It was day four of our five-day cruise aboard Harmony of the Seas. Today we’d be arriving in Cozumel, Mexico. Follow along on our adventures below.
Harmony of the Seas in Cozumel Overview
- Starting the day on Harmony of the Seas
- Exploring Cozumel International Cruise Terminal
- Catamaran Snorkel with Rays and Sharks with Beach BBQ
- Back to Cozumel Port
- Harmony of the Seas Pool Deck Activities
- Dinner in Silk Dining Room
- English Pub for Live Music
- Love and Marriage Show in the Royal Theater
- Good luck getting into the comedy show
Day 4 Cruise Compass
Starting the day on Harmony of the Seas
On most of my other cruises, I’d start my day by opening the curtains and stepping onto the balcony to get a feel for the weather and take in the ocean views. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the option on this cruise because I had a Boardwalk Balcony cabin. I could step out onto the balcony, but I wouldn’t be able to see the ocean, and everyone could see me because there are balconies right across the way. It’s just another thing I missed from an oceanview balcony. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful morning and would be a perfect day to explore Mexico.
Another quiet breakfast at Solarium Bistro
The ship arrived and docked in the wee hours of the morning. We booked an excursion for 9 am, so we had time for a leisurely breakfast before heading out. We decided to check out the Solarium Bistro for breakfast again.
As we walked from the back to the front of the ship, I noticed the pools and chairs were all completely empty, a stark contrast to the sea day earlier this week. No chair hogs today.
The Solarium Bistro was a bit more crowded than the first time we went, but it was still way more empty than the traditional buffet. People started to learn about the peaceful breakfast here, but there was still plenty of room.
Exploring Cozumel International Cruise Terminal
Everyone returned to their cabins to get their bags, and we headed down to the gangway together. The lines were almost non-existent, and we walked right off the ship and onto the pier.
Because of the time it took to get off the ship yesterday, we got left early and gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the excursion meeting point. We booked our excursion through Royal Caribbean, which meant we’d get off the ship and meet the tour group in the port. This pier was a much shorter walk than Costa Maya, and with no lines, we were 45 minutes early for our meeting time.
Cozumel has three different cruise terminals where ships can dock. For this sailing, our ship was at the International Cruise Terminal. The port itself was a bit more stark and didn’t have the same vibe we felt the day before in Costa Maya (ready about it here). The buildings all had a distinct Mexican influence in the design, but the port had less of a tropical feeling. The walkways were wide, but the passages were confusing to navigate, so you’d have to pay attention to where you were going. There wasn’t a ton of shade, and I could see that being a problem in the summer.
Unlike Port Costa Maya, this port wasn’t meant to be a full-day destination on its own. You won’t find any pools or activities besides shopping at this port. The two main restaurants were Senor Frogs and Margaritaville, which gave it a Spring Break vibe. For example, it was 9 am, and Senor Frogs had a shot girl blowing a whistle in people’s ears and pouring liquor right into their mouths.
Trouble finding our excursion
As it got closer to our excursion time, we walked to the beginning of the port and tried to find out group. For all excursions purchased directly through the cruise line, you’d meet your group at the port entrance. Staff stood throughout the central plaza holding signs with the excursion names. Most excursion names sounded similar here, making it more complicated. Your excursion ticket also has a number on it, so it’s easier to use that to find your group.
We walked through the mass crowds. A Royal Caribbean employee was on site to try to help guests who were having problems finding their group and he directed us. Our sign wasn’t up yet because our guide was still setting up the group before us. It was chaotic and unorganized compared to other ports, but eventually we found our guide.
Catamaran Snorkel with Rays and Sharks with Beach BBQ
We booked our excursion about four months prior using Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner website. We ended up booking “Catamaran Snorkel with Rays and Sharks with Beach BBQ,” which is grammatically a lousy title, but it describes the actual excursion pretty well. We wanted a tour that would bring some new experiences to the group, and this one had snorkeling, sea life, and lunch, so it sounded perfect. We paid $99 per person, but the cost varied from $93 to $119 over the months before the cruise.
Tip: Always pay attention to prices on Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner. The prices often fluctuate and if you see a lower price, you can cancel and rebook at the cheaper price online. The lowest prices for excursions don’t always coincide with the best drink package or internet sales. They seem to change based on demand and availability.
We started out by signing waivers and then our group had to follow the staff member through the chaos of the port to the boat we were taking. When they said catamaran, I pictured a fancy sailboat-type boat. In reality, it was just a single-level boat close to the water. It was nice, but not what I imagined from the description. The group was a good size, with 25 guests and about 5 crew members on board.
Snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Cozumel
The catamaran took us from the Cozumel pier and headed into the water. It hugged the shore, and we passed close by two other cruise ships also docked in Cozumel.
The snorkeling location was in deep water, but it wasn’t the open ocean; we could still see the shore and even the Carnival Vista at the terminal. All our belongings went into blue Rubbermaid totes under the seats to keep them dry. The crew gave us life vests, masks with snorkels, and flippers. We had to wear all of it and jump in the water with the vest inflated (you could uninflate it once you were in if you wanted).
The seas were rough that day, so they asked us to jump in quickly and the boat would float away so there would be no safety risk. I shuffled to the end of the boat and stepped off into the water. I splashed in and the feeling of the cool water enveloped my body. I got my bearings and floated out a bit, looking for my party (everyone looked the same in a yellow vest and snorkel).
The waters were crystal clear, and I could easily see the bottom of the ocean (The instructors said the water was about 15 to 20 feet deep). The current was strong, making me work harder to swim around than I had experienced on previous snorkeling trips. Four people from the excursion quickly became overwhelmed and asked to get out. The crew was attentive and ensured those guests were safe and back on board without problems. Then the rest of us proceeded to follow the lead crew member.
We swam along a ridge where coral dotted the sea floor. Small fish were swimming all around us, between our legs and fins. I’ve been snorkeling several times before, but I always find it so mesmerizing how fish swim around and through us like we’re nothing.
One thing that stuck out to me was how plain the colors were. In my previous snorkeling adventures in the Bahamas, both the fish and coral were vibrant colors. Here, the colors were much more muted. I don’t know if that’s the area or due to global warming, but it was noticeably different.
After about 20 to 30 minutes of snorkeling, the crew helped everyone get back on board, and we headed to our next stop. We kept our flippers and snorkels as we’d use them in the next place as well.
Stingray Encounter at Stingray Beach
After a short ride, we arrived at Stingray Beach, where we’d spend the rest of the excursion. First, we entered a large amphitheater, and a wildlife expert told us some facts about stingrays. On top of providing information to tourists, this facility works to help restore and conserve local corals. They also release their captive-born stingrays back into the wild to help increase their population in the Mexican Caribbean.
First, we’d go in the water and feed and pet the stingrays. The facility debarbs all the stingrays so they pose no threat to the guests. They asked if we had any sunscreen on (reef-safe, mineral, or otherwise) to wash it off. It’s the law in some national parks and protected waters in Mexico. If you’re going on an excursion like this, bring a shirt and hat with UPF protection built in; it’s the only way to protect yourself from the sun. You’ll also want water shoes as the ground here is very rough. The excursion provided some water shoes if you didn’t bring any.
At this point, they gave us mesh bags to put our belongings in that they’d store behind the desk as we were in the water. Some group members complained that it wasn’t a secure locker, but it felt completely safe to me.
We walked into a part of the shore that was roped off and formed a line. The water was about waist-deep where we were standing. An assistant came around and gave us all a small fish. Once given the green light, we’d lower the fish into the water, and the stingrays would swim around and grab them. Because their mouth is on the bottom, we had to put the food as low as possible.
Squeals filled the air as some younger girls in our group were bushed by the stingrays. There were at least five stingrays, anywhere from the size of a dinner plate to about 2 feet wide. It was an interesting sensation to have them sliding around between your feet.
After that, the instructors got two stingrays so we could pet them and have a photo opportunity. Kissing a stingray is supposed to be good luck, so that was an option if you wanted a photo of that.
One by one, we approached. The stingrays were incredibly calm and relaxed. I was surprised at the texture of the stingray; it was both hard and boney and soft and slimy at the same time.
After everyone got a turn, we headed to the next activity.
Swimming with Rays and Sharks
In a netted-off pen next to us was a deeper section filled with other stingrays and nurse sharks. In this area, we’d wear snorkels and fins and swim with the animals.
The water ranged in depth from a couple of feet to about 15 feet. Most people in the group participated in this part, even if they couldn’t participate in the open water snorkeling.
Watching the stingrays glide effortlessly through the crystal clear waters was astounding. They seemed like such majestic and gentle creatures. They were pretty active, swimming around the large enclosure and zooming past rocks. But, since we had no food, they paid little attention to us.
In the corner, a group of four or five nurse sharks hid in the shade. They were big, maybe 6 feet or more, but they wanted nothing to do with anyone and just hung in one corner. I wouldn’t have spotted them if the staff hadn’t pointed them out.
Beach BBQ Time
It was about 12:30, and we finished all the activities on board. Next was the “Beach BBQ” part of the excursion. When I originally read that in the description, I pictured we’d be eating on a huge white sand beach with hammocks and a fire pit.
In reality, it was more of a patio next to the ocean with a large grill. It wasn’t bad, but if you booked this thinking it was part beach day, you might have been disappointed.
The staff grilled up some delicious beef, chicken, and pork tacos. A fixings bar was next to it with fresh salsa, onions, cheese, and some tortilla chips. It was tasty, not as mind-blowing as the taco lunch at Maya Chan the day before, but it was very good food. The excursion also included Mexican beer or rum punch, which hit the spot after all the activity.
After lunch, we headed to a room where they showed us photos taken during the adventure, both during the snorkeling and the stingray encounter. If you wanted to buy the photos, you paid per person. For seven people, it was $85, which wasn’t a bad deal if you look at the cost per person.
Back to Cozumel Port
After our lunch, we headed back onto the catamaran and our original guides took us back to the cruise port. On the way back, they played music and had people dancing around. At one point, they had people doing the Cha Cha Slide, which is an interesting choice because there’s only a limited amount of space to move on the deck and the dance requires some sliding around.
We got back to the International Cruise Terminal and explored some more. It was much less crowded than the Costa Maya port was the previous day. The stores were easy to walk through and we didn’t have to worry about getting lost in massive crowds of people.
Since we didn’t purchase many souvenirs in Costa Maya, we checked out a few shops to look for typical tourist stuff like T-shirts and magnets. We also picked up some delicious chocolate bars. One of the convenience stores was selling Corona beers for $2 each, so we bought a round for the group as well. As with many cruise ports, all of the shops took US currency and most accepted credit cards.
After we finished up, we headed back towards the ship. As we approached, we saw long lines stretching out of security. Each ship had its own line. For this port, rather than screening guests on the ship, they did it at a terminal beforehand. It felt a bit sloppy and unorganized but thankfully didn’t take too long. Once we got back to the Harmony of the Seas, we just showed our SeaPass and walked right on.
Harmony of the Seas Pool Deck Activities
Since it was only about 3:30 and we were already in swimsuits, we decided to check out some of the pool deck features again. Some in our group decided to try the FlowRider. I opted for the waterslide, as I enjoyed the bowl slide. This time, there was no line at all. With no line, you realize how many steps it takes to get to the top of the slide platform. It felt like I had hiked up a hill by the time I got to the top of the stairs, but it was worth it.
Once I was done, I met up with the group at the FlowRider. While they were waiting, I got a drink at the Wipeout Bar. It’s located in between the two FlowRiders, but has no seats making it a grab-and-go bar. It’s a shame that Royal Caribbean wasted some prime aft space on this ship and didn’t put more seating that can look out at the ocean. In fact, this whole trip, I didn’t have one opportunity to look out at the ship’s wake. I always find that so relaxing, watching the ship’s tail as we glide through the water, but there wasn’t a good view. There was some bar-height seating at the back of the ship, but the chairs were very uncomfortable. It seemed like it was an afterthought, especially after just sailing on a ship like the Norweigan Prima, which has so many comfy seating options overlooking the water (read about our cruise on Norwegian Prima here).
Once our group was done with the FlowRider, we planned to take the Ultimate Abyss slide back to the room. Unfortunately, the attendant stopped us and said we had to be completely dry to slide. Although I had gone on the water slide about 30 minutes earlier, I was still wet, and he said we couldn’t go. I completely understood since the water could pass through to the mat and slow down the ride for everyone, but I was surprised I was still wet enough at that point.
Dinner in Silk Dining Room
Our group returned to our rooms to change and met again for dinner in the Silk Dining Room. Our waiters greeted us as we walked right to our table. I know a lot of people prefer my time dining because of the flexibility, but I really like having no waits and having the same waiters every night.
During this meal, we had an extended chat with the manager who spent most of the cruise helping those in our party with special dietary needs. Her name was Mitzy, and she did a fantastic job ensuring everyone was taken care of.
Our party asked her about eating in the Windjammer. She said that although they have a gluten-free section that’s quite good, she recommended that if guests have an actual allergy (as opposed to a preference for gluten-free), they don’t eat from the buffet-style section. Although the food is prepared separately and is safe, in a buffet setting, there could be cross-contamination. Instead, she said always ask for the manager when you arrive, and they’ll get the food directly from the galley. At no point did they ever make it feel like the dietary restrictions in our group were an imposition.
English Pub for Live Music
After dinner, we headed to Boot and Bonnet English Pub for some live music. For this cruise, they had an acoustic guitar player named Nicole Springer performing. She had a singer/songwriter vibe and a beautifully rich voice. We had seen her for a bit the previous night, but now we wanted to see her whole set.
We sat inside the pub (they also have seating on the Promenade) and waited for service. This bar was busy most evenings. While they had five bartenders behind the bar, drink service usually took some time because the servers would take your drink orders, make them all, and bring them out (rather than having separate servers and bartenders).
Again, I was annoyed by the lack of a physical menu at the bar. They had a tent on the tables with the highlighted cocktails and a QR code for the whole menu, but it was not as fun to look through. A digital menu doesn’t have the same impact as a print one. Sure, Royal Caribbean saves money by not printing menus, but I know for sure I would have ordered more drinks if I had an enticing menu in front of me, so they lost money there.
We all relaxed and enjoyed the music as we lounged around. Nicole played some great covers and songs you wouldn’t expect. Everything from Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” to REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” The crowd was really enjoying her.
If you weren’t in an acoustic guitar mood, you could have checked out live Latin music in Boleros, a classic Quintet in Central Park, or party music in Dazzles. Royal Caribbean gives you a lot of options for live music; there’s something for everyone’s taste.
Love and Marriage Show in the Royal Theater
This evening, Royal Caribbean was holding the Love and Marriage Game Show at 9:30 pm. The show is a play on the Newlywed Game and is pretty standard on every cruise line in North America. They bring up one newlywed couple, one who’s been married for around ten years, and one who has been married the longest. Then the cruise director gets to ask them embarrassing questions on stage.
The show took place in the Royal Theater, which we hadn’t checked out yet. Located at the front of Decks 4 and 5, the two-story venue was impressive. Decorated with rich reds and gold hues, it felt like a traditional theater from the old days. This venue is where they’d host larger-scale shows, headliner acts, and a production of Grease.
We got there about 20 minutes early, found some comfy seats in the middle of the orchestra section, and waited. The room filled up but wasn’t so packed that people couldn’t find a seat. It seemed like there was room for everyone.
The show started with an assistant cruise director, Gemma, who came out and tried to line up the couples. I don’t know why Royal Caribbean always makes the assistant cruise director do this part of the show. It feels like it’s beneath the cruise directors to talk to the guests, so they have the assistants do it. I’ve witnessed it twice on Royal Caribbean ships and it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I always find Royal Caribbean takes too much time to find the contestants. It gets dull. Usually, they find the newest and oldest married couples and then have the mid-range couple compete. in this case, the newest couples had to compete by having the guy do his best Tarzen call to his “Jane.” Then for the mid-range couple, they had to reenact a scene from Dirty Dancing where they say, “no one puts baby in a corner,” but somehow that evolved into everyone attempting the “I Had The Time Of My Life” dance lift. It did not go well. Thankfully the assistant director had great energy and a good sense of humor.
After the three couples were selected, the cruise director Jeffery came out. He seemed to be absent during most of the sailing, and we barely heard any announcements from him except when a show was delayed. It was day four of our cruise, and I couldn’t have identified him in a lineup if I had tried.
He introduced himself but then had this odd concept for the show. He wanted us to pretend we were a studio audience and like we were filming it live for TV (technically, it would air on the cruise ship channel the next day). Then he asked everyone to be quiet and “counted in” as the music played, and he introduced himself. It felt very cheesy and inauthentic.
The show was amusing, but I thought the questions they asked the contestants weren’t as funny as others I’ve heard. I also wasn’t appreciating Jeffery’s vibe, but two in my group were laughing so hard they were literally crying, so it’s subjective.
Overall, the show was fun, and I definitely recommend you check it out on your next cruise.
Good luck getting into the comedy show
After the show, we were looking for what else to do. We looked at the Adult Comedy show that was happening right after the Love and Marriage show, but unfortunately, it was completely booked. In fact, during the whole cruise, we couldn’t get into one comedy show. All the comedy during this sailing took place in a little venue called “The Attic,” and reservations were all gone when we looked to book at the end of the first day. They had a standby line available, but it was also long.
I don’t know why cruise lines insist on putting comedians in such small venues. It’s not just Royal Caribbean. I’ve had the problem on Norwegian and Carnival as well. Comedy is a very popular attraction, especially the late show, and yet they put it in a venue that holds a hundred people at most. I know that comedy shows usually have an intimate feel, but I’ve also seen them in huge theaters on land that hold up to a thousand people, and they were just as funny. It’s like the people who build these ships and plan these events have never cruised and tried to see the nightlife.
Back to the room
Since we couldn’t get into the show, we headed back to the cabin. It was 10:45, and I could still hear the AquaTheater show through the door. Thankfully, I wasn’t trying to go to bed at that minute, but it would have been very difficult if you were trying to.
I also realized we didn’t get a physical copy of the Cruise Compass yet again, even though I requested it. It would have been helpful because it would have come with the departure information about how to schedule our debarkation time. I found it very frustrating that Royal Caribbean made it so difficult to get basic information like that. While the app is good, it can’t replicate the information provided in the physical copies guests can receive.
Follow along on the rest of our Harmony of the Seas cruise
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