Last year I went on an amazing 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise with my husband and family on the biggest cruise ship in the world – Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas.
We traveled from December 10 – 17, 2017 from Ft. Lauderdale – Nassau (Bahamas) – Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas) – Philipsburg (St. Maarten) and back to Ft. Lauderdale.
Here’s what you can expect on Harmony of the Seas 7-night East Caribbean cruise:
Royal Caribbean launched Harmony of the Seas in June 2015. It’s the BIGGEST cruise ship in the world – for now (Symphony of the Seas will surpass Harmony once it launches in 2018!).
The ship is part of the Oasis Class, which also includes Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, and it’s indeed humongous! It weighs 226,963 tonnes and is 362.12 meters (1,188.1 ft) long. The ship has 18 decks, 2,394 crew, and a maximum capacity of some 6,780 passengers!
If you haven’t been on a cruise before and you’re worried about being bored on the ship – don’t! There’s SO MUCH going on at all hours of the day, that you’ll likely have a hard time choosing between the variety of activities.
Harmony of the Seas has 20 restaurants, casino, bars (incl. a piano bar and a bionic bar), disco, theater, card & game room, library, basketball court, mini golf, arcade, shopping, a boardwalk with carousel, fitness center, outdoor running track, spa & salon, swimming pools, hot tubs, The Abyss slide, water slide, surf simulators, zip line, ice skating rink, rock climbing walls, Central Park (an open air garden with real plants, restaurants and shops), and more…
When you walk around the ship, do notice the amazing pieces of art that you’ll find all over the ship. You’ll also find an art gallery and you can even participate in the art auction. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, just go for the FREE CHAMPAGNE, free artwork and raffle prizes.
The State Room:
Harmony of the Seas has 4 categories of state rooms: Interior (no windows), Outside View, Balcony with views of Central Park, Boardwalk or the Ocean, and Suites.
Our cabins are right by Central Park (an open air garden with real plants, restaurants and shops) on deck 8, which is a great location! We have an ocean view balcony stateroom that is absolutely gorgeous. I love the layout of the room, the elegant design and the color scheme. Such an upgrade from the other Royal Caribbean ships I’ve been on.
The balcony with ocean view is a must-have (if you can) – you’ll love the view as you come in/out of the ports.
The room is a good size and the new layout makes it feel even bigger. There’s a bathroom with shower cabinet and enough room for toiletries.
There’s a sitting area with a couch, a desk with chair, chest of drawers, mini fridge, King bed (also comes with 2 beds) with bedside tables and lamps, a flat screen TV, his and her closet with hangers and shelves, safety box, balcony with chairs and a table. As our rooms are next to each other, we ask our stateroom attendant to open the balcony divider, so our balconies connect.
If you need anything, just ask your stateroom attendant and he/she will take care of it. A good idea is to tip them when you arrive (and during your stay), so you get that extra service. We asked for bottle opener, wine glasses, a bathrobe… no problem. Your stateroom attendant will make up your room daily, provide turn-down service in the evening and usually leave a cute towel animal on your bed along with next day’s itinerary and schedule of events.
When you go on a cruise, you basically have all meals and non-alcohol drinks included. So technically you don’t have to pay anything to eat and drink, but I think you should. The ship has several specialty restaurants that aren’t included – and these are the best restaurants aboard.
We purchased the 5-night dining package for approx. US$ 100 per person, which means that a 3-course meal at a specialty restaurant only comes out to about US$ 20, and that’s not bad at all! Wine and alcohol is not included in that price, though.
During the trip we dined at these restaurants:
Breakfast at The Solarium Bistro was perfect because it’s not too big and not too noisy (unlike e.g. Windjammer Marketplace). The variety and quality of the food is good and includes hot foods (eggs, bacon, sausages, pancakes, veggies, etc.), cereals, fruits, breads, pastries, coffee, tea, juices, etc.
Lunch was usually at one of the ports-of-call, but we also have lunch at Park Café and at the main dining hall (I think it’s called American Icon). At both places I recommend getting the salad where you choose the ingredients and the chef throws it together for you.
With our dining package, we had dinner at the following restaurants:
- Jamie’s Italian: This restaurant is excellent! Try the antipasti (served on wooden boards) and the fried calamari is heavenly! The pasta is good and the salmon is delicious. For dessert you must try the sampler. It’s both beautiful and amazing! – I highly recommend this restaurant!
- Chops Grille: Definitely my favorite restaurant aboard! The food is super and the restaurant has a small outdoor terrace which is the best place to sit (it’s quiet!). I like the warm goat cheese salad with walnuts, the seared tuna steak and the MUD PIE. Whatever you order will be great, but you have to save room for dessert and try the mud pie. It’s to die for! I highly recommend this restaurant!
- Izumi: You can choose the sushi section or the hibachi table – we go for the hibachi. Our chef is a very lively and funny guy from the Philippines and he puts on an impressive show-cooking and serves up a delicious meal with fried rice, (choice of) shrimp/lobster/chicken/beef. For dessert we have the sampler, which is interesting. I really like the matcha ice cream, which I haven’t tried before.
- Wonderland: A brand new restaurant that offers “imaginative cuisine” inspired by Alice in Wonderland. It’s like a tasting menu to share and it’s an experience, for sure. You get a menu with elements of sun, ice, fire, water, earth and dreams, but you don’t actually order anything. The waiter brings you everything for you to try, but if you have any preferences, just let them know. The food is delicious, although some of the dishes are strange. I guess it’s one of those places you just have to try to be able to say that you did it.
- 150 Central Park: We have mixed experiences at this restaurant, probably because we’re in a hurry as we have a show to catch. Our waiter is friendly but slightly annoying. He talks way too much and takes his t-i-m-e with the service. My food is good, although I think I’m the only one in our party who’s content. I have tuna tartar, which is prepared table side. For main course, I have grilled vegetables and slow roasted butternut squash soup – both delicious!
Every night you have different entertainment options and, in my opinion, you must see the shows. The musicals on the ship are like Broadway shows.
Columbus at the Royal Theater is probably one of the best musicals I’ve seen on a ship. The other musical is Grease, which is fantastic too.
The headliner show (usually a secret surprise) features the ventriloquist Ron Lucas. He’s hilarious and incredibly talented. When he asks for a volunteer, my husband somehow gets picked out of the entire crowd and goes on stage to become his live puppet. We all die laughing because my husband is such a “natural” (does that sound weird?) and Lucas is such a genius. What an unforgettable show!
We also spend some time at the Schooner Bar where there’s live piano music every night. I recommend this place if you just want to hang out at a more quiet bar and listen to great music.
The Ports of Call:
Always remember to carry your passport and your ship ID card. At some ports of call you need to show your passport to get back on the ship!
Head over to Paradise Island and The Atlantis Resort and stroll around the resort or buy a day-pass so you can enjoy the Aquaventure Water Park and beaches.
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
If it’s your first time in Charlotte Amalie, you must see the historical sights, e.g. Fort Christian, Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church, King Christian Walk, Royal Dane Mall and walk the streets around town. If you’re looking for jewelry or electronics, you’ll find good deals here. Otherwise, the shopping (in my opinion) isn’t too exciting.
We have lunch at the Green House. It’s a touristy place that serves your typical variety of American-style fast food. The spicy chicken wings and bang-bang shrimps are good.
Philipsburg, St. Maarten
I’ve only heard good things about (especially) the French side of the island, so we immediately get a taxi and head there. We go to Orient Bay and end up on Kontiki Beach SXM – a restaurant/bar/beach club on the most gorgeous beach. P.S. they charge for the beach chairs (ridiculous)!
I order the So Fresh non-alcoholic cocktail (mango, passion fruit, mint and ginger), which is 7 Euros. The food we have for lunch is excellent. I have fresh grilled Mahi Mahi with green asparagus and saffron sauce.
I can’t decide which is better – the food or the view of the ocean!
I definitely love going on a cruise. In my opinion, you should choose the ship rather than the itinerary. And I’d personally choose an itinerary that includes several ocean days as these are the days you really get to relax.
Don’t expect too much of the ports of call – you can only see and do so much. If you’re cruising in the Caribbean, definitely hire a taxi for the day and go on a private island tour. You’ll see the most of the island that way. Or if you just want to go to a beach, do that.
Buy a pack of water for your room (e.g. 12/24 bottles)!
Bring a thermos mug for coffee/tea and a reusable water bottle to fill up during the day. You’ll be glad that you did.
Consider if you want to pack heels! You’ll do a lot of walking and it’s hard in heels. I like to just bring a fancy pair of flats that go with all of my evening dresses. DO bring a fancy dress (or two) for formal night (a tux or suit for the guys)!!! Please!!! You’ll have 1 or 2 formal nights on the trip, so please dress up.
Whatever you do or don’t do, bring or don’t bring…JUST HAVE FUN. Enjoy your cruise and your vacation because it’ll be over so quickly.