This is a guest post by James Allen a thirty-something Senior Naval Engineer from Bath, who cruises regularly with his wife and two young children. James and his family have sailed on board Harmony of the Seas, their first Royal Caribbean experience. He has kindly shared his thoughts on the ship, and the cruise line, below.
My first Royal Caribbean experience
As an experienced cruiser of 30 years – having started cruising with my family as a young child on the P&O Cruises ship Canberra in the late 80s, which led to a 15 year career working on Carnival UK ships as an Engineering Officer – it’s safe to say I’ve been on many cruise ships of all shapes and sizes. I’ve gained vast knowledge and experience of the cruise lines I worked for within the Carnival Group (P&O Cruises, Cunard, and Princess). I’m also an avid ship spotter and general lover of all things marine and nautical!
When the largest cruise ship in the world – Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas – was making her maiden sailings from Southampton for a series of mini cruises back in 2016, I couldn’t resist taking my family aboard for 3 nights to experience a different cruise line on the largest cruise ship in the world! (Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is now the largest ship in the world).
Other than the three Carnival brands I worked for, the only other cruise line I have experienced was a 3 night mini cruise on the Carnival Legend when she debuted in Harwich in 2002. So the trip on Harmony of the Seas was the first ever non-Carnival Corporation ship I’d been on.
The 3 night trip to Cherbourg was the perfect taster to experience the Royal Caribbean product and to see what the line and their ships have to offer.
First things first these ships are big, and not just the Oasis Class ships (which include Harmony of the Seas, and her sisters Oasis, Allure and the newly launched Symphony of the Seas). Royal Caribbean don’t do small ships, so be prepared for a lot of walking around on board along with the possibility of getting lost.
But with the ships’ massive size comes the amazing range of activities, unique features, accommodation choices, shops, restaurants etc. that can be found on board. And guests…don’t forget the number of guests!
Harmony of the Seas and her sisters can accommodate, when sailing full, over 6500 people, and that’s before you include over 2000 crew members. That’s a lot of people. With such large passenger figures, it’s inevitable you will face queues for restaurants, activities and gangways. It didn’t bother us much, but maybe that’s because we are used to it. But it’s often a bugbear for many passengers who travel on large ships, who are unsure what to expect. Although I have to say, because Harmony is so huge, it certainly didn’t feel like there were over 5000 people on board.
You are never short of something to do
Royal Caribbean are famous for the activities and features their ships offer, with surfing simulators (called the flow riders), rock climbing walls, mini golf, water parks and water slides being common place on the majority of their ships. There is so much to do for all ages. You don’t need to worry about getting bored or finding something to do on the ship, and of course you can also go ashore to explore the ports you visit on your cruise. Or, you can of course do absolutely nothing, and that’s the joy of cruising. You can always find a secluded corner to read a book or catch a nap! The choice is yours.
The atmosphere on board Royal Caribbean is aimed at having fun and guests are encouraged to try new activities and make the most of the on board entertainment. The ships are tastefully decorated inside, although when comparing them to Princess ships, they are more theme park in style (in addition Carnival Cruise Line ships could be described as Las Vegas at sea!)
The ships are most definitely American, and US dollars are used as the currency on board. This can make purchases expensive when comparing them to prices at home in the UK.
The food has an international flavour, with an amazing array of options and dining outlets available, you are never short of options.
The accommodation we stayed in on board Harmony of the Seas was very impressive. It was certainly more spacious than any of the equivalent cabins I have seen or stayed in on other lines. Due to a lack of four berth cabins, which is something I noted before when looking at Royal Caribbean cruises, we had to book two 2-berth cabins for myself, my wife and our two children. Due to the age of our children, they are too young to stay in the cabin on their own, therefore my wife was booked in one cabin with our daughter, and I was booked with my son in the other. There are 4-berth cabins available, or cabins with interconnecting doors suitable for families, however they are limited in number on board.
What we stayed in on Harmony of the Seas were two twin berth balcony cabins overlooking the Central Park. The cabins were next to each other, and although there was no interconnecting door inside the cabin, the balcony partition was opened for us by our steward, which gave us one huge balcony. It meant we could go into either cabin without having to go out into the corridor. Being able to open the balcony partition is a feature on many ships, so is something worth considering if you book two cabins next to each other when travelling with family or friends.
Despite the booking details, our initial unofficial plan was for my wife and I to stay in one cabin, while the kids were in the other. In the end as the cabins were so big, the kids slept on the sofa with us, which meant the second cabin wasn’t used other than for changing or using the bathroom! Kind of annoying, but due to rules, that’s the way it goes. As far as our steward knew, we stayed in both cabins, as the beds appeared to be slept in each morning in the other cabin! It’s certainly worth doing your homework beforehand when looking at cabin choices and options, as it can have a big effect on the price of your holiday.
To sum up…
As a whole, cruising with Royal Caribbean is a fantastic experience for young people, families, and those young at heart. If you’re not put off by large ships and large numbers of people and want to be constantly entertained or have something to do on holiday, then a cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship is highly recommended. And if you’re lucky enough to choose an Oasis class ship, then be prepared for a truly memorable, wow factor experience!!
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