REVIEW: Royal Caribbean’s new Harmony of the Seas is so mind-boggling big, you wonder how it can possibly float. This gigantic sea giant is the largest cruise ship in the world at 226,963 tonnes. It’s longer than three football fields at 1,188 feet and is 18 decks high. It can carry 6,780 passengers and 2,394 crew. There are 23 pools and water features, the tallest slide at sea, two rock climbing walls, two surfing simulators, a skating rink, carousel, zip lining and much more.
Surprisingly, the ship doesn’t seem crowded because passengers are dispersed throughout the seven themed neighbourhoods called Central Park, the Boardwalk, Royal Promenade, Entertainment Place, Youth Zone, Vitality Spa, and Pool and Sports Zone.
As a floating theme park that offers big, bold, adventures, it hardly matters where the Harmony sails. Passengers are thrilled with all there is to do and see on board. Plus, passengers who are not tempted to try any of the ship’s unusual attractions, will still enjoy endless people-watching.
The Ultimate Abyss spiral slide is the ship’s signature feature and the tallest slide at sea at 100 feet. You enter it through a piranha-styled mouth with monstrous teeth and from the glass floor landing you can see 150 feet down to the ocean. This fully-enclosed tube slide is a fast 10-second thrill of quick curves, mostly in the dark. Whether you scream all the way down or not, it’s sure to put a giddy smile on your face at the end.
The Zip Line provides another thrill. After donning helmet and harness, you’re strapped to a cable and sent zipping along a line that is 10 storeys high and spans the ship’s open atrium below. The experience only lasts 13 seconds, but your pride and bragging rights last the rest of your life.
Then there’s surfing on one of two Flowriders surf simulators that feature a carpet-like wave of water. An instructor shows you how to lie on a surfboard, then kneel, and finally stand up while he holds your hands until you get your balance. Let go of his grasp and you are surfing!
But if you prefer a slower pace for fun, then try or watch skating, rock climbing, mini-putting, basketball, shuffleboard, ping pong, the carousel or soak in one of 10 hot tubs or dozen pools. The Beach Pool is a favourite for its sloped entry so the water gently washes up to your lounge chair like the tide at a beach. Central Park is also a lovely, quiet place to stroll and enjoy the lush landscaping of more than 10,000 plants and trees. Or just walk around the ship and enjoy more than 11,000 works of art.
This mesmerizing ship is sure to work up an appetite and thirst, so there are 20 dining options. Favourites include Wonderland where the menus are at first blank, and then items appear when brushed with water. The topsy-turvy decor, waiters dressed in purple velvet jackets, and often upside-down presentation of the food, makes for an unusual dining experience that has you thinking you’ve gone down the rabbit hole. Alice would be proud!
Or enjoy quality, hand-cut steaks at Chops Grill, Japanese favourites at Izumi, modern Mexican at Sabor or Jamie’s Italian restaurant by world-renown chef Jamie Oliver. There are also plenty of bistros and buffets as well as the main dining room to try.
An unusual place for a drink is the Bionic Bar where bionic bartenders — robotic arms — mix and serve your drink after you’ve ordered if from an iPad. The question is — do you tip a robot? Another favourite bar is the Rising Tides which is a bar that rises up and down three decks like an enormous open-air elevator.
Dazzles is a dance lounge which spans two decks with floor-to-ceiling windows offering breathtaking views of the Boardwalk. The musical experiences ranges from 1940s big band music to disco and ballroom evenings. During the day Dazzles is open to learn dance moves with a professional instructor.
A bevy of shows will keep you entertained at night. The AquaTheater features daredevil high divers and tightrope walkers who perform acrobatics at the 18-foot deep pool. Broadway-style shows such as “Grease” and “Columbus, the Musical” are featured in the 1,380-seat Royal Theater. Comedy Live is a popular spot and extravagant shows are also performed on the skating rink called Studio B. The Casino Royale is a glamorous place that accepts your “donations” at the gaming tables.
The Promenade is lined with bars, cafes and duty-free shops. You’ll find jewellery, cosmetics, liquor and apparel items galore from Kate Spade to Tagheuer.
Staterooms are some of the most unusual at sea and range from 149 to 1,524 square feet. Some interior cabins have a virtual balcony which is a floor-to-ceiling high-definition TV with real-time video streaming from the ship’s external cameras to create the illusion of a balcony. Park View or Boardwalk View cabins are inside balcony cabins that overlook the lush Central Park or amusing Boardwalk. Several of the top category cabins are designed as two-storey lofts that overlook the ocean or waterparks. They feature several bedrooms, large living and dining rooms, bars, enormous luxurious bathrooms and wraparound balconies with private hot tubs.
The Harmony is a fun, friendly, floating city at sea. Whether you do everything or nothing on board, you’ll be incredibly impressed by this magnificent engineering marvel.
The Harmony sails the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale and San Juan. Call 800-762-0585 or visit http://www.royalcaribbean.com