Following last weekends trip with my family on the pre-inaugral launch of the largest cruise ship in the world, I wanted to write a post that covered what the newly launched ship Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas has to offer, for families looking to holiday on a cruise ship. Whether new to the world of cruising or a seasoned lover of life at sea, cruising is an ever evolving way to vacation. It has to appeal to many different markets, nationalities and ages, and their expectations change too. I was intrigued to see how the newest ship in the Royal Caribbean collection would appeal to my family and I.
The Harmony of the Seas boasts being as long the Eiffel tower is tall, has 23 swimming pools with more than 20 dining options for you to try. Yes it is big, but I view this as a huge positive, it has so much to offer. You and the children aren’t going to ever get bored, in fact I’m not sure after a two-week holiday you could actually do everything available!
I apologise in advance, this is going to be a long post, as there is a lot of ground to cover, but I thought from a family perspective it was important to cover as many of the bases, if I could.
I think first of all I need to point out that this trip was (unfortunately) not in a tropical sea somewhere, but just off the coast of Southampton, and the weather was for the most part, fairly grim. So many of the outside activities we weren’t able to test, like the water slides and children’s pools. Usually though this type of ship would be found in much sunnier climes though. We did however feel like we experienced a hell of a lot in the two days we were on board.
There are many different styles of room available, the best thing is to look on the RC website to find the right one, at the budget you can afford. We were allocated a superior ocean view stateroom, two twin beds that convert to Royal King, private balcony, sitting area, and a private bathroom. (182 sq. ft. Balcony 50 to 80 sq. ft.) Accessible Staterooms: 272 sq. ft. Balcony 80 sq. ft. Our seating area could be converted into two additional beds, so was for up to two adults and two children.
Of course due to exhaustion, this may happen!
Having been on a few cruises now (and even though you don’t really spend any great length of time at all in your room) the one thing I would recommend is a room with a view of the sea outside and/or a balcony. There is honestly nothing more pleasurable than opening the curtains to a new port, view or destination in the morning. It one of those heart skipping moments! Virtual balconies (I know, cool huh?) are also available, which shows you exactly the same real-time vista too.
It wasn’t a huge room, long and slender in size, but it had everything that we needed. The sitting area had a sofa which was converted every evening (by your room attendant) into two beds. I think you can actually see the pull out section in the above photograph of the sofa. What came as a very welcome surprise, was that these were separate beds (they were joined but at different levels) a great touch and something that really helps with arguments when you are sharing a room with two children!
There was a TV, phone and a refrigerator in the room too, as well as lots of drawers, two wardrobes (with an abundance of wooden hangers) a safe, and extra bedding and pillows. It felt cosy, and definitely was a very comfortable room to stay in.
The bathroom was well equipped. They definitely had considered storage with different options of shelving. With 4 people using one facility, including a teenager, this was very welcome. The shower (seen in the mirror) was powerful, quite high (my husband is 6ft 5) easy to use and actually fairly roomy. Well thought out I thought, as if you have young children you may need to shower with them, as there is no bath.
The main bed, pillows and mattress was incredibly comfortable, but I always sleep well on a cruise ship, I think they rock you to sleep gently at night, even if you can’t feel it.
Security and safety are definitely at the forefront of Royal Caribbean’s mind, especially when it comes to children. Anyone who has cruised before will be familiar with ‘muster’, a time when everyone gets to learn more about the safety procedures on board. Any child under the age of 11 were also given a special wrist band at this point. All of this is explained to you in detail.
Each child also can have a card (the adults have them too) which enables them to get into their room. It’s up to you as a parent whether they do in fact use this. My youngest daughter (7) thought this was a great idea, and though she was always with us, she ended up being in charge of getting into the stateroom. I think the cards can also be loaded with money, or a daily limit (cash is not something used when you are cruising generally) for extras, making them more independent. I can imagine this would work really well for an older child or teenager. The card as well as having the muster location on it, has the room but not the deck number on it too, again great for safety if this is lost during your stay.
As I mentioned previously the weather wasn’t ideal for outdoor water fun, but did spend some time looking at the facilities. We even spotted some crazy people using the hot tubs!
We especially loved the look of the Perfect Storm a trio of water slides and Splashaway Bay which is an interactive aqua park suitable for young children and toddlers. It has sea creature water cannons, winding slides, a gigantic drench bucket and
a multi-platform jungle-gym to keep them entertained for hours.
The Harmony of the Seas entertainment areas are divided into 7 neighbourhoods, and you soon get used to what is where because of this. There is amongst them a Pool and Sports Zone, Boardwalk, Central Park, Royal Promenade, Youth Zone, Entertainment Place, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Centre. I’m going to cover a few of these in more detail, especially ones I feel were well suited to families.
Pool and Sports Zone – Deck 15
The first day (when the weather was good ) we spent most of our time in the day here. There are two surfboarding simulators, a zipline as well as pools and water slides. We had a family game of table tennis, basket ball and football using the sports court. We also had a go on the nine-hole miniature golf course.
The Ultimate Abyss entrance is also found in this area, which both Nia (13) and my husband couldn’t wait to go on. As my youngest daughter and I went down in the lift the 10 stories below, I’ve got to say I was in two minds whether I should have tested out the Ultimate Abyss myself, but by the time we were met with the screams and faces of both of them 5 minutes later, I was very pleased I didn’t. I’m not sure I was up for that much action! They both loved the thrill of it, and I think were surprised quite how exhilarating it was.
This was definitely my youngest daughters favourite area. Its inspired by English seaside piers and US boardwalks of old. It’s definitely a neighbourhood for all the family, with places to eat and play.
The Carousel – A (7) went on this maybe 1,000 times!
The Boardwalk is a fun place to grab more casual food. We enjoyed a hot dog at the stand, and visited the infamous Johnny Rockets too. They make the best burgers and milkshakes, and the people working there not only greet you as if you were a friend, damn they can really shake their bootie to the music!
Also in this neighbourhood is the AquaTheater, perfect for family entertainment. It’s an amphitheater-style entertainment space. Water and light shows, professional aquatic acrobatic and
synchronized swimming performances amongst them. We didn’t get to see a show, as it wasn’t in action yet, but I have watched this on another ship and its definitely something not to miss. You can also climb one of two 43 feet tall rock climbing walls that flank the Aqua theatre. Or for the little ones, there is a smaller wall to climb.
There are amazing childcare facilities on board of all of the Royal Caribbean ships. I was actually surprised by just how big the Youth Zone was, home to the award-winning Adventure Ocean youth program. Each of the age groups have their own dedicated space:
- Royal Babies and Tots, 6 months to 2 years
- Aquanauts, ages 3 to 5
- Explorers, ages 6 to 8
- Voyagers ages 9 to 11.
Royal Babies and Royal Tots is the cruise line’s nursery for infants and toddlers (six months or older). This colorful space serves as a fully-staffed nursery where children can be left in the care of Royal Caribbean’s trained professionals, and also is the venue for various playgroups for babies and tots.
Open daily, the nursery offers parents childcare drop-off options in the daytime
and evening, carefully maintaining an optimum staff-to-child ratio.
How about this, a cinema too :
The teens are not forgotten as there are also teen-only spaces, a Fuel Disco and The Living Room, and an outdoor deck area. We didn’t get to take any photographs of this area, as it was being used as a press room, but Nia thought it was a cool area, and you know how difficult teenagers are to impress.
Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center
My eldest daughter Nia is very into keeping fit, and so took full advantage of all of the facilities. Using the running machines and a crazy step machine, I’ve never seen before too. We did sneak down to check out what she was up to and caught her practising her cheer moves.
We did feel really happy to let Nia do things independently, and she wandered around on her own, and Facetimed her friends to show them what she was up to. There is high speed internet on board ZOOM, and this can be purchased as a package. Again for a teenager (and a blogger Mum) who doesn’t like been away from social media for long, we were really impressed with how fast it was, and how well it worked.
In this area there is even a spa dedicated to kids and teens called Yspa, in which to enjoy specially catered services.
Well we were spoilt for choice when it came to evening entertainment. We got to see the first ever public performance of the an all-new, never before-seen stage production of the musical Grease specially adapted by Royal Caribbean Productions.
It was an epic show, and we all loved it! The film happens to be a family favourite, so to see it performed live for the first time was amazing. It could in no way be described anything other than perfection. It was incredibly professional, very funny and the music was fabulous.
We also visited Studio B to see 1887, an original Royal Caribbean
ice skating production about love and adventure that begins in Paris on February 14, 1887 . I was a little unsure about the show before going, and I didn’t really think it would hold both of my daughters attention. I was so wrong!
Halfway through the show we were also treated to someone the girls affectionately named ‘the bubble man’ I loved him, but also was quite drawn to his white Doc Martins!
It was a great show, it always surprises me quite how professional shows of this kind are on a cruise ship. We also caught the 90s Street Party, perfect for adult and children, as the music, costumes and dancing got everyone in the mood for a party!
With over 20 dining options, you are sure to find something that suits you as a family, and I’m very aware not everyone likes the same thing. We tried more casual dining in places such as Windjammer which is a buffet style, more formal dining too in The Grande Restaurant. Quite how they delivered the food so hot, tasty and quickly is beyond me, as it was very busy especially in the evenings.
We were able to order more child friendly options, even in the formal dining areas with no issue too. We all know how children can love pasta, but if there is a mushroom within 20 miles of it, refuse to eat it, well the staff were very happy to oblige tweaks of the menu.
They also both became addicted to the Pina Colada mocktail!
There are more speciality restaurants available, but its hard to recommend what would work for other families. There is everything from sushi at Izumi Hibachi and pasta at Jamie’s Itallian. The place I would love to try next time is Wonderland!
Inbetween all of the fixed things that happen around Harmony of the Seas there are also other activities that be enjoyed together as a family that change daily. You find out what these are from the Cruise Compass (a magazine) that’s delivered to your room each day.
Like meeting Dreamworks characters:
Of course with so much to do, it can get a little confusing, so I would recommend the Royal IQ app, so you can check what’s happening at any given time. You don’t even need to be connected to the internet for it to work. Use this to book your shore excursions, reserve your evening entertainment, manage your dining reservations, schedule your times for onboard activities, and change existing reservations. You can do this for yourself or for all the members of your family, with just a few taps of Royal iQ, it’s done.
This is the first time we have cruised as a family, I know it definitely won’t be the last. I think overall I would say its a great way to vacation as a family, and cruising makes the perfect multi generational holiday as there really is something for everyone!
In order to write honestly about the new Harmony of the Seas ship, we were invited to join the pre-inaugural cruise for two nights as a family.
I’ve since writing this post, read some quite disparaging comments and press about the Harmony of the Seas from people who were onboard the same weekend as we us. It did make me wonder if we were on the same cruise. Yes there was very minor teething problems, but this was its first outing. Workman about putting the finishing touches to some areas for example, but you could really tell the care and attention they were putting into it in order to get the ship completed. I think I’d prefer that to a slapdash approach.