Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas is the world’s largest cruise ship – we stepped on board for a weekend.
Saturday is cruise ship change-over day in Southampton. I enjoy sailing, so I‘m often sitting in Cowes on the Isle of Wight on a Saturday afternoon watching a procession of these awe-inspiring nautical behemoths sailing at a stately pace down Southampton Water and the eastern Solent, and I have wondered what life is like onboard. The ships seem to get larger each time you see them, so I was looking forward to the chance to experience the newest and largest of the breed on her pre-inaugural voyage.
The Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of The Seas Experience
Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas is impressively huge. At 1,188 feet long, she is longer than either the Shard or the Eiffel Tower are high, and at 226,963 gross tons she is the largest cruise ship in the world. Standing on the dock just before boarding is awe-inspiring in the truest sense. Larger than most buildings, she stretches out in all directions; it’s barely believable that she’s a ship. Once onboard, we were first immediately struck by the lengths of the corridor we were walking down to find our cabin. It’s quite a stroll.
The cabin was very comfortable, with bed, sofa, desk, self-contained bathroom, two good sized cupboards as well as a drawer unit, dressing table/desk and was with an outward facing balcony, which I quickly found was one of my favourite areas. There is something hypnotic about watching the sea roll past, but as we were still in Southampton that had to wait, and we started to explore.
You can’t really say it enough: the ship is HUGE! There were plenty of spaces we didn’t find, but too see as much as possible we started at the top and worked down. There are two large atriums forward and aft, giving the option for cabins with window and balcony viewing over the atriums. Right at the top are the large lounging areas for basking in the sun, together with the first of the play areas: a splashing area for children, crazy golf, powered surf waves, basketball court, table tennis tables, swimming pools (23 in total), bars and the three large water slides.
There are two ways off this level: the normal one via one of the lifts or flights of stairs, or the quicker route down ten stories by slide. It was one of the things that really raised my eyebrows when I heard about it. “A 10 story slide? On a ship? Really?”, but yes, it’s really there, called “The Ultimate Abyss”, so I had to give it a go. The top is designed to thrill.
At the very aft end of the ship, up some stairs into the mouth of a giant fish, you’re faced with the first test of a glass floor looking a very long way down; not easy for those who don’t like heights. From there, you step onto your mat placed in the slide tube before a final wave, or nervous gulp depending, and off you go. Y
ou spiral down, turning three and a quarter times in the dark tunnel, (there are a couple of sections with lights), speeding down at about 22mph, but it feels a lot faster. Really great fun; I should have had more goes.
It drops you out on the Boardwalk on deck six, between a Johnny Rockets burger bar and the Sabor taquería and tequila bar.
In another slightly surreal moment, just forwards of this is a full sized merry-go-round, and behind you is a high diving pool with amphitheater seating for diving shows, were the balcony of the Royal suites get a stunning view, as well as climbing walls to cater for all abilities.
Pass forwards, and up a couple of decks, and you find yourself in the forward atrium – called Central Park. I was again astonished to see trees and extensive planting in this area: no fewer than 10,000 different plants onboard, apparently.
Surrounding this greenery are a number of different restaurants including a branch of Jamie’s Italian, a wine bar and three more restaurants that give you a choice from the main dining room, as well as the Rising Tide Bar that lifts you up in style from the Royal Promenade 3 decks below.
Looking up you can see the tubes of the Perfect Storm trio of water slides several decks above, as well as the zip wire.
There are plenty of other places to eat onboard – as well as a total of eight speciality restaurants, like Jamie’s Italian, there’s the huge, three floored main dining room and the buffer Windjammer Marketplace on the sixteenth deck.
We tried breakfast in the main dining room, where there’s a choice between a la carte waited service, or a self-serve buffet. Choices are extensive, and as you would imagine, are very similar to a large hotel. We also ate in the main dining room on our one evening onboard; the food was well presented and cooked but perhaps lacked inspiration, being based around more straightforward steak/chicken/fish dishes.
It’s hardly surprising, given that the brigade has to cook for two sittings of the entire dining room of 2000-odd people and get them in and out in the space of 2 hours.
We enjoyed the buffet offerings at the Windjammer. There was a huge choice, and we were really impressed with the quality of offering such as roast beef brisket, a range of casserole dishes, world food – pizza, burgers, curries and a burrito bar, salads, good looking breads, desserts from sinfully cream filled to healthier fruit.
The Wonderland restaurant is the most upmarket venue onboard, and we’ll be posting our thoughts about it later.
And after dinner, if the ship’s at sea, there’s still things to do as well as visit one of the many bars, clubs or casino. Not only is there a large theatre onboard, where we saw a production of Grease, but also an ice rink with a nightly show.
By the time we got to the ice rink, we were beyond shockable about the facilities onboard, but now we’re back on dry land, it still strikes us as unbelievable.
After the show we ambled along the Royal Promenade, listened to live music, and had a drink from the Bionic Bar, where your drink is made by a robot – order from a touch screen, watch your drink being made, and then delivered on a mini conveyor – completely mesmerising watching the robots dance around.
Having sat on that lawn in Cowes, I can now say that I know what it is like onboard. As an aside, one of the activities I found most interesting, as a sailor, was a trip to see the bridge. I was aware that ships this size require few crew, but it was still eye opening to hear that the normal manning level was for three people on the bridge: two officers and a lookout.
It was a real high tech cave, with dark surfaces everywhere to reduce glare and reflections at night, and myriad screens for navigation, radar, and monitoring shipboard functions. The one thing that was much smaller than might be expected was the wheel.
With most of the steering being done by autopilot, the ship is only steered by hand when coming in and leaving port. And the manoeuvrability of the ship was impressive: she is equipped with steerable pods, rather than propeller shafts and rudders, and can turn in her own length.
(Gym with a view, running track, spa, children’s clubs and escape room game)
Cruising is something that is a little Marmite-esque in a love it or hate it way. Yes, the ship is huge, and consequently you are surrounded by people, but I did feel that it’s perfectly possible to find a quiet corner.
I can see that for taking a whole family on holiday – all generations together – it could work very well indeed, with activities for all ages, Royal Caribbean is a family orientated business. Facilities for children looked excellent, with supervised play areas split by age as well as spaces for teenagers.
The comparisons with floating hotels are appropriate, but the advantage of a cruise ship is that your hotel has moved overnight, and there’s a new city to explore on your doorstep each morning.
Harmony is undoubtedly a fine and hot weather ship, best enjoyed in the warmth of the Caribbean or Mediterranean, rather than the rain of the English channel at the end of May.
We were the guests of Royal Caribbean on Harmony of The Seas. All opinions our own.
Harmony of the Seas is currently very popular, a 7 night cruise in a stateroom with a balcony costs around £1,300pp.
Dean of Little Steps
Wow, that looks really luxurious! I’m not that keen on cruises, but this is something else isn’t it? Maybe it’s not so bad after all? ;)
There are so many different cruise companies that I am sure that everyone can find one to suit them.
Wow the boat looks amazing such a luxury looking place. I’d love to go on a cruise and experience what its like.
It was such an experience. The sheer scale was breathtaking.
What an awe inspiring ship. I’m wondering if you screamed on your way down that slide like I do when at the local swimming pool – or is that just me LOL?:-)
I did not dare go down the slide because of my knee, Ed loved it however.
Eileen | The Food Avenue
This cruise looks amazing! Doesn’t look like you’d be short of recreational activities!!
There was so much going on. No excuse for boredom.
Wow, such a great insight into cruising. Looks like my kind of thing!
I can see why people get addicted to it, you can visit lots of places and there is no need for all that packing and unpacking.
This looks totally amazing and until seeing this I have never contemplated a cruise before, it seems to have everything you could need.
It is not for everyone, but there are so many cruise companies that everyone can find one that fits. Royal Caribbean is very family orientated and very child friendly.
Kim @ Three Olives Branch
Food on a cruise ship seems to always be a struggle. They have to meet the preference and needs of so many people it is difficult to find amazing food. I have noticed that some cruise ships are much better than others. The last one I went on was HORRIBLE and I will not be cruising with that line again. But I have found Royal Caribbean typically does a pretty good job at it.
I’ve only been on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, and was spoilt with the speciality dining both times. However the buffet on both was actually excellent quality.
Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy
I still can’t get over how big this ship is and that’s just from looking at it. I bet it is even harder to get your head around when you are actually on it.
It was immense, but it is actually smaller once you are on it as so much is non public space.
Becca @ Amuse Your Bouche
Wow that cabin looks nothing like the ferry cabins I was used to as a kid – looks like a full-blown hotel! So impressive.
It is an entire floating resort. Very impressive. The engineering boggles my mind.
Wow, it’s even more impressive on the inside – thanks for the look around.
It was amazingly impressive!
It looks fabulous, I know my boys would adore that climbing wall and the slides. I cannot wait to try our first cruise in the summer
This ship is designed for families. You will have a fantastic time on your cruise.
Emma @ Supper in the suburbs
Cruises have never really appealed to me but I think the sheer size and magnitude of this ship is a must see. Sometimes seeing is believing after all :-)
I think that there is a cruise ship for everyone, all the operators are very different.
Fashion and Style Police
Wow this must have been an amazing experience. Sounds impressive.
It was so impressive.
Ana De- Jesus
You weren’t kidding when you said the cruise ship was huge, it looks amazing and I love that there is a wide variety of restaurants that cater to different tastes.
It is massive, but paradoxically smaller on that off as so much of the ship not a public area
I am fascinated because of the sheer size of the ship, the things that are on board just wows me, but the thought of sailing and being on one terrifies me x
You almost do not know you are on a ship as it is so big. It also has stabilisers so there is barely any motion from side to side.
I am finding it hard to believe its a cruise ship but it actually is. Its so huge and spacious. The bed is so big, you don’t see that often on most cruise ships
Our stateroom was like a posh hotel room. Lovely and comfortable.
Wow that looks amazing and all the activities and things to see sounds like you need a few weeks just to explore the ship. I’ve never been on a ship before with our little ones it’s not possible at the moment but maybe when they are older.
and once done with exploring it is a really good opportunity to sit and do nothing for a while to recharge.
Omg is soooo big, i always wanted to go on cruise it looks absolutely amazing.It doesnt even look like cruise ship more like a hotel. x
It is an entire resort, on a ship!