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Harmony of the Seas cruise ship review interior photos
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42 Hours on Harmony of the Seas
Back in the early eighties I sailed on the iconic 70,000 ton Norway, at that time the largest cruise ship in the world. And now, thirty years later, I am about to embark on a ship that is three times larger than Norway. It is in Barcelona on June 5, 2016 that I first lay eyes on the biggest of them all: Royal Caribbean International's 226,963 ton Harmony of the Seas. There she is, looking extremely powerful. And rather enormous. Since this is the ship's first call at Barcelona, I had expected mayhem at check in but no such thing. The terminal is strangely quiet and the high-tech mobile check-in works like a dream. Within 10 minutes we have passed security and are off to the gangway to sample Harmony of the Seas during a short two-night sample cruise. Having sailed on many, many cruise ships and personally favoring the smaller vessels, I am extremely curious to find out what it is like to cruise on a floating city. So let's not wait any longer. Welcome on board Harmony of the Seas!
Harmony of the Seas docked in Barcelona
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First impressions are important. Harmony of the Seas delivers the wow as soon as you enter the ship in its social heart, the huge skylit Royal Promenade. From there, any of the 24 guest elevators will whisk you up to your living quarters. It is all remarkably similar to entering a large luxury resort on land.
Harmony of the Seas in Barcelona, Spain Harmony of the Seas elevator lobby Harmony of the Seas cabin corridor Harmony of the Seas Junior Suite Harmony of the Seas Junior Suite Bathroom
On a ship of this size, you have a choice of accommodation. Staterooms vary from basic inside to lavish split-level Loft Suites and AquaTheater suites overlooking the theater. All in all, Harmony of the Seas has more than 40 cabin categories. I was able to inspect a few staterooms and suites but it is virtually impossible to describe them here. Most impressive are the suites, which now enjoy "Royal Suite Class" service, with dedicated amenities like lounges, restaurants and concierge service. Up on the 18th deck there is a luxury oasis that most guests will never see. It is there that you will find the much talked about duplex suites which are simply stunning. Done in a modern hotel-like style, these suites come equipped with oversized bathrooms, huge balconies with jacuzzi, multiple bedrooms and what not. Meals can be served in the exclusive Coastal Kitchen Restaurant that offers suite guests a sweeping view of the floating city below.
Harmony of the Seas AquaTheatre Suite
Harmony of the Seas cabin corridor Harmony of the Seas Sky Loft Suite with Balcony Harmony of the Seas view of the AquaTheatre from AquaTheatre Suite Harmony of the Seas Grand Suite Living Room Harmony of the Seas Grand Suite Bedroom
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If you have ever been to Las Vegas, you will have noticed that most large hotels there have their own mall, decked out with shops and restaurants. Harmony of the Seas is no different and the three story high Royal Promenade is the heart of the ship. It connects the theater (forward) and the main dining room (aft) and is home to Guest Relations, shops, bars, a 24-hour snack bar, pizzeria, karaoke bar and cocktail lounge. You will find the innovative Bionic Bar here, where robots will mix your drinks. Also lining the promenade is the iconic Schooner Bar, found on all Royal Caribbean ships. There is something new, something old and this shows the genius of Harmony of the Seas's design team: while at first glance this may all look like a floating Las Vegas resort, the ship has enough comforting Royal Caribbean touches to please repeat guests.
Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade <Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade
Harmony of the Seas Sorrento's Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade Harmony of the Seas Cafe Promenade Harmony of the Seas Cafe Promenade Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade
Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade Harmony of the Seas Boot and Bonnet Pub Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade Harmony of the Seas Boot and Bonnet Pub
First introduced on the line's Voyager of the Seas, the Royal Promenade is a natural meeting place and is used for all sorts of social get togethers. You might see Gloria the hippo (made famous by the movie "Madagascar") pose for pictures one minute, and find yourself caught in an 80s Dance Party the next. Grab a slice of pizza, mix yourself a drink in the robot bar or order a beer at the Boot & Bonnet Pub. Do some shopping, book shore excursions or simple sit down on one of the terraces. State of the art sound and light systems create the perfect ambiance, complemented by a huge skylight that lets in daylight. It's all so perfectly thought out. It will take a while before you realize that you haven't seen the sea or felt the motion of the ocean for some time.
Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade Harmony of the Seas Gloria the hippo with vintage car Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade Harmony of the Seas Schooner Bar
Harmony of the Seas Bionic Bar Harmony of the Seas Schooner Bar Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade Harmony of the Seas Schooner Bar Harmony of the Seas Bolero's
Anchored all the way forward and easily reached from the Royal Promenade is the huge Royal Theater. Royal Caribbean takes entertainment very seriously and it shows. This is no run of the mill cruise ship show lounge. The Royal Theater has 1,400 seats over three levels and is simply stunning. On Harmony of the Seas you are able to enjoy the full Broadway version of the musical "Grease". Just before the show starts Nick Weir, VP of Entertainment of Royal Caribbean International, explains that they have gone all-out here. And he is right. I count 25 performers on stage and a complete orchestra in the wings. The show is as good as you would expect on Broadway. And like all shows it is available at no cost to all guests of Harmony of the Seas. One word of warning though: sightlines from the balcony seats on port and starboard sides are so-so and you might be better off looking for a seat on the lower levels.
Harmony of the Seas Royal Theatre
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Below the Royal Promenade you will find many more entertainment options. Entertainment Place forward on Deck 4 is a bright red town square lined by four distinct venues. First and foremost, there is Studio B. Introduced on the line's Voyager-class, the ice skating theater and broadcasting studio remains very popular. This is a multi functional room and it can be used for all sorts of activites. Still, the ice shows draw most people here. I'm not very much into ice skating (contrary to what you would expect given my Dutch roots) and the much-touted show "1887" was not my cup of tea. Instead I headed next door the The Attic Comedy Club. Done in a very cheerful decor with entertaining posters lining the walls, this is the place where you will find headliner comedy acts. For a more refined atmosphere, move on to Jazz on 4, a small, opulent venue. Or, if you are a Royal Caribbean Diamond member, you are welcome in the Diamond Club.

Moving aft, we walk through the Art Gallery to the huge Casino Royale. Remarkably, the casino is tucked away on a lower deck. Still, it was very popular on our short cruise so I guess people will find their way to it anyway. Smoking is permitted here. So is gambling... Faites vos jeux!
Harmony of the Seas Royal Promenade Harmony of the Seas Deck 5 Elevator Bank Harmony of the Seas Royal Theater Foyer Harmony of the Seas The Attic Comedy Club Harmony of the Seas Jazz on 4
Harmony of the Seas The Attic Comedy Club Harmony of the Seas The Attic Comedy Club Harmony of the Seas The Attic Comedy Club Harmony of the Seas Jazz on 4 Harmony of the Seas Jazz on 4
Harmony of the Seas 1887 ice skating show Harmony of the Seas Art Gallery Harmony of the Seas Casino Royale Harmony of the Seas Casino Royale Harmony of the Seas Casino Royale
Occupying the aft section of decks 3, 4 and 5 is Harmony of the Seas' Main Dining Room. In fact, the main dining room consists of three separate mrestaurants that are connected by a giant central atrium. Each level has its own decor and menu. Guests have the choice of US classics in the America Icon Grill, traditional cruise ship favorites in The Grande or more exotic fare in Silk. The variety in decorating styles make for a very interesting room, with see-throughs between the various levels. Arranged rather intimately, you will never have the feeling of sitting in a massice banquetting hall. That is, until you look down the three-deck center section!
Harmony of the Seas American Icon Main Dining Room
Leave it to Royal Caribbean to make sure that lighting and atmosphere are just right. I have dinner twice in The Grande, plus lunch in the American Icon Grill and food is above expectations with some interesting menu options like the lunchtime lobster roll that is simply delicious. The sheer genius of the design team make that you the noise level is acceptable and the excellent service staff will definitely look after you.
Harmony of the Seas Silk Dining Room entrance Harmony of the Seas Silk Dining Room Harmony of the Seas Silk Dining Room Harmony of the Seas American Icon Grill Harmony of the Seas American Icon Grill
Harmony of the Seas Main Dining Room Harmony of the Seas Main Dining Room Harmony of the Seas Main Dining Room Harmony of the Seas Main Dining Room Harmony of the Seas Main Dining Room
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It is time we go in search for some windows and fresh air! On our quest for daylight, we stumble across a two level night club that provides stunning views of the Boardwalk. Dazzles has an elegant, almost ocean liner feel to it and was positively rocking until late at night. No small wonder given the surreal view from the dance floor through the giant glass wall. Is this really a ship?
Harmony of the Seas Dazzles Night Club Harmony of the Seas Dazzles Night Club Harmony of the Seas Boardwalk seen from above Harmony of the Seas Boardwalk seen from above Harmony of the Seas Sabor Tequila Bar
Harmony of the Seas Dazzles Nightclub Harmony of the Seas view of the Boardwalk Harmony of the Seas The Ultimate Abyss slide Harmony of the Seas Carousel Harmony of the Seas Johnny Rockets
Two floors down, on deck 6, you walk through glass doors and suddenly you smell the fresh sea air. Ah! Enter the Boardwalk, Harmony of the Seas's version of an all-American seaside amusement arcade. Think Santa Monica pier without the beach. First thing you will notice is the large carousel, popular with kids of all ages. With a hot dog bar (recommended!), Starbucks, Johnny Rockets and amusement arcade all thrown together, you might think twice about booking a stateroom facing the Boardwalk. The screams of people coming down The Ultimate Abyss slide, the sound of the carousel and the open-air terrace of Sabor Tequila Bar will make this location far from quiet at any time of day.
Harmony of the Seas AquaTheater
The Boardwalk serves as a huge open-air foyer for the stunning 700-seat Aqua Theater, located all the way aft on deck 6. When Oasis of the Seas entered service, the cruise industry had has never seen anything like this. Royal Caribbean should be commended for thinking out of the box by creating a venue that is unique on the seven seas. Spanning the entire width of the ship and gently sloping down, the Aqua Theater is used for aquatic shows but has a many more possibilities. Two giant LED screens make it perfect as an open-air cinema and the stage/pool is perfect for dance parties. During our cruise there were some technical issues which led to the cancellation of the aquatics show on the first night but ultimately everything worked out and while Harmony of the Seas was gently drifting somewhere in the Mediterranean we took our seats for a late performance of "The Fine Line".
Harmony of the Seas AquaTheater at night
Well, what can I say? It was sensational to sit in that huge open-air theater on a balmy evening somewhere in the Mediterranean, watching people fly through the air high above you, see a man walking on tightrope and see acrobats perform the most amazing stunts in and out of the water. Set to a very compelling and contemporary music score, this show has to be seen to be believed. One tip though: stay clear of the first row.
Harmony of the Seas Sabor Tequila Bar Harmony of the Seas AquaTheater seen from above Harmony of the Seas The Ultimate Abyss slide seen from the AquaTheater Harmony of the Seas The Fine Line show in the AquaTheater Harmony of the Seas The Fine Line show in the AquaTheater
Harmony of the Seas AquaTheater Harmony of the Seas The Fine Line show in the AquaTheater Harmony of the Seas The Fine Line show in the AquaTheater Harmony of the Seas The Fine Line show in the AquaTheater Harmony of the Seas The Fine Line show in the AquaTheater
Harmony of the Seas's design team have cleverly divided the ship into sections, "neighborhoods" that each cater to a specific target audience. It is quite clear Boardwalk is meant for families. But if you move up a deck or two the sounds of the carousel are replaced by the whistle of the wind through the trees and the chatter of birds. Welcome to Central Park! Another triumph for the design team, the seagoing park was first introduced on Oasis of the Seas. With 12,000 live plants and trees, this is the more upscale part of the ship. Expect the most sought after specialty restaurants here, the most expensives boutiques and the premium wine bar. Believe me: it is downright sensational.
Harmony of the Seas Central Park Harmony of the Seas Central Park Harmony of the Seas water slides seen from Central Park Harmony of the Seas Park Cafe Harmony of the Seas Central Park
Harmony of the Seas Jamie's Italian Harmony of the Seas Jamie's Italian Harmony of the Seas Park Cafe Harmony of the Seas Jamie's Italian Harmony of the Seas Central Park
Harmony of the Seas Central Park Harmony of the Seas Central Park Harmony of the Seas Chops Grill Harmony of the Seas 150 Central Park Harmony of the Seas Central Park
Let's look at what Central Park has to offer. From the forward elevator bank, you walk out through glass sliding doors. On the left, there is Vintages. A very stylish wine bar featuring the wine pouring machines that were first introduced on Celebrity Solstice. You can choose how much wine you would like, swipe your SeaPass and you are on your way. It's a perfect way to sample various wines before deciding on your favorite. There is plush seating inside, an inviting bar and terrace seating outside. It is the perfect location for pre-dinner drinks before you head to any of the three specialty restaurants in the park. Or the place to wind down after an exhaustive round of shopping in any of the Central Park shops. Think Hublot, Cartier and Bvlgari here.
Harmony of the Seas Central Park
You will be hard pressed to try out all dining venues on Harmony of the Seas during a regular cruise. In Central Park alone, you will want to dine in Chops Grille (steaks), Jamie's Italian (Italian, what else) and 150 Central Park (very stylish). What I love about these restaurants is that you can only access them through the park. It's like any city, where you have to go outside and walk to your favorite restaurant. And sure, umbrellas are available should the weather turn for the worse. The three specialty restaurants are intimate, exquisitely decorated and you pay a fee to dine here. But once you see them, you will want to make table reservations right away. Still, if you don't want to spend money you can always head to the adjacent Park Cafe which is probably my favorite place on the entire ship. We had breakfast here twice and it is very relaxing to sit outside in the park and enjoy a coffee and some granola and yoghurt. At night, as Central Park shows its magical side, order a nightcap at the open-air Trellis Bar and just enjoy the park. Brilliant!
Harmony of the Seas 150 Central Park Harmony of the Seas 150 Central Park Harmony of the Seas Chops Grill Harmony of the Seas Vintages Wine Bar Harmony of the Seas Central Park
Harmony of the Seas Central Park Harmony of the Seas Central Park Bar Harmony of the Seas a look down Central Park Harmony of the Seas Central Park Cafe Harmony of the Seas Central Park Cafe
Harmony of the Seas Central Park Harmony of the Seas Chops Grill Harmony of the Seas Central Park Harmony of the Seas Central Park Harmony of the Seas Central Park Bar
We are moving up and all of a sudden there it is: the sea. It is then that you realize that all venues are inward-facing where all eye contact with the outside world is more or less lost. It is on the upper decks that you are reminded that Harmony of the Seas is indeed a ship and that you are actually sailing. On most modern cruise ships, open deck space has been sacrificed by all sorts of revenue-earning gadgets but I am pleased to see Royal Caribbean has kept the open decks largely intact. I am also amazed at the size of the pool decks that are built on top of the two "accommodation towers". Mind you, if the ship carries its maximum capacity of 6,780 guests (yikes!), you might have a hard time finding your place in the sun. But in all honesty that goes for most mass-market cruise ships.
Harmony of the Seas upper decks
Let's head to the exquisite Solarium first. Perched high atop the ship all the way forward, this is a huge terraced area that is partly covered and feels like a sanctuary. The intricate roof lets in the breeze and some of the sun, but provides some welcoming shade, too. The use of terraces make the area more intimate than it actually is. Two giant jacuzzis that offer unrivaled views are located on starboard and port side. In the Solarium area, there are ample lounge chairs to choose from and there is another large jacuzzi forward. The attractive Solarium Bistro offers some healthy choices for breakfast and lunch. At night, you can dine here, either inside or outside on the terrace. It's all very relaxing and feels rather luxurious. Be sure to venture all the way forward and take the port side door that will lead outside. You are actually standing on the bridge wing, with sensational views forward, aft and ... deep down below through a glass plate in the floor.
Harmony of the Seas Solarium Harmony of the Seas Solarium Harmony of the Seas Solarium Harmony of the Seas Solarium Bistro Harmony of the Seas Solarium Jacuzzi
Harmony of the Seas Solarium
From the Solarium, we walk aft to the first of four large pool decks. We pass the large water slides that are new to Harmony of the Seas and have proven an instant access. Stairs lead up to the Suite Zone Deck where suite guests have their own outdoor area, complete with bar and lounge chairs. The most popular swimming pool on Harmony of the Seas is the Beach Pool. It has umbrellas and lounge chairs stand in shallow water. On the other side of the ship, the kid's pool area is great with kid-sized lounge chairs and all sorts of aquatic fun.
Harmony of the Seas Beach Pool
Harmony of the Seas Beach Pool Harmony of the Seas Main Pool Harmony of the Seas Beach Pool Harmony of the Seas Suite Deck Zone Harmony of the Seas Suite Sun Deck
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Harmony of the Seas Main Pool Harmony of the Seas Beach Pool Harmony of the Seas Splashaway Bay Harmony of the Seas Beach Pool Harmony of the Seas Beach Pool
One deck up from the swimming pools is a large sun deck that runs all the way from the Solarium to the aft stairwell and the Windjammer Marketplace. Before entering the Windjammer everyone is ordered to wash their hands. Imagine a restaurant on land where you are being told (not asked) to wash your hands before entering! It is the ghost of Norovirus that scares everyone in the cruise industry, so better wash up and then attack the buffet. Although the layout is excellent, Windjammer's decor is plain. Very plain. And in all honesty, so is the food. But with so many alternatives (like the brilliant Park Cafe) around the ship, there is really no need to visit the Windjammer Marketplace at all.
Harmony of the Seas Deck 16 stairwell Harmony of the Seas Windjammer Marketplace Harmony of the Seas Windjammer Marketplace Harmony of the Seas Windjammer Marketplace Harmony of the Seas Video Arcade
Harmony of the Seas Windjammer Marketplace Harmony of the Seas Windjammer Marketplace Harmony of the Seas Smokers Area Harmony of the Seas Sports Pool A quiet corner on Harmony of the Seas
Exploring Harmony of the Seas is like a voyage of discovery; every corner you turn you will see something new. Walking further aft we stumble across another food outlet called Mini Bites, nestled underneath the Windjammer Marketplace. We are now entering the ship's active zone. Here we can go zip lining, golfing, surfing, table tennissing and what not. And just have a look at that giant sports court!
Harmony of the Seas Sports Court
All the way aft is Harmony Dunes, an expansive golf course. And let's not forget the two Flowriders that already prove popular day and night. And let's conclude our tour with the thing that makes Harmony of the Seas stand out from her near-sisters Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. The oversized angry fish that is hanging from the uppermost aft deck is the entrance to the most spectacular slide at sea. The Ultimate Abyss slide has quickly proven to be another winning streak for Royal Caribbean and has generated a lot of publicity.
Harmony Dunes Harmony Dunes Harmony Dunes Harmony of the Seas Flowrider Harmony of the Seas The Abyss slide
View from Sky Loft Suite of Harmony Dunes
The next morning our ship is docked in Barcelona again and reluctantly I say farewell to Harmony of the Seas. On the plane high up in the air I can't help thinking back to 30 years ago when I took my first Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean's Song of Norway. So much has changed and back then I could not have imagined that cruise ships like Harmony of the Seas would ever materialize. But despite sheer size and all the modern gadgets, it is good to discover that Royal Caribbean have stayed remarkable close to their roots. Although Harmony of the Seas looks and feels like a floating city, the experience on board is very much Royal Caribbean. This is largely due to its 2,300 hard working crew members that give the ship its unique atmosphere.
Bon Voyage Harmony of the Seas
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I have never sailed on a cruise ship that is so easy to get around, that tickles the senses and where you will find anything that you might possibly be looking for. From down to earth cafetarias to Michelin-quality restaurants, it is all there. This city at sea seems designed for anyone that has doubts about going on a cruise. In fact, most of the time you will not realize that you are on a ship. To me, that is a downside as I love sailing and the sensation of being out at sea. But for millions of people worldwide that do not share my obsession for the ocean, Royal Caribbean have created the perfect resort that pushes the boundaries of traditional cruise ship design. What I find truly amazing is that they have been able to truly innovate AND at the same time wow traditional cruise clients. For many guests on board it really doesn't matter much where Harmony of the Seas takes them. After all, this ship is a destination in itself.


Photos & Text:
Bart de Boer

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