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Trip Report, Harmony of the Seas, 3/31/18-4/7/18 with Star Class Review

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This is my trip report from our recent cruise on the Harmony of the Seas which sailed from Port Everglades from March 31, 2018 to April 7, 2018 (Spring Break).

 

I started a "Live" report previously at https://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2615897 but I couldn't keep up with L1211's live report so I waved the white flag midway through the trip. Some of this may be a repeat from the Live report but I will try and minimize that.

 

Family-A little about us. I am Steve, age 54. My wife, Patti, is 59 years young and our son, Logan, is 16 years old. We live in a suburb outside Detroit. Our oldest son is almost 24 years old, lives and works in Chicago and did not go on this cruise. This is the 14th cruise for me and Patti and the 11th cruise for Logan. All cruises have been in the Caribbean except one cruise to Alaska.

 

Research-I research this cruise like crazy. The recent reviews by Andrew (A&L_Ont) along with many other posts were very helpful. I am not sure how much I will post is new but a different perspective is always good. I did not look at any cruise compasses before the cruise. I just roll with each day especially the sea days.

 

Cabin Selection-Long story, short, we started with a balcony cabin and ended up upgrading (for a cost) to a 2 Bedroom Aquatheatre Suite (ATS), category A2, which is Star Class and includes the Royal Genie. Our suite was 10330 which is aft and port side on deck 10.

 

Flights-I booked our flights through Air2Sea which saved us over $100 per person. My flew first class from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale arriving around 5pm on Friday and we stopped overnight in New York City post-cruise to see family.

 

Pre-Cruise-We stayed Friday night before the cruise at the Renaissance Cruise Port hotel on 17th Street. We stayed using Marriott Rewards points so you can't beat free. Some of the reviews online aren't great about the hotel but we continue to like the hotel. I really don't understand the complaints. We had a fabulous dinner at the Boatyard restaurant which is across the parking lot from the hotel. I highly recommend the hotel and the restaurant.

 

Morning of Departure-As usual, I woke up and walked about 1 mile to the top of the 17th Street Bridge at 5:30am to watch the ships come into port. I was very surprised that my DS also woke up and went with me on the walk. Normally, he would sleep until 10am. The Harmony was already in port but we watched other ships sail in. It was very dark outside so it was cool to see the bright neon lights from the back of the Harmony knowing one of those cabins is our ATS.

Edited by flannbarr

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Ports of Call-The cruise sailed to the Western Caribbean which included Labadee, Falmouth (Jamaica) and Cozumel. We have to these ports more than once previously. This cruise was more about the ship as the destination. More about the ports later but let's just say I am about done with the Western and Eastern Caribbean. We need something different.

 

Day 1: Embarkation-We took an Uber from the hotel to the Port Everglades. We coordinated with our genie to arrive at Port Everglades at 10:30am. That ~1 mile ride cost a whopping $6.49. We actually arrived at 10:20am. We were dropped off near the Star Class flag. Two porters along with a woman who began the check-in process at the curb were there to assist us. We walked with these three people into the cruise terminal and quickly went through security. The porters took our 3 suitcases directly to our suite. We were escorted upstairs to the Star Class waiting area where cold water was waiting for us and comfy furniture. Within minutes, a genie came to greet us. Moments later, our Genie (Valentina) along with her mentor (Sebastian) arrived to greet us. They walked us onto the ship. After a quick picture, they escorted us at around 10:45am to our suite on deck 10.

Edited by flannbarr

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Arriving at the Suite-I researched the cabins and suites extensively so I could not wait to arrive at Suite 10330 and show my family what I planned. That "Ah" moment. It did not disappoint. The suite was beautiful, huge and well designed. More to come on that later.

 

The room steward was completing the cleaning of the room so we only stayed for a few minutes.There was a platter of light appetizers and desserts waiting for us in the room along with two bottles of wine and a mini fridge filled with Evian water. and sodas and juices based on our preferences. They asked us what beer and wine we would like in the room and within minutes it was all delivered.

 

We quickly toured the suite and left so they could finish cleaning and prepping it. We did come back to the suite until 1pm.

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Day 1-We were able to leave our carry on bags in the suite at 10:45am when we left there which was very nice to be able to do. After the preview of the suite, we went to deck 15 for a cocktail and signed Logan up with the activity waiver. This was not available to do pre-cruise because it was not programmed into the new RCCL website at the time. I believe the sign-up desk opened around 11:15am. We were near the front of the line but the line gets long very quickly.

 

Since we had previously sailed on the Oasis and Allure, we were very familiar with the overall ship layout. We proceeded to tour the ship and noticed many of the subtle differences most of which were improvements.

 

As Star Class cruisers, we received access to the Coastal Kitchen (CK) for all meals and all of the specialty restaurants.

 

We had a nice lunch on Day 1 in the CK. We came to like the CK very quickly. It is a nice atmosphere with great views.

 

At 1pm, we went to our suite and unpacked our suitcases. I recorded a 2 minute tour of the suite which I hope to post at a later time. We relaxed for a while in our suite and on the balcony.

 

Genie Valentina came to our suite and reviewed the itinerary that she put together for us and typed. This includes diners, shows and excursions. We made some minor changes to the itinerary.

 

At 3:30pm, we went to the AquaTheatre for the muster drill which seemed to go on longer than previous sailings...until around 4pm.

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I am not going to do a day-by-day review, Instead I am going to do overall category reviews.

 

Dining-Of all the meals onboard, Logan only ate with us one time. He was off on his merry way meeting new friends every day and eating in the Windjammer and Sorrento's. He did not go to Johnny Rockets because his new friends would have had to pay and I don't think it is worth $9.95 per person.

 

So Patti and I pretty much ate all meals ourselves with no Logan except for one dinner.

 

I am proud to say that we never once stepped foot into the WIndjammer and only once into a main dining room and that was for lunch.

 

High Level Restaurant Reviews (in order of our ranking):

 

Wonderland (10 out of 10)-WOW. Just WOW. The experience is fabulous. The service is great. The food is excellent. The dessert is out of this world so much that we returned the last night at 9pm just for dessert.

 

Coastal Kitchen (9.5 out of 10)-We had 2 excellent dinners and 2 lunchesat CK. Great service, Great food, Great atmosphere. The next time we sail on a Oasis or Quantum class ship, we will be sure to sail in a suite so we have access to the CK for dinner. We would have been very happy eating all of our dinners here. I also had a couple of breakfasts at CK while DW was asleep.

 

150 Central Park (9 out of 10)-Had an excellent dinner here. The various salts from around the world were very creative.

 

Izumi Hibachi (8 out of 10)-Similar to a Benihana style restaurant. Very good service and a ton of good food.

 

Chops (7 out of 10)-Had a good dinner here. Food and service were good. We have very nice steakhouses at home so Chops was not a special meal for us.

 

Sabor (5 out of 10)-Sabor was just OK. We previously ate at Sabor either on Allure or Liberty and I recall that the menu back then was more gourmet with many more selections. The guacamole this time was good and so was the food but it wasn't anything special. Next time, I would just go to Sabor for lunch and not dinner.

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Awesome. Great ! Thanks so much Flanbarr for posting your review of Star class.

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Awesome. Great ! Thanks so much Flanbarr for posting your review of Star class.

 

 

You are welcome. I still have lots to post including my assessment of Star Class.

 

 

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I don't recall the names of the other genies but I may be able to find out. Angelina was from Romania and I believe the other genies were from Mexico and China. I will get back to you.

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I don't recall the names of the other genies but I may be able to find out. Angelina was from Romania and I believe the other genies were from Mexico and China. I will get back to you.

 

Araceli is from Mexico.

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Araceli is from Mexico.

 

 

 

Thanks Andrew. Hint of things to come in future posts—-Angelina was no Sebastian. Not even close.

 

 

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You're going to leave us hanging with that?!

Flannbarr, thank you for so much detail already. Waiting eagerly for more.

Quick question...did you book Hibachi ahead of time on your own or was the Genie able to get you in without a problem?

 

 

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Entertainment

 

Every year, our family contemplates between a cruise and beach vacation in the Caribbean or Florida. Most of the time we decide on a cruise. One reason is entertainment. Most Caribbean resorts don't have shows. You drink, lay in the sun, eat, repeat, etc.

 

We think that the entertainment on the Oasis class ships specifically is very good with many options. Marc was the cruise director and he did a good job. "Bing bong".

 

Some shows (except Grease), it was hard to follow a story line which is fine because we are just there to be entertained.

 

Grease-90 minute show. Very well done and entertaining. A lot of energy.

 

Juggler/Entertainer Adam Kario-I was skeptical when I found out he was the headliner. I was hoping for a tribute band. He was amazing. Very good juggler, funny and entertaining.

 

Ice Show-Very well done. Great skaters.

 

Columbus-Very funny, satirical and entertaining.

 

Love and Marriage Show-CD Marc really kept this show going for almost 90 minutes. The 3 couples were very funny. I think the oldest couple who was married for 50 years was not happy because they were totally cut out of the recorded show that played on stateroom tv the rest of the cruise.

 

Comedy Show-Nery Saenz and Dan Grueter had us laughing very hard. We were in the front row and of course I was "picked on" quite a bit but all in good humor.

 

Fine Line Water Show-It was canceled 3 times and we finally got to watch it the last night after many reschedules. Again, unbelievable work including walking a tight rope 55 feet above the aquatheatre. We also enjoyed the comedic water show (forgot the name).

 

Schooner Bar-Pianist/vocalist was very good. He was British man who was able to play anything we requested and did it well.

 

Our DS enjoyed all of the slides on the ship. He never did the Flowrider which surprised me because he was busy "just walking around" (aka in the whirlpools) with his new friends.

 

More to come later.

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The Suite

 

As stated earlier, we were in Aqua Theater Suite 10330. Simply, the suite is amazing.

 

Suite Highlights:

  1. Huge suite which sleeps 8 people.
  2. Beautifully designed.
  3. A ton of closets.
  4. Real king size bed in the master bedroom (no curves/cut-outs at the bottom of the bed).
  5. Beds were comfortable.
  6. Lots of electrical plugs in the suite including next top all beds.
  7. Two bathrooms including large (relatively speaking) master bathroom. The master bath/shower combo had a half glass shower door which I have never seen before but I guess it makes sense. It is not a standard size tub/shower--narrower in width but still adequate.
  8. Specialty L'Occitane bathing products. My wife said they were very nice and expensive products. I would not know any different.
  9. Huge wraparound balcony. And I mean huge. You can sit in the shade or the sun. It is that large. A MAJOR highlight.
  10. Lots of seating on the balcony--2 padded, chaise loungers, 2 padded chairs with ottomans. 2 counter height stools, oval dining table with 6 chairs.
  11. Large telescope on balcony.
  12. Refrigerator filled with water, juices, sodas and beer along with wine as requested. Additional supplies were stored in the adjoining cabinet.
  13. Gourmet coffee/tea maker although we never used it.
  14. GREAT view of the Aqua Theater.

Suite Lowlights/Questions:

  1. There was counter on the balcony which was put it in a really stupid place--between the support beam and the balcony wall. It made the counter essentially non-functional because you could not put stools behind it and sit there. Why not install the counter in more of an open area? The picture does not show it well but trust me that it was functional as a countertop.
  2. No clothesline in either shower to dry clothes.
  3. A significant amount of ash was blown on our balcony twice overnight. It made a large part of the balcony essentially nonfunctional in the morning until the room stewards cleaned it up. Even after the clean-up, our feet would still have black on the bottom from walking and also on our shorts from sitting on the chaise loungers. The areas appeared clean but they really were not.
  4. Hair dryer that you have to hold the button to keep it running. Same as all cabins on the ship. This drives my wife crazy.

Countertop.jpg.d92fd1d73d878eac02de54a961f8cd54.jpg

Edited by flannbarr

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Entertainment

 

Every year, our family contemplates between a cruise and beach vacation in the Caribbean or Florida. Most of the time we decide on a cruise. One reason is entertainment. Most Caribbean resorts don't have shows. You drink, lay in the sun, eat, repeat, etc.

 

We think that the entertainment on the Oasis class ships specifically is very good with many options. Marc was the cruise director and he did a good job. "Bing bong".

 

Some shows (except Grease), it was hard to follow a story line which is fine because we are just there to be entertained.

 

Grease-90 minute show. Very well done and entertaining. A lot of energy.

 

Juggler/Entertainer Adam Kario-I was skeptical when I found out he was the headliner. I was hoping for a tribute band. He was amazing. Very good juggler, funny and entertaining.

 

Ice Show-Very well done. Great skaters.

 

Columbus-Very funny, satirical and entertaining.

 

Love and Marriage Show-CD Marc really kept this show going for almost 90 minutes. The 3 couples were very funny. I think the oldest couple who was married for 50 years was not happy because they were totally cut out of the recorded show that played on stateroom tv the rest of the cruise.

 

Comedy Show-Nery Saenz and Dan Grueter had us laughing very hard. We were in the front row and of course I was "picked on" quite a bit but all in good humor.

 

Fine Line Water Show-It was canceled 3 times and we finally got to watch it the last night after many reschedules. Again, unbelievable work including walking a tight rope 55 feet above the aquatheatre. We also enjoyed the comedic water show (forgot the name).

 

Schooner Bar-Pianist/vocalist was very good. He was British man who was able to play anything we requested and did it well.

 

Our DS enjoyed all of the slides on the ship. He never did the Flowrider which surprised me because he was busy "just walking around" (aka in the whirlpools) with his new friends.

 

More to come later.

 

Quest-I forgot to mention Quest. We have been on many RCCL cruises and never made it to Quest until this cruise. It was so much fun. Some parents had their 10-14 year old kids in the there which was totally inappropriate and their kids' ears got to hear things that young ears should not hear. Quest is a must do on all future RCCL cruises.

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STAR CLASS REVIEW

 

As stated earlier, we paid to move up in suite classes over the months before the cruise finally ending up in an A2 Aqua Theater Suite. The perks of Star Class and the Royal Genie were incidental to us to having the ATS. For us, it was mostly about the suite, balcony and location. That is what we were paying big bucks for.

 

I have seen many people say that once in a suite it has to go back or once in Star Class it is hard to go back. For us, I agree that we will probably sail in a suite on future cruises but Star Class is not a must have.

 

Star Class Perks (excl. Royal Genie)--I will review the major Star Class perks. Several we used and several we had no need for.

  1. Unlimited Dining in Specialty Restaurants--This was great to have. We typically go to a specialty restaurant one night on a seven night cruise. On this cruise, we went to specialty dining all seven nights. Would we purchases ultimate dining packages a la carte? After the experiences on this cruise, absolutely yes.
  2. Coastal Kitchen-Just a great place for all meals if desired. We tried breakfast, lunch and dinner (2x) and it always excellent all around. Great views from the CK and excellent service. Access to the CK for at least dinners is a must have on future cruises so that means we need to sail in at least a Junior Suite on future cruises.
  3. Deluxe Beverage/Refreshment Packages-We don't drink enough to make this financially worthwhile (3-5 drinks per day on this cruise) but it was convenient to have. Unlimited Evian water, soda, beer and wine was very convenient to have in our suite. If not Star Class, we would not have purchased the Deluxe Beverage package and we never have before.
  4. Unlimited Voom High Speed Internet-We always buy the internet package so this was worthwhile.
  5. L'Occitane Bath Products-My wife said these products are great so I guess this was a nice perk. I would never pay a la carte for this if not included.
  6. Duxiana Mattress and Frette Linens-The bed was very comfortable. We have never had major bed issues on our cruises. This was nice to have anyhow.
  7. Complimentary Gratuities-You either pay up front in the Star Class package or at the end of the cruise. We added on gratuities for the Royal Genie at the end of the cruise.
  8. Best Seats for Shows-This was nice to have . Would we pay a la carte for it? No.
  9. Priority Entrance to Flowrider-DS never used it because his friends didn't have this "Front of the Line" access.
  10. Suite Lounge Access-Never used it. There were drinks available everywhere so we never went to this lounge just for drinks.
  11. Suite Sun Deck Access-Very nice perk. ID never checked although it was never overly busy. Private bar in this area. Very nice loungers (used) and cabanas (did not use). No need to check out towels. Need to be Sky or Star Class or Pinnacle to use this area. This is one perk that will possibly move our needs to at least Sky Class on future cruises.
  12. Bridge and Galley Tours-I have been on a galley tour before. The 30 minute bridge tour was nice to do. Now that we have done that once, we would not pay a la carte to do it again.
  13. Sailaway Party on Helipad from Labadee-This 30-45 minute party was fun to do. Allowed for some really nice pictures. Necessary--of course not but to do it once was fun.
  14. Access to Barefoot Beach Club on Labadee-Nice to have but there are a lot of nice beaches on Labadee. The BBQ was a little better than the traditional BBQ.
  15. Unlimited Laundry/Pressing Service-I sent out clothes a couple of times for laundering--shorts, t-shirts, underwear. I purposely packed less of these knowing we had laundry service onboard. Next cruise, we will just pack more clothes and not pay for laundry service.
  16. Expedited Boarding-This was nice to have although embarkation at Port Everglades has never been a problem for us. Having our luggage in our suite ASAP and being able to drop off our carry-on bags at 10:45am was nice to have. This all came at a cost in the package plus lots more tips for porters, etc. I would not pay for this.
  17. Expedited Disembarkation-This is worth every penny. We walked off the ship at 8:45am which we scheduled with our genie. Luggage was left out at 11pm the night before. We bypassed all lines to our suite luggage area and to the front of customs. We felt a little bad about this but we essentially paid for this service so we got over it. Our flight was at 12:30pm so this service was not necessary but it sure was nice. We were either going to wait in line for customs if no Star Class or wait at the gate for our plane for 3 hours since we got off the ship so quickly with Star Class. You make the call.

As you can see, many of the perks mentioned above were nice to have but not necessary in order for us to have an amazing cruise. It did expose us to Coastal Kitchen and most of the Specialty restaurants where are must-have's for us for me and DW on future cruises. DS is happy with Windjammer and Sorrento's although he is more than welcome to always eat with us.

 

I think Royal Suite Class is only available on Oasis and Quantum Class ships. This puts me in a minor quandary since we are thinking about sailing the Freedom next year to go to the Southern Caribbean. I think the ports are more important than the perks so we will see what we do.

 

I hope this review of the major Star Class perks helps future cruisers in your decision-making process.

 

I am more than happy to respond to your questions.

 

Next Post--Review of Royal Genie. Hint--not so great compared to many other reviews that I have read.

Edited by flannbarr

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Flannbarr...I have been eagerly waiting for your final thoughts. Thank you for such an open and honest review of Star Class. You addressed some of the points we are wrestling with in whether it is worth it or not. We're trying it anyway but hubby is completely skeptical about it.

 

I completely agree that CK is a must for us too. We've done Sky Class before so it's hard to go back from that. And yes, the Royal Suite Class program as a whole is only available on Quantum and Oasis class ships. Can't wait to see your Genie review.

 

 

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A few random comments before I do the genie review:

 

1. The Bionic Bar. My first drink didn’t taste great but you just keep trying until you get it right.

 

2. The lifeguards at every pool whether someone was in them or not was great to see.

 

3. Most if not all security staff work body cameras.

 

4. My wife had her blown out at the hair salon. They put on a major sales pitch to see her products which she fell for. A couple days later, she returned the unopened products without a problem. She was very annoyed how pressure packed the ladies were and my wife is in sales so she gets it. But this was over the top. I know it’s not new news.

 

 

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The walking track was very nice. I found the couple hidden away areas that have loungers. That was pretty cool and an unknown to me.

 

The gym was nice. I was on the Liberty a couple of years ago and I think that it had a nicer gym with more equipment and better views but maybe I am wrong. The Harmony gym was totally adequate for our needs.

 

My wife went to a class with the bands hanging from the ceiling and loved it. Her muscles hurt for days!

 

 

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