This is a ship that’s uber up to date—from the tablets stem to stern to the robotic bartenders who shook and served to the WOWbands that ordered drinks to the sea cards that turned on lights. I expected Scotty to beam me from one deck to another.
|The robots taking a rest in between drinks|
Yet many of the familiar Oasis class ship features are reassuringly still there—the quaint Boardwalk carousel, the serenity of Central Park at night, the “sidewalk café” on the Promenade.
Here, in brief, is my take on what Harmony brought us that’s new, and what it’s kept to ensure it pleases us all:
Better balcony with a “but”
The layout of our balcony stateroom facing the ocean was much improved over its sister ships. The his-and-her closets, set far apart from each other, were a great innovation—no more bobbing and weaving around each other to get dressed.
There’s also much more storage space, with several deep drawers under one closet, and ample shelf space in the other.
The porch furniture was also way better—reclining chairs! Hassocks! At last, naps outside! Thank you, Royal Caribbean!
|Reclining chairs and footstools on the balcony--who could ask for anything more?|
Here comes the “but”: if you use a night table, forget about it. Harmony has the smallest I’ve ever seen. Anywhere. It’s about a foot wide. And mine was totally consumed by the cabin phone until I shoved it under the bed.
MDR efficiency plus
We had the best My Time Dining experience on any of our 20+ cruises. We ate dinner in the main dining room only on the two formal nights—without reservations—and breezed right in, to a table for two, per our request. On every other ship, these nights meant a 15-20 minute wait for seats—at the least.
The pacing of dinner was the same pleasant surprise—we were out of there in under an hour and a half. It wasn’t only efficient, but our wait staff were friendly and eager to please. On the second formal night, our waitress was distressed when she proactively brought a second helping of lobster tail and I turned it down. Meanwhile, her assistant waiter kept entertaining us with magic tricks.
Whatever the Harmony is doing at dinner, it’s working. The dining experience was memorable (even if the food, alas, was not).
We also did the sea day lunch in the main dining room, where we were excited to see a dessert bar, complete with chocolate fountain. Oh yes, there was the large “Tutti” salad bar, large hot food buffet and superb selection of rolls.
|Do a lunch in the MDR on a sea day for a sea of surprises.|
The hip ship appeals to all
It pains me to say this, but for us, the featured aqua show, “The Fine Line,” was a disappointment—a lot of pounding music, flashing lights and water spray— theatrics with just a sprinkling of what we like best—diving, water ballet and acrobatics.
In fact, we much preferred the add-on afternoon show, “Hideaway Heist” on Day 7, which was much more upbeat and playful, chockful of those aqua events we came for.
While hip seemed the primary order of the day, there was still plenty to appeal to everyone. “Grease” was high-spirited fun (note: there are some minor plot differences from the movie) and the ice show was as good as any other Oasis ship, with the usual crowd-pleasing lifts, spins and swirls, and colorful, constantly changing costumes.
Night music was all over the map—from the cool jazz in Jazz on 4 to classical guitar under the Central Park lights to the ’90s dance party in the Promenade to the older oldies in Dazzles. And Boleros still served up the salsa.
Tech touches everything
The techie touches were everywhere. Tablets all over the ship offered the chance to check what’s on your calendar or account status, or find out what’s going on at any given moment (no wi-fi cost). You can access it all through your smartphone, too, by downloading the Royal IQ app from Google Play or Apple App Store.
Sea cards turned on the cabin lights, those who paid a bit extra for a WOWband could use their wrist to pay for drinks or gifts, and some elevator lobbies had experimental screens displaying floor name options instead of up and down buttons. Even Guest Relations was unrecognizable—gone was the opaque barrier between guest and rep. In its place were monitors on a table, so you could watch your rep rebalance from one tired leg to another.
Tap, chill, shake and pour
But the biggest whiz-bang by far were the two robotic bartenders. Clearly recognizing the draw, cushy seats were stationed in front of the gleaming stars in a prominent position on the Promenade. Guests ordered drinks from a tablet, which displayed a menu, complete with drink ingredients, cost (sample price: $14.95) and guest ratings. The orders went into a queue and then the real fun began.
The robotic arm loaded a cup with ice, sucked alcohol from bottles hanging from the ceiling, shook and poured, with each step displayed on a big screen for all to see.
Royal Caribbean does it again
With or without the-future-is-here doodads, the Harmony delivers what RCI is so very good at—a great vacation for everyone. Whether your fancy is climbing the walls, gliding across the ice, hitting the (mini) links, perusing the shops, downing a pint at the pub, surfing the faux waves or staring at the real ones, you’ll find it all and more on this grand new ship.
Musing’s Top Tip: If you have a drink package that covers cocktails, it will also cover the concoctions created by the robotic “bionic” bar. See this link for more info.