Our second day aboard Harmony of the Seas started with being woken up by kids screaming/singing in the room next to us at 7:30 AM. Usually on newer ships, I rarely have a problem hearing noise from neighboring cabins, but maybe I’ve been lucky not to have awful neighbors like this on my other sailings. We heard them several times throughout the sailing as the boy and girl next door were bickering or fighting. It wasn’t awful, but it took some of the peace out of my cabin time.
Harmony of the Seas – Day 2 Overview
- Breakfast with a view in the Solarium Bistro
- Morning Trivia at the Schooner Bar
- Pool time on Harmony of the Seas
- Lunchtime at Sorrento’s Pizza
- Ziplining over the Boardwalk
- Sliding down the Ultimate Abyss
- Formal Night in the Main Dining Room
- Checking out the robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar
- The underwhelming Rising Tide Bar
- Playing in the Casino Royale on Harmony of the Seas
- Finishing up the night at Dazzles
- Walking four miles on Harmony of the Seas
Day 2 Cruise Compass
Breakfast with a view in the Solarium Bistro
One of the best things about large cruise ships is that there are many alternative dining options. On older or smaller ships, the one buffet would serve most of the meals for breakfast and lunch. The lines would be long, it’d be hard to find a table, and it would not be a relaxing experience.
On newer and larger cruise ships though, the buffet is no longer the primary “go-to” for food. In fact, the Harmony of the Seas had so many different options for breakfast and lunch that no one in our group ever went to the Windjammer Buffet.
For our first breakfast, we decided to try the Solarium Bistro. Located in the adults-only Solarium at the front of the ship, the cute little restaurant has almost everything you’d want for breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, cereal, fruits, and deli meats. The only thing missing was a made-to-order omelet station, although they had premade omelets available.
It was 8:30 at the place was still pretty empty. There were no lines, and we quickly grabbed plates and overloaded our plates with delicious food. The Solarium Bistro has seating inside, but I prefer to sit outside where you can look out to see panoramic views of the ocean. On the Harmony of the Seas, the Solarium isn’t fully enclosed; it just has glass strips covering parts to reduce the wind. You probably wouldn’t want to eat outside if it were raining or very hot or humid, but it was nice this morning. I much prefer the totally enclosed Solarium on ships like the Ovation of the Seas as you could still hear the wind rushing by, but quietly piped-in music helped create a better atmosphere.
As we were eating breakfast, we noticed a lot of movement from the ship which was odd because the water looked calm. I looked at the CruiseMapper app on my phone to see what was going on with the ship, and I saw we were facing the wrong direction. All the worst thoughts went through my head. Was the hurricane that was hitting the Caribbean stopping us? Was there a medical emergency?
The ship came to a complete halt and the horn blared. In the Solarium, people started pointing out of the window. Bobbing in the water was a small sailboat. Its sails were completely tattered, and it looked abandoned. Royal Caribbean follows maritime law, which means they have a legal and moral obligation to help distressed sailors. So when someone on the bridge spotted the little boat, they had to investigate to see if they could help.
The Captain came on the loudspeaker and explained what had happened. The bridge tried to contact the small ship and even sent over a boat to investigate, but the winds were high, and the sail was unsecured, so they couldn’t board. He said they contacted to Coast Guard to come and check. Overall, I really enjoyed hearing from the Captain throughout the cruise. He was personable and always explained things thoroughly. He was much better than the cruise director, who we barely heard from or saw during this cruise.
Morning Trivia at the Schooner Bar
After breakfast, we headed to the Schooner Bar to participate in some morning trivia. The Schooner Bar is the piano bar on almost all Royal Caribbean ships, although each one has a different look. This bar had the traditional, old-school nautical theme with lots of muted browns, rich leather chairs, and ropes. The Schooner Bar is a very wide venue and accommodated the trivia crowd well. It was much better than the one on my last cruise, Ovation of the Seas, which was always overflowing during trivia to the point where it was uncomfortably full. While this Schooner Bar was jam-packed in the evenings, and you could rarely find a seat, it worked well for this trivia at least.
I’ve always found the trivia events underwhelming on Royal Caribbean ships; Carnival does a much better job with the fun and energy of it. For some reason, Royal Caribbean trivia lacks any excitement. The entertainment staff did a good job, but it was clear he was just reading questions he received and didn’t fully understand them.
Pool time on Harmony of the Seas
White clouds smeared across the brilliant blue sky and a gentle sea breeze blew over the deck. It was the quintessential sea day on a cruise ship. The pool was hopping and buzzing with activity. Sea days are always the true test of a ship, as you have everyone on board looking to take advantage of the ship’s facilities and enjoy themselves.
Having three separate pools helped disperse the crowds, and while they looked crowded, most people stuck to the outsides of the pools; either sitting on the edges or standing along the wall. That meant the sizeable middle space was mostly open and good for a quick dip.
The dedicated kid’s splash area, Splashaway Bay, was hopping with kids running down the slides and playing in the water. The hot tub right next to it, which Royal Caribbean always says is for parents to enjoy while kids are relaxing, was jam-packed with kids using it as a pool. Most of the other pools had some kids, but they weren’t swarmed with children. Still, I found it very sad that there wasn’t an adult-only pool on this ship.
On almost every other one of Royal Caribbean’s ships, there’s an adult-only pool in the Solarium. It was one of my favorite places on the Ovation of the Seas, as they put in a plunge pool which meant plenty of places to sit and cool down. Having a full pool at a 5-foot depth on a cruise ship seems silly. People want to sit down and relax, not swim laps. On Harmony of the Seas though, they got rid of the pool and instead installed a “mister” that was rarely used and looked poorly thought out. It was a massive miss on the ship.
The Harmony of the Seas had hundreds, if not thousands, of chairs around the pool deck, in the Solarium, and on the sky deck. They were busy, and if you wanted a chair in the shade or near the pool, you had to wait around to see something open up. Cruise ships are notorious for chair hogs who put their belongings on a chair at 7 AM and then disappear for the rest of the day. While it’s against Royal Caribbean’s policy, we didn’t see any active enforcement of the rule on this sailing, but most guests were adhering to it. Still, it was frustrating to see parents reserve a chair for their kids who would be in the pool or splash pad the whole time, and when they did come back, they just sat on the feet of their parent’s chairs.
It is annoying that cruise lines don’t put a locker system on the pool decks. Even if I just wanted to go for a quick dip in the pool or on the water slides, I needed to take up a chair to put my shoes and belongings while I was in the water. I had no intention of using the chair; if there were a locker system, that chair would be available to someone else.
The two main bars in the pool area were overwhelmed with people, but they were each staffed with five bartenders who worked diligently to keep the lines moving. Royal Caribbean also set up a separate stand that waiters would use so they could bring drinks right to your chairs. It was a great idea because this meant they weren’t taking up the time at the main bars.
On top of that, two servers pushed bar carts filled with ice and canned beverages around the deck. It was another great idea because it meant you didn’t have to wait for the server to come back from the bar with your drink. Instead, you could grab a can of beer, the server would write down your information, and you were set. It’s clear Royal Caribbean thought about how to accommodate the large crowds on board effectively.
I also have to mention how great the bar staff was on this ship. Every bartender was friendly, cordial, and efficient. Even when they were swamped, the bartenders would smile at you and sometimes make small talk while working. It sounds like a little thing, but I have not found this kind of service on every cruise, especially on a busy sea day.
A live band stood in the area between the four pools and played music throughout the day. A couple of times, you’d find people dancing in this area, but it wasn’t an optimum area for this. Also, because of the pool deck layout, there’s no real stage. So it was hard to have events or activities here like you’d see on other ships.
You won’t find any large movie screen here either, so when they’d have events like the Belly Flop Contest, you could only see it if you were sitting right around the pool where it was happening. Unfortunately, the lack of a screen also meant no movies showing under the stars.
Lunchtime at Sorrento’s Pizza
As lunchtime approached, we decided to get off the pool deck and head down to Sorrento’s Pizza along the Royal Promenade for lunch. Sorrento’s is Royal Caribbean’s signature pizza place that’s open most of the time (it’s not truly 24/7, but most of the day, you’ll find it running). It’s a fast-casual dining venue where you can grab a slice of pizza and find your seat.
On this ship, it was surprisingly large and able to accommodate the lines. It also had a lot of seating inside the restaurant and along the Royal Promenade. Sorrento’s also had two Coke Freestyle machines. Since I had the Soda Package on this sailing, I frequented this area a lot as it was the most convenient to refill my soda (the other locations were in the Windjammer Buffet and the Mini Bites restaurant in the sports area of the Harmony).
Since most people were up at the pool deck, there was no line. I immediately walked up and got two slices of plain pizza and one veggie. I was surprised at how much I liked the pizza. On my last Royal Caribbean cruise, the pizza was incredibly bland; it was like elevated frozen pizza (although I literally saw them making it fresh). This pizza was so much better; the sauce was less sweet and more savory, and the cheese was more flavorful and nicely browned. The crust was on the thinner side but still had a nice chew to it. Is it the best pizza I have ever had? No, but it was pretty tasty and I went back many times throughout my cruise. I have no idea why it was better, if it was just this ship or if Royal Caribbean changed their ingredients, but again, I was completely surprised by how much I liked it.
Ziplining over the Boardwalk
After lunch, our group wanted to check out some of the onboard activities available on Harmony of the Seas. So we headed up to the rear of Deck 15, the place for most sports activities.
At first, we wanted to try the Harmony Dunes mini-golf course, but it was in the full sun, which was pretty brutal at that point in the day. So instead, two people from our group opted to try the zipline. That’s right; there’s a zipline right in the middle of the cruise ship. It crosses over the Boardwalk Neighborhood 10 decks over the floor level. While it looks like a dinky little zip line at first, you can see how high it truly is when you walk over to the edge. It was intimidating.
The two people who did the zip line had never done one before and weren’t the kind of people you’d peg to try a zipline. That’s what I love about a cruise. It gets people to try new things, get out of their comfort zone, and experiment. Neither of these people would have driven to a zip line park and paid money for it, but why not try an included activity while on vacation?
They walked over to the line with about ten people in front of them. The staff worked hard to suit the people up in the harnesses quickly and then would give them the instructions in groups. To ride this zipline, you have shoes that tie or a pair of socks on, so they can provide you shoes to wear. They don’t want the chance of shoes slipping off and hitting someone on the Boardwalk.
It took about 20 minutes for those ten people in front of our group to go, and then it was their turn. We watched as they got up in position, towering 100 feet over the ground. The system has an automated metal turnstile that keeps people from going prematurely. It dropped down, and they were on their way, quickly zipping over the neighborhood to the other side. It was a quick ride, but the speed and height still made it thrilling. While it’s not the longest, fastest, or most exciting zip line out there, it’s great for first-timers as there’s no skill involved; the staff will do everything for you.
Sliding down the Ultimate Abyss
After the zip line, we headed to the Ultimate Abyss, a 10-story dry thrill slide. The Ultimate Abyss first debuted on the Harmony of the Seas. Since then, Royal Caribbean has added it to every Oasis-class ship (except for the Allure of the Seas).
The Ultimate Abyss is actually two slides that wind their way down from Deck 16 down to Deck 6. They twist and turn for 216 feet with two 360-degree turns over the course of the ride.
We walked up to the boarding area at the back of the ship. The entrance is well-designed if not a tad intimidating. It’s styled after a giant angler fish, complete with large teeth. Even if you’re not going to ride, it’s great to see the entrance. Also, check it out at night when it’s illuminated and glows.
We got on the line, which had about ten people on it at that point. The attendant explained to the group how to ride. First, you pick up a long, black, carpet-like mat and take it up the stairs. When it’s your turn, you place the mat on the metal slide and then sit on it. If you have any loose belongings like a bag, you put them in a pocket at the bottom of the mat where your feet go. Then, you grab onto two straps, almost like the reigns of a sled, and lean back a bit.
The line went quickly, and within ten minutes, it was our turn. The top of the entrance platform is all glass and looks straight down at the AquaTheater and the ship’s wake. I hate heights, but it didn’t trigger me because the white dots installed on the glass floor take away the full effect. Nevertheless, it’s still a really cool view.
I sat down and waited for my turn. The light above the slide turned green and I was off…kind of. Unlike a waterslide, you have nothing pulling you down to start the ride. Instead, you have to hop and scoot forward until you get to the incline and start to slide. It’s not the most elegant of moments as you watch people flop around until they get going.
At first, it’s pitch black as you start your journey. You feel turns and twists but can’t see them. Then, as you get into it, you’ll slide through lights and otherworldly effects with some sounds playing. It’s really neat and unexpected. Then you’re in the dark again as you pick up speed on the last part of the slide before you arrive at the bottom. Royal Caribbean says the average time from bottom to top is 13.14 seconds. The actual speed will depend on how greased the slide is and the humidity level in the air. On the three rides during my cruise, the speed varied, but it still was a fun little thrill. You didn’t feel the height at all.
You must also be careful when riding, keeping your hands and elbows tucked in. On my first ride, I tilted over too much at one point and hit my elbow on the side, getting what was the equivalent of a rugburn in one spot. It hurt but wasn’t awful. The other two times, I didn’t have that problem.
Formal Night in the Main Dining Room
On every cruise, Royal Caribbean has at least one “formal night,” where they suggest you get dressed up a little more than usual. Typically, it’s the first day at sea (cruises six days or longer have two of these nights). In the past, that meant people went all out. You’d see tuxes, suits, ballgowns, the works. Today, it’s much more subdued, and while some people get really dressed up, you’ll see a wide variation in the dining room.
Typically, I would at least wear a button-down shirt and tie, but this was a short cruise, and most of us were packing light. On top of that, the group I went with weren’t ones who’d enjoy going all out in formal attire. So for this cruise, we dressed down a bit. We decided dress slacks and a shirt with a collar would do. We didn’t feel out of place in the dining room, and I saw everything from people in polos and dark jeans to full-on tuxes.
The Formal Night menu used to be more elevated, usually with lobster as an option. On a 5-day cruise, though, they don’t do that. The menu doesn’t feel much more high-end than the traditional, everyday menus.
One of the guests in our party had her heart set on lobster, so she treated herself to a $34.95 add-on to get Surf and Turf. I usually hate add-ons in the dining room as I feel that they’re nickel and diming you, but I have to say, it was worth it here. They brought it out and the lobster was huge! The steak was also sizeable and cooked perfectly.
Dinner took on the longer side this evening, 90 minutes from start to finish. The waiters were very attentive, and it didn’t feel like we were waiting long between courses, but it was just at the border of getting too long. Then again, we were a large group with special dietary needs, so we may have taken longer than other tables.
Checking out the robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar
After dinner, we walked over to the Bionic Bar to grab post-dinner cocktails. Located right outside the fifth floor of the dining room and at the beginning of the Royal Promenade, the Bionic Bar has two large robotic arms that make cocktails to order.
The space was filled with tables and couches, and you’d order your drink using tablets located throughout the bar. This evening, it was about half full. Typically, you didn’t see people lounging here much. Instead, they’d spend a while paging through all the screens to find the perfect drink, watch it get made, and then go about their night. Most of the fun here is picking your drink and watching the robots make it. No cocktail was revolutionary, but it’s fun to watch. It is annoying that Royal Caribbean still charges an 18% gratuity for drinks ordered here, so you’re tipping the robots.
The underwhelming Rising Tide Bar
After the Bionic Bar, we strolled down the Royal Promenade and saw the Rising Tide Bar. It sounded interesting in all my research leading up to the cruise on the Harmony of the Seas. This bar rises from the Royal Promenade and slowly goes to Central Park. Guests can board at either stop and enjoy cocktails while it moves between floors.
It sounds cool in concept, but in reality, it was underwhelming. The platform practically crawls between floors, trapping you at the bar for 20 – 30 minutes. That would be alright, except there’s little to do on the platform. There’s no musician, and the bartenders aren’t putting on a show. They didn’t even have a separate cocktail menu. There’s nothing special about this bar beside the fact it moves between floors.
Throughout the cruise, we would watch people riding it, and the look of boredom on their faces was unmistakable. I don’t know why Royal Caribbean doesn’t make more of an event out of the journey.
Playing in the Casino Royale on Harmony of the Seas
We decided to check out the casino since we had yet to go on this cruise. The Casino Royale is tucked away on Deck 4 between the Studio B Ice Skating Rink. Unlike other cruise lines (Carnival) that force you to walk through the casino to get anywhere on the main levels, on Harmony of the Seas, you only had to go through the casino if you were going between those two venues.
The casino itself was pretty spacious, with a variety of slots and table games. It spanned the entire width of the ship, but getting a good idea of how it was laid out was challenging. It was like the old casinos you’d see with no windows and a confusing layout, so you couldn’t easily get out.
The casino had both a smoking and non-smoking section. There were no physical dividers, though, so the smoke could waft between the two sections pretty easily. That being said, on this sailing, the smoke was pretty mild while in the non-smoking sections. So when I would leave the casino after playing some, I didn’t smell like an ashtray or have dry eyes. It was much better than some other ships with poorly ventilated casino floors.
Finishing up the night at Dazzles
After playing for a while, I wanted to check out some live music before bed. The ship was full of performers, from acoustic guitars to salsa bands to piano players. This evening we decided to check out Dazzles, a two-story performance space located on Deck 8 of the ship, right after the Central Park Neighborhood.
Throughout the cruise, the bar seemed to be rarely visited, and it was probably one of the most underused spaces on the ship. It’s in an odd location that’s not easy to find, and you wouldn’t pass it on your everyday travels.
It’s a shame because Dazzles is nice. It overlooks the Boardwalk with expansive two-story glass windows and has a large stage in front for performers. The space is large and airy, perfect for music. Comfy seating options filled the bar and made it a great place to relax. A bar was on the first floor near the band, and then you could see a staircase leading to a second level with even more comfy seating. On the second story, the volume was perfect, so you could enjoy the music while still chatting with friends and not being rude.
For this sailing, I didn’t particularly care for the band that played here most of the time. They weren’t bad necessarily, but they weren’t my style.
Walking four miles on Harmony of the Seas
Even though it was a sea day, there was so much to see and do on board. I checked my phone when I got back to the room. Surprisingly, I only walked 4 miles this day. While 4 miles on a cruise ship is no easy feat, I walked double that on my last cruise. The main reason is the neighborhood layout of the Harmony of the Seas, which keeps things contained in one area so you’re not constantly bouncing around the ship.
Another thing that cut down on walking was the elevators, but not because of why you think. There just weren’t enough elevators for all the guests, and waits were typically long. Because things were all on different levels, and the elevators took so long, you wouldn’t travel too far.
I often considered running to get a soda from Sorrento’s, but five flights of stairs up and down was just too much for one soda. Or if you forgot something in your room, you weren’t likely to get it because it’d be a 15-minute trip. So you would stay where you were so you didn’t have to deal with the hassle.
Closing out a jam-packed sea day on Harmony of the Seas
Overall though, it was a great day, and I was very surprised how the ship didn’t feel like there were 6,000 people on it. It was full, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t feel noticeably more full than any other ship I had sailed on.
The next morning, we were arriving in Costa Maya at 8 AM, so I wanted to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Unfortunately, when I got to my room, the AquaTheater show was still running. It was loud, even with the door and curtains closed. Luckily, it ended by 11:30 so I could get to sleep.
Follow along on the rest of our Harmony of the Seas cruise
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