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Harmony of the Seas – Our Last Few Days

Harmony of the Seas maiden voyage photo

This is my final post on Harmony of the Seas maiden voyage from Southampton to Barcelona and covers our last three days and some thoughts on Royal Caribbean’s brand new flagship.

Following Vigo we had another sea day and missed breakfast due to a late last night but after lunch I finally braved the Ultimate Abyss and can now say its the must do thing on the ship. Dropping 100ft in around fourteen seconds through an enclosed tube might sound scary but it really wasn’t. You enter the ride on top deck through the jaws of a huge fish and lie with your feet inside a mat to go down one of the two slides. The inside is lit up in coloured hoops and the twists and turns feel much gentler than they look. It goes by in an instant and no sooner than I’d set off I was clambering out the other end with a smile on my face!

Ultimate Abyss

That evening we dropped Finn at Adventure Ocean for a couple of hours as we had a reservation at Wonderland, the ship’s ‘imaginative dining’ experience. It’s the same kind of food meets magic concept made famous by Heston Blumenthal but as we’re unlikely to ever eat at The Fat Duck the $49 cover charge seemed a reasonable way to sample the whimsy.  Sadly, the place seemed to be in chaos as we arrived with a disappearing hostess and countless diners just left waiting in the upstairs bar / reception area. I guessed they were short on tables in the restaurant area below and people were offered free drinks as they waited. After around a twenty minutes delay we were eventually seated.

You could sense the stress in the air and after the cute touch of painting your menu with water to make it visible I could possibly see why. The menu is completely unstructured and you get to choose dishes from any or all of six distinct ‘themes’ (sun, sea, ice, earth, fire and dreams) which would put considerable pressure on any kitchen. As a result the food arrived slowly and randomly throughout the evening as we tried out things like distilled tomato juice in test tubes and  a boiled egg in a cloud of wood smoke. We knew the food would be eccentric but  ultimately we left disappointed with the experience and the atmosphere.


On Friday we visited one of our favourite Mediterranean ports, Malaga. You can walk from the ship to the town in around 15 minutes if you want but there’s also a five Euro shuttle bus that drops you off and picks you up from a spot just outside the port. From there you can cross a main road and head straight up to the nearby cathedral and it’s cafe squares or turn left once you’ve crossed and take your next right for the the old town’s main shopping street.

We chose to walk down the shoreline promenade to the now year old Centre Pompidou Malaga, an art gallery outpost of the one in Paris with what looks like a huge glass Rubik’s cube on its roof. From there we walked back towards the cathedral through the shade of a park that skirts the main road full of palms and ponds and flowers. In amongst the trees we stumbled across a kids play area with a strategically placed cafe where we had our first glass of red and Finn complained that the slides were too hot.

Pompidou Malaga

The temperature must have been well into the 80s as we looked around the shops and walked over to the cathedral where we stopped for Rioja and some amazing patatas bravas at the cafe with the red umbrellas opposite the fountain and the yellow painted mansion. It kept us going until dinner at Jamie’s Italian, a $25 a head version of the chef’s restaurant chain at sea where portions are generous and the service is superb.

Saturday was our last full day on Harmony and we were at sea for the final sail to Barcelona. It was a day to tick things off so all three of us got harnessed up for the main climbing wall and took photos that suggested we were much higher than we actually were! After lunch we took the seven minute trip on the Rising Tide Bar where someone lovely from the entertainment team supervised Finn to press the go button and took some great family pictures of the three of us with the Royal Promenade as a backdrop.

There was an announcement in the afternoon that there were spaces for a matinee performance of Grease so we went and caught it for the second time and yet again the cast were unbelievable. We’d loved Hairspray on Oasis but this is unmissable. After the show it was time to get packed and put our cases out before a final dinner in Coastal Kitchen and an early night.


The next morning we had to leave our suite by 8am and following breakfast we used the lounge to await our 9.30am disembarkation time. There was a slight delay port side before we could get off but we quickly found our cases and were soon in a €39 fixed price taxi to the airport for our flight home to Manchester.

We’ve had an amazing week on an amazing ship so please don’t believe the scare stories spread by journalists who were never on board. Harmony is magnificent and completely finished.

Royal Caribbean have yet again raised the bar for the family market and rumour has it that a further three Oasis class ships have been commissioned. I hope you enjoy Harmony as much as we did and if you have kids of any age this ship really does have something for everyone. Do  make sure you catch Grease and and if you’re feeling brave you’ll love the Ultimate Abyss!

Harmony of the Seas – Maiden Voyage, Southampton to Barcelona, Days 1 & 2


After much anticipation, it was finally time to board Harmony of the Seas for her official maiden voyage from Southampton to Barcelona. This is a one way repositioning cruise so we flew from Manchester down to Southampton and extended the holiday by spending the night before at the Novotel, a reasonably priced 4 star hotel located near West Quay shopping centre and within easy walking distance to the port – literally just 5 minutes away, manageable even with cases and a small child.

We arrived at the port about 10.15am (totally ignoring the 1pm check in we’d been allocated) but thankfully there were no queues and we were greeted by staff with iPads who checked our paperwork, took us through the health questionnaire and directed us to a waiting area. As we are suite guests we were sat in section A and by 10.45am we were boarding!

In a change to usual procedure our cruise cards would be waiting for us in our cabin but we could use the set sail passes we’d printed at home to charge purchases until cabins were available at 1pm. We went straight to my favourite spot on the Oasis class, Central Park, an amazing space hollowed out of the centre of the ship, filled with thousands of plants, trees and living walls and also home to speciality restaurants Chops Grille and Jamie’s Italian. We took a seat at the Trellis Bar and enjoyed the first of many glasses of red on our drinks package accompanied by the must try hot roast beef sandwiches from Park Cafe, a complimentary venue serving salads, sandwiches and cakes throughout the day.

Central Park

If you like a drink or two on board I highly recommend pre-booking a drinks package. We paid around £250 each for a premium package which includes pretty much all beers, wines and cocktails and is unlimited for the duration of the cruise. The bar staff were selling our package on board for significantly more than we paid so do try and pre book the one that suits you as pay as you go drinks aren’t cheap at around $10 for a good glass of wine. If you manage 4 or 5 drinks a day you are already winning!

Like many others, I was a little concerned when I read some of the media reports of the two pre inaugural cruises including the tabloid headline ‘Disharmony of the Seas’ and reports of a floating building site but rest assured this certainly isn’t the case. The ship looks immaculate and beautifully finished, everything is open and functioning and I’ve not seen any last minute work taking place.

We left Central Park and went to The Boardwalk, another of the ship’s distinct ‘neighborhoods’. This is a Coney Island style boardwalk with full size carousel which is free to ride, the Dog House, a complimentary hot dog bar, Mexican speciality restaurant Sabor, a Starbucks for anyone needing a caffeine fix and Johnny Rockets an American diner serving burgers and fries at $5.95 a head alongside a free and unmissable breakfast menu in the morning. It’s also the final destination of of The Ultimate Abyss, the world’s highest dry slide at sea dropping an impressive 11 decks in not many more seconds, and the Aqua Theatre where we saw staff rehearsing a Cirque du Soleil style high diving show which I’m looking forward to viewing from our balcony later in the week.

Crown Loft Suite

By 1pm our cabins were ready so we took the lift to deck 17 where we’d splashed out on a Crown Loft Suite. I turn 45 the week after we get home so this is a kind of mid life crisis cruise which called for an upgrade :) The cabin is absolutely beautiful, a two story loft with floor to ceiling windows, two bathrooms (one with a bath and one with a shower) stocked with L’Occitane toiletries, a bedroom, a sofa bed for Finn, a dining area and spectacular views from our balcony across the sports decks and the Boardwalk to the rear of the ship.

We unpacked our cases into two large wardrobes and endless sets of drawers and celebrated sail away on our balcony with friends who are also onboard. We then enjoyed dinner in Costal Kitchen, a gorgeous restaurant for suite guests on deck 17 with panoramic windows overlooking the sun decks below before ending the evening in the Schooner Bar watching pianist / singer Katia who was so good we had possibly one glass of red too many – thank heaven day 2 was a sea day!

A great night’s sleep was followed by a much needed full English in Costal Kitchen then a trip to the Cruise Critic Meet n Mingle which was followed by a cabin crawl expertly organized by Gillian aka Dutch Clogs. We were hosting so went back to the suite to await our visitors and big thanks go out to Alfonso our stateroom attendant who was fully aware of the cabin crawl concept and who had tidied up beautifully. Over 40 guests arrived to look around our room and admire the view from the balcony and there was still room to swing a family of cats : ) I think I may be hooked on the suite thing for life so I’m going to have to work hard and earn some serious cash ahead of next year’s holidays. It was a lovely sociable thing to do and everyone was putting faces to the names of people they’d met online and even our eight year old Finn made a brand new friend as they bonded over a mutual love of video games.


After the cabin crawl we had a great al a carte lunch in American Icon on the ground floor of the main dining room followed by another visit to the Boardwalk for more carousel rides and lots of clambering fun on lucky climbers, a child friendly climbing frame reassuringly surrounded by nets. I had a hair appointment at the Spa for a reasonably priced $39 wash and blow ahead of formal night. We dined in Costal Kitchen again where they do a fabulous Californian / Med fusion as well as offering all the classics off the main dining room for less adventurous diners like me. It was impeccably served by our waiter Fransisco who also kept our glasses topped up with Malbec as we all enjoyed generous portions of filet mignon. We then went to Harmony’s impressive 1400 seater theatre for the must see Broadway style musical version of Grease which was electrifying!

As well as this blog I’m using an app called Periscope to broadcast live video and commentary of our cruise and viewers can even ask questions as I’m showing you around. All you need to do is download the app and follow @nickywake if you’d like to see some of my previous videos and watch future ones live.