If bigger is better, then families who love to cruise should look no further than Royal Caribbean’s new Oasis-class ship, Harmony of the Seas. It’s the largest cruise ship to date and offers some incredible experiences on board that can’t be found on other ships, and yet still packs in all the elements that are a favorite of frequent cruisers.
Harmony of the Seas docks in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a fun beach city that’s easily accessed by most major airlines. It is also only a 30-minute drive or so from the Miami airport. For most itineraries, the eastern Caribbean ports are Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas; and St. Maarten, while the western ports are Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico.
The biggest differentiator between Harmony of the Seas and its competitors is the triple option of slides on the top deck. Two of the slides mirror each other so that guests can race to the bottom, and the third has an incredible finale in a large bowl feature. And for those who prefer dry land over wet splashes, the Ultimate Abyss beckons, taking brave sliders down 10 stories on small rugs via tubes off the side of the ship. What a rush!
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Also found on the top deck are a really fun water park/splash pad perfect for younger children, a miniature golf course, two Flow Rider surf simulators, and an adults-only sunbathing deck and pool. There are four pools in total, each with its own perks. I loved the beach-style pool, as the lounge chairs are situated in a just few inches of water — it felt tropical but without the sandy mess.
One of the ship’s most impressive features is its staggering range of dining options. If you love traditional cruise fine dining, the three-story main dining room is perfect. Guests are seated with their own party and can experience a different three-course menu each evening. Each floor of the dining room is decorated with a singular aesthetic, from Chinese to American. You’ll also find the traditional breakfast buffets and snack bars that you’d expect on a cruise.
The more intimate restaurants separate Harmony of the Seas from other cruise ships. Famous British chef Jamie Oliver has an Italian restaurant onboard. There’s also a sushi/hibachi restaurant, a ’50s-style diner, a taqueria and tequila bar, a steakhouse and several others. I was most intrigued by Wonderland, which focuses on luxurious and innovative cuisine around six themes: sun, sea, ice, earth, fire and dreams.
With all that food must come drinks. Guests are dazzled by the Bionic Bar, where drinks are ordered from an iPad and then made by one of two robots who get to work pouring, mixing and crafting custom cocktails for all to see.
Beyond the ship’s physical amenities, there are plenty of entertainment options to keep the whole family happy. The ship’s water show, called Fine Line, comes highly recommended and is already earning a reputation as the best cruise show ever. Grease, sure to be a family favorite, is also playing this season. And the ship’s partnership with DreamWorks means there’s an opportunity for families to book a character breakfast onboard.
Given its incredible size, cruisers will find slightly wider-than-usual hallways and rooms on Harmony of the Seas. I was in an interior room, which I found similar in size to a city center hotel room. New to this ship is the Virtual Balcony for interior rooms, which offers a floor-to-ceiling real-time video feed of the boat’s actual view. Royal Suite-class rooms come in a range of sizes and configurations and offer exclusive concierge services and dining options.
If big-ship cruising isn’t high on your list of travel experiences, Harmony of the Seas won’t change your mind. But if you love to cruise, this is definitely a ship worth discovering for its many unique experiences and its sheer grand scale.
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Editor’s Note: Nicole was hosted for a preview cruise on Harmony of the Seas. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Nicole Wiltrout and Kathy Coffey Rooke.
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