ll be seated at the same table with the same wait staff. They get to know you and you get to know them. It’s a great experience and feels much more personalized than the buffet. I should mention that your dinner is at the same time every night.
- There’s no wifi on the ship unless to pay $20 USD/day and there’s likely 18% gratuity added on top of that. We felt that wasn’t worth it, plus it’s really nice to be disconnected for a week (iMessages went through, though, so you could still connect with family onboard).
Overall, this was a beautiful ship. The staff and crew were incredibly friendly and always willing to help out. There were some activities going on during the day (though not as many as I would have thought). The nightlife was a bit lacking, it also started at around 11PM, and we found that disappointing. We also felt that there was an extra charge for everything and that added up. It was great to be travelling with family, making memories and sharing laughs, but we don’t see ourselves booking another Royal Caribbean cruise anytime soon.
We all felt the motion of this cruise ship. It wasn’t enough to make anyone sea sick (although we did witness some sea sick guests), but we felt it everyday. One thought was because the ship is almost hollow in the middle, to allow of the inside balconies, but we’re not sure.