I have received so much help from posts on Cruise Critic, I thought I would pay it forward with my own review of our seven-day cruise last week on Harmony of the Seas. First, a little info about us. I was traveling with my DH, his three siblings and their families. There were 11 of us (six cabins) and we were all on Deck 9, forward. My DH and I have cruised many times on RC, but none of the other folks had ever been on a cruise. Since our nieces are in college and our nephews in high school, we didn’t experience Adventure Ocean or the teen programs.
We all arrived in Cocoa Beach the afternoon before and stayed at the Holiday Inn-Cocoa Beach, next to the Publix. We hit a slight snafu when the hotel decided to arbitrarily change our hotel rate ($40-per-room increase). We had a copy of our confirmation with the rate displayed, but we were told that they could change the rate at check-in. The desk staff was not very friendly and we had to call corporate to get it resolved. Not a great way to start a vacation, but we vowed not to let it damper our trip. Because of the way we were treated and spoken to, I can’t recommend this hotel to anyone.
The next morning, we took a private shuttle, booked via Larry’s Limos, and arrived at the terminal at 10 a.m. since I like to get to the ship early! In fact, we also used Larry’s Limos for our shuttle from MCO to the hotel the night before and I highly recommend them. Very fair rates, and they were very prompt and friendly! Security and check-in were a breeze and we were walking on the ship around 11 a.m. Of all the embarkation ports we have used, Port Canaveral was the easiest and quickest that I have experienced. They have really figured it out!
We headed to the Windjammer for lunch and then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the ship. Muster went very smoothly and we set sail promptly at 4:30 p.m. The rest of the review, I will break down in categories.
We were all on Deck 9 forward, near the elevators. Two of us had balconies and had the divider removed. The other four were inside cabins directly across the hall. My sister-in-law had connecting cabins with her two sons. All of us commented that there was plenty of storage room. I was impressed with how the bathrooms were laid out. Plenty of storage and the shower seemed bigger than smaller ships we have sailed on. Because there was so much to do on the ship, we really didn’t spend much time there other than to sleep and dress.
We did not eat at any specialty restaurants, so I can’t comment on them. We had breakfast each morning in the Solarium Bistro and loved the quiet atmosphere versus the Windjammer. It’s the same food, but less people and a more relaxing area. We also had lunch either in the Solarium Bistro or Windjammer, based on what part of the ship we were at once we realized we were hungry! I realize food is very subjective, but we enjoyed the breakfast and lunch offerings at both locations. For dinner, we had early Traditional Dining in Silk. Our oldest niece has severe food allergies and the staff was wonderful in addressing her concerns and providing her meals each night without the worry of an allergic reaction. In fact, the waiters and entire staff provided top-notch service to all of us each night. The food was very good, and my only “criticism” is that I have noticed over the years that the offerings tend to repeat more than they used to.
We had reserved all the shows prior to sailing, so we had no problems seeing them. The Fine Line was fabulous! By far the best show at sea I have ever seen, especially considering we were on a moving ship as they were performing their high-flying acrobatics. The second aqua show later in the week was fun, if not a little “campy.” We also enjoyed Columbus and the ice show, 1887. Again, Columbus was a little “campy,” but it was funny and enjoyable. The comedians on board were also very good and provided a lot of entertainment. I did not see Grease, but those in our group who did attend really liked it. The only show none of us made it to was the Headliner Show.
We saw a few entertainers at Dazzles. Very good singers and the variety of music offered something for everyone. Some of us participated in karaoke and we only wished it was offered earlier than 11 p.m. so we could have participated more often.
The casino was a pretty good size and we never really had trouble finding a seat at the blackjack table. Half of the casino allows smoking and the ventilation system worked pretty well in keeping the air pretty good. I wish they didn’t allow smoking at all, but it didn’t bother us too much. The wait staff was a little slow at times bringing drinks.
We were lucky to have fabulous weather the entire week, so the pools and whirlpools were always crowded. That being said, our group never had trouble finding lounge chairs by the pools and we never had to deal with “chair hogs.” The kids enjoyed the water slides as well. We also played mini-golf and table tennis. None of us dared to try the flow riders, but enjoyed watching those who did. A couple of us experienced the Abyss and zip-line and enjoyed those as well.
Since my husband and I aren’t really “beach people,” we decided to stay on the ship and explore. The rest of our family spent the day there and really enjoyed swimming and hanging out at Chill Island. They all said they would love to go back again. They did not use the water park or other “paid” options.
We did not book an excursion, but took a taxi into Charlotte Amalie and went shopping for jewelry and other souvenirs. All the taxis have specific rates posted based on where you want to go, so no one needs to negotiate or worry about being taken advantage of. After shopping, we took another taxi from downtown to Magens Bay. We took a wild ride over the mountains to see this beautiful beach. The roads are very narrow and the locals seem to have no fear when navigating them! We really enjoyed Magens Bay before heading back to the ship. Our taxi driver also stopped at a couple of lookout points for us to take pictures. All in all, we all enjoyed St. Thomas.
This was my first time back to St. Maarten since the hurricane and you can still see restoration projects in process. Our group took the ship’s excursion to Maho Beach. Many in our family are aerospace enthusiasts, so we really enjoyed spending the day watching the planes land. This really isn’t a swimming beach (there was noticeably less sand than our previous visit before the hurricane), but our nieces and nephews did take a dip in the water. The adjacent restaurant, Sunset Beach, offers a great outdoor space to sit and have lunch while watching the planes land. We all enjoyed having a Guavaberry Daiquiri with our meal. The food was excellent and plentiful as well. Typically, I am not a big fan of large groups on a tour. However, this time, it worked well since we were only going to one location and no one on the bus was interested in stopping for optional photo ops or stopping in downtown for shopping.
I have cruised out of many different ports over the years and this was by far the best experience I have had with a port. From baggage handling to check-in to customs and ground transportation, it was such a smooth experience. I look forward to many more cruises out of Port Canaveral!
We booked this specific cruise because we knew Harmony would offer something for everyone. Harmony is a beautiful ship and in great shape! It was so smooth, it didn't feel like you were on a ship. Before the cruise, I was concerned about potential crowding problems. These concerns were unfounded as the layout of the ship and “neighborhoods” really spread folks around. The only time I really noticed the crowds was when the shows let out and at lunch at the Windjammer. Almost everyone on the ship seemed to be having fun and we only observed a couple of people who weren’t in the best of moods. This was a fabulous vacation for our entire family and are thrilled that our “cruise newbies” really loved the cruising experience.